Tuesday, 14 May 2019

BLOG TOUR: The Catherine Howard Conspiracy (The Marquess House Trilogy #1) by Alexandra Walsh. Sapere Books (2019)




A timeshift thriller that will have you completely gripped! Perfect for fans of Dan Brown, Philippa Gregory, Kate Mosse and Tom Harper. 

What secrets were covered up at the court of Henry VIII …? 


Whitehall Palace, England, 1539 

When Catherine Howard arrives at the court of King Henry VIII to be a maid of honour in the household of the new queen, Anne of Cleves, she has no idea of the fate that awaits her. 

Catching the king’s fancy, she finds herself caught up in her uncle’s ambition to get a Howard heir to the throne. 

Terrified by the ageing king after the fate that befell her cousin, Anne Boleyn, Catherine begins to fear for her life… 


Pembrokeshire, Wales, 2018 

Dr Perdita Rivers receives news of the death of her estranged grandmother, renowned Tudor historian Mary Fitzroy. 

Mary inexplicably cut all contact with Perdita and her twin sister, Piper, but she has left them Marquess House, her vast estate in Pembrokeshire. 

Perdita sets out to unravel their grandmother’s motives for abandoning them, and is drawn into the mystery of an ancient document in the archives of Marquess House, a collection of letters and diaries claiming the records of Catherine Howard’s execution were falsified… 

What truths are hiding in Marquess House? What really happened to Catherine Howard?

And how was Perdita’s grandmother connected to it all? 


THE CATHERINE HOWARD CONSPIRACY is the first book in the Marquess House trilogy, a dual timeline conspiracy thriller with an ingenious twist on a well-known period of Tudor history.




Wow what a read! I was absolutely enthralled by the all the mysteriousness in the opening chapter and the excitement built even more as the story progressed.
Some historical stories can make for dry reading when the author gets bogged down in historical fact however this book was exciting from the get go. 
I couldn't wait to figure out the strange relationship Perdita and Piper had with their grandmother and why she left them her entire estate despite cutting them out from her life. 

The dual timeline made for exciting reading. I loved the history of the Tudor period but I also loved the contemporary characters. I found myself not wanting to leave either timelines when the narrative switched from one to the other.
I can't wait to read the rest of the trilogy when it becomes available.

This is a masterfully executed and brilliant piece of storytelling. 



 From tales spun for her teddies when she was a child (usually about mermaids) to film scripts, plays and novels, Alexandra Walsh has always been a storyteller. Words are her world. For over 25 years, she has been a journalist writing for a wide range of publications including national newspapers and glossy magazines. She spent some years working in the British film industry, as well as in television and radio: researching, advising, occasionally presenting and always writing.

Books dominate Alexandra’s life. She reads endlessly and tends to become a bit panicky if her next three books are not lined up and waiting. Characters, places, imagery all stay with her and even now she finds it difficult to pass an old wardrobe without checking it for a door to Narnia. As for her magical letter when she was 11, she can only assume her cat caught the owl!
Alexandra’s other passion is history, particularly the untold tales of women. Whether they were queens or paupers, their voices resonate with their stories, not only about their own lives but about ours, too. The women of the Tudor court have inspired her novels. Researching and writing The Marquess House Trilogy (Book One: The Catherine Howard Conspiracy) has brought together her love of history, mysteries and story telling.
Twitter: https://twitter.com/purplemermaid25?lang=en     

   

                               Extract from the novel

Prologue: Pembrokeshire, 1542

“Is there news?” asked the man as the shadowy figure of the Abbess appeared in the doorway.
“She bleeds heavily. We may not be able to save her.”
“And the child?”
“You must pray, sir, pray as you have never prayed before.”
The man bowed as the elderly nun glided from the room on silent feet. It had been this way for hours. He did not see how she could continue: his beloved niece, the culmination of his family’s hopes and dreams, whom he had betrayed, selling her into a cursed marriage as though she were horseflesh.
How, he thought as the hours passed and self-pity, fear and weariness overwhelmed him, has it come to this? Waiting in such a godforsaken place while she fights for her life in childbirth. He swore vehemently to himself, staring out of the window as another bleak, cold day dawned. The sky was heavy and bloated with the threat of more snow; the frost glistened like poison on the rutted track leading away from the tiny priory. Then he heard a step behind him.
A tall, imposing young man wrapped in a travelling cloak, entered the room. His presence filled the gloomy space with an intense glamour. Even though his cloak had been designed to disguise his status, it was still made from a thick, sumptuous wool and his boots glistened oxblood red. To his side was a sword and in his belt a sheathed dagger. Incongruously, he cradled a newborn baby in his arms, his serious expression softening as his tiny charge gurgled.
“Well?” demanded the older man.
“A girl,” replied the younger, handing his small charge into his companion’s arms, “and a boy. Twins.”
“Twins?” the older man exclaimed. “And…?”
He could not bear to say his niece’s name.
“Weak but alive, as is the boy-child. This little one, though, she’s a fighter,” he said, a boyish grin lighting his handsome features.
“Charles, you mustn’t become attached to the child,” said the older man. “We have no choice but to see this through. If we don’t, you know the consequences.”
Charles nodded, even though it was clear from his expression that he was apprehensive about their plans.
The baby gurgled and the older man looked down at his great-niece. His breath caught in his throat as her brilliant blue eyes, still unable to focus, glanced towards him. Her tiny hand came free from its wrapping and waved towards his face. Instinctively, he reached out and her minute, perfect fingers gripped his thumb. She stared at him for a fraction of a moment and as his heart contracted with love, a name floated unbidden to his lips.
“Elizabeth,” he whispered, and then in a tender voice, almost unrecognisable as his own, “you have your mother’s hair.”
A sharp knock on the door caused all three to start. Covering the space in two strides, Charles threw it open to reveal a slender young woman. Stepping back to admit her, she gave him a small smile then hurried forward, bobbing to the older man.
“She is comfortable, as is the boy. If they make it through this day, then there is a chance.” Her voice was low, determined. “Mother Abbess has informed me that the horses and the litter are ready, sir.”
The older man nodded.
“Take her, Charles,” he said, thrusting the baby back into the arms of his conspirator. “Take her and flee. The future of our very nation relies upon her safe passage.”
Charles gathered the baby into his cloak.
“Until we meet again, sir,” he said. The men clasped hands.
“Until that day, Charles, may God’s grace go with you.”

Sunday, 5 May 2019

Seven Letters by Sinéad Moriarty (2019)


Sarah loves being a mother - it defines her.

Every year she writes a birthday letter of love to her adored daughter, Izzy, now seven. And after she falls pregnant, she promises Izzy that the arrival of a baby brother will make their family complete. So when she collapses a few months later, the safe happy life Izzy knows is shattered.

With Sarah's future, and the future of her pregnancy, in their hands, her husband and sister disagree fiercely about her treatment. The once close family starts to fall apart.

The clock is ticking, and the doctors need a decision. Can those who love Sarah get beyond the fog of grief and anger to figure out what's for the best? Can they ever forgive each other for the decisions they make?
Will Izzy lose everything she knows and loves?




Sinéad Moriarty is my go to author for emotional reads.
Her books are centred round families and are very character driven. The hard choices and sacrifices these ordinary people have to make will have you debating what you would do in a similar situation.
A powerful story that will stay with you.

Be prepared! You will need a big box of tissues and chocolate to go with this book!

You can find Seven Letters Here

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

BLOG TOUR: No Other Duke but You (Playful Brides #11) by Valerie Bowman (2019)


                                                                     
Synopsis:
A lady with a love potion. A Duke who takes it by mistake. Romance and mischief ensues when plans go awry in No Other Duke But You by Valerie Bowman.
SINGLE LADY SEEKS DUKE
Lady Delilah Montebank has her marital sights set on the Duke of Branville. There’s just one problem: he barely knows she exists. But no matter, she’s got a plan to win him over with her charm, her wit—and perhaps the love potion she has in her possession wouldn’t hurt her cause...
Lord Thomas Hobbs, Duke of Huntley, thinks his best friend Delilah’s quest to become a duchess is ridiculous. He’s always said he’d rather give up all the brandy in London than commit to one person for life. Besides, he knows that Delilah’s love potion can’t possibly win over Branville…since she accidentally gave it to him instead. But perhaps this is the excuse he needs to show her he’s always loved her...
Delilah can’t believe she gave the potion to the wrong duke. Then again, Delilah could do a lot worse than win the hand of her handsome best friend. Could it be that the right duke has been before her eyes all along?

Author Bio:
Valerie Bowman grew up in Illinois with six sisters (she’s number seven) and a huge supply of historical romance novels. After a cold and snowy stint earning a degree in English with a minor in history at Smith College, she moved to Florida the first chance she got. Valerie now lives in Jacksonville with her family including her mini-schnauzers, Huckleberry and Violet. When she’s not writing, she keeps busy reading, travelling, or vacillating between watching crazy reality TV and PBS.

Review

I love Valerie Bowman's books and I've enjoyed this series a lot. This story is light and lively, with crazy mishaps and lots of fun. With the mention of a love potion in the synopsis I knew I was in for an unusual Regency read.
It may be a bit sillier than the other books in the series but I needed a quick fun read and this book fit the bill perfectly.

Buy-Book Links: Macmillan US Amazon UK

Q&A with Valerie Bowman


Q: How is NO OTHER DUKE BUT YOU, your upcoming novel, different than your previous novels, or can you say anything more about it?

A: NO OTHER DUKE BUT YOU is the final book in the Playful Brides series. It’s book #11, and while it can be read as a standalone, I know the long-time readers of the series have been waiting for this couple’s story. Delilah is my most asked about heroine.

Q: Where did you get your inspiration from for NO OTHER DUKE BUT YOU?

A: Most of the books in the Playful Brides series are inspired by famous plays. This one is inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which is one of my favorites. I’ve had the plot in mind for a long time.

Q: What makes Lady Delilah and Lord Thomas special? Can you say anything more about them? 

A: Delilah is sassy, unconventional, and a bit of a mess compared to the other young ladies on the marriage mart. But she has a heart of gold and good intentions to be the best matchmaker in the land, until it’s time for her own match to be made, of course! Thomas is her best friend who has been madly (and secretly) in love with her for years. He appreciates her for who she is.

Q: Who would you cast for Delilah and Thomas in the movie version?

A: I love this question! I’ve set up a Pinterest board for the entire Playful Brides series with the pictures of who I think of as the main characters. In my mind, Delilah looks like Ellen Page and Thomas is Justin Bartha.

Q: What is one thing the heroine, Delilah, can’t live without?

A: Sigh. Thomas. Though she doesn’t know it at first.

Q: NO OTHER DUKE BUT YOU is the last novel in your wonderful Playful Brides series. How do you feel about the series coming to an end?

A: I’ve loved these characters for years and it’s bittersweet to see the series end, but I’m also looking forward to writing something new!

Q: Would you say it was more or less difficult writing NO OTHER DUKE BUT YOU knowing it’s the last in the series?

A: Yes! I was worried that the readers wouldn’t like it or think it’s a fitting end to the series. But in the end, I wrote the book I wanted to write to wrap up the series and I can’t wait to share it with everyone!

Q: If you could work with any other famous author, who would it be and why?

A: Lisa Kleypas! She’s just my all-time favorite. Love, love, love all of her books.

Q: What was your favorite scene you wrote, and why?

A: I don’t want to give anything away. But there is a scene involving some magic perfume and sneaking around at a country house late at night and it was just pure fun to write the fall out after that.

Q: What was the hardest scene to write in NO OTHER DUKE BUT YOU, and why?

A: Oh, the last chapter. Not the epilogue, but the last chapter. I wanted it to be perfect. The epilogue is something I’ve had in mind for ages so that was simple.

Q: When working on a manuscript, is it easy for you to keep separate ideas for other projects, or what strategies do you use to stay focused?

A: I usually just jot down a new idea and file it in a folder on my computer. I don’t let much distract me from what I’m working on at the moment. But I always seem to get a new idea when I’m fading off to sleep or driving. It’s never convenient. Ha!

Q: How did you come up with the idea of a love potion to get Delilah and Thomas’s romance rolling?

A: It’s inspired by the love potion in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which is just a purely fun play that I adore!

Q: Are you currently working on any other projects you would like to share with your readers?

A: Yes! I’m working on a contemporary romantic comedy called HIRING MR. DARCY. It’s about a history professor who has two weeks to turn her brother’s hot best friend into a suitable Darcy for a competition in Bath, England so she can beat her ex and his new starlet girlfriend. It’ll be out this year! I’m also noodling over a new Regency series that’s going to be outrageous fun!

Q: Do you have a final comment you would like to give your readers?

A: If you read NO OTHER DUKE BUT YOU, I’d love to hear what you think! You can find me at www.ValerieBowmanBooks.com where there are links to email me, tweet me, or find me on Facebook or Instagram.


CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

Delilah glanced up and down the dim hallway. It was well past three in the morning, she was still dressed in the pink ball gown she’d worn to the party, and she clutched the small vial of Cupid’s Elixir in her sweaty, guilty palm. She pressed her back against the shadowed wall not far from the Duke of Branville’s bedchamber. She could do this. More importantly, she would do this. She’d come this far, hadn’t she? What did a little sneaking about in the middle of the night matter?
She’d got detailed instructions to Branville’s room from Derek, who thankfully hadn’t asked any questions about why she wanted to know. According to him, the room was four doors to the right, just past the staircase on the third floor. The third floor was where all the bachelor gentlemen were sleeping. It would be a complete scandal if she was found lurking about alone at this time of night, but she’d waited until the household seemed quite asleep and then waited a bit longer for good measure. Anyone who saw her now would be skulking about themselves, which meant they would hardly be in a position to judge her. She briefly wondered if she’d run into Lavinia.
It was not as if she was out to do anything particularly scandalous. It was more silly and frivolous than anything else. She’d simply die, however, if Branville woke up and asked her what she was doing sprinkling pixie water in his eyes. She’d already decided to pretend as if she were dreaming, thinking she was Puck in the play. Sleepwalking. That would make all the sense in the world. Wouldn’t it? She swallowed hard. Probably not, but she wasn’t about to let the fear of being caught stop her. Besides, all of her and Lucy’s matchmaking had turned into a colossal mess. If a spray of perfume could sort it out, so be it. Of course, Delilah’s conscience reminded her that she hadn’t offered any of the perfume to Rebecca to use on Thomas. She didn’t want to even contemplate that. She’d already shared it with one other person, and that made her guilty enough. The image of Madame Rosa’s disapproving, craggy face had haunted her all evening.
Delilah shook off the thought and turned her attention back to the matter at hand. Pressing her empty palm against the darkened wall, she inched her way along until she came to Branville’s door. She felt like a spy. This was how professional spies did such things, wasn’t it? Too bad she was too embarrassed by her actions to ask the veritable house full of professional spies who happened to be asleep behind other doors right now.
She transferred the vial into her opposite hand and slowly reached to grasp the door handle. The metal was cold in her bare hand. She’d discarded her gloves, deciding that they would make her actions more clumsy. The last thing she needed tonight was to be more clumsy than usual. Decidedly, she needed to be less so.
She clutched the door handle like a lifeline and closed her eyes, steadying her shaking fingers on the knob. She was close, so close. Praying that the door wouldn’t squeak, she turned the handle slowly. The only sound was the thumping of her own heart in her ears.
When the handle was turned as far as it would go, she pushed it, praying fervently that it wasn’t locked. It took a moment before she realized the door was opening. Its hinges silent, merci a Dieu. Completely silent.
She slipped inside the cool, dark room. Steady, deep breathing came from the bed. Thank goodness, she hadn’t woken the duke with her entrance. She could barely see a thing, but she didn’t dare light a candle. A tiny stream of moonlight filtered into the room through a small opening in the curtains on the far window. She used that to identify the hulking bed in the center of the room. She tiptoed over to it slowly, taking care in case there was anything to trip over. No doubt she would find it if there was.
She made it to the foot of the bed without incident and paused, trying to quell her nerves and dispel her guilt. She clutched the vial more tightly in her palm, shaking with fear and anxiety. Now that she was here, she had no earthly idea how to drop liquid on a man’s eyes without awakening him. Besides, how much of it was she supposed to use? Surely not much. She would employ the tiniest drops possible so as not to disturb him, but she also needed to ensure the perfume touched his eyelids. Tricky business, this being a fairy. She had a sudden appreciation for Puck.
Holding her breath, she lifted her skirts with her free hand and tiptoed to the right side of the bed. Because it was summer, the bed curtains weren’t drawn. The window was open, and a slight breeze blew through the crack in the curtains.
The outline of the duke’s body was barely visible in the moonlight. He was turned away on his side, his back to her, his face toward the window. She would have to lean over his body to sprinkle the elixir on his eyes. The bed was tall. She must carefully climb up to do this task properly. She only hoped she didn’t jostle the mattress enough to wake him.
She waited in silence for a few moments to ensure his breathing remained steady, then she carefully lifted first one knee and then the other, bracing them on the mattress and pulling herself up, still clutching the vial. She winced as he moved slightly in his sleep, but he kept his face turned away. Blast it.
Once she was fully atop the bed, she paused and hoped the hammering of her heart didn’t wake him. He smelled good, a combination of soap and maleness that she wanted to breathe in. There was something vaguely familiar about his scent.
Shaking away that unhelpful thought, she moved gingerly across the mattress on her knees until she came to a stop at his side. His shirt was off. The beam of moonlight hit his smooth, muscled arm. She swallowed. The man’s chest was positively swoon-worthy. She took a deep breath to calm her nerves and uncorked the vial. Then she carefully leaned over as far as she could to locate his eyes. They remained shrouded in the dark, but she took a guess as to their general direction and tipped the little vial as slowly and carefully as she could. He turned then, and she was afforded enough light to see that the first tiny drop of liquid did indeed fall directly onto his eyelid.
He blinked, and she held her breath. When he settled back into sleep, she closed her eyes and said a brief prayer that she would get away with it a second time before tipping the vial once more to allow another tiny drop to fall on his other eyelid.
He blinked and rubbed at his eyes while Delilah held her breath again, paralyzed with fear. Soon, he settled back into his pillow and his breathing returned to its steady pace.
She pressed a hand to her throat. It was over. She was done. All she had to do was extract herself from the bed and the room without being seen or heard. The difficult part was behind her.
Still praying he wouldn’t stir, she backed away from the duke. Slowly. Slowly. She’d nearly made it to the edge of the bed when he flipped over to face her. A beam of moonlight slid over his sleeping features.
Delilah gasped.


From No Other Duke But You. Copyright © 2019 by Valerie Bowman and reprinted with permission from St. Martin’s Paperbacks.