Spotlight/US Giveaway: The Patchwork Bride

The Patchwork Bride by Sandra Dallas

Paperback publication: August 2019 – St. Martin’s Griffin

Giveaway book courtesy of the publisher

From Sandra Dallas, the best-selling author of A Quilt for Christmas, comes the irrepressible story of one woman’s quest to find love without losing herself in the American West – now available in paperback.

Ellen is putting the finishing touches on a wedding quilt made from scraps of old dresses when the bride-to-be—her granddaughter June—unexpectedly arrives and announces she’s calling off the marriage. With the tending of June’s uncertain heart in mind, Ellen tells her the story of Nell, a Kansas-born woman who goes to the High Plains of New Mexico Territory in 1898 in search of a husband.

Working as a biscuit-shooter, Nell falls for a cowboy named Buddy. She sees a future together, but she can’t help wondering if his feelings for her are true. When Buddy breaks her heart, she runs away.

In her search for a soul mate, Nell will run away from marriage twice more before finding the love of her life. It’s a tale filled with excitement, heartbreak, disappointment, and self-discovery—as well as with hard-earned life lessons about love. Another stunning, emotional novel from a master storyteller.

Sandra Dallas is the author of fifteen novels, including A Quilt for Christmas, Fallen Women, True Sisters, The Bride’s House, Whiter Than Snow, Prayers for Sale, Tallgrass and New Mercies. She is a former Denver bureau chief for Business Week magazine and lives in Denver, Colorado.


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Milady by Laura L. Sullivan

Milady by Laura L. Sullivan

Published: July 2, 2019 – Berkley Books

Book courtesy of the publisher

Description:  I have gone by many names, though you most likely know me as Milady de Winter: Villainess. Seductress. A secondary player in someone else’s tale.
 
It is finally time I tell my own story. The truth is not tidy or convenient, but it is certainly more interesting.
 
Before you cast judgment, let me start at the beginning, and you shall learn how an innocent girl from the countryside became the most feared woman in all of Europe.
 
Because we all know history was written by men, and they so often get things wrong. (publisher)

My take:  Milady is the lively adventure story of Milady de Winter (you’ll recognize the name if you’ve read The Three Musketeers). Told from her POV we learn how she became a legendary spy for Cardinal Richelieu. The Musketeers make appearances but this is Milady’s story. And what a tale it is.

Growing up in the English countryside Clarice, daughter of the mostly absent Lord Paget, is doted on by her mother. She also teaches Clarice about the potency of various herbs and flowers and how to avoid catastrophe when using them. As she grows Clarice learns the manners of a lady and eventually is presented at Court. That marks the end of her childhood. Clarice now learns of palace intrigue and the problems that result when placing one’s trust in the wrong person.

A dual timeline (ten years apart) served to develop the characters and made for some incredible situations that had me reading ‘just one more chapter’! There are some scenes of violence that had me skimming a bit – that’s a warning. That aside, I liked this novel and would love to see Laura Sullivan take other secondary characters and make them the star of their own novel. She succeeded with Milady.


 

The Orphan’s Song by Lauren Kate

The Orphan’s Song by Lauren Kate

Published:  June 25, 2019 – G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Book courtesy of the publisher

Description: The historical adult debut novel by # 1 New York Times bestselling author Lauren Kate, The Orphan’s Song is a sweeping love story about family and music–and the secrets each hold–that follows the intertwined fates of two Venetian orphans.

A song brought them together.
A secret will tear them apart.

Venice, 1736. When fate brings Violetta and Mino together on the roof of the Hospital of the Incurables, they form a connection that will change their lives forever. Both are orphans at the Incurables, dreaming of escape. But when the resident Maestro notices Violetta’s voice, she is selected for the Incurables’ world famous coro, and must sign an oath never to sing beyond its church doors.

After a declaration of love ends in heartbreak, Mino flees the Incurables in search of his family. Known as the “city of masks,” Venice is full of secrets, and Mino is certain one will lead to his long-lost mother. Without him, the walls close in on Violetta and she begins a dangerous and forbidden nightlife, hoping her voice can secure her freedom. But neither finds what they are looking for, until a haunting memory Violetta has suppressed since childhood leads them to a shocking confrontation.

Vibrant with the glamour and beauty of Venice at its zenith, The Orphan’s Song takes us on a breathtaking journey of passion, heartbreak, and betrayal before it crescendos to an unforgettable ending, a celebration of the enduring nature and transformative power of love. (publisher)

My take:  The Orphan’s Song is a lush tale about two orphans who meet at an orphanage in Venice. They have an immediate connection that will ebb and flow over the next few years. Violetta grows to be a gifted singer with a future that is set by the people who’ve cared for her and nurtured her talent since her arrival at the orphanage. Mino, also an orphan, hopes to gain an apprenticeship to ensure a good future. Being orphans has left them with strong feelings about marriage, family, etc. As they grow into young adults their priorities change in ways they never anticipated.

This is a novel for fans of historical fiction. I enjoyed the theme of music and its importance to all people of this time. The Hospital of the Incurables trained young girls to sing in church. They were famous and revered throughout the city. I loved reading about carnevale and how it figured in Venetian society and culture. Lauren Kate’s descriptions put me into each scene. With all the drama of Mina and Violetta’s story the novel seemed like an opera – which, in my estimation, is perfect. I enjoyed The Orphan’s Song very much and hope Lauren Kate will continue to write historical fiction.


About the author:

Lauren Kate is the #1 New York Times and internationally bestselling author of nine novels for young adults, including Fallen, which was made into a major motion picture by Sony. Her books have been translated into more than thirty languages and have sold more than ten million copies worldwide. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, daughter Matilda, and son Venice (named after the city where The Orphan’s Song is set). 


 Behind the Book by Lauren Kate

“I found this story when I was lost. It was the winter of 2015, and I was in Venice promoting another novel. It was the first book tour where I had my two young children with me, and I remember racing home from events to nurse my son, to kiss my daughter before she went to sleep, to relieve my husband of caring for two jet-lagged toddlers under the age of three. On this cold night my event ran late, and by the time I left the bookstore, the wind was brutal, the city flooded with aqua alta – high tide. I splashed toward what I hoped was my flat, turning down one narrow alley, then another, everything almost familiar.

At last, I saw three words chiseled on a building’s stone façade’s – Ospedale degli Incurabili. Hospital of the Incurables. I looked up at this hulking structure, for which the surrounding streets had been named. What is it? Who were they? I circled the compound and, eventually, three more deserted Dorsoduro alleys led me home. But long after my children were tucked into bed, I was still thinking about the Incurables.

Research revealed the the Ospedale degli Incurabili – which now houses a fine arts college – was originally a hospital and orphanage for foundling children, dating back to the sixteenth century. For hundreds of years the Incurables took in orphans and raised them to be musicians. The orphanage attracted the most famous Baroque composers as teachers, and many of its musicians became famous, drawing audiences from around the world. The Incurables was the original music conservatory – and each one of its students had been abandoned as a child.

A novel appeared at my door, begging to be let in.

…To write it, I returned to Venice and spent ten days with Venetian historians, musicians, and caretakers of the former orphanage. I took violin lessons and became a constant patron of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. I read Casanova’s memoirs and Vivaldi’s musical theory. I fell more deeply in love with Venice than I imagined possible.

None of my novels has ever come to me so fully formed. Blame it on the Serene Republic and on these characters, still falling in love.

Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoy The Orphan’s Song.”

Praise for The Orphan’s Song:

“Kate’s enchanting story brings the canals and backchannels of Venice to vivid life and will appeal to fans of Elizabeth Chadwick.” —Publishers Weekly

 

“An operatic and opulently detailed tale of longing, secrets, and high-stakes quests for freedom, love, art, and home…Kate vividly conjures a city of beauty and pain, piety and criminality, helplessness and ruthlessness, while choreographing a suspenseful, soaring love story of anguish, ecstasy, risk, and stunning reversals.”

Booklist

 

“Kate mesmerizes in a tale that brilliantly recreates 1700s Venice—a city of high-stakes intrigue and earthly delights…A tangled knot of betrayal and love, lies and redemption.  Marvelous.

—Fiona Davis, author of The Masterpiece

 

“Gorgeous… Kate uncovers the intriguing, little-known origin of the era’s most famous Baroque musicians…Brimming with love, deception, and ultimately, surprising truth.

—Marie Benedict, author of The Only Woman in the Room

 

The Orphan’s Song plunges the reader into the streets and canals of eighteenth-century Venice, where the world of Carnivale roils with music, love, and intrigue. Lauren Kate is a masterful storyteller, with a stunning command of her rich historical material and the ability to draw forth the beautiful and intimate songs of the human heart.—Allison Pataki, New York Times Bestselling author of Sisi


Bethlehem by Karen Kelly

Bethlehem by Karen Kelly

Publication date:  July 9, 2019 – St. Martin’s Press

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

Description:

Following her father-in-law’s sudden death, Joanna Rafferty Collier begrudgingly moves into her husband’s family home – the venerable and imposing Brynmor – hoping to get her marriage back on solid ground and provide comfort to her grieving mother-in-law, Susannah Parrish Collier. But her mother-in-law is less than welcoming, enigmatic, and intimidating, and the months of living at Brynmor in forced companionship and congeniality, largely without her husband by her side, have begun to take their toll on Joanna. She’s been greeted, instead, by hints of tragedies past: Whose baby is buried in the unmarked grave? And what happened to Susannah’s one true love? Slowly, Joanna comes to understand that her mother-in-law is not the impenetrable woman she thought she was, but a fragile one, harboring a lifetime of secrets.  (publisher)

My take: The publisher’s description tells everything you need to know. At least it was all I wanted to know going in. What I found is a really good story that kept me reading long into the night. Told in alternating perspectives of Joanna in the 1960s and Susannah in the 1920s, Bethlehem is the story of two women and their secrets and the cost of keeping those secrets. Not wanting to risk a spoiler I will just say I would recommend Bethlehem to fans of romantic historical fiction, family sagas and, ultimately, a well-told tale. I really liked it and won’t hesitate to read whatever Karen Kelly writes next.


Praise for Bethlehem:

“Mystery, first love, and long-held secrets fold together in this atmospheric tale of a family coming to a long overdue reckoning… and finding a way to rise from the aftermath.” – Lisa Wingate, New York Times bestselling author of Before We Were Yours

“With delicate and insightful prose, Karen Kelly sweeps us into the psyches of two deeply entwined families as their lives – and secrets- unravel. A haunting debut, Bethlehem will pull you in from start to finish, and leave you grappling with the timeless quandary of when to bury the truth, and when to confront it.” – Georgia Hunter, New York Times bestselling author of We Were the Lucky Ones


About the author:

Karen Kelly has a BA in English from Vanderbilt University, and lives in Edina, Minnesota. She is also the author of Prospice.

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

Prairie Fever by Michael Parker

Prairie Fever by Michael Parker

Published:  May 21, 2019 – Algonquin Books

Book provided by the publisher and NetGalley

Description: When Gus arrives in Lone Wolf, Oklahoma, as a first time teacher, his inexperience is challenged by the wit and ingenuity of the Stewart sisters. Then one impulsive decision and a cataclysmic blizzard trap Elise and her horse on the prairie and forever change the balance of everything between the sisters, and with Gus McQueen. With honesty and poetic intensity and the deadpan humor of Paulette Jiles and Charles Portis, Parker reminds us of the consequences of our choices. Expansive and intimate, this novel tells the story of characters tested as much by life on the prairie as they are by their own churning hearts. (publisher)

My take:  During the harsh winter of 1916 the Stewart sisters (Elise, 15, and Lorena, 17) ride their faithful horse to school no matter the weather. Their young teacher, Mr. McQueen, meets them and helps them off the horse and into the school room every day. The three are the central characters of the novel and we’ll see how their lives intertwine and go off in different directions according to the choices they make. I was drawn in by Michael Parker’s storytelling – the humor he injected in the day-to-day as well as the brutality of life on the prairie that many didn’t survive. I laughed when the sisters recited stories from the local newspaper. It reminded me of my own small, hometown newspaper that often had a younger me rolling my eyes at the headlines and articles considered newsworthy. Overall, an enjoyable read. Recommended to fans of the author and historical fiction.


About the author:

Michael Parker’s work has appeared in the Washington Post, the New York Times Magazine, the Oxford AmericanRunner’s WorldMen’s Journal, and elsewhere. His work has been anthologized in The O. Henry Prize Stories and The Pushcart Prize. He is the Nicholas and Nancy Vacc Distinguished Professor in the MFA Writing Program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and divides his time between Saxapahaw, North Carolina, and Austin, Texas.

Photo credit:  Tasha Thomas

 


Praise for Prairie Fever:

“Parker’s chimerical slipstream of a novel asks, Is it better to hew to that which is, or to see the world as you wish? Readers will surely be pulled deep into the strange and wild river of Elise’s fanciful peregrinations.”

 Booklist starred review

 

“In the tradition of Katherine Ann Porter, Parker’s exceptional tale explores the power and strength of kinship on the harsh American frontier.”

Publishers Weekly

 

“Let me just say that Prairie Fever—concerning the lives of the Stewart sisters of Lone Wolf, Oklahoma, in the early years of the twentieth century—is the most beautiful novel I have read in quite some time. Taking a cue from the irrepressibly inventive younger sister, Elise, I soon began reading it aloud to someone I love, and the novel more than rewards such a shared experience. The language is that graceful and original, the events and characters (horses included) that spellbinding and funny and moving; and always the melancholy beauty and mysterious power of the open prairie shine through. To borrow a phrase from Mr. McQueen—first encountered as a young teacher in a one-room schoolhouse—one comes away from the novel with a keener sense of ‘how one ought to go about living one’s life.’”
Tom Drury, author of Pacific

“That a love story of this strangeness and rightness can come out of the event of a girl nearly dead in a storm is a testament to the wonder that is Michael Parker’s talent. Not least, he’s invented a language, a formal way of speaking that is perfectly suited to his people and to this dreamy novel.”
Jane Hamilton, author of The Excellent Lombards

Prairie Fever is an exceptionally charming novel about the wonders and troubles of love, land, and language. Witty and poignant, the novel is as elegantly constructed as a poem, and it features the best dialogue this side—or any side—of the Natchez Trace. Yet another wonderful book from Michael Parker.”
Chris Bachelder, author of The Throwback Special

“What a terrific book this is, wonderful and strange . . . a whole family acting out what can and can’t be forgotten, against the backdrops of prairie and range—characters so magnificently and sometimes comically stubborn I really couldn’t put the book down. And what other novel has a character writing letters to a dead horse? I was completely taken by this book.”
Joan Silber, author of Improvement

“Michael Parker has captured a time, place, and sisterhood so perfectly it hurts to turn the last page. Prairie Fever is a riveting, atmospheric dream of a novel.”
Dominic Smith, author of The Last Painting of Sara de Vos


 

US Giveaway: The Summer I Met Jack by Michelle Gable

The Summer I Met Jack by Michelle Gable

 Trade Paperback published by St. Martin’s Griffin – May 21, 2019

Book provided by the publisher

Description:

The Yankee Widow by Linda Lael Miller

The Yankee Widow by Linda Lael Miller

Published: May 7, 2019 – MIRA

Review galley provided by the publisher and NetGalley

Description: Caroline is the young wife of Jacob, who together live on a farm raising their daughter just outside of Gettysburg. When Jacob joins the Northern army, no one anticipates he will not return. Then Caroline gets word that her husband is wounded, and she must find her way alone to Washington City and search among the thousands of casualties to find him.

When Jacob succumbs to his injuries, she brings his body home on the eve of the deadliest battle of the war. With troops and looters roaming the countryside, it is impossible to know who is friend and who is foe. Caroline fights to protect those she holds most dear while remaining compassionate to the neediest around her, including two strangers from opposite sides of the fight. Each is wounded… Each is drawn to her beauty, her kindness. Both offer comfort, but only one secretly captures her heart. Still, she must resist exposing her vulnerability in these uncertain times when so much is at risk.

In The Yankee Widow, gifted storyteller Linda Lael Miller explores the complexities and heartbreak that women experienced as their men took up arms to preserve the nation and defend their way of life. (publisher)

My take:  I’ve always been intrigued by the Civil War. My (3x)great grandfather left his family and farm to fight with the northern army. His portrait hung on the wall in my parents’ home. I didn’t truly appreciate the extent of his sacrifice until I began to read accounts of the war – told from various perspectives. Linda Lael Miller’s novel The Yankee Widow is the story of Caroline, a young widow from outside of Gettysburg, PA. Her husband left his young family and farm to fight in the northern army only to succumb to injuries incurred at Chancellorsville. Caroline is left to carry on which is no small task. The war is brought to her front yard as she is grieving the loss of her husband. She must step outside her grief and help with injured men from both sides of the war. Two such men will become central to her story and could very well decide her future. One thing she is certain of: she will make the decision. Showing a strength of character from the beginning of the novel we see even more growth in Caroline as she becomes aware that there are no easy answers except the decision to treat others with compassion – no matter where they are from. The story is filled with vivid battle descriptions that put me in the middle of those scenes. Heartbreaking, to be sure.

Linda Lael Miller swept me along with her story, turning the pages and wondering how Caroline would prevail. For once I was happy a novel ended with a cliff-hanger – I can’t wait to read what happens next. Recommended to fans of the author and historical fiction with a dose of romance.