Jessica James – Blog Tour Guest Post

Today I’m pleased to welcome author Jessica James. I read Shades of Gray last summer and knew it would be on my 2009 Favorite Books list. For more about the book, click on the cover. Here’s some background information about Jessica and then her guest post about what a reader can learn from historical fiction.

Author bio and awards

Jessica James is the award-winning author of the historical fiction novel Shades of Gray, an epic Civil War love story that has twice overtaken Gone with the Wind on the Amazon Best-Seller list in the romance/historical/U.S. category. A former newspaper editor, she spent 18 years in a newsroom before turning her attention to fiction writing. She holds a master’s degree in communications and a bachelor’s degree in public relations/journalism.

This multi-award winning novel has been widely praised by historians for its balanced portrayal of the War Between the States, and by romance readers for its emotional description of the love that develops between the two main characters.

The novel chronicles the clash of a Confederate cavalry officer with a Union spy as they defend their beliefs, their country and their honor. The rolling hills of northern Virginia provide the backdrop for this page-turning tale of courage and devotion.

Shades of Gray Awards and Accolades:

2009 HOLT Medallion Finalist for Best Southern Theme

2008 Indie Next Generation Award for Best Regional Fiction

2008 Indie Next Generation Finalist for Best Historical Fiction

2008 IPPY Award for Best Regional Fiction

2008 ForeWord Magazine Finalist for Book of the Year in Romance category

2008 Favorite Book of the Year by The Book Connection

2008 Favorite Book of the Year by BookWorm’s Dinner

2008 Top Ten Favorite Book of the Year by The Printed Page

Shades of Gray: A Novel of the Civil War in Virginia

Learning something from historical fiction

When Mary was kind enough to review my historical fiction novel Shades of Gray last July, she noted that war novels are really not her preferred genre. I’m not sure she could have said anything more gratifying – I wrote Shades of Gray for precisely that type of reader.

Authors realize time is precious for everyone and that finding a few hours to sit down with a book is becoming a luxury. Though I definitely want to reflect my passion for the Civil War in my writing, my goal is to write books that appeal to readers of any genre and, more importantly, have them not regret the time they spent reading it.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t want readers to come away with a new appreciation, or even better, an actual interest in the war. I believe historical fiction can be a great teaching tool, and love it when readers say they’ve actually learned something about our nation’s history. Mary noted that she gained new insight into the Southern perspective by reading Shades, and found the plotline of a woman dressing as a man during the war one of the more captivating aspects of the book.

O.K., so you don’t remember reading about women soldiers in your history books? Me either. In fact, I’ve had a few readers say this “fictional” premise is too far-fetched. Yet in reality, there are hundreds of wartime records verifying that women fought beside their male counterparts, sometimes even achieving rank as officers. For the most part, their sex was only revealed after being wounded, or being found by a burial party when they were killed in action. (Two dead females were found on the battlefield right here in my hometown of Gettysburg).

While I’m on the subject, at least six soldiers are known to have performed their military duties while pregnant, and two Confederate prisoners of war gave birth while incarcerated. I don’t have any pregnant soldiers in Shades of Gray, but my female heroine does get sentenced to prison. I was a little leery about that plotline as well, thinking that if a woman were caught in male attire, surely she would announce her sex and simply be sent back across the lines – as some were. But records show a number of women who were not discovered in prison until becoming ill, dying – or, amazingly, delivering a baby.

Some people read historical fiction, I suppose, to learn interesting facts such as these, while others perhaps turn away from it for precisely the same reason. Some want to be educated – and others merely entertained. I think historical fiction, done correctly, can accomplish both. By properly weaving facts with fiction, and creating characters with real feelings and emotions, readers can become so engaged with a book that they begin to care about what happens – and in doing so, learn something.

When readers tell me they smiled over my main characters’ triumphs and cried over their heartaches – I take it as a testament to the emotional connection they formed to Andrea and Hunter. It is that connection that gives them the feeling they’ve read an epic love story – not a Civil War story at all. And yet surely all those readers who have told me they silently wept upon the pages of Shades of Gray, have also come away with an additional knowledge of history and a new understanding of the sacrifices that helped shape our country.

Learning about the past doesn’t have to be a dull and tedious proposition – it can be entertaining and thought provoking in a way that may surprise you.

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My review of Shades of Gray can be found here.

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Tomorrow Jessica James will stop at as part of her Holiday Blog Tour and Civil War Basket Giveaway.

Visit for more information on the tour.

Bill Walker – Blog Tour Guest Post

Brian Weller is a haunted man. It’s been two years since the tragic accident that left his three-year-old son dead and his wife in an irreversible coma. A popular author of mega-selling thrillers, Brian’s life has reached a crossroads: his new book is stalled, his wife’s prognosis is dire, and he teeters on the brink of despair.

Everything changes the morning an e-mail arrives from Boston artist Joanna Richman. Her heartfelt note brings back all the poignant memories: the night their eyes met, the fiery passion of their short-lived affair, and the agonizing moment he was forced to leave Joanna forever. Now, fifteen years later, the guilt and anger threaten to overwhelm him. Vowing to make things right, Brian arranges a book-signing tour that will take him back to Boston. He is eager to see Joanna again, but remains unsure where their reunion will lead. One thing is certain: the forces that tore their love asunder will stop at nothing to keep them apart.

Filled with tender romance and taut suspense, A Note from an Old Acquaintance is an unforgettable story about fate, honor, and the power of true love.

Author information:

He’s a graphic designer specializing in book and dust jacket design, and has worked on projects by Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, Dean Koontz, and Stephen King. Between his design work and his writing, he spends his spare time reading voraciously and playing very loud guitar, much to the chagrin of his lovely wife and two sons. Bill makes his home in Los Angeles and can be reached through his web site:

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Today I’m very pleased to welcome Bill Walker, author of A Note from an Old Acquaintance

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You can find A Note from an Old Acquaintance here or here.

Benny & Shrimp by Katarina Mazetti

Benny & Shrimp

Book flap:
It started in a cemetery, where they begrudgingly share a bench. “Shrimp”, the childless young widow and librarian with a sharp intellect and a home so tidy that her jam jars are in alphabetical order, meets Benny, the gentle, overworked milk farmer who fears becoming the village’s Old Bachelor. Both driven by an enormous longing and loudly ticking biological clocks, they can’t escape the powerful attraction between them.
But how will she learn to accept that he falls asleep at the opera and has a house full of his mother’s cross-stitch? And how could he ever feel at home in her minimalist apartment, bare as a dentist’s waiting room?

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First I’d like to thank Katrina for sending me her copy of Benny & Shrimp. This slim novel was as addicting as the blurb on the cover claimed. The chapters are 3-4 pages and alternate between Benny and Shrimp’s version of the same story. It’s a rather quiet story that had me smiling much of the time.

The main characters are in their mid-late 30s and getting worried that life is passing them by. Instead of observing, they want to participate in life. So they take a leap and strike up an unlikely friendship that becomes much more – but what? They reach a point where they know it’s time to make a big decision.

I don’t want to give away any more of the book but I will encourage you to make time to read Benny & Shrimp. I’m glad I did and hope you will enjoy it as much as I did. Thanks again, Katrina!

Note: Also included in the book is a Q&A with the author as well as discussion questions. In the interview Katarina Mazetti says she wrote a sequel a few years after Benny & Shrimp was published. Has anyone read it? I searched online but didn’t find any mention of it. Maybe there isn’t an English translation yet.

The Long Walk Home by Will North

The Long Walk Home: A Novel

From the dust jacket: When forty-three-year-old Fiona Edwards first sees the lanky backpacker striding up the lane toward her award-winning farmhouse bed-and-breakfast in the remote mountains of North Wales, she’s puzzled. She’s used to unexpected strangers, but few arrive on foot. The man to whom she opens her door is
middle-aged, unshaven, sweat-soaked . . . and arrestingly handsome. What neither of them knows at that moment is that their lives are about to change forever.

American Alec Hudson has carried the ashes—and the memory—of his late ex-wife, Gwynne, all the way from London’s Heathrow Airport, honoring her request that he scatter them atop a mountain they had climbed together years before—the same brooding peak whose jagged cliffs rise to the sky from the back pastures of Fiona’s farm. But the weather doesn’t cooperate, and as Fiona and Alec wait for it to clear, they are drawn together by mutual loss, longing, and the miracle of love at midlife.

On the day he finally reaches the summit, Alec is caught in a vicious hailstorm. As he struggles to descend, he stumbles upon the body of a man he recognizes from a photograph at the farm: it is Fiona’s ailing and reclusive husband, David, and he is close to death.

Will North’s debut novel, The Long Walk Home, is a story about grief and hope, about love and loss, and about two people struggling with the agonizing complexities of fidelity—to a spouse, to a moral code, to each other, and to a passion neither thought would ever appear again. By turns lyrical and gripping, set amid a landscape of breathtaking beauty and unpredictable danger, this is a story you will not soon forget.

What struck me first about The Long Walk Home was the beautiful cover. It intrigued me enough to want to know what the book was about and that was found by reading the description above. In simplest terms, it’s a tale about good people faced with difficult decisions. The dialogue got a little too dramatic for my taste at times, but overall I thought it was a good book with a tidy ending. I look forward to reading Mr. North’s new novel: Water, Stone, Heart. It will be on sale April 28th.