Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Review: THE EYES OF VENICE, by Alessandro Barbero

I am a lover of Venice and so when I heard about this book, I jumped on the opportunity to read and review it- I’m so glad I did!  The Eyes of Venice takes place in the 16th c magic and splendor of this sublime place- but also sails us through the slums, danger and poverty that was a horrid reality back then.

The life of two newlyweds, Matteo and Bianca is suddenly severed when Matteo is wrongly accused and persecuted.  Their life turns into a tumultuous series of dramatic events that kept me hooked until the very end.  Matteo is subjected to years of life at sea, on galleys where he is treated no better than a slave.  Sailing from one port to another, with the sole goal of redeeming his name and returning to his love; Matteo sees brutality at its worst.  From Venice to the Ottoman Empire and back, his escapade is filled with hardship, resiliency and tenacity.

Left alone to fend for herself, Bianca’s life is no better- if ever, it often felt as though she suffered an even worse fate.  Poor to the core, her only legitimate options were limited to the hard life of laundress, beggar and servant.  Bianca lives from day to day in the constant risk of dying from illness, starvation and the bitter, damp cold.  Venice at its ugliest brought infestation, disease, dirt, vulgarity and violence- danger lurked everywhere.  As well, anything could happen under the siege of ruthless employers; without any recourse. 

Fortunately, throughout, Bianca’s sense of integrity and hope to reunite with Matteo gave her the strength to live.  A glimmer of hope finally shines her way when she is hired by a highly ranked patrician noble woman…
This book is a true gem. It grabbed me immediately- especially Bianca’s side of the story.  Barbero brilliantly transports us through this odyssey of sorts.   I also applaud the translator, Gregory Conti, who did a terrific job in bringing true essence of the meaning to light up this story effectively.  

The Eyes of Venice will transport you to a place and time like there is no other.  I was completely swept away by this!

This review published in the February 2013 edition of HISTORICAL NOVELS REVIEW.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

LADY OF ASHES, Released Today!!

TODAY is the release of LADY OF ASHES, by Christine Trent!!


LADY OF ASHES, is the first in Christine Trent's 3-book Lady of Ashes Historical Mystery Series. 
Read an excerpt here
Read the backstory

To learn more about the Lady of Ashes Historical Mystery Series, visit Christine Trent's site HERE.

Look for my review of this novel on March 21st as part of the Historical Fiction Virtual Blog Tours


Monday, February 25, 2013


My Review:

If you love Italian history mixed with mystery, then The Sign of The Weeping Virgin is perfect! Author Alana White uses real historical figures in this splendid novel, setting the right mood for a story that feels incredibly real.  Set in 15th c. Florence at a time when the city was in danger of Turkish invasion, political enemies, the Church, Guido’Antonio Vespucci and his nephew Amerigo are entangled in discovering the mystery behind a weeping Virgin and the disappearance of a pious woman.  

Sponsoring the investigation is Lorenzo de Medici, despised by both the Church and political enemies.  Clues are everywhere- the mystery dances through the pages as Guido’Antonio discovers, thanks to the great Leonardo Da Vinci, how it is that the Virgin sheds tears…but who is making her do so? Is the event related to the young woman being kidnapped by the Turks and then sold into slavery?

This is a fascinating story enveloped by breathtaking descriptions of Florence during the Renaissance- Paradise for art history aficionados! This book was a real treat for me –art, history and mystery all meshed into one beautifully written novel- excellent prose.  Although, I have to admit that even if I found the beginning to be rather slow, once the mystery picked up the pace and the events unraveled, I just could not put this down.  Loved it!

This review first appeared in the February Issue of HISTORICAL NOVELS REVIEW- Editor's Choice 

An interview with Alana White can be found HERE.

Thursday, February 21, 2013


Today here on EBJ - History Salon, as part of the Historical Fiction Virtual Blog Tour,
I have the great pleasure of  interviewing Anne Easter Smith,

Welcome to EBJ- History Salon, Anne,
1-In your opinion why is it that it took so long to find Richard's bones- is conspiracy perhaps part of the answer?

Interesting theory, Lucy, but I honestly can’t buy it! It was known where the bones were up until the dissolution of the monasteries in Henry VIII’s time, and Greyfriars along with every other monstery in England was ransacked and desecrated. There was then a rumor that Richard’s grave had been dug up, his bones thrown in the nearby River Soar, and the sarcophagus used as a horse trough. There was a small monument that Henry VII felt he ought to pay for placed in the church about eight years after Bosworth, with Richard’s name on it, and the last time it was seen was as part of a garden of a residence built around the ruins of the old Grehfriars Church a couple of hundred years ago. By this time, poor Richard had such an awful reputation, no one bothered to look around. Even when I joined the Society 20 years ago, we believed the bones in the river story. We were sad not to have a gravesite to visit, but there it was. All that was done in the more recent past by the Society was a plaque nailed to a wall by the car park that said Richard’s bones might be lying somewhere near this spot. It was Philippa Langley, president of the Scottish Branch of the Society, who decided to do more than accept the belief that the bones had simply disappeared and made a ten-year study of a possible site.

2- Again pertaining to Richard, why do people have such strong feelings about this royal; either hate, or love?

The case against Rchard begun by the Tudor historians, Rous, Hall and Holinshed, continued by Sir Thomas More (“Historie of King Richard III”) and subsequently Shakespeare was hard to refute. They painted a compelling portrait of a hunchbacked, evil tyrant and only a few writers in later centuries (Sir George Buck in the 17th century and Horace Walpole in the 18th century) tried to rectify Richard’s unfair reputation, but they fell on deaf ears. The creation of the Richard III Society in the 1920s has led several 20th century scholars to revise the history books, and with many of we novelists also doing our jobs in helping to debunk the Tudor writers, the history books are gradually changing their tone about this much-maligned king.

3- In your upcoming novel, what inspired you to write about this favourite mistress? 

I wanted to make sure I didn’t give King Edward IV short shrift in my series about the York family in the Wars of the Roses. Edward certainly was featured in three of them (he was already long dead when “The King’s Grace” began), and I thought about using  his queen, Elizabeth Woodville, to tell his story, but she has already been written about enough, so I turned to Jane Shore. When I discovered what a dramatic tale hers was, I could not resist! It also brought me full circle from my first book “A Rose for the Crown” in which my protagonist was an ordinary medieval woman to this daughter of a silk merchant in the city of London--another commoner. I love delving into every-day medieval life and find being in a castle constantly with my royal protagonists a totally different experience.

4- Lastly, what advice can you give aspiring authors in finding the heroine they want to write about? Where's a good place to get started?

In my case, it was Richard’s story I wanted to tell but I didn’t dare try and get into the head of a man -- they are so complicated! So I looked around for someone who could tell a good story and who had not been written about before. His wife, Anne Neville’s point of view is often told -- in fact there are two historical novels about her out right now! While I was researching Richard, I kept seeing references to his sister Margaret and she fascinated me more and more, so became the protagonist of “Daughter of York.” In “The King’s Grace” I went back to a minor character to tell the Perkin Warbeck story and again, doing my research on him, I ran across the one line in history that mentions Edward IV’s bastard daughter, Grace. And voila, my next heroine! I have to feel a connection and there has to be an “aha!” moment for me. You must write about someone you are passionate about or the words won’t come!

Thanks so much for hosting me, Lucy.

Thank you Anne! 

About the Book

Publication Date:  May 7, 2013 | Touchstone | 512p

From the author of A Rose for the Crown and Daughter of York comes another engrossing historical novel of the York family in the Wars of the Roses, telling the fascinating story of the rise and fall of the final and favorite mistress of Edward IV.

Jane Lambert, the quick-witted and alluring daughter of a silk merchant, is twenty-two and still unmarried. When Jane’s father finally finds her a match, she’s married off to the dull, older silk merchant William Shore—but her heart belongs to another. Marriage doesn’t stop Jane Shore from flirtation, however, and when the king’s chamberlain and friend, Will Hastings, comes to her husband’s shop, Will knows his King will find her irresistible.

Edward IV has everything: power, majestic bearing, superior military leadership, a sensual nature, and charisma. And with Jane as his mistress, he also finds true happiness. But when his hedonistic tendencies get in the way of being the strong leader England needs, his life, as well as that of Jane Shore and Will Hastings, hang in the balance.

This dramatic tale has been an inspiration to poets and playwrights for 500 years, and told through the unique perspective of a woman plucked from obscurity and thrust into a life of notoriety, Royal Mistress is sure to enthrall today’s historical fiction lovers as well.

About the Author

Anne Easter Smith is an award-winning historical novelist whose research and writing concentrates on England in the 15th century. Meticulous historical research, rich period detail, and compelling female protagonists combine to provide the reader with a sweeping portrait of England in the time of the Wars of the Roses. Her critically acclaimed first book, A Rose for the Crown, debuted in 2006, and her third, The King’s Grace, was the recipient of a Romantic Times Review Best Biography award in 2009. A Queen by Right has been nominated by Romantic TImes Review for the Best Historical Fiction award, 2011.
For full Blog Tour with Anne Easter Smith, see HERE.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


The WINNER is...


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Monday, February 11, 2013

International Giveaway + Interview with Alana White!

 As part of the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, I  had the great pleasure of interviewing



 So here she is today on EBJ- History Salon with some fascinating answers...

1-Your book reads like a piece of art history itself! Please tell us how you came up with the setting and how it influenced the plot?

The seed for The Sign of the Weeping Virgin was planted when I first read about the attempt to kill Lorenzo and Giuliano de' Medici in Florence Cathedral on Easter Sunday 1478.  Though Giuliano died, Lorenzo pulled his sword, jumped the altar, and fought off his attackers to safety.  Well!  Dramatic, indeed.  I read everything I could find about this event (called the Pazzi Conspiracy) and fell in love with Florence in the fifteenth-century.  When I came to writing a historical mystery set at that time with real-life figures at its heart, along with the story I was bound to the actuality of their lives.  My protagonists, Guid'Antonio Vespucci and his nephew, Amerigo, lived just around the corner from Sandro Botticelli and Leonardo da Vinci.  Guid'Antonio, a noted lawyer, moved among the famous artists, poets, and politicians of his day.  Wherever he goes in Florence during his investigations, he sees magnificent art all around him, whether in his family church or the Medici Palace.  This same artwork is why so many people love and visit Florence today.  Real people, real situations: I could not deny them their place in my story.  I think they make the story and this explains in part why readers are relating to it, which I truly appreciate.

2- Most Italians have always been fascinated by all that is spiritual and some of the superstitions that may trickle along with that- what inspired  you to write this great mystery?

Thank you!  One of my primary resources for the story was a diary written by a Florentine druggist throughout much of the fifteenth-century.  This fine fellow wrote in depth about the Pazzi Conspiracy and other major events, but also about everyday things...aggravating construction in his neighborhood, holidays—and he also wrote how on special occasions, the painting of the Virgin Mary of S. M. Impruneta was brought from her home church to Florence for the celebrations.  People prayed to the Virgin for rain, for good crops, for good health.  And so, again, it is a real painting and how people related to her that helped inform the story.  I wanted to show how miracles were and are everywhere in Florence . . . or, at least, many people believed in them and still do.  And of course that painting is the one weeping in The Sign of the Weeping Virgin.

3- Will there be a sequel to this story? And, what is next on your agenda? 

 Thank you for asking, and yes!  Actually, though, the next book harks back several years to when my Guid'Antonio is a younger man.  One reason I'm doing this is to explore the romance and tensions between him and the woman doctor who runs his hospital.  In Weeping Virgin, he is married, but Dottoressa Francesca lingers prominently in the shadows.  Readers are asking about Francesca, and so I feel I'm moving in the right direction.

4- Please give one piece of advice to aspiring authors who don't know where to begin when it comes to the research and actual writing- or finding a heroine for that matter?!

Ah, research!  Such a lovely tangle.  I would say, "Follow your heart."  Which period of history fascinates you most?  Narrow the wide story to the particular, to the men and women you find unforgettable and engaging.  Why do you relate to them on a personal level?  Don't stop.  Never say "No."

Thank you so much Alana White!

For more great posts, be sure to see what's up next on the HISTORICAL FICTION VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR HERE 


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