Guest Post & Giveaway: A MURDEROUS MARRIAGE and Royal Weddings by Alyssa Maxwell

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Today, as part of a blog tour organized by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, I am to host Alyssa Maxwell as she celebrates the recent release of  A Murderous Marriage (A Lady and Lady’s Maid Mystery).  In today’s post she talks about her love for royal weddings.


Royal Weddings by Alyssa Maxwell

Who doesn’t love a Royal Wedding? My guess is, if you’re reading this post, you have an affinity for all things British, and royal weddings are high on your list. I’ve been an avid royal watcher since Princess Diana hit the world stage nearly forty years ago. You see, she and I were married in the same year, in the same month, a mere ten days apart. Mine was first, but I’m pretty sure she didn’t tune in to watch my hubby and I say our I dos. But I most definitely watched hers.

I tuned in again a few years later for Andrew and Fergie’ wedding. And then Edward and Sophie’s, and so on and so on, right up to last year when I sat glued to the TV for Harry and Meghan’s fairytale nuptials at Windsor Castle, one of the most beautiful setting’s imaginable. If you’re like me, you wish you could have overheard whatever Meghan and her mother said to each other as the car turned up the main drive and the castle came into view. I imagine there were loud gasps of disbelief. Surely they both believed they were dreaming.

And shouldn’t a wedding be just like a dream? I think so, and while mine wasn’t royal, it certainly was dreamy, held at an elegant French restaurant in a mansion built by J.P. Morgan in the 1920s in South Salem, NY. The ceremony took place in a stone courtyard above a flower-strewn meadow with a pond, where deer often grazed. It was a beautiful afternoon framed by the misty blue foothills of the Catskill Mountains. Our day was as close to perfect as can be.

Actually, I’m not just a fan of the royals or royal weddings. I love weddings in general, especially the gowns, and can happily scroll through picture after picture of beautiful wedding gowns, both vintage and modern, on Pinterest. Or binge watch Say Yes to the Dress. Returning, for the moment, to the royal weddings, I’ll admit liked Sarah Ferguson’s dress better than Diana’s, which I thought was overdone and altogether too fussy. More like something a doll would wear. Sarah’s gown, on the other hand, spoke of the sophistication of an independent, modern woman. I found the dress worn by Sophie, w2 Countess of Wessex, a tad ordinary, but all in all appropriate for a “smaller” wedding, which it was in comparison to the former two. Kate’s gown is my favorite, being tasteful, flattering, perfectly suited to her figure and her public persona. Meghan’s, while lovely in its simplicity, could have been better tailored to show off her figure (I know I’m far from alone in that opinion). Princess Eugenie’s seemed a bit stiff to me, maybe a little too structured, but her decision to wear a plunging back that showed the surgery scar from her scoliosis was a brave choice. Do you have a favorite among the royal wedding dresses?

So, royal watcher and wedding fan that I am, is it any wonder that I’d get around to writing a wedding story? But here’s the thing: A MURDEROUS MARRIAGE is no fairytale—far from it. I chose a beautiful setting – West Cowes on the Isle of Wight, in full view of the Solent waterway. Unfortunately, it’s a blustery, drizzly, bleak April day, the sort of day when the sun doesn’t dare show its face. The bride, of course, is beautiful. Lady Julia is reputed to be the most beautiful of the Renshaw sisters, and she’s wearing her great grandmother’s veil, made of Honiton lace designed by William Dyce, who also designed the lace for Queen Victoria’s wedding gown. Julia’s dress, however, is completely modern, the height of fashion in 1920—a sleek garment of ivory satin with an overlay of beaded lace, a drop waist, and whisper-sheer sleeves. Julia’s sisters, Phoebe and Amelia, who will serve as her attendants, are dressed in matching silk organza frocks. The wedding feast has been catered on the mainland, at the Royal Yacht Squadron, and ferried out to the groom’s yacht waiting on the Solent. In the morning, the happy couple will set sail on their honeymoon. The weather aside, everything is perfect …

w3Actually, it isn’t—it really isn’t—as the title of the book implies. But then again, despite the pomp and ceremony, the horse-drawn carriages, the magnificent gowns, and the miles and miles of cheering spectators, Diana’s and Fergie’s weddings were no fairy stories either, were they? Who could have guessed how spectacularly both of those marriages would implode? And how can Julia, or any of her family, guess what the next hours will bring?

So, on that ominous note, you are cordially invited to join friends and family in celebrating the marriage of Lady Julia Renshaw to Gilbert Townsend, Viscount Annondale. Can we count on your being there?


About A Murderous Marriage

Lady Phoebe Renshaw and her lady’s maid, Eva Huntford, are preparing for a wedding, but it may not be the happy occasion everyone hopes for . . .
 
MurderousMrrgSince the Great War, some family fortunes have suffered, including those of the Renshaws. Despite being the granddaughter of an earl, Julia Renshaw is under pressure to marry for money—and has settled for Gilbert Townsend, a viscount and a wealthy industrialist. He is decades older than Julia, and it’s clear to her sister Phoebe—and to Eva, who has been like a surrogate mother to the girls—that this is not a love match. Nevertheless, the wedding takes place—and in a hurry.

At the reception aboard the groom’s yacht, there appears to be tension between Gil and several guests: his best man, a fellow veteran of the Boer War; his grouchy spinster sister; and his current heir, a nervous young cousin named Ernest. The bride is also less than pleased when she discovers that her honeymoon will be more crowded than expected—with Gil’s pretty secretary, among others, coming along.

That very night, Julia pounds on her sister’s door, brandishing a bandaged hand and reporting a hot-tempered outburst on her new husband’s part. Julia is feeling doubt and regret about her hasty decision, but returns to the boat. Then the next morning, before the yacht can depart the harbor, Gil’s body is found in the water below—and Phoebe and Eva must discover who pushed him over . . . before the Renshaws’ social standing is irreparably stained by Julia’s arrest for his murder . . .

Giveaway

Click here to enter a rafflecopter for a chance to win one of three print copies of A Murderous Marriage.

About the Author

Alyssa-outside-2Alyssa Maxwell knew from an early age that she wanted to be a novelist. Growing up in New England and traveling to Great Britain fueled a passion for history, while a love of puzzles of all kinds drew her to the mystery genre. She and her husband reside in Florida, where she loves to watch BBC productions, sip tea in the afternoons, and delve into the past. You can learn more about Alyssa and her books at www.alyssamaxwell.com.

Author Links

Twitter  Facebook – Webpage – GoodReads – Mailing List

Purchase Links – AmazonB&N  – KoboGooglePlay 

Spotlight, Excerpt & Giveaway: ARIA TO DEATH by Nupur Tustin

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As part of a Blog Tour organized by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, the spotlight today shines on Aria to Death: A Joseph Haydn Mystery by Nurpur Tustin.

Description

Aria_cover_500x800.jpgWhen Monteverdi’s lost operas surface, so does a killer desperate to possess them. . .

Preoccupied with preparations for the opera season at Eszterháza, Kapellmeister Joseph Haydn receives a curious request from a friend in Vienna. Kaspar, an impoverished violinist with an ailing wife, wishes Haydn to evaluate a collection of scores reputed to be the lost operas of Monteverdi.

Haydn is intrigued until Her Majesty, Empress Maria Theresa, summons him with a similar request. Skeptical of the value of Kaspar’s bequest, Haydn nevertheless offers to help. But before he can examine the works, Kaspar is murdered—beaten and left to die in front of a wine tavern.

The police are quick to dismiss the death as a robbery gone wrong. But Haydn is not so sure. Kaspar’s keys were stolen and his house broken into. Could his bequest be genuine after all? And can Haydn find the true operas—and the man willing to kill for them?

(An excerpt from Aria to Death appears later in this post.)

Giveaway

Click here to enter a Rafflecopter for a chance to win a copy of Aria to Death.

About the Author

NT-headshot_originalA former journalist, Nupur Tustin relies upon a Ph.D. in Communication and an M.A. in English to orchestrate fictional mayhem.  The Haydn mysteries are a result of her life-long passion for classical music and its history. Childhood piano lessons and a 1903 Weber Upright share equal blame for her original compositions, available on ntustin.musicaneo.com.

Her writing includes work for Reuters and CNBC, short stories and freelance articles, and research published in peer-reviewed academic journals. She lives in Southern California with her husband, three rambunctious children, and a pit bull.

Purchase Links:  Amazon   B&N  kobo  iTunes

Read an excerpt from Aria to Death:

While he waits for Haydn’s response to his request, Kaspar is visited by a young Italian, Fabrizzio, who claims to be the son of a friend of Kaspar’s deceased uncle. But Fabrizzio, far from corroborating the story Kaspar’s uncle recounted of how he came by Monteverdi’s operas, casts even more doubt upon it…

Wilhelm Kaspar’s eyes widened. “Your father collected music?” he repeated slowly. God in heaven, could there be something after all to the strange tale his uncle had so readily believed? “Why, it must have been he who introduced my uncle to the printer who sold him Monteverdi’s music!”

“Ah, that!” Fabrizzio’s thumb gently stroked the short glossy tuft of beard on his chin, his gaze fixed on the carpet. “There was a printer, yes.” He continued to regard the worn carpet. “Father often recounted the tale to us, but”—he raised his eyes—“it was Wilhelm Dietrich who introduced the man to him.”

He leant back, holding Wilhelm Kaspar’s eyes in a pensive stare. “Whether Father set any store by the tale, I don’t know. I suppose if he had, he would have bought the music himself.”

Wilhelm Kaspar paled. “Then, the bequest. . .” Was it so completely without value? But how could that be? The attempt on the chest suggested otherwise, surely? Besides, Herr Anwalt himself was convinced of its value.

“Forgive me! I should not have spoken so plainly. Your aunt did mention your bequest to me.” Fabrizzio looked contrite. “Wilhelm Dietrich must have had the music authenticated,” he continued in a rush. “What man of the world could fail to do otherwise?”

“I. . .er. . .” Wilhelm Kaspar’s voice faltered. Onkel Dietrich had done no such thing as far as he was aware. What could have possessed the old man to buy such a parcel of old scores? And what must he have paid for it?

Fabrizzio propelled himself forward again and looked earnestly into his host’s eyes. “I would be happy to authenticate the works for you myself, if it has not yet been done. The possibility of your bequest containing the lost operas of the great master are very slim. But there may be some merit in the music, nonetheless.”

He gazed out at the overcast skies and yellow building visible through the parlor window. “I must confess as a music scholar, it quite intrigues me. This possibility of re-discovering works long held to be lost. But no. . .” He shook his head ruefully. “It is unlikely to be the case.”

He turned from the window. “There is news of the Empress having procured two such works herself. You will have heard of it, no doubt.”

Wilhelm Kaspar nodded wordlessly, his expectations ruptured. He had, until this moment, been counting on selling the works to no less a personage himself. He attempted to buoy himself up again.

“If two such works have been discovered, why should not the rest come to light?”

“Ah, yes!” Fabrizzio steepled the fingertips of his hands together. “But Her Majesty’s source claims to have unearthed them all.” He paused before continuing. “Still, there may be hope yet. If you will but allow me to examine the works.” His eyes searched the room, coming to rest upon an old bureau standing near the small clavichord.

Wilhelm Kaspar hesitated. Perhaps, Fabrizzio meant no harm. But how could he entrust his inheritance to a man he had just met? A man so adamant the bequest was without value; yet so eager to examine it?

His fingers closed nervously upon the edge of his seat. If only he had heeded Herr Anwalt’s advice to put the music in safekeeping. The lawyer had warned him another attempt might be made upon it.

“The scores are not here,” Wilhelm Kaspar uttered the lie hastily. “My lawyer has charge of them and has already arranged for them to be authenticated.” Would to God, Haydn could come to him!

“Oh!” A flash of annoyance seemed to flicker across Fabrizzio’s features. He shrugged lightly. “Well, it had best be done soon, then.” His dark eyes bore into Wilhelm Kaspar’s. “Before Her Majesty acquires the same works from another source.”

Excerpt from Aria to Death by Nupur Tustin.

Guest Post & Spotlight: DRESSED TO KILL by Vicki Vass

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As part of a Blog Tour organized by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, the spotlight today shines on Dressed to Kill, An Antique Hunters Mystery by Vicki Vass.  As part of the release celebration, the author is here to tell us a bit about her love of reading.


Guest Post – Vicki Vass

VickiVass2-206x300-206x300Thanks for letting me stop by. I always appreciate spending time with readers. I am often asked what I read and I have to admit that I have found myself in a reading frenzy lately. At the beginning of 2017, I set a goal in Goodreads to read 52 books
this year and finished this week. I am very excited by this accomplishment. This was done while working full time, writing the fifth book in the Antique Hunters mystery series and taking care of four pets – two Australian shepherd puppies and two cats.

When looking over the list of books I read throughout the year,  see it is quite varied. It truly transcends genres. I’ve read everything from biographies to mysteries to romance. It includes books by some of my favorite authors like Sophie Kinsella and John Grisham. And, books by new to me authors like Shari Lapena and Ruth Ware. It include biographies of the grandchildren of Commodore Vanderbilt and Alexander Hamilton. And then there is the re-imagining of my favorite book, Pride and Prejudice. I read several prize winners.

There is only one book I picked up and was not able to finish. I tried to read a fictionalized account of Thomas Cromwell and after slogging through 100 pages, I had to give it up. I may try it again or perhaps watch the series based on it. Reading for me is relaxation. I love to kick back with a book and while away the hours. And now that I am writing my own books I often rely on books for research. For Dressed to Kill, the fifth book in the Antique Hunters Mystery series, I read several books about Mary Todd Lincoln. The book involves a dress sewn by Elizabeth Keckley, Mary Todd’s dressmaker during the White House years.

Even though I’ve accomplished my reading goal for the year, I am still reading. There is nothing more pleasant on a cold winter’s night than to sit by the fire reading a book. I have several books on my shelf that I have put to the side so I can complete my goal. These include a history of the Romanovs and an accounting of the Attica prison riot in the 1970s. These heavyweight tomes had to take a backseat so I could accomplish my goal.

I still have stacks lining my closet walls and expect to continue to add to my reading collection. Books offer glimpses into a life of what if’s, what could be and what may happen. They really add to the fabric of our lives. I try to do that in my writing, taking readers on a journey of what if’s and what could happen. I also try to balance that with what is believable in the real world. Particularly with my two main characters, Anne Hillstrom and CC Muller. They traverse their antique hunting world, encountering situations and settings that can only be imagined.

What about you? Do you set reading goals? If so, what are you reading? What are your favorite types of books? I’d love to hear from you and I’m always looking to add to my reading list.


About Dressed to Kill

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In 1865, Elizabeth Keckley, Mary Todd Lincoln’s dressmaker, conspired to change the course of the Civil War. Crossing lines between North and South, the band of conspirators wove a plan that remained undiscovered for more than 150 years until Antique Hunter Anne Hillstrom finds one of Keckley’s gowns. She and fellow Antique Hunter CC Muller unravel the mystery that has left a trail of dead bodies, leading to the doorstep of their antique store, Great-Aunt Sybil’s Attic.

Dressed to Kill is the fifth book in the Antique Hunters Mystery Series. Rooted in history, the series reimagines real-life events blurring the line between fact and fiction.

Giveaway

Click here to enter a Rafflecopter for a chance to win a complete set of the Antique Hunters Mysteries.

About the Author

With a passion for shopping and antiques, Vicki Vass turned in her reporter’s notebook to chronicle the adventures of Anne and CC, two antique hunters who use their skills to solve a murder case.

Vicki has written more than 1,400 stories for the Chicago Tribune as well as other commercial publications including Home & Away, the Lutheran and Woman’s World. Her science fiction novel, The Lexicon, draws on her experience in Sudan while writing about the ongoing civil war for World Relief.

She lives in the Chicago area with her husband, writer and musician Brian Tedeschi, son Tony, Australian shepherd Bandit, kittens Terra and Pixel, seven koi and Gary the turtle.

Author Links – Website – Blog – Facebook 

Purchase Link – Amazon

Review & Giveaway: MURDER AT ROUGH POINT by Alyssa Maxwell

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As part of a Blog Tour organized by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, I am happy to tell you about Murder at Rough Point, the latest addition to the  Gilded Newport Mysteries series by Alyssa Maxwell.

Description

MURDER AT ROUGH POINT.jpgIn glittering Newport, Rhode Island, status is everything. But despite being a poorer relation to the venerable Vanderbilts, Emma Cross has shaped her own identity—as a reporter and a sleuth.

As the nineteenth century draws to a close, Fancies and Fashion reporter Emma Cross is sent by the Newport Observer to cover an elite house party at Rough Point, a “cottage” owned by her distant cousin Frederick Vanderbilt that has been rented as an artist retreat. To her surprise, the illustrious guests include her estranged Bohemian parents—recently returned from Europe—as well as a variety of notable artists, including author Edith Wharton.

But when one of the artists is discovered dead at the bottom of a cliff, Rough Point becomes anything but a house of mirth. After a second murder, no one is above suspicion—including Emma’s parents. As Newport police detective Jesse Whyte searches for a killer, Emma tries to draw her own conclusions—with the help of Mrs. Wharton. But with so many sketchy suspects, she’ll need to canvas the crime scenes carefully, before the cunning culprit takes her out of the picture next .

Review

I confess to being a fan of both historical fiction and mysteries. This novel combined the two genres – presenting an interesting and enjoyable glimpse into the lifestyle of the Newport elite in the late 19th century.  I suspect that Emma Cross would have been a rarity in her time – proud and independent,  despite her status as a poor relation of the wealthy Vanderbilt family.  The retreat brings her face to face with a bizarre and closely knit gaggle of artists, including her own parents, all of whom seem to have incriminating secrets in their past.  The isolated mansion and a lengthy storm force Emma and all of the suspects to remain together, a circumstance reminiscent of an Agatha Christie mystery. As tensions rise, plot twists and discoveries keep you guessing. I’ll admit I found the pace a bit slow at first, but it improved as the story progressed.  The plot resolved nicely with more than one surprise.   All in all, a good old-fashioned mystery.

Note: Although this book is part of a series, it can definitely be enjoyed as a standalone. This was my first time reading anything by this author.

FTC Disclosure:   I received a complimentary copy of this book as part of this blog tour.  This has not affected the content of my review in any way. 

Giveaway

Enter a Rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win a print copy of Murder at Rough Point from the author.

About the Author

Alyssa-outside-2Alyssa Maxwell has worked in publishing as an assistant editor and a ghost writer, but knew from an early age that being a novelist was what she wanted most. Growing up in New England and traveling to Great Britain fueled a passion for history, while a love of puzzles of all kinds drew her to the mystery genre. She lives in South Florida in the current year, but confesses to spending most of her time in the Victorian, Edwardian, and post WWI eras. In addition to fantasizing about wearing Worth gowns while strolling manor house gardens, she loves to watch BBC and other period productions and sip tea in the afternoons.

Author Links

Purchase Links

Amazon       B&N         INDIE BOUND

Guest Post & Giveaway: JUST THE FACTS, MA’AM by Ellen Mansoor Collier

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As part of a Blog Tour organized by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours,  I am pleased to have Ellen Mansoor Collier as my guest today as she celebrates the release of VAMPS, VILLAINS AND VAUDEVILLE – the fourth book in the  Jazz Age Mystery Series.  Today she shares her thoughts and on writing historical novels.


JUST THE FACTS, MA’AM  by Ellen Mansoor Collier

EllenSancroppedI’ll admit, I was never much of a history buff in high school or college. What did Ancient Egypt or the Civil War have to do with my daily life of classes, jobs,  Student Council, football games, parties or dances? Although my mother was a World History teacher, I wasn’t at all interested until I managed an antiques shop after college between journalism jobs.

My bosses were two antiques dealers and decorators who took me on buying trips and taught me about different styles and period design. Antiques gave me a visual peek into the past: I could see the way people lived, touch their clothing, furniture, understand their habits and trends. Suddenly, for me, history came alive.

That glimpse led to a fascination with the Roaring Twenties. I loved almost everything about the 1920s:  the style, the carefree spirihere t, interior design, the flowing flapper clothes and jewelry, the lingo, the music. Not only did the right to vote in 1920 allow women’s emancipation, the “Dry Decade” became an era of invention and innovation, the “flaming youth’s” rebellion against the stuffy old Victorian mores, leading to the giddy excitement of the Jazz Age.

I tried to convey that sense of freedom and “anything goes” attitude in my soft-boiled Jazz Age mystery series, through the POV of my main character Jasmine (“Jazz”) Cross, a society reporter who longs to cover hard news in a male-dominated world. Her ambition is thwarted by her old-fashioned editors, yet she’s determined to find ways around the newspaper’s rules and restrictions. I created Jazz as a flapper version of real-life Victorian journalist Nellie Bly, and set the novels during Prohibition in 1920s Galveston, Texas, interweaving actual gangsters, events and local landmarks into the plots.

While researching FLAPPERS, I became intrigued when I found out that Al Capone tried to muscle in on Galveston’s rival gangs, the Beach and Downtown gangs. I included this fun fact in the preface to show the powerful reach and reputation of Galveston’s gangsters, little known outside of Texas.

As a journalist, I prefer reality-based stories because I feel like I’m learning something new while I’m reading and researching. I enjoyed watching old silent movies, period dramas and documentaries, especially noir films featuring gangsters and mobsters, noting the settings (furniture, lamps, clothing, music, etc.) and jotted down expressions and bits of conversation. (True, I’m guilty of overusing Jazz Age sayings so I included a glossary of slang in the back of my novels.)

Since I wrote about real people, politicians (and gangsters), I had to be careful not to include anything too offensive or incriminating since much of the information was based on legend and largely undocumented.

What’s interesting is that the gangsters and bootleggers of yesteryear mirror today’s drug dealers, gangs and cartels. Still, I learned a lot about organized crime, politics and Prohibition, and how often their worlds intermingled.

History may repeat itself, but fiction makes it fresh and new. Enjoy!


Vamps, Villains and Vaudeville
A historical Jazz Age mystery inspired by real-life Galveston gangs and local landmarks.

VAMPS VILLAINSIn 1920s Galveston, society reporter Jazz Cross is in for a surprise when she attends a traveling vaudeville show with her beau, Prohibition Agent James Burton, and discovers that an old flame acts in the production. That night, they find a stabbing victim behind the Oasis — her half-brother Sammy’s speakeasy — who’s identified as an actor in the troupe. When the victim disappears and later turns up dead, Jazz must help prove that Sammy wasn’t the killer.

Meanwhile, a ring of jewel thieves are turning up all over town, robbing rich tourists of their precious gems. After a second vaudeville actor is found dead, Jazz discovers that the events behind the scenes are much more interesting than the outdated acts onstage.

To make matters worse, Sammy’s old nemesis demands that he settles a score and forces him into yet another illegal scheme. Can Jazz help solve the murders and prove her brother’s innocence—so he can escape the Downtown Gang for good?

Giveaway
Click here to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win an e-copy of a Jazz Age Mystery.

About Ellen Mansoor Collier

Ellen Mansoor Collier is a Houston-based freelance magazine writer and editor whose articles and essays have been published in a variety of national magazines. Several of her short stories have appeared in Woman’s World. During college summers, she worked as a reporter for a Houston community newspaper and as a cocktail waitress, both jobs providing background experience for her Jazz Age mysteries.

A flapper at heart, she’s worked as a magazine editor/writer, and in advertising and public relations (plus endured a hectic semester as a substitute teacher). She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Magazine Journalism and served on UTmost, the college magazine and as president of WICI (Women in Communications).

FLAPPERS, FLASKS AND FOUL PLAY is her first novel, published in 2012, followed by the sequel, BATHING BEAUTIES, BOOZE AND BULLETS, released in May 2013. She lives in Houston with her husband and Chow mutts, and visits Galveston whenever possible.

“When you grow up in Houston, Galveston becomes like a second home. I had no idea this sleepy beach town had such a wild and colorful past until I began doing research, and became fascinated by the legends and stories of the 1920s. Finally I had to stop researching and start writing, trying to imagine a flapper’s life in Galveston during Prohibition.”

Author Links:

Website: http://www.flapperfinds.com/
GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6452242.Ellen_Mansoor_Collier
Pinterest – https://www.pinterest.com/artdecodame/flappers/
Purchase Link

Other books by this author:

You can find all her books on Amazon.

Book Review & Giveaway: BIRDS OF PASSAGE by Joe Giordano

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Today, as part of a Blog Tour organized by Italy Book Tours,  I am happy to introduce you to Birds of Passage by Joe Giordano.

Book Description:
Birds of Passage by Joe GiordanoWhat turns the gentle mean and the mean brutal? The thirst for wealth? The demand for respect? Vying for a woman? Birds of Passage recalls the Italian immigration experience at the turn of the twentieth-century when New York’s streets were paved with violence and disappointment.

Leonardo Robustelli leaves Naples in 1905 to seek his fortune. Carlo Mazzi committed murder and escaped. Azzura Medina is an American of Italian parents. She’s ambitious but strictly controlled by her mother. Leonardo and Carlo vie for her affection.

Azzura, Leonardo, and Carlo confront con men, Tammany Hall politicians, the longshoreman’s union, Camorra clans, Black Hand extortion, and the Tombs prison.

Buy the book here:  Amazon

My Review:
This book provided an interesting glimpse into the immigrant experience in the early 1900s, when so many young Italians came to America seeking a better life or to escape their pasts.  The two main characters, Leonardo and Carlo, are from the same place, but from different economic classes. These young men were willing to endure long voyages under horrible conditions and undertake almost any kind of work to get by.  They came to America for different reasons, yet soon find their lives intertwined as they try to survive.

Birds of Passage describes a time when corruption, violence and racketeering were a part of daily life. It is clear from the detailed descriptions of tenement life, the clashes between the Italian clan-based gangs and  between different ethnic groups (the Irish in particular), the labour union issues, and more, that the author thoroughly researched the period.  It was an informative and enjoyable read.

FTC Disclosure:   I received a complimentary copy of this book as part of this blog tour.  This has not affected the content of my review in any way. 

Giveaway!
Enter for a chance to win 1 of 3 copies of Birds of Passage (print Book USA & Canada; ebook international).
Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway

About the author:
Joe GiordanoJoe Giordano was born in Brooklyn. His father and grandparents immigrated to New York from Naples. Joe and his wife, Jane have lived in Greece, Brazil, Belgium and the Netherlands. They now live in Texas with their shih tzu Sophia. Joe’s stories have appeared in more than sixty magazines including Bartleby Snopes, The Newfound Journal, and The Summerset Review.

Connect with the author:   Website  ~   Twitter  ~   Facebook

Book Review & Giveaway: A SONG FOR BELLAFORTUNA by Vincent LeCoco

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It’s time for a change of pace. As part of a Blog Tour organized by Italy Book Tours,  I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing A Song for Bellafortuna by Vincent B. “Chip” LoCoco.

Book Description (from Amazon):

Bellafortuna_coverA Song for Bellafortuna is an inspirational Italian historical fiction novel concerning a young man’s desire to free his Sicilian village from the domination of one family’s long reign.

For years, the beautiful, yet secluded, hilltop village of Bellafortuna, Sicily, was a great producer of wine and olive oil. The entire village prospered. However, after the arrival of the Vasaio family, production dwindles and the villagers soon find themselves in crushing debt to the Vasaios. Only one family in the village remains outside the control of the Vasaios, but the reason haunts Antonio Sanguinetti every day of his life. Antonio is determined to erase this legacy by offering financial and emotional support to his fellow villagers. He introduces them to the choral song from Verdi’s opera, Nabucco, which becomes the rallying cry for the villagers and offers them hope for a better life.

When Antonio’s only son, Giuseppe, discovers his family’s past, he becomes determined to take on the Vasaios and remove them from power. Led by the young Giuseppe, a plan is hatched that could result in either complete freedom for the villagers, or if it fails, forever solidifying the Vasaios’ control. Find out what happens in A Song for Bellafortuna, a sweeping epic historical fiction tale of love, drama, sacrifice, and redemption, set among the beautiful landscape of Sicily.

My Review

Without a doubt, my decision to read this book was prompted in part by its gorgeous cover and the fact that my paternal grandfather (by chance, also named Giuseppe) grew up in a small village in Southern Italy.

In A  Song for Bellafortuna, the author’s paints a vivid picture of a picturesque hilltop village surrounded by olive groves and vineyards.  The charm of a time when horse carts were the mode of transportation shined through.

From the opening pages of the story,  I was drawn into young Giuseppe Sanguinetti’s story.  Even as a young boy he shows compassion for the less fortunate.  Giuseppe is quick to recognize the injustice of  the Vasaio family’s control over the villagers.  The  residents of Bellafortuna are decent, hard-working people, yet many live in squalor. An idealist at heart, Giuseppe is determined to find a way to bring about change.

As a music lover, I could relate to Giuseppe’s anguish when faced with the possibility of how his actions might affect his fellow villagers.  To quote John Paul Richter, “Music is moonlight in the gloomy night of life.”  For the villagers, music is more than entertainment, it gives them hope and the strength to go on.

The author has great way of telling a story. The historical events of the time period and the fictional aspects of the story are woven together well, though some suspension of disbelief is required on the part of the reader.  The book is very well written, although I do think that some of the descriptive passages could be more concise.

Song for Bellafortuna was a very enjoyable read that ends on a positive note. Music can inspire change. As I turned those final pages, I was sorry to see Giuseppe’s story come to an end.

FTC Disclosure:   I received a complimentary copy of this book as part of this blog tour.  This has not affected the content of my review in any way. 

A Song for Bellafortuna is available on Amazon (Ebook, Paperback, AudioBook). Check out the book trailer.

Meet the author:  

Vincent B. Award winning and bestselling author, Vincent B. “Chip” LoCoco, lives in New Orleans.
His first novel, Tempesta’s Dream – A Story of Love, Friendship and Opera, became an Amazon bestselling novel and was awarded the 2014 Pinnacle Achievement Award in Historical Fiction. Amazon also has named his book as a Top Rated Novel in Italian Historical Fiction.
His most recent novel, A Song for Bellafortuna, was shortlisted in the William Faulkner – William Wisdom Competition. He is an estate planning attorney in New Orleans, where he lives with his wife and two children.

Connect with the author:    Website     Twitter    Facebook

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