Thursday, October 23, 2014

Review: The White Princess

The White Princess

The White Princess

By Philippa Gregory
Touchstone, April 2014 

About the Book

When Henry Tudor picks up the crown of England from the mud of Bosworth Field, he knows he must marry the princess of the enemy house—Elizabeth of York—to unify a country divided by war for nearly two decades.

But his bride is still in love with his slain enemy, Richard III—and her mother and half of England dream of a missing heir, sent into the unknown by the White Queen. While the new monarchy can win power, it cannot win hearts in an England that plots for the triumphant return of the House of York.

Henry’s greatest fear is that somewhere a prince is waiting to invade and reclaim the throne. When a young man who would be king leads his army to invade England, Elizabeth has to choose between the new husband she is coming to love and the boy who claims to be her beloved lost brother: the Rose of York, come home at last.

My Review

I love Philippa Gregory’s novels. So far every one that I’ve read has held my interest to the end. This one was a bit more challenging than others for some reason. It took me a lot longer to read than usual, despite the interruption in my life and routine that made reading anything challenging. I did identify with the heroine and loved how the story ended with the White Princess finally understanding what Queen Anne went through when she—Elizabeth, the White Princess—was the apple of King Richard’s eye. I liked how it tied to the other book, Lady of the Rivers, which I found very hard to put down.

The element of the missing York princes and the legend of what may have happened to them—which no one knows for sure—mingled with the curse Elizabeth made with her mother on whoever killed prince Richard, became a subtle, yet integral part of this novel. I loved that element of intrigue. Also, the fear and trepidation that Elizabeth’s husband went through as long as the people of England wanted to replace him with a York prince made this story tie into others I’ve read as well. I felt for Elizabeth and hurt for her being forced into a loveless marriage with a king who essentially raped her in the beginning. There was no love in their marriage, and if she had been anyone other than a York princess, the fate of being matched with the usurper, pretender Tudor king would not have taken place.

All in all, this was a good story about what it may have looked like during the time when the Tudor’s feared that their throne would be taken over by a York. The ending left me feeling a bit sad, and I agree that the guilt felt by the king was well-deserved. The coolest part is that the next segment of the story follows history. Arthur marries Kathryn of Aragon and dies, thus she is remarried to Henry, who becomes the famous Henry VIII, who is well known for his many wives and lack of a legitimate male heir, resulting in the Virgin Queen.

Healing Hearts . . . fiction making an impact on real lives

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Tamera Lynn Kraft's Search for History Part Two

Today we're delighted to welcome Tamera Lynn Kraft back to Novel PASTimes for the second part of her interview. Tamera has always loved adventures and writes Christian historical fiction set in America because there are so many adventures in American history. She is married to the love of her life, has two grown children, and lives in Akron, Ohio.

Tamera is the leader of a ministry called Revival Fire For Kids where she mentors other children’s leaders, teaches workshops, and is a children’s ministry consultant and children’s evangelist. She has curriculum published and is a recipient of the 2007 National Children’s Leaders Association Shepherd.

Welcome back, Tamera. What was the greatest challenge in writing your books?

I suppose my greatest challenge is being accurate with historical detail. I am a stickler for researching my stories, but it seems no matter how much I research, there’s probably something that I’ll miss. I try to be okay with that, but I’m not.

What do you hope readers remember after your stories ends?

Even though my stories are historical, the emotions and turmoil the characters go through are every bit what we go through today. I hope that my readers see themselves through my characters and take away something that helps them in their everyday life.

Also my stories tend to be heart wrenching. I want my stories to grab hold of my readers, entice them into my story world, and not let them go until the last page. If I’ve done a good job, the story will stay with them long after that.

What surprised you most as you wrote your books?

I always find surprises when I’m researching my books. For instance, in A Christmas Promise, I was surprised to find out that the Moravians started many of our Christmas traditions back in the 1700s.

When I wrote Soldier’s Heart, I researched my hometown, a small town in Northeast Ohio, and was surprised to find out that Ravenna was once known for top of the line carriages and hearses and that Abraham Lincoln once stopped there to make a speech. I had grown up in Ravenna, and I didn’t know about either of these facts.

I never know what interest fact my research will turn up.

What’s next for you?

I keep writing and turning stories into my agent, Linda Glaz from Hartline. She is currently working to find a place for three of my stories. She’s as tenacious as I am when it comes to never giving up.

Do you participate in author book signings or events? Where can readers find you?

I do participate in book signings on occasion, usually near where I live in Akron, Ohio. My readers can also find me at these online sites.

What are you currently reading?

At the moment, I’m working to finish editing my newest novel. But I did recently finish reading Mary Ellis’ new Civil War novel called The Lady and the Officer. It was a great read. I also recently read a WW2 spy novel called With Music in their Hearts by Carole Brown. It will be out in November.

Which of your books would you love to see turned into a movie?

All of them. I can picture each one of them as a movie when I’m writing them. I even have the actors picked out to play the different characters. If a movie was made of one of my novels, it would be difficult to use my choices though. I love classic movies, so most of the actors I would choose are either too old or dead. For instance, A Christmas Promise would star Gregory Peck and Ingrid Bergman. A novel I recently wrote would star Humphrey Bogart and Audrey Hepburn. So if I ever do have one of my books made into a movie, I’ll have to leave the casting to someone else.

Thanks for interviewing me. I enjoyed it.

Thanks for being here!

Tamera is also giving away a copy of one of her books. To enter, please answer the following question in a comment: What favorite Christmas traditions do you use to celebrate every year?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tamera Lynn Kraft's Search for History Part One

Today we're delighted to welcome Tamera Lynn Kraft to Novel PASTimes. Tamera has always loved adventures and writes Christian historical fiction set in America because there are so many adventures in American history. She is married to the love of her life, has two grown children, and lives in Akron, Ohio.

Tamera is the leader of a ministry called Revival Fire For Kids where she mentors other children’s leaders, teaches workshops, and is a children’s ministry consultant and children’s evangelist. She has curriculum published and is a recipient of the 2007 National Children’s Leaders Association Shepherd’s Cup for lifetime achievement in children’s ministry.
Welcome to PASTimes! Thanks for joining us and sharing a bit about your writing world. Tell us about your latest book.

A Christmas Promise is a Moravian Christmas story set in the wilderness of Ohio. In 1773, there were a band of missionaries and Lenape Indians celebrating Christmas at Schoenbrunn Village, the first settlement in Ohio. They’d come to this wilderness and started the village a year earlier to preach the Gospel to the Lenape, also known as the Deleware.

This is the setting for A Christmas Promise. John and Anna settle in this Ohio village to become Moravian missionaries to the Lenape. When John is called away to help at another settlement two days before Christmas, he promises he’ll be back by Christmas Day.

When he doesn’t show up, Anna works hard to not fear the worst while she provides her children with a traditional Moravian Christmas.
Through it all, she discovers a Christmas promise that will give her the peace she craves.

Tell us about your books. What drew you to write them?

My stories always come from interesting things I learn about history, usually American history. For instance, when I visited Schoenbrunn Village and found out about the missionaries that lived there, I wondered what their lives would be like. Did they ever worry about the dangers of raising their families in the wilderness among hostile tribes? That's how A Christmas Promise started.

Another novella that was published, Soldier’s Heart, came about when I read about the heroic Ohio Seventh regiment that lost most of their men in their last battle. I wondered what it would be like for a soldier returning home from the Civil War with PTSD after losing his men in a time where there were no treatments for it.

Another one of my stories that hasn’t been published yet is about a woman abolitionist who attends Oberlin College, the only college before the Civil War that allowed blacks and women. She returns home during break to confront her father who is a slave owner. I wrote that story after reading about the women who graduated from Oberlin and how they were involved in every social cause in the late 1800s including abolition. I started wondering what it would be like for an abolitionist to stand up to her family. It’s called Red Sky over America.

As long as there are interesting facts to read about in American history, I’ll never run out of story ideas.

Tamera will be back tomorrow to tell us more about her writing. She's also giving away a copy of one of her books. To enter, please answer the following question in a comment: What favorite Christmas traditions do you use to celebrate every year?

And be sure to come back tomorrow for the rest of this interview.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Travel Guides and Historical Fiction

Today we welcome Michelle Ule, our guest blogger.

Who knew how important travel guides would be when I wrote a book set in Egypt 100 years ago?

You say Egypt and people think pyramids, King Tut and Luxor; all the famous places tourists have been visiting for years.

Since we know the pyramids have been there forever, I turned to a guide book to give me a sense of the where and what–as in, where are these tourist spots, what’s the weather like and what do people eat? I focused on the timeless–what would have been the same in 1914 as it is today.

So I checked travel guides–they’d have the basic information I need and provide maps, along with perspective. I started with Lonely Planet’s Egypt.

Lonely Planet’s travel guide gave me an overview of the entire country and its history. The index enabled me to look up items pertinent to my story: like just where the pyramids are in relation to Old Cairo, for example. It included a glossary of common terms an English speaker might need, including how to pronounce them.

Lonely Planet Egypt also interpreted foreign customs. Many understand “baksheesh,” and a beggar’s desire for a tip, but who knew a loud hissing sound is their way of saying, “watch out?” 

The travel guide that excited me most was found through Google books: Baedeker‘s 1914 Egypt.

The information is priceless! I learned the name of an occulist and his advice for guarding your eyes in a sandstorm; which tram to catch to Heliopolis and how much it cost (along with the schedule); that crows and kites live in the few city parks; the Fishmarket (which is not close to the Nile) is a disreputable quarter and soothsayers squat beside the road to tell fortunes by consulting the sand!

As this was the actual guide used by people living 100 years ago to tour the country, the details were extraordinary. It provided the names of shipping firms (including the ships that sailed between Southampton and Alexandria); explained how to catch the train and described the dusty exhibits in the Egyptian Museum–all information I used.

From Baedeker, I learned the streets were filled with the sounds of “cracking driver’s whips, jingling money at the table changers and the rattling of the brazen vessels carried by water carriers.” I’d never have imagined those sensory details.

He spared us information on the smells, but did provide a list of restaurants in Cairo and included warnings about places respectable ladies should not visit.

Travel guides might not be the first choice for a writer’s research, but their overviews and insights can supply details that make a story come alive—no matter in what armchair or what century you’re reading them!

Michelle Ule is a best-selling author of inspirational and historical fiction who lives with her family in northern California. When not traveling herself, she likes to read about foreign lands. Visit her website at

Friday, October 17, 2014

This Week's Winner

So happy to hear many of you like several different historical periods in your fiction!

This week's winner of Misty Beller's The Lady and the Mountain Man is Britney! Congrats! I already have your address, Britney.

Have a wonderful autumn weekend, everyone!


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Review: Hand of Fire

Hand of Fire

By Judith Starkston
Fireship Press, April 2014

About the Book

The Trojan War threatens Troy’s allies, and the Greek supply raids spread. A young healing priestess, designated as future queen, must defend her city against both divine anger and invading Greeks. She finds strength in visions of a handsome warrior god. Will that be enough when the half-immortal Achilles attacks? Hand of Fire, a tale of resilience and hope, blends history and legend in the untold story of Achilles’s famous captive, Briseis.

My Review

Starkston’s debut novel, Hand of Fire, is a retelling of Homer’s Iliad from an entirely different—and female—perspective. Here we hear of Achilles and the Trojan War through the eyes of Briseis, priestess of the healing goddess, Kamrusepa, and widow of the heir to the throne of Lyrnessos, which is sacked by Achilles and the Greeks. Briseis becomes Achilles’ prisoner and fights an attraction to the man who was responsible for the killing and plundering that destroyed her family and her city. Once a prisoner and in love with the doomed hero, Briseis becomes a pawn in the larger struggle, caught between two warring powers, Achilles and Agamemnon.

Briseis is a minor character in the Iliad and fans of the 2004 movie Troy might remember her as Achilles’ captive and lover in the movie, a girl of torn loyalties but still someone with a small role in the story. Here, Starkston brings Briseis to life and gives her the credit she is due. We experience her thoughts, her dreams, her perspective on the killing, raping, and pillaging of the Trojan War; her relationships with her family; and her growing fear as she is pulled between Achilles and Agamemnon.

Starkston dusts off the classic and gives the readers a view through the eyes of a participant, one who played an integral role in the events but one who has been largely overlooked by historians and readers over the years. We experience the events in ways that bind the reader to Briseis, a young woman in extraordinary circumstances but with more in common with modern women than one could imagine.

Starkston shows us the Trojan War in a whole new light, with a heroine that is fierce, brave, loyal, and intriguing. Everyone should experience the Trojan War through Briseis’s eyes.

Rebecca Henderson Palmer

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Author Misty Beller Talks about Misconceptions about Writers and Her Dream Office

Misty Beller writes Christian historical romance, and is the author of The Lady and the Mountain Man. She was raised on a farm in South Carolina, so her Southern roots run deep. Growing up, her family was close, and they continue to keep that priority today. Her husband and two daughters now add another dimension to her life, keeping her both grounded and crazy.

God has placed a desire in Misty’s heart to combine her love for Christian fiction and the simpler ranch life, writing historical novels that display God’s abundant love through the twists and turns in the lives of her characters.
You can find Misty on her website, blog, Goodreads, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.

Misty is giving away a copy of her new novel, The Lady and the Mountain Man. The winner has a choice of paperback or e-book. To enter the drawing, leave a comment answering this question:

What's your favorite historical time period to read? (e.g. Biblical Fiction, Civil War, WWI, etc.)

Welcome back, Misty. Describe your workspace.

I tend to be a nomadic writer. My trusty laptop and I have written in a few coffee shops, on the beach, and around a campfire in the mountains. But most of my writing spots aren't nearly as romantic. I'm usually sitting Indian-style with my laptop on either my bed or the living room couch. One of the most important things for me is NO DISTRACTIONS. It's almost impossible for me to write with my husband or daughters around. Just too hard to get lost in the words.

Describe your dream workspace.

I would LOVE to have a cozy sitting room or library, with a comfortable overstuffed chair. With my laptop perched across my legs, and a cup of warm coffee on the side table, I would alternate between writing and looking out the window at a majestic mountain view. J Sounds perfect, right?

If you could be a character from your favorite historical novel, who would you be

That's a tough one. As authors, our goal is to make things pretty rough for our characters. I'm not sure I want to go through the things some of my favorite characters have had to go through! Carina Maria DeGratia lived such an exciting life in Kristen Heitzmann's series The Diamond of the Rockies. And I love how her Italian roots and family were so important to her. Or maybe I'd like to be Mariah Aubrey from Julie Klassen's The Girl in the Gatehouse. How exciting to be a secret female author in Regency England!

What is the biggest misconception the general public has about authors?

There are a couple major misconceptions, I think. The biggest is probably the perception that authors get to sit at their typewriter or notebook all day and write as our muse dictates. If only! There are so many other things required for successful authors, from blogging, to marketing, to months of editing. If I get to spend half of my "writing time" actually writing new words, I consider myself blessed!
What is the biggest misconception beginning writers have about being published?
That once you are published the first time, you're automatically "in" with all the rest of your books. That may be true with some authors and some publishing houses, but for many people that's not the case. So many factors play into whether that next book will be accepted for publication and by which publisher. How well did the last book sell? What's the genre and word count of the manuscript you're pitching? So much to consider!
What would you like readers to gain from reading your books?

I once heard James Rubart say that every pastor only has one sermon, and the same is true with writers. In other words, there's one big-picture theme that pours from each of our hearts and into our writing. For me, it's the message that trusting God's plan for our lives brings us to a better place than we could ever imagine. Each of my heroes or heroines may have different hang-ups that keep them from allowing God to take the reins, but I want my readers to get a glimpse of the amazing outcome when we finally release our lives into God's capable hands.
Thanks for joining us here on Favorite PASTimes. Any final words for readers or writers?
I'd love to leave you with one of my favorite scriptures, Ephesians 3:16-21 (NKJV):

That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man,
That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love,
May be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—
To know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,
To Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Thanks for the interview, Misty. Remember to leave a comment to be entered in the drawing for a copy of The Lady and the Mountain Man. To enter, answer this question:
What's your favorite historical time period to read? (e.g. Biblical Fiction, Civil War, WWI, etc.)