Thursday, July 02, 2015

Review: Sovay

Celia Rees
Celia Rees
Bloomsbury USA, October 2010

About the Book

In 1794 England, the beautiful Sovay dons a man’s cloak and holds up stagecoaches in broad daylight. Posing as a highway robber began as a lark to test a suitor’s devotion. But when she lifts the wallet of one of England’s most dangerous men, Sovay begins to unravel a web of deceit and duplicity. Acclaimed author Celia Rees’ talent for romance and intrigue are sure to thrill a paperback audience.

My Review

I liked this one a lot. It is about a female highwayman. She didn’t begin her life of crime out of need or even for thrills. No,  her first armed robbery was solely for revenge. Sovay is a young woman engaged to be married. When she learns that her fiancĂ© has cheated on her, she begins plotting her revenge. But what she doesn’t know is how trivial this will all seem within a few days.

Sovay is an adventurous, strong, intelligent heroine. Her family—her father and brother especially—will soon be threatened; their lives at danger if they’re found. For Sovay learns that her family is about to be charged with treason—among other charges. They stand accused of having the wrong views on the French Revolution, of being symphatetic with the uprisers in France. The charges aren’t exactly true—they support the philosophies not the murderous actions of the people—but true or not there are people who will stop at nothing to destroy her family.

I won’t go into much detail. The story was delightful. Most of the reviews of this one that I’ve come across have found it disappointing in one way or another. The readers have read other books they feel are better or more worthwhile. I haven’t had that much experience with this time period and this subject, so I didn’t find it disappointing. I didn’t find it unoriginal or uninspired. I found it entertaining and well paced. I enjoyed every minute I spent with Sovay.

Becky’s Book Reviews
Operation Actually Read Bible
Young Readers

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Interview with Margaret Brownley - Love and Laughter Day 2

Best-selling author Margaret Brownley has penned nearly forty historical novels. Her books have won numerous awards, including Readers' Choice and Award of Excellence. She's a former Romance Writers of American RITA® finalist and has written for a TV soap.  She is currently working on a new series.  Not bad for someone who flunked eighth grade English.  Just don't ask her to diagram a sentence.

Margaret is giving away a copy of her new novel, Undercover Bride. To enter the drawing for a chance to win, click the link at the end of this post.

A reader once asked me this question, and I thought it was a good one. Is there ever a time when you feel like your work is truly finished and complete?
That is a good question.  I honestly don't have time to think about a book once the final edits are done.  The next book requires all my time and energy. So I guess the answer would have to be yes, I feel like my work is complete (for sanity's sake).
Describe your workspace.
I pretty much have my dream office.  It’s not fancy but it’s serviceable and it looks out over my pool, waterfall and mountains.  I call it my Monet room so naturally it’s painted Monet purple.  Purple is a great color for stimulating creativity and Monet is my favorite artist.  The room includes floor to ceiling bookshelves stuffed with my favorite research books, and a vertical paper file that practically reaches the ceiling. I sit on a balance ball chair which is great for the back.
If you could be a character from your favorite historical novel, who would you be?
As a child I pretended to be Jo from Little Women.  That's because she was a writer.  She inspired me to write my first "novel" in fifth grade.
What is the biggest misconception the general public has about authors?
Sometimes I wonder if the general public realizes that writing is a profession. It's how we pay our bills. Some people will pay five, six and even seven dollars for a Hallmark card but insist upon free or 99 cent books. A writer friend received a letter from a reader who claimed to have read her book for free at Barnes and Noble and loved it.  I've received similar letters from well-meaning readers.  One actually asked me to write to her local Goodwill and demand they carry my books. She would probably be surprised to learn that writers receive no compensation for used books. Fortunately, I've developed a good sense of humor through the years.  I don't think you can survive this business without it.
What is the biggest misconception beginning writers have about being published?
For me, the biggest misconception was thinking that once I sold a book to a publisher my work was done.  Little did I know that I would also be expected to go out there and promote, promote, promote.
What would you like readers to gain from reading your book(s)?

My hope is that my stories touch readers’ hearts.  If I succeed then readers will likely enjoy a good laugh and maybe even shed a tear or two.  They will also learn a little something about our glorious past and how it relates to the present.
Thanks for joining us here on Favorite PASTimes. Any final words for readers or writers?
Thank you so much for stopping by today.  It was a lot of fun.

Margaret is giving away a copy of her new novel Undercover Bride. To enter the drawing, click the box below and follow the instructions.

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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Interview with Margaret Brownley - More Love and Laughter Day 1

Best-selling author Margaret Brownley has penned nearly forty historical novels. Her books have won numerous awards, including Readers' Choice and Award of Excellence. She's a former Romance Writers of American RITA® finalist and has written for a TV soap.  She is currently working on a new series.  Not bad for someone who flunked eighth grade English.  Just don't ask her to diagram a sentence.

Margaret is giving away a copy of her new novel, Undercover Bride. To enter the drawing for a chance to win, click the link at the end of this post.

Welcome to PASTimes. Tell us a little about what you write.

Thank you so much for having me. I write historical romances that take place mainly in the Old West. I especially like writing romance because you can explore every possible theme known to mankind through the relationship of two people falling in love. I always wanted to write mysteries but my publishers wouldn't let me. So I compensate by adding a mystery to my romance novels. 

Are you a full-time writer or do you hold a day job? What is the biggest challenge/obstacle you face in protecting your writing time?

Early in my writing career I worked, but now I write full time. The biggest challenge to protecting my writing time is me! It's easier now because I have deadlines and that keeps me focused, but it wasn't always that way. My family and friends know that my serious writing time is during morning hours, and they all respect that. When my children were still living at home they knew not to bother me when I was writing unless their hair was on fire.

What historical time periods interest you the most and how have you immersed yourself in a particular time period?
I’m fascinated by the similarities between the 19th century and current times. The 1800s saw its share of bank failures, recessions, depressions and wars. Technology changed the way people lived back then just as it has today. The railroad made a big impact and so did electricity and the telephone. The telegram has been called the Victorian Internet and for good reason.
Then as now women were doing fascinating things and two actually ran for president.  Even the recent police problems are rooted in the past. The Pinkerton National Detective Agency (which I write about in my Undercover Ladies series) was accused of brutality and its once adoring public turned against them.  If you want to know what problems people faced during the 1800s just turn on the news.
Introduce us briefly to the main characters in your most recent book.

Maggie Cartwright is a Pinkerton detective working undercover as a mail order bride.

She's "engaged" to marry Garrett Thomas, suspected of being the notorious Whistle Stop bandit.  If she doesn't find the money stolen from the train before the wedding she could end up as his wife!
What are you working on now?

I finished the 3rd and last book in my Undercover Ladies series and have just completed Left at the Altar, the first book in a new series.  I'm now working on book two.

You can read the rest of Margaret Brownley's interview tomorrow. She is giving away a copy of her new novel Undercover Bride. To enter the drawing, click the box below and follow the instructions.

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Monday, June 29, 2015

Get Fired Up for the Fourth of July!

When Americans prepare to celebrate the nation’s birthday this weekend, there’s one thing nearly everyone associates with the holiday, whether you have the chance to see them in person or not: fireworks.

The first "fireworks" were created by the Chinese, when they would set fire to bamboo and watch it explode because of the air pockets inside. Photo from  

And that’s how it should be, because fireworks have been part of America ever since European settlers made their homes here. According to legend, Captain John Smith set off the first fireworks display in Jamestown in 1608.

The use of fireworks at celebrations continued through the years, and was even mentioned by John Adams in a letter he wrote to his wife Abigail on July 3, 1776 – the day before the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence.

“The day will be most memorable in the history of America,” he wrote. “I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade…bonfires and illuminations [a term for fireworks]…from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore.”

The following year, the first fireworks displays commemorating Independence Day were seen on July 4, 1777. The Pennsylvania Evening Post wrote that in Philadelphia, “The evening was closed with the ring of bells, and at night there was a grand exhibition of fireworks (which began and concluded with thirteen rockets) on the Commons, and the city was beautifully illuminated.” The paper noted that “Everything was conducted with the greatest order and decorum, and the face of joy and gladness was universal.”

That same year, fireworks also lit up the sky in Boston, where they were exhibited by Col. Thomas Crafts over the common. By 1783 a large variety of fireworks were available to the public. In 1784 one merchant offered a range of pyrotechnics that included “rockets, serpents, wheels, table rockets, cherry trees, fountains, and sun flowers.”

Today, fireworks light up the skies to mark a multitude of events across the country, including presidential inaugurations (going all the way back to George Washington’s), graduation ceremonies, sporting events celebrations, and other holidays such as New Year’s Eve. Enjoy yours this weekend, however you might see them.

Bonus history tidbit: When John Adams wrote his letter to Abigail, he actually was referring to July 2 as his predicted holiday, not July 4. That’s because July 2 was the day Congress voted for independence. The written document was completed on July 4 and taken to the printer. Historians say he printed that date at the top of the paper, so that’s how July 4 became the date associated with independence. The actual signing of the Declaration of Independence didn’t begin until August and continued until November. 

Happy birthday to America, whichever date you want to celebrate!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Happy Birthday To Us!

My apologies. I meant to post this yesterday!

Can you believe we are 9 years old today? Yep, we started blogging June 26, 2006. Back then we were known as "Favorite PASTimes." Here is a link to our very first post.

A lot has changed since then. We started with a schedule of having a different blogger post each week. A few years ago we changed to the schedule we have now, and it seems to be working fine. But we're open to change so who knows what the future might bring. We have different people working on the blog now, but some of the names haven't changed, and our dedication to promoting historical fiction has not waned. We are still fanatical about the genre, and we're happy you are too!

Here's a list of some interesting things we did in our early days:

Our first interview was Ann Tatlock. She is still writing great books!

Our second week blogger was author Tricia Goyer.

Author Beth Goddard did some posts on the Middle Ages.

Jill Eileen Smith wrote about why adults need Bible stories, and then she went on to publish quite a few!

Amber Stockton wrote about taking a concept and developing it into a book, and of course she too has gone on to write many novels. And she's still one of Novel PASTimes's team members. :)

Here is one of Michelle Sutton's first reviews for us, posted by Joan (J. M. Hochstetler.) I'm happy to say these two are often still teaming up to bring you reviews. Since the early days Becky Laney and
Rebecca Palmer have contributed reviews, and I add one every now and then as well.

Joan wrote some posts for us back then as well. Here is one on understanding historical English writings.

Did you know agent/author Terry Burns used to write for our blog? Here is one of his posts from our first year.

Author Linda Wichman was another early guest blogger. She wrote about the Crusades.

I wrote about cultural festivals. Don't all lovers of history enjoy them?

These are only a few highlights. I hope you've enjoyed the last few years as much as we have!


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Georgette Heyer
Regency Buck
By Georgette Heyer
Sourcebooks Casablanca, August 2008

About the Book

An altogether unsatisfactory arrangement with altogether too many complications....

After their father’s death, Miss Judith Taverner and her brother Peregrine travel to London to meet their guardian, Lord Worth, expecting an elderly gentleman. To their surprise and utter disgust, their guardian is not much older than they are, doesn’t want the office of guardian any more than they want him, and is determined to thwart all their interests and return them to the country.

But when Miss Taverner and Peregrine begin to move in the highest social circles, Lord Worth cannot help but entangle himself with his adventuresome wards...

My Review

“Newark was left behind and the post-chaise-and-four entered on a stretch of flat country which offered little to attract the eye, or occasion remark.”

Georgette Heyer was a wonderful writer. A beloved writer, in fact, known for her regency romances in particular. Her books are rich in detail—but not in a burdening, cumbersome way. And her characters are always nicely drawn from human nature. Flaws abound, but that’s always a good thing. Vices and temptations abound in her works: drinking, gambling (be it at the gaming table or in a sporting arena), keeping bad company, and fashion, to name just a few examples. How is fashion a vice? Well, if you’re too vain or selfish and spend too much time primping in front of a mirror, then chances are you’re in for a comeuppance. Also, spending too much money on fashion—clothes, hats, gloves, jewelry, etc.—is just one way it can be a vice.

In Regency Buck we have the story of a brother and sister newly arrived in London: Peregrine Tavener, the brother, and his older sister, Judith Tavener. Both their parents have died, and the father’s will left them under the care of Lord Worth. They are coming to set up house and, perhaps even more important, to meet their guardian. They expect an older gentleman, a man who would have been their father’s contemporary. Someone with gout presumably. What they find is Julian, a young man just a handful of years older than they are. He isn’t particularly pleased with this added responsibility, and he’s not shy about admitting this to his wards. But for one year at least, until Judith’s birthday, he is their official guardian.

The Taveners set up their own house. Mrs. Scattergood, a relation of Julian’s, is Judith’s companion and chaperone, needed during that time to protect young women and provide them with counsel on how to behave in society. Of course, Peregrine, who’s prone to gambling and partying, offers protection to his sister as well, but who’s protecting him? Peregrine becomes engaged to a young woman, Harriet. Then a few strange coincidences threaten his life, convincing Julian that someone is out to kill his ward.

Judith and Peregrine stand to inherit much money when they come of age. For this reason, suitors abound for Judith’s hand. One of her most persistent suitors is her cousin Bernard Tavener. But Julian turns them all away, saying that no man will marry her while he is still her guardian—which both repulses and pleases her. She knows that some of the men are completely unsuitable. Some are as old as her father, and all are looking for a wealthy wife. But at the same time the idea of being controlled by a man irritates her.

Julian and Judith, whom he persists in calling Clorinda, are always bickering. The banter flows easily between these two. While both tend to be a bit cranky around the other, the reader knows without any doubt that they secretly feel very differently about each other.

I love Julian and Judith. I love the rich layers of Regency Buck as well, for example, Judith’s reading Sense and Sensibility. And the presence of Lord Byron and the discussion of his poetry. There are a dozen or so other things I could point out, but those are just two examples of bits that made me smile.

Becky’s Book Reviews
Operation Actually Read Bible
Young Readers

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Donna Reimel Robinson, Christian Romance Author - Day Two

Donna Reimel Robinson is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. Her publishing credits include Tumbleweed Weddings, published by Barbour, as well as three independently published books, Romance by Design, Romance in Recovery, and The God of All Tomorrows. She and her husband live in Denver, and have four grown children and eleven grandchildren. 

You can also find Donna at her Amazon author page and contact her by email

Welcome back to Novel PASTimes today, Donna! If you’re anything like I am, one favorite book is hard to pick! Do you have two or three top picks among the historical genre that you would care to recommend?

To be honest, I’m more of a contemporary romance gal! All the books I’ve had published, except The God of All Tomorrows, are contemporary. But I’ve read many historicals through the years. I love Catherine Palmer’s books, especially Victorian Rose. It’s a shorter book set in 1839 with a great plot. I’ve also enjoyed books by Julie Klassen. The Apothecary’s Daughter, especially, is a great story and has a wonderful ending with a twist.

What do you consider the best resources for historical research?

You can research anything on the Internet! When I started writing (25 years ago), I depended on the encyclopedia and the library to find information. Now I can “Google” a topic, and usually find way more info than I need. Photos are plentiful too.

What or who inspired you to write inspirational fiction? How does that keep you plodding ahead with your writing each day?

I’ve always loved to read fiction, but I never thought of seriously writing until my husband had a friend who was writing a book. I decided to try my hand at it. So I joined Writer’s Digest Book Club, attended writing conferences, wrote my ideas into story form, and sent my book proposals off to publishers. But all my book ideas got rejected. Then at one conference, I attended a session on Christian fiction with 50 other writers. The teacher would give out little writing assignments: “Take three minutes to finish this paragraph.” Everyone would be furiously writing—except me. I couldn’t think of a thing! Then the students would read what they had written, and they were really good! I thought to myself, “What am I doing here?” I decided that was it—I would give up writing. BUT, as soon as I made that decision, I heard the Lord’s still, small voice calling me to write Christian fiction. That call is what keeps me going. My writing verse is 2 Timothy 1:9 (KJV), “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace...” I have been called to write according to God’s own purpose, and I want to glorify Him with my writing. 

That’s a wonderful testimony, Donna! What helps you maintain productivity as a writer? And what do you find most challenging about the business of being an author?

The hardest thing to me is actually writing the book. I love to brainstorm ideas and to plot out the story. I love to “have written.” But the actual writing is very taxing. There have been several times when a deadline was looming, and I burned my brain out trying to get the book finished! Now, as an Indie Author, I have self-deadlines. If I don’t meet them, I only have myself to blame, and the book will not be published on the schedule I originally set. So that thought helps maintain productivity.

Do you feel you are more of a character driven or plot driven writer? How do you think it comes across in your writing?

I’d say more character driven. Characters make all the difference in a romance. The heroine might be shy, or she might be stubborn. The hero might be rough, or he might be kind. Their emotional journey together is what makes a romance work. But something has to happen, and that’s where the plot comes in. In The God of All Tomorrows, a lot happens to Launi and Miles, but what happens on the inside is more important. 

Would you like to share about what you are working on now?

As I said before, I mainly publish contemporary Christian romance, and that’s the genre of my next book. It’s called The Ballad of Steffie Mae, a fun story set in West Virginia. I hope to have it out in October 2015.

Do you have any last words of wisdom to share with aspiring authors?

This has been said before, but never give up! If the Lord called you to write, He has a plan for you. Trust Him.

Thank you, Donna, for joining us at Novel PASTimes and for your candid answers. It has been a privilege to interview you.

Thank you for having me!

Enter the Rafflecopter drawing below for a chance to win Donna's novel, The God of All Tomorrows.

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