Book review, excerpt, & giveaway: Merle, by Angela Wren

Merle coverAngela Wren

on tour September 4-15, 2017

Merle

(mystery)
Release date: July 5, 2017
at Crooked Cat Publishing
208 pages
ISBN: 978-1546811985
Website | Goodreads

 

SYNOPSIS

Jacques Forêt, a former gendarme turned investigator, delves into the murky world of commercial sabotage – a place where people lie and misrepresent, and where information is traded and used as a threat.
The Vaux organisation is losing contracts and money, and Jacques is asked to undertake an internal investigation. As he works through the complexity of all the evidence, he finds more than he bargained for, and his own life is threatened.
When a body of a woman is found, it appears to be suicide. But as the investigation takes another turn, Jacques suspects there is more to it.
Who is behind it all…and why? Will Jacques find the answer before another person ends up dead?

EXCERPT

toussaint – all saints’ day, sunday, november 1st, 10.00am

At his desk in Mende, Pelletier was reading the initial report of the previous day’s death whilst he waited for Jacques Forêt to arrive. The building was unusually silent and he was still smarting from the verbal drubbing his wife had given him for having to be at work. Very much aware that he was foregoing a chance to see how much his recently born granddaughter had changed and grown, he sighed and slumped down in his chair. Missing much of this precious time with his own children when they were young because of his work was something he now bitterly regretted.

He pushed his mind back to the scene of the crime when he heard the door of the outer office open and then click shut again. Jacques, his long navy winter coat buttoned against the day’s chill wind, strode into Pelletier’s room.

“I’ve brought coffee,” he said placing two insulated silver containers on the desk. Discarding his coat on the back of a nearby chair, he sat down and smiled. “What does the pathologist’s report say?”

“It’s only a preliminary one at the moment, so it is hurried, and it doesn’t tell me anything I don’t know already.” Pelletier pushed the thin file across the desk to his visitor.

“And you’re sure you want me to look at this?”

“Yes. I know you’re no longer on the force, Jacques, but yesterday you arrived at the scene just as I was leaving. You had a reason for being there, and I want to hear more about that. Also, I value your opinion as an ex-policeman.” Pelletier removed his rimless spectacles and began to polish the lenses with his handkerchief.

Jacques glanced through the meagre number of pages searching for the single relevant line he required.

Death by exsanguination from a knife wound to the left wrist.

“And the estimated time of death is recorded as sometime after noon on Friday…” Jacques said out loud as he looked up from the file. “Well, that fits.”

“With what?” Pelletier replaced his spectacles.

“I now work for Alain Vaux of Vaux Investigations. One of our staff has not been into the office since last Thursday, and there has been no explanation from her either. She was due in the office yesterday as well but did not turn up, nor did she make contact to let us know why she was absent.” Jacques quickly flicked through the other pages and then placed the folder on the desk.

“Ah. But that does not explain why you were in that building in Merle as I was about to leave it.”

Jacques bristled. “In part, it does. Her manager, Madeleine Cloutier, has a regular meeting on a Friday afternoon in Rodez and, if she comes into the office first, always leaves at about eleven, eleven-thirty at the latest. On Friday, she asked me to check on Aimée, her absentee team member, if she didn’t come in after lunch. At around three-thirty I called her office number and it was switched to voicemail, and when I called Aimée’s mobile immediately afterwards, it was switched off. When she didn’t come in for work yesterday, I called her again, at different times and got the same result. I decided to visit to see if she was OK.”

 

MY REVIEW

This one started out slow for me. It’s not often I say that about mystery novels, but it did. I’m not sure why; perhaps my mind wasn’t in quite the right set. And it had been so long since I’d read the previous novel, Messandrierre. But, it did pick up, and by halfway I was intrigued. Who was behind the sabotage? There are so many possibilities, so many people with motive and desire. As with the first book, I did not entirely expect the result (though one or two characters tweaked my interest there). So in that way it was satisfying.

I think the main reason why it took so long to get into  is that the characters did not seem as vivid as Messandrierre’s. The townsfolk in that book seemed to have stronger personalities and were more memorable. I had a hard time remembering names in the first bit of this novel.

It is good though, and worth reading if you like mysteries, particularly the corporate espionage types.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Merle Angela Wren

Angela Wren
I’m an actor and director at a small theatre
a few miles from where I live in Yorkshire in the UK.
I did work as a project and business change manager
– very pressured and very demanding –
but I managed to escape and now I write books.
I’ve always loved stories and story telling
so it seemed a natural progression, to me, to try my hand at writing.
My first published story was in an anthology,
which was put together by the magazine ‘Ireland’s Own’ and published in 2011.
I particularly enjoy the challenge of plotting and planning different genres of work.
My short stories vary between contemporary romance, memoir, mystery and historical.
I also write comic flash-fiction
and have drafted two one-act plays that have been recorded for local radio.
My full-length stories are set in France where I like to spend as much time as possible each year.

Visit her website and her blog. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter

Buy the book on Amazon

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Book review & giveaway: That Spring In Paris, by Ciji Ware

That Spring in ParisCiji Ware

on Tour August 15-28 with

That Spring in Paris

(women’s fiction / romance)
Release date: May 25, 2017
at Lion’s Paw Publishing
ISBN: 978-0988940871
ebook: 978-0988940864
468 pages
Website
Goodreads

SYNOPSIS

Two Americans literally collide at the entrance to a Paris hospital, each desperately searching for friends felled in the same unspeakable tragedy.

Patrick Finley Deschanel, an expatriate former U.S. Air Force pilot, quit the military after a career flying helicopter rescue missions in the Middle East. Now resident on a classic barge moored on the Seine, Finn is a man with both physical battle scars and psychic wounds that overshadow his day-to-day encounters at every turn.

Juliet Thayer is a fledgling landscape painter who seeks escape from a tyrannical older brother and her job at his violent video war games company in San Francisco. Her emergency trip to Paris also raises doubts as to her impending engagement to a colleague where she serves as packaging design director and “Chief Branding Officer” of GatherGames, a highly speculative enterprise in which her parents are heavily invested.

As Finn and Juliet form a tenuous attachment in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks that traumatized the French capital November 13, 2015, they wonder if the “City of Light” can provide a path out of the darkness for two emotional exiles who fear–along with the world at large—that their universe has descended into a permanent state of chaos and that the renewal of spring might never come.

New York Times bestselling novelist and Emmy-award winning news producer Ciji Ware displays her formidable skill at weaving fact and fiction–delivering a gripping story about the discovery of love and regained serenity in the wake of horrifying events.

MY REVIEW

It didn’t take me long to become immersed in this book, set as it was during some very recent events. The terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13, 2015, are still a very fresh memory, albeit one made by television and internet news sources (for me, at least). But the author didn’t sensationalize the attacks; her characters were affected by them, and the attacks formed the catalyst for the book, but the events were treated with sensitivity.

The characters were engaging, and I felt I could relate to both Finn and Juliet, though I am neither soldier nor game developer. I especially felt for Juliet, trying so hard to support her family, even though she was becoming increasingly unhappy in her role, and for having to deal with parents that treated her brother as the golden child. Finn’s struggle was portrayed well, and I felt both characters had depth.

There was romance, but it did not overtake the rest of the story; the author had a good balance between the external and internal plots, the personal struggles of both characters, and their growing support of each other. It was a book that was hard to put down, and it had a satisfying conclusion. I’ll be going to find more of this author’s work for sure.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

That Spring in Paris - Ciji Ware

Ciji Ware,
a graduate of Harvard University in History,
is a New York Times & USA Today bestselling author
of historical and contemporary fiction,
and two works of nonfiction.
An Emmy-award winning
former radio and TV broadcaster for 23 years in Los Angeles,
her numerous writing accolades include a Dorothy Parker Award of excellence,
and being short-listed for the Willa [Cather] Literary Award.
Her family circle includes a husband of many decades,
a grown son and daughter-in-law, and now two grandsons under four,
along with a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Cholly Knickerbocker.
Ware lives in a cottage by the sea on San Francisco Bay.

Visit her website
Follow her on Facebook and Twitter

Buy the book: Amazon | B&N Nook | iBook | Kobo

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Book review & giveaway: The Madeleine Project, by Clara Beaudoux

Madeleine Project-CoverClara Beaudoux

on Tour July 12-18 with

The Madeleine Project

(biography/history)
Release date: September 12, 2017
at New Vessel Press
ISBN: 978-1939931498
288 pages
Website
Goodreads

SYNOPSIS

A young woman moves into a Paris apartment and discovers a storage room filled with the belongings of the previous owner, a certain Madeleine who died in her late nineties, and whose treasured possessions nobody seems to want. In an audacious act of journalism driven by personal curiosity and humane tenderness, Clara Beaudoux embarks on The Madeleine Project, documenting what she finds on Twitter with text and photographs, introducing the world to an unsung 20th century figure. Along the way, she uncovers a Parisian life indelibly marked by European history. This is a graphic novel for the Twitter age, a true story that encapsulates one woman’s attempt to live a life of love and meaning together with a contemporary quest to prevent that existence from slipping into oblivion.
Through it all, The Madeleine Project movingly chronicles, and allows us to reconstruct, intimate memories of a bygone era.

MY REVIEW

The blurb for this book fascinated me, as I’ve always wanted to be the fortunate one to discover a treasure trove of personal items from a time past. (So far, I haven’t had much luck!) The book covers the first two “seasons” where Clara finds and begins to dig through Madeleine’s effects, left in the cellar in suitcases and boxes. Each little bit of the past intrigued me, and though I enjoyed the book, it was also frustrating. The format is such that the pages are filled with the author’s Twitter posts. Nothing wrong with that overall, but you can’t enlarge any of the photographs she’s placed in the tweets. For me, liking detail, it defeats the purpose of the book altogether.

I did, however, go find the author’s website and read through all four seasons, clicking happily to enlarge photos or to watch video. It was far more satisfying. (go here: http://madeleineproject.fr/ — Google can translate a lot of it for you if you don’t speak French, though Chrome doesn’t seem to like translating the storify’d pages of tweets.) I expect this book would be better in its print format than on ebook (I was provided a copy of the PDF via Edelweiss, which I found limiting), as a record of Clara’s experiences.

Don’t let the formatting put you off; the material itself was fantastic and fascinating.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Madeleine Project-Beaudoux

Clara Beaudoux
is a Paris-based journalist for the France Info news network.
The Madeleine Project has been wildly popular in France.
You can follow her on Twitter at @Clarabdx

In French: on Facebook, The Madeleine Project page,
and the author’s main website

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Buy the book: on Indiebound | on Amazon

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Betting on Love is $2.99 for one day only!

Betting on Love 300 DPIPick it up at Bold Strokes Books, any ebook format for $2.99! (June 12 only)

Land poor, Elly leaves the family farm and heads to the big city to become something better than a waitress in a small-town diner. Though she’s succumbed to economic necessity and the siren song of her one-time lover, Alex, she can’t bear to give up the farm that has been in her family for generations. As much as she wants to, she can’t have everything she desires, and she’ll have to decide what is more important: the past or the future.

Alex has always been a daredevil, up for anything, never tying herself down to anyone. When she falls head over heels for quiet Elly, everyone’s surprised, no one more than her best friend and occasional lover, Will. As things heat up between them, Elly must choose between her past and her future, and Alex is faced with a decision that will shake her to the core of all she holds dear.

Betting on Love & Midnight at the Orpheus are on sale!

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Book review, excerpt & giveaway: The Enemies of Versailles, by Sally Christie

enemies-of-versaillesSally Christie

on Tour March 20-31 with

The Enemies of Versailles
(historical fiction)
Release date: March 21, 2017
at Atria Books/Simon & Schuster
416 pages
ISBN: 978-1501103025

Website | Goodreads

SYNOPSIS

In the final installment of Sally Christie’s “tantalizing” (New York Daily News) Mistresses of Versailles trilogy, Jeanne Becu, a woman of astounding beauty but humble birth, works her way from the grimy back streets of Paris to the palace of Versailles, where the aging King Louis XV has become a jaded and bitter old philanderer. Jeanne bursts into his life and, as the Comtesse du Barry, quickly becomes his official mistress.
“That beastly bourgeois Pompadour was one thing; a common prostitute is quite another kettle of fish.”
After decades of suffering the King’s endless stream of Royal Favorites, the princesses of the Court have reached a breaking point. Horrified that he would bring the lowborn Comtesse du Barry into the hallowed halls of Versailles, Louis XV’s daughters, led by the indomitable Madame Adelaide, vow eternal enmity and enlist the young dauphiness Marie Antoinette in their fight against the new mistress. But as tensions rise and the French Revolution draws closer, a prostitute in the palace soon becomes the least of the nobility’s concerns.
Told in Christie’s witty and engaging style, the final book in The Mistresses of Versailles trilogy will delight and entrance fans as it once again brings to life the sumptuous and cruel world of eighteenth century Versailles, and France as it approaches irrevocable change.
MY REVIEW
I knew very little about this part of French history, aside from the very basics of Marie Antoinette’s story (though as I recently read Will Bashor’s new book, I know a lot more about Marie Antoinette and her time in prison, I’ve begun to know more), and I had only passing knowledge of the Comtesse du Barry, and less still of the king’s daughter, Adelaide.
I should have known there’d be scheming, and lots of it. Even from prim and proper Adelaide, though a lot of hers seemed to stem from her desire to be pleasing to her father and to have his company. The scheming of the du Barrys (and not just the Comtesse) was staggering, and even a bit cringe-worthy. From the first (getting Jeanne married to a du Barry) and then further one (trying to get the king to marry her), sometimes I wanted to slap her (and her associates) and other times look on in wide-eyed admiration for their nerve/gall. And yet, all the women in this book, particularly the main players, seem somewhat let down by their circumstances. If only they’d been able to do something with their lives beyond scheming and men and position. But given the period, of course, women weren’t even full citizens yet, if I recall correctly. So their roles are not surprising.
This is a great book, very rich in detail, and entertaining. It’s a good way to get an introduction to the period that won’t bore you with a dry history tome. I really need to make a point of reading the other two books in the series, because they sound quite good.
EXCERPT
excerpt-enemies

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sisters of Versailles - Sally Christie

Sally Christie
is the author of The Sisters of Versailles
and
The Rivals of Versailles.
She was born in England and grew up around the world,
attending eight schools in three different languages.
She spent most of her career working
in international development and currently lives in Toronto.

Learn more her Versailles trilogy on her website
Become a fan to hear about her next novels!

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Review, excerpt & giveaway: Marie Antoinette’s Darkest Days, by Will Bashor

MARIE ANTOINETTE’S DARKEST DAYSWill Bashor

on Tour March 13-24 with

Marie Antoinette’s Darkest Days:
Prisoner No. 280 in the Conciergerie

(history – nonfiction)
Release date: December 1, 2016
at Rowman & Littlefield
392 pages
ISBN: 978-1442254992
Website | Goodreads

 

SYNOPSIS

This compelling book begins on the 2nd of August 1793, the day Marie Antoinette was torn from her family’s arms and escorted from the Temple to the Conciergerie, a thick-walled fortress turned prison. It was also known as the waiting room for the guillotine because prisoners only spent a day or two here before their conviction and subsequent execution. The ex-queen surely knew her days were numbered, but she could never have known that two and a half months would pass before she would finally stand trial and be convicted of the most ungodly charges.

Will Bashor traces the final days of the prisoner registered only as Widow Capet, No. 280, a time that was a cruel mixture of grandeur, humiliation, and terror. Marie Antoinette’s reign amidst the splendors of the court of Versailles is a familiar story, but her final imprisonment in a fetid, dank dungeon is a little-known coda to a once-charmed life. Her seventy-six days in this terrifying prison can only be described as the darkest and most horrific of the fallen queen’s life, vividly recaptured in this richly researched history.

MY REVIEW

Marie Antoinette’s Darkest Days is aptly named, given the subject matter. Though I’d known the basics about her imprisonment and execution, Bashor’s book brought to life in great detail the hellish, difficult days and nights that she endured in prison. The historical research was immense (and many pages of notes and references are included, if you’re the sort that likes to go back to primary sources!)

I found it fascinating that there were so many plots to try to save Marie Antoinette’s life. Notes rolled up in carnations, invisible ink, letters written by poking a pin through a page… they were all there. Even in her darkest days, she had many supporters, both within and without the prison, and people at the highest ranks trying to negotiate to save her from the guillotine. Unfortunately (and as we all know), they were unsuccessful as things dragged on and she became less valuable as a hostage/pawn in the negotiations between France and Austria.

I definitely recommend this book to those interested in this period of French history, whether from the side of the royals or the rebels.

EXCERPT

When Rosalie received word that the queen of France was doomed, she fled to her room, stifling her cries and sobs. At seven o’clock, Warden Bault ordered her to go down to the queen and inquire if she would like something to eat. When Rosalie entered the queen’s cell, she found two candles burning and the young guard sitting in the corner. The queen was dressed in black, lying down with her face turned toward the window, her head resting on her hand.

“Madame,” Rosalie said with a trembling voice, “you did not eat anything the night before and almost nothing yesterday. Will you have something this morning?”

Tears rolled down the queen’s cheeks. “My child,” she said, resigned to her fate, “I no longer need anything; everything is over for me.”

“But, madame, I have some broth for you on the stove,” said Rosalie.

Recovering herself, and perhaps out of compassion for her servant, the queen said, “Well, Rosalie, bring me some of your broth.”

When Rosalie went to fetch the bouillon, she discovered that the Commune had given orders that the queen not be allowed any food at all. Although Marie Antoinette had been condemned to death, the Commune still wanted to show the people of Paris a woman weakened by terror and stripped of her noble pride. When Rosalie returned an hour later, the queen asked her for help dressing. The queen first stepped between the bed and the wall to hide her body from the guard’s view as she let her black dress drop to the floor. When the young guard approached the queen to watch more closely, Marie Antoinette immediately put her scarf over her shoulders

“In the name of decency, Monsieur” she said, “allow me to change my linen in private.” “I cannot consent,” the guard replied. “I have orders to keep an eye on all of your movements.”

The queen sighed. She removed her bloodstained chemise, replacing it with a clean one. In addition to the long trial and her hunger over the past few days in the cold, dank cell, the queen’s hemorrhaging had exhausted her even further. She then put on her white negligee and draped a large muslin scarf over her shoulders, tying it under her neck. After the queen had arranged her white mourning cap on her head, Rosalie watched as she carefully rolled up the bloody chemise and tucked it into one of its sleeves. The queen looked around and found a small crack in the wall in which she hid the tattered garment.

Rosalie was too distressed to bid Marie Antoinette adieu. The queen sat trembling from the October cold when Rosalie left the cell. A sworn priest named François Girard arrived next. The former curé of Saint-Landry demanded to hear her confession, but the queen refused.

“You are guilty,” said the priest.

“Ah, sometimes careless,” said the queen. “Never guilty.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Will Bashor picture

Will Bashor
earned his M.A. degree in French literature
from Ohio University
and his Ph.D. in International Studies
from the American Graduate School in Paris
where he gathered letters, newspapers, and journals
during his research for the award-winning
Marie Antoinette’s Head: The Royal Hairdresser, the Queen, and the Revolution.
Now living in Albi, France,
and a member of the Society for French Historical Studies,
his latest work, Marie Antoinette’s Darkest Days: Prisoner No. 280 in the Conciergerie,
was released in December 2016.
He is currently working on the final part of his historical trilogy,
Marie Antoinette’s World: The Labyrinth to the Queen’s Psyche.

Visit him on his website
and here are many ways to follow him:

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