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!

Visit her Facebook Page

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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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Save

Book review, excerpt & giveaway: The Paris Effect, by K.S.R. Burns

the-paris-effectK.S.R. Burns

on Tour January 9-13 with

The Paris Effect

(women’s fiction)
Release date: June 1st, 2016
at Velvet Morning Press
ISBN: 978-0692710852
246 pages
Author’s website
Goodreads

SYNOPSIS

Friendship, loss and a tantalizing trip to Paris in this highly praised #1 Amazon Best Seller!
Amy and Kat had planned a secret trip to Paris. Even Amy’s husband wouldn’t know about it. But when Amy loses Kat to cancer, she knows the plan is gone forever. Or is it?

Guided by memories of her friend and dissatisfaction with her own calorie-counting life in Phoenix, Amy sneaks off to Paris while her husband is away on a business trip. Once there, she’s robbed, stalked, arrested and almost kidnapped. Worse, she finds that all her problems have come right along with her.
Through her adventures, laced with luscious descriptions of food and Paris, Amy learns that often in life, love and friendship, nothing is exactly as it seems. Grab a croissant and settle in for a decidedly non-touristy trip to the City of Light.
MY REVIEW
This book really hit me hard, as I recently lost a very good friend of mine to cancer, similar to the main character, Amy. I actually had to stop reading for a bit because it was too much for me. But when I did start reading again, I couldn’t really put the book down.
I cheered Amy on as she finally got up the courage to go to Paris, and was then concerned (and then relieved) as she got into scrapes, and then was somewhat rescued by a nice Englishwoman named Margaret. And yet, got into more scrapes. But, that’s par for the course, it seems. Very much Amy.
The book was a satisfying read, and the ending seemed just about right. I’d like to read more of Amy, and see what she gets up to next. Perhaps the author will give us a sequel. I hope!
EXCERPT

When I was six Dad gave me an old record player he picked up at a carport sale. I loved that thing—the hard rubber turntable, the chunky plastic dials, the dusty electrical smell. It came with half a dozen albums from the swing era, one of them “Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Songbook.” My mother didn’t listen to any music at all and Dad liked only fifties rock‐and‐roll, so to them the records were worthless.

But on Saturdays while they were out working in the yard, I would drop Ella onto the turntable, place the needle into the groove just right, so it didn’t squawk, and play the record over and over. Sometimes I’d tie my old blue baby blanket around my waist and waltz around my bedroom.

My very favorite song from that album was “I Love Paris.” Ella loved Paris in the springtime. She loved it in the fall. She loved it in the summer when it sizzles. She loved it in the winter when it drizzles.

At that age I didn’t know if Paris was a where or a who or a what. Well, okay, I was pretty sure it was a where. What I was totally sure about, even at age six, was that every single note of that song is about yearning.

About desire.

Paris assumes that if you are not in Paris, whatever, whoever, wherever you are is legitimate cause for dissatisfaction. Because if you are not in Paris, you are nowhere worth being. Because—mais oui!— in Paris life is bigger, better, and more beautiful.

Most of all, you can be who you really are in Paris.

Unlike in Phoenix, Arizona, an ugly, makeshift, temporary place, a place that feels nailed together just yesterday, a place of lost losers, a place that has never felt like home. This knowledge felt like a secret and possibly shameful thing I wasn’t meant to possess, insider information forbidden to obscure‐ish people such as me and my parents, people living in a two‐bedroom bungalow in central Phoenix, thousands and thousands and thousands of miles away from sizzling, drizzling Paris.

Eventually I realized how lame the whole thing was. Still, Ella Fitzgerald is the reason I defied conventional wisdom and studied French in high school and college instead of Spanish.

Now high school and college are long over and the faraway Sacré‐ Coeur quivers on my guest bathroom wall. Whispers, “The Plan.”

Whispers, “It’s not too late.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

k-s-r-burns-the-paris-effect

Unlike her character Amy in THE PARIS EFFECT,
K. S. R. Burns has never ventured down
into the scary and forbidden catacombs.
Nor has she run away from home,
but she has lived and worked in 22 cities,
one of them Paris
(because she does definitely share Amy’s passion for Paris).
Burns is also the author of THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF WORKING GIRL:
REAL-LIFE CAREER ADVICE YOU CAN ACTUALLY USE (Running Press 2009),
because while living in 22 cities she racked up a total of 59 jobs,
thereby learning a lot about the world of work.
She currently writes a weekly career advice column for The Seattle Times.
No longer a wanderer, Burns currently resides in the Pacific Northwest
with her husband and cat.

Visit her website.
Follow her on Facebook, Twitter

Subscribe to her newsletter

Buy the book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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One year on, David Bowie.

bowie-imp

Bowie’s death gutted me. A friend had sent me the news via Facebook message, and I opened it that morning with no idea what it would be. The breath left me, I grabbed at the kitchen counter to slow my collapse as my knees weakened. And I sobbed. The world hadn’t ended, but the man, the rock star, the actor, who meant so much to me was no more.

My first memory of David Bowie was, like so many of my age group (particularly female), that of Jareth the Goblin King, tormenting a youthful Jennifer Connelly. Labyrinth is still a favourite film, but for half a dozen years after watching it often, I had yet to realize that its main villain was anything more than an actor. I was twelve or thirteen when that happened, in the early 90s. I devoured biographies, scoured my city library’s tape and LP collections…. anything I could find. This was pre-Internet, of course.

Once the Internet arrived, one of the first things I searched for was Bowie, using a text-based browser, and coming across a website on Stanford.edu, choosing one picture, a Thin White Duke one, to download (which took ages). That site, The David Bowie File, turned into Teenage Wildlife. Without the Internet, I wouldn’t have found so many other fans, and had so many amazing experiences. I would have been stuck in my hometown, wondering where all the other Bowie fans were. But because of the Internet, and Teenage Wildlife, and the early BowieNet, I know so many others, and am still friends with my first Bowie online friends.

In 1995, I bought 1. Outside, the first Bowie album I’d been able to purchase on release day. Since then, I haven’t missed one. Bowie’s music has been the soundtrack to my life, taking me through childhood, adolescence, and into my mid-thirties. His interests provoked my own, sending me on tangents and down rabbit holes. I credit him with further expanding my literary knowledge.

And there was nothing like a Bowie live show to get the blood rushing, the adrenaline pumping, the delight taking over my entire being. It wasn’t just about the albums, the songs, it was his entire presence. Vancouver on September 6, 1997 was a revelation, the first show of the Earthling tour on its North American leg, and my very first show, age 17. I saw six shows altogether, including two in New York in 2000, one in 2002 in New York again, and two during the Reality tour (in Calgary and Edmonton). If I had a time machine, I’d go back and see many, many more.

It would have been Bowie’s 70th birthday today, and it’s almost the one-year marker of his passing, I am grateful and thankful that he did what he did, shared his creativity and ideas with the world, and made such a mark upon my life.

 

Book review, excerpt & giveaway: Occult Paris: The Lost Magic of the Belle Epoque, by Tobias Churton

occult-paris-coverTobias Churton

on Tour December 15-21 with

Occult Paris:
The Lost Magic of the Belle Époque

(nonfiction – history – occult)
Release date: October 30, 2016
at Inner Traditions • Bear & Company
ISBN: 978-1620555453 – 528 pages

 

SYNOPSIS

Historian Tobias Churton explores the magical, artistic, and intellectual world of the Belle Époque Paris. He brings into full perspective the personalities, and forces that made Paris a global magnet and which allowed later cultural movements, such as the “psychedelic 60s,” to rise from the ashes of post-war Europe.
EXCERPT – Chapter Three
Meetings with Remarkable Men
We can see that symbolic powers, occult powers, and poetic powers emerge from the same source, the same depths.Gaston Bachelard, Preface to Richard Knowles’s Victor-Émile Michelet, Poète ÉsotériqueDuring the 1960s and 70s, British historian Dame Frances Yates astonished and perplexed the community of historical scholarship by her reasoned advocacy of the view that a highly significant factor in promoting the genesis of modern science and its representative the “scientist” was the Renaissance Hermetic movement’s veneration for the Magus. The Magus is concerned with extending his powers over all aspects of creation, even unto immaterial realms. In analyzing the life of Dominican friar Giordano Bruno in particular (Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition, 1964), Yates demonstrated how the opposition of the Catholic Inquisition created the idea of Bruno as a “martyr to science”–he was burned at the stake in Rome in 1600 as an impenitent heretic–when his actual views were regarded in the main as superstitious claptrap by many 19th-and 20th-century scientists operating on “Newtonian” lines. Rekindled in Florence after 1460, Yates declared the gnostic “Hermetic Tradition” stimulated the rediscovery of Man as a free-willed Operator in the universe, a co-creator with the divine, to whom no secret need remain hid. [. . .] Thus “occult philosophy” was not in fact “hidden philosophy”–the deliberate cultivation of esoteric obscurity–but revealed what had formerly been hidden to the eyes of the fearful and the ignorant; in another word, science, but science with esoteric and spiritual balls: Gnostic science was the vehicle of revelation.

What is truly fascinating about developments in Paris in the 1880s and ’90s is that at the very time when many scientists had reached an apogee of materialist certainty verging on hubris–feeling themselves and their experimental methods utterly alien to the figure of the Mage who “dreamed but did not get real results”–yet at that very moment we find the Magus’s position as the desirable ideal and archetype being assumed not as the ideation of the scientist, but as the apotheosis of the ARTIST. The aim? That Art trump Science. New men will embrace the new religion, universal, already hidden in spiritual symbols, which, while the traditions and cultures around them might differ superficially, exist as one in essence.

Esotericism insists there is correspondence between all things. One thing opens a door to another: all rooms are connected. The new religion was at home in the Temple, whether of ancient Egypt, the Panthéon in modern Paris, or the contemplative mind in its study, or with like-minded friends. [. . .] In this religion, the Magus and prophet is not the scientist who limits the universe to measure it, but the Artist who seeks the infinite, the one who accepts the “open secret” of the universe as mystery. The Artist becomes one who reveals the hidden truth, not of matter itself, but of Man and the determinative occult world behind nature. Hail the Artist as custodian of spiritual being, of idealization, of beauty, of essential truth!

The dizzy heights of this realization were given verbal form in sweeping style by Bailly bookshop habitué Joséphin Péladan: “There is no reality other than God. There is no Truth other than God. There is no Beauty other than God.”3 Péladan deduced that the greatest art had necessarily been generated for the Catholic Church and the time had come for the Church to realize that the true hierophant of the mysteries was the Artist, the Magus come to the cradle of the Lord with gifts. [. . .] He was sacrificer and bridge-builder between the invisible and the visible, between this world and the world to come: the master of the ikon and of memory. The Artist’s business was with the ideal and the spiritual, not with reproducing the visual plane of nature like an ape. Paraphrasing Hermes Trismegistus, Péladan concluded: “Artist, you are Magus: Art is the great miracle.” The materialist scientist will only take you further into the endless darkness of matter, progressively enslaving the spirit to rational categories and destroying the divine humanity. The Magus, of whom Leonardo was a shining exemplar, combined search into the quantitative visible world with a no less penetrating search into the invisible and symbolic world, the infinite worlds, the boundless worlds of imagination, not to be confused with merely external fantasies as in the vulgar notion of “surrealism” or visual whimsicality. He was a man of imagination and his genius transcended his time, perhaps time itself.

So we see the figure of the Hermetic Magus return, and his gift was to justify the position of the artist, to secure him at the heights. [. . .] Hermetism made exalted sense of the Artist and his peculiar life and vocation. It thus became desirable for the new artist, who, like Redon, found the “ceiling” of the Impressionists too low for comfort to explore occult traditions, to partake more fully in the insights of the condemned gnosis. For this purpose, the L’Art Indépendant shop in the Rue de la Chaussée d’Antin and the Librairie du Merveilleux in the Rue de Trévise became essential calling points. In those oases of the ideal freedom, the movement could take its store of inspiration while sharing thoughts and carrying them out into the artists’ apartments, studios, informal salons, and café meetings. Now joined, Symbolism and Occultism shared mutual waves that would rise into an aesthetic flood, rolling through the streets of Paris in an attempt to sweep away the barricades of materialism, to oppose the Barbarians at home and abroad with unearthly Beauty and the power of the Spirit. After all the historic, failed revolutions that promoted what was perceived to be Paris’s decline into decadence, a spiritual revolution was afoot. Its weapon: ART, perceived as the exercise of the “High Science,” that is to say, Hermetic magic.

“Occult Paris by Tobias Churton © 2016 Inner Traditions. Printed with permission from the publisher Inner Traditions International. www.InnerTraditions.com
MY REVIEW
I really had no idea what to expect with this book, but what I didn’t expect was to be overwhelmed with names and places and events, basically being plunged headfirst into Symbolism, Decadence, Impressionism, and Hermetic philosophers… among others. I’ll be honest and say that this book took me a long time to read, and I still do not feel entirely certain of my knowledge of its contents. I rather feel like I should have read a Wikipedia (or other) primer of the cultural movements referenced, and especially of the men mentioned.
There were a great many mentioned, but I still do not have any real idea as to why/how the various persons noted became Symbolists, or Martinists, or Theosophists (etc).  What was the underlying motivation? There is a great deal of information in this book, and for someone better versed, I have no doubt that it would be a gold mine and inspiration, compelling and intense. I’m afraid I’m not that person, or at least not yet, not without learning an awful lot more first.
I am somewhat intrigued, however, and I am wondering about the role of women in these movements, aside from being ‘feminine’ inspirations, or symbols of wisdom, like Sophia. The art in the book often shows women, but they appear to be objects or symbols rather than real people. I suppose it would be a question to put to Churton himself, whether or not any women participated in these movements, and if there were any known more generally.
A note on the book itself: the hardback is a handsome edition, high quality, and has very good colour photographs in an insert. Definitely one for display on the shelf, if that’s your thing.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

occult-paris-tobias-churton

Tobias Churton
is Britain’s leading scholar
of Western Esotericism,
a world authority on Gnosticism,
Hermeticism, and Rosicrucianism.
An Honorary Fellow of Exeter University,
where he is a faculty lecturer,
he holds a master’s degree in Theology
from Brasenose College, Oxford,
and is the author of many books,
including Gnostic Philosophy and
Aleister Crowley: The Beast in Berlin.
He lives in England.

Visit his website.

Follow Inner Traditions/Bear & Company on Facebook | Twitter
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Buy the book: on Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk

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Book review, excerpt & giveaway: Purged By Fire, by Diane Bonavist

purged-by-fireDiane Bonavist

on Tour
December 1-14
with
Purged by Fire:
Heresy of the Cathars

(historical fiction)
Release date: July 29, 2016
at Bagwyn Books
ISBN: 978-0-86698-810-0
274 pages

SYNOPSIS

In the thirteenth-century, a unique civilization flourished in the region that is now Southwestern France. The tolerant rulers of this realm embraced the Cathar faith which kept the simple teachings of the early followers of Christ, and rejected the venality of the Catholic Church.

To destroy the heretical faith, the pope declared a holy war. With the infamous words “Kill them all, God will recognize his own,” the crusade against Christendom began. For two decades, these wars decimated the old regions of the Languedoc and the troubadour culture. But when they still failed to destroy the heretical faith, the papacy gave special powers of inquisition to Dominican monks. Their mission was to root out heretics, compel confessions, and burn the unrepentant at the stake.
Purged by Fire tells the intertwining stories of three people enmeshed in the treachery of the Inquisition. Isarn Benet believes he has survived the wars by accepting the pope’s will and the French rule, until Marsal, the child he once rescued, arrives on his doorstep, forcing him to question every conciliation he has ever made. Marsal has lost everything to the Inquisition. Raised to always turn the other cheek, now she wants back what the Catholic Church has stolen, and she will aid anyone who helps her do so, even outlaws and rebels. Isarn’s son Chrétien can barely remember his life as a soldier and troubadour, the time before he knew and loved Marsal. Condemned and hunted by the Catholic Church, the two escape to the mountain fortress of Montségur.
Here, as the forces of the Inquisition lay siege to their place of refuge, they must make one final choice—between life and love or death and faith!
EXCERPT
“The Inquisitor is close at hand.” Chrétien stopped to catch his breath after ducking inside. “He’s walking the streets preaching as he goes.”
We all got ale and filed upstairs.
“The empty streets and shuttered windows remind me of when I was in Paris,” Martin said, as we crowded around the only window in the gallery. “The city was in the grip of illness— the devil’s influence they call it—and everyone stayed locked indoors.”
“Here he is,” cried Chrétien, peering down at the street.
I would never have recognized William Arnald. He was only five years older than I, yet he walked like he was Methuselah, slowly, slightly bent, as if under the burden of our sins. Behind him an acolyte followed ringing a large bell. About five paces further back were three men with papal heraldry on their armbands, swords at their belts, and long shields held straight up at their sides. When Arnald reached the tavern, he stopped. Almost in unison, the four of us drew back from the window.
“He knows we’re here,” said Chrétien mockingly but in a whisper. “The man must be omniscient.”
There was some snickering among us, but really it was too uncanny for comfort. I looked down at the tonsured head and half-expected it to snap back and his eyes to nail us with his gaze.
William had not inherited the Benet height. He was a small man. My scant memories of him did not include anything imposing in either his manner or his speech. So that day, when he began to preach, I was taken aback by the way his voice filled the street, the voice of a giant, a man made larger than us all by authority and conviction.
He told us that there were many sinners among us and everyone must search his soul. If we so much as broke bread with an enemy of the church, then we became like that heretic. He promised light penance to those who came forward and voluntarily confessed their errors. But woe, woe, woe —he said it three times—to those who did not come forward and were then shown, by the accusation of others, to be heretics or fraternizers with heretics. For those, the punishment would be dire and swift.
MY REVIEW
Reading historical fiction is always such a nice change, being able to be taken back into the past, into a time period that I may or may not know much about. In the case of the Cathars, I knew very little, beyond a vague understanding that they were persecuted for their faith.
I was immediately pulled into the story in the first pages, and it was one I only put down reluctantly (since chores still have to be done). I was intrigued by Isarn Benet’s role in the story, and how he connected to all the others, and then by Marsal, the baby he’d saved. Combined with these interesting characters, the increasing tension (and one might say, doom) with the religious fervour and beliefs encouraging discrimination and cruelty, made for a fantastic read. I wanted to see Marsal succeed and be happy; wanted to see Isarn impart the secrets he needed to; and wanted to find out what happened between Chretien and Marsal.
I felt immersed in the world Ms Bonavist created. I’m hoping that she will write more historical fiction, whether about Cathars or others.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

purged-by-fire-diane-bonavist

Diane Bonavist’s fiction
has appeared in Tiferet Journal,
The Milo Review, Fable Online,
and The RavensPerch.
She is a former Editor in chief of Tiferet Journal.

Her other novels are Daughters of Nyx,
a mystery of ancient Greece and Waters and the Wild,
a multi-generational story set in the Hudson River Valley,
both to be published in 2017.

Visit her website. Follow her on Facebook

Subscribe to her newsletter

Buy the book: on Amazon

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Midnight at the Orpheus is #3 in Best Bisexual Fiction at the Rainbow Awards!

MidnightAtTheOrpheus

#1 was Tal Bauer’s romantic suspense novel “Enemies of the State”, and #2 was ARcher Kay Leah’s sci-fi/futuristic novel “For the Clan”. My book was #3 :)

Check out Midnight at the Orpheus at Bold Strokes Books, Amazon, BN.com, or your local bookseller!

Chicago, the Roaring Twenties. Cecilia Mills is new to town and struggling to survive. Her world is turned upside down when she falls for gangster Franky Greco’s moll Nell Prescott. Working at The Orpheus dance hall thanks to Nell, Cecilia becomes known as CeeCee and rubs elbows with gangsters and the city’s elite, and she and Nell hide their affair from Greco.

Patrick Sheridan is fresh out of prison and bent on revenge, with Greco in the crosshairs. He gets a job as CeeCee’s bodyguard, and despite her infatuation with Nell, love blossoms between CeeCee and Sheridan. When Sheridan sees his chance, thanks to a disillusioned cop seeking his own revenge, he must choose where his loyalties lie as CeeCee and Nell are caught in the middle.

Menage m/f/f.

It’s release day for BETTING ON COURAGE, the latest in the Thurston Hotel series!

coverfinalmd-bettingoncourageBetting on Courage
A Thurston Hotel Novel – Book 8
thurstonhotelbooks.com

The Thurston Hotel books are stand-alone romance novels in a collection, connected by common settings, characters, and events. The overall storyline covers a year, one book for each month. This is a ‘warm romance’ series.

On the run from her stalker ex-boyfriend, Charity Wong finds herself in Harmony. She takes a job waitressing at the 100-year-old Thurston hotel and rents a room from an older man–a man one of her co-workers warns her about. She’s not sure what to expect from him and the last thing she expects is to fall in love.

All David Evans wanted was someone to run errands and help him stay cocooned from the world. But with his new boarder, he’s experiencing more joy in his life than he has in years. Can he possibly fall in love when he can’t even manage to go out on a date?

And, when he learns Charity is in danger, can he overcome his fears and save her?

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