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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or on any other book blogs participating in this tour.
Be sure to follow each participant on Twitter/Facebook,
they are listed in the entry form below
.

Enter here

Visit each blogger on the tour:
tweeting about the giveaway everyday
of the Tour will give you 5 extra entries each time!
[just follow the directions on the entry-form]

Global giveaway – international:
5 winners will receive a kindle/mobi copy of this book

***

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TO READ REVIEWS AND AN EXCERPT

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Book review & giveaway: Time and Regret, by M.K. Tod

Time And RegretM. K. Tod
on Tour September 1-10 with

Time and Regret

(historical mystery)

Release date: August 16, 2016
on Amazon

ISBN: 978-1503938403
366 pages

Author’s page | Goodreads

SYNOPSIS

When Grace Hansen finds a box belonging to her beloved grandfather, she has no idea it holds the key to his past—and to long-buried family secrets. In the box are his World War I diaries and a cryptic note addressed to her. Determined to solve her grandfather’s puzzle, Grace follows his diary entries across towns and battle sites in northern France, where she becomes increasingly drawn to a charming French man—and suddenly aware that someone is following her…

Through her grandfather’s vivid writing and Grace’s own travels, a picture emerges of a man very unlike the one who raised her: one who watched countless friends and loved ones die horrifically in battle; one who lived a life of regret. But her grandfather wasn’t the only one harboring secrets, and the more Grace learns about her family, the less she thinks she can trust them.

MY REVIEW

After a somewhat slow start, Time and Regret quickly became intriguing. Martin’s diaries gave way to sections set during the Great War, and I was fascinated. His words weren’t the lengthy sort of diary one usually gets in books like this, but brief, blunt observations that set the stage. Then, to have Grace trying to find clues… I couldn’t stop reading. Things built, and the ending wasn’t quite what I expected it to be. In a good way.

I especially appreciated that Grace was not a 20-something year old, but a woman of an older age, with more experience, and having gone through a divorce. She was a more interesting character for it, and her friendship and relationship with Pierre felt very natural, and not overdone.

It was also refreshing to have a novel partly set in 1991. It’s two historical periods in one novel, and it took me a few minutes to reset my brain to ‘not present time’ when reading about the more modern era. I had to remind myself that 1991 was pre-cellphone, internet, etc. (I am more than old enough to remember it, but still…)

And finally, the art world connection was a real treat. Museums and (*mumble mumble spoilers*). Definitely a book to pick up.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Time And Regret MK Tod

Time and Regret is M.K. Tod’s third novel.
She began writing in 2005
while living as an expat in Hong Kong.
What started as an interest in her grandparents’ lives
turned into a full-time occupation writing historical fiction.
Her novel Unravelled was awarded Indie Editor’s Choice
by the Historical Novel Society.
In addition to writing historical novels,
she blogs about reading and writing historical fiction at http://www.awriterofhistory.com,
reviews books for the Historical Novel Society
and the Washington Independent Review of Books,
and has conducted three highly respected reader surveys.
She lives in Toronto, Canada,
with her husband and is the mother of two adult children.

Please visit her website and her blog A Writer of History
Subscribe to her mailing list
or contact her at mktod [at] bell [dot] net

Follow her on Facebook and Twitter
on Goodreads and Pinterest

Buy the book (print, ebook audiobook): Amazon

***

You can enter the global giveaway here
or on any other book blogs participating in this tour.
Be sure to follow each participant on Twitter/Facebook,
they are listed in the entry form below
.

Visit each blogger on the tour:
tweeting about the giveaway everyday
of the Tour will give you 5 extra entries each time!
[just follow the directions on the entry-form]

Global giveaway open internationally:
5 winners will receive a print copy of this book.

***

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TO READ REVIEWS, INTERVIEW, AND EXCERPTS

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Pre-order Midnight at the Orpheus!

MidnightAtTheOrpheusComing in December 2015, from Bold Strokes Books.

Pre-order the book here! (or on Amazon or Chapters/Indigo, below)

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, she 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, 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.

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Paperback:

ISBN-13: 978-1626396074

Book Review: The Conversation: The Night Napoleon Changed the World, by Jean d’Ormesson (+ giveaway + excerpt!)

Leave a comment to be entered to win a hardcover copy of the book! (US readers only)

the-conversationAbout the book

After pulling the French people back from the abyss of chaos and misrule, Napoleon Bonaparte is on the brink of declaring himself emperor. “An empire is a Republic that has been enthroned,” he says. And so history is made.

As Napoleon stands at the precipice of his new empire, Jean d’Ormesson’s novel The Conversation: The Night Napoleon Changed the World captures a fictional conversation in which the thirty-year-old, struggling between revolutionary ideals and his overwhelming thirst for power, declares his secret intention to ascend the throne.

Second Consul Jean-Jacques Cambacérès, a brilliant law scholar and close ally, bears witness to the birth of this self-created legend: a man who left his mark upon time not through birth, but with ambition, and whose hubris is still invoked as a cautionary tale. Their imagined conversation brilliantly captures the tenuous moment when one man’s dream becomes reality. History, of course, records Napoleon’s dizzying triumphs and subsequent fall.

Review

This is a conversation in the very literal sense of the word. As you’ll see from the excerpt below, the book in its entirety is a conversation between Bonaparte and Cambacérès. It took me a few pages to get used to the format, but once I did, I wished that I could have read this book as an audiobook, and had two actors performing the parts. However, the conversation was compelling enough on its own that it didn’t take me too long to read.

“A society without religion is like a ship without a compass. … I am Catholic here because most people are Catholics.”

These lines (and the entire paragraph) caught my attention. I don’t know as much about French history as I would like (one of these days I shall take time to study it beyond the French Revolution we learned in school), but I do remember reading about Napoleon re-opening the churches (shuttered by those who took over during the Revolution). I just hadn’t realized that his own beliefs were not religious.

Yet Napoleon does not just focus on political plotting. There is an amusing (to me at least) digression into family relations, and the rivalry of his Empress Josephine with his sister Caroline over an expensive shawl, which breaks up some of the more historically-heavy sections.

The majority of the conversation details Napoleon’s determination to be called Emperor of the French; his reasoning and plans are detailed, and you can imagine yourself a fly on the wall as he plots his ascension.

Read the excerpt, below

Bonaparte
It was anarchy. Twenty-thousand criminals immersed Paris in fire and blood. And forty- thousand Royalist Chouans were in control of the country in the West and intercepting communications between Paris and the sea.

Cambacérès
Admiral Bruix told me at the time that it took him a month to reach Brest to take up his command.

Bonaparte
In thirty of the country’s departments, the Chouannerie was little more than a pretext for thievery. The right bank of the Garonne, Provence, the Languedoc, and the entire Rhone Valley was in the hands of highwaymen. Coaches were attacked, couriers robbed, homes looted. Pillagers were putting peasants’ feet on red-hot grills to make them tell them where their money was stashed.

Cambacérès
I know several merchants, even two representatives on official business, who bought passports from these bands just to ensure safe passage from Paris to Marseille or to Aix-en- Provence. No one went anywhere without an armed escort.

Bonaparte
The roads were impassable, public buildings were in shambles. It took Marseilles a full year to do the business it used to do in six months, and its old port was a wreck. In Lyon, there were fifteen-hundred boats instead of the normal eight thousand. In Paris, workshops hired a fraction as many workers as in 1789. It is indisputable that because of me, the present is better than the past. The future is what preoccupies me now.

Cambacérès
You have secured the future because you have done away with the past.

Bonaparte
Do not deceive yourself. I am at one with all of France’s past, from Clovis to this National Convention—of which you were also a part, my dear Cambacérès—and several times have I saved it from foreign threat. I have fought against, and beaten, violence, hatred, excesses, divisions, factions. No more factions. I want them gone.

Cambacérès
You have planted the colors, starting the day after Eighteen Brumaire and right up to your arrival here in the Tuileries. You have put your wife in Marie-Antoinette’s bedroom, and you have taken as your bedroom that of Louis the Sixteenth. Yet I understand that you find this a somewhat sad place.

Bonaparte
Grandeur is always sad.

Cambacérès
You found its walls covered in revolutionary graffiti and festooned in decorations dominated by the red cap. You called it “filth” and ordered that it be removed.

 

Release date: November 6, 2013

Page number: 128

Publisher link: http://www.arcadepub.com/book/?GCOI=55970104236100&

ISBN: 978-1-61145-905-0

Also available as Ebook

Where to buy

Websites:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/skyhorsepub

About the Author and Translator

Jean d'OrmessonJean d’Ormesson is the author of more than fifteen books, has a PhD in philosophy, graduated from the École Normale, and is a distinguished member of the Académie Française. He lives in Paris.

Timothy Bent has translated a number of books from French, including Brassaï’s Henry Miller: The Paris Years, Emmanuel Carrère’s I Am Alive and You Are DeadA Journey into the Mind of Philip K. Dick, and Stéphane Audeguy’s novel, The Theory of Clouds. A former editor at Arcade Publishing, St. Martin’s Press, and Harcourt, he is currently Executive Editor, Trade, at Oxford University Press in New York, where he focuses upon history, biography, and current events.

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Interview!

I’m interviewed over at Bandit Creek Books today. Go check it out if you have a minute. I’m talking about my novella, PROHIBITED PASSION, and about alcohol, history, and gangsters.

Also, if you’re a Facebook user, come join the event page for my virtual launch on January 15th! There’s a chance to win a copy of my book: https://www.facebook.com/events/324755467558536/

Welcome to Bandit Creek!

In the spring of 2011, a group of authors got together and created the town of Bandit Creek, Montana, nestled in the Rocky Mountains. Everything happens in Bandit Creek: we have paranormal romances, mysteries, historical, you name it. We cover all genres and the books range from 1867 to the present. You’ll meet strange residents, search out lost treasure, hang out with flappers and bootleggers, see ghosts, experience love stories, and have a frolicking good time.

The inaugural release is ‘Lost’, by Vivi Anna.

Kirsten Morgan can hear the dead. And now they are calling to her, to come home to Bandit Creek.

A girl has gone missing, and the law don’t have any leads. But the last thing Sheriff Samuel Morgan wants to see is his famous psychic daughter in his office telling him how to do his job. At odds for years, Kirsten doesn’t know how to talk to her father but she knows she has to push him to a place he doesn’t want to go. Because the dead are talking, and she has to answer, or lose her mind forever.

It’s a fantastic tale and will keep you reading right to the end. Vivi Anna is the author of more than a dozen books, including the Nina Decker books ‘Glimmer’ and ‘Dawning’, the YA novel ‘Static’ and the Valorian Chronicles from Harlequin.

New books will be released twice a month and you can find them at the Bandit Creek Books website, and for purchase on Amazon and Smashwords.