Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace
***All photos accompanying posts are either owned by the author of said post or are in the public domain -- NOT the property of History Undressed. If you'd like to obtain permission to use a picture from a post, please contact the author of the post.***

Friday, January 31, 2014

Review of Time-Travel Romance, HANDS OF TIME by Irina Shapiro (GIVEAWAY!)


I've had the pleasure of reading the first book in Irina Shapiro's new time-travel series, THE HANDS OF TIME, and I'd like to share my review with you all! Leave a comment for your chance to win a Kindle copy!


About The Hands of Time

Publication Date: December 7, 2011
Merlin Press
eBook
ASIN: B006JRO9WS

When a young American woman vanishes without a trace from a quaint fishing village on the coast of England only one person knows the truth, but he remains silent, allowing the authorities to search for her in vain, safe in the knowledge that she will never be found.  As Valerie’s bereft sister returns home alone, she struggles to understand what happened and come to terms with her terrible loss when she suddenly stumbles upon a clue that might finally shed some light on her sister’s disappearance.

Meanwhile, Valerie Crane finds herself transported to the year 1605. Terrified and confused she turns for help to the Whitfield brothers, who take her in and offer her a home despite their misgivings about her origins. Both Alexander and Finlay Whitfield fall in love with the mysterious woman who shows up on their doorstep, creating a love triangle that threatens to consume them all.  Valerie must make her choice, deciding between the brother who will lead her down the path of destruction or one who will give her the love she couldn’t find in her own time.

My Review

THE HANDS OF TIME was a fun, quick read. We're first introduced to Valerie who is going through a seriously rough patch in life, with her cheating husband parading around his impregnated girlfriend after they were not able to conceive a child. ROUGH! I was actually excited for her to travel to a different time and place, just to be away from that mess.

I liked the way in which she traveled back through time. As a writer/reader of time-travels, its nice to see a fresh new take on how the characters can make time leaps. Once Valerie arrived in 1605, however, I found she didn't really seem too surprised, or really to care all that much. Which could have been a side affect of the severe psychological trauma she'd been through--maybe she WANTED to be there. But it wasn't the only case in which I felt I needed just a tad more insight. I would have liked to get deeper into the characters' heads. I found myself questioning their motivation a lot of the time, and wishing I could see what they were thinking.

After finding herself in 1605, Val ends up being taken in by two brothers--Alec and Finlay. They've had a rough time of it too, between their religion not being accepted and the majority of their family dying of illness. They take her in easily, perhaps a bit too easily, but its understood that they are lonely. There is a bit of a love triangle that goes on in this story. My fav was Alec, though at first she ends up with Finlay.

I did enjoy getting to see that various viewpoints of the other characters. With a series this large, I think that is important, especially when you have so many key players. It was great we could see what Louisa (Val's sister) was doing back in present day. The only oddity was that Valerie is in first person and the rest are in 3rd person, sometimes with omniscient narrative prose. BUT, despite it being odd, I liked it because it gave Valerie ownership over the series. This is really her story, even though we get to see inside the heads of the other characters.

Loved the tie-in of Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot--always fun to see real events in books, and how the characters react to them. Lots of political/religious unrest during that time period, and I felt that Ms. Shapiro did play that out well.

Lots of twists and turns, that definitely had me on the edge of my seat. Can't say too much more, or else I'll give it away, and I'm not into spoilers!

I wanted to touch briefly on something that I happened to see on an Amazon thread regarding this book--and that was the history within the book. Normally, I refrain from commenting on these types of things, but I thought it necessary to explain here, because it is giving the book a bad rap. The reviewer was irritated, and brought forth irritation in others, because of the mention of Virginia and shipping exports, etc... from the colonies. The reviewer states that this is impossible given that Jamestown wasn't founded until 1607--true it wasn't. BUT, there were actually people living in VA before 1607. In fact, Sir Walter Raleigh named the area Virginia after Queen Elizabeth in 1584 when he traveled there. Yes, there were ups and downs, and abandoned at times, but that doesn't mean it was non-existent. Simply because it wasn't officially colonized until 1607 doesn't mean that the history within this book is false. Additionally, on the orders of King James in 1603, the "colonies" were exporting from there to England--timber being one of those exports (which the heroes in this series use as their business). We could argue the use of the term plantation, which brings to mind sprawling mansions with white columns, fields of crops and slaves, but in fact, the word plantation simply means large farm--a word that was derived in the 15th century. 

I am definitely not an expert in this area, but I wanted to point this out, since some readers were raising their pitchforks over the history. I'd also like to point out this: when reading fiction, we must be able to suspend belief. It is fiction--a tale, an escape, a fantasy. This is a time-travel after all, if we can believe that time travel is possible, why is it so hard to believe that people were shipping timber from the Americas?

Now, the one thing I did find unbelievable was that a doctor in the 17th century could hear a baby's heartbeat with a stethoscope at only 6 weeks of pregnancy... That is unlikely, considering most women don't hear it with a doppler until about 12 wks on average. But, like I said, its fiction! And it didn't detract from the story.

If you're interested in a fast, light read, give this book a look. It's a nice fantastical, sensual read for a day you're snowed in. A little trip through time to Renaissance England. Do be aware that is part of an ongoing series, so all loose ends will not be tied up at the end. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the books in the series.

Now, I need to go find an old French clock :)

Purchase the Book



About the Author


Irina Shapiro was born in Moscow, Russia, where she lived until she was eleven.  In 1982 her family emigrated to the United States and settled in New York.  Due to her love of reading, Irina was able to pick up English very quickly, and was an honor student throughout her school career.

After graduating from Bernard M. Baruch College in 1992 with a Bachelor’s degree in International Business, Irina worked in advertising for two years before shifting her focus to Import/Export.  She worked her way up to the position of Import Manager in a large textile house before leaving the work force in 2007 to focus on her autistic son.

It wasn’t until Irina had been at home for some time that she began to write.  Eventually the characters began to take on a life of their own and have conversations in her head, and once she started writing her musings down the stories came easily enough.  Irina incorporated her love of history and travel into her writing to create a rich and detailed background for the characters.  Since then Irina has written eight novels.  She is currently working on book five of The Hands of Time Series.

Irina Shapiro lives in New Jersey with her husband and two children.

For more information, please visit www.irinashapiro.com.  You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.








Interview with Jeannie Ruesch Author of CLOAKED IN DANGER (Giveaway!!!)


Happy Friday to you all! If you're looking for a great read for this weekend, check out Jeannie's book CLOAKED IN DANGER, which I reviewed yesterday. LOVED IT!

Now, I'd love to introduce you to Jeannie Ruesch! An amazing, historical romance author, and my friend. Her and I met years ago when we worked on a blog together--MAMAWRITERS. We had a blast and I'm so pleased for you to meet her and get to know her work. 

***GIVEAWAY ALERT!!! Leave a COMMENT and SHARE this blog if you can, for your chance to win an e-copy of CLOAKED IN DANGER!***

1. What do you love most about writing historical romantic suspense?

Hi Eliza! Thanks for hanging out with me today! :)  Wow, where to start with this answer?  All three elements, historical, romance and suspense, I truly love and enjoy writing.  I love delving into historical times and finding out how people then are similar and different from us.  I love the hope that romance provides, the way that a good love story can fill us with joy.  And I admit to being fascinated by the darkness, the shadows, the blurring of lines between right and wrong and why people do what they do.  Combine the three, and I’m in heaven. :)  

2. Do you plan to write in other genres?

Suspense in any time period fascinates me, so I might be included to try contemporary suspense.  But I love history and I love bringing the world of today's romantic suspense into historical settings, so I'll probably stick with that for a while.  After the Willoughby siblings have had their say, the next series I'm planning will have books set in multiple eras, all connected by one town full of tragedy, mystery and secrets.  I can't wait to dig into that! 

3. I loved Something About Her and Cloaked in Danger was icing on the cake! Do you have more books planned for the series?

Yes, two more planned.  Lily and Cordelia have staked their claim on having their own books, and I'm working on those now.  Lily's book is set 3 years after Cloaked in Danger ends, and suffice it to say that her life has not turned out as planned and she's ready to fight for the life she wants.  Cordelia hasn't exactly been a typical heroine, she's somewhat bratty, and I'm enjoying delving into the whys and hows of who she is and what she really wants out of life.

4. What was the most interesting fact you found while researching your book?

Aria's father is an antiquarian (archeologist), and when I was trying to decide what treasure he was on the hunt for, I discovered that much of Cleopatra's treasures were destroyed after her death.  Octavian ordered all likenesses destroyed — it was as if he wanted to wipe her off the map.  I love the irony in that.  He wanted her to fade into history, and in fact, she became one of the most famous, honored women of all time.  Just makes you want to stick out your tongue and say, "So there!" to him.

But it left the door open for Gideon Whitney to be searching for something that, at that time, had not been discovered -- any artifacts of Cleopatra.  It was fun to imagine what her jewelry must have looked like, what it would have felt like.


5. Did you come across anything in your research unintentionally that you HAD to put in your book because it was so fascinating?

I like finding small details that characters can interact with, something of the times that would be considered like how we see Coca Cola cans in people's hands today.  One of the scenes in my book is set in Vauxhall Gardens, and when I was researching the layout of the gardens, I read about the paintings that decorated the supper boxes.  I though, here is a perfect detail that my characters can interact with.  Something that was normal in the time period, taken for granted, an every day item to anyone who visited the Gardens regularly.  In the scene, my heroine is dealing with a friend/suitor and I thought showing their opinions about the paintings was a great way to illustrate aspects of their relationship.  The painting in question was See Saw by Frances Hayman (below). 


6. What do you think is an essential character trait to have in a hero/heroine?

Flaws. I think the most fascinating characters are the ones who don't always know the right thing, do the right thing.  They need to be human, and we all have our strengths and weaknesses.  And the very nature of a novel means that we're going to test the heck out of those strengths and weaknesses, so they'd better appear real and leap from the page.   For the romance aspect of things, it's not about finding the "perfect" person, it's about finding the perfect person for YOU.  And a book is no different.  Our flaws and best features match up with our significant others, and hopefully compliment and balance each other.  I hope that I did a good enough job in showing that Aria and Adam do balance each other.


7. The history/setting in your books are more like a secondary character, when did you first fall in love with historical fiction?

One of the first experiences I had with historical fiction was in reading Bertrice Small's book Beloved about Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra.  I was fascinated and I remember thinking, how much of this if fact and how much is fiction?  So I went searching to find out and I was enthralled to learn that Zenobia was a historical figure, who led a revolt against the Roman Empire and was delivered to Aurelius in golden chains.  The weaving of the history and the love story Small created was so amazing to me, and I was hooked.  

8. Is there anything you'd like to share with or ask readers?

I'd love to give my thanks to our historical romance readers out there!  There are so many fascinating authors with great stories to tell (including Eliza's!) and we truly appreciate you and your love of the genre. 


About Cloaked in Danger


Publication Date: January 27, 2014
Carina Press
eBook
ASIN: B00F93X7ZI


Aria Whitney has little in common with the delicate ladies of London society. Her famous father made his fortune hunting archaeological treasures, and her rustic upbringing has left her ill prepared for a life of parties and frippery. But when Gideon Whitney goes missing in Egypt, Aria must embrace the unknown. Armed with only the short list of highborn men who’d backed her father’s venture, she poses as a woman looking for a husband. She doesn’t intend to find one.

Adam Willoughby, Earl of Merewood, finds London’s strangest new debutante fascinating, but when he catches her investigating his family’s secrets, he threatens to ruin her reputation. He doesn’t intend to enjoy it so much.

When their lustful indiscretion is discovered, Adam finds that he regrets nothing. But now, as Aria’s father’s enemy draws near, Adam must convince his betrothed that she can trust him with her own secrets…before it’s too late.

Praise for Cloaked in Danger


“Cloaked in Danger has all the elements readers crave— larger-than-life characters, a vivid and believable setting, heart-pounding romance and just the right amount of mystery. Don’t miss it! It kept me reading deep into the night.” — New York Times Bestselling Author Brenda Novak

“In ‘Cloaked in Danger’ Jeannie Ruesch has crafted a taut, emotional thrill-ride through the streets of Regency London. Archaeological adventure and drawing room intrigue are combined in a story that will keep you reading late into the night. Jeannie Ruesch is an author to watch.” — RITA Award Nominated Author Elizabeth Essex

Purchase the Book



About the Author

Jeannie Ruesch wrote her first story at the age of the six, prompting her to give up an illustrious, hours-long ambition of becoming a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader and declare that writing was her destiny. That journey to destiny took a few detours along the way, including a career in marketing and design.
Her first novel, a fairy-tale like historical romance, was published in 2009, but the darker side of life had always captivated her. So after a dinner conversation with friends about the best way to hide a dead body, she knew she had to find a way to incorporate suspense into her writing. (The legal outlet for her fascination.) Today, she continues writing what she loves to read – stories of history, romance and suspense. She lives in Northern California with her husband, their son and an 80 pound lapdog lab named Cooper.
She is also the creator of the WIP Notebook, a writer’s tool to help stay organized while you write, which you can find at her website. You can also follow her on Facebook,TwitterGoodreads and Pinterest.



Thursday, January 30, 2014

Historical Romance Review: Cloaked in Danger by Jeannie Ruesch

I have had the incredible pleasure of reading Jeannie Ruesch's new book, CLOAKED IN DANGER. Trust me when I say I was cloaked in excitement :)

About Cloaked in Danger


Publication Date: January 27, 2014
Carina Press
eBook
ASIN: B00F93X7ZI


Aria Whitney has little in common with the delicate ladies of London society. Her famous father made his fortune hunting archaeological treasures, and her rustic upbringing has left her ill prepared for a life of parties and frippery. But when Gideon Whitney goes missing in Egypt, Aria must embrace the unknown. Armed with only the short list of highborn men who’d backed her father’s venture, she poses as a woman looking for a husband. She doesn’t intend to find one.

Adam Willoughby, Earl of Merewood, finds London’s strangest new debutante fascinating, but when he catches her investigating his family’s secrets, he threatens to ruin her reputation. He doesn’t intend to enjoy it so much.

When their lustful indiscretion is discovered, Adam finds that he regrets nothing. But now, as Aria’s father’s enemy draws near, Adam must convince his betrothed that she can trust him with her own secrets…before it’s too late.

Praise for Cloaked in Danger


“Cloaked in Danger has all the elements readers crave— larger-than-life characters, a vivid and believable setting, heart-pounding romance and just the right amount of mystery. Don’t miss it! It kept me reading deep into the night.” — New York Times Bestselling Author Brenda Novak

“In ‘Cloaked in Danger’ Jeannie Ruesch has crafted a taut, emotional thrill-ride through the streets of Regency London. Archaeological adventure and drawing room intrigue are combined in a story that will keep you reading late into the night. Jeannie Ruesch is an author to watch.” — RITA Award Nominated Author Elizabeth Essex


My Review

Right from the very start, Ms. Ruesch had me hooked. The book opens with our heroine, Aria (LOVE HER NAME!) rifling through someone's things. We catch her motivation, her desperation, and see her goal. By page two we're rooting for her, and by the end of chapter one--enter Adam our hero (devastatingly charismatic!)--we're intrigued with both mystery, scandal and passion. This is not a book you can read over the course of days, well, not for me anyway! I couldn't stop once I started, the need for sleep was the only thing that kept me putting the book down.

Not your typical Regency, which I enjoyed. Aria Whitney is not your usual heroine--she's not nobleborn, and she REALLY doesn't care about society--so much so in fact, I was cringing at how the people would shun her for her latest escapade, but having said that, I was cheering her on every step of the way. I loved that she turned the ton on its ear, and I love that Adam loved that about her.

Together, they embarked on a two-fold adventure, a quest to solve the mystery surrounding her father's disappearance, but also to discover who each other was and to explore a love that was based firstly off a steamy attraction.

The writing is superb, fast-paced, witty, exciting and uplifting. Aria is a heroine we'd all love to be, and Adam is a hero we can definitely fall in love with. Coupled with the romance and the suspense is the history, which I'm a sucker for any day.

Well done, Ms. Ruesch! I look forward to many more books by you.

Stay tuned tomorrow for my interview with the author AND a giveaway of CLOAKED IN DANGER!

Purchase the Book



About the Author

Jeannie Ruesch wrote her first story at the age of the six, prompting her to give up an illustrious, hours-long ambition of becoming a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader and declare that writing was her destiny. That journey to destiny took a few detours along the way, including a career in marketing and design.
Her first novel, a fairy-tale like historical romance, was published in 2009, but the darker side of life had always captivated her. So after a dinner conversation with friends about the best way to hide a dead body, she knew she had to find a way to incorporate suspense into her writing. (The legal outlet for her fascination.) Today, she continues writing what she loves to read – stories of history, romance and suspense. She lives in Northern California with her husband, their son and an 80 pound lapdog lab named Cooper.
She is also the creator of the WIP Notebook, a writer’s tool to help stay organized while you write, which you can find at her website. You can also follow her on Facebook,TwitterGoodreads and Pinterest.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

You're Invited! Celebarte Historical Fiction on 1/30!

 
On January 30th, from 12pm EST to 10pm EST, an impressive roster of historical fiction authors and bloggers are hosting a Facebook party in honor of historical fiction, the 2,023rd anniversary of the Ara Pacis, and the release of Stephanie Dray's newest book, Daughters of the Nile: A novel of Cleopatra's Daughter.
 
 
Readers can win free books, lunch at the next Historical Novel Society meeting, swag, gift cards, and other prizes from some of the hottest authors of the genre. Please join us, and RSVP!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Cloaked in Danger Release Party -- Tonight!


Happy Monday everyone :)

Today, myself and several other amazing authors will be participating in Jeannie Ruesch's release party! So excited for this book--Cloaked in Danger!

Check it out!



What: Jeannie Ruesch's Facebook Launch Party for Cloaked in Danger


When: 
Monday, January 27th   3:00 - 7:00pm PST

About Cloaked in Danger

Publication Date: January 27, 2014
Carina Press
eBook
ASIN: B00F93X7ZI

Aria Whitney has little in common with the delicate ladies of London society. Her famous father made his fortune hunting archaeological treasures, and her rustic upbringing has left her ill prepared for a life of parties and frippery. But when Gideon Whitney goes missing in Egypt, Aria must embrace the unknown. Armed with only the short list of highborn men who’d backed her father’s venture, she poses as a woman looking for a husband. She doesn’t intend to find one.

Adam Willoughby, Earl of Merewood, finds London’s strangest new debutante fascinating, but when he catches her investigating his family’s secrets, he threatens to ruin her reputation. He doesn’t intend to enjoy it so much.

When their lustful indiscretion is discovered, Adam finds that he regrets nothing. But now, as Aria’s father’s enemy draws near, Adam must convince his betrothed that she can trust him with her own secrets…before it’s too late.

About Jeannie Ruesch

Jeannie Ruesch wrote her first story at the age of the six, prompting her to give up an illustrious, hours-long ambition of becoming a Dallas Cowboy
Cheerleader and declare that writing was her destiny. That journey to destiny took a few detours along the way, including a career in marketing and
design.

Her first novel, a fairy-tale like historical romance, was published in 2009, but the darker side of life had always captivated her. So after a dinner
conversation with friends about the best way to hide a dead body, she knew she had to find a way to incorporate suspense into her writing. (The legal
outlet for her fascination.) Today, she continues writing what she loves to read – stories of history, romance and suspense. She lives in Northern
California with her husband, their son and an 80 pound lapdog lab named Cooper.

She is also the creator of the WIP Notebook, a writer’s tool to help stay organized while you write, which you can find at her website. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and Pinterest.

 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Highland Cows vs. Other Cows

When I went to Ireland a decade ago, we had to pull over onto the side of the road because a herd of massive, black and white cows were coming down the road. I'd never seen cows so huge before! I was amazed then with the differences between American cows and Irish cows. Subsequently, did you know that dairy cows are black and white, or brown and white? (Holsteins specifically are the white/blacks.) Now, I never did find out exactly why the Irish cows looked so much larger, but I'm guessing, looking back at pictures, that it might have had something to do with sitting in a tiny car :)






Now onto the Highland cattle! I'd seen pictures before and always wondered about their breed. Highland cows are shaggy, with these long, thick coats. I finally got to see some cows in person when I went to Scotland--the Highlands specifically. They are beautiful.

Funny story... My friend and I stopped at a castle ruins. We parked near a fence and when we got out of the car, we heard these great snorting and scary mooing sounds. Glancing up, we saw four Highland cows barreling toward us, horns down. I was certain they'd come tearing through the flimsy fence to gore us. So I ran. Screaming. Hilarious really... My friend called me back over. The cows had stopped at the fence and looked up at us docilely. I'm guessing they'd just been excited, and maybe were looking for some treats. My dad has a cattle farm (beautiful blacks and browns) and they run over to the fence for us to give them treats all the time.

But these thick, shaggy coats--what's the deal? Why do Highland cows look so different?

The answer is quite simple. Highland cattle were bred to withstand harsh weather -- heavy rains, wind, freezing temperatures, snow. Their thick coats protect them, keep them warm.






Hope you all are staying warm this winter season!

Cheers,
Eliza

Hey, check it out! I have THREE new books out!


Something to entertain you this post-holiday season... A KILTED CHRISTMAS WISH,  something to keep you warm any night of the year -- THE HIGHLANDER'S SIN. And if you're looking for steaming HAWT check out the 3rd and final installment in the Highland Bound trilogy -- DARK SIDE OF THE LAIRD.



Down on her luck with men, Darla Strider wonders if she’ll ever meet her own kilted hero. Considering she lives in present day New York City, the likelihood of that happening is nil. She’s certain only a Christmas wish could make her dreams come true. Until the day Aaron Sutherland walks into her cafĂ©, and changes her whole world.

Leaving his pain in Scotland for life in the States, the last thing Aaron has in mind is hooking up with a city girl. But one look at Darla and she’s got him singing All I Want for Christmas is You.

Available as an ebook only

He stole her away… But she set him free…

They called him The Priest. Maybe because of his billowing black robes and the steel crucifix that hung around his neck. Or perhaps it was because those who met him were compelled to pray. But Duncan Mackay was anything but a saint. He was a sinner—a paid mercenary. Until he met her, and she made him want to change his ways.

Lady Heather Sutherland, has never been compelled to follow rules. And this time, she’s gone too far. Following in the footsteps of her brothers and cousins, she chooses to join the fight for Scottish freedom—and gets herself abducted by a handsome, rogue warrior, whose touch is sweet sin.

Duncan’s duty was clear—steal Heather away from Dunrobin Castle. What he didn’t expect, was to be charmed by her spirit and rocked by her fiery kiss. Now, he doesn’t want deliver her to those who hired him, instead he wants to keep her all to himself.

Available in print, ebook and audio


Bound by passion. Freed by love.

When the damaged and tormented Emma first meets the equally broken Logan, they embark on a torrid, emotionally provocative affair that irrevocably changed their lives. Emma has sacrificed her entire being and just when she thinks Logan is willing to do the same, he holds back. Reluctant for their love to be a thing of shadows, Emma issues an ultimatum: commit or say goodbye. Fearful of losing her, Logan agrees.

In order to keep her, he must gain permission to marry from the one man he’s sought to avoid: his brother, the King. His appeal is denied and instead, Logan is seized and sent to the dungeon with no hope for escape. While in Hell, Logan’s dark past haunts him, threatening to consume him. He must fight to remain the man he’s become with Emma by his side and relinquish the control he’s held onto for a lifetime.

Fearing her lover is dead, Emma decides once and for all she must leave history where it belongs and return to the present. But when she tries once again to break the bonds of time, she is struck down. Emma must choose her destiny. Must answer the cries her body makes in the dark for her laird. They’ve always been strongest when together, but now Emma must find the courage on her own to see her fate fulfilled—and Logan returned to her.

READ IT!  Amazon / Barnes and Noble