Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace


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Thursday, November 17, 2016

Cover Reveal: The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

I am so thrilled to share with you the cover for Kate Quinn's highly anticipated new book -- THE ALICE NETWORK which releases in June!

In an enthralling new historical novel from national bestselling author Kate Quinn, two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947—are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption.

1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She's also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie's parents banish her to Europe to have her "little problem" taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.

1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she's recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she's trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the "Queen of Spies", who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy's nose.

Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn't heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth...no matter where it leads.

"The Alice Network, which hinges on the unsung valor of female espionage agents in the Great War, perfectly balances a propulsive plot, faultlessly observed period detail, and a cast of characters so vividly drawn that I half expected to blink and see them standing in front of me. This is historical fiction at its best--thrilling, affecting, revelatory." --Jennifer Robson, international bestselling author of Moonlight Over Paris

"Both funny and heartbreaking, this epic journey of two courageous women is an unforgettable tale of little-known wartime glory and sacrifice. Quinn knocks it out of the park with this spectacular book!" -- Stephanie Dray, New York Times bestselling author of America's First Daughter

"A ring of daring female spies known as the Alice Network left a legacy of blood and betrayal. Two women suffering the losses of two different wars must join forces, one to find her voice and her redemption, the other to face her fears and her oldest enemy. Kate Quinn strums the chords of every human emotion with two storylines that race over continents and through decades to converge in one explosive ending." --Marci Jefferson, author of The Girl on the Golden Coin

PRE-ORDER your copy today!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Drumroll, Please! Tara Kingston's Gorgeous New Historical Romance Cover...

Pre-Order Now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other retailers.

As a regular contributor to History Undressed and a big fan of this blog, I’m so excited to share the gorgeous cover for my upcoming Scottish Historical romance here today. The Highlander Who Loved Me releases December 12 from Entangled Publishing. Set in late-Victorian Scotland, The Highlander Who Loved Me is the first book in my new Highland Hearts series. The stories are romantic adventures featuring rugged Highland spies working for the Crown to safeguard Scottish treasures.

Here’s a little about The Highlander Who Loved Me:

He may be her fiercest ally...or a scoundrel waiting to betray her.

Johanna Templeton is on a life-and-death quest. Swept into an intrigue that rivals the tales she pens, she joins forces with a Highland rogue to find the treasure that will save her kidnapped niece--a prize the Scot seeks for reasons that have nothing to do with ransom. Engaging the Highlander in a sizzling battle of the sexes, Johanna shields her heart.

Connor MacMasters, spy for Queen Victoria, is a man on a mission--keep a legendary gemstone from an evil man. Trailing an American novelist who holds the key to the treasure should've been simple, but Johanna awakens feelings he'd long thought dead. Torn between duty and desire, he wants her in his bed, but loving her would be a fool's game. Blasted shame his heart doesn't agree.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

John Gow - The Orkney Pirate

Everything recorded about the infamous Scottish pirate John Gow could be true...or not. It seems that for each report on the Orkney Pirate there was a vastly differing account. Even his youth is questionable.

John Gow was born in 1698, or thereabout, in Wick, Caithness, in the far north of Scotland and raised in Stromness, Orkney Mainland, Scotland. Growing up in a port town, it is not surprising Gow was lured to a seaman’s life. Some local traditional stories claim he ran away to the sea. Others suggest he started his mariner career on trading ships. No one is really sure. There is not much about Gow before he officially became labeled a pirate in 1724.

John Gow
However, his piratical ways may have started sooner. It is said that he plotted a mutiny on one of his first voyages, a trip from London to Lisbon, but failed to recruit enough men. His scheme was found out and he fled to Amsterdam. Seems he was a troublemaker from the start.

In August of 1724, he joined the crew of Captain Freneau’s Caroline bound for Santa Cruz. He must have impressed the captain as Gow was quickly appointed second mate and gunner. By the time they reached the island, there was already growing unrest among the men. The food rations and living conditions were bad and reportedly there was maltreatment by the ship’s officers. After several weeks in Santa Cruz, the Caroline, loaded with beeswax, leather, and woolens, set a course to Genoa, Italy. Captain Freneau was well aware of the crew’s discontent. Despite that the captain had said complaints would be redressed, there were crewmen openly disobeying his orders. Freneau, recognizing the danger, took proactive measures and had small arms placed in the cabin for defense and enforcing discipline. But this was to no avail. Gow and other conspirators caught wind and decided on immediate action. That night after the evening prayer when half of the crew retired, mutineers cut the throats of the surgeon, first mate, and supercargo. The surgeon managed to make it topside where, by some accounts, he was shot. The commotion alerted Freneau on deck. The captain was stabbed in the neck by one of the mutineers, shot in the stomach twice (or more, emptying an entire brace) by Gow, and tossed overboard. The ship was now under the control of the mutineers. Gow, fancying being a pirate, found his opportunity and his co-conspirators agreed to commence in the trade. Gow was elected captain and he renamed the ship Revenge.

Gow's Execution
Gow preyed on ships off the Iberian Peninsula and in the Bay of Biscayne. While he was successful in his acts of piracy, he did so with a heavy hand in fear yet without unnecessary bloodshed, often releasing prisoners relatively unharmed. But living a pirate’s life meant being short of essential provisions, such as fresh water. Gow lacked necessities, was being hunted, and  his ship was in need of repairs. He presented to his crew sailing to Orkney where they could sell their plunder and handle all their urgencies. Oh, and by the way, there are isolated manors and estates of gentry folk that would be easy to pillage. It would be hit and run, and the Revenge would be on its way again.

The January of 1725, the Revenge, now called George, reached Orkney. Gow passed himself off as a wealthy trader named Mr. Smith. No points for originality. It wasn’t long before Gow and some of his men were recognized by another merchant and everything began to unravel. As word got around of Gow’s true identity and purpose, several of his men deserted him and fled to the Scottish mainland. One bought a horse and fled to Kirkwall, claiming he was forced to be listed in the service of the devil, and warned the authorities of Gow’s plans.

Regardless of being ousted, Gow would not surrender and instead launched his attacks.

Gow stormed the Hall of Clestrain. Depending on which account is read, the raid either was successful in their plunder or the valuables had been hidden and the thieves made off with nothing but a handful of silver spoons. Upon the pirates’ exit, they kidnapped two girls. Stories conflict on the fate of the girls. Some say they were released the next day laden with gifts. Others claim the girls were horrifically abused, one dying from her injuries.

Gow wasn’t done. He set his sights on the Carrick House on Eday. Winds and tide carried the Revenge too close to shore and the ship was grounded.  James Fea, the resident of the manor and not-so-coincidentally an old schoolmate of Gow’s, managed to perpetuate any negotiations and, with the aid of only a few men, captured the pirate and his twenty-seven crewmen.

Never taunt the man with nothing to lose.
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The pirates were taken to Marshalsea Prison in England to face trial. Gow refused to plea for which he was ordered to be slowly, as in the course of many days, pressed to death. Gow had a change of heart and pleaded not guilty. But alas, the chap was quickly found guilty of murder and piracy. Eight pirates, including Gow, were executed by hanging on June 11, 1725. That was a short piratical career—less than a year.

But the story doesn’t end there. Gow’s rope didn’t break his neck when he fell and he was slow to die, nearly four minutes according to one report. Friends (or the executioner) had pulled upon his legs to speed up his death causing the rope to break. Gow, of his own accord, climbed the gallows again to be hung a second and final time.

The Orkney Pirate and his men were tarred and hung in chains over the bank of the Thames River.

Who really knows the incidental details of John Gow. No matter the tale, whether he was gentlemanly and charitable or not in his dealings, there is no doubt he was a murderer, a thief, a pirate.

About the Author

Jennifer is the award-winning author of the Romancing the Pirate series. Visit her at www.jbrayweber.com or join her mailing list for sneak peeks, excerpts, and giveaways.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

HALOTTAK NAPJA A Very Different Holiday Atmosphere by Kathleen Bittner Roth

Welcome back to History Undressed, our regular first Tuesday blogger and author, Kathleen Bittner Roth! Kathleen Bittner Roth! 

A Very Different Holiday Atmosphere

by Kathleen Bittner Roth

Tradition and ceremony is the ‘glue’ that binds families and nations together. Ever since I was a child, I have been fascinated with the traditions and ceremonies upheld by various cultures. As an author who is single, and with an adult child married and living a life of his own, my circumstances allow me to live wherever I choose. Even though I am an American through and through, I currently reside in beautiful Budapest, Hungary. As I write this post, I am in the midst of a two-day, national holiday that is part of a tradition that has gone on for centuries, and still impacts the culture to this day.

While children in the U.S. are dressing up in costumes, carving pumpkins, and seeking candy treats, Eastern Europe is embracing a rather somber celebration. As a Catholic nation since the 11th century, Hungary takes the holiday very seriously. Shops, schools and businesses are closed November first for All Saints' Day, and again on November second for All Souls' Day. Families gather together, many of them travelling long distances.

November first, All Saints' Day, means families attend church to remember the saints and their dearly departed. Come evening, people collect in cemeteries to place flowers on the graves of loved ones and burn specially decorated candles to help the departed souls find their way to everlasting light. Years ago, it was traditional for families to have a sumptuous feast at the gravesite and leave food and drink for the departed, so it is not unusual to see the tradition still taking place with some families.
We expats, with no descendants amongst the departed, make a pilgrimage to the cemeteries right beside the Hungarians. Especially to the famous Kerepesi Cemetery, coined a ‘decorative’ cemetery because it contains ancient wooden graves known as ‘kopfa’ which date back to the original Magyars, and carved boats symbolizing the journey down the river of death. This cemetery is also the resting place of many influential Hungarian figures.

As dismal as this tradition might seem, it is not. It is, in fact, quietly festive. The cemeteries are strung with lights, while a host of candles, lanterns, and flowers are set in place. The resulting beauty of the grounds is breathtaking. The lights, lanterns and candles are left to burn at least until the next day, which is All Souls' Day, (also known as Day of the Dead in many countries).

In Hungary, this somber holiday tradition is called Hallottak Napja. In Poland, All Saints Day is known as Dzien Wszystkich Swietych and All Souls Day is known as Zaduszki, when doors and windows are left open to welcome the spirits of the dead. Cemeteries are visited as well, and in Poland a kind of bread called Panska Skorka is sold at the entrance to the cemeteries. Translated the words mean “the Lord’s Crust.”

While the black cat in the U.S. is a symbol of Halloween, and accompanies a witch as her “familiar”, in Russia, the black cat and blue cat (Burmese, Russian Blue and British Blue) are revered because they are thought to bring good luck.

Of the saints remembered in Hungary on All Saints Day, two of the more popular were once members of the Arpad house, the first dynasty of the Hungarian kings which include St. Stephen, the king who brought Christianity to Hungary, and his son, St. Imre, a prince.

 Kathleen Bittner Roth thrives on creating passionate stories featuring characters who are forced to draw on their strength of spirit to overcome adversity and find unending love. Her own fairy tale wedding in a Scottish castle led her to her current residence in Budapest, Hungary, considered one of Europe’s most romantic cities. However, she still keeps one boot firmly in Texas and the other in her home state of Minnesota. A member of Romance Writers of America®, she was a finalist in the prestigious Golden Heart® contest. Find Kathleen on Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, Pinterest and www.kathleenbittnerroth.com.

PORTRAIT OF A FORBIDDEN LADY is book two in Those Magnificent Malverns series: A young widow returns to her childhood home after a forced absence and faces her first and only love, but despite their powerful attraction, danger compels her to remain his forbidden lady.  ORDER YOUR COPY!

THE SEDUCTION OF SARAH MARKS is book one in Those Magnificent Malverns series: When a proper Victorian miss awakens next to a handsome stranger, she must rely on the man's benevolence as she struggles to regain her memory and hold onto her heart. ORDER YOUR COPY!