Getting to know Neil S. Plakcy #author #mystery #romance #LGBTQ+ #historical #thrillers #books

Please help me welcome my guest author today, Neil S. Plakcy! Let’s take a peek at his bio and then find out more his writing process and inspiration.

Neil Plakcy has written or edited over three dozen novels and short stories in mystery, romance and erotica. His golden retriever mystery series was inspired by his first golden, Samwise. Long walks with his current goldens give him plenty of time to think up new crimes and solutions—and Brody and Griffin provide love, entertainment, and endless piles of fur on the floor.

Author Social Links: Website * Facebook * BookBub

Betty: What inspired you to write the story you’re sharing with us today?

Neil: I grew up along the Delaware Canal in southeastern Pennsylvania, and so much of the area’s history was all around me as a kid. I wanted to explore what life was like along the canal toward the end of its era.

Betty: What, if any, new writing skill did you develop while working on this story?

Neil: I realized that just because I thought something was “historic,” it didn’t automatically make it from the period I was writing about. So perhaps I enhanced my research skills.

Betty: Did you struggle with any part of this story? What and how?

Neil: I originally saw this as a two-book series. One set of characters would fall in love and discover a murder, while in the second book a new pair would find romance together and solve the crime. But that kind of cliffhanger just didn’t work, and I realized that I didn’t know enough about the second pair to build a whole novel around them.

Betty: Which character(s) were the easiest to get to know? Why do you think?

Neil: The easiest for me was the lock-keeper, Isaac Evans. I grew up around Quakers and learned a lot about their religion as a kid. I made him smart and bookish, like me, and all that helped me get to know him.

Betty: What kind of research did you need to do to write this story?

Neil: I had to do a deep dive into 1872, the time of the story, as the canal was fading from prominence and freed slaves were coming north. I also researched my hometown’s history—for example, learning that there was a small Black community there which still thrives.

Betty: How many drafts of the story did you write before you felt the story was complete?

Neil: I wrote the draft of book 1 of the two-book series, and wasn’t happy with the ending. So I tacked on another hundred pages solving the crime, then had to go back and slim the whole book down, focusing on the two romances. Then a third draft to polish and prepare for my editor, and then a fourth draft cleaning up any errors she found.

Betty: How long did it take for you to write the story you’re sharing with us? Is that a typical length of time for you? Why or why not?

Neil: It was a quicker process than usual for me because I was isolated during Covid. For part of that time I was on a sabbatical from teaching, and then later I was teaching online. So I had more time to focus on the book.

Betty: What rituals or habits do you have while writing?

Neil: Pre-pandemic, I went to Starbucks every morning to write for an hour before work and reward myself with a café mocha. I trained my brain that when I settled in at that table, I was there to write. When everything shut down I had to buy a coffee maker and become my own barista. I have to fight with more distractions now, but I still sit at a table and write every morning, with a venti café mocha by my side.

Betty: Every author has a tendency to overuse certain words or phrases in drafts, such as just, once, smile, nod, etc. What are yours?

Neil: A little and really are my writing tics. I always do a last minute run through for those before I send off to my editor.

Betty: Do you have any role models? If so, why do you look up to them?

Neil: I have three: Ernest Hemingway, Jack Kerouac and Jimmy Buffett. I appreciate all of them for their prose, but also for the lifestyles they represent. I want to be an adventurer—even if it’s only in my head!

Betty: Do you have a special place to write? Revise? Read?

Neil: As I’ve said, it used to be Starbucks. Now it’s my kitchen table for writing and revising. I read in bed on my Kindle, for the most part.

Betty: Many authors have a day job. Do you? If so, what is it and do you enjoy it?

Neil: I will be retiring from twenty years as a college English professor this summer. While I relish having more time to write, I think I will miss the contact with students and colleagues. Many of those I work with are creative writers and we share a lot about writing.

Betty: As an author, what do you feel is your greatest achievement?

Neil: Readers enjoy and relate to my characters. My best-selling series is about a guy and his golden retriever who solve crimes, and people sure do love that dog, and tell me they think of his human as their friend. I also pioneered writing a mystery series about a gay Honolulu homicide detective in which his coming-out process mirrors the crimes he investigates, and I’m proud of winning awards for that.

Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?

Neil: I have an equal love for crime fiction and light-hearted or low-angst romance. And those are the genres I enjoy writing the most, too.

Betty: Success looks different to different people. It could be wealth, or fame, or an inner joy at reaching a certain level. How do you define success in terms of your writing career?

Neil: For years, I’ve wanted to be able to support myself with my fiction, which I’m finally able to do. And the second part of success is reaching readers, and hearing back from them how much they have enjoyed my books.

Can two broken men heal each other?

In the aftermath of a failed love, Isaac Evans drops out of college and flees Philadelphia for a lock-keeper’s job on the Delaware Canal in rural Pennsylvania, where he pursues a life of Thoreau-driven solitude.

Prussian immigrant Lenert Tessmer trudges along the canal towpath in good and bad weather, hobbled by his dialect which prevents him from connecting with others. Then Lenert breaks his leg, and Isaac’s Quaker beliefs force him to offer a place where Lenert can recover.

Slowly, these two broken men find solace and healing in each other. But with railroads replacing the canal and narrow-minded outsiders who threaten their country idyll, Isaac and Lenert will have to face their deepest fears to develop a love that will endure.

Fans of MM historical romance will appreciate a fascinating time period, filled with unique details and a vibrant location, and a focus on the lives of working-class men in the 19th century who dare to love other men. This historical MM romance set in a small town in rural Pennsylvania in 1872 has a hurt/comfort theme.

Buy Links: Amazon * Books2Read

I love a good historical story, especially ones set in unusual places and times. Thanks for sharing, Neil!

Happy reading!

Betty

Award-winning Author of Historical Fiction with Heart, and Haunting, Bewitching Love Stories

Visit www.bettybolte.com for a complete list of my books and appearances.

Subscribe to My Newsletter to learn the inside scoop about releases and more!

Impressions of The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

I’ve finished reading The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. If you missed my initial thoughts, you may want to hop over there to read that post first. Let me just say how much I enjoyed reading this story. It’s a kind of gothic mystery, murder mystery, historical, blended with a coming of age romance of sorts. There’s a lot going on, with lots of red herrings and mysterious doings sprinkled throughout.

The use of the key elements of gothic tales really creates the atmosphere of this story. Not only the large, shadowy spaces featured throughout. There are fallen angels pointing accusingly toward one of those immense buildings, angels made of concrete who outlive the symbol of power and money as it is abandoned by the rich family and falls into ruin. You’ll find disfigured people, too. Strangers who become friends who find out they don’t really know each other as well as they’d thought, or hoped. Families that break apart, and some that come back together. Freaky weather—unusual rain, flooding, and snow, for example—lends an unsettled air to the tale.

One strong thread throughout this entertaining and intriguing story is that of the power of friendship and family. True, not every friendship and family survives the throes of this tale of the 20th century. The ones that do are forged in fire to withstand anything going forward, though. I particularly enjoyed and appreciated the friendship between Fermin and Daniel, Fermin acting as a kind of unreliable mentor at times but with a heart of gold. Daniel grows throughout the story both in size and maturity.

Zafon’s story is memorable and engaging, one I think is worth reading. Some of the descriptions (metaphors, similes, etc.) were a bit flowery for my taste. Not to say any of the writing was bad! Not at all. I wonder though if the somewhat exaggerated (?) terms is because of the translation from Spanish (a romantic language) into English (more a Germanic based language). Someone else will have to determine the answer to my question, since I don’t know Spanish and of course don’t have the Spanish edition to compare to even if I did.

Zafon also created unique and individualistic characters to have to work together, or against each other, in order to help solve or confuse the puzzle Daniel and Fermin are trying to solve. Corrupt police. Killers. Librarians. Booksellers. Housewives. Mothers. Girlfriends. Guy friends. Shady people working in cahoots with the corrupt police. It’s quite a fun mix.

I hope you’ll give this book a chance. I think it was definitely worth reading, which explains the well-worn covers and pages!

I’m going to take a little break from this tour of historical fiction because I’ll be having surgery and treatments for breast cancer over the next few weeks. I don’t expect to have a post next week because the surgery is this Friday. I’ll get back into the swing of it in a week or two, and will most likely start telling you more about my upcoming releases in July and August. But I will swing back to this series because you all seem to be enjoying it as much as me! And I’m learning more and more about nuances to writing from different countries.

Have you ready Becoming Lady Washington yet? If not, in honor of her June 2 birthday, it’s on sale through the end of June 2022. Think of it as a fictionalized autobiography of her life, from when presented to society until she died. I hope you enjoy it!

Until next time, happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

On sale for only $1.99 for a limited time!

Patsy Custis manages a large 18th-century plantation in Virginia but as a widow she struggles to balance her business with caring for two young children. When Colonel George Washington takes an interest in her, her life veers in an unexpected direction. But when trouble in the form of British oppression leads to revolution, George must choose between duty to country and Martha. Compelled to take matters into her own hands, she must decide whether to stay home or follow her heart into a dangerous future.

Books2Read     Amazon     Barnes and Noble     Kobo     Apple     Google Books     Bookshop

Introducing Antonio Sarvilli, inadvertent hero of Trapped by the Mob by Tami Lund

#author #romcom #suspense #paranormal #mafia #fiction #books #mustread #romance

I have a special treat for you all today. We get to chat with a financial planner (sort of) from Trapped by the Mob by Tami Lund. Please help me welcome Antonio Sarvilli! First a very quick peek at Tami’s bio and then we’ll see what Antonio has to say…

Romcom. Mafia. Suspense. Shifters. Vampires. Demons. Dragons. Witches. And more. Tami Lund writes it all. With wine.

Author Social Links: Facebook * BookBub * Instagram

Betty: How would you describe your parents?

Antonio: *rubs back of head* Wow, you start with a whopper of an interview question, don’t you? Not exactly my favorite subject. There’s a lot of woulda, shoulda, coulda when it comes to my parents… I suppose I’d describe them as never satisfied. Christ, that sounds like a Prince song. But it’s true. They moved to America from Italy, searching for that elusive American Dream, but they never found it and died poorer than before they made that decision. The worst part is, my brother and I, we found the underground version of that American Dream. Running a mafia business is most definitely lucrative. 

Betty: What do you think is your greatest failure? Why?

Antonio: Damn, there’s another powerful question. If I didn’t know better, I’d think you’re in cahoots with that annoying cop, Detective Proctor. Did you know he thinks I’m just a lay about who constantly mooches money off my brother, the mafia king? Guy has no freaking clue I’m the one who’s grown Gino’s empire so big, there’s no possible way he could spend all that money in a single lifetime. Which, I suppose, takes us back to my greatest failure. Yeah, my greatest accomplishment is my greatest failure. That’s what happens when you start regretting your involvement with the mob, I guess.

Betty: What is the most wonderful thing that has happened to you?

Antonio: This is gonna sound weird, but meeting Phoebe Cavanaugh is definitely the most wonderful thing to have ever happened to me. It’s weird because all I was supposed to do was keep an eye on her, make sure she didn’t cause trouble for my brother. Instead, I… well, I don’t wanna use the l-o-v-e word, but let’s just say… I’m crazy about her. Which sucks because, as wonderful as that is, I can’t let it go anywhere. No way am I pulling her into this messed up world I live in. And since I can’t get out…

Betty: If you could change the past, what would you change?

Antonio: *Snort* That’s an easy one. I never would have let my brother bully me into becoming his financial planner. Man, what I wouldn’t give to be just another working shmuck. Trust me, money really doesn’t buy happiness. Plenty of heartache, though.

Betty: What’s your greatest fear? Who else knows about it?

Antonio: Pushing my brother too far and ending up wearing cement shoes at the bottom of the Detroit River. And no one knows that fear, except, of course, my brother. And you, now. But you know better than to talk to anyone about this interview, right? Crap, interview… you aren’t planning to publish this, are you? That whole cement shoes scenario could become reality. Can you at least change my name or something?

Betty: What’s your favorite game to play?

Antonio: Cat and mouse with my brother, the mafia king. Just kidding. I hate that game.

Betty: Do you have a favorite sibling? Who?

Antonio: I have one sibling, Gino Sarvilli, leader of the Detroit mafia, and he’s definitely not my favorite.

Betty: If you could live anywhere, where would you live?

Antonio: Wherever Gino couldn’t get to me. And I’d take Phoebe with me. And maybe Gino’s ex-wife, Margot, and my niece, Nina, because they are good people who got a raw deal and don’t deserve to be under Gino’s thumb.

Betty: How do you like to relax?

Antonio: Before all this mess with Phoebe and my brother and Margot started, I liked to hop into my boat and cruise around the lake. So relaxing. Now, pretty much anything I do with Phoebe is relaxing. Well, when we aren’t trying to hide out from my brother, I suppose. So yeah, I’m not getting much relaxation time these days.

Betty: What genre of books do you most enjoy reading?

Antonio: Don’t tell anyone I said this, but I love a good romance. They’re kinda sexy, y’know? Plus, it’s great fodder for figuring out what women really want. Act like a romance hero, and you’re in, know what I mean?

Sure, Antonio Sarvilli is the money man behind his brother’s criminal empire, but that doesn’t mean he’s a bad guy. He’s not the one out there killing people. All he does is make greenbacks and enjoy the fruits of his labor.

That attitude changes when his brother assigns him to get to know Phoebe Cavanaugh, a Good Samaritan who witnessed something she wasn’t supposed to.

Now, all Antonio wants is to get out so he can be with Phoebe.

Except that’s not how it works when you’re related to the mob.

Buy Links: Books2Read

Yikes, Antonio! Thanks for stopping by and I hope you find a safe passage out of your current situation. Be sure to thank Tami for giving you a few minutes away from your job to chat with us, too!

Happy reading!

Betty

Award-winning Author of Historical Fiction with Heart, and Haunting, Bewitching Love Stories

Visit www.bettybolte.com for a complete list of my books and appearances.

Subscribe to My Newsletter to learn the inside scoop about releases and more!

Initial Thoughts about The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

I’ve started reading the next book on my Historical Fiction (Authors) Around the World tour which is The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. The story is set in Barcelona, Spain, and Zafon included a map of the area where the story takes place. That helped me have a better sense of relationships and distances, too. That’s the only extra material included in the book but it’s useful. He uses some Spanish terms as well, which aren’t defined anywhere so I’m just skimming over them most of the time. Sometimes I can sort of tell what they mean, but not always.

This story is 487 pages long in the paperback edition I’m reading. I’m only on page 98, so I’ll just say that I’m intrigued by the story. It’s written with a gothic flare that I really appreciate and enjoy. Lots of large, shadowy spaces and mysterious people coming and going, threatening and sometimes harming. Including a special library that is called The Cemetery of Forgotten Books. It doesn’t hurt that Barcelona is a “foreign” place to me which adds to the sense of mystique of the setting.

Zafon apparently wrote the story in Spanish and then Lucia Graves translated it into English. The language of the story is very elegant and flows along like a calm river. I cannot do the phrasing justice in this short post, but if you pick up a copy for yourself you will soon see what I mean. I can give you a snippet, though. “Six years later my mother’s absence remained in the air around us, a deafening silence that I had not yet learned to stifle with words.” So much is contained in that description of how the youth felt about the loss of his mother that it’s difficult to fully explain. Indeed, I almost feel like if I were to try it would spoil the effect, the atmosphere of the narrative.

The story is told from the first person perspective of a boy grieving for his dead mother. I am not a huge fan of first person stories, but Zafon and Graves have done an excellent job of making the story enjoyable (to me) despite that. I have the impression that the story is being told in retrospect despite being in first person, much like how I told the story of Martha Washington. Becoming Lady Washington is the only story I’ve ever published written in first person past tense. I have the same sense in Zafon’s story of retelling a personal history.

I’ll see if I can finish the book over the next week so I can tell you more about what impresses me about the story and the writing. I’m sure there is more to come on that score!

Be sure to take advantage of the sale on Becoming Lady Washington below, in honor of her June 2 birthday.

Until next time, happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

On sale for only $1.99 for a limited time!

Patsy Custis manages a large 18th-century plantation in Virginia but as a widow she struggles to balance her business with caring for two young children. When Colonel George Washington takes an interest in her, her life veers in an unexpected direction. But when trouble in the form of British oppression leads to revolution, George must choose between duty to country and Martha. Compelled to take matters into her own hands, she must decide whether to stay home or follow her heart into a dangerous future.

Books2Read     Amazon     Barnes and Noble     Kobo     Apple     Google Books     Bookshop

Getting to know Charlie Cochrane #author #mystery #historical #romance #series #books #fiction #amreading #amwriting

My guest author today is coming to us from “across the pond” so I hope you’ll help me give her a warm welcome! Let’s get to know more about author Charlie Cochrane and her writing, first with a peek at her bio and then on to the questions.

Because Charlie Cochrane couldn’t be trusted to do any of her jobs of choice—like managing a rugby team—she writes both romances and mysteries, including the Edwardian-era Cambridge Fellows series, and the contemporary Lindenshaw Mysteries. Multi-published, she has titles with Carina, Riptide, Lume and Bold Strokes, among others.

A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Mystery People and International Thriller Writers Inc, Charlie regularly appears at book festivals and at reader and author conferences.

Author Social Links: Website * Facebook * Twitter

Betty: What inspired you to write the story you’re sharing with us today?

Charlie: Lock, Stock and Peril is the latest book in the Lindenshaw Mysteries series and is inspired by life during lockdown: the extra stresses, the different kind of existence and how that might ultimately turn murderous. The whole series, however, was originally inspired by the TV series Midsomer Murders. I kept thinking how cool it might be to have a similar series set in leafy England but with a gay detective. such thing existed, so I wrote it, making sure the detective fell in love with one of the key witnesses. One who owned a big, adorable, Newfoundland dog.

Betty: What, if any, new writing skill did you develop while working on this story?

Charlie: Nothing new in particular, this time, although I firmly believe that with every new book you produce, you hone your skills and become a better writer. I can confess to one new bad habit I acquired, though: my editor always spots words I overuse and having managed to cut down on the usual ones, I’d only gone and picked up some new ones without realising. 😊

Betty: Did you struggle with any part of this story? What and how?

Charlie: Bizarrely, it was remembering exactly which lockdown rules applied when. There’s quite a gap for an author between first draft and final set of edits so I had to rely heavily on a) notes b) memory and when all else failed c) scrolling back through the government website. Isn’t it odd how something that seemed so constricting at the time passed so quickly out of our brains?

Betty: What kind of research did you need to do to write this story?

Charlie: PACE (Police and Criminal Evidence Act) became my new best friend at one time, when I wanted to make sure I’d got the police rules right at a couple of key places in the story. I also tried to incorporate what I’d learned at the 2020 Portsmouth Mysteryfest where our keynote speaker took us through the latest advice for conducting police interviews. She made a point of saying how unrealistic TV police dramas are so I wanted to get closer to depicting the real thing.

Betty: How many drafts of the story did you write before you felt the story was complete?

Charlie: My usual two. I always produce a pretty good first draft and then bash it about until it’s polished enough to submit to the publisher. Which is where my editor comes along with her virtual red pen and, after much toing and froing, we’re several versions later and have something fit to see the light of day among readers.

Betty: What rituals or habits do you have while writing?

Charlie: Very few, apart from going off and doing something mindless – like cleaning the kitchen floor – when I need to get a plot point clear in my mind. It always works, probably because it taps into the subconscious, which is very powerful and underused. I remember reading a book about inventors (and similar) which said many of them got their lightbulb moment while doing a repetitive physical task. It probably frees the rest of the mind.

Betty: Every author has a tendency to overuse certain words or phrases in drafts, such as just, once, smile, nod, etc. What are yours?

Charlie: In my first draft, no matter how hard I try, the usual suspects creep in too often. Just. Look. More. Even. I hang my head in shame at how many of these little so-and-so’s manage to make it into the second draft. The newest addition to that list was simply, which kept appearing in the first draft of Lock, Stock and Peril – possibly as a replacement for just. (That sound is my eyes rolling at myself.)

Betty: Do you have any role models? If so, why do you look up to them?

Charlie: How much time have we got? Mary Renault, because of her beautiful economy of words – she could say more in a sentence than some folk do in an entire page. Agatha Christie, because of her plots and the wonderful way she re-used the same idea (and made fun of herself for doing that in depicting her alter ego, Ariadne Oliver.) Michael Gilbert, for producing the amateur detective Henry Bohun and Shakespeare…for being Shakespeare.

Betty:  Do you have a special place to write? Revise? Read?

Charlie: I can write just about anywhere so long as I’m comfy. I usually work on a PC or laptop but if inspiration strikes then jotting notes on paper/phone/anything to hand has to be done, even if that’s while I’m sitting in the dentist’s waiting room. In terms of reading, I prefer to do that in bed or in the bath and I need quiet both for maximum enjoyment and for maximum concentration, as I read a lot of mysteries and don’t want to miss an important clue. 

Betty: Many authors have a day job. Do you? If so, what is it and do you enjoy it?

Charlie: I’m retired from everything but writing. Well, in a paid capacity, anyway, because I chair the board of a small charity. I used to do freelance training of school governors, helping them with things like recruiting new headteachers, and many of the experiences I had doing that have sneaked their way into the Lindenshaw and other books.

Betty: As an author, what do you feel is your greatest achievement?

Charlie: I think if I was a normal author, I’d say having a book reach number one in its genre on Amazon. But as I’m me, I feel prouder of two things: having an author I greatly respect telling me they like my characters and using the loo at the house of a multi-million selling novelist (long story, involving somehow getting invited to a meeting of crime writers during which I sat thinking, “How the heck have I ended up here?”)

Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?

Charlie: Cosy mysteries, especially those written at the end of the nineteenth century and in the first half of the twentieth. They used to be quite hard to get hold of unless you scoured second-hand bookshops but there’s been a spate of republishing old novels and short stories, for example in the British Library collection. An absolute Godsend for readers like me.

Betty: Success looks different to different people. It could be wealth, or fame, or an inner joy at reaching a certain level. How do you define success in terms of your writing career?

Charlie: Wow, there’s a question. I think, for me, success is defined primarily by people’s reaction to my stories. When you have readers emailing you to say your novels have helped them through bereavement, or to cope with another equally hard aspect of their lives, then what more fulfilment can you want?

They may be locked down but this case isn’t.

Lockdown is stressful enough for Chief Inspector Robin Bright. Then a murder makes this strange time even stranger. In one of Kinechester’s most upmarket areas, the body of Ellen, a brilliant but enigmatic recluse, has lain undiscovered for days. Pinning down the time—and date—of death will be difficult, but finding a killer during unprecedented times could prove impossible.

Adam Matthew’s focus on his pupils is shaken when a teaching assistant reveals his godmother has been murdered. Keen to avoid involvement, Adam does his best to maintain a distance from his husband, Robin’s, case, but when it keeps creeping up, Adam lends his incisive mind to the clues again.

Between Robin trying to understand the complex victim and picking his way through a mess of facts, half truths, and downright lies from witnesses desperate to cover up their own rule-breaking, he realises this could be the cold case that stains his career and forever haunts a community. And when it looks like the virus has struck Adam, Robin’s torn between duty and love.

Buy Links: RiptidePublishing

I wondered how long it would take for authors to write about life during the pandemic. There’s my answer! Thanks for sharing your story with us, Charlie!

Happy reading!

Betty

Award-winning Author of Historical Fiction with Heart, and Haunting, Bewitching Love Stories

Visit www.bettybolte.com for a complete list of my books and appearances.

Subscribe to My Newsletter to learn the inside scoop about releases and more!

Follow Me on Amazon / Facebook / Twitter

My Impressions of The Flanders Panel by Arturo Pérez-Reverte #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

If you enjoy mysteries set in the art and chess worlds, you’ll enjoy The Flanders Panel by Arturo Pérez-Reverte. If you haven’t read my Initial Thoughts on this book, please take a moment to do so before continuing with this post.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this author’s elegant writing. His descriptions are so poetic and vivid. Dialog flows and reveals much about each uniquely crafted character. Yet he has woven a mystery into this sometimes shocking (to me, at least) depiction of life in Madrid in 1990 (I think that may be the timeframe of this story after reading the entire book). I have never been to Spain, so don’t really have a frame of reference for the locations mentioned in the story.

The mystery stemming from a hidden inscription on a painting called The Chess Game involves reverse playing the game depicted on the chess board. Now, I have played chess in the past but I am not a very strong player. One surprise in this ebook (borrowed via Hoopla from my local library) was the number of illustrations, specifically of the chess board and the location of the pieces being mentioned in the story. That helped me to understand the moves and decisions the players were having to make. (It also made me realize I can add some more illustrations into my own books, but that’s another story entirely!)

Each of the individual characters were distinct and memorable. Some I loved to hate, some were edgy, some were funny, and the main character, Julia, seemed like she’d make a very good friend. She’s smart, loyal, trusting until that trust is broken. Some of the characters I’d avoid in real life because you simply cannot trust them. Which ones are which, you’ll have decide for yourself.

Another interesting aspect of this author’s story is that the ending is rather open-ended. The reader is left to decide how they envision what the characters will do next. The author does provide the options they are faced with but not their final decisions. It’s left me debating, knowing the characteristics of the individuals involved, what path they’d choose. It gives the reader the power to choose the ending they’d prefer. Curious, isn’t it? Authors don’t typically hand over that power to the reader, most preferring to definitively end the story. I don’t know if this is a common technique from authors in Spain or that general region, or particular to this author. I’m also unsure whether I could pull off the same sort of ending as effectively as Pérez-Reverte has done.

One other thing I’ll mention about reading this book. I borrowed it from the library as a digital book available via Hoopla. I read it on the app on my iPad. I must confess I’d much prefer to read the actual paperback. I couldn’t resize the tiny text to something just a little bit larger so it was harder to read than an actual paperback I could hold in my hands. The iPad is also slimmer, so for me it was tiring to hold. I ended up propping the device on a small pillow to “hold” it so I didn’t have to.

So next up on my Historical Fiction (Authors) Around the World tour is The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Zafon is another author from Spain, so maybe I’ll find answers to my questions above. And it’s an actual paperback, too!

Check out the sale on Becoming Lady Washington below, in honor of her June 2 birthday.

Until next time, happy reading!

Betty

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Patsy Custis manages a large 18th-century plantation in Virginia but as a widow she struggles to balance her business with caring for two young children. When Colonel George Washington takes an interest in her, her life veers in an unexpected direction. But when trouble in the form of British oppression leads to revolution, George must choose between duty to country and Martha. Compelled to take matters into her own hands, she must decide whether to stay home or follow her heart into a dangerous future.

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