Initial Thoughts on The Samurai by Shusaku Endo #historical #fiction #books #novels #fiction #amreading

Next up on my Historical Fiction (Authors) Around the World tour, is The Samurai by Shusaku Endo. Endo is from Japan and this work of fiction is illuminating of a time and place and peoples for me. Set in the 16th century, the story is an international tale. It begins in Japan and journeys to the New World, Mexico in particular. It’s not a long story, comprising only 258 pages in the paperback I’m reading. There is a Postscript by the translator, but I haven’t read it yet. I decided that since it’s positioned after the story then I’ll read it after I read the story itself.

Speaking of translators, this story was translated by Van. C. Gessel. I often wonder about the process of translation, the nuances the translator considers, rejects, accepts. How much of the original flavor of the story remains or has been altered, even finely, as a result of the translator’s work? I assume the resulting story adheres to the intent of the author and meets with his approval, of course. But sometimes a word choice can shift the tone or ambiance of a phrase. So it makes me wonder.

The opening line of the tale has me wondering, also. “It began to snow.” To my mind, this is not an auspicious beginning, one which would grip me into devouring the story. Yet it also does intrigue me. Why did Endo focus on the fact that it started to snow? In the second paragraph (the first consists of only those four words), he expands upon the image: “Until nightfall a faint sunlight had bathed the gravel-covered river bed through breaks in the clouds. When the sky turned dark, an abrupt silence ensued. Two, then three flakes of snow fluttered down from the sky.” This situation has been repeated a few times in the 120+ pages I’ve read, where the snow brings silence. While I haven’t finished reading the story, it seems fitting to have this story begin thus. Especially after I verified the meanings and symbolism of snow. (An aside: I’ve recently been reminded that we are surrounded by symbols, whether we recognize them as such or not.) Snow symbolizes a fresh start, rebirth, change, purity, innocence. It can be a sign of good luck, as well. Each of these meanings could be applied to The Samurai.

The silence aspect of the setting is also intriguing. While it’s a natural phenomenon that when it snows the world hushes, it’s also working as a means of muting the other symbolic meanings of the snow. In this case, without trying to strain the analogy, the main character isn’t aware of how his life will change during the course of the story. So while the snow is bringing the change, he’s silent about any changes he’s forced to face. Don’t get me started on the sky turning dark…

I’m enjoying the story so far and wonder just how twisted the political scene will become before it’s all over. I feel rather sorry for the samurai, or at least did at the beginning of the tale. He’s growing stronger and more capable as the story progresses, making it easier to identify with him.

Back to work now… Happy Reading!


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How could she love a man suspected of being a turncoat?

Emily Sullivan is beset from all sides but vows to fight her own war for independence. As the American Revolution drags on, Charles Town, South Carolina, remains under siege by the British, and one woman’s father is determined to marry her off to a suspected traitor.

Frank Thomson walks a fine line between spying for the Americans and being a perceived loyalist traitor. Posing as a simple printer of broadsheets and pamphlets, he sends crucial encrypted intelligence to the general camped outside of town. But when Frank learns Emily has been imprisoned by the enemy, he risks his own life, freedom, and heart for hers.

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Getting to know Sylvia Broady #author #histfic #mystery #thriller #suspense # romance #fiction

Please help me welcome my guest author, Sylvia Broady, to the interview hot seat! I think you’ll enjoy finding out more about the inspiration for her stories, so let’s look at her background and then dive right in. Ready?

I was born in Kingston upon Hull, in the East Riding of Yorkshire, which has a rich tapestry of history. I live near to the market town of Beverley where stands the magnificent Beverley Minster, and for 17 years I welcomed visitors from every part of the globe. These wonderful places and its people inspire my writing. My novella, The House by the Mere, was shortlisted for the RNA Romantic Short Novel Award. The setting of Wassand Hall gardens and grounds, and the mere, which I love, was instrumental in my story.

Writing is my enduring passion and when I am happiest, apart from my beloved family. My daughter is my biggest fan and I am lucky that she and her family live nearby. I recently returned from a six-week stay with my family in Australia. On a road trip with my son, we stayed over in Inverloch, and visited the library where I spied two of my books. The librarian asked if I would give a book talk. If only I didn’t live on the opposite side of the world.

I keep up with the writing market with memberships of the RNA, The Society of Authors and the Historical Novel Society. Plus, I attend my monthly writers group. I regularly give book talks. And I am eternally grateful for my wonderful readers.

Author Social Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter

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

Sylvia: The inspiration to write Orphans of War started way back. I interviewed a man for local radio for a programme about World War 2. He told me that as a young boy he was on the cliffs at Hornsea when an amphibious craft came along the beach and out stepped General de Gaulle. Fast forward a few years and when I visited nearby Wassand Hall, I learnt that stationed there during WW2 were the Free French. Soon, the idea for my book went into creative mode and became a reality.

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

Sylvia: I didn’t exactly struggle. However, 70,000 words into my story and researching the best way for my Free French soldier to travel from Paris with his wife and daughter to the safety of his parents’ small farm, I came across the terrible massacre of the Villagers of Oradour-sur-Glane. I realised that this was the refugee children’s story who were being cared for at the manor house by my lovely character Charlotte Kirby, and this was the main storyline. Though the Free French soldiers were still important to the story. With this in mind, I rewrote the 70,000, and the book finished near to 100,000 words.

Betty: Which characters were the easiest to get to know?

Sylvia: Without a doubt, Charlotte Kirby. We first meet her during an enemy bombing raid in the city of Kingston upon Hull, and the attack killed her mother. Her father had died years earlier, so at 16 Charlotte was an orphan. When she goes to live with her aunt in the village of Mornington, she understands the loss of the refugee orphans of war living in the manor house. Feeling an affinity for their suffering, she volunteers to care and support them by helping them to lead as normal a life as possible. I also loved the three ladies who come into her aunt’s pub and tell her stories. And the old man Jack, and the Free French officer Emile, who both play an important role in Charlotte’s life. There is a spirit of camaraderie amongst the villagers, which is a character in its own rights.

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

Sylvia: I love researching and have a tendency to do more than necessary. A friend loaned me copies of his mother’s letters of when she went out with a Free French Soldier. From these, I could gain an insight into authentic life, a part of social history. And other people were generous with information. I read many books and documents, and local history books, far too many to mention. The Free French in the area were the 2nd Tank Armoured Division, under the command of General Philippe Leclerc, and they were training for a special battle mission across the English Channel. Later, they liberated Paris. The bombing raids on the city of Kingston upon Hull, were relentless, causing the loss of many lives. With several books written on the subject and the tragedies well documented. In the past, I have interviewed people about their memories during the WW2 period. Juliette is the Free Frenchman’s daughter who survives to be cared for by Charlotte. While researching this story, I came across a photo of Julia Bricht, age 3 years, with lovely bright eyes and shiny dark hair, and she became my Juliette. Sadly, this beautiful child didn’t survive the death camps. 

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

Sylvia: About 5 or 6 drafts. Each time I rewrite and edit, I polish, adding finer details or deleting words. Sometimes I have given minor characters the same name. If a sentence become too long and straggly, I reword it so that its meaning is clearer. Double check facts, like the colour of a character’s eyes, or a date of a battle. The list becomes endless, but I enjoy the process, which I feel enriches my writing. Something I have learnt over the years is to know when to stop rewriting.

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

Sylvia: I have a cosy study where I write, with a view of my garden and the ever-changing sky, and its shelves full of books. Books for research that I have collected over the years. Some with intriguing titles: Every Women’s Enquire Within, Cassell’s Book of Etiquette by a Woman of the World, Women in Wartime. A North-East Coast Town, this is about the city of Kingston upon Hull, and the bombing it suffered during WW2. This is to name but a few of my books. I revise in my study and usually read books on research at my dining room table. Here I spread out maps of the areas I am writing about. However, when the weather is warm and fine, you will find me in the garden surrounded by my writing paraphernalia.

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

Sylvia: Most definitely the last book I have published, Orphans of War. So the last book I have published will always be my greatest achievement, though I will always have a place in my heart for the first full-length book I had published. It started with the publication of The Yearning Heart. Previously, I had written short stories and novellas. Over a few years, I wrote a 120,000 words manuscript, which had gone through many changes. With my writers group, I discussed my prospect of publication–it was now or never. I sent off my beloved manuscript to Robert Hale Publishers. To my surprise, it thrilled me to receive an email the next day to say they loved my work and would publish it if I cut 40,000 words. A dilemma! After discussing it with a writing friend, I decided I would cut all those words. My greatest joy was to hold the hardback edition of The Yearning Heart in my hand. And so my joy continues with each book I have published.  

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?

Sylvia: I worked full time with a demanding job, a family to care for and aging parents, which didn’t give me much time for myself. Until I answered an advert to attend an evening creative writing class to be held in the local community hall. I loved it, having found my niche. I wrote short stories and a three-part serial and colleagues encouraged me to enter a short story competition on local radio. Imagine my surprise, when at work, I received a telephone call from the literary presenter at the radio station to say that my stories and serial were to be broadcast on the radio and they would pay me. I knew then that my destiny was to become a writer. It took a few years, but I made it. I am passionate about my writing and finding my inner happiness, which pleases me to know that now I can write forever.

Kingston Upon Hull, 1941.

German bombs are raining down on the city. Racing to the nearest air-raid shelter, Charlotte hears an almighty explosion. Her mother’s haberdashery shop has taken a direct hit – killing her mother. Suddenly, Charlotte, 16, is all alone in the world. Then a mysterious aunt comes forward who she didn’t know existed, her mother’s sister, and offers Charlotte a home in the village of Mornington, and to work in her pub. She works hard, despite her aunt’s coldness towards her. When a group of distraught French orphans arrive to live in the big house, Charlotte volunteers to help care for them and finds a new purpose in life.

Then a band of Free French soldiers are billeted in the village, including a handsome young officer, Emile. Soon he and Charlotte become friends, and then they fall in love. Though will it survive? The events of war mar their joy as Emile returns to France and to face more tragedy in his life. And Charlotte must uncover both his and her own family’s secrets if they have a chance of lasting happiness.

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Thanks so much, Sylvia, for telling us about the inspiration for your stories and your writing process.

Happy reading!


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

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Impressions of Pachinko by Min Jin Lee #historical #fiction #books #novels #fiction #amreading

I’ve finished reading Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, the next book on my Historical Fiction Around the World series. Last time I shared my initial thoughts about the book. Now that I’ve completed the story, I’d like to share what I’ve learned as well as some thoughts on the experience of reading this particular story.

The story, first published in 2017, is told through the eyes of various characters, so as time passes the point of view shifts between female and male perspectives. That in itself makes this an interesting story to read and, I’m sure, to tell. The story is divided into three parts, or books. Let’s take a look at the breakdown and see what we can glean:

Book 1 Gohyang/Hometown 1910-33 (23 years) pp5-147 (143 total pages)

Book 2 Motherland 1939-62 (23 years) pp153-325 (173 total pages)

Book 3 Pachinko 1962-1989 (27 years) pp331-485 (145 total pages)

We start with essentially the origin story of one of the main female characters, Sunja. Now, we don’t actually start with her but with her parents’ story and then we flow into hers. It’s interesting to note that the story ends in her point of view as well. So Sunja is a connecting thread through the entire book. What happens in Book 1 has direct consequences for actions and reactions throughout the rest of the story, too.

Book 2 tells us about life as this family knows it. The choices and decisions they—and in particular Sunja—must make for the best interests of the family. As would be expected, this middle book is the longest one, providing the meat or heart of the story.

Book 3 weaves together the various individual stories into a recognizable pattern. The threads of each individual point of view create a final tapestry I can sit and ponder, and compare to my own life and decisions. Note that this book/part is also entitled Pachinko, which is a pinball-type gambling game the Japanese are apparently very fond of. According to this story many Korean Japanese found themselves working in the industry to make a decent living in Japan. But that industry was also rife with crime and mob involvement. So money earned from working for a Pachinko parlor was “dirty” and tainted.

I think this is a moving story about family and heritage and its impact and influence on your life—both good and bad. It peeks behind the curtain of family dynamics and above all the choices made for the sake of family reputation, pride, well-being. Or to hide something shameful.

I learned a lot of interesting things reading this book. Seeing how Korean Japanese were viewed and thus treated from the perspective of the Korean Japanese was quite eye-opening for me. I admit to having a rather naïve, protected view of the world. Not that I don’t have a sense of the hardship, injustice, and dismaying aspects of how some people treat others. I do. I just haven’t experienced it first hand. So I thank Min Jin Lee for writing this book to educate people like me. How else would I ever know what it’s like to be a foreigner in the country in which you were born? To be dismissed and put down because of your ancestry? This story, despite the fact or actually because of it being fiction, lets me witness and eavesdrop on the thoughts and feelings of the characters so I can appreciate, if not fully comprehend, what they faced. I mean, how could I know without having lived it myself? Reading about it has to suffice in this instance.

Which of course is the reason why I read about people and places and the society and history of both. To learn about what their lives are like in places and times I can’t know from firsthand experience. I recommend this book for the insights and lessons learned through seeing how it feels to be treated with disrespect and disdain. It’s pretty dang uncomfortable and upsetting when you put yourself in those shoes…

I hope you had a loving Valentine’s Day. Happy Reading!


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An unsuspecting Southern town. Ghosts. Witchcraft. Skeletons in the closet. Discover the Secrets of Roseville in this five book series… Undying Love, Haunted Melody, The Touchstone of Raven Hollow, Veiled Visions of Love, and Charmed Against All Odds!

She lost everything but only his love can save her…

How does one recover after tragic loss demolishes your heart and soul? Meredith Reed grapples with that question every day, especially after she inherits Twin Oaks. The historic plantation is meant for a large family but hers no longer exists. She has some ideas for its future: tear it down; bulldoze it; burn it. Regardless of her incensed family and the handsome, irate estate lawyer’s objections. And despite the influence of the Lady in Blue haunting the place…

Max Chandler anticipates buying his dream home with the raise from his expected promotion after passage of the historic property preservation legislation he championed. Twin Oaks is just the sort of place he dreams of. Big and roomy, with lingering echoes of laughter and love from past generations within its very walls. Perfect. Except, perhaps, for the Civil War era ghosts in residence. They’ll have to go.

When Twin Oaks is threatened with a bulldozer, he has to fight, ignoring his growing attraction to Meredith. Her intentions go against everything he’s worked for. He has no choice but to do all in his power to stop her.

Will Meredith’s grief destroy her heart and home or will she listen to what the Lady in Blue is trying to teach her?

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Getting to Know Holly Bargo #author #romance #fantasy #western #writer #novel #fiction

Please help me welcome romance author Holly Bargo! Let’s take a look at her bio and then find out more about her writing process.

Holly Bargo is a pseudonym, but really did exist. The author and her husband live on a hobby farm in southwest Ohio. She works full-time as a freelance writer and editor. Holly writes and publishes romance, fantasy, and westerns.

Author Social Links: Facebook | Twitter | HenHousePublishing

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

Holly: I’d been toying with the story premise for over a year. I burned out in summer of 2020 and then my son died in January 2021, which really depressed my creative spark. This year, the spark flickered back and I was happy to return to the world established in my first book in this series, Daughter of the Twin Moons, with this book.

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

 Holly: I incorporated a bit of the grief experienced from my son’s death into this story. The writing of Knight of the Twin Moons was somewhat cathartic, as the heroine is also a bereaved parent.

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

Holly: I struggled with how much and how deeply to show a mother’s grief. It’s been almost two years since my boy died and, while I think of him every day, I don’t cry like I used to. There’s a distance that time gives, and that distance enables me to function more normally. In the story, the heroine is further along her grief journey than I am currently, so she has a bit more distance enabling her to function more rationally.

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

Holly: Cassandra, the heroine, has a piece of me written into her, so her personality is intimately close to mine. However, I liked getting to know Ishjarta, the hero, better. He’s certainly more mysterious.

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

Holly: Because this is a fantasy romance taking place in a fictional world I’d established a few years ago, there wasn’t a whole lot of research required. For the heroine’s big event near the end of the story, I did conduct some research—now I know how gunpowder is made—but the aim wasn’t to make what she did factual as much as plausible.

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

Holly: I’m one of those writers who edits as I write. I’ll write a portion, self-edit and revise it, then continue on with writing a new portion. Essentially, by the time I’ve finished writing the first draft, it’s already made it to second draft stage. Then I go back to the beginning and review, self-edit, and revise again. At that point, it was ready to send to my fabulous editor, Cindy Draughon. Cindy tells me that she appreciates the clean manuscripts I send to her. She goes through with a deep, substantive edit. I review her edits—every single one—and accept, reject, or revise or rewrite as I deem appropriate. Then I send the revised manuscript to her for a final proofreading.

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?

Holly: This story took longer than usual for me to write, basically because I wasn’t at normal, full capacity when I started writing it. I’m still not quite there, but I’m healing and I’ll return to my past productivity.

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

Holly: I typically don’t write my own stories while sitting at my desk. It’s too much like work when I do that. So, I’ll grab my ancient laptop and plop down on the sofa to write, usually with one dog sprawled beside me and the other nearby.

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

Holly: That.

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

Holly: It’s probably trite, but I truly admire superstar author Nora Roberts for her ability to produce consistently engaging stories spanning diverse sub-genres.

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

Holly: I usually read and write in the living room while lounging on the sofa. Sometimes the recliner. I revise at my desk.

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

Holly: I work full-time as a freelance writer and editor. We can toss in document formatting, too. I do enjoy what I do and I love the flexibility. I worked in corporate roles for 25 years and finally went freelance in January 2016. I have not looked back.

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

Holly: I can’t say. I’m not convinced I’ve yet accomplished my greatest achievement.

Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?

Holly: Romance, without a doubt. I also enjoy fantasy, westerns, and mysteries.

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?

Holly: As a freelancer, success is defined as being able to earn a decent living and make a positive contribution to my household. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without my husband’s support. As an author, I’d love to define myself as successful by reaching the point where I can write my stories for a living. I’m working on it.

A magical union sealed with blood. A destiny plagued with inevitable misfortune.

Lord Shadow—a vicious and utterly terrifying fae assassin—is desperate for a mate. After being sent to the human realm, he finds a woman lying in a pool of her own blood. Although he knows not her fate or her purpose, he knows he must save her life, even if it comes at an irreversible cost.

And in the realm of the fae, danger is never far behind.

In the blink of an eye, her life is forever changed. She can never return to what she once knew.

After a life-altering accident, Cassandra wakes to find herself in a strange new world of magical creatures, bound by a blood union to the mysterious warrior who saved her life. Unlike anyone she’s ever met, she discovers that she is the bride to one who kills without mercy. And to make matters worse, she now possesses a mysterious power in her bones, a power that will determine the fate of the world around her.

That is, if she manages to survive.

Buy Links: Amazon

My deepest condolences on the passing of your son. I’m sure such grief would impact your creativity for a time. Thanks so much for coming by and sharing about your inspiration and writing process, Holly.

Happy reading!


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

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Introducing Eileen O’Connell the Well-Informed Governess from Bittersweet Tapestry by Kevin O’Connell #author #lawyer #histfic #HistoricalFiction #familysaga

Today I’d like to introduce to you all a woman who knows more than she usually tells, but today is making an exception. Her author, Kevin O’Connell, kindly permitted her to come by and chat with us. Let’s take a look at Kevin’s bio and then we’ll find out more about Eileen. Ready? Here we go…

Kevin O’Connell was born in America and holds both Irish and US citizenship; growing up in an old Irish family with a long history and a powerful sense of its past, he learnt a great deal of Irish, British, and European (especially French) history from an early age. He is descended from a young officer of what had, from 1690 to 1792, been the Irish Brigade of the French army, who arrived in French Canada sometime following the execution of Queen Marie Antoinette in October 1793. At least one grandson subsequently returned to Ireland.

Mr. O’Connell’s Beyond Derrynane, Two Journeys Home,and Bittersweet Tapestry (each subtitled A Novel of Eighteenth Century Europe) have received positive critical reviews, in the United States, the UnitedKingdom and Europe.

His Derrynane Saga has been described as being “a sweeping, multi-layered story, populated by an array of colorfully complex characters, whose lives and stories play out in a series of striking settings. Set against the drama of Europe in the early stages of significant change, the books dramatize the roles which have never before been treated in fiction played by a small number of expatriate Irish of the fallen Gaelic Aristocracy at the courts of Catholic Europe.” It is with Bittersweet Tapestry that O’Connell has again focused in greater detail on their lives in English-occupied Ireland.

He is currently at work on the fourth volume in the Saga, continuing to devote full-time to his craft, following a forty-plus year career as an international lawyer.

Author Social Links: Facebook | AuthorsGuild

Note: Eileen O’Connell was born at Derrynane, County Kerry, Ireland in 1744. At the time of her interview she is widowed, residing at Rathleigh House in County Cork, the estate of her late husband, Captain Arthur O’Leary, an officer of the Hungarian Hussars of the Imperial Armies of Maria Theresa.

Betty: How would you describe your parents?

Eileen: “Perfectly matched”! My father, Donal Mór Ó Conaill was once said to be “a big man content to be somewhat submissive to a petite wife.” My mother is indeed a very strong woman,  her name “Maire ní Dhuibh” “Mary of the Dark People”, originates from her own colourful family, the ‘Fighting O’Donoghues of Glenflesk’, whose home is known as ‘Robbers Glen.’ I shall leave the rest to your imagination! Mama oversees the household and the farms, the tenants  and keeps a complex system functioning, such that Derrynane is virtually self-sufficient. My Papa, assisted by my older brothers, focused on all aspects of our ‘commercial interests’ – more correctly and more commonly known as our very successful and prosperous smuggling operations!

Betty: Who taught you to tie your shoes?

Eileen: Since I live in the Eighteenth Century, as a member of an aristocratic family (albeit the Gaelic Aristocracy has ‘fallen’) I do not own tied shoes, rather I wear sturdy buckled brogues, perhaps even more so well-made tall riding boots. When the weather is fine, and indoors, I wear simple silk slippers –made with but a thin sole, they are totally impractical but very comfortable.

My sister Abigail taught me to tie a bow knot – it is used in many women’s dresses and undergarments.

Betty: Do you know how to swim? How did you learn, if so

Eileen: Growing up on the (very chilly!) Atlantic shore of County Kerry, and given that it was assumed that, as had my older siblings, I would at times travel with my father aboard our vessels on ‘trading trips’ to France, Spain and Portugal, I learnt how to swim at an early age. My mother taught both Abby and me at the same time.

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

Eileen: Without a doubt, it would be my unsuccessful attempt to kill the man who had murdered my husband.

As to ‘why?’ even as he was being waked the night of his slaying, I had promised Arthur that I would obtain revenge for him – and I failed in this effort. I believe I feel this as exquisitely as I do because, in reality, I had formed no rational plan, just a wild scheme, born of my grief, fuelled by my rage and hatred for the detestable murdering Morris. Indeed so blinded was I to the menace, indeed the peril in which I had placed myself, my situation did not become apparent until I was already at the murderer’s residence. As I rode slowly towards the man’s house, I was shocked to see an array of armed men near the house. Appalled, my only thought was, ‘Of course he would have guards, why would he not, you stupid, foolish girl!’

I was almost immediately met by several murderous rounds of rifle fire. Even as I fled for my life, a pair of horsemen pursued me, though by doing so they provided me with my only sense of satisfaction in that I killed both of them. I am very fortunate to be alive.

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

Eileen: Meeting and marrying Captain Arthur O’Leary – the seven years of our marriage, and the births of our two sons, made for the most wonderful time of my life.

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

Eileen: ‘Tis said that in the 12th Century, one Dermot MacMurrough, also known as ‘Strongbow’, who was the king of Munster ‘invited’ the English to come. Though it is an oversimplification, it did, in effect, eventually result in King Henry II of England invading Ireland in 1171, and the ensuing establishment of English rule in Ireland.

I wish this had never happened – had it not, 700-odd years of much pain, tragedy, suffering and loss by the people of both Ireland and Great Britain would have been avoided.

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

Eileen: I have never thought about this . . . if I have any genuine fear, it is probably being left truly alone. I am largely detached from my family, I know my lads will grow quickly. I have no desire to seek a new husband, so I could indeed find myself quite alone. If I were to tell anyone, it would be my sister, Abigail, who remains in Vienna.

Betty: What’s your favourite game to play? 

Eileen: I learnt to play tennis whilst at the Habsburg court – I should say it would be far easier if one did not have to play it in voluminous dresses! People in Scotland play a game called ‘golf’ which intrigues me, but I have never played it.

Betty: Do you have a favourite sibling? Who?

Eileen: Out of my fourteen siblings (my mother having birthed twenty-one of us in total), it would (despite that I have a twin, Mary) have to be my dearest sister, Abigail; she is but a few years older than I and we have always been close. It was she who was, in part, responsible for my spending not-quite ten remarkable years at the Habsburg court in Vienna. She eventually became principal lady-in-waiting to the Empress Maria Theresa, whilst I had the fascinating experience of serving as governess to the Empress’s youngest daughter, the Archduchess Maria Antonia, with whom I became very close, such that she addressed me as ‘Mama’.

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

Eileen: I have never considered this possibility. You may know that I have lived in three places in Ireland – Derrynane, followed by Ballyhar, the lands of my first husband, in my native County Kerry, and now Rathleigh, the ancestral home of the O’Learys in Cork. I spent ten happy years in Austria, where I loved life at court. All of this said, upon reflection I believe that, were I to live anywhere other than Ireland, it would be Austria, though not at court.

Betty: How do you like to relax?

Eileen: I adore books, and I love to read. I try to take a solitary ride with my beloved Frisian stallion “Bull” each day. I enjoy the company of my sons, my sister-in-law Catherine O’Leary, Arthur’s sister, and a small group of friends.

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

Eileen: I love history! I love all of Master Shakespeare’s works – and I must confess to liking naughty books, such as Tales of a Woman of Pleasure, referred to in your time as Fanny Hill. As well as a variety of French works, including some rather deliciously wicked novels!

Betty: How do you like to start your day?

Eileen: I typically awaken very early and, after saying my prayers, I enjoy several cups of strong, dark Viennese coffee and fresh, warm bread.

Betty: What kinds of friends do you have?

Eileen: Whilst I have many acquaintances my true friends are few. I would say that they are a rather eclectic group: my dearest friend is Anna Collins – we first met in Vienna in 1761 when she was Anna Pfeffer and was my lady’s maid! We were both in our teens then, so we literally grew up together and, in the process, we became the closest of friends. When she whom I referred to as my ‘wee little archduchess’ departed Vienna for France, Anna came to Ireland with us. Perhaps a year later she wed John Collins, a handsome, kind squire, and is now a neighbour!  Also in the neighbourhood are the Reverend and Mrs. McGee of the Church of Ireland, both of whom are good friends; we talk religion and current affairs.

Since Arthur’s death I find myself in an awkward situation – as a relatively young widow in my time and place, I am expected to seek a new husband, out of the bachelors and widowers in our vicinity. In all honesty, having been wed at sixteen, widowed before my seventeenth birthday, after which I spent almost a decade at the Habsburg court – in the process of which I met and married the love of my life – I feel no desire to labour at making yet another match.

This has rather limited my social life as it is the custom, at the horse races and hunts, the parties, balls, weddings and, yes, wakes, that I would be seeking a husband. As I have made it clear that I am not, the invitations continue to dwindle.

I do have a dear friend, a gentleman I have known since my earliest days in Vienna. He is now General, the Count Wolfgang von Klaus, scion of an ancient Austrian noble family – we became very good friends and, in all candour, lovers for a time before I met Arthur. He has continued to be a gentle presence in my life since Arthur was killed, indeed journeying from Vienna to Cork with Arthur’s belongings, uniforms, our correspondence and the like. He has returned every Summer since then. By inquiring of me, ‘It is not a bad thing for friends to wed?’ he has offered me a standing proposal . . . he is such a dear, gentle man, my boys have grown fond of him . . . so . . .  I may well at some point consider becoming the Countess von Claus.

Betty: Who would you like to meet? Why?

Eileen: Without any hesitation, it would be Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots – she has always fascinated, perhaps even more so perplexed me.

I would very much want to discuss how a seemingly strong, brilliant, not to mention beautiful woman of the long line of Stuarts, who was nevertheless, albeit at a very young age and then for only a relatively brief period, the Queen of France, could have made the tragic decisions she did whilst Queen of Scots.

When her ne’er-do-well husband, Lord Darnley, was murdered, why did she not act immediately to determine, capture and punish the perpetrators?

One partial answer to this question raises another troubling one: Was it because of her involvement with the Earl of Bothwell?

If so how, could she be so foolish to actually wed Bothwell, the individual widely said to have instigated Darnley’s death?

After being compelled to abdicate, why did she not consider alternatives to seeking sanctuary in England? 

As Bittersweet Tapestry, the third volume of Kevin O’Connell’s continuing Derrynane Saga opens, Eileen O’Connell and her husband, Arthur O’Leary, an officer of the Hungarian Hussars, have departed Vienna – where she served for almost a decade as governess to Maria Theresa’s youngest daughter, now Marie Antoinette, Dauphine of France. Their life in Ascendancy-ruled Ireland is in stark contrast to what they left behind, as well as to that of Eileen’s brothers, officers in the Irish Brigade of France, her youngest one, Hugh, now wed to the French Princess Royal. The Irish story evolves into a dark, violent, and bloody tale – ultimately involving an epic tragedy – which results in what has been called, “The greatest poem written in (Ireland and Britain) in the whole Eighteenth Century”.

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You’ve lived quite an interesting life, Eileen. Thanks so much for stopping by on your interesting journey to chat with us!

Happy reading!


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

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Initial Thoughts on Pachinko by Min Jin Lee #historical #fiction #books #novels #fiction #amreading

I’ve started reading Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, the next book on my Historical Fiction Around the World series. This story is much longer than the last one I read, so it will take me a little while to finish reading it, but I can give you my initial take on what I’m reading.

The hardback I’m reading has a different cover than the one I found on Bookshop. The story is 485 pages long. Lee didn’t provide any supporting information related to the story. No glossary or maps or recipes, etc. But so far I haven’t needed them, either.

While the author was born in Korea, she moved to the USA when she was 7 and was educated through university in this country. So her story is told using standard English so she didn’t need a translator or additional explanatory materials. Her Acknowledgements indicate the kind of research and interviews she conducted before writing this book, including many interviews with Korean Japanese people she met while living in Tokyo as an adult. Thus, she offers the best of both worlds to this American reader since I can learn more about Korean Japanese people but in a familiar language.

Not surprisingly, Lee’s writing voice is strong and clear as she tells the story of this family over the course of the 20th century, specifically 1910-1989. For a summary of the story line, I found this description although I haven’t read it all because I don’t want to spoil the experience of reading the book. I’m not even 100 pages into the story, so there is much to come!

I need to go read, so I’ll talk to you all soon! Happy Reading!


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Audrey Harper needs more than home and hearth to satisfy her self-worth despite being raised with the idea that a woman’s place is in the home. Working as a music critic for the city newspaper in Baltimore, Maryland, during the Second World War, she’s enjoyed both financial freedom and personal satisfaction in a job well done. When she uncovers evidence of German spies working to sabotage a secret bomber plane being manufactured in her beloved city, she must choose between her sense of duty to protect her city and the urgings of her boss, her family, and her fiancé to turn over her evidence to the authorities. But when her choices lead her and her sister into danger, she is forced to risk life and limb to save her sister and bring the spies to justice.

Set against the backdrop of the flourishing musical community during the 1940s in Baltimore, Notes of Love and War weaves together the pleasure of musical performance with the dangers of espionage and spying.

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Introducing Ex-Homicide Detective turned Sleuth Nico Doyle from Murder on the Vine by Camilla Crespi #author #detectivemystery #crimemystery #bookseries #fiction #amreading

I’m so excited to have a fabulous detective in the house as my guest today. Please help me welcome Nico Doyle! Let’s find out about author Camilla Crespi’s background and then we’ll learn more about her sleuth.

Born Italian, I became American in 1997. After getting an MFA in Creative Writing at Columbia University I started writing mysteries under the pseudonym Camilla Crespi while I did research for Seeking Alice, a fictionalized story of my mother during World War II. After eight Crespi mysteries, Alice was published under my own name. A visit to Tuscany inspired me to write about a small town, its people, and the fabulous wines and food. I added a New York ex-homicide detective, Nico Doyle, who starts his widowed life in the town where he buried is his Italian American wife. Murder in Chianti was followed by The Bitter Taste of Murder. Murder on the Vine will be followed by The Road to Murder next year. I’m having fun. I’m back home. The characters have become my friends.

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Betty: How would you describe your parents?

Nico: My Irish father was an abusive drunk and luckily walked out on us when I was in my teens. My Italian mother was a sweet woman who loved and feared her husband and was too frightened and exhausted to show me any love, even after he left.

Betty: Who taught you to tie your shoes?

Nico: My father showed me how he tied his shoes just once. That was enough. I was a quick learner to avoid his anger.

Betty: Do you know how to swim?

Nico: I do. I wasn’t so quick with that.  

Betty: How did you learn, if so?

Nico: My father threw me in the deep end of a public swimming pool and told me to swim. The lifeguard pulled me up and out of the goodness of his wonderful heart offered to teach me for free.

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

Nico: Discarding the evidence in a murder case back in New York.

I broke the oath I had taken when I became a cop. I failed my colleagues. It’s a failure that saddens me, but I still think I did the right thing.

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

Meeting my wife Rita and when I lost her, coming to live in Gravigna, where she was born and is now buried.

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

Nico: Why think of changing the past when it’s not possible? I try not to dwell in what was. You insist I answer? Okay. I would change my father. I would change my mother’s tears into laughter. I would change Rita’s cancer into a cold. I would change me into a better man.

Betty: What’s your greatest fear?

Nico: I try not to let fear into my thoughts. I had enough of it with my father and Rita’s cancer. Fear leaves a hole that can turn into gangrene. Ask me what is my greatest hope. That I can answer.

I’ll tell you without being asked. I hope the friends I have made in this Tuscan town stay well and enjoy their lives. Rita’s restaurant chef cousin Tilde, who welcomed me with arms as wide as the Mediterranean, Perillo, the Neapolitan maresciallo who erroneously thinks he can’t solve a murder without my New York detective savvy. Also his young right-hand man, the blush prone Daniele. Nelli patiently waits for me to loosen up about loving again. Old Gogol, the Dante-quoting man I share breakfast with each weekday morning. My landlord Aldo and is wife Cinzia, from whom I’ve rented a small farmhouse. I hope OneWag, the mutt who led me to a murder scene, lives a long, long life.

Betty: Who else knows about it?

Nico: I hope they all do.

Betty: What’s your favorite game to play?

Nico: I used to play poker back at the precinct. I try to run every morning. That’s gaming with your body.

Betty: Do you have a favorite sibling?  

Nico: No siblings.

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

Nico: Right here in Gravigna.

Betty: How do you like to relax?

Nico: Sitting on my balcony, looking out at the olive grove and the vineyard behind it, with a glass of wine in my hand and OneWag nearby.

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

Nico: I’m not a book reader, I’m afraid.  I read the local paper and sometimes the international edition of The New York Times. Rita devoured mysteries.

Betty: How do you like to start your day?

Nico: Putting the moka on the stove and making the bed. I was asked to make my bed when I was very young. I liked doing it. It gave a semblance of order to the day. Somehow it still does.

Betty: What kinds of friends do you have?

Nico: I think I’ve already answered that. They are many things depending on their day and mine: kind, generous, loving, irritating, demanding. Never boring, never cruel.

Betty: Who would you like to meet? Why?

Nico: After listening to the news I sometimes fantasize I could meet the politicians in charge. So I could throw them in jail for effing this beautiful country.

Cesare, an old hotel bartender goes missing. Lara, his young friend, and his boss, asks the Maresciallo of the Carabinieri for help. When OneWag, Nico’s dog, finds the bartender’s body in the trunk of the local bar owner’s car, Maresciallo Perillo once again asks his American friend to help him uncover who stabbed to death a seemingly innocuous eighty-year-old and why.

Buy Links: Amazon

Thanks for stopping in, Nico. It was a pleasure getting to know you a bit better.

Happy reading!


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

Visit for a complete list of my books and appearances.

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