My Initial Thoughts on My Name Is Red by Orhan Pamuk #Turkish #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

I’ve started reading Orhan Pamuk’s My Name is Red. I’m about a third of the way into the story, which is set in Istanbul in the 16th century. This story is the 2006 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. The paperback consists of 418 pages, with 1 map of the Ottoman and Safavid Empires, and an historical chronology of events related to the story. I perused the map before I started reading but not the chronology until a bit later. That helped me to understand fact from fiction as I continue reading, which is a good thing to have some grasp on.

One of the interesting aspects of this narrative is that it’s written in multiple points of view in first person. Each chapter is written in a different point of view, mostly of people but also of objects and drawings. I mean, it’s interesting to read about the point of view of a gold coin and its travels, or a drawing of a dog or even a tree and what the depiction is meant to represent. It’s a unique approach to telling a murder mystery, that’s for certain!

I’m learning more about Turkish literature, and about the Koran, through the eyes of the characters and objects. One of the reasons I enjoy historical fiction is the opportunity to learn about other cultures and histories. This blog series that I’m working my way through is all about Historical Fiction Around the World by authors from countries around the world. I’m not including American authors only because that’s the kind of historical fiction I’ve mostly read and I want to expand my reading.

I am enjoying the story and the writing style. It’s interesting and funny too. I mean, Chapter 3 is entitled “I Am A Dog” and includes, “I’m a dog, and because you humans are less rational beasts than I, you’re telling yourselves, ‘Dogs don’t talk.’ Nevertheless, you seem to believe a story in which corpses speak and characters use words they couldn’t possibly know. Dogs do speak, but only to those who know how to listen.” That paragraph made me laugh out loud! And wonder…

I’ll share more about the story and my impressions 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 (ebook)! Sales ends January 31!

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?

 (Updated and revised edition; originally published in 2014 as Traces.)

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My Impressions of The Mathematics of Love by Emma Darwin #English #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

My sampling of Historical Fiction Around the World continues! When I first started The Mathematics of Love by Emma Darwin I was a bit confused. It’s written in first person and I didn’t know enough about the skirmish it opens with to follow what was happening. So I had to go back to the book description to find my bearings before I restarted reading it. Here’s what the book is about:

The Mathematics of Love is a poignant chronicle of two people, separated by centuries, whose lives—amazingly, impossibly—become interwoven in a brilliant tapestry of tragedy, memory, and time. Following alternate but intimately connected stories—of a curious, promiscuous teenager in her season of exile and awakening in the English countryside in 1976, and a nineteenth-century soldier damaged on the fields of Waterloo, struggling to find his way back to life with the help of a compassionate, extraordinary woman—Emma Darwin’s breathtaking narrative brilliantly evokes the horrors of war, the pain of loss, the heat of passion, and the enduring power of love.

The book starts in the point of view of Major Stephen Fairhurst during an altercation in a small town involving a young boy getting caught up in the middle of things and a woman looking out for him. The woman becomes a friend of the Major and is quite a strong-willed, forward-thinking woman indeed for that time period. Perhaps too much so at times, but I’m looking at this through a 21st-century lens so my expectations may be somewhat skewed.

The other point of view is that of a fifteen-year-old girl in 1976 England who is indeed promiscuous. She’s practically treated like an orphan, though her mother and her boyfriend/lover are supposedly going to send for her when they establish a new business in another country. Her uncle is put in charge of her in a defunct school which used to be a country estate, the estate of Major Fairhurst in the previous century.

So my first question about the author’s story is why 1819 and 1976? Why a difference of 157 years? It’s a prime number which reflects the title on one level. But how does it apply to the story, or rather two intertwined stories? I don’t have an answer, but if you do, please share!

Since I was rather confused by the opening chapter, I went in search of reviews to find out how others had handled the opening. This book has very mixed reviews, most of them not positive. Many were confused by the story, and several thought the book a waste of money. I wouldn’t go that far, because I did enjoy most of the story. I do think the author missed some amount of potential for the story by keeping the story threads unwound for so much of the book. But it did end up tied together for the most part.

There are similarities between the past and story-present time periods. The 1819 thread includes a woman who sketches the world around her, while the 1976 thread has a deep dive into photographic techniques of the time. Both look at light, shadow, capturing memories, being aware of the beauty and wonder of the world. Some play on ghostly images and echoed images can be seen between them as well. These themes are dear to my heart as my father was a photographer and we talked about these things frequently.

Another theme between the two times is that of forbidden or discouraged love of varying kinds. In the past, the strict societal constraints on women and their sexuality, their activity, their reputation is a primary topic of conversation with regard to the Major’s friend. In the present, the teenager also rebels against societal constraints but ultimately in both times they bow to the need to comply however unwillingly.

Emma Darwin’s writing style is also remarkable. She did an excellent job of distinguishing the time periods through her authorial voice modifying to suit the Major or the teen. Without the need for noting the difference in time period, I could (usually) tell when the shift occurred, whether it was indicated through typography or not. I will say some of the transitions were jolting, going from an intensely happy moment to one of battle and bloodshed, for instance. Perhaps she was aiming to emphasize the contrast of joy to horror? For me, it felt more like a non sequitur.

Overall, I enjoyed finding out more about the impact on the soldiers after the Battle at Waterloo. The 1819 thread of the story was far more interesting to me than the 1976 thread. But then, I have never enjoyed reading about wayward youths, especially when they basically get away with their bad behavior for one reason or another. As the book description mentions, there is a good deal of the “heat of passion” primarily with the teen. The 1819 story also includes passion, but with adults in a more emotionally satisfying relationship than the teen’s. I don’t want to give too much away in my impressions of the book, but the mirroring effect of having couples in both stories engaging in relationships that some would find inappropriate is another way Darwin contrasts and compares love in its many guises in both times.

This novel is far more about the lives, loves, and times of the two time periods than about the battles in the 19th century. If it weren’t for the 1819 time line this wouldn’t qualify as historical fiction, since the other is in 1976, and thus too recent. Yet it’s mainly through the teen’s interpretation and growing understanding of Stephen’s letters and life that we gain a clearer picture of his life story. The ending to the book is mostly satisfying but leaves open, at least for me, a few questions.

That’s my impression of this story. Did you read it as well? What are your thoughts and opinion of the story? I’d love to hear from you if you’ve read it.

Moving on, let’s switch countries, this time to Turkey and Orhan Pamuk’s My Name is Red. Turns out this story is set in 16th-century Istanbul. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve actually visited Istanbul, even bought a carpet while there. I was also astounded by the driving skills of the motor coach drivers! So glad I wasn’t driving, let me tell ya! I’m looking forward to dipping into this Turkish tale. Will you join me?

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 (ebook)!

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?

 (Updated and revised edition; originally published in 2014 as Traces.)

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My Impressions of Her Secret War by Pam Lecky #WWII #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

I finished reading Her Secret War by Pam Lecky, the fourth book in my Historical Fiction Around the World series focused on authors from around the world. This story was published just a few months ago, in October 2021, so is far more contemporary to me than the first three books I read. The result is a distinctly different atmosphere to the story. The reasons for that are probably far more varied than I can put my finger on, but I’ll try.

I’ll start with my overall view of this story. It was far easier to read for one thing. No glossary or maps were required to follow the story or understand the language used. I enjoyed the sprinkling of Irish and English idioms and sayings, which were all easily understood from the context. This story also featured a female main character and her life during World War II in Dublin and then in England. As I read, the flow and cadence of the language along with the colloquialisms reminded me of my time in Ireland. I once had a critique partner who I met up with on a visit to Dublin years ago. We had a lovely time getting acquainted in person over tea. I think tea in Europe tastes better…but that may just be the setting and company!

The style of writing in Her Secret War is also more upbeat and quickly paced. Concerns of the main character Sarah Gillespie are more immediate and comprehendible to me as well. Some of that is undoubtedly because I am also a female with sisters and family, but I think the level of understanding also stems from language usage more similar to my own. The word choices also make it easier to read and follow the story as well. As a writer myself, it’s often apparent how specific words evoke specific feelings or experiences associated with the message.

I think also the plot is cleaner, clearer, despite the inevitable twists and turns that a mystery, or spy thriller, must take to keep us turning the page. The author is more focused on that thread than the overall political environment. I believe I’ve stated before that I’m not a fan of political thrillers, so this historical was easier for me to enjoy. Her focus makes it possible to enjoy the story without having a lesson in the politics of the day. Sure, she refers to them but that’s not the primary point of the story. To me, the story is far more about how Sarah comes to deal with her situation as a result of the bombing of her home in Dublin.

I thoroughly enjoyed the story, the writing, and the characters. I had only one tiny grumble while reading the story, but it’s not worth making a fuss about. If you like WWII historical fiction about a female protagonist, indeed a female spy, I’d suggest giving this one a try. It appears this may be the first in a series. At least, the next book, Her Last Betrayal, is due to release November 1, 2022. Will there be others? I wouldn’t be surprised if her fans would prompt the publisher to ask for more!

Next up for me is The Mathematics of Love by Emma Darwin. In case you’re wondering how I’m choosing what to read, I have a long list of titles sorted by the author’s native country then by author name. I’m working up from the end of the alphabet, beginning with the UK, choosing from authors from different countries within that group of countries. I hope you’ll read along with me and tell me your thoughts and opinions of the stories.

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 (ebook)!

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?

 (Updated and revised edition; originally published in 2014 as Traces.)

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My Impression of A Place Called Armageddon by C.C. Humphreys #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #fiction #review

The third book in my Historical Fiction Around the World series, C.C. Humphreys’ A Place Called Armageddon: Constantinople 1453 managed to surprise me. After I gave you all my First Thoughts on the book, I became so intrigued by the characters and the situations they faced that I had a hard time putting down the book.

Anyone who knows me well, also knows that I’m not a fan of violence in entertainment. It’s easier for me to handle when its in fiction rather than a visual medium.  My son convinced me to watch the entire Game of Thrones series but I will confess to leaving the room during certain parts. I didn’t want the nightmares to follow. #JustSaying

This story is all about the fall of the greatest city up to that time, Constantinople. Humphreys does an excellent job of ensuring the reader identifies with the characters, roots for some and not for others. In fact, I don’t believe I’ve ever read a story that presented both the winner’s and loser’s views of the same battle. The winner viewed it as a noble, honorable achievement while the loser saw it as the fall of a great city, the failure of the military to hold their position despite the odds. And those odds were immense!

Through reading this story, I learned not only a bit more about the history of the city and its people, but also about the mentality of a warrior. How he views the scene of battle, weighs the odds and chance of success or failure, and acts to defend what he—or she—can. It’s an insight that has wider ramifications as to how I personally view the people around me. It also helps me have another tool in my writing skills toolbox as I create my own characters. See, reading for an author or anyone who wants to become a published author/writer is more than just enjoying the story. It’s keeping an eye out for devices and approaches that can be adapted to our own work. Which is why I advocate for writers to read widely. You never know when you’ll come across a technique that will add a freshness to your writing.

I also enjoyed the mystical elements woven into this story. The character of Leilah intrigued me the most. She was not only a warrior, fully capable with a crossbow and its quarrels (a word I had to look up by the way!) but also with reading the portents and palms and other such mystical arts. How she used her skills in such effective and complementary ways, too. Humphreys made her rounded and believable within her own time.

I also enjoyed how the author managed to weave a romance into this story that takes place during a protracted and horrific battle. Doing so made the main male characters even more believable. I mean, don’t we (humans) fight to protect what is important to us, and thus those we love? How we choose what is important also reflects on the individual’s character. Those choices are made apparent in the story as well, and how the people doing the choosing behave as a result. Is something important because you’re jealous of anyone else possessing it/him/her, or because you care about it/him/her?

A Place Called Armageddon lives up to its name as those fighting—to defend and to invade—face impressive foes, even more impressive odds against the staggering number of invaders vs. the defenders. It must have indeed seemed like the end of the world for those defending. But trust me that the story is not only about how the two sides fought each other, but also about how people fight to survive physically and emotionally during trying times. I’m glad I read this story, because it opened my eyes to a different point of view, a different way of seeing situations and then adjusting my reaction accordingly.

Next up on my Historical Fiction Around the World tour of authors from other countries is Her Secret War by Pam Lecky. This story is set in Dublin during WWII and is written by an Irish author. I’m looking forward to seeing the war through her eyes. Want to read along with me?

Happy reading and Happy New Year to all!

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!

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?

 (Updated and revised edition; originally published in 2014 as Traces.)

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First thoughts on The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

Next up on my historical fiction around the world reading tour! I started reading Dorothy Dunnett’s The Game of Kings because it’s been sitting on my bookshelf for at least a decade now. It makes sense to me to read the ones I already have on hand before I go in search of others.  This paperback is 512 pages long without an intro or any collateral information attached. I’m on page 112 at the moment, so only 400 pages to go. This is a slower read than I had anticipated, but I’ll explain why in a minute. I inherited my mother-in-law’s copy after she passed in 2009. The narrator in this story is an omniscient one, knowing what each character is experiencing, thinking, feeling.

Ms. Dunnett is a Scottish author and this book is set in Scotland in 1546, when Mary Queen of Scots was 4 years old. Note that the only way I know the actually time period is not because it’s explicitly stated in the story other than by referring to the fact that Mary is 4 years old. I had to look up when she was born to know the actual date. This is a rather common theme—having to look up things—in my experience of reading this story, too.

If you look at the photo of the physical book I’m reading, you may notice that it is literally taped together. The pages are worn and hard to turn. It’s tattered to the point that as I’m reading, bits of the paper cover litters my pant legs. I do not know whether my mother-in-law bought a new or used copy of this book. But either way, it has literally been read to pieces.

I find this very curious because this story is not easy to read in some ways. My experience reading the story is a combination of intrigue and annoyance, to be honest. While I have some smattering of German language left in my memory, I am not multilingual. I know people who are, but learning other languages has not been my primary focus in life. So reading this story is a challenge because there are so many foreign words and quotes woven throughout. In fact, I read with my iPhone nearby with 3 apps at the ready: Dictionary.com, a Google Translate translation app, and a browser ready with “definition _______” on tap.

I use those three often because of the frequency of Scottish slang, or quotes in Spanish, Latin, French, etc. Each chapter also starts with a quote in Old English. Let me give you some examples so you can see what I mean.

Chapter one, entitled “Opening Gambit: Threat to a Castle,” begins with this quote:

First of ye chekker sall be mecioune maid
And syne efter of ye proper moving
Of every man in ordour to his king
And as the chekker schawis us yis forne
Richt so it maye the kinrik and the crowne,
The warld and all that is therein suthlye,
The checker may in figour signifye.

So what I interpret that to mean, given the theme of the book/series is chess moves, is something about the chess player and the moves he makes. I tried using my Oxford English Dictionary to translate but many of the words are not included in the OED.  Words like mecioune, schawis, kinrik, suthley. So I have to just take the overall idea of moves associated with the king and the crown in the world of the chess game, but the exact nature I don’t understand entirely.

Then there are the inline terms such as:

Oriflamme – “gold flame”; The sacred banner of St. Denis, a banderole of two or three points of red or orange-red silk, attached to a lance

Rieving and ruttery – “that robs or reaves” and “lust, lechery”

Yelling bills and bows – Calling for individual archers (bow and arrow) and crossbows to come to a fight

Kist – a small chest for holding valuables

“Se’l ser un si, scrivero’n rima; Se’l ser un no, amici come prima.” – “If there is a  yes, I will write in rhyme; if it’s a no, friends as before.”

“Le douxiem’ mois de l’an Que donner a mà mie? – “The twelfth month of the year, What to give grandma?”

There are many, many more, and I’m sure there will be many more to come. (Thanks to Google Translate for helping me out here!) All of this got me wondering about my mother-in-law re-reading this book so many times. Did she know what all these things meant? Did she speak or read all these languages? How did she manage to enjoy it so many times? I will confess right here and now that I picked this book up before and put it down, not having the inclination to read it with all the effort involved in trying to figure out what all these mean and feeling like it wasn’t written for a reader like me. I didn’t get rid of the book precisely because it had been loved to tatters.

I asked my husband if his mother spoke these languages and he said no, or at least he didn’t think so. I know she was well read, reading everything she could get her hands on. She loved to do crossword puzzles, too, so she knew a lot of esoteric words. After mulling this over for several days, I’ve come to the conclusion that she read the context and skipped any other unknown foreign terms and languages to glean what she could from the action and setting and dialogue she did understand. And didn’t worry about the rest of it. She obviously read this entire The Lymond Chronicles series multiple times, or had friends borrow the books and read. They are all obviously worn and tattered.

So that’s my plan going forward: to read it for the story as much as I can get from it and try not to spend so much time looking up foreign terms and quotations. But I wonder if I can skim those parts without my curiosity begging to be satisfied. I am not sure on that score!

Have you read stories written like this? How did you manage to enjoy them, if so? I’d love some tips!

Happy reading and happy holidays to all!

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 $1.99 (ebook) through 12/14/21!

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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Wrapping Up The First Man In Rome #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

I have finished reading Colleen McCullough’s The First Man in Rome and it only took me 24 days! As you may recall, the entire book spans 1076 pages with the story proper comprising 931 of those. I chuckled at the Los Angeles Times quote in the front of the book: “An awesome and epic new work…This is an absolutely absorbing story—not simply of the military and political intrigues that went into the final days of the Republic but also of what it was like to live, love and survive at this pivotal point in our civilization…A master storyteller…A 900-plus-page novel that is every bit as hard to put down as it is to pick up.” [emphasis mine] Yes, it is a rather hefty lift!

If you’re just joining my tour of historical fiction written by authors from around the world, you might want to start here by reading why I chose The First Man in Rome. Note that I’m broadening my reading by sampling historical fiction written by authors in countries other than my own USA. I want to see what different nationalities have to say about their point of view of history. I started by sharing my first thoughts about the novel, then my impressions of life in ancient Rome and some overall observations of the story and writing. Today I’m going to talk about the story and my take-aways.

I will admit to being happily surprised to enjoy the story. It’s filled with political intrigue, infighting, actual fighting for ascendancy in the government, and revenge. All of which is not something I typically enjoy reading. I can’t put my finger on what the author did to weave that magical spell over me, but she did! In doing so, I feel like I glimpsed life in ancient Rome. She made that life style along with its trials and tribulations and achievements come to life for me.

More than once I wondered about the kind of research she must have delved into in order to provide the specific details. Did she find source material as to the layout of the ancient buildings and spaces she includes in the story? Did she walk down the roads, the steps, through the green spaces and cluttered parts of the city? How did she know the fighting techniques, the technological advancements, the strategies employed by the generals of the various armies, and, well, everything? The various maps she includes are rather difficult to read but they do help me visualize the areas she writes about. McCullough’s details create a vibrant, breathing society on the page. Makes me want to go do some research of my own.

I’ve read The Thornbirds by McCullough way back when I was a teen. Her style drew me in then just as strongly as she did with this one. That style also seems similar to other historical authors even though she has a unique narrative voice throughout her works. What I mean is that I didn’t notice anything about her author voice that stood out as different than a good storyteller’s technique. As I read from authors around the world, I wonder if I will come across any who write with a different rhythm or meter. We’ll see, I guess…

So, what’s next you may be asking? Dorothy Dunnett’s The Game of Kings. It’s half the size of The First Man in Rome so theoretically it should take me half the time to read it, right?

Happy reading and happy holidays to all!

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 $1.99 (ebook) through 12/14/21!

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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My Impressions of ancient Rome from First Man In Rome #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

As I mentioned last time, I don’t know a whole lot about ancient Rome. However, I have been to Greece and Turkey, so actually have visited territory within what was the Roman Empire. By the way, the extent of the Roman Empire was vast at its height in 211 AD as shown here. The map of the Roman Empire within The First Man in Rome also shows how vast it was at the time of the story.

Before I get into my impressions, let me share that my Thanksgiving romance, The Touchstone of Raven Hollow, is currently on sale for $1.99 (ebook) everywhere. More info is below if you’re interested in reading this story about a family dinner that’s causing Beth some huge angst and the enchanted valley she and Grant find themselves trapped in just days before the event. Moving on to today’s post…

If you’re just joining my tour of historical fiction around the world, you might want to start here by reading why I chose Colleen McCullough’s The First Man in Rome. I talked last time about my first thoughts about the novel, but today I want to talk about my impressions of life in ancient Rome based on my reading so far in this novel. I think I’m about a third of the way through the story because I didn’t have as much time to read this week as I’d hoped. But I am most definitely enjoying the story!

Having toured historic sites in Athens, Greece, and Ephesus, Turkey, among many of the beautiful Greek islands, I can visualize the sites as described in McCullough’s tome. The pictures below are from Ephesus, Turkey. The soaring columns, the stone buildings with carvings and flourishes, the stone roads, she’s brought all of it to life for me. This is one of the reasons I read historical fiction: to experience life in the past in a specific place and time in a holistic way. A recent article from the Smithsonian newsletter, coincidentally, describes how ancient Romans in Ephesus went to the bathroom. I remember seeing the latrines but I didn’t take any pictures because who knew I might want to share them with anyone? But the article is interesting to read, as to the plumbing at the time which was more advanced than many realize.

I also have an impression of the cut-throat political scene in the 110 B.C. era while the empire was expanding. The methods used to climb the power rungs of political influence are the reasons why we have methods of detecting who-done-it today I bet! Poison without any trace left behind in sight even by autopsy. A quick knife thrust through the careful folds of a toga in a crowd by a vanishing perpetrator. Even an organized letter-writing campaign to oust the man in power who has run afoul of others’ schemes and desires.

I hadn’t ever thought about the attire of people in ancient Rome. I think of the toga as the mainstay when in fact it seems to be a belted tunic. The toga was used for more formal occasions. At least, the tunic is what is mainly described in the story so far for the men’s apparel. Women wore dresses, of course, sometimes without any undergarments apparently. Sometimes with a bare breast for all to see, too. Costume parties were also apparently all the rage at the time, the more outrageous the costume the better.

Other observations include the extent to which pride and honor were used as currency among the elite of the Roman populace. Bloodlines also mattered with certain family names linked forever to the founders of Rome and the empire. If you came from a lesser well regarded family, or didn’t have any money, your options and future were limited. Neighbors were very nosy about what was happening next door, and didn’t hesitate for long to do something about unwanted activities on their street.

And don’t tick off the paterfamilias! The “head of the family unit” had absolute power over every other member of the house. His word was the law. Period. He could execute anyone for whatever egregious crime he chose, and he decided what was meant by egregious. Or he could banish, punish, sell, marry off anyone he wanted for whatever reason.

That’s my impression thus far but there’s still a about 600 pages to go. I’m going to challenge myself to finish it this week but we’ll see! I had originally hoped to read a book each week, but it’s not possible if the book is over 1000 pages. I have books of my own to write, as well, after all.

Speaking of which, I’ve started writing book 5 of the Fury Falls Inn historical fantasy series, set in 1821 Alabama with ghosts and witches and other fun within its pages. My plan is to wrap up that series with two books releasing simultaneously next summer. Wish me luck!

Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Americans, and happy holidays to all!

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.

Discover the Secrets of Roseville series!

Love is never lost; it haunts the heart…   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!

A romantic Thanksgiving story: The Touchstone of Raven Hollow

Cover of The Touchstone of Raven Hollow showing at the top a couple embracing with fall colorful leaves behind them, and below a black raven on a post in the foreground with a stone cabin in the background.

He dug for the truth and found her magic…

It’s safer to stay hidden. Or so Tara Golden believes. To not draw attention to her healing powers. She has hidden her powers ever since shunned as a child for using them. But occasionally, she helps people passing through town, sure they’d never figure out what saved them. But a tall, sexy geologist is demanding answers to questions she doesn’t want to face at the same time she’s forced to use her nonexistent baking skills to make desserts for an impromptu Thanksgiving dinner. The hunky guy is in for a huge disappointment since she would never expose her abilities and her gifted sisters even to silence the handsome and intriguing man. 

Grant Markel’s condition is cured, his eyesight restored, but the scientist within him won’t accept it’s a miracle. Miracles don’t explain how he overcame a fatal disease. He followed his brother to Roseville on the fool’s errand of creating an alchemical Elixir of Life. Only to have his condition mysteriously disappear without any Elixir or other treatment. When he learns Tara is the sexy, mystical witch who may hold the answer to his quest, he’s determined to prove she’s full of smoke and mirrors despite their mutual attraction.

When they are trapped in an enchanted valley on the eve of Thanksgiving, Tara must choose between her magical truth or his scientific beliefs in order to escape. Can she step from the shadows to claim her true powers before it’s too late?

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Traveling to the Yazoo Lands in 1783 #historical #romance #history #AmericanRevolution #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel

Today’s post is a throwback one because I have an unexpected road trip (from Alabama to Georgia to pick up my daughter and take her to Maryland for a judging apprenticeship) and won’t have time to write a new one. I will continue my Martha Washington Slept Here series next week, though.

But before I share the reprisal of a 2016 blog along with a short excerpt with you, I want to let you know that Evelyn’s Promise (A More Perfect Union Book 4) is on sale at Amazon for only 99 cents! See below for the book description and cover as well as the link to go pick up your copy while it’s on sale (only through 8/9/21).

Since Evelyn’s Promise is on sale it only seemed fitting to tell you something about the story. Here’s a reprisal of a blog from 2016 where I talk about some of the research that went into writing Evelyn and Nathaniel’s story.

She needed to flee, but to where? That question had me searching the historic records for a place for Evelyn, along with Nathaniel, to move at the end of Evelyn’s Promise. Somewhere on the new frontier, now that the American Revolution had ended. Somewhere dangerous yet appealing to the adventurous and courageous. Somewhere her friends and family would object to her attempting to make the arduous journey.

After some digging, I found the Yazoo Lands and the ensuing land scandal. The area encompasses what is now northern Alabama and was largely inhabited by Indians, or the ancestors of the people today we call Native Americans. The area only sparsely had white people settling on land, trying to start new towns and cities.

Having identified the ultimate destination, then I had to study the historic maps to determine the route they would most likely take to wend their way across hostile land and territory. How would a lady with an infant travel from the eastern coast near Charlestown (present day Charleston), South Carolina, across rough roads and trails, crossing swollen rivers, mountains, and forests to the edge of the newly independent country?

As difficult as it must have been, she’d most likely travel by wagon as far as possible. Perhaps later she’d be forced to ride astride through the roughest terrain, but for my purposes she’d start out in a wagon of some fashion. Which she did through the end of the story, which ends long before she would have reached her destination.

I believe in understanding the situations my characters would have faced in their day and with the constraints of the society and the technology available. Adhering as closely as possible, based on research, to the realities of life in the 18th century enriches the context of the stories. People then faced very different challenges on a day-to-day basis than we do today. The speed with which we can travel across America, and indeed the world, would be truly astonishing to people living in the 1700s. That’s one aspect of life in the past that I’ve tried to underscore for my readers.

Now for the short excerpt:


Evelyn climbed aboard the carriage with Jemma holding Jim beside her. Jack rode a sturdy dark brown gelding, leading the way out of town, following instructions from Benjamin as to the direction Nat had planned to take. The urgency continued to build in her chest as they trotted away from town and toward her man.

Time dragged with each passing mile. The hallmarks of the town gave way to gently rolling hills and forests. Immense herds of deer bounded away from the noisy conveyance. Foxes paused to stare at them before darting into the trees. Red-tailed hawks soared high above, their piercing cry sounding like a warning.

Every hour they rested the horses for a few minutes, themselves dismounting and stretching cramped legs and backs. The hard wheels of the carriage did nothing to absorb the shock of ruts and rocks, rattling their bones and teeth with each jolt. Little Jim fussed for the first hour before crying himself to sleep. Thereafter he seemed to have grown accustomed to the monotony. How far behind Nat had they fallen? How many days of the bumpy ride would she have to endure before she could put her arms around him?

Late afternoon found them approaching a small town grown up around where two roads crossed. In truth, the town consisted only of a handful of buildings, including a tavern, millinery, and an apothecary shop.

“I suggest we ascertain whether we can find lodgings in the tavern.” Slowing the horses to a walk, Evelyn studied the group of buildings. “If we go on, we may not come across another place to eat or, worse, sleep for hours.”

Jemma tried to quiet the fussy boy. “Jim’s tired and hungry, so I agree with you.”

“Sure enough the safest plan,” Jack said.


Thanks for your patience and understanding as I bring back a previous blog. 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.

Determined to make her own way in the newly independent America and live free of the dictates and demands of another husband, widow Evelyn Hamilton faces soaring post-war inflation and rebuilding her home as she struggles to provide for herself and her infant son.

Militiaman Nathaniel Williams visits Charlestown, intent on starting over after the devastation of the war and the loss of his wife. But when his heart is ensnared by a smart, beautiful widow, he’s forced to make the hardest decision of his life.

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Martha Washington Slept Here: Middlebrook #history #NewJersey #AmericanRevolution #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel

In honor of America’s Independence Day, Samantha’s Secret (A More Perfect Union historical romance series Book 3) is on sale for only $.99 through July 8. This series is set in Charleston, SC, mainly during the occupation by the British in 1782.

Healer Samantha McAlester faces the occupation of Charles Town by the British and the town’s new sexy doctor, Dr. Trenton Cunningham, who wants a hospital staffed with educated doctors. When a friend develops an infection, Trent is stumped. The only treatment will expose Samantha’s secret, risking all she’s come to hold dear… including Trent.

Amazon

I hope you give that series a try. It was one of my first set of linked stories, originally a planned trilogy of Emily’s Vow, Amy’s Choice, and Samantha’s Secret. Later I added Evelyn’s Promise at my publisher’s request. Elizabeth’s Hope was the last installment, a prequel novella. I hope you enjoy their stories!

Every fall, Martha waited for George to summon her to the winter encampment of the Continental Army. Again, I was surprised to learn that she ultimately went to him every winter. But once I understood her better I was no longer surprised. It was who she was.

So far I’ve covered three camps:

The first winter headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1775.

The second winter headquarters in Morristown, NJ, in 1776.

The third at Valley Forge in 1777-78.

Today let’s explore Middlebrook, NJ, during the winter of 1778-79. This camp was located at what is now the north edge of Bound Brook on Mountain Avenue in Somerset County. According to Revolutionary NJ the army “encamped from the vicinities of Bound Brook and Somerville northward to Pluckemin.” You can learn more about the importance of the location at that previous site as well.

On November 2, 1778, Martha wrote to her brother Bartholomew Dandridge about her concerns. In her words:

“I received your kind favor by Mr. Posey and should have wrote to you long before this but have everyday expected everyday Jack would be ready to set out, I am very sorry to hear that my mamma has been so unwell and thank god that she has recovered again – I wish I was near enough to come to see you and her. I am very uneasy at this time – I have some reason to expect that I shall take another trip to the northward. The pore General is not likely to come to see us from what I can hear – I expect to hear seertainly by the next post – if I doe I shall write to you to inform you and my friends.”

Martha was leery of the trip north due to memories of the bad roads and bad weather she’d encountered before. It didn’t help that her mother had been ill and she was worried about her health. But of course she did go, meeting George in Philadelphia the middle of December 1778. They stayed in that city until February 2 to go to Middlebrook, arriving on the 5th.

I’m sure she fell right back into the routines of camp life, forming the sewing circle with the other wives and socializing in the evenings. She even reportedly had her own regiment, Lady Washington’s Dragoons, to accompany her and keep her safe. But this time was different because she didn’t receive letters from her family as often as she might like. Indeed, she wrote to her son Jack and his wife Eleanor on March 9, 1779:

“My Dear Children,
            Not having received any letter from you, the two last posts – I have only to tell you, that the general & my self are well, all is quiet in this quarters; It is from the south ward that we expect to hear news. – we are very anxious to know how our affairs are going in that quarters Colo [Robert Hanson] Harrison is not yet arrived at camp we have heard that he is in Philad several days ago –
            I hear so very seldom from you, that I don’t know where you are or weather you intend to come to Alexandria to live this spring or when – The last letter from Nelly she now says Boath the children have been very ill, there were she hoped getting better – if you doe not write to me – I will not write to you again or till I get letters from you – Let me know how all friends below are they have for got to write me I believe.”

Martha was concerned about Eleanor because she was with child. In fact, Jack and Eleanor had a daughter on March 21, Eleanor “Nelly” Parke Custis. Her concerns proved well founded, because when she left Middlebrook and went to see Eleanor at her home Abingdon in Virginia the mother was ill and unable to feed the baby. Martha took Nelly to Mount Vernon to care for her while Eleanor recovered. But that reunion didn’t occur until around September.

In 1779-80, the camp returned to Morristown, but this time they set of HQ in a different place. Thanks for 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.

Martha “Patsy” Custis manages an immense eighteenth-century plantation in the Virginia colony. But as a young widow she’s hard pressed to balance her business and to care for her two young children. They need a father and protector. She needs a husband and business partner…one she can trust, especially now as tensions rise between the motherland and the American colonies. Her experience and education have sustained her thus far but when her life veers in an unexpected direction, she realizes she has so much more to learn.

Colonel George Washington takes an interest in her and she’s surprised to find him so sociable and appealing. They form an instant bond and she is certain he’ll be a likeable and loving husband and father figure for her children. She envisions a quiet life at Mount Vernon, working together to provide for their extended family.

But when trouble in the form of British oppression, taxes, and royal arrogance leads to revolt and revolution, George must choose between duty to country and Martha. Compelled to take matters into her own hands, Martha must decide whether to remain where she belongs or go with her husband…no matter what the dangerous future may hold.

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Martha Washington and Memorial Day #American #holiday #MemorialDaySale #MemorialDay2021 #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel

Happy Memorial Day in America! Although some people object to it being a happy occasion, given that the point of the day is to remember those military personnel who have passed away in service to this country, the day also kicks off the unofficial start of summer. Time for picnics, swimming, cookouts, and outdoor activities of all kinds. But I think that is one absolutely right way to honor our fallen veterans in addition to decorating their graves and flying the Stars and Stripes.

I believe that Martha Washington would have approved of the concept of honoring the fallen soldiers even though the first claims of an official Memorial Day didn’t occur until long after she died, actually about the time of the American Civil War. This is according to an account in America Celebrates! A Patchwork of Weird and Wonderful Holiday Lore by Hennig Cohen and Tristram Potter Coffin. Cohen and Coffin include an article by Ernest C. Klein which summarizes his research into trying to determine the origin of the holiday. He cites an astounding 25 different claims ranging from 1862 to 1868. But the concept of putting flowers on graves has been around a very long time so surely Martha wouldn’t find a reason to object.

Martha lived among the soldiers during the months that the army was in winter encampment. I say “among” as in the same camp although she obviously lived in a house with George, which also doubled as the location of his winter headquarters. With all she is reported to have done to ensure their welfare and comfort, from knitting socks to rolling bandages, surely she would have agreed to pay respect to those who died fighting for our freedoms. By the way, this fact of her involvement at winter camp was only one of the surprising things I learned about her in the course of researching her life and times to write Becoming Lady Washington: A Novel.

What is the best way to not only celebrate a holiday but also pay our respect to those who died for us? I believe that we honor the men and women who sacrificed their lives for us by living our lives freely and openly all while thanking them for their bravery and service. My husband will be sure to put out the American flag and we’ll probably grill some ribs and have some potato salad and such. You know, typical American type of meal, or at least for my family! I am well aware that food is one very diverse way in which we all celebrate differently. Traditional foods we eat in the summer include anything grilled, corn on the cob, potato salad, sliced tomatoes and onions, and watermelon. Although I’d rather have a brownie, truth be told!

This week, both in honor of Memorial Day and Martha’s 290th birthday on June 2, I’ve discounted the ebook of Becoming Lady Washington: A Novel from its regular $4.99 to $2.99 (I would have made it $2.90 if I could have!). This is a limited time sale so get your copy today!

And if you haven’t joined my Facebook fan club, Betty’s Novel Ninjas, you may want to do that today as well because on June 2 I’ll be throwing a bit of a birthday party in the group. I’m celebrating her birthday and the one-year birthday of my novel, after all. And I’ve got some giveaways, fun games, live readings, and even some recipes to share with you all. Come join the fun! You don’t have to stay all day but pop in and out as you have a few minutes to spare.

Thanks for reading! Happy Memorial Day!

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.

Martha “Patsy” Custis manages an immense eighteenth-century plantation in the Virginia colony. But as a young widow she’s hard pressed to balance her business and to care for her two young children. They need a father and protector. She needs a husband and business partner…one she can trust, especially now as tensions rise between the motherland and the American colonies. Her experience and education have sustained her thus far but when her life veers in an unexpected direction, she realizes she has so much more to learn.

Colonel George Washington takes an interest in her and she’s surprised to find him so sociable and appealing. They form an instant bond and she is certain he’ll be a likeable and loving husband and father figure for her children. She envisions a quiet life at Mount Vernon, working together to provide for their extended family.

But when trouble in the form of British oppression, taxes, and royal arrogance leads to revolt and revolution, George must choose between duty to country and Martha. Compelled to take matters into her own hands, Martha must decide whether to remain where she belongs or go with her husband…no matter what the dangerous future may hold.

Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Kobo     Apple     Books2Read