April 21, 2014
From the servant halls of Cleopatra's Egyptian palace to the courts of Herod the Great, Lydia will serve two queens to see prophecy fulfilled.
Alexandria, Egypt 39 BC
Orphaned at birth, Lydia was raised as a servant in Cleopatra's palace, working hard to please while keeping everyone at arm's length. She's been rejected and left with a broken heart too many times in her short life.
But then her dying mentor entrusts her with secret writings of the prophet Daniel and charges her to deliver this vital information to those watching for the promised King of Israel. Lydia must leave the nearest thing she's had to family and flee to Jerusalem. Once in the Holy City, she attaches herself to the newly appointed king, Herod the Great, as handmaid to Queen Mariamme.
Trapped among the scheming women of Herod's political family-his sister, his wife, and their mothers-and forced to serve in the palace to protect her treasure, Lydia must deliver the scrolls before dark forces warring against the truth destroy all hope of the coming Messiah.
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The Queen’s Handmaid is the second book I’ve read by Tracy Higley. Honestly, I enjoyed City on Fire a bit better than this book. I don’t think I was truly able to get into it until about the last third to quarter of the book when the plot really picked up. It took place over quite a long period of time—several years. I think this may have somewhat distanced me from the characters since such large chunks of time were skipped. And it felt as though it lacked the action was I was hoping for.
All that said, it was still a fascinating read. I have not read much about this particular time period. It brings in many historical figures—Cleopatra, Herod, and Marc Antony just to name a few—and they are very prevalent characters in the story. Many of them even have POV scenes. That alone is fascinating. And I love how she tied the story in with the magi at Jesus’s birth.
Though it felt (to me) as if it dragged a bit, and I had a little trouble warming up to the characters, I very much recommend the book, if only for the amazing history involved in it. If you’re looking for fiction that really gets into the details and way of life of the time period, Tracy Higley is the one to go to. She does an amazing job of setting the scene and making you feel like you’re really there without going overboard on boring description. It was definitely worth my time to read. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.
I received this book from BookLook Bloggers free in exchange for my honest review.
April 11, 2014
“Look what the excitement dragged into town.”
Jace ground his teeth together and turned. He should never have stopped watching his back. Wrong move on his part.
Flanked by two of his smug-faced friends, a red-haired young man smirked at him, his eyes harboring all sorts of ill will. Jace barely bit back a sharp retort, but the other man’s smirk only grew at his silence. He peered around Jace.
“Rebekah, what are you doing with this . . .” He glanced back to Jace and turned up his wide nose. “. . . half-blood?”
Jace balled his fists. Warmth seeped down his arms and into his muscles, pulsing with the preparation for a fight, but he fought to still it.
Rebekah came to his side, her face set in a frown that looked entirely out of place. “Stop it, Morden.”
He gave her a condescending little grin. “Why don’t you run along? We’ve got business here.” The grin stretched wider. “I’ll gladly come find you later.”
Rebekah put her hands on her hips, glaring at him, and opened her mouth to speak, but Jace beat her to it.
“A gentleman would treat a lady with more consideration.”
Morden snorted. “And what would you know about that?”
A blaze erupted inside that Jace struggled to contain. He breathed in hard, cursing the impulses he had to battle so often. He couldn’t let it take control of him. Not again.
“Come on, Jace, we still have to find something for Kalli.” Rebekah’s soft voice quieted his growing agitation, and she tugged lightly on his stiff arm.
His blood still burned hot in his veins, calling him to action, and was almost too strong to resist. He thought of Rayad who told him time and again to go to Elôm when he struggled like this. He forced himself to turn away from Morden and whispered silently, “Elôm, I need help.”
But Morden, who must have caught the movement of his lips just before he turned completely, let out an incredulous laugh. “Are you praying?”
Jace froze. His heart thundered.
“Who could you be praying to? Don’t you know? Animals like you have no soul.”
An evil pang of doubt knifed through Jace’s heart, colder and more painful than the steel of any dagger, and robbed the breath from his lungs. His eyes settled on Rebekah’s face, but it was her pitying expression that caused the weak grip on his emotions to fail. Heat flared in his muscles. He spun around and smashed his fist into the side of Morden’s jaw, sending the man reeling. Regret followed, but it was too late. Morden’s friends caught him by the arms and steadied him as he shook his head to clear his vision.
Jace dragged deep breaths into his tightened lungs and waited for Morden’s next move. Just walk away. The silent plea went out in desperation. If only it would just end here. But satisfaction lit Morden’s eyes, and his lip curled in a malicious sneer.
March 08, 2014
If you missed the announcement last Saturday, I’m holding another jewelry giveaway on my second blog! I’m giving away two jewelry pieces from my Etsy shop. (EXCEPT for rings and the double strand necklaces. Sorry, these take a bit more to make and ship.) It runs through March 20th. You can read my original post here, or just enter using the form below. U.S. entries only please.
February 14, 2014
Happy Valentine’s Day! Today is the perfect day to share the publication of my first ever Makilien Trilogy short story, Captivated! Ever since I was writing the original version of Makilien, I always thought it would be fun to write short stories that took place after the trilogy. Well, you know how grand ideas like that go. Real life sets in, demanding your time. Once I started writing Ilyon Chronicles, most thoughts of going further with Makilien ended. However, there was this one story that wouldn’t leave me. I think I’ve been working on it little bits here and there for the last four or five years. Then, late last week, I got the urge to work on it, which I completely believe was a nudge from God. I never expected to finish it, but it actually came together quite quickly. Then, on Friday as I was just about to finish the last scene it hit me how absolutely perfect it would be to release on Valentine’s Day. It is a romantic story, after all. At first, I had no idea if that was even possible. I wasn’t even done writing it, had no title, no ideas for a cover, and only a week to figure it all out. But I prayed about it, and by Saturday afternoon, the story was finished and I had the cover all made up. Talk about a quick answer to prayer. :) Everything just came together perfectly.
So there it is! For everyone who has expressed so much love for my trilogy, I am thrilled to share a little bit more of Dolennar with you, especially this story. It’s about 5,000 words long—the size of a long book chapter—and follows one of my favorite Makilien characters, Elmorhirian. And for those of you who read a lot of fantasy, you may find a couple small nods to some of my favorite fantasy characters. ;)
It’s currently available on Amazon for Kindle and on Smashwords for 99 cents. And for those of you who prefer to have a physical book, good news! The story is just long enough to have it printed as a little booklet through CreateSpace, which will cost about $3.99. I just need to get the files prepared and uploaded. You can read the little blurb about the story below. I hope you find it as delightful to read as I did writing it. And I’d love to know what you think of the cover. I deviated from the original Makilien font, but I was going more for beauty than trying to match it perfectly to the rest of the trilogy.
About the story:
For the last several years, Elmorhirian has watched as his sister and closest friends all marry and settle down. Now he just has to figure out how to navigate the confusing, sometimes aggravating, captivation of his own heart.
February 03, 2014
Gisela’s childhood was filled with laughter and visits from nobles such as the duke and his young son. But since her father’s death, each day has been filled with nothing but servitude to her stepmother. So when Gisela learns the duke’s son, Valten---the boy she has daydreamed about for years---is throwing a ball in hopes of finding a wife, she vows to find a way to attend, even if it’s only for a taste of a life she’ll never have. To her surprise, she catches Valten’s eye. Though he is rough around the edges, Gisela finds Valten has completely captured her heart. But other forces are bent on keeping the two from falling further in love, putting Gisela in more danger than she ever imagined.
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The Captive Maiden is the fourth book of Melanie Dickerson’s fairytale retellings, which I have enjoyed immensely. I particularly loved how three of the four books, including this one, followed members of the same family. It was good to read Valten’s story. As much as I loved Gabe in The Fairest Beauty, I had to feel bad for poor Valten when he lost Sophie. This story totally made up for it.
I thought Valten and Gisela had a very cute love story. I really liked how real Valten seemed, especially in his insecurities when it came to women. It was very endearing to me. His character growth was very good in learning to let go of his pride and let God work instead of trying to do everything himself.
My favorite part of this book was the tournament in the first half. It was very vivid and exciting. I loved the scenes between him and Sophie during it and the feast. It had the perfect fairytale feel.
One of my only complaints about the book was the number of times the characters escaped only to be recaptured. It seemed to happen over and over to the point of being tiresome and a bit unrealistic. Still, it didn’t detract too much from the story. My second complaint might be sort of petty and has nothing to do with the story, but the cover. The model is clearly wearing an 18th century style gown, not 15th century. But then, I’m a costumer/reenactor so I would notice something like that.
While it may not be my favorite of all the books, it was a good continuation, and I really can’t complain about a sweet romance like this. I definitely recommend it and the others to anyone who enjoys a good medieval tale or fairytale retelling.
I received this book free from Booksneeze in exchange for my honest review.
February 02, 2014
Time to share another special post today, this time my first guest post by Amber Stokes! Amber is the author of the newly released historical romance, Forget Me Not, (which is excellent, by the way.) and I am thrilled to take part in her blog tour. As part of the tour, she’s written this great post on a place I’ve wanted to visit since I was in my early teens. Being a diehard fan of Bonanza, it’s fascinating to learn more about the real Virginia City. Amber is also hosting a fantastic giveaway, which you can learn more about and enter at the end of this post.
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“Here in the West, we’re livin’ in the best”—Bonanza! I’m a long-time fan of all things American West and Virginia City, Nevada, in particular. There’s nothing more fun than exploring what you love in your writing, and Forget Me Not showcases this Wild West mining town made famous once again by the TV show, Bonanza (which I’m also a fan of).
But the Bonanza show, while very enjoyable, did present a Hollywood-ized version of Virginia City and the surrounding area. Here are a couple of misconceptions viewers might have about the town:
~ Virginia City is flat and looks like every other Western town portrayed on television. The fact that Virginia City is generally portrayed as the same as every other Western town on TV might have something to do with the Hollywood set. ;) Virginia City was actually built on a hillside—on the side of Mount Davidson (AKA Sun Mountain). You can learn a little more about the town’s history and see some pics on the National Park Service’s website. During my family’s visits to the town, I’ve been impressed by the steep streets and the way the town sort of tumbles partway down the hill. On one of our trips a few years ago, I got the chance to visit an archaeological dig above the town, where the highest street would have been. Supposedly, from what I was told then, the Cornish miners would have lived on that street. And that’s how Myghal—my Cornish miner character—came to life in my mind!
~ Virginia City is a hop, skip, and a jump from Lake Tahoe. One would certainly think this after watching Bonanza. How often does one of the brothers or Pa say, “We’ll ride into Virginia City and tell the sheriff”? Or tell their guests, “We’ll head over to Virginia City in the morning”? The map of the fictional Ponderosa Ranch is a little vague with the distance details. According to Google Maps, Incline Village (where the Ponderosa’s ranch house was built, at least for the theme park—you can learn more about the former park HERE) is about thirty-eight miles from Virginia City. Of course, that would be the quickest/easiest route today with our paved roads. Hard to say what the quickest/easiest route would be by horseback, without roads... But I believe it’s quite safe to say the trip would be at least a day, most likely a couple of days or more, especially with a group (like in Forget Me Not) and over such terrain. Remember, Virginia City was built on a hill, and the town was surrounded by other hills. One of our friends we made in Virginia City joked that there was a magic portal that allowed the Cartwright boys to get from their ranch to town so quickly. ;)
Despite the inaccuracies, I still love Bonanza—and I realize that my own stories, while addressing the above issues and not limited by TV sets and budgets, are a bit fanciful. I let my characters travel around a lot (giving them a little more time to do so, though, haha). I don’t portray the bad language that would have likely been rampant in a mining town. I imbue my stories with drama and adventure, touching on some of the harsh realities, but doing so from my limited point of view and understanding.
Still, I quote Henry Tilney, hero of Northanger Abbey (referring to the BBC movie version), in defense of the romance novel and other forms of fiction (like Bonanza): “Perhaps [there are] not quite so many murders and abductions [in real life]. But broken hearts? Betrayals? Long-held grudges? Schemes of revenge? And fear? Hatred? And despair? Are they not part of all our lives?”
Indeed, Mr. Tilney. Bonanza and Forget Me Not may portray Virginia City differently, and both aren’t quite the real Virginia City of the 19th century. But both express emotions and struggles and discoveries—in some form or fashion—that are very real to humans of any era and in every town.
What is your favorite historical setting? What makes historical fiction feel “real” to you?
P.S. As a fun little aside, I’ve got my own Joe and a black-and-white horse (or two) in Forget Me Not. (“Little Joe” is one of the Cartwright brothers from Bonanza, and Cochise was his black-and-white pinto.) And in case you were wondering, my favorite brother is Hoss. I find Little Joe the most charming, but Hoss is so incredibly sweet and thoughtful and adorable!
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You can see the rest of the stops on Amber’s blog tour here: http://seasonsofhumility.blogspot.com/p/forget-me-not-blog-tour.html
About the Book
A startling revelation sends Elizabeth Lawson escaping into a stormy night - and tosses her into the arms of a young mountain man with secrets of his own. When he offers to take her to the Nevada mining town where her long-lost brother lives, she accepts. Suspicions and uncertainties are pushed aside as she struggles to forge a future for herself by meeting her past.
David has been hiding from his painful memories for years. The solitude and wildness of the Rocky Mountains are challenge and comfort enough for him - until Elizabeth's arrival. Fueled by anger and a sense of obligation, he strives to take control of his new situation...only to find control slipping from his grasp with each new emotion Elizabeth evokes in him.
When their journey leads them on unexpected paths, can two lonely hearts find the strength to remember the good amid the heartbreak?
Inspirational Historical Romance
Book Website: http://forgetmenotnovel.blogspot.com/
Series Blog: http://theheartsspringseries.blogspot.com/
About the Author
Amber Stokes has a Bachelor of Science degree in English and a passion for the written word - from blogging to writing poetry, short stories, and novels. After her brief time at college in Oregon, she is now back home among the redwoods of Northern California, living life one day at a time and pursuing her passion via freelance editing and self-publishing.
An “Unforgettable Journey” Giveaway! Enter for the chance to win an epic entertainment package that includes a signed paperback copy of Forget Me Not, The Journey of Natty Gann on DVD, and “Barton Hollow” by The Civil Wars on CD. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.
February 01, 2014
Happy February everyone! I’ve got something fun for you to start out the month—a big book giveaway! I’ve joined in with several other amazing authors, and here we have for you this awesome Book Lover Giveaway. Just look at that great selection of books! It also includes a $5 Starbucks gift card and book light. So make sure to enter below for a chance to win this fantastic book bundle.
(U.S. residents only.)