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Review & Giveaway of Marlene: A Novel by C.W. Gortner

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About Marlene

Raised in genteel poverty after the first World War, Maria Magdalena Dietrich dreams of a life on the stage. When a budding career as a violinist is cut short, the willful teenager vows to become a singer, trading her family’s proper, middle class society for the free-spirited, louche world of Weimar Berlin’s cabarets and drag balls. With her sultry beauty, smoky voice, seductive silk cocktail dresses, and androgynous tailored suits, Marlene performs to packed houses, and becomes entangled in a series of stormy love affairs that push the boundaries of social convention.

For the beautiful, desirous Lili Marlene, neither fame nor marriage and motherhood can cure her wanderlust. As Hitler and the Nazis rise to power, she sets sail for America. Rivaling the success of another European import, Greta Garbo, Marlene quickly becomes one of Hollywood’s leading ladies, starring with legends such as Gary Cooper, John Wayne, and Cary Grant. Desperate for her return, Hitler tries to lure her with dazzling promises. Marlene instead chooses to become an American citizen, and after her new nation is forced into World War II, tours with the USO, performing for thousands of Allied troops in Europe and Africa.

But one day she will return to Germany. Escorted by General George Patton himself, Marlene is heartbroken by the war’s devastation and the evil legacy of the Third Reich that has transformed her homeland and the family she loved.

An enthralling and insightful account of this extraordinary legend, Marlene reveals the inner life of a woman of grit, glamour, and ambition who defied convention, seduced the world, and forged her own path on her own terms.

My Review

Gortner gives readers the undeniable enigmatic Marlene Dietrich in all her glory reading more nonfiction than fiction. With certitude Gortner is a talented writer with a creative eye possessing a knack celebrating iconic women.

Marlene’s story is detailed and alluring. Nothing new brought to light for those familiar with the mysterious lady, although his emphasis on Dietrich’s aiding the allies during wartime by entertaining military personnel on the home front and abroad might be a revelation to readers. Her love affairs with both men and women were plenty. A public figure yet achingly private. Her childhood somewhat of a challenge, her relationship with her mother turbulent.

Marlene was a nonconformist, she lived her life her way without apology, excuses or regret, Marlene did not bend for the world despite societal expectations. A progressive woman in thought, choices and actions clearly ahead of her time.

I wasn’t a fan of the clunky sex scenes, awkwardly descriptive. I did appreciate the vivid atmospheric taste of Germany, its people and concerns of Hitler and pre/post WWII. Kudos for the thorough research, as always Gortner crafts a story of a woman of strength, independence holding on to her individuality. A man who understands women exploiting them in their individual exuberance.

About C.W. Gortner169656

Bestselling author C.W. Gortner holds an MFA in Writing, with an emphasis in Renaissance Studies. Raised in Spain and half Spanish by birth, he currently lives in Northern California. His books have been translated in over 20 languages to date.

He welcomes readers and is always available for reader group chats. Please visit his website for more information.

Giveaway

Enter to win my ARC of Marlene. US residents only. Ends 5/11/16
ENTRY-FORM

Expected publication: May 24th 2016 by William Morrow

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Review & Giveaway for The Dark Lady’s Mask: A Novel of Shakespeare’s Muse by Mary Sharratt

02_The Dark Lady's Mask

About The Dark Lady’s Mask: A Novel of Shakespeare’s Muse

Shakespeare in Love meets Shakespeare’s Sister in this novel of England’s first professional woman poet and her collaboration and love affair with William Shakespeare.

London, 1593. Aemilia Bassano Lanier is beautiful and accomplished, but her societal conformity ends there. She frequently cross-dresses to escape her loveless marriage and to gain freedoms only men enjoy, but a chance encounter with a ragged, little-known poet named Shakespeare changes everything.

Aemilia grabs at the chance to pursue her long-held dream of writing and the two outsiders strike up a literary bargain. They leave plague-ridden London for Italy, where they begin secretly writing comedies together and where Will falls in love with the beautiful country — and with Aemilia, his Dark Lady. Their Italian idyll, though, cannot last and their collaborative affair comes to a devastating end. Will gains fame and fortune for their plays back in London and years later publishes the sonnets mocking his former muse. Not one to stand by in humiliation, Aemilia takes up her own pen in her defense and in defense of all women.

The Dark Lady’s Mask gives voice to a real Renaissance woman in every sense of the word.

Amazon (Kindle) | Amazon (Hardcover) | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble

READ AN EXCERPT.

My Review

FABULOUS book with a FIERCE female protagonist.

I love the way Sharratt depicted Aemilia Bassano Lanier. For those of you familiar with my reviews, you are aware of my affinity towards extremely strong and independent female characters, and believe me Aemilia is indeed strong. Her intelligence, instinct for survival and cunning nature allow her to remain resilient during the darkest of times. In the face of adversity this woman rises to the challenge, never crumbling, rather she deals with what is put in front of her to the best of her ability, often over achieving. She’s unconventional, compassionate, possessing unlimited talent. It’s a shame her romantic life was more misses than hits filled with heartbreak. The Weir sisters were a great addition to the story along with Shakespeare.

Riveting story, pulling at your heartstrings, of a woman ahead of her time in actions and thinking. Her thirst for freedom is intoxicating, truly a maverick.

Sharratt certainly painted a wonderful picture of an unforgettable woman and is now a favored author, I look forward to more from this authoress, with her outstanding ability to portray a woman of strength matched with intelligence I can only image what she will pen next.

About Mary Sharratt03_Mary Sharratt

MARY SHARRATT is an American writer who has lived in the Pendle region of Lancashire, England, for the past seven years. The author of the critically acclaimed novels Summit Avenue, The Real Minerva, and The Vanishing Point, Sharratt is also the co-editor of the subversive fiction anthology Bitch Lit, a celebration of female antiheroes, strong women who break all the rules.

Giveaway

To enter to win a copy of The Dark Lady’s Mask please complete the giveaway form below. Open to US residents only. Ends 5/27/15
ENTRY-FORM

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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Publication Date: April 19, 2016 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review: The Vatican Princess: A Novel of Lucrezia Borgia by C.W. Gortner

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About The Vatican Princess

Infamy is no accident. It is a poison in our blood. It is the price of being a Borgia.

Glamorous and predatory, the Borgias fascinated and terrorized 15th-century Renaissance Italy. Lucrezia Borgia, beloved daughter of the pope, was at the center of the dynasty’s ambitions. Slandered as a heartless seductress who lured men to their doom, was she in fact the villainess of legend, or was she trapped in a familial web, forced to choose between loyalty and survival?

With the ascension of the Spaniard Rodrigo Borgia as Pope Alexander VI, the new pope’s illegitimate children—his rival sons, Cesare and Juan, and beautiful young daughter Lucrezia—assume an exalted position in the papal court. Privileged and adored, Lucrezia yearns to escape her childhood and play a part in her family’s fortunes. But Rome is seductive and dangerous: Alliances shift at a moment’s notice as Italy’s ruling dynasties strive to keep rivals at bay. As Lucrezia’s father faces challenges from all sides, he’s obliged to marry her off to a powerful adversary. But when she discovers the brutal truth behind her alliance, Lucrezia is plunged into a perilous gambit that will require all her wits, cunning, and guile. Escaping her marriage offers the chance of happiness with a passionate prince of Naples, yet as scandalous accusations of murder and incest build against her, menacing those she loves, Lucrezia must risk everything to overcome the lethal fate imposed upon her by her Borgia blood.

Beautifully wrought, rich with fascinating historical detail, The Vatican Princess is the first novel to describe Lucrezia’s coming-of-age in her own voice—a dramatic, vivid tale set in an era of savagery and unparalleled splendor, where enemies and allies can be one and the same, and where loyalty to family can ultimately be a curse.

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | INDIEBOUND

My Review

The name Borgia is renown, it stops you in your tracks. I was thrilled the story focused heavily on Lucrezia Borgia.

Following Lucrezia from innocent girlhood to savvy young adult was stirring. Her family certainly created plenty of excitement and sadness as she served as a bargaining chip to ensure the Borgia position. Quickly Lucrezia catches on to her power, role, voice and accepts what comes her way with grace and smarts.

The narrative contained all the proper ingredients you would expect, power, politics, sex, wealth, infidelity, incest, status, loyalty, love. The pace is extremely fast, no doubt the last page will be reached quickly. The end was satisfying.

I was let down Lucrezia lacked emotion, yes she possessed strength but for all she suffered and endured she felt wooden, desensitized. Perhaps this was Gortner’s intent and a mistake on my part to expect a feeling character exhibiting crumbs of emotion. In addition, the narrative was a bit slow and redundant at times other times rushed.

Historical fictions fans, lovers of powerful family’s will want to add this to your shelf. Gortner delivers another entertaining story with a captivating female protagonist.

About the Author03_CW Gortner

C.W. GORTNER holds an MFA in Writing with an emphasis in Renaissance Studies from the New College of California, as well as an AA from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in San Francisco.

After an eleven year-long career in fashion, during which he worked as a vintage retail buyer, freelance publicist, and fashion show coordinator, C.W. devoted the next twelve years to the public health sector. In 2012, he became a full-time writer following the international success of his novels.

In his extensive travels to research his books, he has danced a galliard at Hampton Court, learned about organic gardening at Chenoceaux, and spent a chilly night in a ruined Spanish castle. His books have garnered widespread acclaim and been translated into twenty-one languages to date, with over 400,000 copies sold. A sought-after public speaker. C.W. has given keynote addresses at writer conferences in the US and abroad. He is also a dedicated advocate for animal rights, in particular companion animal rescue to reduce shelter overcrowding.

Half-Spanish by birth and raised in southern Spain, C.W. now lives in Northern California with his partner and two very spoiled rescue cats.

For more information visit C.W. Gortner’s website and blog. You can also find him on Facebook, Twittter, Goodreads, Pinterest, and YouTube. Sign up for C.W. Gortner’s Newsletter for updates.

Be sure to click on the HFVBT banner to check out the entire tour schedule.

04_The Vatican Princess_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

 

Book Blast & Giveaway: The Vatican Princess: A Novel of Lucrezia Borgia by C.W. Gortner

02_The Vatican Princess

Infamy is no accident. It is a poison in our blood. It is the price of being a Borgia.

Glamorous and predatory, the Borgias fascinated and terrorized 15th-century Renaissance Italy. Lucrezia Borgia, beloved daughter of the pope, was at the center of the dynasty’s ambitions. Slandered as a heartless seductress who lured men to their doom, was she in fact the villainess of legend, or was she trapped in a familial web, forced to choose between loyalty and survival?

With the ascension of the Spaniard Rodrigo Borgia as Pope Alexander VI, the new pope’s illegitimate children—his rival sons, Cesare and Juan, and beautiful young daughter Lucrezia—assume an exalted position in the papal court. Privileged and adored, Lucrezia yearns to escape her childhood and play a part in her family’s fortunes. But Rome is seductive and dangerous: Alliances shift at a moment’s notice as Italy’s ruling dynasties strive to keep rivals at bay. As Lucrezia’s father faces challenges from all sides, he’s obliged to marry her off to a powerful adversary. But when she discovers the brutal truth behind her alliance, Lucrezia is plunged into a perilous gambit that will require all her wits, cunning, and guile. Escaping her marriage offers the chance of happiness with a passionate prince of Naples, yet as scandalous accusations of murder and incest build against her, menacing those she loves, Lucrezia must risk everything to overcome the lethal fate imposed upon her by her Borgia blood.

Beautifully wrought, rich with fascinating historical detail, The Vatican Princess is the first novel to describe Lucrezia’s coming-of-age in her own voice—a dramatic, vivid tale set in an era of savagery and unparalleled splendor, where enemies and allies can be one and the same, and where loyalty to family can ultimately be a curse.

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | INDIEBOUND

About the Author03_CW Gortner

C.W. GORTNER holds an MFA in Writing with an emphasis in Renaissance Studies from the New College of California, as well as an AA from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in San Francisco.

After an eleven year-long career in fashion, during which he worked as a vintage retail buyer, freelance publicist, and fashion show coordinator, C.W. devoted the next twelve years to the public health sector. In 2012, he became a full-time writer following the international success of his novels.

In his extensive travels to research his books, he has danced a galliard at Hampton Court, learned about organic gardening at Chenoceaux, and spent a chilly night in a ruined Spanish castle. His books have garnered widespread acclaim and been translated into twenty-one languages to date, with over 400,000 copies sold. A sought-after public speaker. C.W. has given keynote addresses at writer conferences in the US and abroad. He is also a dedicated advocate for animal rights, in particular companion animal rescue to reduce shelter overcrowding.

Half-Spanish by birth and raised in southern Spain, C.W. now lives in Northern California with his partner and two very spoiled rescue cats.

For more information visit C.W. Gortner’s website and blog. You can also find him on Facebook, Twittter, Goodreads, Pinterest, and YouTube. Sign up for C.W. Gortner’s Newsletter for updates.

Giveaway

To win a Borgia-Inspired Velvet Bag & Beaded Bracelet from C.W. Gortner please enter the giveaway via the GLEAM form below.

Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on February 23rd. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

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Review, Excerpt & Giveaway: The Conqueror’s Wife: A Novel of Alexander the Great by Stephanie Thornton

02_The Conqueror's Wife

 We are the women who loved Alexander the Great. We were lovers and murderers, innocents and soldiers.
And without us, Alexander would have been only a man.
Instead he was a god.

330s, B.C.E., Greece: Alexander, a handsome young warrior of Macedon, begins his quest to conquer the ancient world. But he cannot ascend to power, and keep it, without the women who help to shape his destiny.

His spirited younger half-sister, Thessalonike, yearns to join her brother and see the world. Instead, it is Alexander’s boyhood companion who rides with him into war while Thessalonike remains behind. Far away, crafty princess Drypetis will not stand idly by as Alexander topples her father from Persia’s throne. And after Alexander conquers her tiny kingdom, Roxana, the beautiful and cunning daughter of a minor noble, wins Alexander’s heart…and will commit any crime to secure her place at his side.

Within a few short years, Alexander controls an empire more vast than the civilized world has ever known. But his victories are tarnished by losses on the battlefield and treachery among his inner circle. And long after Alexander is gone, the women who are his champions, wives, and enemies will fight to claim his legacy…

Prologue

Alexander deemed himself a god, the mythic descendant of Achilles and the son of Zeus, and entire nations fell to their knees in ecstatic worship of him. But he was no god any more than we were nymphs and dryads, benevolent four-hoofed centaurs or vengeful three-headed chimeras.

He called himself Alexander the Great and claimed that he conquered the world. But he would have been lucky to conquer a stinking midden heap populated by swarms of biting flies had it not been for our cunning and daring.

Alexander founded cities of culture and learning, and named them after himself in a fit of hubris. But he razed more cities than there are stars in the sky, slaughtered their men, and burned their ancient palaces so that the four winds carried the gray ashes to rain down upon lands more distant than Alexandria-the-Farthest.

He claimed that the earth trembled, mountains quivered, and oceans overflowed their shores at his approach, but without us, Alexander would never have mounted a single golden throne or worn the coveted eagle diadem of Persia, much less the combined crowns of Greece, Egypt, and India.

Like Achilles, he sought glory and everlasting fame, and beseeched the gods that his name would echo throughout history. Yet so many of his baser deeds have been forgotten, or retold to forge him into a hero worthy of epic ballads.

But that is only part of the story.

It was because of him, and for him, that we did great, and also terrible, things.

Just as Zeus sat in his throne room atop Olympus, surrounded by the gods of violence and light, the goddesses of desire and the hearth, so too was Alexander surrounded by us.

His lover.

His sister.

His wife.

His soldier.

We were murderers and poisoners, innocents and warriors. And without us, Alexander would have been only a man.

Instead, he was a god.

My Review

Stephanie Thornton is one of my favorite authors. Her skilled writing, extensive research and choice in historical figures along with an exciting and adventurous narrative never disappoints. With each new novel she rises and impresses. Her novels if anything, educational.

Alexander the Great is an admired figurehead from history, needless to say I was more than excited to read this book. Thornton weaved an intriguing plot around this fierce icon. She masterfully demonstrated his rise and fall, his mercurial and tender side and his blustery temper as well as his profound loss of Hephaestion. We are privy to the many facets of Alexander, her portrayal was appreciated, especially if you are familiar with this legend through non-fiction.

One of Thornton’s standout features is her strong portrayal of women in her novels. Her female protagonists always possess strength, intellect and determination, no shrinking violets in her novels. Beside every great man is a great woman as this talented authoress always demonstrates.

Thessalonike, Drypetis and Roxana are women playing major roles in Alexander’s life either directly or indirectly. Women similar and dissimilar, however their motives and roles vary – their strength, independent, intellect and determination undeniable. Even the character of Olympias is a force to reckon with. These women and others with their stellar qualities and admirable flaws add a level of prolonged excitement and action to an already powerful narrative. These beautiful creatures will have you loathing, loving, pitying and admiring them throughout the narrative.

The narrative is full of excitement, intrigue, passion and of course political and power struggles. Between passion on and off the battlefield you will be more than entertained as loyalty, love, betrayal, murder, loss and so much more will captivate and increase your reading journey.

Thornton’s incredible writing mixed with a ingenious plot creates the perfect storm for historical fiction. Her fully developed characterizations, historical backdrop and references will propel her to your favorite author list. Historical fiction fans will not want to miss this book as well as past and future works from Stephanie Thornton. Historical fiction at its very best.

About Stephanie Thornton

03_Stephanie ThorntonStephanie Thornton is a writer and history teacher who has been obsessed with infamous women from ancient history since she was twelve. She lives with her husband and daughter in Alaska, where she is at work on her next novel.

“The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora,” “Daughter of the Gods: A Novel of Ancient Egypt,” and “The Tiger Queens: The Women of Genghis Khan” are available now. “The Conqueror’s Wife: A Novel of Alexander the Great” will hit the shelves in December 2015.

For more information please visit Stephanie Thornton’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Giveaway

Enter to win a paperback copy of Stephanie Thorton’s The Conqueror’s Wife. Open to US residents only. Ends 12/11/15
ENTRY-FORM

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Publication Date: December 1, 2015
NAL/Penguin Group LLC.