Blog Book Tour | “The Spoils of Avalon” by Mary F. Burns a #cosy historical mystery which enraptures your head within a cleverly crafted suspense full-on of action & dialogue of centuries past!

Posted Monday, 17 November, 2014 by jorielov , , , , 2 Comments

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The Spoils of Avalon by Mary F. Burns

{ Book 1: A John Singer Sargent | Violet Paget Mystery }

Published By: Sand Hill Review Press (@SandHillRP)

Available Formats: Trade Paperback, & Ebook

Converse via: #TheSpoilsOfAvalon, #JohnSingerSargent & #SpoilsOfAvalonBlogTour

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Acquired Book By: I was selected to be a tour stop on the “The Spoils of Avalon” virtual book tour through Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours. I received a complimentary ARC copy of the book direct from the publisher Sand Hill Review Press, in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

A most auspiciously clever beginning:

I was most delightfully blissful to see where the reference to Holmes and Watson might have sparked a nodding glance by Ms. Spann, but before I could even dig deeper into the context of the novel itself, I was first greeted by such a curious note out of the pen of Ms. Paget herself — who auspiciously cast the most alluring footbridge into her introductory mystery! I always fancy writers who find a way to insert their lead character into the early bits of a novel’s opening sequence, wherein one of my favourite choices is the note ‘left for future readers’ and writ especially for the curious as to why this particular tale might be told and the merits behind it’s reading; alas, the reason I appreciate this most?! It allows a bit of an anchor between the writer, the chosen narrator of the story, and the reader who wants to take up the journey and see where everything of which is yet to unfold shall lead them to travel; as if vagabond to the action themselves!

The poem by William Blake highlighting a moment out of the life of Jesus was a special touch, as I had not had the pleasure of reading this poem previously and it knits together the setting of placing the story around Avalon most directly. I also appreciated the biographies of the two lead detectives: Sargent & Paget, as what originally appealed to me to read this particular cosy historical mystery is the fact the two lead characters are rooted within the historical past! Two individuals I am earnestly curious about learning more about and yet, never once in my pursuits of the fine arts did I see Sargent’s name mentioned; such a pity as I am drawn to watercolour painting techniques, as it works around my allergies to the more stringent oils.

A new foray of choice within the coattails of cosies are the ‘historicals’ which draw out such a breath of interest inside me heart that I am not even sure I will be able to read and appreciate all the lovelies I am seeking to read next! There is such a hearty breadth of choice these days for the historical reader who likes dig their chops into the art and skill behind sleuthing and murder mysteries! It has become a most delightful part of my blogging life to unearth such lovelies on blog tours therein having the honour of drawing a happy glow around the Indie Writers and the Indie Pubs who are producing such a wicked quality to the craft! It is my long-term goal to re-visit the authors I have previously reviewed, to see if their second or next novel in sequence have become released and thereby, potentially able to become acquired! I appreciate each cosy historical writer I am discovering for being uniquely different from each other and for capturing my passionate love of time travelling through the historical past!

Blog Book Tour | “The Spoils of Avalon” by Mary F. Burns a #cosy historical mystery which enraptures your head within a cleverly crafted suspense full-on of action & dialogue of centuries past!The Spoils of Avalon

The death of a humble clergyman in 1877 leads amateur sleuths Violet Paget and John Singer Sargent into a medieval world of saints and kings—including the legendary Arthur—as they follow a trail of relics and antiquities lost since the destruction of Glastonbury Abbey in 1539. Written in alternating chapters between the two time periods, The Spoils of Avalon creates a sparkling, magical mystery that bridges the gap between two worlds that could hardly be more different—the industrialized, Darwinian, materialistic Victorian Age and the agricultural, faith-infused life of a medieval abbey on the brink of violent change at the hands of Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell.

First in a new series of historical mysteries, The Spoils of Avalon introduces two unlikely detectives and life-long friends—beginning as young people on the verge of making their names famous for the next several decades throughout Europe and America: the brilliant and brittle Violet Paget, known as the writer Vernon Lee, and the talented, genial portrait painter John Singer Sargent.

Friends from the age of ten, Paget and Sargent frequently met in the popular European watering places and capitals, frequenting the same salons and drawing rooms in London, Rome, Paris, Florence, Venice, Vienna and Madrid. Both were possessed of keen minds and bohemian tendencies, unorthodox educations and outsized egos (especially Paget). Their instant, natural bonding led them to address each other as “Twin”, and they corresponded frequently when they were apart.

Henry James once described Violet Paget as having “the most formidable mind” of their times, and he was an active fan and patron of John Sargent, introducing him to London society and his own inner circles of literary and artistic genius.

Places to find the book:

Series: John Singer Sargent | Violet Paget mysteries,

on 1st November, 2014

Pages: 300

About Mary F. Burns

Mary F. Burns

Mary F. Burns is the author of PORTRAITS OF AN ARTIST (Sand Hill Review Press, February 2013), a member of and book reviewer for the Historical Novel Society and a former member of the HNS Conference board of directors. A novella-length book, ISAAC AND ISHMAEL, is also being published by Sand Hill Review Press in 2014. Ms. Burns’ debut historical novel J-THE WOMAN WHO WROTE THE BIBLE was published in July 2010 by O-Books (John Hunt Publishers, UK). She has also written two cozy-village mysteries in a series titled The West Portal Mysteries (The Lucky Dog Lottery and The Tarot Card Murders).

Ms. Burns was born in Chicago, Illinois and attended Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, where she earned both Bachelors and Masters degrees in English, along with a high school teaching certificate. She relocated to San Francisco in 1976 where she now lives with her husband Stuart in the West Portal neighborhood. Ms. Burns has a law degree from Golden Gate University, has been president of her neighborhood association and is active in citywide issues. During most of her working career she was employed as a director of employee communications, public relations and issues management at various San Francisco Bay Area corporations, was an editor and manager of the Books on Tape department for Ignatius Press, and has managed her own communications/PR consulting business, producing written communications, websites and video productions for numerous corporate and non-profit clients.

A timeslip between the 19th & 16th Centuries: 

Each new journal entry gives you a further perspective of the events unfolding per each timescape we are entering; therefore where one chapter relates to us where Sargent & Paget are finding themselves a bit bemused by unexpected developments at the start of their journey towards understanding a riddle within the note which carried them to Uncle Chaffee’s village, we are also returning back to the Abbey in due course. It is a good pace to set the timeslip, because just before you gain too much information in one particular time dimension, you’re embarking backwards or forwards as the case might be to the other one! The unknown suspense needling out around the edges of both interludes is pleasantly suspended as if a spider is still knitting their web.

My Review of The Spoils of Avalon:

When you first breach into the story, you will happily find yourself alight on the first page of the first chapter set in the style of an epistolary novel wherein, this cosy historical begins as if you were to pick up a personal diary – marked by a quotation striking a clarity of thought, a notation of a date, and jotting of the day within the week. I knew from this first moment, I would become nestled into the folds of the ARC, evermore thrilled to bits I was starting to soak into something quite uniquely curious! From the moment I first read the opening dialogue, I felt as if I were being pulled directly into a scene reminiscent of Zelda yelling out to F. Scott during the Roaring Twenties; there appears to be a bit of a continuity of recognition from the late Victorian era shifting forward into the early 20th Century! Even the earlier motion pictures I’ve watched echoed a bit through this exchange whilst Violet attempted to grab the attention of Sargent!

Right from the jump-start, I found myself bemused by the wicked quickstep pace Burns stitches inside her novel, as the witty quick exchangements between Sargent and Paget are a true delight for anyone with a felicity of joy bubbling inside them for incantations of vocalicising the words of a different age whose affirming choice of tone and merit of conviction are as soothing as settling into any Victorian book of choice within one’s own library! I have a great fondness for the British language bar none, yes, of course, as I hungrily devour quite a heap of British Lit over the course of a twelvemonth, but this, dear hearts? This is as wickedly delightful as my discovery of the Shinobi Mysteries, of whom carted me off to 16th Century Japan as readily as if I borrowed a train!

As quick as a flash of lightning, we are jolted purposefully backwards in time to 1539, arriving exactly whereupon our dear intrepid sleuths shall be arriving centuries lateron; a war is about to besiege the Glastonbury Abbey. We meet a young monk whose in charge of caring for an elder Abbot of whom the young boy affirms a great respect. Their Abbey is one of the last still standing when the errant King (Henry) is bent on wrecking a surge of destruction in an ill-pursuit of power. Both the Abbot and the young monk give off such a passionate decree of protection, you cannot help but feel their plight and their determined grit of alliance against an entity of injustice towards their Abbey and livelihood.

Quite cheekily of the most morbid of humour, as Sargent and Paget arrive at their destination to meet-up with Paget’s Uncle Chaffee, they are plumb shocked by the news of his sudden death. Paget’s nose twitches with a premonitory acute sensation their chauffeur in arms upon descending from the train, a Lord Parke is not quite as he appears to be. Comparatively so, the way to cut to quick is to precipitate an insurrection whilst enquiring about something rather ordinary and alarming to others; such is the case where the Abbott finds his very last nerve fleeting when his own brothers turn against him and start to demand reformation at a time where it would mean absolute ruin. Burns has a unique way of giving  you a twofold mystery, one in the contemporary life of the late 1800s and one hinged directly into the heart of the the early 1500s.

My heart pulled at me whilst reading the more arduous of the Abbott’s vexations with his King and of his desperate attempt to protect the young boy he feels the most responsible to aide in avoiding the worst of ends. It must be very soul-wrenching to be caught in such a state of trying to do what is right not only for your own soul, but for the souls of those you have cared about seeing thrive; altogether seeking preservation for relics of your own religious historical past which ties you to the fore-bearers of your own faith. The anguish the Abbott would have faced would have been crushingly brutal, yet what choice did he have but to attempt the impossible in the wake of oppression?

My favourite character by far is Violet Paget, whose voice resonated such a strong presence inside my own imagination, I nearly felt as though her words were being whispered into my ear rather than lifted off the page! Her intuitive observations on time and the acute moments of where humanity and the viles of the world intersect left me wanton for more of her thoughtful ruminations. Listening to her needle out the puzzle she was granted to solve was most delightful because of her approach; not only in realising she was picking up on certain cardinal clues as she walked through her movements at Uncle Chaffee’s village but in the manner in which she lived her life. She was quite a bang-on brilliant lady for her time and I found her as veritable of a character as ever I have encountered.

I was most endeared to the quest the Abbott’s understudy Arthur took upon his young shoulders to muster the courage to follow the lead of a blindman’s path towards safety not once, but twice. Arthur was a chosen trustee of keeping what the King sought safe and out of the King’s hands. Whilst we read the trials Arthur is put through, we draw a step closer towards uncovering how all of this treachery has caught up with the 19th Century; specifically how it came to a head for Uncle Chaffee. The danger was not only on the heels of Arthur as he moved between Gastonbury Abbey and his home county but a darkening of shadow was slowly entrenching itself upon Violet Paget as well. The closer she came to understanding the scope of what she was meant to see, the closer she found herself caught in a quagmire of historical angst.

The Spoils of Avalon is not merely a cosy historical mystery but rather a religious and intellectual suspenseful journey backwards through time to uncover the gull and magnitude of a pursuit of greed which severs the souls of those who deluded themselves in the righteousness of their actions. It is a story that transcends the genre and the aftereffects are warmly lit inside your own mind as you ponder on the wider scope of where the Arthurian portion of the story allowed you keen insight whilst giving you a new sleuth to champion on her pursuit of justice for those who have lost their voice. I most particularly can attest the new cover-art for the novel is quite bang-on brilliant as it eludes to one of my favourite passages of the novel overall!

On the cosy historical narrative styling of Mary F. Burns:

Burns writes in such a style as to give a believable assertion we are stepping in line with her characters, nearly as a shadow as they go about their sleuthing; her perceptible narrative yields a happiness in it’s consumption. I was most delighted having found this novel on the blog tour originally and then, as I started to settle into reading it, I noticed how much joy I was receiving by drinking in the sage words and phrases of the past eras intermingled with such a fetching plot as to render me a bit curious as to whom the culprits might end up being by the end!

I love uncovering a new writer of Cosy Historical Mysteries, as I have had the pleasure of finding quite a handful now that I have entered my 2nd Year as a Book Blogger:

And, forthcoming next are my ruminative thoughts on the Lady Darby series by Anna Lee Huber and the John Chase Mystery Series by S.K. Rizzolo. What I love the most about this particular style of the Cosy itself, is how we get to visit the past without the presumption of a romance entering into the picture each time I want to settle myself in a different timescape than the ones I previously have become engaged. I love dipping into cosies to peer into the perceptive lens of how writers craft the stories behind the crimes themselves as much as seeing how each writer handles the air of suspense whilst their characters resolve what has become amiss. The best part of all for me as a reader is finding such a breadth of cosies being offered not only by the traditional Major Trade publishers but on behalf of the world of Indies!

On this note, Ms. Burns is a champion of the Indies I’ve read already, as she knits such a tightly curated story around such a delightful theory of religious artifacts and the legends surrounding King Arthur! Who knew I would be reading two very uniquely different narrative voices on Arthurian Legend within the same month of November!? Here I am referring to my readings of C.A. Gray’s Piercing the Veil series (Book 1 & Book 2; Book 3 is forthcoming next Monday)!

On a personal note, seeing someone else bring to life the bounty of words I am most inclined to use myself (and most decidedly oft-times do on my bookish blog!) left me betwitched a happy heart of joy and the curious inclination to watch someone else use them to their fullest measure of definitive grace! I have been in love with words and the ways in which a word can wink out to a reader ever since I first fell in love with reading; a novel such as The Spoils of Avalon allows a wordsmith to seek gratitude from those who appreciate the delicacy of including a vernacular most have already forgotten! Save those who readily consume historical fiction and cosy historical mysteries!

On the cosmic serendipitous connections between readers & writers:

The Spoils of Avalon blends the rich details of historical fiction with the suspenseful, clue-driven sleuthing that characterizes the best in mystery. Dual timelines and missing Arthurian artifacts add delightful layers to this compelling, well-written series, which not only offers a unique, artistic twist on the “Holmes and Watson” detecting pair but places a female sleuth – the brilliant Violet Paget – in the driver’s seat. A must for fans of historical mysteries.” by Susan Spann, Author of the Shinobi mysteries

Two other cosy historical mystery series are mentioned on the Press Sheet which have already become alerted to my cosy heart’s desire to seek out a diverse and broad spectrum within the field: the Oscar Wilde Murder Mysteries and the Jane Austen Mysteries; one of which I have already started to consume! I picked up the first Jane Austen mystery during Austen in August 2013, yet I was not able to finish my reading nor able to complete my thoughts upon it either which I had intended to post to my blog. I had read just enough to realise how much I was enjoying seeing how Jane Austen could be turnt into a sleuth and how fascinating seeing her in this role would be!

What I find most serendipitous about being a reader, book blogger, and joyful tweeter (the social side of my bookish life) is how incredibly connective the bookish and reading world is within the twitterverse! I was starting to tweet out my joy of reading The Spoils of Avalon when I saw this wicked happy tweet pop up:

This led to a beautiful convo where we each realised how much we not only appreciate the same types of cosy mysteries, but we have the same inclinations to read the same novels! Our paths originally crossed through #LitChat a wondrous open-minded literary-bent chat on Wednesdays where a different writer & their work are showcased; you can read a bit more about how we met on my book review of the first Shinobi mystery. (read more of the convo) What I appreciate the most about being on Twitter are the lovely conversations which erupt out of a random moment whereupon I find myself able to communicate with either a dear friend or a writer I admire; the twicefold blessing is when I can consider both to be true, as I do with Ms. Spann.

After having re-read her praise on behalf of The Spoils of Avalon and then finding myself able to talk to her online whilst I was composing my thoughts on this novel myself was quite the treat, I must confess! I look forward to expanding our convo after my thoughts post live and celebrating the bliss of finding a like-minded bookish soul who loves cosies as much as I always have myself! I cannot wait til the next Sargent | Paget mystery becomes available as I know it will incur future conversations & a lot of joyful reading on my end!

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The Book Trailer for The Spoils of Avalon via Mary Burns
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The Virtual Road Map for “The Spoils of Avalon” can be found here:

The Spoils of Avalon Blog Tour via HFVBTs

Be sure to scope out upcoming tours I will be hosting with:
I will be hosting an Author Interview with Mary F. Burns on this blog tour.

Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours - HFVBT

 on my Bookish Events page!
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Reader Interactive Question:

What kinds of cosy historical mysteries do you appreciate reading!? If you enjoy reading cosies where a person of historical significance is put inside the lead role of a sleuth, of whom do you enjoy seeing untangle the intricate webs of deceit?!

{SOURCES: Cover art of “The Spoils of Avalon”, book synopsis, author photograph of Mary F. Burns, author biography, and the tour host badge were all provided by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and used with permission. The book trailer for “The Spoils of Avalon” via Mary Burns had either URL share links or coding which made it possible to embed this media portal to this post, and I thank them for the opportunity to share more about this novel and the author who penned it. Blog Tour badge provided by Parajunkee to give book bloggers definition on their blogs. Tweets were able to be embedded by the codes provided by Twitter. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Words of Praise on behalf of Susan Spann were taken directly from the Press Sheet I received along with the ARC copy of “The Spoils of Avalon” by the publisher Sand Hill Review Press; thus the quote is used with permission.}


Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2014.

The live reading tweets in regards to “The Spoils of Avalon”:

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Monday, 17 November, 2014 by jorielov in 16th Century, 19th Century, ARC | Galley Copy, Art, Arthurian Legend, Biographical Fiction & Non-Fiction, Blog Tour Host, Book Trailer, Bookish Films, Britian, British Literature, Clever Turns of Phrase, Cosy Historical Mystery, Cosy Mystery, Crime Fiction, Death, Sorrow, and Loss, Debut Author, Debut Novel, Epistolary Novel | Non-Fiction, Historical Fiction, Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, Indie Author, John Singer Sargent, Story in Diary-Style Format, the Victorian era, Violet Paget, Wordsmiths & Palettes of Sage, Writing Style & Voice

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2 responses to “Blog Book Tour | “The Spoils of Avalon” by Mary F. Burns a #cosy historical mystery which enraptures your head within a cleverly crafted suspense full-on of action & dialogue of centuries past!

  1. I loved seeing your tweet about it too – and I had exactly the same thought: how neat it was that you were reading and enjoying this book that I’d also enjoyed so much. It’s been really fun connecting with you on Twitter, and I loved this book for the very same reasons you did – the unusual, historically-anchored sleuths, the lovely timeslip, and the complex way the mystery wove in and out of the dual timelines.

    Seeing you on Twitter, and getting to chat about it, made it even better.

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