I must admit, when it comes to Harlequin, my two favourite imprints of theirs have been MIRA and the newly acquired Heartsong Presents (which used to be independent). MIRA gives you such an enriching choice amongst contemporary women’s fiction writers and relationship-based romance writers, you can find something to tickle your curious bone to read on any given month of release!
I am quite fond of MIRA because it’s a line of featuring authors who become my ‘next’ favourite authors to follow as their careers move forward. The realistic narratives combine with strong characters who do not shield their hearts nor their emotions from the page, giving us heart-stirring fiction grounded in a story-line which will not leave you too soon after you finish reading the novel! I love finding new authors who publish under this imprint, because there is a certain level of trust in knowing what I might find within one of the new releases. You could say, I find equal enjoyment from reading MIRA authors as I do ChocLitUK authors, because of the focus on quality over quantity when it comes to the kinds of stories being penned by their authors. It’s quite a heap of joy knowing that on both sides of the Pond, we can find wicked stories for today’s twenty and thirty-somethings who want stories which are character centric and encompassing of realistic lives set around relationships.
The main reason this particular release tipped the scales of curiosity for me, is due to the fact it’s a contemporary war drama rooted in the modern world. We need war dramas set in today’s world inasmuch as we need war dramas of the past; the two walk hand in hand with bridging understanding and empathy for the men and women who sacrifice so very much of their own lives in order to protect our own. Stories which seek to generate an honest portrait of their lives honours them and allows us a glimpse inside their world.
Proposed Topic: Contemporary war dramas hit close to home but also help us re-define where a war drama can take a reading audience due to the closeness to our living age. How did you draw inspiration to not only cultivate a time sensitive narrative but to eclipse it with the breadth of the human condition in a pursuit of justice intermixed with the struggle to hold onto hope? How did you find balance between the suspense and the driving story arc of Abigail’s conscience and heart?
Book Synopsis | “The Ones We Trust”
When former DC journalist Abigail Wolff attempts to rehabilitate her career, she finds herself at the heart of a US army cover-up involving the death of a soldier in Afghanistan—with unspeakable emotional consequences for one family. As the story of what happened comes to light, Abigail will do anything to write it.
The more evidence she stumbles upon in the case, the fewer people it seems she can trust, including her own father, a retired army general. And she certainly never expected to fall in love with the slain soldier’s brother, Gabe, a bitter man struggling to hold his family together. The investigation eventually leads her to an impossible choice, one of unrelenting sacrifice to protect those she loves.
Beyond the buried truths and betrayals, questions of family loyalty and redemption, Abigail’s search is, most of all, a desperate grasp at carrying on and coping—and seeking hope in the impossible.
I was offered the chance to be a tour stop on the “Flask of the Drunken Master” virtual book tour through TLC Book Tours as I toured with them last year for the second release “Blade of the Samauri”, wherein I was able to receive “Claws of the Cat” in order to best understand the foundation of the Shinobi mystery series. I received a complimentary hardback copy of the “Flask of the Drunken Master” direct from the author Susan Spann, in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
On my connection to Susan Spann:
I started visiting the chats hosted by @LitChat in the latter months of 2013, as it was around the time of the conference at The Betsy in which I started to cross paths with regular chatters, amongst whom were Natalia Sylvester (début novelist of “Chasing the Sun”) and Susan Spann. I am unsure which month I first started to notice Ms. Spann as a friendly presence who always reminded me of myself — someone who provided cheerful commentary, engaging questions for each visiting guest author, and a wicked knowledge base on a variety of topics. Generally speaking, I always click-over to read a person’s Twitter profile, but whilst engaged in those #LitChat(s) I felt like it was this magical rendezvous for the bookish and those who are attuned to bookish culture.
In this way, it wasn’t until I learnt of Blade of the Samurai was going on tour through TLC Book Tours that I had decided to discover a bit more about her! In so doing, I learnt who she was ‘behind the curtain’ so to speak! I always considered her one of my ‘friends in the twitterverse’ but I never disclosed this to her until I was on the (Blade of the Samurai) blog tour in September 2014! Such serendipity as the tour has brought us a bit closer and I am grateful that Twitter is a social-positive method of reaching past our distances in geography to connect to people who share a passion for the written word. We have continued to remain in touch although we do not get to ‘meet-up’ on Twitter as often as we once did due to our schedules.
I am disclosing this, to assure you that I can formulate an honest opinion, even though I have interacted with Spann through our respective love & passion of reading inside the twitterverse whilst attending #LitChat or in private convos. I treat each book as a ‘new experience’, whether I personally know the author OR whether I am reading a book by them for the first time.
Susan Spann is a transactional publishing attorney and the author of the Shinobi Mysteries, featuring ninja detective Hiro Hattori and his Portuguese Jesuit sidekick, Father Mateo. Her début novel, CLAWS OF THE CAT (Minotaur Books, 2013), was named a Library Journal Mystery Debut of the Month. Susan has a degree in Asian Studies from Tufts University, where she studied Chinese and Japanese language, history, and culture. Her hobbies include cooking, traditional archery, martial arts, and horseback riding. She lives in northern California with her husband, son, two cats, and an aquarium full of seahorses.
Returning to the Shinobi Mysteries:
It never fails to surprise me how easily I can dip back inside this world, Ms Spann has created for us to find because between my readings a full year has transitioned forward, and despite my yearnings to re-read through Claws of the Cat and Blade of the Samurai it speaks very highly of the author whose beautiful continuity in shifting us forward into her next installment of Shinobi mysteries can be done with such a deft of grace and honesty; time hasn’t passed at all! The beauty for me truly is seeing how the characters resonate with my mind’s memory of them, and how those transitions back onto the page are bridged so well, as if I truly hadn’t spent any hour apart from where their last adventure together left off! Read More
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
I hadn’t had the proper pleasure of finding Ms Hendricks prior to this blog tour, wherein I was most delighted I could participate by offering to host the author via a guest author feature! I am quite drawn into Foodie Fiction, especially novels that involve bakers or bakeries, as I previously devoured How to Bake a Perfect Life by Barbara O’ Neal.
Ever since that first encounter with a baker who was experiencing a lift shift whilst embarking on a journey towards centering themselves into a new awareness of how to live a life they truly could treasure and cherish, set a new standard of foodie novels I wanted to seek out and read quite readily! It’s been a bit of a hit/miss experience for me, as I’ve found a few motion pictures along the way that tickled my palette of interest even before I realised that a few of them had been based on books! (i.e. Julie & Julia) Although, The School of Essential Ingredients is one novel I cannot wait to continue reading as the poetic prose of the writer tickled my readerly heart with absolute joy!
As I set to mind what I wanted to ask Ms Hendricks, I tried to envision myself nearly at the tip-stone edge of picking up Bread Alone ahead of reading Baker’s Blues; attempting to think about what I might find curious about this third in the series whilst at the precipice of the first!
Proposed Topic: I love the introspective thread of narrative knitted inside Wyn’s character journey as she is turning inward in order to understand how all the changes in her outer world are not only affecting the people she loves but how their impacting her spirit. What was the impetus to use bread as a metaphor for the human condition and the resolve to effectively recognise as heart-wrenching as life can become there is still time left to resolve the past and present whilst keeping hope alive for the future? Baking felt to me in this one instance to be the centering balance a ballet dancer feels each time they go back to the bar. Balance is not always easy to repair when adversity collides into our ordinary hours.
Book Synopsis | No.3 of the Bread Alone Series: Baker’s Blues
In Wyn Morrison’s world a 5 AM phone call usually means problems at her bakery—equipment trouble or a first shift employee calling in sick—annoying but mundane, fixable. But the news she receives on a warm July morning is anything but mundane. Or fixable.
Mac, her ex-husband, is dead.
Ineligible for widowhood, Wyn is nonetheless shaken to her core as she discovers that the fact of divorce offers no immunity from grief. Friends and family are bewildered by her spiral into sadness, Mac’s daughter Skye blames her for his death.
For the last several years Wyn has been more businesswoman than baker, leaving the actual bread making to others. Now, as she takes up her place in the bread rotation once more, she will sift through her memories, coming to terms with Mac and his demons, with Skye’s anger, and with Alex, who was once more than a friend. Soon she will re-learn the lessons of bread that she first discovered at the Queen Street Bakery in Seattle…bread rises, pain fades, the heart heals, and the future waits.
I was selected to be a tour stop on the “An Unlikely Accomplice” virtual book tour through TLC Book Tours. I received a complimentary copy of the book direct from the publisher William Morrow (an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers), in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
I borrowed the first book in this series from my local library for my own edification and was not obligated to post my reflections and/or review on the story’s behalf. I wanted to understand a bit of the back-story on the principle character of Bess Crawford prior to reading the 6th book in the series. I originally perceived the idea to read the first five novels in the series prior to my tour stop, however, the hours disappeared before I could. The lightning storms did not give me any favours towards this goal, either! I was thankful I could meet Ms Crawford and find an anchour to who she is prior to soaking inside the sixth novel; yet I fully intend to go back through the series starting with the second novel and reading through til the fifth, skipping over the short story (non-digital reader) and this sixth one in strong pursuit of the seventh! I find myself wanton absorbed into the series!
Upon immediate notice of this blog tour I was wholly enthused to participate:
The reason I was quick as lightning to confirm my participation on behalf of this blog tour is based on the absolute joy I had in reading my first Todd novel Hunting Shadows! I was quite impressed with the duality of historical novelling from this lovely mother-son writing duo to such an extent: I knew quite instinctively I would become quite partial to Bess Crawford before I ever knew too much about her! Call it reader intuition if you will, but I knew quite in that instant of being broached if I wanted to become a part of this dual-blog tour for both the sixth and seventh novels of a series in progress that I would become Crawford’s newest champion!
There are moments where you are so captured by the breadth and the heart of a novel’s core, you simply want to continue to read as much as you can by the author whose penned a story you can sink your mind inside whilst feeling as though you can equally find comfort in stepping outside this world of intense realism without the worse for wear. Reading a historical suspense novel of the Todds is a delicious respite as you can time travel back inside a particular moment in history, lively at war and match step with dedicated professionals who guide you through their living hours.
Between now and my next stop on this beautiful tour celebrating the series, I will be reading the next books in line to be consumed, as I could only read the very first Bess Crawford mystery, of which I shall relate to you how it tucked inside my soul.
Reflections on “A Duty to the Dead”, the first Bess Crawford mystery:
We enter Ms Crawford’s life in 1916 during WWI, wherein she’s a sisterly nurse on board the Britannic an ill-fated hospital ship struck down by a hidden mine. Bess Crawford is attempting to convey a snippet of her life aboard ship whilst at a proper loss how to express the dullness of an ordinary day at sea without the benefit of the wounded. She is honest about the dangers being on a ship in U-boat territory but with a sly nod to the familiars of ordinary life spent in service. Even her coy banterment with an officer proved she found a balm of normalcy in the midst of war.
A blessing whilst reading a Todd novel, is the assurance of the story-teller(s) to eclipse you so very surely into the novel’s depth that by the time you reach a quell in the horror of war or the emotional hardship of an injury; you have already taken up residence alongside the character Todd has endeared your heart to champion.
I applaud the realism and the choke-hold of gasping shock when the sinking of the Britannic was shown. I felt heart-clenched to Bess, willing myself to see, feel, and taste what she was experiencing whilst longing for her rescue. Todd has a character-centric voice of giving you such a close-personal heady experience, you feel you’ve lived half a lifetime with each novel you read.
Dr. Phillips is a curious fellow – by the time the story shifts from war to the homefront, we become entranced with the eccentric and yet reserved creatures of a small towne of Owlhurst, thus named after a patch of woods known for housing owls! This is where the drama of alarm rings itself out for Ms Crawford, as she has gone henceforth in haste (after managing to put it off for a bit longer than necessary!) to seek out a family a dying man she nursed requested of her to take his deathbed message back to his brother. Dr. Phillips is the towne’s doctor, and along with the rector of the village itself, Ms Crawford finds herself entangled into the thorny past of her beloved soldier; a person of whom her opinions shifts the longer she spends caught up in his affairs. His family is not without their skeletons, but it is how their omissions and their repressions of their past beguiles Ms Crawford that paints the scene all more intriguing to the reader.
Knickers quickened to knots over the competence and tenacious approach of Ms Crawford to take up the heed of medical assistance, not once, but twice whilst she is a guest at the soldier’s family estate. The Grahams are a curious (and aptly suspicious) lot, wherein she could never quite finger what was odd about them until nearly the golden hour in which her own life might have become hung in the counterbalance! One would have felt her aperture to serve whilst not in official capacity would have appeased the family for giving a sign of both courage and strength, yet her efforts had quite the opposite effect! This is the underpinning reasons why Ms Crawford started to nettle inside her mind what was truly lying in wait for her to discover; the more they attempted to hide the truth from her suppositions, the more her mind ferreted out a reason to question their authority on where the truth truly lay.
What hidden secrets in their past reflected out in their cold disdainment for a brother and son? War is known as a cruel mistress, yet those who return with the aftershocks of service had little sympathies from their families and even less compassion from medical and spiritual adviseries. Save the nurses who understood far more than everyone else combined.
Knitted into this first novel of the Bess Crawford mysteries is a trifold of suspense surrounding three young blokes of whom warrant the most attention to be focused upon: Arthur Graham (the wounded gent entrusting Ms Crawford with his message); Ted Booker (a soldier afflicted by PTSD; previously called ‘shell shock’), and Peregrine Graham the eldest of the four brothers, of whom Arthur was related. I could not pull my eyes off the dialogue and text of this novel, because the Todds have become so intrinsically tethered into this WWI era as to alight into our minds an imaginary time where a young and capable woman such as Bess Crawford can not only reside but take up arms against the unjust in such a convincing way as an elder Miss Marple!
I kept turning it over in my mind what drew me the most into her world – it was at first the historical backdrop of the timescape but then, as the layers were fleshed out and stitched together, it was the classic Todd narrative of giving a story an underlit joy of a strong lead character whose self-assurance and capacity for sleuthing was a paramount wealth of excitement on behalf of the reader! Seeing everything through Bess Crawford’s eyes and the underscore of her emotions, knitted together a suspenseful plot writ out of such an ordinary request from a fallen soldier, that it took a skilled story-teller in this duo of writers to give us such a hearty novel to devour!
I read the first 58 pages in my first sitting and consumed the full of the novel in my second; lightning crackling more times than naught, and without the benefit of tweeting out my happy delight in seeing where Ms Crawford’s museful thoughts led me to decipher the mystery; I simply awaited my words to become laid to rest on my blog. By reading this first mystery out of a series of 7 novels, I was able to ascertain the countenance of Bess Crawford but also, the beauty of her life being lived off the pages of her stories — the Todds have such a confluence of creativity between them, it hadn’t felt like a ‘first novel’ of Bess Crawford but one of many already penned. The continuity and attention to even minor details was quite excellent and this novel not only justified being read ahead of another in the series but provided the background necessary to understand who Bess Crawford is as a character. Including her close ties to India and her beloved respect for her father, of whom influences her even when his presence is absent.
In this absorbing and atmospheric historical mystery from New York Times bestselling author Charles Todd, World War I battlefield nurse Bess Crawford's career and life are in jeopardy when a murder is committed on her watch.
Bess Crawford has been summoned by the War Office to accompany a wounded soldier from Shropshire to Buckingham Palace, where he's to be decorated for gallantry by King George himself.
Heavily bandaged and confined to a wheelchair, Sergeant Jason Wilkins will be in her care for barely a day. But on the morning after the ceremony when Bess goes to collect her charge for his return journey, she finds the room empty. How could such a severely wounded man vanish without a trace?
Both the Army and the Nursing Service hold Bess to blame for losing the war hero. The Army now considers Wilkins a deserter, and Scotland Yard questions Bess when Wilkins is suspected of killing a man in cold blood. If Bess is to clear her name and return to duty in France, she must prove that she was never his accomplice. But the sergeant has disappeared again and neither the Army nor the police can find him.
Following a trail of clues across England, Bess is drawn into a mystery that seems to grow darker with every discovery. But will uncovering the truth put more innocent people in jeopardy?
Charles Todd is the author of the Bess Crawford mysteries, the Inspector Ian Rutledge mysteries, and two stand-alone novels. A mother and son writing team, they live in Delaware and North Carolina, respectively.