Acquired Book By: I am a regular tour hostess for blog tours via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours whereupon I am thankful to have been able to host such a diverse breadth of stories, authors and wonderful guest features since I became a hostess! I received a complimentary copy of “Marion Hatley” direct from the author Beth Castrodale in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
Why I felt this was a story I wanted to read:
I love the premise behind ‘The Ladies Paradise’ and have been wanting to start reading it in order to watch the mini-series. Therefore, as I read about the lead character is ‘Marion Hatley’ being of a like-minded character from that book, I was smitten!
To escape a big-city scandal, a Depression-era lingerie seamstress flees to the countryside, where she hopes to live and work in peace. Instead, she finds herself unraveling uncomfortable secrets about herself and those closest to her.
In February of 1931, Marion Hatley steps off a train and into the small town of Cooper’s Ford, hoping she’s left her big-city problems behind. She plans to trade the bustling hubbub of a Pittsburgh lingerie shop for the orderly life of a village schoolteacher. More significantly, she believes she’ll be trading her reputation-tainting affair with a married man for the dutiful quiet of tending to her sick aunt. Underpinning her hopes for Cooper’s Ford is Marion’s dream of bringing the daily, private trials of all corset-wearing women—especially working women—to an end, and a beautiful one at that.
Instead, she confronts new challenges: a mysteriously troubled student; frustrations in attempts to create a truly comfortable corset; and, most daunting, her ailing aunt. Once a virtual stranger to Marion, her aunt holds the key to old secrets whose revelation could change the way Marion sees her family and herself.
As her problems from Pittsburgh threaten to resurface in Cooper’s Ford, Marion finds herself racing against time to learn the truth behind these secrets and to get to the bottom of her student’s troubles. Meanwhile, Marion forms a bond with a local war veteran. But her past, and his, may be too much to sustain a second chance at happiness.
Beth Castrodale started out as a newspaper reporter and editor, then transitioned to book publishing, serving for many years as an editor for an academic press. She has completed three novels: Marion Hatley, a finalist for a 2014 Nilsen Prize for a First Novel from Southeast Missouri State University Press (to be published in April 2017 by Garland Press); Gold River; and In This Ground, an excerpt of which was a shortlist finalist for a 2014 William Faulkner – William Wisdom Creative Writing Award. Beth recommends literary fiction on her website SmallPressPicks.com, and she has published stories in Printer’s Devil Review, The Writing Disorder, Marathon Literary Review, and Mulberry Fork Review. She lives in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts.
Acquired Book By: I received an enquiry from a publicist at Tor/Forge in regards to this lovely new Historical Mysteries series I had not had the pleasure of finding out about previously! I was quite excited about what the scope of the series might entertain as I have a fond appreciation for Old Hollywood and the treasure trove of movies one can experience through the channel Turner Classic Movies (or TCM for short). Being one of the lead characters was Edith Head (a woman of interest of my own from Hollywood’s past) it felt like a wicked good fit for me to accept this series for review. Especially as I love watching old films as a stepping stone towards ‘discovering’ new actors and actresses I have not yet had the pleasure of seeing before and in effect become my ‘new favourites’ even decades after their careers ended. There is a pulse inside those films and I love watching the fashions change as much as the settings and story-lines!
I received a complimentary copy of “Design for Dying” direct from the publisher Forge (an imprint of Tom Doherty Associates) in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
Why I was keenly interested in this new Mystery series:
First of all, I have a deep appreciation for Old Hollywood and Classic Movies of yesteryear – I grew up with this passion for black and white movies – going back to a quintessential holiday favourite of mine: ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ followed by ‘White Christmas’. I grew up on James Stewart films especially, as he was such a wicked good actor who could move between family films, drama and suspense (ie. Hitchcock!). By the time I discovered TCM (Turner Classic Movies) in my late teens / early twenties, it was a bit of a foregone conclusion Classic Movies would become a fixture of my viewing pleasure; yet it wasn’t until my mid to late twenties and early thirties that I started to *devour!* the offerings of TCM!
I even stumbled across the collective works of Cari Beauchamp (a wicked sweet Hollywood biographer!) prior to being a book blogger whilst fully engaged in the context of her book: Adventures of a Hollywood Secretary: Her Private Letters from Inside the Studios of the 1920s. Ever since I came across her writings, I’ve longed to attend the TCM: Classic Film Festival and mingle with others who love Classic Hollywood! I still itch to read through her collective works and seek out other titles by writers who are encompassing the same zest of love for this wicked time in film history!
One of my pet projects prior to being a book blogger was compiling a list of titles about Old Hollywood – most of the books were hard to fetch via ILL (inter-library loan) due to the heaviness of their volumes, which is why my ILL List soon became a Wish List of Purchases! lol On that list are biographies about Edith Head, as I had come to find her styles being represented through the films I was watching on TCM. The beauty of TCM is being able to find #newtomeactors of a begone age where women had the luxury of having a healthy body image & a definitive style where the fashions of Hollywood not only pushed new boundaries of fabric & craft but gave an eloquence to film-making at the same time! I love drinking in the styles of the 1920s – 1940s especially as they are such a cardinal imprint of class, sophistication and individuality.
When the publicist at Tor/Forge reached out to me about the mysteries involving Edith Head, I didn’t even have to think hard about accepting them! I did request receiving ‘Design for Dying’ alongside ‘Dangerous to Know’ as I felt the best way to entreat into an established series is to read the very first entry, wherein I could get a solid footing for the background of the characters and feel the continuity between installments!
As I will be blogging my ruminations back to back – if you return on Friday, you’ll get a special delight in reading my conversation with the authors behind this delishly vintage series, too! I loved how I even have a small tidbit about the ‘length and scope of time’ we all have coming towards us as the series expands and continues to grow! I am ever so excited for these two showcases as one thing I love about Old Hollywood is how quirky and comedic the ‘back-stories’ can be surrounding what is readily known but also, how delightfully quirky their lives were because they were defining the rules as they lived! There wasn’t a structure to everything back then – you could carve out a life between the lines and craft together a living on sheer determined will, pure wit and the daring conviction to pull it all off! And, that is what I loved about this series – as it embodies the fierce grit of daring possibilities to carve out your own path and live it with confidence!
Notation on Cover Art Design: For a girl who once considered studying Costume Design at Ole Miss, I must confess I love the whole vintage texture and vibe of this cover art! I even love how there is this allure of ‘who could that be entering through the theshold’ whilst focusing on the dress of the woman in front of the mirror! Part of my allure of following the legacy of Edith Head is my passion for vintage fashion and costume design. A bit of this was revealled recently on my review of ‘How to be a Hepburn in a Kardashian World’ – but more to the point, I love how the typography, the setting and the art direction of this cover pull you forward into a plausible entry point to re-trace the footsteps of Edith Head.
Meet Lillian Frost. A transplanted New Yorker with a boundless love of the movies and a single lousy screen test to her credit.
Meet Edith Head. The costume designer who, over the course of a career spanning seven decades, would be nominated for more Academy Awards than any other woman. Who dressed the most glamorous stars in history. Who worked closely with directors like Alfred Hitchcock and Billy Wilder.
Meet the sleuthing duo about to become Hollywood’s greatest detectives.
Los Angeles, 1937. Lillian Frost has traded dreams of stardom for security as a department store salesgirl ... until she discovers she’s a suspect in the murder of her former roommate Ruby Carroll. Party girl Ruby died wearing a gown she stole from the wardrobe department at Paramount Pictures, domain of Edith Head.
Edith has yet to win the first of her eight Academy Awards; right now she’s barely hanging on to her job, and a scandal is the last thing she needs. To clear Lillian’s name and save Edith’s career, the two women join forces. Unraveling the mystery pits them against a Hungarian princess on the lam, a hotshot director on the make, and a private investigator who’s not on the level.
All they have going for them are dogged determination, assists from the likes of Bob Hope and Barbara Stanwyck, and a killer sense of style. In show business, that just may be enough…
Available Formats: Trade Paperback, Hardcover + Ebook
About Renee Patrick
Renee Patrick is the pseudonym for married authors Rosemarie and Vince Keenan. Rosemarie is a research administrator and a poet. Vince is a screenwriter and a journalist. Both native New Yorkers, they currently live in Seattle, Washington.
Acquired Book By: I am a regular tour hostess for blog tours via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours whereupon I am thankful to have been able to host such a diverse breadth of stories, authors and wonderful guest features since I became a hostess! I received a complimentary copy of “You’re the Cream in My Coffee” direct from the author Jennifer Lamont Leo in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
Why this title interested me to read:
I have a soft spot in my heart for INSPY novels – always have and I think I always will. I’ve been trying to seek out new INSPY authors since I started blogging here at Jorie Loves A Story, but my INSPY self-directed 70 Authors Challenge has nearly been placed on a backburner over the past three years; something I wish to amend in 2017!
This author first found me via Twitter and I reached out to her about reviewing this title – I personally adore the early 20th Century – the Twenties especially, plus who wouldn’t want to soak inside a historical INSPY novel!? The plot was inviting and the author’s website made for some wicked fun reading ahead of soaking into the novel – thus, when this book went on a blog tour for December, I thought the timing would be brilliantly perfect. Except I had to push forward my review from it’s original date of the 16th until the 23rd; and even then, I started off running a bit behind the eight ball in regards to sharing my thoughts with my dear readers and the tour visitors. The honest truth is I couldn’t lay thought or mind nor heart to the fullest extent of the novel until the ending hours of 2016. I am blessed the author was understanding of my need to extend my readings until now.
Despite my early zest to read this particular INSPY, I must confess with everything going on with my Dad lately – my focus has been less than stellar. If anything, I found myself unable to focus on books whilst feeling even less motivated to blog. It took me a bit to find my rhythm after my Dad’s stroke and even now, I’m still struggling to ‘come back’ to that beautiful place of where blogging, reading and sharing my bookish life feels organically cohesive rather than something I tell myself to ‘focus on’.
Also, my Dad’s recovery and healing from major surgery as well as the stroke has been a larger part of my hours right now, as Mum and I have helped him re-adjust back home whilst keeping his spirits lifted as he recovers a bit more of himself each week. My apologies to the author and the tour visitors – I know you’ve been patiently awaiting this particular review. I am hoping this week, my blog will start to re-populate with posts and commentary on the bookish things which interest me to share with each of you.
This is one of three blog tours I had to push forward for HFVBTs, the next two I shall be sharing are The Semper Sonnet and Who is to Blame? in case you’ve been re-visiting me and wondering what I have been working on next to feature for Ms Bruno. I had wanted to get current before the New Year begins and then, start anew in January with a new year of wicked good historicals to ‘meet and greet’ whilst saying ‘good-bye’ to another wonderful year full of History painting stories alive in my imagination. Except to say, posting these three reviews during the first week of 2017 isn’t so bad, either! Especially as I want to spilt them over three days where each one can shine on my blog. (which is why I shared the s/o via this tweet!) Rock on, dear hearts! Don’t let life get you down – things eventually re-settle and the stories are always there waiting our open hearts and thirst for literary wonderment!
In 1928, Chicago rocks to the rhythm of the Jazz Age, and Prohibition is in full swing. Small-town girl Marjorie Corrigan, visiting the city for the first time, has sworn that coffee’s the strongest drink that will pass her lips. But her quiet, orderly life turns topsy-turvy when she spots her high school sweetheart–presumed killed in the Great War–alive and well in a train station. Suddenly everything is up for grabs.
Although the stranger insists he’s not who she thinks he is, Marjorie becomes obsessed with finding out the truth. To the dismay of her fiancé and family, she moves to the city and takes a job at a department store so she can spy on him. Meanwhile, the glittering world of her roommate, Dot, begins to look awfully enticing–especially when the object of her obsession seems to be part of that world. Is it really so terrible to bob her hair and shorten her skirt? To visit a speakeasy? Just for a cup of coffee, of course.
But what about her scruples? What about the successful young doctor to whom she’s engaged, who keeps begging her to come back home where she belongs? And what, exactly, is going on at the store’s loading dock so late at night?
Amid a whirlwind of trials and temptations, Marjorie must make a choice. Will the mystery man prove to be the cream in her coffee–the missing ingredient to the life she yearns for? Or will he leave only bitterness in her heart?
Originally Published By: Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas Available Formats: Paperback
NOTE: This series is referred to as “Roaring Twenties Novels” however, I personally found it a bit more fitting to refer to this as the Marjorie Corrigan series.
Converse via: #HistFic + #INSPY
About Jennifer Lamont Leo
With a passion for all things historical, Jennifer Lamont Leo captures readers’ hearts through stories set in times gone by. She is also a copywriter, editor, and journalist. An Illinois native, she holds a deep affection for Chicago and its rich history. Today she writes from the mountains of northern Idaho, where she shares her home with her husband, two cats, and abundant wildlife.
I have a penchant for items which curate a story out of the historical past, as there have been a few incredible pieces of historical fiction stemming out of an article of clothing – A Vintage of Affair by Isabel Wolff (a hidden gem discovered at my local library!) and A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner (of which I happily had the pleasure of reviewing!) come to mind instantly! One features a boutique of vintage clothes and the other, has a story threading through the history of a scarf – both have a particular strife attached to their back-stories, as the clothes of the first go back to the World War era and the scarf tackles a modern tragedy and the Shirt Waist Industry from the early Nineteen Hundreds.
Meissner anchoured her story with a duality of plots which fascinated me and emotionally gutted me at the very same time! Wolff entranced me by how the ‘clothes’ slipped the past into view, front and center. Between the two novels, I realised I have a passion for how objects and ‘things’ can become transportative whilst giving us a plausible step ‘backwards in time’!
This is why I continue to seek out stories which parlay on the same general themes as A Gown of Thorns the latest of which I will be reading next is The Black Velvet Coat by Jill G. Hall whilst I continue reading my challenge reads (Summer & Fall) on behalf of BookSparks this Spring. It is also why I was so wicked happy to be in a position to interview Ms Evans on her new release A Gown of Thorns as you will see in our conversation how invested I am in this topic and thankful our convo became a lively one where we explore the context of her story!
To gain a bit of a back-story on how I came to host Bookouture authors,
From the multi-award winning and bestselling author, comes a bittersweet romantic story set against the backdrop of the French Dordogne valley.
Hidden within the wardrobe’s embrace, she rifled through the folds of cloth until her fingers stopped at a gown of violet, lavender and silver-grey pleats. She lifted it off its hanger and turned towards the mirror…
Shauna Vincent arrives in the little French village of Chemignac after accepting an offer to be an au pair to the grandchildren of an old family friend.
As she begins to explore her new home at the ancient Chateau de Chemignac with it’s beautiful vineyards, she discovers a locked tower room where she unearths a treasure trove of exquisite vintage dresses. One gown feels unsettlingly familiar.
When Shauna falls asleep one afternoon in a valley full of birdsong, she has a strange dream of a vintage aircraft circling threateningly overhead. So when she suddenly awakes to find charming local landowner Laurent standing over her – Shauna wonders if he might be just the person to help her untangle this unexpected message from the past.
A Gown of Thorns draws you into a richly evocative world steeped in secrets that will mesmerize fans of Rachel Hauck’s The Wedding Dress, Kristen Hannah’s The Nightingale and Adriani Trigiani.
I love hidden secrets which unravel a portraiture of history stitched inside a historical narrative – in many ways, this is why I loved reading A Vintage Affair by Isobel Wolff because the article of clothing is a tipping stone towards the heart of the story. How did you approach developing the setting of the back-drop of your story against the gown which is the link to the past inside A Gown of Thorns?
Evans responds: An interesting question. What came first, the backdrop or the gown? When I am musing over a new story, I rarely think it out in a linear way. I tend to get a whole picture all at once. In the case of Gown of Thorns, the sun-scorched vineyards of the Dordogne simply arrived in my head and I knew I wanted to make the backdrop a wine estate. Grape growing and pressing is a piquant and lush affair, and the scents and colours of the region add layers of richness.
The dress, the Gown of Thorns, of the title slipped into my head when I envisaged a stone tower that housed a dress whose history was checkered and passionate. That it was a Fortuny Delphos gown was established after I had looked at many, many photographs of vintage evening dresses on line. It jumped out at me as a style of dress that was so alluring and simple, that it was entirely believable that three generations of women should fall under its spell. Read More