At the close of the opulent Belle Époque era in Paris, Eva Gouel makes her debut as a seamstress/designer at the glamorous cabaret Moulin Rouge, where...moreAt the close of the opulent Belle Époque era in Paris, Eva Gouel makes her debut as a seamstress/designer at the glamorous cabaret Moulin Rouge, where she first spots Pablo Picasso in the audience. Another meeting at an art exhibit furthers their acquaintance, and they begin a tête-à-tête that blossoms into a deep and inescapable devotion.
It is a struggle for Eva to accept love from a man she so revers, and she constantly questions his sincerity, for she feels less than confidant trying to fill the goddess-like shoes of Picasso’s last love, Fernande Olivier. This insecurity, coupled with the cold reception from many of the Montmartre set of artists and poets, flaws Eva’s happiness, but Picasso’s creativity flourishes under her adoration and care. As the coming war threatens their livelihood, a personal crisis looms that will define Picasso’s analytic cubism era and forever change the artist’s views on love and loss.
The story is so tremendously detailed that readers are transported to early 20th Century Paris, featuring such names as Moulin Rouge’s Mistinguett, Henri Matisse, Sarah Burnhardt, and Gertrude Stein. Picasso’s paintings are described, not only in technique, but with the artist’s feeling in each piece, perfectly setting the tone of the narrative. This is a story that will spark an interest in an era and bring to life Picasso’s intriguingly allusive love, Eva Gouel/Marcelle Humbert, who is not easily found in historical records. Highly recommended for those interested in art history, the Belle Époque era and fictional biographies!(less)
The second in Wilcox’s Doc Holliday trilogy, this installment follows the legendary dentist-turned-outlaw from Galveston, Texas to Tombstone, Arizona...moreThe second in Wilcox’s Doc Holliday trilogy, this installment follows the legendary dentist-turned-outlaw from Galveston, Texas to Tombstone, Arizona in a series of adventures. Dr. John Henry Holliday doesn’t court trouble, but it seems to find him in every town, from Texas to Colorado and Kansas to the New Mexico territory. He continually tries to set up a respectable office, but his hot-headed Southern sensibilities usually get the better of good judgment, landing him in one legal battle after the other. The state of the government during the Reconstruction Era is tenuous, causing many men to turn to gambling or other illegal means to make a living. Doc, while not robbing banks or trains like the James clan, breaks the strict Texas laws on drinking and gambling, with gun fights added into the mix. His fragile health also causes concern, frequently aggravated by the dusty terrain.
Doc’s love life is no less complicated than the former book, Inheritance, as he still holds a candle for his cousin in Georgia, Mattie. Kate, the actress he met in St. Louis, comes back into his life, but underlying animosities serve in constantly pulling them apart.
Fans of the movie Tombstone, with Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer, will appreciate the presentation of the foundation of their friendship, and even gain some insight from vague lines in the film. Along with Wyatt Earp, many of the other lawmen and outlaws make an appearance, creating a connection between the parcels of dirty, pioneer towns featured in the book to the setting of the movie in Tombstone, Arizona.
While Inheritance introduces us to a Southern gentleman ready to take on the world to prove himself to his family, Gone West send’s John Henry through the motions that allow him to experience defeat, acceptance and redemption—finally giving him closure as to his flawed boyhood view of life. The final book in the series, The Last Decision, promises to be an exciting and much-anticipated conclusion to this illuminating biographical saga.(less)
French Revolution meets Walking Dead in this alternative history mash-up by a prolific author who has explored Renaissance Iberia, Medieval Wales, 19t...moreFrench Revolution meets Walking Dead in this alternative history mash-up by a prolific author who has explored Renaissance Iberia, Medieval Wales, 19th Century New York and the American Civil War in her previous novels: El Rey, The Welsh Healer, Work of Art, and But for the Grace of God
Following Marie Antoinette from her happy childhood as the Empress of Austria’s youngest daughter, through her difficult transition from archduchess to dauphine and finally to Queen of France, readers are immediately aware of a sinister undercurrent in the historically accurate narrative. France is harboring a terrible secret within its borders–concealed since the time of Catherine de’ Medici. Against her husband’s dying wishes, the Holy Roman Empress forged the alliance with France that sent 14-year-old Antonia to this dangerous and peculiar court, where strange etiquette, outrageous styles and thickly coated make-up are not simply fashion statements. Our protagonist must find her way through Versailles’ long-established rituals, woo a reluctant husband and accomplish her main duty of producing an heir.
Marie Antoinette’s shy and standoffish bridegroom is one of the story’s unsung heroes–a refreshing portrayal–and her famous love affair with Axel von Fersen is played out brilliantly. The mort-vivant aren’t the only adversaries along the way–Madame du Barry and some of the King’s relations enjoy causing trouble as well. Add political intrigue and romance to the mix, and this historical horror novel is indeed an engrossing, cross-genre tale. The only complaint I can imagine is that there is an abridgment of Revolution details near the end, but it simply would not have been possible within the almost 400 pages. For readers not into the horror scene, I can attest that it’s not too gruesome–tastefully done would be an excellent pun (and rhyme!)
Once again Ginger Myrick has proven her talents with yet another style, bringing her tally to 5 within two years, including history, romance, fantasy, mystery and horror!(less)
Marcia Brownlow, a young artist among a group of American expatriates in late 19th century Europe, began her journey as a governess when her family fe...moreMarcia Brownlow, a young artist among a group of American expatriates in late 19th century Europe, began her journey as a governess when her family fell on hard times and left her bereft. A friend’s aunt makes a proposal that Marcia cannot afford to decline, although it would require a major deception: Marcia must disguise herself as a man. She adopts her deceased brother’s identity, and as “Mark” Brownlow, interviews for a position as a writer’s secretary. Her employer quickly learns that she is a gifted artist and funds her further education, introducing her to society as the next great talent.
Marcia continually struggles with her identity throughout the story–enjoying the freedom and acclaim she receives as a man, but all the while realizing that it cannot end well. She makes many dear friends as she readies her work for the Royal Academy art exhibition in London, but shortly before her masterpiece is unveiled her past comes back to haunt her in the form of a disgruntled acquaintance seeking revenge.
One of the themes of the story is the division between the artists of the time–those holding to the classical style and those looking to industry and change. Many of the personas depicted are fictional, but there are several well-known names mentioned, such as Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Frederic Leighton, and John Singer Sargent, whose painting Morning Walk is featured on the cover.
I truly enjoyed the characters: Arthur Wolcott, the sarcastic writer, and Duncan MacDonald, the art instructor and father figure. The women in the story played necessary roles. Some readers may be put off by Marcia’s inclination to favor women instead of men, but for this story it worked well and was, in fact, critical to the plot and resolution.
Other than the author’s superb writing style (which I previously experienced from reading Confessions of the Creature), I most enjoyed the humor in this book and the philosophical insights presented from the protagonist’s unique perspective. The world of European art at the height of Impressionism is skillfully portrayed, as well as the progress of the Second Industrial Revolution.(less)
This novel, full of anecdotes, does not come across as a transparent retelling, but rather an emotional journey that fits in perfectly with the known...moreThis novel, full of anecdotes, does not come across as a transparent retelling, but rather an emotional journey that fits in perfectly with the known facts of Jane Austen’s life. The inclusion of a completely fictional character, an American at that, ensures a uniqueness and the smart, humorous prose resonates the authors’ own beloved style. Jane’s experiences and thoughts are cleverly laced with phrases fans will recognize from her books, while character traits are obviously drawn from family and acquaintances unfortunate enough to make an impression on the young writer.
This marks the 35th Jane Austen variation I’ve read, and it stands out as one of the more well-written and thought provoking. There are no modern nuances, it does not stray too far from the facts, and the author has managed to capture Austen’s style and wit, along with his own charming quips. This story will delight those Austen fan-fiction enthusiasts who enjoy an imaginative and entertaining escape into their favorite author’s world.(less)
While the American Civil War rages near her isolated Virginia farm, Hannah Deane Carter finds a wounded Confederate soldier collapsed and near death....moreWhile the American Civil War rages near her isolated Virginia farm, Hannah Deane Carter finds a wounded Confederate soldier collapsed and near death. With the help of her father’s former medical assistant—Jeb, who also happens to be a free black man—she nurses him back to health. They are both hiding secrets and wary of each other from the start, but through many weeks convalescing (and the author's use of flashback storytelling) the pair form a bond that will test the boundaries of trust, honor and love.
Hannah is a sympathizer who operates a safe-house for runaway slaves, while the gentleman solider, Beau, is being pursued by his own men under mysterious circumstances. Their future together hangs in the balance as the narrative plays out, with each of the endearing characters offering up a retelling of the past and a unique perspective of the war.
Though not overly detailed with fighting and political topics, this story does cover the plight of a suppressed people. The heart of this novel is the love story between Hannah and Beau, with a lengthy chapter on her parents' story as well. As usual, the author has used a real-life inspiration to create her protagonist, with charmingly naive quirks, but a pure and happy heart. Beau is a gentleman with a Southern disposition, but not untouched by his discoveries at the Deane farm.
This novel will delight readers looking for an inspirational historical romance, but may not interest those seeking a war novel, as it's character driven instead of a minute detailing the setting and events. As usual, Ginger Myrick's eloquent writing style, precise structuring and compelling narrative shine through and prove that there are quality self-published novels on the market!(less)
From British occupied India to the Kings of France, the Pitt Diamond – later named the Regent – saw many royal personages throughout its history. It w...moreFrom British occupied India to the Kings of France, the Pitt Diamond – later named the Regent – saw many royal personages throughout its history. It was first discovered by a slave toiling the mines and slipped through several hands of thieves and vagabonds before finding its way to Thomas Pitt, Governor of Fort St. George, who saw the diamond as a means to improve his family’s fortune and status. By this time the diamond was rumored to be bad luck to any who possessed it, which is the premise for this intriguing story.
Most of the story is told as a history being written by Count Las Cases, an exile on the island of St. Helena and companion to Napoleon. His main duty is to help the emperor write his memoirs, but as a further diversion from the unfriendly British guards and the jealous servants, Las Cases begins research on a subject that intrigues both himself and the emperor.
As Las Cases tells the history of the diamond, the emperor reads over his work and inserts his own facts and opinions, though Las Cases writes much in code – most frequently when he comes to the point in the history where Napoleon possessed the stone. There is a chapter near the end called The Emperor Breaks My Code which is among the more humorous parts of the book.
Thomas Pitt, grandfather of William Pitt the Elder and great-grandfather of William Pitt the Younger (Napoleon’s ultimate rival), the first owner of repute, tries to sell the diamond to many royals before it is finally purchased by the Duc d’Orleans, who is acting as regent for the boy king, Louis XV. The diamond remains the property of France’s crown jewels through Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, but is stolen during the French Revolution. Rediscovered, it is locked away by the new government and then comes into the hands of Napoleon, who refuses to give this one diamond to his jewel-obsessed wife, Josephine. Into the hilts of several swords it went, until his final exile to St. Helena. After Napoleon, as the government swayed from kingdom to empire under the remaining Bourbons and Bonapartes, the Regent diamond adorned the ruling power and was finally interred at the Louvre museum.
This book, though only 304 pages, is a hefty read and not for those who enjoy light, easy novels. In fact, it seems more like a non-fiction biography most of the time. I have researched some of the events mentioned and for the most part it is accurate, though the author has a note at the beginning that states there is fiction intermingled.
I enjoyed this book immensely and recommend it to those interested in the history of France. There are many details from the courts of Louis XIV, Louis XV, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette as well as the courts of surrounding countries. The French Revolution is seen through the eyes of an émigré and, of course, directly after is the time of Napoleon. Most interesting to me is the history after Napoleon, as I was not familiar at all with this area of history and I learned much about the times. From fashion to court etiquette, through desperation and debauchery, this is truly an amazing story – not just about a diamond, but about the people whose lives were affected by it.(less)