Category Archives: Author Post

(Giveaway!) Jody Hedlund writes Secret #12: My secret for writing around my kids!

Please welcome author Jody Hedlund, and keep reading for info on how to enter her book giveaway! Read my Review of Unending Devotion, I HIGHLY recommend it!
Secret #12: My secret for writing around my kids.
Jody Hedlund

By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

Most days I have to write with my five kids running around me. They’re busy with all of their normal kid-activities: practicing piano, jumping on the trampoline, doing homework, and playing with friends.
I plop down at the kitchen table where I can keep my eye on everyone and everything.
But with all the noise, activity, and general chaos, you might be wondering how in the world I can possibly concentrate and get anything done?
My secret?
I put in my headphones and turn on Pandora (or Grooveshark). And I drown out the noise.
When I have inspirational music playing, for some reason it helps transport me into my story world. I’m able to focus on the words and my characters and write. I usually develop a new “station” for each book with music that makes me think of the story I’m developing.
Even with my headphones and music, I can still see all that’s going on around me with that motherly-instinct that knows where her peeps are and what they’re up to.
But the music helps me from getting distracted by the loudness of the world passing by me. And having earphones in is a signal to my kids that I’m busy. I’ve realized they’re less apt to stop and talk to me or interrupt me when I’m wearing my headphones.
The other secret is that I’ve learned to keep the story flowing in spite of interruptions. For example, if I have to get up and get snacks for my younger children, when I sit back down, I don’t have to spend a lot of time trying to get my train of thought back. I can usually just jump right back in where I left off.
I couldn’t always write that way. But after continual practice day after day, I’ve worked my creative muscles to a new level of strength that wasn’t possible when I was first writing.
My daily writing situation is far from ideal. But it just shows that we don’t need the perfect conditions to do the things we love. We just have to love what we do enough, and we’ll find a way to make it work.
What about you? Are you doing what you love right now, no matter how crazy your life is around you? Or have you been waiting for the perfect conditions?
To celebrate the release of Unending Devotion, Jody is giving away a signed copy to followers of Burton Book Review!
Leave a comment (along with your email address) to enter the drawing.
Extra entries for those who also comment on the review post, and for those who tweet or facebook this post!

Valid only with US or Canadian addresses. Giveaway ends 9/27/2012.

Unending Devotion (September 1, 2012 Bethany House)

Publisher’s Weekly calls Unending Devotion “A meaty tale of life amid the debauchery of the lumber camps of 1880s Michigan . . . exciting and unpredictable to the very end.”

Purchase Unending Devotion on Amazon!
High-Stakes Drama Meets High-Tension Romance
In 1883 Michigan, Lily Young is on a mission to save her lost sister, or die trying. Heedless of the danger, her searches of logging camps lead her to Harrison and into the sights of Connell McCormick, a man doing his best to add to the hard-earned fortunes of his lumber baron father.
Posing during the day as a photographer’s assistant, Lily can’t understand why any God-fearing citizen would allow evil to persist and why men like Connell McCormick turn a blind eye to the crime rampant in the town. But Connell is boss-man of three of his father’s lumber camps in the area, and like most of the other men, he’s interested in clearing the pine and earning a profit. He figures as long as he’s living an upright life, that’s what matters.
Lily challenges everything he thought he knew, and together they work not only to save her sister but to put an end to the corruption that’s dominated Harrison for so long.
For more secrets about Jody and additional chances to win her newest release, visit her Events Page to see where she’ll be next in her “Fun Secrets About Author Jody Hedlund” blog tour.
Also join in the Pinterest Photo Contest she’s hosting. Find more information about it on her Contest Page.
Jody would love to connect with you! Find her in one of these places:



Filed under 2012 Releases, Author Post, Jody Hedlund

Guest Post (Giveaway) Karleen Koen: Before Versailles

A favorite read of mine for 2011 was Karleen Koen’s Before Versailles (review) and it is now available in paperback from Sourcebooks. (See below for instructions on how to enter the giveaway courtesy of Sourcebooks!)

Before Versailles
September 2012 paperback from Sourcebooks

Louis XIV is one of the best-known monarchs ever to grace the French throne. But what was he like as a young man—the man before Versailles?

After the death of his prime minister, Cardinal Mazarin, twenty-two-year-old Louis steps into governing France. He’s still a young man, but one who, as king, willfully takes everything he can get—including his brother’s wife. As the love affair between Louis and Princess Henriette burns, it sets the kingdom on the road toward unmistakable scandal and conflict with the Vatican. Every woman wants him. He must face what he is willing to sacrifice for love.

But there are other problems lurking outside the chateau of Fontainebleau: a boy in an iron mask has been seen in the woods, and the king’s finance minister, Nicolas Fouquet, has proven to be more powerful than Louis ever thought—a man who could make a great ally or become a dangerous foe . . .

Meticulously researched and vividly brought to life by the gorgeous prose of Karleen Koen, Before Versailles dares to explore the forces that shaped an iconic king and determined the fate of an empire.
Please welcome author Karleen Koen to Burton Book Review, as I asked Karleen to share her thoughts on one of her favorite or most inspiring characters from Before Versailles, asking which one spoke to her the most and who was the most fun to write scenes for:

Surprisingly, the character in Before Versailles who was easiest to write scenes for was Louis XIV. I didn’t expect that. I expected that character to be either Princess Henriette or Louise de la Baume le Blanc (one of whom I thought would run the story). But as I imagined Louis and the very real problems he faced when he was 22, and what he might have been feeling, I found I could sink into a young man who was gallant and honorable and a bit idealistic–and I found that I really, really liked the sinking. 
It takes some mind maneuvering to move from all the known facts about an actual historical character and make that character real, particularly an icon like Louis XIV. Before Versailles is likely the only book I’ll ever write where the main character actually existed. There’s much more room to breathe when characters are completely fictional, and I usually surround fictional characters with ones who actually existed, but the actuals are on the second level of the story. But Louis really was ardent, gallant, brave, and disciplined, and he faced enormous challenges. At 22, he was the prince in the fairy tales, and that was fun to realize, imagine, and write.
Other characters who came easily to me were Choisy, the cross dresser (actually existed) and the Comte de Guiche, who also actually existed. I envisioned Guiche as flip and cool and cruel. I love any scene Guiche is in. Oddly enough, my little heroine, Louise, was the hardest one to write because historically, she is the most unnuanced. She’s almost too good to be true. Her quest for the boy in the iron mask helped me define her, but it was only in the last edits–novel bought, to be published, working with an editor’s input–that I finally felt able to define her. 
Other characters for whom the writing just slipped out without much effort on my part were the old Duchess de Chevreuse, a key player in the times of Louis XIII and Cardinal Richelieu,  and the musketeer, Cinq Mars, completely fictional, a crusty, indomitable old soldier for whom I felt enormous empathy. I don’t know why the guys held my imagination so strongly in Before Versailles, but they did
Karleen Koen ( is the New York Times bestselling author of Through a Glass Darkly, Now Face to Face, and Dark Angels, an Indie Next List bestseller and a BookSense pick. She lives in Houston, Texas.  Before Versailles is available in bookstores and online.
Courtesy of the publisher Sourcebooks, they are giving away Before Versailles!!

To enter, please comment here with your email address, and let me know what Louis XIV or French Revolution reads you have enjoyed! Followers of Burton Book Review in US & Canada only please. Giveaway ends September 13th 2012.


Filed under 2011 Releases, Author Post, Karleen Koen, Louis XIV

Interview with C.W. Gortner, author of THE QUEEN’S VOW

Please welcome C.W. Gortner who graciously agreed to answer a few questions regarding THE QUEEN’S VOW: A Novel of Isabella of Castile, which releases TODAY!!

For your newest novel, The Queen’s Vow, what is the biggest message about Isabella that you are trying to convey?
As with my previous novels, my original intent was to uncover the flesh-and-blood woman behind the legend. Isabella of Castile is most often known as the queen who sent Columbus to America and the fanatic who unleashed the Inquisition. But few of us know the tumultuous, fascinating story of her rise to the throne or understand the complex choices she had to make as a woman in power in a time when women rarely ruled. So, for THE QUEEN’S VOW, I decided to explore how Isabella became the woman and queen we think we know. My biggest message is that, like all of us, she was first and foremost a human being.  She had both extraordinary qualities and terrible ones; she was an exceptional woman and a fallible one, molded by her particular circumstances and the era in which she lived. Perhaps more so than any of my other characters, Isabella’s contradictions ultimately define her.
Is there something you came across in your research for this novel that took you by surprise? Interesting facts about the characters?
I was very surprised to discover how passionate Isabella was. When we think of her, we get this mental picture of a staid, unyielding queen; certainly, the trajectory of her later years, which I cover in my first novel about her daughter, The Last Queen, shows a woman dedicated to protecting Spain and stoic in her faith and personal tragedies. However, the young Isabella sparked a civil war in her determination to marry Fernando of Aragón! I also had had no idea she was so forward-thinking in terms of women’s education. Isabella was born into a Spain fragmented by discord; bitter antagonism and private feuds had sowed near-total disorder. Even the most noble men were barely literate, and women scarcely at all. Isabella herself had no formal education, save for basics. Comparing her schooling, as it were, with that of Elizabeth Tudor, born eighty-two years later, offers startling contrast. Here we have two of history’s most famous queens, each of whom became a symbolic personification of her particular land, yet while Elizabeth enjoyed an impressive training that prepared her, even if accidentally, to rule, Isabella had none. She lamented her lack of education and in her early thirties, dedicated herself to mastering Latin. She also championed a decree that facilitated women’s entry into universities. She was the first queen of her country to allow women to earn degrees and become professors; she also brought the first printing presses to Castile, thereby sowing the seed of Spain’s golden era of letters in the 17th century.
What was the hardest scene to write?
Definitely, the scenes related to the Inquisition. I write about people who lived in the past and thus I strive to stay true to their way of viewing the world, but I rarely share their beliefs. Religious intolerance, cruelty to animals, any kind of human-phobia: these are hot-button topics for me, and yet the 16th century is defined as much by its injustice as its glamour. You can’t really write about a Renaissance person without touching on these unsavory traits, and it was challenging for me personally to get into Isabella’s skin and see the world as she did, when she was contemplating these deeds. But, part of being a writer is being able to disappear into your character, so I had to find that dark place inside me that we all have, though few of us admit it—that cellar in our minds, where anything different from what we find familiar frightens us and can lead us to condemn it. Hell and Heaven were not abstract concepts to the 16th century mind: most people genuinely believed in a retributive God and an afterlife of glory or eternal damnation, dependent on what, and who, you were in life. Saving your soul was therefore paramount to a woman of Isabella’s deep convictions.
Was there a scene that your editors made you cut that you wish could have stayed?
No, not really. I mean, there are always those scenes that we are fond of that our editors don’t particularly love and therefore must be sacrificed, but in the end editing is part of creating a final product that is accessible to readers. With my other books, yes, there were scenes I’d have loved to retain but with this novel, very little was actually cut. It came together in unexpected ways but never overflowed the perimeters that I had defined for it. It was orderly, much like Isabella herself.
Your historical novels have featured strong female figures. Is there a male monarch who’s story you would consider writing someday?
Absolutely, but the market is defined by readers and publishers, and so far, male lead characters have not proven as successful within the area that I’m currently writing in. With my Tudor spy series, I’m very fortunate to have a male lead and it makes for an exciting change for me as a writer. And of course, there are several kings I’d love to write about; perhaps, I’ll be able to one day. Certainly, I am always exploring ways to tell different stories that will appeal to my readers and my publishers.
Tell us about what you’re working on now. What is the time-table for your Spymaster Chronicles books?
The second book in the Spymaster Chronicles is titled The Tudor Conspiracy. It is finished and currently with my US and UK editors. Publication will be in 2013; I know these things always take longer than we like, but books have to be edited and covers designed; the text has to be set, and then there’s the daunting process of scheduling and marketing. However, I think the wait will be worth it: Brendan’s next adventure is a dark quest set in the winter of Bloody Mary’s reign, shortly before the Wyatt Revolt.
Now, I’m writing my next historical novel about Lucrezia Borgia, tracing her so-called Vatican years, from her youth as the illegitimate child of an ambitious Spanish churchman to her thrust into notoriety as the pope’s daughter and savage struggle to define herself as a woman even as she battles her family’s lethal ambitions and her own dark heart. Lucrezia is my first ‘non-queen’, so to speak, though it could be argued she was regarded as royalty in her era. Once again, I’ve found myself drawn to a woman who has been vilified by history. I am enthralled by Lucrezia and her world, as I hope you will be.
Thank you so much for having me. I sincerely hope readers enjoy THE QUEEN’S VOW. I’m always available to chat with book groups via Skype or speaker phone; to learn more about me and my work, please visit me at:
 Also, join us at HF-Connection where we will have a Read-Along of this novel, begining July 7, 2012. See the announcement here.


Filed under 15th Century, Author Interviews, Author Post, C.W. Gortner, Isabella of Castile


Please welcome to the Burton Book Review author of Jane Austen Made Me Do It, Laurel Ann Nattress! I read and reviewed it last month and really enjoyed these Austenesque stories. See below for how to enter for your chance to win this book.

Jane Austen Made Me Do It: Original stories Inspired by Literature’s Most Astute Observer of the Human Heart edited by Laurel Ann Nattress

Ballantine October 11, 2011
Hi Marie, it is such a pleasure to be here at The Burton Book Review during my Grand Tour of the blogosphere in celebration of the release of my new Austen-inspired anthology, Jane Austen Made Me Do It. I know that you are very fond of Austenesque fiction, so I thought I would talk today about how Jane Austen has influenced authors over the centuries and has inspired a whole new book genre.
When Jane Austen was writing her novels in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, they were written at contemporary pieces. It is amazing to look back at them two hundred years later. They seem timeless. Her themes of financial struggles, social mobility, and romance are still fresh and relevant today, and her characters are so finely drawn and realistic that it makes us realize that human nature has not much changed either. Who among us can deny meeting some of her most famous archetypical personality in our lives? Perhaps an odious Mr. Collins from Pride and Prejudice was that blind date from hell, or a self-serving Fanny Dashwood type from Sense and Sensibility has permeated your work place, or, some of life’s first lessons made you feel a bit impressionable like young Catherine Morland from Northanger Abbey? Some of us are even lucky enough to claim to have met a Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, and others even luckier to have married one!
Being lost in a Jane Austen’s world is such a pleasure. Unfortunately she only completed six full novels and one novella in her short lifetime. It is just not enough to satisfy her readers. In the 1830’s Jane Austen’s niece, Anna Austen Lefroy, was the first family member to take up the banner and write a completion of Sanditon, Jane’s last and unfinished novel. She could not complete it either. Next was another niece, Catherine-Anne Hubback, who wrote The Younger Sister in the 1850’s. Borrowing heavily from her aunt’s other unfinished fragment, The Watsons, it is the first completion of a Jane Austen novel. Over fifty years later in 1913, the novel Old Friends and New Fancies, by Sybil G. Brinton would be the first Austen sequel in print. A clever amalgamation of characters from each of Austen’s novels worked into Brinton’s own unique plot, one could say that it was the first Austen “mash-up,” published close to a century before Pride and Prejudice and Zombies would make the bestseller lists in 2009.
Now there are hundreds of novels in the Austenesque genre continuing, retelling, and inspired by Jane Austen’s original stories, characters and philosophies on life and love. Twenty-four authors have contributed stories to the genre in my new anthology, Jane Austen Made Me Do It. The depth of their experience ranges from veteran bestselling literary fiction author to debut new voice. The list contains many recognizable in the Austenesque genre and a few surprises too:
Pamela Aidan • Elizabeth Aston • Brenna Aubrey • Stephanie Barron • Carrie Bebris • Jo Beverley • Diana Birchall • Frank Delaney & Diane Meier • Monica Fairview • Amanda Grange • Syrie James • Janet Mullany • Jane Odiwe • Beth Pattillo • Alexandra Potter • Myretta Robens •   Jane Rubino & Caitlen Rubino Bradway • Maya Slater • Margaret Sullivan • Adriana Trigiani • Laurie Viera Rigler • Lauren Willig
From Regency to contemporary to romantic to fantastical, each of the stories in Jane Austen Made Me Do It draws from the authors unique and personal influence that Austen had on their writing in a new and exciting way. I hope readers will enjoy reading it as much as I had editing it.
Cheers, Laurel Ann
Editor bio: A life-long acolyte of Jane Austen, Laurel Ann Nattress is the author/editor of a blog devoted to the oeuvre of her favorite author and the many books and movies that she has inspired. She is a life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, a regular contributor to the PBS blog Remotely Connected and the Jane Austen Centre online magazine. An expatriate of southern California, Laurel Ann lives in a country cottage near Snohomish, Washington. Visit Laurel Ann at her blogs and, on Twitter as @Austenprose, and on Facebook as Laurel Ann Nattress.
Jane Austen Made Me Do It: Original Stories Inspired by Literature’s Most Astute Observer of the Human Heart, edited by Laurel Ann Nattress. (Ballantine Books • ISBN: 978-0345524966)
Giveaway of Jane Austen Made Me Do It:
Enter a chance to win one copy of Jane Austen Made Me Do It by leaving a comment by 11/12/11, stating what intrigues you about reading an Austen-inspired short story anthology. Winners to be drawn at random and open to followers with US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck to all!


Filed under 2011 Releases, Austen, Author Post, Regency

Elizabeth Chadwick Sets the Scene: Lady of the English

It is with glee that I present this article written by Elizabeth Chadwick in honor of today’s UK release of her newest novel, Lady of the English. This is a beautiful hardcover that is available at the BookDepository or I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into it, and it is not disappointing me in the least! Lady of the English will be available in the USA in the fall. But I know you can’t wait for the paperback USA release, so go grab this gorgeous 544 page book from the UK, you know you want to.

Two very different women are linked by destiny and the struggle for the English crown. Matilda, daughter of Henry I, is determined to win back her crown from Stephen, the usurper king. Adeliza, Henry’s widowed queen and Matilda’s stepmother, is now married to William D’Albini, a warrior of the opposition. Both women are strong and prepared to stand firm for what they know is right. But in a world where a man’s word is law, how can Adeliza obey her husband while supporting Matilda, the rightful queen? And for Matilda pride comes before a fall …What price for a crown? What does it cost to be ‘Lady of the English’?

One of the most favored historical fiction authors of our day, here is Elizabeth Chadwick, as I asked her to set the scene of her new novel for those who might not be familiar with The White Ship disaster and the ensuing struggle between Empress Matilda and King Stephen. I myself had read When Christ and His Saints Slept by Sharon Kay Penman which begins with the White Ship Disaster. That book got me started on this fabulous journey of the medieval era, and it is with eager anticipation that I get my reading pleasure back to that historic time period.

Marie, thanks so much for allowing me to guest blog for the UK hardcover publication of Lady of the English.

Setting the Scene

On November 25th 1120, King Henry I of England was at Barfleur in Normandy preparing to return to England. He was in settled middle age, but still looking to the future. His eldest son William was in his late teens and being groomed to eventually succeed his father as Duke of Normandy and King of England. Henry’s daughter Matilda, also in her late teens was Empress of Germany. Henry’s wife, Matilda, had died two years ago, but Henry was now looking to remarry and had already set matters in motion and was contracting to wed Adeliza of Louvain, a young woman of similar age to his daughter. Adeliza was accounted beautiful and pious, and Henry was keen to marry, and hopefully beget more legitimate heirs beyond the two born of his first wife. Henry had something of a reputation for liking the ladies and fathered at least a score of bastards on various women.

But that cold winter’s night in Normandy, everything was to change. Henry set sail first in daylight with a lot of older, sober court members, but left the youngsters including his son and several of his illegitimate offspring, to their carousing and pleasure. It was the last Henry ever saw of them. The White Ship foundered when it hit a rock in Barfleur harbour, and sank without survivors save one – a butcher who clung to a spar and was washed ashore.

Henry’s whole game plan had to change because now the only legitimate heir to the throne was his daughter Matilda in Germany. He went ahead with his marriage plans, but it became obvious that no child was going to be forthcoming from Adeliza. Young and beautiful though she was, she did not quicken. Henry began to cast around for a successor and his gaze fixed upon his nephew Stephen, son of his sister Adela. Stephen had an older brother Theobald, who would become count of Blois, and a younger brother Henry who was destined for the priesthood. Stephen in the middle seems to have attracted King Henry’s interest and approval. He had grown up at the court with tragic young Prince, and had only been saved from drowning himself because he was suffering from a stomach upset and preferred not to embark on the fated White Ship.

Henry married Stephen to Matilda of Boulogne, who was kin on her mother’s side to the old Royal Saxon house of England, thus giving Stephen a firm claim to the Crown. There was another claimant to the throne too, a young man called William le Clito. He too was Henry’s nephew, but an enemy because he was the son of Henry’s older brother, Robert. Henry had defeated Robert in battle way back in 1106, and had had him cast into prison ever since – where he was subsequently to die. When le Clito was old enough, he took up his father’s gauntlet and laid claim to England and Normandy. However Henry’s grip was strong and sure, and although le Clito fought hard, he was hampered by a lack of resources and his threat to Henry was to end in 1128 when he died from a poisoned battle wound.

In 1125 the Emperor of Germany died untimely, leaving Henry’s daughter Matilda a widow. Suddenly there was a new player in the game. Henry summoned Matilda home and had the barons swear to her as their future sovereign. This did not sit well with many of his lords and clergy, but Henry was so strong a King, and ruled with such charisma and iron that no one dared oppose him. However, he did not cast off Stephen entirely. As I have him say in LADY OF THE ENGLISH:

‘A prudent man keeps more than one horse in the stable, but there is always one he prefers to ride.’

And that is exactly how I believe Henry felt. He could play one off against the other. If one displeased him or if policy changed that he could turn to the other. I also think that he was hoping to live forever, or at least until his grandson’s were grown up. Externally he might have prepared to meet his own mortality, but internally he had no intention of giving up his fistfuls of power.

When he did eventually die – (did he jump or was he pushed?) The Blois faction were well placed to seize the Crown, and I think their swift action was premeditated. Stephen was at Wissant which was a short sea journey from England, and his brother Henry was at Winchester and in control of the Royal Treasury. You tell me whether there was a conspiracy or not!

Matilda on the other hand was in Anjou with her husband and sons, and newly pregnant again. No one came galloping to offer her the crown. Instead it was all stitched up by the Blois faction and the reluctance of barons to accept a woman on the throne, when they could have a man.

Nevertheless, they had sworn their allegiance to Matilda, and Matilda had not only her own right to fight for, but that of her small son, Henry – and fight she did, to the great cost of the lands involved, the people, and herself.

Adeliza helped her in that fight. Indeed Adeliza was immensely important to Matilda. After Henry died she married William D’Albini, a young baron who was a staunch supporter of Stephen. But despite her loyalty to her husband, Adeliza was determined to do what she felt was right by old obligations and ties. When Matilda came to England to fight her corner, it was Adeliza who gave her a safe landfall.

LADY OF THE ENGLISH begins the story in 1125 when Matilda is setting out from Germany to return home, and Adeliza is despairing that she will never bear Henry an heir. Both women were titled ‘Lady of the English’ in their lives, and and that’s why I chose it for the novel. It was always given to the Queen of England in that period, and although Matilda never gained the Crown, she was acknowledged with that tribute.

Are you excited yet? Have you read any other novels that dealt with Empress Matilda? I would love to know!! Recommendations?
Also, please visit some of my other Elizabeth Chadwick posts, which includes reviews of previous titles. Additionally, you may visit with Elizabeth Chadwick on her blog and website.


Filed under 2011 Releases, Author Post, Elizabeth Chadwick, King Stephen, Matilda, Medieval Era

Finding Emilie: Guest Post by Laurel Corona

The following is an article written by author Laurel Corona, who has recently published her newest novel, Finding Emilie (4/12/2011), which I consumed in a weekend and loved. Emilie sounds like such a magnificent lady– charming, scientific, exhibitionist, Voltaire’s lover…

Finding Emilie, by Laurel Corona


Emilie du Châtelet: Physicist and Party Girl

The Marquise du Chatelet’s parlor at her husband’s ancestral home in Cirey looked in many respects like that of any other aristocrat. The banquettes were plush, the chairs ornately carved, the tea and liqueurs beautifully arrayed in Sevres porcelain cups and tinted crystal glasses, the cakes and pastries freshly baked by the servants in the basement kitchen.

Only one thing was unique: in the center of the parlor, with chairs arrayed around, was a bathtub–a bathtub with Emilie in it, happily chatting away with her guests while clothed only in a diamond necklace and a silk chemise, transparent when wet. When her water cooled, a manservant recalled in his memoir, he would bring hot water and pour it between her parted knees, which revealed, in his words, “all her nature.”

Well, why not? Emilie du Chatelet was brilliant at everything, but was best at two things: knowing what she wanted, and getting it. From the age of ten she used her prodigious mathematical intelligence to beat adults at cards at the salons, then taught herself math and science from the books she bought with her winnings. As a young wife and mother, she occasionally cross-dressed to go to scientific meetings forbidden to women. When she wanted to learn to sing, she hired one of the voice teachers at the Comedie Italienne as her private tutor, learning whole lead soprano roles by heart even if she would never sing on stage.

Vivacious, irrepressible, charming, and daring, Emilie blazed through the world of Louis XV’s France, but her corset, wig, and panniers hid the most incredible thing about her: her first-rate scientific mind. Emilie du Chatelet used her privileged life to become one of the most important women of science not just in her era but in any. The fact that she is not a household word has far more to say about others than it does about her.

Believing until her thirties that her studies were just for curiosity and that she would never amount to anything as a scientist, she spent years helping her lover, Voltaire, conduct scientific experiments and write a work on Newton which he claimed as his own work. Voltaire had no particular aptitude for such work, but he wanted a seat in the French Academy of Science as a complement to his fame as France’s preeminent man of letters. He never got close. Today, it’s commonly believed that any solid, original thinking in Voltaire’s scientific works is attributable to Emilie.

A prize offered by the Academy of Sciences for the best paper on the nature of fire caused Emilie to break away scientifically from Voltaire and submit her own paper anonymously. She did not win, but received an honorable mention and the unusual acclaim of having her paper published alongside the winner–an indication that the only reason she had not won was because the Academy was unprepared to give the prize to a woman.

She continued a dual life of courtly obligations and scientific work into her early forties, when at the unheard-of age of forty-three, she got pregnant by a dashing young soldier- poet, with whom she had a passionate affair.

Premonitions of death in childbirth caused Emilie to work at a breakneck pace on her most important work, a translation of Newton’s Principia Mathematica. But hers was no mere translation. Few could comprehend Newton’s work, so Emilie rewrote it in French that scientists could understand. She also wrote commentaries to explain and expand upon Newton’s points, and in places where Newton had not presented adequate mathematical proof, Emilie figured out what those proofs would be and supplied the equations. Her translation of Newton’s Principia is still, 250 years later, the standard one used in France.

Unfortunately, Emilie’s premonitions turned out to be true. After an uneventful labor and delivery, she died six days after the birth of a daughter, Stanislas-Adelaide, probably of an embolism.

My novel is about finding Emilie on many levels. First, I “found” her and wanted to tell her story. But the book is less about her than her daughter. Effectively orphaned, Lili (as the girl is known) grows up, at least in my imagination, as unusual and independent of mind as the scandalous woman who bore her. Reaching her teens, Lili’s world closes around her as an impending loveless marriage threatens to take away her independence of spirit and dreams for her future. Believing that learning about her mother may point the way for her own life, she sets out to find Emilie for herself. Last, readers will find Emilie through the real-life scenes that appear between the chapters.

Welcome to 2011, Madame la Marquise! A more appreciative world awaits.
Thanks to Laurel Corona for providing her with this piece! Her books can be found at online retailers at the following links:
Barnes and Noble
Book Depository

The Burton Review posted a review of Finding Emilie here, and the author’s previous release Penelope’s Daughter here. Visit more articles by Laurel Corona here and here.

1 Comment

Filed under 2011 Releases, Author Post, Laurel Corona

>Giveaway and Guest Author! The Sixth Surrender by Hana Samek Norton


In the last years of her eventful life, queen-duchess Aliénor of Aquitaine launches a deadly dynastic chess game to safeguard the crowns of Normandy and England for John Plantagenet, her last surviving son.

To that end, Aliénor coerces into matrimony two pawns—Juliana de Charnais, a plain and pious novice determined to regain her inheritance, and Guérin de Lasalle, a cynical, war-worn mercenary equally resolved to renounce his. The womanizing Lasalle and the proud Juliana are perfectly matched for battle not love—until spies and assassins conspire to reverse their romantic fortunes.

Populated by spirited and intelligent women and executed in flawless period detail, The Sixth Surrender is a compelling love story that heralds the arrival of a major new talent in historical fiction.

Please welcome to The Burton Review, the author of The Sixth Surrender. See below for Giveaway details!!

Five and a Half Rules I Learned about Writing

~By Hana Samek Norton, author of THE SIXTH SURRENDER

During a recent book signing, the book store manager mentioned that quite often her customers would ask her about how to get their book onto the book shelves—a book they haven’t written yet. Sometimes they say they have an idea for a book, but don’t know how to do it.
Frankly, the book store manager’s words surprised me – doesn’t everyone know that you have to WRITE a book first? I think, however, that the question is in fact the “how to,” or more precisely, WHERE to start. Actually, a good question.
For those who have already ventured into writing, there seem to be “rules” in the writing world for just about anything—plot, characters, setting—and getting started on that first or latest project. If any of those “rules” work for you, great! But the most difficult thing still seems to be that “where/how” to start.
Many of my accomplished friends love to write—I don’t, and I hate them (just kidding). It may seem like a heresy to confess it, but I really don’t like “to write.” I like to dawdle over research—occupational hazard of a historian. So here are my five rules and a half rules from getting me to “THE END”.
1. Deadline. I have to have a dead line. It’s the “dead” that inspires me more than anything else. A page in the next l5 minutes is a good deadline for me.
2. The tighter the deadline the better. Thirteen minutes and counting—the characters start shouting at me to sit down and start typing.
3. Ok, ok–start typing while they are doing something interesting.
4. “Bad” characters are always doing something interesting.
5. What next—where are all these guys heading? I reach for Chris Vogel’s The Writer’s Journey . He knows where they all ought to be heading and how to get them there.
5 1/2. Repeat.

Hana Samek Norton

 Hana’s passion for the Middle Ages dates to a childhood exploring the ruins of castles and cloisters in the (now) Czech Republic. She also developed that “lurid taste in fiction,” by reading dog-eared novels full of the drama and melodrama of history. She graduated with an MA from the University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada, and a Ph. D. (both in history, of course), from the University of New Mexico where she currently resides. She is married to an Englishman, teaches part-time, and works as a historical consultant.

Her latest book is The Sixth Surrender. You can visit her website at

Thanks for sharing with us your journey, Hana! For followers of The Burton Review, Pump up Your Book Virtual Book Tour is offering up one giveaway copy for USA residents.. thank you!

To enter, simply comment on this post telling me your favorite Eleanor of Aquitaine story! Good Luck! Giveaway Closed!
The winner is Colleen Turner & she has been notified. Congrats, and thank you to everyone else who entered!


Filed under 2010 Releases, Author Post

>Jeannie Lin’s Butterfly Swords and Taming of Mei Lin Blog Tour


Butterfly Swords by Jeannie Lin
Publisher: Harlequin
Pub Date: 10/01/2010
ISBN: 9780373296149

During China’s infamous Tang Dynasty, a time awash with luxury yet littered with deadly intrigues and fallen royalty, betrayed Princess Ai Li flees before her wedding. Miles from home, with only her delicate butterfly swords for defense, she enlists the reluctant protection of a blue-eyed warrior….

Battle-scarred, embittered Ryam has always held his own life at cheap value. Ai Li’s innocent trust in him and honorable, stubborn nature make him desperate to protect her—which means not seducing the first woman he has ever truly wanted….

Please welcome the following guest post from the author of Butterfly Swords, Jeannie Lin:

Muses: Four Women of the Tang Dynasty

The Tang Dynasty has been a very powerful muse for me, inspiring my debut novel, Butterfly Swords, as well as an entire series and various short stories. What drew me most of all to the period was the remarkable women of the period.
In particular, this panel served as a source of inspiration:

Artist Bai Fa Tong Lao

The four characters at the top of the panels represent: writing (wen), beauty (li), outstanding (jie), and heroism (ying). The four women depicted held the highest ranks in the empire, the most powerful being Empress Wu Zetian who ruled as the only female Emperor of China.

These remarkable women captured my imagination and made me want to get inside their heads. What sort of strength and cleverness would it take for a woman to rise to power in a world dominated by men? I felt that this woman might seem very familiar to our modern day sensibilities. She would have the intelligence and drive of today’s doctors, lawyers, CEOs. She would have the grace and sharp wit of Queen Elizabeth. These women were supermodels as well as politicians.

I was inspired to dream up my own Tang Dynasty heroines. In Butterfly Swords, Ai Li is a princess in tumultuous times. Her father is a warlord who has taken the throne in the midst of civil unrest. Raised in a warrior family, she’s been trained to fight with swords, but that’s not the source of her strength. Her true power comes from her belief in family, loyalty, and honor.

As she embarks on a journey through the empire, she meets up with Ryam, a wayward swordsman fleeing from a Dark Age kingdom, and is forced to challenge and redefine the ideals she holds so dear. It’s an exploration through a foreign land, but with universal themes of love, honor, and acceptance that I hope will ring true.


Jeannie Lin writes historical romantic adventures set in Tang Dynasty China. Her short story, The Taming of Mei Lin from Harlequin Historical Undone is available September 1. Her Golden Heart award-winning novel, Butterfly Swords, was released October 1 from Harlequin Historical and received 4-stars from Romantic Times Reviews—“The action never stops, the love story is strong and the historical backdrop is fascinating.”

Join the launch celebration at  for giveaways and special features. Visit Jeannie online at:

Also, please visit Meghan’s book review of Butterfly Swords at Medieval Bookworm.


Filed under 2010 Releases, Author Post, Jeannie Lin

>Giveaway and Guest Post by Laurel Corona: Penelope’s Daughter

>Please welcome to The Burton Review award-winning author Laurel Corona, who has crafted an exquisite retelling of the story of Homer’s The Odyssey in PENELOPE’S DAUGHTER (Berkley Trade Paperback Original; October 5, 2010; $15.00). This book has such a beautiful cover there was no way that I could resist getting this one, and I am so glad that I did. I recently read and reviewed the book on The Burton Review.

Penelope’s Daughter; available October 5, 2010

Populated with characters both real and imaginary, the novel explores the dangerous world of Ithaca during the years of Odysseus’ absence from the point of view of Xanthe, Odysseus and Penelope’s daughter:

The royal court of Ithaca has been in upheaval for years without the leadership of Odysseus as king. Xanthe is barricaded in her own chambers to avoid the suitors, all willing to commit any act—including murder and kidnapping—to make her their bride and gain the throne. Xanthe turns to her loom to weave the adventures of her life, from her upbringing among servants and slaves, to the years spent in hiding with her mother’s cousin, Helen of Troy, to the passion of her sexual awakening in the arms of the man she loves.

When a stranger dressed as a beggar appears at the palace, Xanthe wonders who will be the one to decide her future—a suitor she loathes, a brother she cannot respect, or a father who doesn’t know she exists.

Read the full synopsis here at Laurel’s site.
Purchase via Amazon or via IndieBound

Laurel Corona ©Olga Gunn Photography
Laurel Corona is a professor of humanities at San Diego City College and a longtime resident of Southern California. She is the author of The Four Seasons: A Novel of Vivaldi’s Venice, along with numerous works of nonfiction. Visit her online at
See the end of this post for the book giveaway details!

Helen and the Homer Sandwich by Laurel Corona:

Recently I watched a film version of the Odyssey, and I was struck by the assumption by the set designers that Homer’s Ithaca looked like Athens at the peak of its glory. Actually, if Odysseus and his men had set out for Athens instead of Troy, they might have had trouble finding it, for at the time the Iliad and Odyssey are set, Athens was still a small and unimportant backwater town. The wild and untamed Peloponnese, a large peninsula southwest of Athens, was where the action was, and where most of the famous city-states of the time were located–Mycenae, Sparta, Pylos, and the like. There, palaces were small abodes, made of rough stone and logs, with packed dirt floors and minimal niceties.

Even hundred of years later, Homer would not have known much about Athens, for the Iliad and Odyssey were written long before the city’s glory days. The poet was sandwiched between the “Age of Heroes” (as the time ranging from Heracles through Achilles is often called) and the “Golden Age of Athens,” when that city ruled the seas and built the Parthenon.

The bottom piece of bread in this sandwich is the Mycenaean era, long before the time that characters like Odysseus and Helen of Troy would have lived. The first layer of filling in this sandwich is a period called the “Greek Dark Ages.” This is the time that the events of the Iliad and Odyssey would have occurred, but unfortunately no written records exist from that time.

Next, let’s put Homer’s era in our sandwich, for by then oral histories sung by the bards were being written down. The top piece of bread is the far more familiar classical world of gorgeous temples and a Mount Olympus with Zeus firmly in charge. This sandwich took most of a millennium to create, so it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that set designers who have Odysseus living in a palace with fluted marble pillars got it wrong.

Okay, let’s drop the analogy. A millennium-old sandwich doesn’t sound like a very tasty treat. But what this chronology reveals about changes in Greek culture is fascinating, if a bit depressing from a feminist perspective.

During the Mycenaean Era (long before the events described by Homer), goddesses were more powerful than gods. Zeus was seen as the husband of Hera, rather than the other way around. Though men might do flashier things, like rule and go to war, women had the most essential power of all–the ability to invoke the gods. As a result, women appear to have been respected and their powers revered in Mycenaean culture.

By the time we get to Classical Greece, things look very different. Zeus has become the chief god of Olympus, and Hera has been reduced to a bitchy and overbearing nag who causes trouble for her charming, if unfaithful husband. Though goddesses like Artemis and Athena are still important, they’re outnumbered and overpowered by the likes of Poseidon and Zeus. The same is true for the mortal women who lived in this era. Aristocratic women in Athens at the time of its greatest glory were essentially housebound, with few rights and opportunities for an independent life.

So how did this happen? How did we go from a culture respectful of, and in many ways centered on women, to the opposite? It happened in the dark (as so many things between men and women do!) but this time the darkness is the “Greek Dark Ages” that I referred to above. Somehow, in the centuries for which no written records exist, goddesses and women lost much of their power. Scholars theorize about this, but suffice it to say here that what came out the other side is the patriarchal society familiar to us today, rather than the female-centered pre-Greek one.

Presumably the stories the bards sang were recast many times to reflect the changing values of the listeners, so the way Helen and Penelope are presented in the Odyssey may have more to do with Homer’s society than the one in which these two women lived (if indeed they ever did). But let’s look at the two of them anyway, to see if this ongoing loss of female power is reflected in Homer’s work.

Homer stresses Penelope’s powerlessness. It is truly annoying how much of the time she spends weeping and wringing her hands in Homer’s version of the tale (not so in mine!) She is Homer’s perfect wife, waiting faithfully for her husband and not taking things into her own hands, except in the most acceptable way, through her weaving—the female task second in importance only to childbearing.

Helen, on the other hand, seems to be formed from Mycenaean clay. Her beauty gives her a matchless power among mortals. Her actions are larger than life. Even when she is back in Sparta after the Trojan War, ruling alongside Menelaus, she is still a dazzler. Homer tells us she has become a kind of sorcerer/magician, using drugs to alter people’s moods. Popular tradition holds that she became the chief priestess of the powerful cult of Artemis/Orthia, though Homer doesn’t mention this.

Helen is a woman Homer would not be comfortable with, so he writes her down to size. She uses her magic potions only at dinners where guests have grown morose—the perfect hostess. She speaks little except to lament what a terrible thing she did running off with Paris, and how helpless she was in Aphrodite’s grip. In the Odyssey, Helen is the emblem of women caught in the process of being reinterpreted and recast as subservient. Looking at it another way, though, Helen’s story is the collective female destiny in reverse. As time passes, she grows in power. Unfortunately what really happened to the women after Helen’s time will be the opposite.

I really enjoyed reading this book, and I am honored to be able to host the book giveaway courtesy of the publisher.

To enter, please comment here telling us if you have read the author’s previous novel, or if you have had read anything on Helen of Troy or those in that era. What did you think of them?

+2 for a Facebook or Blog Post, linking here
+1 for a Tweet linking here
+2 For commenting on my review

Good Luck!
Giveaway ends 10/16, open to USA and Canada.


Filed under 2010 Releases, Author Post, Laurel Corona

>Giveaway & Guest Author: Come Again No More by Jack Todd

>Jack Todd released his debut epic novel Sun Going Down in 2008 and is promoting his fourth novel and newest work Come Again No More, available from Amazon by clicking on their titles.

They were three miles west of town when the sun broke through. The wind tore the clouds into rags, the sun lit the rags on fire and in fiery trails they streamed across a sky that opened like a bruised and tender heart …

– Come Again No More

Writing the Paint Trilogy: Turning family history and American history into fiction
Jack Todd

It started with a box. A fairly large, unwieldy box, heavily taped and tied with grocer’s string. Sent, with love, from my mother in western Nebraska to me in New York City in 1981.

This time, it wasn’t a box of brownies. My mother, born Maxine Marguerite Morgan in a Nebraska sod house in 1910, had shipped our family history, or as much of it as a single box could contain. Letters, family portraits, fragments of diaries, and one fairly substantial memoir, thirty-five pages single-spaced on someone’s old typewriter, left by my great-uncle Eb Jones, pioneer and frontier character in South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming and Nebraska.

Perhaps, my mother suggested in the accompanying letter written in her elegant hand, I could do something with all this. I don’t know what she had in mind: a family history to be circulated to the relations, perhaps? One of those Aunt Betty and Uncle Bill and the bear at the family picnic things, preserving all the family yarns for posterity?

I did read Uncle Eb’s memoir, pieced together from memory after the diaries he kept for forty years were lost in a house fire in the 1930s. It was lively stuff: frontier murders, a gold rush or two, the Civil War, a drive to bring a thousand head of buffalo from Arizona to Wyoming. The massacre at Wounded Knee, where he was a scout for the cavalry.

I put the box aside and forgot about it. Somewhere along the line, in one of my numerous moves, most of it was lost. Twenty years later, a conversation with my sister aroused my curiosity about those old letters and memoirs, because two things struck me: first, there was a doozy of a story in there, which I had been too obtuse to see the first time around. Second, there was a remarkable confluence, over a period of nearly 150 years, between the history of my family (or more specifically, my mother’s family) and the history of the United States.

The first members of the Jones family had arrived in the Boston area before the American revolution. They drifted south as far as Mississippi, where John Milton Jones was born in 1830. John Milton left the south to walk to California with seven or eight friends after gold was found on the West Coast in 1849. As far as we know, he was the only one to survive. He returned to the Mississippi River with enough capital to buy what he called a “store boat,” which he operated on the river in partnership with a freed slave until they came under Confederate fire during the Civil War.

John Milton sold the boat and moved north to South Dakota, arriving as one of the first pioneers in the Sioux Falls-Yankton area in 1863. He married a woman who was part Sioux and fathered several children, two of whom, Eb and his brother Squier, became the protagonists of my first novel, Sun Going Down.

Both boys were fluent in Lakota, but Eb was perpetually restless. He scouted for the cavalry, worked as a sheriff in Spearfish and elsewhere, tried ranching in a dozen locations at a dozen times. Squier settled down in Brown County, Nebraska and built a ranching empire, beginning with a 160-acre homestead.

It was on that ranch that the essential conflict of this trilogy was borne, when Squier’s daughter Velma, my grandmother, became pregnant by one of his bronc riders. Squier kicked the pair of them off his ranch and set them up in a miserable homestead with a tumbledown soddy. After my mother was born, the bronc rider broke her arm in a quarrel and Squier went a little farther: he drove the young husband out of the state, leaving Velma to try to figure out how to survive, along with her two small children on a desolate homestead.

She might have pulled it off, but Velma learned she had tuberculosis in 1915 and spent most of the rest of her short life in and out of the sanitarium in Denver while her children were shuffled back and forth among orphanages and various family members willing to take them in.

In historical terms, it was all there, a primer of American history in the story of a single family: the great Mississippi River and the steamboats, the California gold rush (and a later gold rush in the Black Hills) the Civil War, the westward expansion, the Indian wars, World War I, the Roaring 1920s, the Great Depression and World War II. Somewhere along the line, members of the extended Jones family were always part of it.

I set out to tell the story. Six years after I began reassembling the stories in the original box, with the help of sisters, cousins and aunts all over the western U.S., Sun Going Down was published by Touchstone Books.

The first novel began in 1849 and ended at the beginning of the Great Depression, in 1933. The second, Come Again No More, is set entirely during the Depression years and researching it was less difficult, because I heard much of it directly from my parents. They lost their farm in Nebraska during the 1930s and joined the great migration to the West Coast, moving to a small Oregon mill town where my father, a former boxer, had a job in the mill. After six months, he decided he couldn’t stand the rain and dragged the family back to Nebraska.

Like Sun Going Down, Come Again No More is an attempt to get at the general truth of our common history through the particular history of a single family. It is one thing to read the history of the 1930s or to review the painful statistics of a time when a third of the American work-force was unemployed. Those statistics come home, however, only when you find a way to bring alive the impact of hard times on ordinary folk.

There is an odd process a writer goes through when turning family history into fiction. The real characters fade and are replaced by the fictional characters who become as real, in the imagination, as living friends and relatives. Thus Squier Jones for me will always be Eli Paint, his fictional counterpart, and Eb Jones is Ezra Paint, Eli’s brother.

The character Emaline in both books is, of course, my mother. With her hot-tempered, quick-fisted husband Jake McCloskey (my father, the first Jack Todd) she is alive to me as both fiction and memory. In Come Again No More, I attempted to tell their story, the awkward marriage of the rather prim young woman who loved Chekhov and Balzac to a character so rough, he would drive a steel bolt with his bare fist.

As Come Again No More ventures into the world, I’m completing the third novel in the series, The Rain Came Down, set almost entirely during World War II and based, in part, on the letters of my mother’s younger brother Jimmy Wilson, a gunner on the battleship Tennessee from Pearl Harbor to Japan. The contents of another box, in other words.

A lesson for writers everywhere: beware the boxes you open. You may find yourself, years later, still entranced by the old stories, the characters who stare out at you from the black-and-white photographs, the hasty letters dated 1887 or 1910 or 1944. More novels, waiting to be born.

Visit the author’s blog

Thanks so much to Jack Todd for visiting The Burton Review and sharing such an intriguing family story with us. I look forward to reading the stories he is sharing with his novels, and I think my followers would enjoy them as well. If you would like to enter for your own copy of Come Again No More, just enter here by commenting with your email address. Please tell me what intrigues you about your own family history. Have you realized anything similar to the metaphorical box that Jack Todd refers to here? Do you think you are going to leave your own box for your own descendents?

Giveaway open to USA only and ends 10/02/2010.


Filed under 2010 Releases, Author Post, Jack Todd