Guest Post & Giveaway: The Writing Space of Pamela Lynne

family-portraits-cover-ebook-largeWelcome to today’s guest post and giveaway with Pamela Lynne.  Her latest Jane Austen inspired novel, Family Portraits, hit shelves earlier this month, and it is garnering some great reviews.

About the Book:

In Dearest Friends, Pamela Lynne drew complex and interesting characters who joined Darcy and Elizabeth on their road to happily ever after. But, what happened after ‘the end’? Did Lydia survive her time at Rosings? Did Jane find fulfillment as Mrs. Bingley? Did Mary and Sebastian adhere to duty or allow their hearts to lead them? Follow the Fitzwilliams, Bennets, Gardiners and Darcys through portraits of their lives at two, five and ten years after the Darcys’ marriage. Their canvas is studded with heartbreaking loss, new beginnings and, through it all, the indelible bond of family.

Without further ado, please welcome Pamela as she shares her writing space with us.

Hello everybody! I am so happy to be here at Savvy Verse and Wit for the very first time! Thank you, Serena, for hosting me. This is the last stop on my Family Portraits blog tour and Serena has asked me to share my writing space with you all.

I admit, I panicked a little at first when Serena made this request. My desk is a drop down style that can be closed to hide the mess inside, and it is always messy inside! All week I told myself I would straighten it up a bit and take pictures. Procrastination coupled with waking up with a nasty head cold determined that you will see me in all my disorganized glory instead.

closeddeskOne day, I will have a lovely space of my own that opens up into a beautiful garden (that someone else tends), but until then, I share my writing space with my husband, three kids, two cats, and one overly attentive dog. My husband gave me this desk for Christmas the year we moved into this house. The gesture actually meant a lot to me. I had just finished Dearest Friends two months prior and was still not sure this writing thing would stick. He wasn’t sure either, but said the desk was there just in case.

peacockThankfully, it did stick and I have managed to write two more books while sitting here, or at the library, in my bed, at the kitchen table, or at Panera Bread. When I am up late at night this is where I sit with my mug of green tea as the characters in my head have their way with me. The décor on top changes from time to time. Right now you see most of our Vanity and Pride Press releases along with my A Moment Forever (Savvy Verse & Wit review) hope chest and my IPPY bronze medal. In the next week or so the peacock will likely be replaced with a scarecrow or a Halloween tree, but the books will remain. Along with Cat’s and my books, I have my favorite copy of Austen’s complete novels, a well-worn paperback of Jane Eyre and two books I sometimes use for reference and inspiration while writing my Austen inspired work. Those will change as my needs change and are not always stacked so neatly.

dewshineInside, we see not only my writing necessities, but those of the family as well. I have two pencil boxes full of pens, pencils, scissors, and sharpeners and a pottery crock containing the same things. They are never moved, but how many times a night do I hear, “I can’t find a pencil.”? Several. I also have some items that make me smile. The Dew Shine is another gift from my husband. I have a non-Austenesque plot bunny set in Tennessee during prohibition. You can probably guess moonshine is involved. My dear man saw this in the store and remembered me telling him about the idea. I now have proof that he does listen to my ramblings! Hanging up beside it is a note card with a picture of my favorite Darcy drawn by the fabulous Janet Taylor, sent to me by the equally fabulous J. Dawn King. Next to him is another favorite, the Darcy featured in Cat’s Denial of Conscience. (Savvy Verse & Wit review) We had a blast sharing Darcy on his bike with readers all over the world. I keep him there as a reminder of how much fun this JAFF world can be.

pencildrawingOn the other side of Iceman is a picture drawn by my daughter. I have several handmade items my kids have given me either in celebration of a release, or as encouragement. This one has a special place of honor as it was the very first one of its kind, presented to me after I told her about the friends I have made in the online Austen community.

Finally, we have my two most important pieces for writing—my laptop and my “scratch paper.” So far, I have written three books on three different laptops. Dearest Friends was written on one that was truly on its last legs. It did not survive long past the last paragraph. I purchased a pretty purple Dell that housed Sketching Character lynnecomputerthrough publication, but not long after, it succumbed to a cup of hot coffee. I really hope I break the streak and get at least one more book completed on this one before I somehow destroy it as well. I won the notebook, which is a novel journal of Emma, at another wonderful blog, Austenesque Reviews. It goes wherever I go, and for the past year I have been jotting down ideas and bits of dialogue that will make it into my next novel.

So, that’s a look into the most photographable part of my creative space. In truth, I can write pretty much anywhere I can find a quiet space, as long as the Muse is cooperating. Thank you all for reading, and thank you, again, Serena, for having me! Happy reading, everybody!

Thanks, Pamela, for sharing your space with us!  It’s always fun to see a creative person’s writing space.


Up for Grabs: 1 copy of any Pamela Lynne e-bookSketching Character, Dearest Friends, or Family Portraits.

Leave a comment here about your own reading or writing space, and leave a way for me to contact you if you win.

Deadline is Oct. 5, 2016, 11:59 PM EST


THE GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED!! The winner is Priscilla T.

Excerpt & Giveaway: Death at the Paris Exposition by Frances McNamara

Death at the Paris Exposition Banner

Frances McNamara

on Tour September 19-28 with

Death at the Paris Exposition

Death at the Paris Exposition

(historical mystery)

Release date: September 1, 2016
at Allium Press of Chicago

ISBN: 978-0-9967558-3-2
ebook: 978-0-9967558-4-9
276 pages



Amateur sleuth Emily Cabot’s journey once again takes her to a world’s fair—the Paris Exposition of 1900. Chicago socialite Bertha Palmer is named the only female U. S. commissioner to the Exposition and enlists Emily’s services as her secretary. Their visit to the House of Worth for the fitting of a couture gown is interrupted by the theft of Mrs. Palmer’s famous pearl necklace. Before that crime can be solved, several young women meet untimely deaths and a member of the Palmer’s inner circle is accused of the crimes. As Emily races to clear the family name she encounters jealous society ladies, American heiresses seeking titled European husbands, and more luscious gowns and priceless jewels. Along the way, she takes refuge from the tumult at the country estate of Impressionist painter Mary Cassatt. In between her work and sleuthing, she is able to share the Art Nouveau delights of the Exposition, and the enduring pleasures of the City of Light, with her husband and their children.

Here’s an Excerpt from Prologue and Chapter 1:



Frances McNamara

Frances McNamara grew up in Boston,
where her father served as Police Commissioner for ten years.  She has degrees from Mount Holyoke and Simmons Colleges, and recently retired from the University of Chicago. She now divides her time between Boston and Cape Cod.  She is the author of five other titles in the Emily Cabot Mysteries series, which is set in the 1890s and takes place primarily in Chicago: Death at the Fair, Death at Hull House, Death at Pullman, Death at Woods Hole, and Death at Chinatown.

Visit her website
Follow her on Facebook
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Follow Allium Press of Chicago on Twitter | on Facebook

Buy the book: on Amazon


You can enter the global giveaway here
or on any other book blogs participating in this tour.
Be sure to follow each participant on Twitter/Facebook,
they are listed in the entry form below

Enter here

Visit each blogger on the tour: tweeting about the giveaway everyday of the Tour will give you 5 extra entries each time! [just follow the directions on the entry-form]

Global giveaway open to US residents:
1 winner will receive a copy of this book



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Review and Giveaway: Edgar Allan Poe: An Adult Coloring Book by Odessa Begay

Source: Sterling Publishing
Paperback, 96 pgs.
I am Amazon Affiliate

Edgar Allan Poe: An Adult Coloring Book by Odessa Begay is a gorgeous coloring book that perfectly illustrates the beauty and sadness of Poe’s work, with quotes from various stories interspersed throughout. Begay is a talented artist who carefully weaves in beauty with each horrifying image — from skulls to pestilence personified. Many of these designs are very intricate and will require a steady hand to keep within the lines, but that’s half the fun of achieving calm through coloring. It’s almost meditative to follow the curves of her images and think about how to complement each color to make an overall pleasing image.

Aren’t those images gorgeous? This book is perfect for those who love Edgar Allan Poe, participating in the fall R.I.P. challenge, or those who just want to color some horrifyingly beautiful illustrations. Edgar Allan Poe: An Adult Coloring Book by Odessa Begay is a wonderful tribute to the macabre Poe and his darkly beautiful work.

Here’s one of my pictures — it’s not very good:


RATING: Cinquain

About the Author/Illustrator:

Odessa Begay resides in Philadelphia, PA. She is a graduate of NYU/The Tisch School of the Arts where she studied photography and imaging. She has licensed her work widely in the children’s/baby markets, as well as botanicals for home décor, paper, and fabric. Learn more about her at Website.

Want a copy of your own? Live in the United States or Canada?

Leave a comment on this post by Sept. 29, 2016, 11:59 PM EST, about which story or poem by Edgar Allan Poe is your favorite.


Guest Post & Giveaway: How Austen Seduced Hemingway by Collins Hemingway

Vol 2 Final 07-08-16If you’ve been reading this blog long enough, you know that I love Jane Austen, particularly Pride & Prejudice, and that I sometimes read variations and re-tellings of her work, or novels that have Jane Austen as a character.

The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen: Vol. 2 looks at how Austen would have fared had she married and had a family.

About the Novel:

The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen trilogy by Collins Hemingway respectfully reimagines the beloved English author’s life and resolves the biggest mystery around the actual historical records about her life during the Regency era in England: What really happened during the “missing years” of her twenties? Why did her sister destroy all of her letters and records of her life then? Why have rumors of a tragic lost love persisted for two hundred years? www.austenmarriage.com

Please welcome, Collins Hemingway, the author of The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen, to the blog today as he talks about how Austen seduced him.

Since embarking on my Jane Austen journey, I’ve been asked many a time why a present-day man, who spent most of his career involved with computers, marketing, and aviation, would explore the “what ifs” of the life of a literary woman from two hundred years ago.

The answer goes back primarily to Dr. Duncan Eaves, my graduate school instructor and an expert in Eighteenth Century literature. He and another wonderful instructor at my school, Dr. Ben Kimpel, wrote the definitive biography of Samuel Richardson, usually considered the first English novelist, and Dr. Eaves edited an edition of Richardson’s novel Pamela.

Dr. Eaves could recite Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Graveyard” as mournfully as the tolling of a bell, or playfully rattle off long stretches of Pope’s satiric heroic couplets. He could convince his students, by good humor alone, to finish Richardson’s agonizingly dull Pamela or Clarissa.

Jane Austen herself found Richardson gratifying, according to her brother Henry, who was careful to add, however, that “her taste secured her from the errors of his prolix style and tedious narrative.”

Dr. Eaves eschewed the usual Jane Austen reads, Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, for Emma, which he considered much the superior work.

At this same time, in a class on modern poetry, I read a poem—by Anne Sexton or Maxine Kumin, I believe—that described what life would have been like for Romeo and Juliet had they not “escaped” with a romantic death: squalling babies, money hassles, arguments over daily life.

I had married young, had a child, and was struggling financially. I knew, even at the age of 21, that courtship and marriage were radically different things.

The situation led to animated exchanges with Dr. Eaves about Austen. My view was that she was a brilliant but superficial writer simply because courtship did not lend itself to investigation of the deepest feelings of the heart or the substance of life. Her books, I told Dr. Eaves, ended where they should have begun: with marriage.

Dr. Eaves told me to come back and read Austen every ten years or so. As I gained experience, he said, I would see more of life woven into the fabric of her work and less of the comedy of manners. Over time, his prediction came true. Austen pushed the bounds of convention, and likely her own sense of propriety, by addressing substantive issues obliquely—premarital sex and the slave trade, to mention two.

Even the delightful Emma, with its breezily misguided protagonist, manages to provide “perfect happiness” for a scandalous situation, that of Harriet’s illegitimacy. Interestingly enough, her being a “natural” daughter turns out not to be nearly as important as whether her father was a gentleman, as Emma supposes, or a tradesman, as turns out to be the case.

Novels of the day often addressed the question of a lady’s virtue but never seriously addressed other matters of consequence, before or after the wedding. Austen’s secondary characters are the ones involved in dubious—thus consequential—activities, and she often leaves open the question of future happiness for them. The main characters, meanwhile, skip off gaily into the future.

I felt that there had to be a way to capture Austen’s spirit and insight while also bringing the more serious issues of Austen’s day out of the background and into the light. I wanted to see how an intelligent woman of the early 1800s would respond if personally tested by those issues.

For many, many years, while mastering computer products during the day, I continued to study the history of the Regency period and to read Austen and what biographers had to say about her. All of the matters above percolated in my head.

My wife and I visited southern England several times, from the coast of Kent to Land’s End. On one of these trips, in 2006, we took the train down to Bath, where we spent several days seeing the sights and visiting some of Austen’s haunts. I picked up more books and bios.

Bath was not Austen’s favorite locale, but I was affected by being where she had walked and shopped and visited with her family—and had many of her own characters interacting. At the end of the weekend, I was struck by a thought as sharp as Emma’s arrow: Write my story.

I understood immediately. Write the story of Jane Austen living to the fullest the personal life that most women then experienced. Write the story of the public life she would have undertaken if she had had the opportunity to engage in the exciting, chaotic maelstrom that was the Regency period. Write as she would have, freed from the restrictions and conventions that stifled women authors then.

On the train back to London, I pulled out my journal and began to jot down notes under a title that wrote itself: The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen.

A decade later, I’m returning to Bath to launch the second volume of the trilogy that, I hope, does justice to the voice that struck me: the voice of Jane Austen.

Thank you for stopping by.

Please leave a comment below with an anecdote or piece of advice about marriage or finding love?

Deadline to enter for U.S./Canada residents is Sept. 16, 2016, 11:59 PM EST. Good Luck!


Guest Post & Giveaway: Jill Esbaum, Author of If A T. Rex Crashes Your Birthday Party!

T Rex coverIn honor of the publication of If a T. Rex Crashes Your Birthday Party by Jill Esbaum, illustrated by Dasha Tolstikova, Jill Esbaum is here offering tips on what to do should a T. Rex crash your party.

Read aloud tips for parents from Jill Esbaum, author of If A T. Rex Crashes Your Birthday Party!

  1. Put lots of expression into your reading. Try to pre-read books you’ll share with kids, so you’ll know which parts need more oomph.
  2. Use different voices for different characters. This really adds to the fun of silly books.
  3. If a story is on the quiet side or particularly moving, take care to read it slowly, lingering over lyrical phrases and beautiful images.
  4. Stop and discuss what’s happening from time to time, asking open-ended questions – especially if your kiddos are very young and might not understand what the main character is up to. Exercise little imaginations by asking something like, “What do you think will happen next?”
  5. Keep the TV off while you’re reading. When you treat reading time like the best part of your day, little listeners learn two things: a. that they are important and you love spending time with them, and b. that reading is important. A book should always be a treat!

Download the fun T.rex Party Kit!

To Enter to Win 1 copy (U.S. Residents only) — 1 entry per task:
1. Leave a comment about your last birthday part for a kid
2. Follow the blog’s Facebook page and leave a comment.
3. Share this giveaway on Twitter, and let me know you did.

Deadline is Sept. 9, 2016, at 11:59 PM EST.


The Secret Language of Stones by M.J. Rose & Giveaway

Source: France Book Tours
Hardcover, 320 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

M.J. Rose is an author who can transport you into any time and place, weaving in the occult and the mysterious along with history. It is utterly believable. Opaline Duplessi is one of the descendants of La Lune, a famous witch, and whose mother is featured in The Witch of Painted Sorrows, which I loved. In The Secret Language of Stones by M.J. Rose, Opaline has fled her parents and returned to the former home of La Lune — Paris. Rather than live with her great-grandmother, who also prefers to avoid the occult, she lives beneath the jewelry shop where she works for a family of Russian emigres, the Orloffs, who long for tsarist Russia to return from the hands of the Bolsheviks.

Her work with stones in the shop leads her to use her gifts from La Lune to help the mothers, daughters, and wives left behind by the deceased soldiers of WWI. These soldiers have fallen while protecting Paris and others from the Germans, many lying in the trenches alone. Through her gifts, the crushed stones, and other engravings, Opaline is able to reach through the ether and provide these women with a bit of solace in their despair. Motivated by her own loss, and her inability to provide hope to a fallen soldier of her own, Opaline sees it as her duty to help these women with their grief.

Rose has created an entire mythology with the Daughters of La Lune, but readers can read these books individually, though they’d have a richer experience reading them together. Her characters are dynamic and strong-willed women who navigate the unknown and often dark mysteries of the worlds beyond reality. Rose packs her narrative with history and artistry in a way that will fully absorb readers from page one. The Secret Language of Stones by M.J. Rose is captivating, feel yourself being drawn into the netherworld page by page, moment by moment, and uncover the mystery alongside Opaline.

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

M.J. Rose grew up in New York City exploring the labyrinthine galleries of the Metropolitan Museum and the dark tunnels and lush gardens of Central Park — and reading her mother’s favorite books before she was allowed.  She is the author of more than a dozen novels, the co-president and founding board member of International Thriller Writers, and the founder of the first marketing company for authors, AuthorBuzz.com.

She lives in Greenwich, Connecticut. Please visit her website, her blog: Museum of Mysteries.  Subscribe to her mailing list and get information about new releases, free book downloads, contests, excerpts and more. Or send an email to TheFictionofMJRose-subscribe at yahoogroups dot com

To send M.J. a message and/or request a signed bookplate, send an email to mjroseauthor at gmail dot com

Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Guest Post & Giveaway: American Red Cross Heroines by Cat Gardiner, Author of A Moment Forever


If you visited in the last month or so, you’ll have heard of Cat Gardiner, a voice who was new to me in the world of Austen-inspired fiction.  What really drew me to her writing was her love of WWII-era fiction and her thorough research for historical fiction.  She takes research to a whole new level.  She creates playlists for her books, Pinterest boards, and her and her husband often attend and participate in re-enactments!

Her latest novel, A Moment Forever, is a sweeping epic in which Juliana Martel is bequeathed a home that looks like a time capsule from 1942 and the mysterious love affair of her great uncle.  Martel embarks on a journalistic journey to uncover the past, which could end up healing herself.

Read more about the book on GoodReads or, better yet, buy it!  It’s sure to be a winner!  It’s available on Kindle or in paperback at Amazon.

Without further ado, please welcome Cat Gardiner.

Hi Serena & Friends! Thank you for inviting me back at Savvy Verse & Wit with my debut WWII romance novel, A Moment Forever (AMF). It’s swell to be here! Some of your readers who know me have recently learned―upon my own outing―my big secret: I’m a WWII Living Historian.

“A what? Is Cat really that old?”

No! I’m a WWII reenactor alongside my husband with the 1 st Infantry Division Reenactment Group out of Bradenton, Florida. He wears the GI combat uniform and I wear the frock and snood ―or hat― depending on the season. Together with the other “boys” of the 1 st I.D, we educate the public at various events and, on occasion, I’ve been seen hanging on my sweetheart’s arm, swooning after 23 years of marriage. I do so love a man in uniform. (In case you’re curious: Visit Here)

When considering this guest article, I, of course, wanted to discuss some relevant theme within AMF, but there were many. So I thought I’d share with you my own 1940s Experience in reenactment and how writing AMF has infused my commitment with new ideas!

This past Memorial Day (AMF’s book birthday,) the third year at a local museum where the 1 st I.D had encamped, and as the norm, I accompanied the men. Nothing more than their informative groupie, looking pretty (I hoped) in the bivouac, I reflected on one of AMF’s main characters and how her wartime service could be one that I could emulate at these events. I absolutely love engaging with the public and sharing with them a little about the home front experience and explaining the various military personal items in the display cases. On occasion, I’m even asked to pose in my vintage apparel and discuss gloves, hats, and handkerchiefs! But at this last event, I really got to thinking, “Can I teach more?” And that was when I considered A Moment Forever as my guide.

You see, Lillian Renner, our heroine’s “Irish Twin” volunteered locally with the American Red Cross’s Motor Corps. However, after training in late 1942 for the newly created Clubmobile service, she left for England and, although the service ended in 1945, she didn’t return back to the states until 1946. Personally, I had never heard of the clubmobile when I began writing the novel in 2013, but as research goes when putting together a saga such as AMF, you follow the lead-and it led me to WWII’s “Doughgirls”. In the following Korean and Vietnam wars, they’d come to be further loved and known as Donut Dollies.

Sitting in that hot canvas tent this past Memorial Day, I thought of Lillian and the other two girls driving their “club on wheels” ―a 2 ½ ton truck―from, at first, airfields and docks in Great Britain, and then four days after D-Day, they began their trek with the troops across Europe. These ARC clubmobilers also served along the very dangerous India/China/Burma front. Wherever the boys were, so were the doughgirls. They traveled behind and received their assignments from the army, serving the troops resting from battle at the frontlines. I could reenact this, I thought. I want to. I have to. If I had lived then, I would have done it! All I need now is a truck, a uniform, and all the qualities those girls had. Bravery being the first and foremost.

“The clubmobile consisted of a good-sized kitchen with a built-in doughnut machine. A primus stove was installed for heating water for coffee, which was prepared in 50-cup urns. On one side of the kitchen area, there was a counter and a large flap which opened out for serving coffee and doughnuts. In the back one-third of the clubmobile, was a lounge with a built-in bench on either side (which could be converted to sleeping bunks, if necessary), a victrola with loud speakers, a large selection of up-to- date music records, and paperback books.” – Official website clubmobiles.org

“The clubmobile consisted of a good-sized kitchen with a built-in doughnut machine. A primus stove was installed for heating water for coffee, which was prepared in 50-cup urns. On one side of the kitchen area, there was a counter and a large flap which opened out for serving coffee and doughnuts. In the back one-third of the clubmobile, was a lounge with a built-in bench on either side (which could be converted to sleeping bunks, if necessary), a victrola with loud speakers, a large selection of up-to- date music records, and paperback books.” – Official website clubmobiles.org

Although the concept of bringing doughnuts to the boys in battle began with the Salvation Army during WWI, in 1942, pretty girls between 25 and 35 years of age, trained with the American Red Cross. In Washington, DC they learned to dance, play poker, shoot the breeze, and make coffee and doughnuts―from a truck. What they couldn’t prepare for was the reality of war when fliers landed, returning from a mission. Nor could these American girls ready themselves for the tears―and yes there were tears―when battle-weary GIs saw in them SO MUCH MORE than just “a” woman from back home. To them, they were home; they represented the girl next door, their sisters, their sweethearts who they missed. The cigarettes and magazines, the music and candy were life savers, but the smiles and compassion, the attentive ears, laughter, and the dances were soul savers. These trailblazing clubmobiler girls were so much more than ARC volunteers offering hot coffee and doughnuts. Everything from the truck was free, but the shoulder she offered was priceless. Resting upon that shoulder was the power to restore the man and his humanity, particularly when the clubmobile was there at POW camp liberations.

Clubmobile Airfield

Finally recognized by the United States Senate in 2012 for their self-sacrifice and morale boosting efforts, these girls, oftentimes slept in the truck. They wore special field uniforms and if attached to an artillery unit, withstood the shelling. They also endured their own hardships, the homesickness and the heavy hearts they carried into their solitude after a long day of service to our fighting boys.

So, two weeks ago, after pondering these heroes, I told my husband to reach out to a few of his military vehicle collector friends and put out the word: find my wife either a truck we can convert or an actual clubmobile. Of course, I said it tongue and cheek, but he does have such a friend with big, deep pockets who loves this stuff. The guy even has three or four WWII tanks! What’s a little ole’ GMC 2-ton truck for a modern girl wearing a snood?

It’s my dream to be AMF’s Lillian Renner attached to the 1 st Infantry Division, attending reenactments and selling doughnuts to visitors. All proceeds would go to The Honor Flight or another worthy veteran cause. I’d have a uniform specially made and tell the stories of heroic girls such as Captain Elizabeth Richardson (see book: Slinging Doughnuts for the Boys) and tales such as this former volunteer:

I absolutely adored learning about this little-known piece of ARC history, and I’m delighted that Serena has given me an opportunity to tell you about these brave women who served during all the wars. Thank you!

Thanks, Cat, for the wonderful guest post! Readers, that’s not all, enter to win some swag below!

Check out her blog tour:




For domestic entries, I’d like to offer a special swag giveaway, which represents key themes within A Moment Forever.

  • An e-book A Moment Forever
  • Glass blown swans statue
  • Bath and Body Works gardenia hand cream
  • Bath and Body Works gardenia scented candle
  • A Moment Forever bookmarkDSC03877

Don’t think we forgot our international commenters!  You’ll be entered to win an ebook of A Moment Forever!

DEADLINE June 30, 2016.


Treasure Hunt Giveaway: Banana Muffins & Mayhem by Janel Gradowski

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000031_00001]Source: Janel Gradowski
EBook, 195 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Banana Muffins & Mayhem by Janel Gradowski is the fifth book in the Culinary Competition Mystery series, but it can be read as a standalone mystery, though some things change in the characters’ personal lives that you might prefer to unwind in order.

Amy Ridley is still wrestling with the idea of having her own children after her best friend Carla gave birth to Macy.  While that debate wages on in the back of her mind, that doesn’t stop Amy from entering culinary contests of every sort, and it certainly doesn’t stop killers from striking fear into the residents of Kellerton, Michigan.  During the first annual Cabin Fever Cure event, DIY Home Improvement star, Phoebe Plymouth, winds up on someone’s naughty list after her sour attitude leaves many of the culinary and home improvement crowd cold.

“Every recipe for the competition had to be made in a muffin tin, but that didn’t limit the entries to just sweets.”

“Both of the police officers and Alex still towered over her — she was always the short tulip in the bouquet of life.”

“But that was a tall order when her thoughts were reproducing like furry little Star Trek tribbles.”

Following a few near misses in the last book, Amy’s learned to be a bit more cautious, but her new mystery-solving sidekicks are less so.  She and the team begin their work independently to uncover the mystery behind Plymouth’s death and the real reason why the show’s producers are still in town even though little to no progress has been made on the case by newbie Homicide Detective Lauren Foster. When her husband Alex and his business begin receiving threats, Amy deduces that there is more to the murder than meets the eye and she’s more determined than ever to get the case solved.

Banana Muffins & Mayhem by Janel Gradowski is a delightful treat to read on a summer’s afternoon with some ice tea or coffee — your preference — and settle into the chair with some Malted Chocolate Banana Muffins (recipe included).  Gradowski has cornered the market on creating fun cozy mysteries with delicious recipes and quick quips.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Janel Gradowski lives in a land that looks like a cold weather fashion accessory, the mitten-shaped state of Michigan. She is a wife and mom to two kids and one Golden Retriever. Her journey to becoming an author has been littered with odd jobs such as renting apartments to college students and programming commercials for an AM radio station. Somewhere along the way she also became a beadwork designer and teacher. She enjoys cooking recipes found in her formidable cookbook and culinary fiction collection. Searching for unique treasures at art fairs, flea markets and thrift stores is also a favorite pastime. Coffee is an essential part of her life. She writes the Culinary Competition Mystery Series, along with The Bartonville Series (women’s fiction) and the 6:1 Series (flash fiction). She has also had many short stories published in both online and print publications. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, GoodReads, and sign up for the Newsletter.

Other books by this author, reviewed here:

The Treasure Hunt letter for Savvy Verse & Wit is: A

Collect all of the letters to spell out the Treasure Hunt word then use it to gain extra entries in the Grand Prize giveaway. You can find all of the blog tour stops and enter the giveaway at www.janelgradowski.com.


6/14 – My Cozy Book Nook has Letter #3

6/15 – Book Babble has Letter #5

6/16 – Life’s A Stage has Letter #8

6/17 – Read Your Writes Book Reviews has Letter #1

6/18 – Joy’s Book Blog has Letter #4

6/20 – Knyttwytch’s Crafts and Stuff has Letter #7

6/22 – Savvy Verse & Wit has Letter #2

6/24 – Romancing The Books has Letter #6

Guest Review & Giveaway: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Welcome to the halfway point of the United States of books! We have now reached review number twenty-five and six months of reviews. I can’t thank the team of reviewers enough and our fantastic readers. To say thanks to you all, we are giving away a $25.00 Amazon gift card for 1st place and then a copy of any of the US of Books books (winners choice) Kindle or physical copy (INT) as long as Book Depository delivers, for 2nd place.


To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Review by Laura at 125Pages.com
4 ½ Stars


Harper Lee’s Pulitzer prize-winning masterwork of honor and injustice in the deep south—and the heroism of one man in the face of blind and violent hatred. One of the best-loved stories of all time, To Kill a Mockingbird has been translated into more than forty languages, sold more than thirty million copies worldwide, served as the basis for an enormously popular motion picture, and was voted one of the best novels of the twentieth century by librarians across the country. A gripping, heart-wrenching, and wholly remarkable tale of coming-of- age in a South poisoned by virulent prejudice, it views a world of great beauty and savage inequities through the eyes of a young girl, as her father-a crusading local lawyer-risks everything to defend a black man unjustly accused of a terrible crime.


This week takes us to Alabama with To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. EW says – “Forget the dubious sequel. Lee’s exceptional work is a perfectly contained miracle about the struggle for justice in a system built to destroy it. From Birmingham to Tuskegee, Alabama was a burning center of racial conflict, and this novel takes place right on the outskirts of that crucible.”

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee is one of the first “grown-up” books I remember reading. It was the summer before 7th grade and I was a precocious twelve-year- old. I loved that the person telling the story was a smart young girl and that she was so very different from other book narrators that I had been exposed to. I read it at least once a year and loved when it was on the book list in sophomore year, as it made the book report easy to do. As I got older, I stopped reading it as often, and as I picked it up this time realized it had been at least ten years since I had last picked it up. As I cracked the cover on my old worn copy, it was like stepping back in time to a period in my life that had long since passed.

“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”

To Kill A Mockingbird is a complex story of a young girl, six-year- old Jean Louise Finch (Scout), who lives with her lawyer and widower father Atticus and her older brother Jem. Scout and Jem, together with the neighbor boy Dill, are fascinated with their reclusive neighbor “Boo” Radley, a recluse that is never seen. They begin to spin tales about him and try to entice him outside. Meanwhile their father is assigned a case defending a black man, Tom Robinson, who has been accused of raping a young white woman. The two stories weave together in a powerful tale of race relations in a small southern town coming out of the Depression. Harper Lee crafted a tale of morality and family that still resonates today.

“As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don’t you forget it—whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash.”

Love and murder, racism and redemption, all combine to make To Kill A Mockingbird a classic that will remain read for years to come. The way that Harper Lee combined wide-eyed youthful curiosity with the recollections of a grown woman make this a very interesting read. The style of the story telling is unique and matches the very detailed plot. The world created and described by Scout is vivid and real, and I could picture the scenes unfolding quite clearly.

Now that I have rediscovered Lee and Mockingbird, I regret ever leaving her world. A Pulitzer Prize winner, To Kill A Mockingbird is a book that well deserves its accolades as well as its criticisms. It does feature many difficult topics and language that in today’s world is considered unacceptable. I believe stories such as this still need to be told as we need to remember what used to be commonplace. I will now try to plan an annual re-read to return to this fascinating world. And, as said so well by Scout “Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.”


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Undercover – An Austen Noir by Cat Gardiner

Source: Cat Gardiner
Ebook, 220 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Undercover – An Austen Noir by Cat Gardiner, a noir novel inspired by Jane Austen’s characters from Pride & Prejudice set in the 1950s, is a fun ride.  Elizabeth (Eli) Bennet has left her father’s garage business after being duped by George Wickham, a Navy man gone AWOL.  She’s carved out her own life in Hell’s Kitchen as a private investigator, hacking her own career path in a man’s world among gangsters, commies, and police bravado.  Her home life was complicated, and Gardiner has created a more than down-on-their-luck Bennet family, plagued by drink and poor decisions.  Despite her rough beginnings, she’s smart, savvy, and willing to make the tough choices for her clients, even though she has a personal case of her own to find the elusive Slick Wick.

“‘Dealing with Wickham can make any man brood.  It’s the smolder that I look for.'” (ARC)

On her personal case, she comes across the smoldering Fitzwilliam Darcy at the Kit Kat Club and the sparks fly even though they just ogle one another.  Her assets on display, he cannot take his eyes off of her, especially after he sees how savvy she is in getting what she wants.  Stumbling upon another machination by Slick Wick, she finds herself coming to the rescue of the man with the smolder that could make her do things she promised she wouldn’t do again.

“‘Well, since you want to know about me, then you will have to share something about yourself in return.’

‘So, you’ll make me work for your affection?'” …

‘I guess not trusting a man is a result of your occupation.  Well, you may ask questions but I may choose not to answer them.'” (ARC)

Gardiner knows her Austen, and she modifies the famous lines from the novel in inventive and surprising ways, but in ways that keeps with her own plot and characterization.

“Those slow dances below the palm trees made her knees go weak.  It felt like pure seduction each time his hand slid down her back like an electrical frisson along a tense wire when he’d held her in his arms.”  (ARC)

The heat between Darcy and Eli will sizzle before readers’ eyes, and these characters are hot to trot.  Gardiner’s novel is fun, dark, and full of mystery, but it also provides a glimpse into what Darcy and Elizabeth’s romance would have been like in more modern days, especially after women gained a modicum of independence following WWII and were eager to remain in the workforce.

RATING: Cinquain

***Enter the Giveaway HERE***

About the Author:

Cat Gardiner loves romance and happy endings, history, comedy and Jane Austen. A member of the esteemed National League of American Pen Women, Romance Writers of America and her local chapter Tampa Area Romance Authors (TARA,) she enjoys writing across the modern spectrum of “Pride and Prejudice” inspired novels.

Winner of Austenesque Reviews Favorite Modern Adaptation for 2014, the comedic, Chick-Lit “Lucky 13” was released in October 2014. The romantic adventure “Denial of Conscience,” named Favorite “Pride and Prejudice” Modern for 2015 by Margie Must Reads and More Agreeably Engaged has set the sub-genre on fire since June of this year. Her latest release in December 2015, another romantic comedy titled “Villa Fortuna” has been voted Just Jane 1813’s Favorite Modern JAFF for 2015.

Her greatest love, however, is writing 20th Century Historical Fiction, WWII Romance. Her debut novel, “A Moment Forever” will release in Late Spring 2016 with “The Song is You” following in the winter.

Married 23 years to her best friend, they are the proud parents of the smartest honor student in the world – their orange tabby, Ollie. Although they live in Florida, they will always be proud native New Yorkers.

Rebel Sisters by Marita Conlon-McKenna & Giveaway

tlc tour hostSource: TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 400 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Rebel Sisters by Marita Conlon-McKenna is sweeping historical fiction in which Ireland strives for Home Rule and many Irish men are sent off to France during WWI, as the headstrong Gifford sisters are forced to deal with tragedy, fear, and the consequences of their independent natures.  Grace, Muriel, and Nellie have lived privileged lives, but each has failed in one way or another to meet the rigid expectations of their Protestant and British loyalist mother, Isabella.  Their father often cowers in his wife’s shadow, preferring to avoid conflict, unless he means to protect his own ability to attend the Roman Catholic church.

“It mystified her that, having given birth to twelve children, they could all be so different.  When she had held each of her newborn children she had thought them so alike, cherubic mirror images of each other, but as the months and years followed, they changed, slipping away from her.” (pg. 28-9 ARC)

Through their efforts to carve out lives of their own, rather than get married and have families, each woman tries their hand at a profession.  While Muriel realizes she does not have the constitution to become a nurse, she soon finds she thrives as a wife to Thomas MacDonagh, a playwright and teacher heavily involved in the Irish Volunteers and the campaign for a free Ireland, and as a mother to their children.  Nellie’s brief moment with a man spurs her into action, helping those who need it most when the employers refuse to capitulate to the demands of their workers and the lockout leaves many families in Ireland near starving.  And when the soldiers return from war, she helps them find jobs.  Grace, however, knows that she wants to be an artist and pushes her mother and father to send her to art school where she excels.  However, as a woman, she finds that while her work is accepted, she is rarely paid.

“MacDonagh teased her unmercifully when the newspaper reports mentioned ‘the Gifford sisters looking like a musical comedy in their pretty pale linen dresses as they attended the demonstration’.” (pg. 139 ARC)

These sisters become the backbone of the Nationalist movement, doing what they can to support their husbands, lovers, and friends, as the seek justice for their fellow Irish brethren — even calling for women’s suffrage.  When it all comes to a head with the British on Easter in 1916, the Gifford sisters must rely on their inner strength to move forward.  Conlon-McKenna makes these sisters come alive, and their struggles take an emotional toll on the reader.  Rebel Sisters by Marita Conlon-McKenna is an emotional look at the families behind the rebellion and the tensions those families faced as some strove for Irish freedom and others remained loyal to Britain.

RATING: Quatrain

***Enter the International Giveaway by leaving a comment below with your email by May 31, 2016.  1 winner will be chosen.***


About the Author:

Marita Conlon-McKenna is a hugely successful Irish children’s writer. Her first novel, UNDER THE HAWTHORN TREE, sold 250,000 copies in the Irish market alone. Her debut adult novel, THE MAGDALEN, was a number one bestseller in Ireland, followed by PROMISED LAND, MIRACLE WOMAN, THE STONE HOUSE and THE HAT SHOP ON THE CORNER. She lives in Dublin with her husband and four children.

Visit Marita at her website: MaritaConlonMcKenna.com.

Guest Post & Giveaway: Career Girl: Elizabeth (Eli) Bennet

I hadn’t heard of Cat Gardiner until Anna asked me to go with her to a Jane Austen panel in Bethesda.  And winning a bunch of Austen-inspired books didn’t have much to do with it.

What has a lot to do with my interest in Gardiner’s books is her plucky characters, and Elizabeth Bennet in the 1950s, after WWII, is nothing short of independent in Undercover.  You’ll have to read my review later for more on this gem.

Today, Cat Gardiner is going to share with us her love of Austen and the WWII-era, as well as how Elizabeth Bennet got to be so independent and feisty.  Please give her a warm welcome.

What an absolute delight it is to visit Savvy Verse & Wit! Thank you, Serena for inviting me to share with your readers a little bit about my newest release, Undercover – An Austen Noir, and my love of romantic, 20th Century historical fiction. Some of your readers may recognize me as a writer of Jane Austen-Inspired Contemporary, but my newest book opens the door to another passion of mine that I have longed to write.

Now, in the 21st Century, some younger readers may not be aware of the struggle women had during the 1940s and 50s as it pertained to working outside of the home. For the record, I dislike labels, and would never slap “feminist” on myself, but I am a gal who believes in progress, equality, and teaching to preserve the lessons from the past. I would like to discuss this particular role of women in the early 20th Century and how it affects Undercover’s heroine, Elizabeth (Eli) Bennet.

Undercover takes place in New York City seven years after the end of the Second World War. It was a time when suburbia was popping up all over America, cookie-cutter homes in tranquil little communities, restoring a nation that had come through the Great Depression, followed by war―to re-embrace the cultural norm of family life. It was also a time in history when claims of Communists hidden among us and fears of atomic war were threatening at our doorstep. Family was considered a safe haven in the “duck and cover” scare of the Atomic Age. Men were the providers, bread winners, and head of the happy home. Women were the heart of it, many of whom embraced the idea―others conformed begrudgingly. Yet others, fought it, and it was around this time that America saw an uptick of women, once again, enter into the workforce despite the societal expectation that they should remain homemakers and mothers. The model of white, middle-class, domestic perfection would, in 1957, be embodied by wholesome June Cleaver, homemaker, wife, and mother in the television show “Leave it to Beaver.” And it is that model that gave us the Baby Boomer Generation.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. To better understand Undercover’s Elizabeth and the culture she grew up in, let’s step back to 1942 with the government’s rallying call for women to enter into factories for defense production.  Previously, traditional jobs held by women (mostly spinsters) were considered “women’s work” of clerical, school teaching, nursing, or as librarians. Uncle Sam said entering the labor force was their patriotic duty from 1942 through 1945, even encouraging young ladies to join the military for specific roles. With their husbands leaving to fight, wives had suddenly become the sole money earner. That was an amazing opportunity following a period when those same women had been discouraged from working outside the home during the Great Depression as men fought a different fight: epidemic unemployment following the Stock Market Crash of 1929. For many women these three years were a taste―a tease―of the possibilities.

How were the 19 million female war workers rewarded for their “temporary” call to action? Apart from lower wages to their male counterparts (something our gender still struggles against) these new employees were simply given pink slips even though they had excelled at their jobs. After all, the war had ended and the millions of men returning home needed to re-take their place as breadwinners in peacetime production. Close to 90% of women wanted to remain working when asked to give up their newfound sense of individuality, as well as liberation. Further, the G.I. Bill was also putting men through school and dreams of higher education for women were met by closed doors. What choice did our 1940s counterparts have but to settle back into life with a good man and raise a family while pursuing the American Dream?

When the war began, Elizabeth Bennet once dreamed of becoming a housewife, raising a family of 3.2 children when her sweetheart returned from Europe―only he returned with another woman and a baby! Her sister, Jane, a mercenary creature, wanted that prescribed gender role, living the ideal life with her wealthy husband who brought home the bacon. Elizabeth sought a different avenue: She became a “career girl”, a private investigator, moved from her parent’s home at the age of 24, and took an apartment next door to a boarding house in Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan. She is considered a spinster when we meet her in 1952 at the age of 26. As far as her family knew, she was a bookkeeper for Macy’s department store. Independent and spirited, she financially managed in a career path dominated by men. This was a culture where sexism was so common that many advertisements denigrated women, even in the role that society demanded they take. Here are just a few.


According to Smithsonian magazine: “This ad isn’t frightening women into thinking their genitals smell badly.  According to historian Andrea Tone, “feminine hygiene” was a euphemism.   Birth control was illegal in the U.S. until 1965 (for married couples) and 1972 (for single people).  These Lysol ads are actually for contraception.  Even still, it poisoned/killed hundreds of women while killing sperm.


But Elizabeth surrounded herself with men, who themselves, were non-conformists: a hard-boiled homicide detective who took her under his wing, as well as a corrupt restauranteur acting as an informant in her investigations. Both men respected her moxie and determination and neither treated her with disrespect. Enter Darcy, the enigmatic financier whom she considered a “real sourpuss.” He, too, respected her―even if she was from the wrong side of town from a low-class family of lushes.

It was the best damn time he’d had in his life. Honest to goodness fun and exhilaration brought on by her laughter and keen wit, her attention and fine footwork. The babe was quite a hoofer. In spite of her particular career, her obvious undercover work to find Wickham, and, not to mention, her low-class family—he had fallen for her like a ton of bricks. The evening had confirmed everything he already knew: She was brilliant and not afraid to live life on her terms. He admired her. Unlike her sister Jane, who married up attempting to make something of herself, Elizabeth was out there on her own working hard for a living, making her way in a man’s world. And using what she had to get what she needed. She was good at it, too.

Once he fell hook, line, and sinker for her, he wasn’t looking to cage her or “domesticate” her. He only wanted her happiness and, like a man in love, thought nothing of allowing her to continue in her career after “I do.” In 1952, Undercover’s Darcy was one in a million―real cream. Of course, not all men were sexist in viewing women as the above advertisements indicate. But it was the culture―a man’s world―and women had to deal with the derision and censure that came with stepping outside the social norms. Overall, men were gentlemen, polite, and stylish. But ladies, they wore the pants in the home. (Or so a brilliant woman led him to believe. And if you were like Elizabeth [Eli], you did what the heck you wanted, anyway.)

Oh how far we have come … yet, some things stay the same.

If you’re a 20th Century Historical Fiction lover, and adore getting lost in a saga, look for my soon-to- be-released WWII-era Romance. A Moment Forever (A Liberty Victory Series Novel). Check out my 1940s Experience blog: cgardiner1940s.com for more information.

Thank you again, Serena, for the warm welcome! I look forward to chatting with your readers.

Thanks Cat for joining us today! 



For those of you who cannot wait to read her books, we’re hosting a 2 e-book giveaway of Undercover!

Leave a comment about what your passions are with your email address by May 31, 2016, to enter.