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

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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:

 

Giveaway!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

tokillamockingbirdSynopsis:

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.

Review:

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.***

GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED!

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.

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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.

chase-and-sanborn-1952-this-ad-makes-light-of-domestic-violence

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! 

***THE GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED!***

Giveaway:

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.

Giveaway & Interview with Renée Beyea, author of Fine Stout Love

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Fine Stout Love and Other Stories by Renée Beyea is a collection of short stories based on Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice and is part of the Pride & Prejudice Petite Tales series.  The second volume, What Love May Come and Other Stories, will be released winter 2016.

A Fine Stout Love.inddAbout the collection:

Discover what happens when Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy meet fancy and fantasy in this novella-length ensemble of Regency stories.

– What if two inexplicable trails of words led to the Meryton churchyard on the same blustery morning?
– What if Darcy stumbled across suggestive lines of verse following Elizabeth’s stay at Netherfield?
– What if a rumored engagement so thoroughly shocked Lady Catherine that she could not interfere?
– What if Elizabeth learned the last man she would ever marry was the only man she could marry?
– What if every Bennet family member read the love poem Darcy intended only for his bride?

With all the intimacy and lyricism of a chamber concert, these five whimsical shorts will inspire the heart, prompt a smile, and entice readers to many happy returns.

Intrigued? I know I am.

Please give Renée Beyea a warm welcome.

When did you first read Pride & Prejudice? And what about the story stuck with you enough to write short stories about Jane Austen’s characters?

Credit goes to my mom for introducing me to Emma in fourth grade. I fell in love with Mr. Knightley and devoured Jane Austen’s oeuvre–including Pride & Prejudice–within the next few years. Since I loved fairy tales as a child, Pride & Prejudice initially enthralled me as a grown-up version of Cinderella and an escape to what seemed like a fairy tale world. It wasn’t until the many re-readings in high school and college that I began to appreciate Austen’s light touch in sketching characters, her sparkling dialogue, and the subtlety of her wisdom, wit, and humor. Though each reading brings new insights, these qualities have stayed with me over the years.

After so many decades reading Pride & Prejudice–not to mention wheedling friends and family into countless movie viewings–what joy was mine to stumble into the world of Jane Austen fan fiction! I was introduced once again through my mom, this time to Persuasion from Captain Wentworth’s point of view in Susan Kaye’s None But You. Retellings and variations sparked my imagination, and that’s when I began writing the short pieces that comprise A Fine Stout Love and Other Stories. Though I don’t seek to emulate Austen’s voice, I do strive to employ era-appropriate language and to honor those qualities I appreciated from the first–her canon characters, fresh dialogue, subtle humor, and naturally, a dash of fairy tale romance.

Many fans of Austen often do not like to read the Brontes.  Do you read the Brontes and enjoy their work? If not, why?

I do read and enjoy the Brontes, though not all of their works. Charlotte’s Jane Eyre and Anne’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall are on my re-read list. Anne’s first novel, Agnes Grey, still languishes in my TBR pile. Charlotte’s Shirley and The Professor have yet to sufficiently pique my interest. As for Charlotte’s Villette and Emily’s Wuthering Heights, I’m prepared to admire them from a literary perspective, but I find them too dark, depressing, and disturbing to expect much pleasure from repeat visits. My approach to the Brontes’ novels is similar to how my husband and I approach movies. We enjoy diverse genres and savor a good drama, but for repeat viewing, nine times out of ten we’ll choose romantic comedy or action adventure. The Brontes’ works are dramas; Austen’s are romantic comedy.

Since I’m on a roll with comparisons… Comparing Austen and the Brontes is like comparing an airy chiffon pie with a dense flourless cake. Both delicious but for contrasting attributes. Or in terms of art, the Brontes paint with oils, layer upon layer of light and shadow skillfully executed–not unlike Helen Huntingdon’s talent in Wildfell Hall. By contrast, Austen sketches no less skillfully but provides just enough to tell the story and to color casts of enchanting characters. Austen leaves more to the imagination. She doesn’t indulge in lengthy moralizations or detailed descriptions. We don’t know what Longbourn house looks like, let alone Elizabeth Bennet, save for her beautiful dark eyes and light and pleasing figure. As a reader, I enjoy both methods, but as a writer, it’s Austen’s works that invite variations.

When working with someone else’s beloved characters, what do you keep in mind when writing new stories for them?  What are the challenges? advantages?

Austen variations come in as many flavors as Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Some authors tweak the plot, some the characters, and some both. Each change is located along a spectrum of minor to major. Of course, every Austen reader will happily defend her or his favorite flavor–sometimes quite ardently. Where do I fall on this spectrum? As a reader, I can appreciate a fairly wide variety. As an author, I endeavor to keep the characters within the social mores and moral values of Austen’s milieu as well as in step with how she wrote them. Or at least in step with how I interpret her characterization, knowing full well readers will debate ceaselessly a range of interpretation.

Perhaps the greatest advantage to borrowing someone else’s characters is that they already exist in readers’ imaginations. Isn’t this in large part what fuels the seemingly insatiable appetite for Austen retellings and variations? Readers covet more time with the characters they’ve come to know and love. Names like Elizabeth, Darcy, and Mrs. Bennet serve as a kind of shorthand to their back stories and character traits. I’ve found this to be a tremendous boon in writing short fiction. A short story’s limited length and tight construction place relatively greater weight on each word choice, and I need not spend words introducing the cast. This also means readers are more swiftly immersed with beloved characters as they are plunged into new circumstances.

As is often the case, the corollary presents the greatest challenge. Because reader expectations already exist along a range of interpretation, those expectations are destined to be either satisfied or disappointed in a way that original characters are less apt to incite. Then there’s the challenge and limitation of creating characters consistent with the originals. Does Elizabeth speak and act with that “mixture of sweetness and archness” that makes it difficult to affront anybody, or does she cross the line into harshness or cruelty? Is Jane “firm where she feels herself to be in the right,” or does her gentleness make her seem a pushover? Austen had the advantage of writing when narrative, exposition, and omniscient narrators were de rigueur, but the burden is on today’s authors to show these subtle distinctions.

If you had to describe Mr. Darcy as readers know him, not as he is perceived by Elizabeth Bennet, what four words would you use and how did you come to choose those terms?

Only four words? You drive a hard bargain! One beauty of Austen’s writing is her restraint in Darcy’s portrayal, which only multiplies his mystique. Readers and Austen-inspired authors have the irresistible gratification of completing the picture, and we do so with an endless variety of media. Below are the four words that best capture my mental image. I’d love to hear which four words your readers would choose…

Proud:  Darcy is sometimes justified as shy and misunderstood, but Austen leaves little room for doubt that Darcy enters the story as proud and haughty. He takes pride in his heritage, his family, his station in society, his estate. As Charlotte says, he has an excuse to be proud. Really, can we blame him? Perhaps we wouldn’t blame him at all if his pride were as properly regulated as Darcy assures Elizabeth it is. We can laugh, even if Elizabeth does not, at the irony and his unwitting hypocrisy. Darcy’s pride continues to surface in the superiority of his perceptions and interactions–at least until we meet him again at Pemberley, having been properly humbled by Elizabeth’s refusal and learned his lesson.

Reserved:  While I won’t grant Darcy a pass for being shy and misunderstood, Austen does tell us he’s reserved, his manners are uninviting, and he’s continually giving offense. She sketches Darcy in contrast to his good friend. Bingley is effusive, gregarious, and charming–everyone’s a friend. Darcy on the other hand stands about and doesn’t care to dance or even to make small talk with people he doesn’t know. He explains himself to Elizabeth as not possessing such social skill. Only in his own circles, among his intimates, and at Pemberley does Darcy become less reserved. And on those lovely long rambles with Elizabeth near the end, her easy playfulness begins to soften his reserve, which only serves to whet readers’ appetites for more.

Reflective:  When Darcy is quiet, Austen frequently shows him watching and observing, or readers can reasonably make that inference. Darcy watches Elizabeth. He watches Jane’s interaction with Bingley. He observes the Bennet family’s behavior. He watches Collins tread on Elizabeth’s toes and his cousin Fitzwilliam flirt with her. Darcy does all this watching, but no matter what Elizabeth may think, the reader knows it’s not a vacuous stare. Austen tells us that Darcy is clever and boasts superior powers of understanding. So in those long silences his clever mind is occupied evaluating everything he observes and drawing conclusions. Not always accurate conclusions, mind. He determines that Elizabeth favors him while Jane doesn’t favor Bingley. Oops. But confronted with Elizabeth’s rejection, Darcy’s clever mind once again engages in reflecting on what she said, painful though her words are. And this time he determines that he’s the one who needs to change. That’s our hero.

Principled:  Late in the book, Darcy tells Elizabeth that he was “given good principles but left to follow them in pride and conceit.” But before we hear this confession from his mouth, we see Darcy’s principles in action. He honors the spirit of his father’s wishes for Wickham without violating his better informed conscience. Mrs. Reynolds confirms Darcy is conscientious in the management of his estate and respected by his tenants and servants. Darcy is committed to his sister’s care and earns consistent high praise for his efforts there. He’s a faithful friend. Misguided and influenced by selfish motives though Darcy may be, he still seeks to protect Bingley from a marriage of unequal affection. He abhors disguise and endeavors to correct Elizabeth’s misapprehensions. And Darcy owns it himself that he intervenes with Lydia and Wickham because he has Elizabeth’s interests at heart. Honor, integrity, selflessness, and generosity to name a few–what woman would not be won by the love of a tall, handsome, rich man motivated by such principles?

Do you read poetry?  Who or what collections would you recommend?

I do read poetry, though not as much as I did before children. Somehow the raucous joy of boys rocketing through my home isn’t particularly conducive to reflection. These days I treat poetry like espresso. When I need a quick shot, it’ll usually be old friends from the classics. Shakespeare’s sonnets are well-thumbed. I’m a huge fan of John Donne and Gerard Manley Hopkins, and both find passing reference in the first two volumes of my Pride & Prejudice Petite Tales. Sometimes I’m in the mood for the Brownings, Keats, or Dickinson. These poets also inspired the verses I wrote for A Fine Stout Love and Other Stories–poems with more traditional form, meter and rhyme, and thus more apt to have been composed by Elizabeth or Darcy.

In terms of contemporary poets, several of Jane Kenyon’s slim volumes populate my shelves. Let Evening Come moves me every time–I feel her words like sunset on an evening breeze. And while it’s not poetry, Annie Dillard’s prose in Holy the Firm and Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is often sublime and poetic. Her striking imagery, rich metaphors, and lyrical voice impact me like verse. I likewise relish applying poetic sensibility to writing prose fiction.

As for current poets, if the poet dances words onto the page and the reader dances them off, then occasionally I accept the invitation and take new verses for a turn about the room. Regretfully, it’s rarely long enough to find new favorites. So I’m not in a position to make recommendations, save to affirm experimenting, reading broadly, and sampling everything. In fact, Savvy Verse & Wit provides an excellent resource to do just that (thank you, thank you!). My taste may be to waltz and another’s may be to salsa, but you never know when you will chance into the perfect combination of words that makes your soul dance.

Thank you so much, Serena, for hosting me at Savvy Verse & Wit, stimulating my thoughts with your insightful questions, and for participating in the blog tour for A Fine Stout Love and Other Stories.

International giveaway: (8 books, including up to 4 paperback)

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Renee Beyea (author)About the Author:

Renée Beyea holds an undergraduate writing degree from Taylor University and a Master of Divinity from Fuller Seminary. She serves as full-time wife, mother to two sons, and ministry partner with her husband, an Anglican priest and chaplain. Her free time is devoted to crafting stories and composing poetry that delight the senses and touch the soul. Connect with her on Facebook.

The Girl from the Paradise Ballroom by Alison Love & Giveaway

tlc tour hostSource: LibraryThing Early Reviews and TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 336 pgs.
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The Girl from the Paradise Ballroom by Alison Love begins before the British become embroiled in war again, at a time when a dancing, music, and art are in full swing.  Hitler is making his moves, and as many foreigners have moved to Britain, they fear becoming targets because of the Fascist’s moves.  In particular, an Italian community, which applauds Mussolini’s focus on making the fatherland great again, has growing concerns that they too will be swept up in the persecutions/internments of foreigners.

“Antonio stood at the bedroom window.  The June morning was mild, almost milky.  It seemed to him that if he stayed perfectly silent, perfectly still, they would pass the house and leave him be.  And yet he knew that they would not.  At any moment — they would knock on the door.  The knock would be loud and hollow: a drumbeat, a summons.  There would be no anger in it, no private hatred.  The men were just doing their job, that’s all.” (pg. 3 ARC)

Antonio and Olivia meet under less-than-ideal circumstances at the Paradise Ballroom, and despite the instant disgust, something simmers beneath he surface for both of them.  In chapters that alternate between their stories from 1937 to 1947, Love weaves a tale of forbidden love, clashing cultures, and the pressures of war.  Antonio is pressured by his brother, Valentino, to join the Fascists, but he does not believe in their cause, and even though he has an arranged marriage, he wants to provide for his wife on his own through his talents.  Olivia is making her way in the world with the talents she has, dancing the tango, but even as she makes some ill-advised choices, she continues onward through the loneliness and pain.

When war is clearly coming, Olivia marries a bohemian Englishman, Bernard, who soon becomes Antonio’s patron, helping him find a musical tutor and gigs in London.  Bernard continues to be consumed with his work with refugees from the countries conquered by Hitler, and his wife is left to fend for herself much of the time.  Her passionate nature cannot be denied for long, and the outbreak of war is the only thing that can suppress it.  Love has created two characters driven by their passion for artistry, but each is confined by different circumstances — a strict moral culture and a fear of loss.

The Girl from the Paradise Ballroom by Alison Love is more than a love story between two or even four characters, it is a look at how fear can cause even the most rational of us to employ terrible tactics to make ourselves feel safe.  Despite a slow build, Love has created a memorable family in the Trombettas, and their struggles become emotional for the reader. 

RATING: Quatrain

GIVEAWAY: To Enter leave a comment with email address about why you want to read this book.  Open to U.S./Canada readers ages 18+

Deadline is May 11, 2016.

THE GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED!

About the Author:

Alison Love is a novelist and short story writer. Her debut novel, Mallingford, published in the UK and Germany, was described in The Times as ‘the kind of book that reminds one why people still like reading novels’, while her second, Serafina, is set amidst the political intrigues of 13th century Amalfi. Her latest novel, The Girl from the Paradise Ballroom, has been published in the UK, the USA and Germany (as Das Lied, das uns trägt). Alison’s short stories have appeared in several magazines and anthologies, and her story Sophie stops the clock was shortlisted for the Bristol Short Story Prize in 2013.

 

 

Spotlight & Giveaway: The Sound of Belief by Ebony Archer

As we continue to celebrate National Poetry Month, I hope to highlight some new poets for you, as well as bring you reviews, interviews, and activities. Today’s book spotlight is for a collection of inspirational poetry written by Ebony Archer. Her poem, “Gotta Believe in Me”, was also transformed into song, which has a pop beat and could be the next big hit.

Take a listen:

As you can hear, she’s got a great voice and some spunk. Click for her current list of tour dates.

The Sound of BeliefThe Sound of Belief is an inspirational poetry book written by Ebony Archer in order to empower the reader to activate their belief.

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About the Poet:Ebony Archer

Since the early age of four, she started singing in her church where her gift was discovered. In 2000, Ebony joined Walt Whitman and the Soul Children of Chicago at the age of eight. With this group, Ebony has sung in front of audiences of ranging numbers and has shared the stage with many famous names in the industry such as Yolanda Adams, R. Kelly, Celine Dion, Nick Carter, and the list continues.

In 2001, Ebony Archer was featured in R. Kelly’s video, The World’s Greatest. In 2012, Ebony was the runner up in the national anthem competition for Black Girls Run with over 40,000 votes. Through the musical experiences, vocal training, and learning how to have great stage presence; it has molded Ebony into a gifted singer and because of her inspiring voice, she is now known as the Inspirer”.

Connect with the author:   Website   Twitter   Facebook   Instagram   Soundcloud

Giveaway: Win 1 ebook copy of the Sound of Belief (open internationally)

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Bleedovers by William Todd Rose

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Source: TLC Book Tours
ebook, 176 pgs.
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Bleedovers by William Todd Rose is the second dystopian novella starring Chuck Grainger — you’ll want to read Crossfades first — a man who works for a secret organization that helps lost souls cross The Divide. Grainger has become “famous” within the agency, although his fame is not something he’s comfortable with, especially when his supervisor reminds him of all the protocol he broke during the last Crossfade mission. Beyond his noteriety, he has experienced many sleepless nights related the ordeal, which he thought ended on the battlefield on the Crossfades. Evidence begins to pile up that the battle may not have been won.

Rose has created a world in which even readers who shy away from science fiction and more fantasy-related fiction can get swept up in by providing just enough technical detail to keep the story grounded and believable. Grainger has been a man on a mission and content in his work as a Whisk, but his nightmares have given him pause. He’s unsure if he wants to continue, but he finds that he has little choice when Bleedovers become more common than before. Marilee Williams enters our story, bringing with her special gifts that The Institute has enhanced to help with Non-Corporeal Manifestations (NCMs). Grainger, who acts like a lone cowboy in his work, is suddenly forced to work more closely with his partner, Control, and Marilee. The dynamics between Control and Grainger have evolved since the previous novella, and while Control could usually sense when he went off script, in this novella she is less like the voice of reason and more like a partner.

“The energy comes from Crossfades. As they jump from Crossfade to Crossfade, NCMs collect tiny bits of residual energy. They store it up, like a battery bein’ charged.”

Bleedovers by William Todd Rose is a strong second novella in a series, and readers will want more of this strange world. There is so much more to be explored. Is the last battle the end, or are there more to come? Will Grainger be able to fully free himself from the past and his notoriety? Rose has a gift for creating believable science fiction worlds that are wrought with real, and even imagined, dangers around every corner.

About the Author:

William Todd Rose writes dark, speculative fiction from his home in West Virginia. His short stories have been featured in numerous anthologies and magazines, and his work includes the novels Cry Havoc, The Dead & Dying, and The Seven Habits of Highly Infective People, and the novella Apocalyptic Organ Grinder. For more information on the author, including links to bonus content, please visit him online.

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The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach by Pam Jenoff & Giveaway

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Source: Pam Jenoff
Paperback, 384 pgs
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The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach by Pam Jenoff is a sweeping tale set during World War II, as a sixteen year old Adelia Monteforte comes to America to live with her aunt and uncle in Philadelphia without her Jewish parents, who stayed behind in Trieste, Italy.  She feels like an outsider with the relatives she’s never met before, and she realizes that her limited English and mostly secular upbringing is not what they expected.  While she speaks English, she still feels as though she’s an outsider, until she becomes like a sister to the Connally brothers.  Despite their perceived differences in religion and upbringing, Adelia becomes Addie, molding herself in the cracks of the local family she meets at Chelsea Beach.

“Robbie turned to his mother.  ‘Can we keep her?’
‘Robbie, she isn’t a puppy. But I do hope you’ll join us often,’ she added.
‘Because we really need more kids, ‘ Liam said wryly.” (pg. 38)

Jenoff’s World War II novels are always captivating, full of missed chances and second chances, moments of horror and tragedy, but also moments of hope and happiness. These snippets of time are those that her characters treasure, and they provide that kernel of hope that readers hold onto until they reach the end. Addie is a young displaced woman looking for a home, and she thinks that she’s found it with the Connallys until tragedy strikes close to home and she’s left in the breeze. She has to decide what to do for herself for the first time since coming to America, and while she chooses to go to Washington, D.C., with a half buried hope of finding her childhood crush, she also wants to do something more.

The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach by Pam Jenoff is an addicting read with its twists and turns and the realities of rationing and the closeness of war.  Jenoff is a master at characterization and romance in a way that is both fanciful, but realistic.  Her characters often have to struggle with more than the things that keep them apart, and for that, readers will be grateful.  Her books are not to be missed, and this summer read should be at the top of your lists.

About the Author:

Pam Jenoff is the Quill-nominated internationally bestselling author of The Kommadant’s Girl. She holds a bachelor’s degree in international affairs from George Washington University and a master’s degree in history from Cambridge, and she received her Juris Doctor from the University of Pennsylvania. Jenoff’s novels are based on her experiences working at the Pentagon and also as a diplomat for the State Department handling Holocaust issues in Poland. She lives with her husband and three children near Philadelphia where, in addition to writing, she teaches law school.

U.S. residents, leave a comment below about your favorite beach activity by Aug. 26, 2015, at 11:59 PM EST.  Win a bag and book!

ChelseaBeach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

U.S. Only Giveaway: Summer Secrets by Jane Green

About the book from GoodReads:

June, 1998: At twenty seven, Catherine Coombs, also known as Cat, is struggling. She lives in London, works as a journalist, and parties hard. Her lunchtimes consist of several glasses of wine at the bar downstairs in the office, her evenings much the same, swigging the free booze and eating the free food at a different launch or party every night. When she discovers the identity of the father she never knew she had, it sends her into a spiral. She makes mistakes that cost her the budding friendship of the only women who have ever welcomed her. And nothing is ever the same after that.

June, 2014: Cat has finally come to the end of herself. She no longer drinks. She wants to make amends to those she has hurt. Her quest takes her to Nantucket, to the gorgeous summer community where the women she once called family still live. Despite her sins, will they welcome her again? What Cat doesn’t realize is that these women, her real father’s daughters, have secrets of their own. As the past collides with the present, Cat must confront the darkest things in her own life and uncover the depths of someone’s need for revenge.

Doesn’t this sound intriguing? 

If it does, and you are 18 or older living in the United States with a valid address, please leave a comment below about your summer plans.

Deadline to enter to win 1 copy is June 24, 2015, at 11 p.m. EST.