Happy 4th!

Happy Independence Day!

2023 has had a lot of ups and downs. I’ve seen an uptick in violence across the nation and increased division. This is not what discussion and differences of opinion should lead to. We all need to be a little more empathetic and meet in the middle. Compromise is the answer. Love is the answer. Can we please try a little harder to see outside our own perspectives to embrace our fellow man?

Here are a couple book recommendations for this Independence Day:

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (my review)

Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. An outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is on the cusp of womanhood—where greater pain awaits. And so when Caesar, a slave who has recently arrived from Virginia, urges her to join him on the Underground Railroad, she seizes the opportunity and escapes with him.

In Colson Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor: engineers and conductors operate a secret network of actual tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora embarks on a harrowing flight from one state to the next, encountering, like Gulliver, strange yet familiar iterations of her own world at each stop.

As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the terrors of the antebellum era, he weaves in the saga of our nation, from the brutal abduction of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is both the gripping tale of one woman’s will to escape the horrors of bondage—and a powerful meditation on the history we all share.

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson (my review)

As the Revolutionary War begins, 13-year-old Isabel wages her own fight…for freedom. Promised freedom upon the death of their owner, she and her sister, Ruth, in a cruel twist of fate, become the property of a malicious New York City couple, the Locktons, who have no sympathy for the American Revolution and even less for Ruth and Isabel. When Isabel meets Curzon, a slave with ties to the Patriots, he encourages her to spy on her owners, who know details of British plans for invasion. She is reluctant at first, but when the unthinkable happens to Ruth, Isabel realizes her loyalty is available to the bidder who can provide her with freedom.

The Turncoat: Renegades of the Revolution by Donna Thorland (my review)

Major Lord Peter Tremayne is the last man rebel bluestocking Kate Grey should fall in love with, but when the handsome British viscount commandeers her home, Kate throws caution to the wind and responds to his seduction. She is on the verge of surrender when a spy in her own household seizes the opportunity to steal the military dispatches Tremayne carries, ensuring his disgrace—and implicating Kate in high treason. Painfully awakened to the risks of war, Kate determines to put duty ahead of desire, and offers General Washington her services as an undercover agent in the City of Brotherly Love.

Months later, having narrowly escaped court martial and hanging, Tremayne returns to decadent, British-occupied Philadelphia with no stomach for his current assignment—to capture the woman he believes betrayed him. Nor does he relish the glittering entertainments being held for General Howe’s idle officers. Worse, the glamorous woman in the midst of this social whirl, the fiancée of his own dissolute cousin, is none other than Kate Grey herself. And so begins their dangerous dance, between passion and patriotism, between certain death and the promise of a brave new future together.

Jack Absolute by C.C. Humphreys (my review)

A new historical adventure series starring the dashing Jack Absolute that has already been called “the finest historical novels since O’Brian.” (Good Book Guide UK) In 1777 Jack Absolute, the charming lover in Sheridan’s comedy The Rivals, is famous throughout London. However, this notoriety comes as something of a shock to the real Jack Absolute when he arrives in England after four months at sea. But there’s barely time for outrage before he finds himself dueling for his life. Even worse, as soon as he’s won the duel he’s forced to flee London by the quickest means possible, becoming a spy in America’s war of Independence. Thus we meet Jack Absolute – rogue, duellist, charmer and Captain in the Light Dragoons. From the field of honor in London through the pivotal battle of Saratoga to a hunt for a double agent in wintry Philadelphia, this novel marks the impressive debut of this new series.

What books will you be reading?

Jack Absolute by C.C. Humphreys

Source: Borrowed ARC from Diary of an Eccentric
Paperback, 320 pages
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Jack Absolute by C.C. Humphreys is a swashbuckling 007 tricked into rejoining the King’s military and the cause against the rebels (a.k.a. Colonials/Americans), to which he drags his Mohawk brother Ate.  Humphreys, who played Jack Absolute on stage before writing this novel, clearly has a love of cheeky dialogue and plot twists because the prose is filled with it.  Absolute wants to restore his family fortune and good name, but he’s soon embroiled in a spy’s game and turned around by pretty faces and dark blackguards.  Aboard the ship to America, he’s tasked with decoding messages by General Burgoyne and to observe his fellow shipmates to sniff out the traitor in their midst.

“He glanced around the circle of excited faces that turned to him.  No women, at least.  Not even the cause of this whole affair, that little minx, Elizabeth Farren.  The hour was too close to the lighting of the footlights at Drury Lane and her show must go on.  Yet how she would have loved playing this scene.” (page 3 ARC)

“And the strange new flag that floated over the ramparts–unseen til that day, concocted of stars and stripes obviously ripped from spare cloaks and petticoats–would soon be replaced by the Union Standard of Great Britain.” (page 67 ARC)

The novel gives readers a detailed glimpse into American Revolution battles — Saratoga and Stanwix –with Americans pulled between loyalty to the Crown and the desire for freedom.  At the same time, Absolute is torn between his duty to the Crown and his desire to protect his adopted brethren the Iroquois.  Humphreys mixes it up with Native Americans loyal to both England and Rebels, as well as those Native Americans that were schooled in Christianity and took on English names.  Like the U.S. Civil War, there is brother and cousin fighting against other family members, and friends and neighbors fighting each other.

The plot folds in on itself several times before it lengthens out to uncover some hidden mysteries, and while the big reveal is a bit predictable, the decision Absolute must make is emotional and heartbreaking.  It forces him to choose between duty and freedom and love and culpability.  In some ways, the novel reads more like a script for a movie or play, but the fast-paced nature of the plot makes for a fast and entertaining read.  Jack Absolute by C.C. Humphreys will entertain readers, while giving them an inside look into the tensions of battle, loyalty, and revolution.

About the Author:

Chris (C.C.) Humphreys was born in Toronto and grew up in the UK. All four grandparents were actors and since his father was an actor as well, it was inevitable he would follow the bloodline. He has acted all over the world and appeared on stages ranging from London’s West End to Hollywood’s Twentieth Century Fox. Favorite roles have included Hamlet, Caleb the Gladiator in NBC’s Biblical-Roman epic mini-series, ‘AD – Anno Domini’, Clive Parnell in ‘Coronation Street’, and Jack Absolute in Sheridan’s ‘The Rivals’.  Chris has written eight historical novels. The first, The French Executioner told the tale of the man who killed Anne Boleyn, was runner up for the CWA Steel Dagger for Thrillers 2002, and has been optioned for the screen.

This is my 2nd book for the American Revolution Reading Challenge 2013

Summer Winners…

Out of 32 entrants, the three winners of Chevy Stevens’ next book, Never Knowing, are:

Jessica of Jess Resides Here, who said, “Omg Still Missing was my fav book last year. Talk about a debut I am a fan for life now.”

Margie, who said, “Moonglass by Jessi Kirby and Hourglass by Myra McEntire have caught my eye, partly from reviews and partly from the lovely covers. I haven’t read either of them yet though.”

Uncle Sid of Dward Media, who said, “Still Missing – one of the best reads for me this past year. Looking forward to the new one.”

Out of 10 entrants, the winner of Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard by Belinda Roberts is:

Taffy, who said, “I Loved the series by Pamela Aiden! Well, the 1st & 3rd books were the best.”


Out of 16 entrants, the winner of Vlad: The Last Confession by C.C. Humphreys is:

Mary, who said, “RASPUTIN has always fascinated me. Such a dark figure in history during a dark time in Russia.”

The winner of The Mongoose Deception by Dr. Robert Greer is LuAnn of Reading Frenzy, who said, “It’s hard to pick just one favorite mystery writer, but I’d have to say two of the ones I really enjoy are David Baldacci and Erin Healy.”


Out of 14 entrants, the winner of Her Sister’s Shadow by Katharine Britton is Beth Hoffman, who said, “I’ve always enjoyed stories about sisters. There are so many I’ve read, but The Geometry of Sisters by Luanne Rice is one of my favorites.”

Interview With C.C. Humphreys, Author of Vlad: The Last Confession

If you’re like me and have loved reading vampire novels for as long as you can remember and then discovered that one of the most notorious vampires in the genre, Dracula, was based on a real person, you’d want to read about that person — Vlad the Impaler.

C.C. Humphreys satisfied my curiosity in his novel, Vlad: The Last Confession, about the infamous Wallachian and made me even more curious about the 15th Century.  I got so absorbed in this story; there were times when “Wiggles,” my daughter, was starting to fuss and I just wanted to ignore her.  I did not want to be pulled out of this story.  If you haven’t read my review or entered the giveaway, you better hurry it ends July 1 (it’s open internationally as well).

Today, I’ve got a treat!  C.C. Humphreys was kind enough to answer some questions, and I’m going to share those with you.  Don’t hesitate to let us know what you think.

1. What inspired you to tackle Dracula in Vlad: The Last Confession?

It was strange. It was not something I’d ever considered. Then I made the mistake of getting drunk with my editor in London. We started analyzing historical fiction, what worked, what was most successful. It seemed that books about real people always did well. But everyone had been done. Then he suggested Dracula and I scoffed. Had to have been done! But it hadn’t and that intrigued – so famous a name? Why? I discovered fast – there was a horror story there and I don’t do horror. But then I discovered the real story behind the propaganda. And I was off and running. Summed up in the phrase: ‘Trust nothing that you’ve heard.’

2. How is your book about Dracula different than the others available on the market?

Well, its not about a vampire. Its about the real Dracula – Vlad, Prince of Wallachia. Vlad the Impaler. Vlad the tyrant and the hero. The lover and the murderer.

3. A number of your books seem to fall into the historical fiction category. What is the allure of this genre for you and when did you first realize that it was a genre you wanted to write?

I have always loved history. It was one of the signs at the crossroads for me at 18 years old. Go to university and read History. Go to Drama School. I chose the latter. But when I came to write novels, I always knew they would be like the stuff I read as a boy, but with an adult slant. Wild adventures, great characters, exciting lives and events.

4. As an actor and fight choreographer, how different is the solitude of writing in comparison?

Quite different. I have always enjoyed both. I seem to have a split personality – on the one hand gregarious and liking company, on the other needing to spend long stretches of time alone. That’s why its fun to still do both, though writing is my main thrust now.

5. Please share a few of your obsessions (i.e. chocolate, bungee jumping, etc.).

Obsessions? I like beer. A lot. But I can’t drink too much because I have to get up early to write. I love the water, swimming, snorkelling and, especially, body surfing. Give me a wave and I’ll wait for my beer!

6. What are some favorite books and/or authors that you wish would get more recognition or a larger readership?

I think anything by Rosemary Sutcliff. People only really know ‘The Eagle of the Ninth’ but all her stuff is superb.

7. Most writers will read inspirational/how-to manuals, take workshops, or belong to writing groups. Did you subscribe to any of these aids and if so which did you find most helpful? Please feel free to name any “writing” books you enjoyed most (i.e. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott).

I am afraid I didn’t. I just sort of jumped in. But a book that got me going just before I wrote my first play was ‘Writing, the Natural Way’.

8. What current projects are you working on and would you like to share some details with the readers?

I have just completed the follow up to ‘Vlad’. Its called ‘A Place Called Armageddon’ and is about the fall of Constantinople in 1453. That’s out in the UK in July, Canada in August, and the US sometime in 2012. Meantime, I am about a third of the way through the first draft of my next historical which is set in London 1599-1601 and is about Shakespeare, the Globe… and one very special swordsman.

Thanks to C.C. Humphreys for answering my questions.

I’m glad to hear there will be a new novel dealing with the fall of Constantinople, since it was a big part of Vlad’s story. I adore Shakespeare, so his next historical novel will be another one on my radar. How about you?

Vlad: The Last Confession by C.C. Humphreys & Giveaway

Dracula was made famous by Bram Stoker, and the man behind the infamous vampire, Vlad the Impaler, was etched into history as a purely evil man.  However, was the man that inspired Dracula and whom history has called the impaler the devil incarnate?

Vlad:  The Last Confession by C.C. Humphreys seeks to answer these questions through three confessions from those who knew him best — Ion, his childhood friend; Ilona, his mistress; and the hermit — as the powers that be try to resurrect Vlad’s reputation as a means of conquering the Turks and spreading Christianity.  The confessions begin and take readers back to when Vlad was a mere teenager and hostage of the Turks as a means of keeping his father, the ruler of Wallachia, in line.  Unlike typical hostages, Vlad and Ion are taught philosophy and other subjects, and Vlad excels at them.  Unfortunately, the Sultan takes notice much to the chagrin of his nephew, Mehmet, who once ruled the Turkish kingdom and is itching to get it back.  Vlad is then sent to Tokat to learn a different set of subjects at the hands of the Turks in a way that damages his innocence and fuels the fire for revenge.

“In the crook of a copper beech sat a man.  His arms were crossed, gloved hands folded into his lap, the right beneath to support the weight of the goshawk on his left.  They had been there for a long time, as long as the blizzard lasted.  Man and bird — part of the stillness, part of the silence.  Both had their eyes closed.  Neither were asleep.”  (page 3)

Humphreys ensures that readers live in these pages, traveling with Vlad and the other characters through the harsh countryside in the 1400s and breathless with anticipation as the next confession begins in the present (1481).  There are moments in the early part of the book in which events are told that could not have been told by the confessor because Dracula was not with him or her, particularly when Dracula is taken from Tokat by his former teacher Hamza.  However, this is a minor quibble given the story weaved by Humphreys; it will capture readers and suck them into the story, anxious to see if Dracula’s reputation is salvaged.

“All had seen the twin-tailed comet that had torn through Wallachian skies the year the Dragon’s son took back his father’s throne.  It was said then that Vlad had ridden it to his triumph.  To those who followed now, it looked as if that comet flew again, their prince once more astride it.”  (page 249)

Vlad is a character who is driven by a force beyond himself to right a series of wrongs against his people, but this force consumes him to the point of obsession, leaving him little room to deviate from the path he’s chosen.  Humphreys crafts a story that demonstrates this catch-22 so thoroughly that readers see how Vlad is unable to choose and must merely follow the path laid out before him.  Despite the carnage in these pages, readers will hope that Vlad sees the light, finds solace, and achieves the victory he seeks.

The only drawback is that the secondary character of Ion is flat.  When he is torn between revenge and the love of his friend, it is hard to feel the tension of his indecision and applaud him when he warns his friend of impending doom.  On the other hand, Ilona is seen less often in the narrative and is more fleshed out, with her love and dedication to Vlad pulsating in each of her scenes.

What makes a man commit acts of evil? Should this man be forgiven if his motivations were just?  All of these questions are posed in the novel, but the answers are left up to the reader.  Vlad:  The Last Confession by C.C. Humphreys is part history, part epic adventure — an engrossing novel that will surely have you reconsidering other “villains” of the past.

Please check out this podcast with author C.C. Humphreys at What’s Old is New, a site from Devourer of Books and Linus’s Blanket.

For this international giveaway for 1 copy of Vlad:  The Last Confession by C.C. Humphreys, you must do the following:

1.  Tell me which “villain” from history you would like to see reassessed in a novel and why?

2.  Blog, Tweet, or Facebook this giveaway and leave a link in the comments for a second entry.

Deadline is July 1, 2011, at 11:59PM EST



This is my 27th book for the 2011 New Authors Reading Challenge.