Monday, March 27, 2017

[#TimelessTour] Q&A with Sally Christie, author of The Enemies of Versailles


Hello fellow historical romance readers!!

Today, I'm here to start off Simon & Schuster Canada's TIMELESS TOUR

Over the next few weeks, I'll be a part of a group of bloggers sharing posts relating to three of S&S Canada's big historical romance books this season: PROMISES TO KEEP, THE ENEMIES OF VERSAILLES, and THE SCRIBE OF SIENA!

I'm lucky enough to launch the Timeless Tour, so welcome, welcome! I hope you enjoy all of our fabulous posts, and that you go away from this tour with three new books that you just can't wait to read!

My first post for this tour is a Q&A with Sally Christie, the author of THE ENEMIES OF VERSAILLES, the third and final book in THE MISTRESSES OF VERSAILLES TRILOGY!



To start us off, here's a bit of an introduction for THE ENEMIES OF VERSAILLES:


THE ENEMIES OF VERSAILLES
(The Mistresses of Versailles Trilogy #3)

Author: Sally Christie
Publisher: Atria Books
Release Date: March 21, 2017
Number of Pages: 416 (Paperback)

In the final installment of Sally Christie’s “tantalizing” (New York Daily News) Mistresses of Versailles trilogy, Jeanne Becu, a woman of astounding beauty but humble birth, works her way from the grimy back streets of Paris to the palace of Versailles, where the aging King Louis XV has become a jaded and bitter old philanderer. Jeanne bursts into his life and, as the Comtesse du Barry, quickly becomes his official mistress.

“That beastly bourgeois Pompadour was one thing; a common prostitute is quite another kettle of fish.”

After decades of suffering the King's endless stream of Royal Favorites, the princesses of the Court have reached a breaking point. Horrified that he would bring the lowborn Comtesse du Barry into the hallowed halls of Versailles, Louis XV’s daughters, led by the indomitable Madame Adelaide, vow eternal enmity and enlist the young dauphiness Marie Antoinette in their fight against the new mistress. But as tensions rise and the French Revolution draws closer, a prostitute in the palace soon becomes the least of the nobility’s concerns.

Told in Christie’s witty and engaging style, the final book in The Mistresses of Versailles trilogy will delight and entrance fans as it once again brings to life the sumptuous and cruel world of eighteenth century Versailles, and France as it approaches irrevocable change.




Now that you know a bit about the book, it's time for the Q&A you've been waiting for!

Q&A with SALLY CHRISTIE!

1. The Enemies of Versailles is the last book in The Mistresses of Versailles trilogy. Which of the mistresses was your favorite to write? 

I loved the Comtesse du Barry the most of all of my characters – she was such a warm, friendly, genuinely nice person. We all know people like her – I think of them as “favored angels” – they have everything, but rather than becoming cold or superior, they retain their essential goodness. I also hate how the Comtesse du Barry has been portrayed recently – for example in Coppola’s film Marie Antoinette – and felt she needed some vindication!

So the Comtesse du Barry was my favorite character, but I had the most fun with Pauline from The Sisters of Versailles – her blithe bitchiness was really fun to write.

2. The Sisters of Versailles and The Rivals of Versailles both heavily feature letters, whereas Enemies does not. Was this a conscious decision? 

Sisters has four rotating viewpoints, and the letters (which were an excellent idea suggested to me by an editor, and one to which I was initially resistant) are a great way to keep all four characters alive and updated in the minds of the readers, as well as to pepper in a lot of fun facts and anecdotes. Rivals also has rotating viewpoints, but not alternating – Pompadour has the first half of the book, then some of her rivals get a chance to speak, then she finishes up – and in this case the letters were a good way to keep her involved and central even when she was “off stage” and the other mistresses were speaking.

For Enemies, I didn’t hesitate for one minute about the structure – I just knew it had to be Jeanne du Barry and Madame Adelaide. With only two narrators, who were together at Versailles for a good chunk of the book, there just didn’t seem to be any need for them. I toyed with the idea of including a couple of real letters in the book (there are some surviving examples from Jeanne du Barry to her lover Hercule, for example) but that idea never took flight.

3. The titular enemies Comtesse du Barry and Madame Adelaide have very opposing personalities. Du Barry is na├»ve and eager-to-please, whereas Madame Adelaide is pious and jealous. How did you strike a balance in portraying two very different characters while giving them each validity and agency? 

Their differences are what made them so fun and interesting to write. It was easy to make Jeanne a relatable character – she is someone who is easy to fall in love with, and like the modern reader, she is the ultimate outsider to the world of Versailles with all its ridiculous rituals and rules.

Adelaide is a more difficult character to relate to, especially in the first half of the book, where her rigidity and pedantry combine for a very annoying personality. I think her best moments, and the ones where readers might warm to her, come when she experiences heartbreak because of her father, and then as she comes to slowly realize that maybe, just maybe, much of Versailles and the world she was born to, might have a few faults…

4. Because of the stark contrast between Comtesse du Barry and Madame Adelaide, do you think readers will gravitate to one character more than the other? Is it important for your characters to be likeable? 

I think readers will definitely gravitate to the Comtesse du Barry over Madame Adelaide, and in a sense, though they both get equal page count, the Comtesse du Barry is really the star of the book and Madame Adelaide is her foil. I don’t think it’s important at all for characters to be likeable (though I know many readers disagree!) but I do think they have to be relatable – i.e. the reader should see elements of people they know (and possibly dislike) in my characters’ personalities.

Apart from the Marquise de Pompadour and perhaps Marie Anne and Pauline, most of the other mistresses I write about would have been quite shallow women, largely uneducated and really only focused on themselves and their immediate world. One struggle while writing characters like that is that I have to be true to their worldview, even if their worldview consists of exclusively worrying about what the next meal will bring or which new dress she should buy. I can’t make them conduits for political developments or events that they wouldn’t be interested in!

 5. Why did you decide to start Jeanne’s story when she was 7, rather than an age closer to her introduction to Versailles? 

I’m coming to see there are two groups in this world – those that like reading about childhoods, and those that hate reading about childhoods. I’m firmly in the first group, while it seems all my editors and agents are firmly in the second!

One of the rules of writing is apparently to “start where the action starts”. But I personally really enjoy learning about and experiencing a character’s childhood, as well as writing from that perspective. I always try to sneak as much childhood in as I can, but a lot gets cut –in the first draft of Sisters, I spent a lot more time on their collective childhood, and for Rivals I had a lot more about Jeanne de Poisson’s young life.

6. Jeanne takes on many names throughout the book (Mademoiselle Rancon, Mademoiselle L’Ange, Madame Vaubernier, Comtesse du Barry); which name do you think was the most significant to her character’s development? 

Definitely du Barry! It absolutely defined her and created her and that is who she became.

7. You’ve done a large of amount of research for all of your books. What’s one book/resource from your research you would recommend to readers who want to learn more about 18th century Versailles? 

There’s a good introductory book about Versailles called Versailles: Biography of a Palace by Tony Spaworth. It’s a good general overview of the history and the development of the palace and palace life through the 17th and 18th centuries.

 I personally find the contemporary “memoires” of the day – most can be found online and some in English – to be really fascinating reading. The style of writing, the details, the situations we would judge to be ridiculous yet appears perfectly normal to the author – they really give you a glimpse into the worldview of the 18th century aristocrat. A fun one is the Duc de Richelieu’s memoires – you can find fragments and various versions in English online.

8. Were there any facts/anecdotes about Comtesse du Barry or Madame Adelaide that you weren’t able to work into Enemies

On my website I list a number of omissions about their lives which didn’t make it into the story. The last third of the book is really their experiences in the lead up to and during the Revolution, and it was hard to get both their stories in there alongside everything that was going on in the larger context: a lot got cut in that part.

For example, Jeanne had a very torrid love affair that lasted a few years with an Englishman – this happened before she met Hercule – and also her possible role as a spy during the Revolution is left unexplored.

9. In your Author’s Note you mention that The Mistresses of Versailles trilogy examines the intimate and personal moments that make history. Why is it that Louis XV’s mistresses had more political influence that the Queen? 

The Queen had a very timid personality, and was eternally grateful for the stroke of fate that plucked her from provincial Polish obscurity. She was also very pious and that led ultimately to separate beds for her and her husband, which opened the door for the mistresses to come through. Louis himself was quite weak-willed and very malleable, and came to rely on his mistresses even more than his ministers, and certainly more than on himself.

But I think his “malleability” needs some context: imagine that every decision you made or approved – a new appointment, a budget cut, a new decree – could cause anger and jealousy and a host of unforeseen consequences – naturally you’d shy away from making decisions!

10. Now that you’ve completed this trilogy, what can readers expect from you next? 

I did start a book set partially at Versailles during the time of Marie Antoinette, but I had to give it up – while it’s a fascinating world, there are so many other interesting places and times, and I think I have had my share of Versailles!

So my next project will definitely be historical, and definitely not at Versailles, but apart from that I haven’t decided yet.


About SALLY CHRISTIE:

I’m a life-long history buff and I really wish time travel were a possibility—I’d be off to the eighteenth century in a flash!

Since I can’t travel back in time (yet), I have done plenty of global travel: as a child I lived in England, Canada, Argentina, and Lesotho, and attended eight schools in three languages. I continued my global wanderings with a career in international development, but now I’m settled in Toronto and loving it.

The Sisters of Versailles is my first novel, though I’ve been writing since I could hold a pencil. When I’m not writing I’m reading, reading, reading; disappearing down various rabbit holes of historical research, and playing lots of tennis.




Follow the rest of the TIMELESS TOUR:



What did you think?

Did you enjoy my Q&A with Sally Christie?
Are you a fan of historical romance?
And are you excited for THE ENEMIES OF VERSAILLES?

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

[Blog Tour Review] Swinging at Love (Suttonville Sentinels #2) by Kendra C. Highley

Source: Received an egalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: March 13, 2017


Description from Goodreads:
Outfielder Tristan Murrell has a problem. As the number two slugger for the Suttonville Sentinels, his team is counting on him to make their very first run at the state championship. But he has a secret—his swing has totally deserted him. As in, he can’t hit anything. He needs to fix the issue, and fast, but how?

Ballerina Alyssa Kaplan has a problem, too. The shiny new sports complex in town has left her family’s batting cage business on the verge of going under. Nailing her audition for a prestigious dance company is everything, but there’s no way she’s letting her some shiny big-box company destroy her family’s livelihood.

Tristan needs a miracle. So does Alyssa. And maybe, just maybe, Tristan’s secret weapon might be the girl of his dreams…

Disclaimer: This book contains hot, shirtless baseball players, kisses that bring a ballerina to her knees, and a lot of baseball smack-talk.
I haven't actually read the first Suttonville Sentinels book, THE BAD BOY BARGAIN, yet, but as soon as I saw SWINGING AT LOVE, I knew that this was a series for me!!!
 
Immediately after starting SWINGING AT LOVE I was hooked! It was absolutely adorable! I loved Alyssa and Tristan, and their story was perfect! A girl whose family has a failing batting cage and an outfielder whose swing is in a funk—perfect!! I loved both characters and I adored their story! I can't wait to go back and read the first Suttonville Sentinel book now! I got a peek of Faith and Kyle in this one and I'm definitely eager to see how they got to where they're at!

One of my favourite things about sports romances is that you often get to see team dynamics, and that was something that SWINGING AT LOVE did amazingly well! Not only did it show Tristan's dynamics with his team, it also showed Alyssa's friendships, too. This is one of my favourite parts because it creates really dynamic characters and it makes the romance more believable, too...I always hate it when a romance story has the couple existing in a bubble. Unless they're on a deserted island, they're usually people around. :P As far as the friendships in SWINGING AT LOVE were concerned, there was definitely some drama, but I liked that the characters actually talked and worked out their problems. It also really made me think back to high school drama. :P


As much as I liked their friends, the moments where Tristan and Alyssa were alone together were definitely my favourites! They had an absolutely adorable meet-cute, and their moments together just kept getting better and better! What I loved most about them was that they were so well suited for each other! Not only did they have amazing chemistry, but they also had a lot in common, and supported each other extremely well. On their own Tristan and Alyssa were each amazing characters, and together they were even better. :) 

Overall, I absolutely loved SWINGING AT LOVE! I thought the story was adorable, the romance was fantastic, and all of the characters were well-developed and wonderful! I'd recommend this one to fans of sweet contemporary romances, especially if you're also a fan of sports (baseball in particular!) or sports romances!


TEASERS







What do you think?
Does SWINGING AT LOVE sound like something you'd like to read?

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Review: Off the Ice (Juniper Falls #1) by Julie Cross

Source: Received an egalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Publisher: Entangled: TEEN
Release Date: February 28, 2017
Number of Pages: 320


Description from Goodreads:
All is fair in love and hockey…

Claire O’Connor is back in Juniper Falls, but that doesn’t mean she wants to be. One semester off, that’s what she promised herself. Just long enough to take care of her father and keep the family business—a hockey bar beside the ice rink—afloat. After that, she’s getting the hell out. Again.

Enter Tate Tanley. What happened between them the night before she left town resurfaces the second they lay eyes on each other. But the guy she remembers has been replaced by a total hottie. When Tate is unexpectedly called in to take over for the hockey team’s star goalie, suddenly he’s in the spotlight and on his way to becoming just another egotistical varsity hockey player. And Claire’s sworn off Juniper Falls hockey players for good.

It’s the absolute worst time to fall in love.

For Tate and Claire, hockey isn’t just a game. And they both might not survive a body check to the heart.


Well, well! This was actually my first time reading a book from Julie Cross, and it was probably the perfect one for me to start with! I feel like I've had Julie's books on my TBR for forever at this point, so I was extremely excited to finally read one! And now that I have, I'll definitely need to pick up her other books even sooner now because I really enjoyed OFF THE ICE, and I absolutely loved both Tate and Claire!

I'm a sucker for sports romances, and you don't see very many that aren't adult romances, so any time that I see a new one pop up, I get extremely excited, and I NEED to read it! OFF THE ICE was one of those contemporary romances that is kind of right on the cusp of young adult and new adult, and I really enjoyed that combination! Julie Cross is definitely right up there with Miranda Kenneally for some of my favourite non-adult sports romance books after this! OFF THE ICE was the PERFECT introduction to me for Julie's books. I can't wait to read more of her work, and I'm particularly excited to get to read more Juniper Falls books! Can't wait for those Tate and Claire cameos! ;)

Now onto the story itself! 

I loved the characters, and I really enjoyed how Julie Cross established the town of Juniper Falls throughout the story. There was a clear sense of community and the dynamics of how everything worked. Their town is all about hockey, and it was interesting to see how that framed their community. OFF THE ICE has a lot going on. Both Claire and Tate are struggling with issues at home that add some pretty serious overtones to the story, and it kind of slowed down my reading experience a little, but I really loved that they learned to communicate better and work through all of their issues together. It was amazing to see, especially in a romance that's aimed at a young adult audience. I thought that Claire and Tate's relationship was the strongest part of the story, and I think they definitely had the kind of relationship that teens (and even adults) need to see more of...it was the kind of relationship that seriously fits the "Relationship Goals" hashtag (#relationshipgoals) in the healthiest and best possible way! They definitely disagreed, and didn't always handle their disagreements in the best way, but it was absolutely amazing to see them work through everything in a mature and honest way!

Overall, I thought that OFF THE ICE was fantastic! The main characters, Tate and Claire, were phenomenal and I loved reading from both of their perspectives! Their romance and relationship was also extremely well done, and I thought that it was the strongest part of the story. Now, I'm definitely looking forward to more of the JUNIPER FALLS series because I also definitely loved the secondary characters! I'd recommend this one to fans of any young adult or new adult contemporary, and I'd also recommend it to other sports romance fans, even if you typically only read adult!



What do you think?
Does OFF THE ICE sound like a book you'd like to read?
If you've already read it, or read some of Julie Cross's other books, what did you think?

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Cover Catch-Up (36): Lushly Imaginative!

In "Cover Catch-Up" I share some covers that have either been recently revealed, or that I've just found and really wanted to share. 

Today I have a couple of covers for books that feature worlds slightly similar to our own, but with a bit of a twist...and I'm also extremely excited to read both books!



The first book that I have is for the North American version of THE HUSH by Skye Melki-Wegner!

THE HUSH by Skye Melki-Wegner
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Release Date: June 6, 2017

Description:

Chester has taken to the road, traveling from village to village desperately searching for his father, who has disappeared. One night while fiddling to earn a few coins, he accidentally connects to the Song—the music that fuels every aspect of the world, and that it’s illegal for him to interact with. He’s caught and sentenced to death for his crime. Only a licensed Songshaper can bend music to his will.

But someone in the crowd—a member of the infamous Nightfall Gang—stages a daring rescue and whisks Chester into the Hush, a shadowy nightmare mirror-world where Music can be deadly and Echoes can kill.

Susanna, the Captain of the Nightfall Gang has been watching Chester. She needs him to pull off an elaborate plan that will take down the governing body that keeps her an outlaw and made her the fragment she is. Susanna needs him to exact her revenge, even if he dies doing it.

Combining complex stakes, shifting loyalties, nods to fairy tales, and a Western feel, The Hush is a lush and exhilarating fantasy perfect for fans of Catherine Fisher’s Incarceron and Paolo Bacigalupi’s Ship Breaker.
 
I absolutely LOVE this cover!!! It's both simple and complex all at the same time, and I think it's breathtaking! The violin is stunning, and I love how it looks like it's being broken apart...and with the music notes coming out of the neck of the violin, it looks like it's either breaking apart into song or that the song is breaking it apart which seems PERFECT for the description! I also love the water, and the reflection, and the textured background...gah, it seriously is just so pretty!!! I can't wait to read THE HUSH, and I can't WAIT to see this stunning cover in person!



The second cover that I have today is for THE SHADOW CIPHER, book one in the York series by Laura Ruby!

THE SHADOW CIPHER (York #1) Laura Ruby
Publisher: Walden Pond Press
Release Date: May 16, 2017

Description:

It was 1798 when the Morningstarr twins arrived in New York with a vision for a magnificent city: towering skyscrapers, dazzling machines, and winding train lines, all running on technology no one had ever seen before. Fifty-seven years later, the enigmatic architects disappeared, leaving behind for the people of New York the Old York Cipher—a puzzle laid into the shining city they constructed, at the end of which was promised a treasure beyond all imagining. By the present day, however, the puzzle has never been solved, and the greatest mystery of the modern world is little more than a tourist attraction.

Tess and Theo Biedermann and their friend Jaime Cruz live in a Morningstarr apartment house—until a real estate developer announces that the city has agreed to sell him the five remaining Morningstarr buildings. Their likely destruction means the end of a dream long-held by the people of New York. And if Tess, Theo and Jaime want to save their home, they have to prove that the Old York Cipher is real. Which means they have to solve it.

From National Book Award Finalist Laura Ruby comes a visionary epic set in a New York City at once familiar and wholly unexpected.

 
Ah, this is another that I came across and just couldn't stop staring at! I absolutely LOVE how the buildings spell out YORK! It's so gorgeous, and the lighting and composition of the cityscape is breathtaking! It looks like a picturesque photo that someone would take, and I love that you get the peek of the main characters in the corner of the cover, too. I really think this cover is so pretty, but I have to admit that I don't quite understand why the series title has such a prominent placement while the book title itself, THE LOST CIPHER, is super tiny. Nonetheless, I think it's gorgeous...and I want to see those buildings in person!



What do you think?
Do you like these covers?
Are there any covers that you're currently loving?

Monday, March 6, 2017

[Review] ICED: An Atlantic City Hustlers Boxset (Books #1-2) by Veronica Forand & Susan Scott Shelley

Source: Received an egalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Publisher: Entangled Publishing (Lovestruck)
Release Date: March 6, 2017


Description from Goodreads:
FLIRTING ON ICE

When a sexy, forbidden spark blazes to life between professional hockey player Zac Elliott and the team owner's daughter, he's willing to risk being benched to have her. Their relationship is deeply passionate and intensely private...until the press catches them in the act. The only way out of the penalty box is for Zac to play hockey like life--and love--depends on it...

SIMMERING ICE

Physical therapist Annie Davidson is great at her job but unlucky when it comes to love. All she can do is focus on work...that is until she runs into professional hockey player Alec O'Meara. Alec likes to keep things loose on and off the ice, but the red-headed Annie challenges his beliefs and makes him think about taking their relationship to the net...


I read FLIRTING ON ICE and SIMMERING ICE in the box set of the first two books in the Atlantic City Hustlers series, called ICED, and I really enjoyed both of them!!!

REVIEW FOR FLIRTING ON ICE

I really enjoyed both stories, and while I'd say that I liked SIMMERING ICE better than FLIRTING ON ICE, I did still really enjoy Zac and Heather's story! I loved both characters—they were absolutely wonderful and their romance was so sweet! I thought they were perfect for one another! I did feel like their story was rushed a lot more than Alec and Annie's was though, so I do wish that it'd been a little more flushed out—I would've loved to see more of their relationship as it built.
Other than that, I thought it was fantastic and I'm definitely looking forward to more of the Atlantic City Hustlers series! 


Along with the sweet romance, I thought that the story itself had a pretty great build, and while it was fairly dramatic, it definitely had me glued to the page! I especially loved how the authors introduced the team, and they left me curious about more than a few of the characters, so I was pretty glad to be able to read this one in a boxset since I was eager for more. :D

All in all, I thought that FLIRTING ON ICE was adorable! Both Zac and Heather were the kind of characters that were really easy to like. They were kind, generous, and I genuinely wanted the best for them, so they were pretty fantastic to read about. I'm glad that we'll get to see peeks of them going forward in future Atlantic City Hustlers books. ;) I'd recommend this one and the rest of the Atlantic City Hustlers series to fans of contemporary romance who like a little drama with their HEA, especially if, like myself, you're partial to sports romances. ;)

--------------------------

REVIEW FOR SIMMERING ICE

Out of the two novellas, I did love SIMMERING ICE a bit more than FLIRTING ON ICE though! I loved Alec and Annie, and I felt like their story was a little more flushed out than Zac and Heather's was, but both were absolutely adorable!! I really loved the team aspects of the story, and the romance was sweet and had a really wonderful build!


What I loved more about SIMMERING ICE was that we saw a lot more about both Alec and Annie. We learned about both of their pasts and why they were reluctant in love, and I thought that the authors did a great job of showing both characters' insecurities. They also did an amazing job at showing the chemistry between the characters! Alec and Annie had amazing chemistry, and they were extremely well suited together! They had so much in common, and I thought they complemented each other perfectly! I was actually pretty amazed how well their relationship was developed because this was a pretty quick read. 

SIMMERING ICE actually holds up pretty well against even full sized romances! It checked ALL of my boxes for romance books, and I really loved it! If you haven't started the Atlantic City Hustlers series yet, now's a good time since you can get this one and the first novella, FLIRTING ON ICE, in the ICED Boxset. ;) I'd recommend them to fans of sweet, contemporary romances! 

--------------------------

As for the ICED Boxset as a whole, I loved that we got both novellas in it! Overall, both titles were fairly short, very sweet, and absolutely wonderful to read. I loved the romances, and I really enjoyed seeing the Atlantic City Hustlers as a team, too! Veronica Forand and Susan Scott Shelley have written a wonderful cast of characters, and I'm definitely looking forward to more from them, especially more of their Atlantic City Hustlers! As I've mentioned, I'd recommend these novellas to contemporary romance fans looking for hot athletes, and relationships that are both sexy and sweet!



What do you think?
Does the Atlantic City Hustlers series sound like it's right for you?