Q&A with S.D Mayes @authorMayes #Author of, Letters To The Pianist @BHCPressBooks #Extract #ww2Fiction

Delighted to welcome author S.D Mayes to the blog for an author Q&A.

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Letters To The Pianist by S.D Mayes
Synopsis:

A FAMILY TORN APART … A PAST THEY CAN’T ESCAPE

In war torn London, 1941, fourteen-year-old Ruth Goldberg and her two younger siblings, Gabi and Hannah, survive the terrifying bombing of their family home. They believe their parents are dead, their bodies buried underneath the burnt remains – but unbeknownst to them, their father, Joe, survives and is taken to hospital with amnesia.

Four years on, Ruth stumbles across a newspaper photo of a celebrated pianist and is struck by the resemblance to her father. Desperate for evidence she sends him a letter, and as the pianist’s dormant memories emerge, his past unravels, revealing his true identity – as her beloved father, Joe. Ruth sets out to meet him, only to find herself plunged into an aristocratic world of sinister dark secrets.

Can she help him escape and find a way to stay alive?

Q&A:

Q) Firstly, for the readers can you introduce yourself and your novel?

A) Thanks, Abby, my name is S.D. Mayes. I’ve been a human interest journalist for nearly twenty years, and Letters to the Pianist is my first historical suspense novel.

Q) WW2 fiction is one of my favourite historical fiction genre’s. What is your research process for your novel? Is it difficult to bring war torn London alive on the page?

Yes, it is a tough call, but what inspired me to write the book was finding my mother, Ruth’s memoires after she died three years ago. She wrote about how her family home was bombed in the blitz and the subsequent evacuation to stay with relatives after she and her two siblings were left orphaned. I had a real eye opener into the turmoil of that time. Ruth the protagonist is inspired by her and the bomb scenes are based on real events that she described.
I also did a ton of research, reading endless online accounts from people who lived as children during that time. I also watched many documentaries on Hitler and the aristocracy, which was a fascinating learning curve.

Q) The novel revolves around the Goldberg family; can you tell us a little more about them? And the inspiration behind this family?

A) Yes the Goldberg’s are, Rose and Joseph Goldberg and their three children, Ruth 14, Gabi, 12 and Hannah, 10. They all live in a terraced house in Hackney, East London. And they were inspired by my mother, Ruth and her two younger siblings, Derek and Shirley. Rose is based on my grandmother Rose and the complex fractious relationship she and my mother Ruth had. Joseph the father, is completely fictionalised.
The weird thing is, I recently had a Facebook friend offer to look into my ancestry, and discovered that my Grandmother’s Rose’s maiden name was actually Goldberg. I really thought I’d chosen the name at random. How weird is that?

Q) Your novel has quite a young central protagonist Ruth Goldberg. She is 14 years old at the opening of the novel and then the novel picks up just four years later. Do you think there is also an added YA appeal to the novel? And If so do you think the novel would work well in education settings, to add a real life feel to world war two history coursework?

A) Yes the novel spans the years, 1941 to 1946, so we see Ruth age from 14 to 19 during the course of the story. Thank you for asking this, as I definitely feel that many schoolchildren could relate to the young ones in the story, and could learn about the war from what they go through – little ones clambering onto the train in the evacuations, split up from their families, and learning to live with relatives they don’t know, or far worse, complete strangers. My daughter has studied the Nazis and WWII in her GCSE’s and she agrees that this story would help in their understanding of the turmoil of that time. I’d absolutely love my novel to be added to coursework. That would be a dream come true.

Q) The novel also deals with the tricky subject of a character’s amnesia. Did you have to do medical research into this and the available resources in 1941? Did you learn anything that surprised you?

A) I did so much research on amnesia and Savant Syndrome which is explained in the story, when Joseph Goldberg’s severe concussion, after the family home is bombed, enables him to play the piano as beautifully as many of the great maestros. I studied a man in the US who hit his head on a shallow swimming pool after diving in, and acquired savant syndrome with the incredible ability to play the piano. It is a fascinating symptom which was first discovered over a hundred years ago, and doctors to this day still cannot fully understand it.
I’m not sure we’ve move on much over the years. I learnt from talking to doctors, that the brain is incredibly complex and to this day the medical profession still only understands 10 % of how it works. So in over a hundred years, medically we are still no further on in establishing the issues with amnesia and when memory will return, or anything to do with the mysterious savant syndrome and why the brain rewires itself as a consequence of concussion or from a neurodevelopmental disorder. Yes, we have gone from X-rays to CT scans and MRI scans, so we can take a picture of the brain, but that’s it!

I don’t feel that this is an insult to the medical profession; more that our brains are incredibly complex and we are beautiful fascinating instruments – with more potential than we could ever imagine.

Q) Ruth’s father Joe, is a pianist in the novel. What was the inspiration behind this element of the novel?

A) I’m not really sure what inspired me about the character becoming a pianist. It just came to me. But I enjoyed choosing and listening to the classical pieces he played. I also asked a friend who played the piano, for information.

Q) Due to the pianist theme, I can imagine this novel to have a beautiful soundtrack. Did you write to any music, in particular?

A) No, I didn’t write anything. That would be a bit beyond my skills. But there is an example of music in this paragraph: ‘On stage, illuminated by the spotlight, Edward bent over the imposing ebony Steinway, his fingers swift and sure, dancing lightly and then crashing across the ivories. He played plays Mozart’s Overture from ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ with such ferocious passion, his body twisted and turned, his face contorted and his eyes rolled wildly. Then he eloquently changed key and with tender emotion played Liszt’s, ‘Dreams of Love’ …
There is one song that runs through the novel, the old time classic, ‘You Made Me Love You’ first recorded in 1913 and written by James V. Monaco, with lyrics by Joseph McCarthy.

Q) Since your novels release, what has been your favourite moment of being a published author?

A) I think actually receiving copies in the post in published form, bound and printed with a beautiful cover – which was designed by the publishers, but thankfully, I absolutely love.

Q) Who is your support network when you are writing?

A) Support .. hmm I think my support comes from online bloggers and reviewers such as yourself. I don’t get much support at home. Everyone wants attention and my cat, Saphy always plonks herself down on my laptop and paperwork, and then refuses to get off.

Q) Finally, what is planned next in your writing career? Will you continue to write in the ww2 fiction genre?

A) I do plan to write a sequel to Letters to the Pianist – which is about the Goldbergs five years on – called ‘The Silk Swastika’. I have an entire plot synopsis. I just need to write it!
I love the WWII era and my favourite books are Atonement by Ian McEwan, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, and Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally.

There’s a Goodreads giveaway of a signed paperback, that ends on the first day of Hanukkah, December 12th, in honour of the Goldberg family in the book. Here’s the giveaway link:
Goodreads giveaway: https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/263008-letters-to-the-pianist

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S.D Mayes
Author links

Twitter: https://twitter.com/authorMayes
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorMayes/
Website: http://www.authormayes.com

Extract:
I hope you enjoy this book extract from my 1940s suspense novel, LETTERS TO THE PIANIST – set in Britain, during and after WWII.

This extract is taken from a third of the way into the story, when Edward is visiting his father-in-law’s country estate in Shropshire with his wife, Connie. The family and some mysterious guests have just eaten game for dinner, after taking part in a rather sinister pheasant shoot, and Edward has just seen the entire table, including his wife, raising a toast to Hitler. Confused and overcome with nausea he covers his mouth with his hand, and staggers towards the door.

This gives you a snapshot of the central theme of the story – how the protagonist, Edward – a Jewish man with no memory of the past, is attempting to make sense of the strange family he has married into.

Stumbling into their bedroom, Edward flopped down onto the four-poster bed. Connie swept through the door after him, her signature Chanel permeating the air like a scented breeze. Sitting on the edge of the bed, he felt her stroke his forehead, feeling the coolness of her fingers contrast with the heat emanating from his brow.
‘How are you, darling?’
He wrinkled his forehead. ‘I don’t feel well.’
‘But you must eat, Eddie. Are you going to join us later?’
He groaned. ‘I’ve got one of those awful migraines. Do apologise for me.’
Connie leant over and kissed him on the lips, stroking his cheek as he turned his face away.
‘Is everything all right, darling?’
‘I just didn’t think you were an Adolf fan?’
Connie pouted and folded her arms. ‘Oh, so that’s what this is about. Honestly, Eddie, you are being silly. I merely raised an innocent glass of claret to a dead man. We must all learn forgiveness for the damned, and I can’t sit there like a party pooper. Daddy would have thought me terribly improper for disrespecting his comrades.’
‘Forgiveness,’ said Edward, staring at her blankly.
‘Yes, Daddy’s philosophy has always been to raise a toast and bless your enemies. It’s a family superstition … in case you meet them in hell.’ Connie giggled.
He closed his eyes, feeling more confused than ever.
‘Do come down when you’re hungry, darling.’ She stood up and smoothed down her dress. ‘I can tell chef to fix you something light, perhaps some scrambled eggs and smoked salmon?’
‘Thank you,’ he said wearily. He waited for the door to shut, relieved to be left alone. Family superstition. Could that really be true? Despite the many times he tried to whitewash it, there was something about his father-in-law’s nature that was deeply disturbing. It was like hearing a violinist play a rapturous melody that lifted your spirits until, without warning, there was that one shrill, discordant note, so unbearably, piercingly out of tune, that it made you want to scream for it to stop.

*Huge thanks to S.D Mayes for taking the time to complete a Q&A and be part of a post on my blog. I wish you every success with your writing career.

 

Q&A with Pamela Allegretto #Author of, Bridge Of Sighs And Dreams #ww2Fiction #HistoricalFiction

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Bridge Of Sighs And Dreams by Pamela Allegretto
Synopsis:

Nazi-occupied Rome sets the stage for Bridge of Sighs and Dreams, where the lives of two women collide in an arena of deception, greed, and sacrifice.

Following an allied attack, Angelina Rosini flees to Rome from her bombed-out village and a ruthless Nazi officer bent on revenge. In Rome, the spirited portrait artist channels her creativity into the art of survival for herself and her young daughter. Unwilling to merely endure, and armed with ingenuity, wit, and unyielding optimism, she enters the shadow world of the Resistance where she zigzags through a labyrinth of compassionate allies and cunning spies.

Meanwhile, Lidia Corsini, Angelina’s sister-in-law, quenches her lust for power and wealth by turning in Jews to the ruthless Nazi Police attaché with whom she has formed an alliance. Her spiral into immorality accelerates as swiftly as the Jewish population dwindles, and soon neither her husband nor her son is immune to her madness.

Once Angelina discovers the consequences of Lidia’s greed, she conspires to put an end to the treacheries; but in doing so, she becomes the target of Lidia’s most sinister plot.

Bridge of Sighs and Dreams is a story of betrayal, dignity, and purpose that highlights the brutality toward Italian citizens, under both Mussolini’s Fascist regime and the Nazi occupation, and illustrates the tenacity of the human spirit.

Q&A:

Q) For the readers, can you talk us through your background and the synopsis of your new novel?

A) I attended Colorado University Extension in Denver and later moved to Florence, Italy where I studied art and Italian history at L’Università Per Gli Stranieri. To finance my education, my job résumé was as colorful as the Renaissance city itself. I shivered as an artist’s model and sang the blues in catacomb nightclubs. I worked as an interpreter/translator for a textile company and hawked leather goods to tourists.

Back on US soil, the colors on my résumé remained vibrant. In addition to Italian teacher at Berlitz School of Languages and a two-year stint as a Playboy Bunny, I added hairdresser/salon owner, to my palette. Classes in writing, cartooning, and art filled whatever free hours remained.

In 1996 I sold the hair salon and moved with my husband to Hawaii, where, for the following ten years, I devoted myself fulltime to painting and writing. Now, a resident of Connecticut, I divide my time between writing, painting, and Italian poetry translations.

In addition to my current novel, Bridge of Sighs and Dreams, my published books include L’Alba di Domani, and Immagini both are dual-language poetry books written in collaboration with Luciano Somma, two-time winner of Italy’s Silver Medal of the President of the Republic. My writing has appeared in four other Italian poetry books and in Italian literary journals that include: The English Anthology of The Italian-Australian Writer’s Literary Academy, Omero, La Mia Isola, and Poeti Nella Societa`. I have published book and CD covers as well as cartoons, and my art is collected worldwide.

Nazi-occupied Rome sets the stage for Bridge of Sighs and Dreams, where the lives of two women collide in an arena of deception, greed, and sacrifice.
Following an allied attack, Angelina Rosini flees to Rome from her bombed-out village and a ruthless Nazi officer bent on revenge. In Rome, the spirited portrait artist channels her creativity into the art of survival for herself and her young daughter. Unwilling to merely endure, and armed with ingenuity, wit, and unyielding optimism, she enters the shadow world of the Resistance where she zigzags through a labyrinth of compassionate allies and cunning spies.

Meanwhile, Lidia Corsini quenches her lust for power and wealth by turning in Jews to the Nazi Police attaché with whom she has formed an alliance. Her spiral into immorality accelerates as swiftly as the Jewish population dwindles, and soon neither her husband nor her son is immune to her madness.

Once Angelina discovers the consequences of Lidia’s greed, she conspires to put an end to the treacheries; but in doing so, she becomes the target of Lidia’s most sinister plot.

Bridge of Sighs and Dreams is a story of betrayal, dignity, and purpose that highlights the brutality toward Italian citizens, under both Mussolini’s Fascist regime and the Nazi occupation, and illustrates the tenacity of the human spirit.

Q) Can you talk us through the journey from idea to writing to publication?

A) The tutelage of my Italian family launched my love for the Italian language the moment the first trilled “R” danced on my tongue and tickled my teeth. Animated conversations around the supper table often veered from current events to life in Italy during World War 2 and the impact the War had on our family. These conversations piqued my curiosity and nagged me to learn more.

I was 17-years-old when I took my first trip back to Italy with my parents. I met my Italian aunts and uncles in their Southern Italian village of Faicchio and listened to their personal accounts of the War. The more I learned, the more I wanted to know.

After high school graduation, I moved to Florence, Italy and attended L’Università Per Gli Stranieri, which heightened my passion for Italian history, especially those War years. My Florentine friends all had personal family stories relating to the Nazi-occupation and the brave Italians in the Resistance Movement. These first-hand accounts were a direct contradiction to the denigrating jokes I heard while growing up about Italian cowardice. I determined that someone should write a book about the Resistance. Well, my research revealed that there were already dozens of books on the subject. However, the more I read, the stronger my conviction to write my own novel based on my family’s experience. I also felt compelled to write a war novel in which the women don’t play the role of wallpaper or objects of amusement to soldiers and politicians. I wanted my women to take center stage in a behind-the-lines battle between good and evil.

As is often the case, life got in my way; and I shelved my anticipated novel for a few decades. Then one year, on what had become my annual visit to Italy, a conversation with my aunt ignited my shelved idea for a war novel. She told me about the suffering under Mussolini’s Fascist Regime, and how life in Faicchio became a daily challenge to survive. She related how after Mussolini was overthrown, the Nazis commandeered her home and banished her, 8-months-pregnant with her third child, and her two small children from their home with only the clothes on their backs.

By now, I was determined to find out more. I visited one cousin who supplied me with a detailed accounting of the Nazi occupation of the Village of Faicchio written by one of his professors, who had been a teenager during that time. It took me the remainder of my visit to translate this eye-opening account. Strangely enough, a compassionate German soldier, whom I had initially incorporated into my fiction, was real, and the professor had fleshed out his back-story. After I left my family’s farm and traveled toward Rome, I spent some time in the hill-top village of Anagni, where on a narrow side-street I stumbled across Tarsie Turri, the tarsia lignea (inlaid wood) workshop of Carlo Turri. Since one of the proposed characters in my novel practiced this intricate art form, I found this a serendipitous occasion. Not only was I able to glean information about tarsia lignea, but the data came from the best possible source. It seems Carlo Turri’s work has been collected by dignitaries world-wide, including Pope Paul and the President of the Republic. Carla Turri, Carlo’s daughter who carries on the tradition, gave me a detailed tour and demonstration of this Renaissance art form. Unfortunately, due to story “flow,” I was not able to include in my novel as much information about this art form as I would have liked. However, that personal experience is one I hold dear, and I consider the knowledge I gained to be priceless.

My next stop was Rome, where again fate stepped in. I came upon a vintage market, not far from Piazza di Spagna. There, I encountered a merchant who dealt in World War 2 paraphernalia. I had wanted to incorporate information on the treatment of Italian Jews under the Nazi occupation, and here I found real-time publications regarding the events that took place in Rome during that time-period. The discovery of personal letters and journals augmented my study. The consistent manifestation of hope, scribbled across those abandoned pieces of paper on which the ink now weeps, afforded a valuable glimpse into the Italian sentiment during this horrific period. I deemed all this information not to be coincidence, but rather a sign that I was meant to continue with my novel.

For once, I was eager to leave Italy, but only because it was time to write my novel. I concluded: if not now, when? My next step was to flesh-out my characters. I sought an eclectic collection of complex individuals, each with his or her own values, lack of values, dreams, and goals. I wanted Bridge of Sighs and Dreams to be a story of betrayal, dignity, and the tenacity of the human spirit. However, I thought it was also necessary to inject some light humor, not merely for the reader’s benefit, but to show that a sense of humor can serve as a valuable shield during dire times.

I will say, to weave my fiction around the time-line of events that I wanted to highlight was tricky, but I didn’t want to alter facts to fit my fiction; instead, I utilized truth to enhance my characters and their story.

Q) What are your favourite authors and recommended reads?

A) Alberto Moravia and Elsa Morante have been the most influential authors. They both write with such visual and emotional truth that reading their work is pure joy. Alberto Moravia’s: Two Women and Elsa Morante’s: History are two of my all-time favorite novels. I am also a fan of Chekov, Dostoyevsky, Gorky, Donna Leon, and Agatha Christie.

Q) What were your childhood/teenage favourite reads?

A) My favorite childhood book was Collodi’s Pinocchio. I am still a big fan of Collodi and have 8 editions of Pinocchio in Italian and also in English by various translators. I do remember reading the Nancy Drew mysteries when I was about 8-years-old, and I was an instant fan of whodunits.

Q) What has been your favourite moment of being a published author?

A) I am deeply touched and elated when a reader takes the time to let me know through email, website, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, etc. that they enjoyed my book.

Q) Who has been your source of support/encouragement, throughout the writing process?

A) I won’t name names; they know who they are. They are my long-time friends who read my early stories and cartoons and laughed in the right places and cried in the right places and asked for more.

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Pamela Allegretto
Authors links:
Website links for Writing:
http://www.pamelaallegretto.com
http://www.pamelaallegretto.blogspot.com
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14409573.Pamela_Allegretto
https://www.facebook.com/pamela.allegrettofranz
https://www.facebook.com/pamelaallegrettoauthor
Website links for Art:
http://www.pamelaallegretto-franz.com
http://pamela-allegretto.fineartamerica.com
http://pamela-allegretto.pixels.com
http://www.redbubble.com/people/allegretto http://www.pamelaallegretto.com

*Thank you for taking part in the Q&A on my blog, I wish you every success with your writing career.

PA: Thank you for this opportunity. I appreciate your kindness and generosity.
Best wishes!

#Review Nine Lessons by @nicolaupsonbook @FaberBooks #HistoricalFiction #NewRelease

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Nine Lessons by Nicola Upson
Synopsis:
Josephine Tey is in Cambridge, a town gripped by fear and suspicion as a serial rapist stalks the streets, and in the shadow of King’s College Chapel, Detective Chief Inspector Archie Penrose faces some of the most horrific and audacious murders of his career.
The seventh novel in Nicola Upson’s highly praised series featuring Josephine Tey takes the reader on a journey from 1930s Cambridge to the bleak and desolate Suffolk coast – a journey which will ultimately leave Archie’s and Josephine’s lives changed forever.

My review:

This novel is the 7th in the series and to be fair to readers of my review. I should state, I am new to the series. That being said it didn’t impact my enjoyment of this novel.
The novel is set in 1930s Cambridge and gives a great insight into the era. I loved how the novel had an old fashioned feel to it. Very Agatha Christie, in its writing style.

The perfect murder mystery case!

The novel opens at the scene of a savage murder. Church organist, Stephen Laxborough is the victim of this violent and unfathomable murder. Detctive Chief Inspector Archie Penorse is summoned to the scene. He begins to gather details and evidence, but the case unnerves him as it is seemingly without motive.

Also in Cambridge for a while is writer/playwright Josephine Tey. She is a lifelong friend of Archie and I was desperate to learn more about their friendship. Josephine is quite the unique character, a woman born way before her time. She is gritty, determined and I really warmed to her. Josephine becomes concerned with a serial rapist in the locality.
A case she is hell-bent on solving……….

The murder case intensifies when Archie discovers a link to a bunch of students from Kings College. He also uncovers more victims, all of which had received threatening notes prior to their death. One clear link is a picture of a building call the priory.
But what is the motive? Is it mere jealousy, of this bunch of academics? Or is it something much more sinister?

“What is this I have done?” – Note

The private lives and secrets of Archie’s and Josephine’s is explored and it is brilliantly done. I found them multi-layered characters, which made them very admirable. When somebody Josephine knows becomes a victim of the rapist. She is angered and wants justice for the victim. When you think of the era, of the 1930s. it is not one that can be recalled, as of progressive in terms of women’s rights. Rape victims were often blamed and shamed and made to feel as though they had contributed towards their own rape!
But this is a case, Josephine will not rest until she solves…..

“The scars on the bodies of these girls will heal. The scars on the mind never will”

Archie’s case becomes tougher with the discovery of more and more victims. Can he solve the case in time to save others on the list? The ending comes with shocking twists in the tale and I think the author has done a brilliant job. The depiction of the era, the twists and the central characters are all brilliantly written.
Highly recommended for fans of historical fiction! 5*

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Nicola Upson
Author Bio:
Nicola Upson was born in Suffolk and read English at Downing College, Cambridge. She has worked in theatre and as a freelance journalist, and is the author of two non-fiction works and the recipient of an Escalator Award from the Arts Council England.
Her debut novel, An Expert in Murder, was the first in a series of crime novels whose main character is Josephine Tey – one of the leading authors of Britain’s Golden Age of crime writing.
She lives with her partner in Cambridge and spends much of her time in Cornwall, which was the setting for her second novel, Angel with Two Faces. Two for Sorrow is the third book in the Josephine Tey series, followed by Fear in the Sunlight.

Authors links:
Via Faber: https://www.faber.co.uk/author/nicola-upson/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/984417.Nicola_Upson
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NicolaUpsonAuthor/
Twitter: @nicolaupsonbook

#BookReview 4.5* Rivals Of The Republic by @afreisenbruch @Duckbooks (UK)#TheBloodOfRome #Series @overlookpress (USA)

*I received a paperback copy via Duck books (UK) publishers in return for an honest review*

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Rivals Of The Republic by Annelise Freisenbruch
Synopsis:

Using her supreme knowledge of the period, author Annelise Freisenbruch presents the great new heroine of historical fiction, Hortensia, who must navigate the male-dominated courts of law in her quest to uncover a sinister plot to overthrow the Republic. Drawing from historical accounts of the daughter of famed Roman orator Quintus Hortensius Hortalus, Freisenbruch delivers an atmospheric, meticulously accurate and fast-paced story that will have readers craving more. Rome, 70BC. Roman high society hums with gossip about the suspicious suicide of a prominent Roman senator and the body of a Vestal Virgin is discovered in the river Tiber. As the authorities turn a blind eye, Hortensia is moved to investigate a trail of murders that appear to lead straight to the dark heart of the Eternal City.

My Review:

This novel has is it all, the atmosphere, crime, scandal, life and death of Ancient Roman era. The characters are well written and the plot incredibly appealing to me.
I am a huge fan of historical crime fiction.

Rome 70 BC

The novel opens with Hortensia and her brother Quintus at a gladiator arena. They are saved by a gladiator called Hannibal The Conqueror from a crocodile. When he later loses his fight Hortensia urges her father, a wealthy lawyer to buy him as a slave due to his earlier heroics.
Hannbel’s real name is Lucrio and he will, come to mean so much more to Horetensia than she can ever imagine……..

Hortensia’s father is a prominent wealthy lawyer, in Rome. She is his favoured child and for this reason he agrees to allow her to marry for love. Something unheard of for the era. Hortensia chooses to marry her second cousin, Caepio and they move into their own accommodation. Taking Lucrio with them, but Lucrio has secrets of his own and a deep seated need for vengeance…..

As the novel develops, Hortensia feels compelled to help Drusilla, at court with the case of stolen dowry and her children’s custody. This gives Hortensia a voice for the first time, something virtually unheard of in Roman society! Her father is furious with her, for creating a potential scandal. He forbids her from any future such endeavours.
But then Hortensia is summoned to the temple of vesta.

The chief vestal informs her that a body has recently been found and they believe that the vestal virgin was murdered. Documents have either been removed, or forged and this could have an impact on Roman society as a whole. The victim managed to write the words Pomey M at the scene before her death. We learn more about Lucrio’s background and why he is seeking revenge. But it isn’t until he is backed into a corner that he confesses to Hortensia. At this moment, they realise that despite their positions in society.
They must work together to solve the case of the murdered vestal virgin.
4.5*

***** This novel is perfect for fans of the BBC TV show Rome! I was a huge fan of this series and this novel is very reminiscent.*****

AF

Annelise Freisenbruch
Authors links:
Website: http://www.annelisefreisenbruch.co.uk/
Twitter: @afreisenbruch
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3412996.Annelise_Freisenbruch

*A huge thank you to the author & Duck books for my copy and I look forward to the next in the blood of Rome series!*

#Review 4.5* Midnight In Berlin by @jamesmac1x @Duckbooks #WW2Fiction #HistoricalFiction

*I received an paperback copy in return for an honest review*

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Midnight In Berlin by James MacManus
Synopsis:
Berlin, 1938. Newly-appointed military attaché Noel Macrae and his extrovert wife Primrose arrive at the British Embassy. Prime Minister Chamberlain is intent on placating Nazi Germany, but Macrae is less so. Convinced that Hitler can be stopped by other means than appeasement, he soon finds that he is not the only dissenting voice in the Embassy, and discovers senior officers in the German military who are prepared to turn against the Führer.
Gathering vital intelligence, Macrae is drawn to Kitty Schmidt’s Salon (a Nazi bordello) and its enigmatic Jewish hostess Sara Sternschein—a favourite of sadistic Gestapo boss Reinhard Heydrich. Sara is a treasure-trove of knowledge about the Nazi hierarchy in a city of lies, spies and secrets. Does she hold the key to thwarting Hitler or is Macrae just being manipulated by her, while his wife romantically pursues his most important German military contact, Florian Koenig?
MacManus’s absorbing new novel evokes a time and place when the personal and political stakes could not be higher, and where the urge for peaceful compromise conflicts with higher ideals and a vicious regime bent on war. As loyalties are stretched to the limit and Europe slides towards another war, could just one act of great courage and sacrifice change everything?

My review:

This novel is ww2 fiction at its finest! It is rich in its content and character depth. I also think it would suit the reader who may lack the factual ww2 knowledge. As it is fully expanded upon. The factual and historical accuracy is superb! The central allied characters are likable and the Nazi characters are portrayed very much, on point with what we have come to know now, post ww2.

Colonel Noel Macrae and wife Primrose arrive at the British embassy in Berlin, to a new posting and new life. Only neither of them can predict how much, their time in Berlin will ultimately change who they are……

Macrae will begin work alongside Roger Halliday and David Buckland. They work for the ambassador Sir Nevile Henderson. The ambassador is a weak man, having spent far too long in Germany, cosying up to the Nazi elite. Nevile believes Germany and Hitler, do not want another war and that this is mere speculation. An evening meal is organised and they are warned to stay away from hotel Adlon. Where the journalist and racketeers thrive.
But what kind of diplomat, heeds every word of their bosses?

“There is always a price to pay for Peace” Nevile

The novel explores Macrae’s background and marriage. We learn that he is an experienced soldier in ww1 and is sniper trained. We also learn he has significant marital problems, with his wife stating they should each embark on affairs.
It isn’t long until Macrae is drawn to the Adlon.

At the Adlon, Macrae makes an acquaintance of Shirer an American journalist with CBS. He explores Berlin and the surrounding governmental buildings. I found that pre-war Berlin was brought alive on the page and that it felt very atmospheric, if not eerie to read. Through conversations with Halliday and Macrae’s old friend German Colonel Koening. We learn that Hitler is planning a military coup, to establish complete control of the military. Hitler is planning a purge.
But why would Hitler plan a purge, if he is not really to go to war?

Across town in Berlin, Joachim Bonner, Herdrich’s #2 is partly running the salon Kitty. A brothel disguised as a restaurant, where the sole attraction is Sara Sternschein. Sara was a university law student, until Hitler took power and ended her life as she knew it. She is now forced to be a prostitute at the salon. The Nazi’s coerced her into the role, with threats against her brother (Joseph being held at Buchenwald) and her mother. They use Sara, to literally turn ‘tricks’ on Nazi Elite. Enabling Heydrich to always stay one step ahead, of any competition. The chapters with her in, are sinister and eerie, the fact that she is so unemotional in her response to her plight, broke my heart!

“You know I always obey orders” Sara

When the military coup, becomes fact, Macrae is faced with informing the UK government. Nevile still persistent in his beliefs that this is not necessarily an act of war. I found Nevile very frustrating, but is this because I have the forth sight Nevile never could have had?

The history around this particular year, is fully detailed within the novel. We witness the effects of Hitler’s actions on all of the staff at the British embassy.
It isn’t long until Macrae, Halliday and Koening are plotting………

“I don’t want to be here. I can’t stand the place. It’s evil” Macrae

Bonner decides to have Sara turn her ‘trick’ on Macrae. But he hasn’t taken into account Sara’s own plotting. Life faced with ‘servicing’ the Nazi elite, must have been daily physical and emotional torture. Then Macrae and Sara finally meet………..

This novel really is an education on the ww2 era. The secrecy, lies and desperation for information, flows from the page.
This novel brings Berlin to life!
4.5*

JM
James MacManus
Authors links:
Website: http://www.jamesmacmanus.com/
Twitter: @jamesmac1x
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