The Excitements by CJ Wray

The Excitements by CJ Wray
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Historical, Fiction
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

Meet the Williamson sisters, Britain’s most treasured World War II veterans. Now in their late nineties, Josephine and Penny are in huge demand, popping up at commemorative events and history festivals all over the country. Despite their age, they’re still in great form—perfectly put together, sprightly and sparky, and always in search of their next “excitement.”

This time it’s a trip to Paris to receive the Légion d’honneur for their part in the liberation of France. And as always, they will be accompanied by their devoted great-nephew, Archie.

Keen historian Archie has always been given to understand that his great aunts had relatively minor roles in the Women’s Royal Navy and the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry, but that’s only half the story. Both sisters are hiding far more than the usual “official secrets”. There’s a reason sweet Auntie Penny can dispatch a would-be mugger with an umbrella.

This trip to Paris is not what it seems either. Scandal and crime have always quietly trailed the Williamson sisters, even in the decades after the war. Now armed with new information about an old adversary, these much decorated (but admittedly ancient) veterans variously intend to settle scores, avenge lost friends, and pull off one last, daring heist before the curtain finally comes down on their illustrious careers.

The Williamson sisters, Josephine and Penny are quite a pair. In this novel, these two elderly World War II veterans are to be honored at an event in Paris. Their grandnephew looks out for them, and they keep him busy with their adventures.

Penny and Josephine may be in their nineties, but they are not done yet. They have more adventure ahead.

The book covers two timelines, past and present. In the past, readers get to know this fascinating duo as they play out their lives during the war. The sisters think they are ordinary, but they are anything but. The secondary characters are written in a way to help us get to know Penny and Josephine. The setting paints a vivid chronological picture, putting readers there in their mind’s eye.

Themes of family, friendship, and aging underscore the story. This is a tale that is well-written and entertaining. Recommended.

While the Devil Lies Waiting by David J. LeMaster

While the Devil Lies Waiting by David J. LeMaster
Publisher: Champagne Book Group
Genre: Horror, Paranormal, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Historical Fiction, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

During the Civil War, the War of Northern Aggression to Southerners, General Elijah Beauregard was heralded, although not within earshot, as a demon. Known for shooting his own men for running from carnage, he had no less respect for his beloved Virginia.

She’d prayed for his demise, yet only received absolution in her own and her child’s death in childbirth. No one else, who dared live in his house, ever died in peace…nor left the premises. Over a century later, and many mysterious deaths and events, he would have his Ginny…again.

If you’re ready for a good ghost story, this is it. General Beauregard of the Civil War is creepy and scary. What makes him worse is that he is motivated to hurt people.

In this book, we jump through time and meet the general’s unfortunate victims as they stay in his house. The setting and atmosphere, the mood are superbly written. Characters—dead and alive—interact in realistic ways, and suspense is strong throughout the story.

We see some of the characters at different stages of their lives. The challenges they face keep the pace of the book quick. It is a horror story, but can anyone have a happy ending? Are the good guys hiding anything?

David J. LeMaster has written a unique tale that readers of this genre are sure to love and remember.

By the Light of Embers by Shaylin Gandhi

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Shaylin Gandhi will be awarding a $25 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

It’s 1954, and twenty-two-year-old Lucia Lafleur has always dreamed of following in her father’s footsteps. While sock hops and poodle skirts occupy her classmates, she dreams of bacteria and broken bones—and the day she’ll finally fix them.

After graduation, a letter arrives, and Lucia reads the words she’s labored a lifetime to earn—”we are pleased to offer you a position at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.” But in the midst of her triumph, her fiancé delivers a crushing ultimatum: forego medical school, or forego marriage.

With fractured hopes, she returns home to Louisiana, expecting nothing of the summer of ’54 but sweet tea and gumbo while she agonizes over her impending choice. There, she unexpectedly befriends Nicholas, a dark-skinned poet whose dignity and intellect are a salve to her aching heart. Their bond, initially forged from a shared love of literature, soon blossoms into something as bewitching as it is forbidden.

Yet her predicament deepens when a trivial misunderstanding between a local white woman and a black man results in a brutal lynching, and the peril of love across the color lines becomes chillingly real. Now, fulfilling her lifelong dream means relinquishing her heart—and escaping Louisiana alive.

Enjoy an Excerpt

Bellefontaine, Louisiana, 1945

It was the first dead body I’d ever seen.

Thick July heat pressed in, sticking my dress to my skin, while steam rose from waters as dark as motor oil. Cypresses held the sky aloft, and there—in my little haven in the bayou, where the marshy ground turned firm and the old fallen blackgum slowly fell to pieces—lay a man with skin like molasses. Black eyes stared upward, fixed on eternity.

He shouldn’t be here. That was my first thought. Nobody else knew the way into the secret heart of the swamp, through the sucking mud and tangled underbrush. Yet here he was.

Something squirmed in the shadows of his mouth, and I pressed my hands to my stomach. If I threw up, Mother would be angry. I already had mud on my dress, which was bad enough.

Lured by horrified fascination, I stepped closer. What happened? Was he murdered? I couldn’t tell. The dead man lay so still that he gave the impression of something missing, rather than something there, as if he were nothing but a yawning void or a cicada’s left-behind skin. Empty.

I knelt. Up close, his flesh was ruined, his body swollen, his right hand chewed to shreds. Faint rustling drifted from his mouth—worms definitely wriggled inside. I leaned in and studied the wreckage of his face. Something familiar…

I jerked backward, sprawling to the ground. More mud on my dress. But it didn’t matter—no, because this dead man was no stranger. This was Tom Fletcher.

And I hated Tom Fletcher.

About the Author:

SHAYLIN GANDHI secretly stole her mother’s copy of Clan of the Cave Bear at age ten, and fell madly in love with love stories. Now, as an author, she still can’t get enough, and the tales she spins all center around affairs of the heart. To her, that’s what makes a story truly worth telling.

Besides writing, she tries to stamp her passport at every opportunity. Traveling has been a lifelong passion, and she’s lucky to have done it a lot. Shaylin and her husband once spent an entire summer living in their van while touring the Pacific Northwest, British Columbia, and Alaska. Her most memorable trips often tie in with writing: her books are usually inspired by majestic places that stole her breath.

In addition, Shaylin practices medicine, scuba dives, plays the piano, and once rode her bicycle from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic. She now lives in Denver with her incredible husband, their identical twin daughters, and two adorable rescue dogs. The family can usually be found in the mountains, either hiking up or skiing down.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Buy the book at Amazon.

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C.C. Humphreys — a guest blog

It is one of my favourite opening lines: “The End of Time came on a Wednesday – and Jack was missing it.”

As soon as I read that the English finally caught up with Continental time and switched from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar in 1752 I knew I wanted to write about it. It would provide the perfect start to my depiction of Jack, in that year a semi-feral abandoned child living with his wicked Uncle in Cornwall. He would not understand why they had to take away 11 days to balance the calendars. He would just want to greet the change in a typically English fashion: by rioting! ‘Give us back our 11 days’ was the cry as tax offices were burned and unlucky foreigners tarred and feathered.

I always wanted Jack to begin thus – a tough childhood that would, in the end, stand him in good stead when as a young man he goes to war. Between which I wanted the contrast I depict in The Blooding of Jack Absolute: his teens years spent as gifted but lazy scholar at Westminster School in London, indulging in all the fun and sinfulness that the City has to offer. A different kind of training indeed!

I think that is why I am so fond of this book. Taking him from boy to man, from tough beginnings thru’ wild teenage, to the grim reckonings of the French and Indian Wars. It is a true ‘first novel’ – even though it is the second, the prequel to ‘Jack Absolute’. It is funny, romantic as well as tragic. Ultimately I hope it develops a character into a certain nobility, albeit a man with serious flaws.

11_22The prequel to Jack AbsoluteThe Blooding of Jack Absolute: A Novel

The novel takes readers on a journey back in time through Jack Absolute’s youth in the home of his drunk and wicked uncle Duncan, and his equally wicked cousin Caster, to his escape to London.

During Jack’s years at Westminster, he’s a terror on the cricket field; a dashing rogue loved by the ladies, including the daughter of his French tutor and the mistress of a member of Parliament; and the leader of a band of schoolmates who fancy themselves a tribe of “Moyock.”

Jack’s bright future is shattered during a night of revelry when his past and present collide and force him to flee England and find his fate in the dangerous New World during the ruthless French and Indian War.

Amid hostile Indians, fierce colonial rivalries, and a brutal North American winter, Jack struggles for survival. But to survive, Jack must be blooded for life. He must learn to kill.

Humphreys’s riveting prequel answers many of the questions readers had about Jack Absolute’s past and showcases the stunning transformation of a young dreamer into a daring, larger-than-life hero.

11_22 image003C.C. Humphreys is a novelist, fight choreographer, and actor who played Jack Absolute in The Rivals for a six-month run in London in the mid-1980s. When he became a full-time writer a decade ago, he decided to transform his leading man into a title character. Humphreys has written seven historical fiction novels including The French Executioner, which was runner-up for the CWA Steel Dagger for Thrillers 2002. The Jack Absolute series features three books: Jack Absolute, The Blooding of Jack Absolute, and Absolute Honor.
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Praise for Jack Absolute

“An absolute delight! Swashbuckling adventure, eighteenth-century wit, hugely entertaining plots, and one of the most appealing military gentlemen ever to wear a sword.”

—Diana Gabaldon, author of the Outlander and Lord John Grey series

“The author’s affectionate, theatrical tale sets up his dashing hero and faithful sidekick for a long series. Much derring-do, told with panache.” —Kirkus

“Humphreys combines historical detail, a larger-than-life hero, clever plotting, and fast pacing to craft a thoroughly entertaining historical adventure.” —Publishers Weekly

“Although full of intrigue and accurate historical detail, the novel is ultimately a straightforward adventure story that sends readers racing through the pages of Absolute’s improbable but exciting captures, escapes, and fight scenes.” —School Library Journal

“A great introduction to what will surely become a long-lasting series.” —Library Journal

“Humphreys’s acting background brings drama to life in Jack’s legendary tale.” —Booklist

“Imagine if Dan Brown were to write historical fiction starring Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock Holmes. Got that? Now throw in a heavy dose of Shakespeare and theater humor, and you have this novel.” —Tara’s Book Blog