The Romanov Empress Review & Giveaway

The Romanov Empress
by C.W. Gortner

Publication Date: July 10, 2018
Ballantine Books
Hardcover; 448 pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

 

 

Even from behind the throne, a woman can rule.

Narrated by the mother of Russia’s last tsar, this vivid, historically authentic novel brings to life the courageous story of Maria Feodorovna, one of Imperial Russia’s most compelling women, who witnessed the splendor and tragic downfall of the Romanovs as she fought to save her dynasty in the final years of its long reign.

Barely nineteen, Minnie knows that her station in life as a Danish princess is to leave her family and enter into a royal marriage—as her older sister Alix has done, moving to England to wed Queen Victoria’s eldest son. The winds of fortune bring Minnie to Russia, where she marries the Romanov heir and becomes empress once he ascends the throne. When resistance to her husband’s reign strikes at the heart of her family and the tsar sets out to crush all who oppose him, Minnie—now called Maria—must tread a perilous path of compromise in a country she has come to love.

Her husband’s death leaves their son Nicholas II as the inexperienced ruler of a deeply divided and crumbling empire. Determined to guide him to reforms that will bring Russia into the modern age, Maria faces implacable opposition from Nicholas’s strong-willed wife, Alexandra, whose fervor has lead her into a disturbing relationship with a mystic named Rasputin. As the unstoppable wave of revolution rises anew to engulf Russia, Maria will face her most dangerous challenge and her greatest heartache.

From the opulent palaces of St. Petersburg and the intrigue-laced salons of the aristocracy to the World War I battlefields and the bloodied countryside occupied by the Bolsheviks, C. W. Gortner sweeps us into the anarchic fall of an empire and the complex, bold heart of the woman who tried to save it.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

My review:

When I was in high school, the animated movie Anastasia released.  This was the first I knew of the Romanov story, even though it was fictionalized.  I fell in love with the music and bought my own copy to watch again and again.

When presented with the opportunity to read about this dynasty from the beginning, I was intrigued.  It’s the story of Anastasia’s grandmother, Minnie, known to the Russians as Maria Feodorovna.  We are treated to her story beginning in her teenage years as her sister plans to wed Queen Victoria’s son.

This was a fascinating story about her rise to power and the family she bears along with the future of Russia.  As a mother, I felt for her during the births of her children and how that affected the line ahead of the revolution.  Given America’s current political climate, I can see similarities to how those in power will never be able to please everyone.  Poor Nicholas whose only character flaw was being the firstborn son, got stuck assuming a power role he had no desire to fill.

The descriptions of the jewels and balls and galas was sublime and just made the downfall even harder to read.  I can’t imagine the trial of marrying someone who lives in another country speaking a new language, yet coming to consider that a new home.  Maria makes the rest of us look bad, as she did it with ease.  She was a woman many would hope of emulating today.  Fans of Philippa Gregory novels will really want to pick this one up.

It broke my heart to learn the movie Anastasia is not true, but alas, I’m no longer in high school and appreciated the real story.  I can still recite many of the lyrics.

Thanks to Historival Fiction Virtual Book Tours and the publisher for my review copy.

Praise for The Romanov Empress

“Gortner’s mesmerizing historical novel (following The Vatican Princess) depicts the remarkable life of the mother of the last Russian tsar. This insightful first-person account of the downfall of the Romanov rule will appeal to history buffs; at its core, it’s the powerful story of a mother trying to save her family and an aristocrat fighting to maintain rule in a country of rebellion, giving it an even broader appeal.” —Publishers Weekly

“A sweeping saga that takes us from the opulence and glamor of Tsarist Russia to the violent, tragic last days of the Romanovs. C. W. Gortner breaks new ground here, skillfully painting an intimate, compelling portrait of this fascinating empress and her family.” —Stephanie Dray, New York Times bestselling author of America’s First Daughter

“The Romanov Empress has all the glitter and mystery of a Faberge egg, the outer decadence and beauty of Imperial Russia unfolding to reveal the mysteries and horrors within. The waning days of a doomed dynasty are recounted by the vivacious but tough Danish princess who would become one of Russia’s most revered tsarinas, only to see her line end in war and revolution. Gortner pens a beautiful tribute to a lost world, weaving a tale sumptuous as a Russian sable.” —Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Alice Network

“A vivid, engaging tale of Tsarina Maria Feodorovna, the mother of Russia’s last Tsar, her loves and her heartbreaks, bringing the troubled final decades of the Russian Empire to life.” —Eva Stachniak, author of The Winter Palace

About the Author

C. W. Gortner holds an MFA in writing, with an emphasis on historical studies, from the New College of California. He is the internationally acclaimed and bestselling author of Mademoiselle Chanel, The Queen’s Vow, The Confessions of Catherine de Medici, The Last Queen, The Vatican Princess, and Marlene, among other books. He divides his time between Northern California and Antigua, Guatemala.

To learn more about his work and to schedule a book group chat with him, please visit his website. You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a copy of The Romanov Empress to one lucky reader! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on August 10th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway: Romanov Empress

The Lost Family Review

The Lost Family: A Novel (Hardcover)


New From: $15.94 USD In Stock

What a treasure this was.

Peter Rashkin survived Auschwitz but lost his wife and twin daughters.  Now he runs a successful restaurant dedicated to his wife’s memory.  When he meets the young and glamorous June, he quickly realizes she may be the woman he wants to start his life anew with.

I have a special place in my heart for a family saga, and this story definitely fit the bill.  I love how each section was told from a different character’s point of view.  But being told chronologically, the switch still propelled the story forward and gave us insight to each member of the Rashkin family.  They all struggled, yet for different reasons, and you’ll quickly learn not one was a good communicator.

I thought Blum did a tremendous job of writing these characters as three-dimensional.  The descriptions of people and places were top notch that is was so easy to picture them.  When this translates to film, the casting and costume department will have no trouble setting it up because of how well they were written.

‘This book is a page turner in the sense you want to see how everything plays out and what happens in the Rashkins’ lives, but it was so beautifully written that you want to savor every sentence.

I truly enjoyed The Stormchasers by this author and now need to go back and read Those Who Save Us since so many people said that was her best read.

My thanks to Wunderkind PR for the review copy.

About the author: JENNA BLUM is the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of novels THOSE WHO SAVE US and THE STORMCHASERS and the novella “The Lucky One” in the postwar collection GRAND CENTRAL. Jenna is also one of Oprah’s Top 30 Women Writers.

Jenna’s debut novel THOSE WHO SAVE US was a New York Times bestseller; a Boston Globe bestseller; the winner of the 2005 Ribalow Prize, adjudged by Elie Wiesel; a BORDERS book club pick, a perennial book club favorite, and the # 1 bestselling novel in Holland. Jenna’s second novel, THE STORMCHASERS, is a Boston Globe bestseller, a Target Emerging Authors pick, and a bestseller in Holland and France. Jenna’s newest work, her novella “The Lucky One,” was published in anthology GRAND CENTRAL, published by Penguin in July 2014.

Jenna has been writing since she was 4 and professionally since she was 16, when she won Seventeen Magazine’s National Fiction Contest with her short story “The Legacy of Frank Finklestein.” Jenna is a graduate of Kenyon College (B.A., English) and Boston University (M.A., Creative Writing); she taught creative writing and journalism for Boston University for five years, was editor of AGNI literary magazine, and has taught fiction for 20 years for Boston’s Grub Street Writers, where she currently teaches master novel workshops. Dividing her time between Boston and the Midwest, Jenna has written the screenplay for THOSE WHO SAVE US and is writing her fourth novel. Jenna loves to visit book clubs in person, by phone, and via Skype. Please contact her on Facebook (Jenna Blum), on Twitter (@jenna_blum) and on her website, www.jennablum.com.

Boardwalk Summer Review & Giveaway

Boardwalk Summer: A Novel (Paperback)


New From: $12.78 USD In Stock

Having read and reviewed Meredith’s debut, The Dressmaker’s Dowry, I was eager to get my hands on her newest.  Might I say I enjoyed this one even more?  You guys, this is the perfect beach read.

Alternating between Santa Cruz in 2007 and 1940, we are first introduced to Violet Harcourt, a beauty queen with a troubling secret.  In 2007, Marisol Cruz, a single mother and waitress, is doing everything in her power to preserve the town’s history when she first notices a photograph of Violet.  Her research leads to some startling discoveries.

I was completely swept up in both stories and couldn’t wait to find out more background.  It was obvious that a lot of historical research was done and the author had me hooked from the first chapter.  I felt all the characters were fully formed and made the right choices given their backgrounds.

For me, and what kept me from a full 5 stars, was just the coincidence of how a few storylines played out.  Instead of it being a surprise, I just felt it was too convenient and unrealistic.  I don’t want to share more as to avoid spoilers.  That being said, I will be thrilled to continue reading Meredith’s work.

If you are a fan of historical fiction, this is such a light read and would be perfect for a beach bag or plane ride.  In fact, I started it on the plane and would have finished if not for my lack of sleep the 3 days prior.

My thanks to the publisher for a review copy.

About the author: USA Today bestselling author Meredith Jaeger was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, the daughter of a Swiss father and an American mother. While working for a San Francisco start-up, Meredith fulfilled her dream of writing a novel, the result of which was The Dressmaker,s Dowry. Meredith lives in Alameda with her husband, their infant daughter, and their bulldog.

 

Thanks to the publisher, I have one copy to give away to a lucky reader.  U.S. only, please.  Enter on the Rafflecopter.
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Ecstasy Review & Giveaway

Ecstasy: A Novel (Hardcover)


New From: $19.35 USD In Stock

This is Alma Schindler Mahler’s love, or lack thereof, story.  It starts as she is a teenager on vacation with her family and takes her through the years of courting, to marriage and children, and back to a need to define who will truly fulfill her and make her happy.

The cover — I mean, if that doesn’t make you want to pick this book up…I can promise you the story will.  For music lovers and historical fiction fans, I urge you to get your hands on this one.

The writing is exquisite but does not slow down the pace at all.  Each chapter had me racing to Google to find out more of the facts of Alma’s life along with photos and snippets from diary entries and letters.  It’s obvious the amount of research Sharratt put in to complete this novel.  Even the afterword accounts for what a fascinating life Alma led.

I empathized with Alma as a mother and wife and losing a piece of herself with it all.  It’s so hard to find the balance, and I loved that this theme, while prevalent in the 1900s, carries so well into today’s world.  It really proves how strong women have always been.

While this story is primarily about Alma and her life, what Sharratt does so well is write secondary characters with such detail and emotion.  Even though some, like her sister Gretl, were barely in the book, I felt like I knew her so well.  Guests at dinner parties she met once were truly three-dimensional.  If this became a movie, which no doubt, it should, I would be the first in line for tickets.

My thanks to the publisher and HFVBT for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

MARY SHARRATT is an American writer who has lived in the Pendle region of Lancashire, England, for the past seven years. The author of the critically acclaimed novels Summit Avenue, The Real Minerva, and The Vanishing Point, Sharratt is also the co-editor of the subversive fiction anthology Bitch Lit, a celebration of female antiheroes, strong women who break all the rules.

Her novels include Summit Avenue, The Real Minera, The Vanishing Point, The Daughters of Witching Hill, Illuminations, and The Dark Lady’s Mask.

For more information, please visit Mary Sharratt’s website. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, April 10
Review at Broken Teepee

Wednesday, April 11
Feature at Passages to the Past

Thursday, April 12
Review at Bookfever
Review at Unabridged Chick

Friday, April 13
Interview at Unabridged Chick
Review at View From the Birdhouse

Saturday, April 14
Review at Clarissa Reads it All

Monday, April 16
Review at Cup of Sensibility

Tuesday, April 17
Review at Based on a True Story

Wednesday, April 18
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Thursday, April 19
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective

Friday, April 20
Review at Linda’s Book Obsession

Sunday, April 22
Review at Carole Rae’s Random Ramblings

Monday, April 23
Review at A Bookaholic Swede

Tuesday, April 24
Interview at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Wednesday, April 25
Review at A Literary Vacation

Thursday, April 26
Guest Post at A Bookish Affair

Friday, April 27
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews

Monday, April 30
Review at Caryn, the Book Whisperer

Tuesday, May 1
Review at A Bookish Affair

Thursday, May 3
Interview at The Writing Desk

Monday, May 7
Review at What Cathy Read Next

Wednesday, May 9
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Thursday, May 10
Review at Writing the Renaissance

Friday, May 11
Interview at Writing the Renaissance

Monday, May 14
Interview at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, May 16
Review at Jorie Loves a Story

Thursday, May 17
Review at Nicole Evelina

Friday, May 18
Interview at Nicole Evelina

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a paperback copy of Ecstasy! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on May 18th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Ecstasy

Promise Review & Giveaway

Promise: A Novel (Hardcover)


New From: $15.62 USD In Stock

I love a good natural disaster.  When I was in college studying to be a broadcaster, I took many meteorology classes because of how fascinating I found hurricanes, tsunamis, and tornados.  How they came on so suddenly and the damage left in their wake.  When I first read the premise for Promise, I couldn’t wait to read the story.

Author Minrose Gwin grew up in Tupelo, Mississippi, the site of an F5 tornado in 1936, one that leveled half the town.  It’s on record as the fourth deadliest in the history of the United States.  What fascinated me was that even then, they didn’t count African-Americans in the total death or injured count, basically erasing them from history.

While this story is fictional, it’s based in fact and follows two protagonists, Dovey, an African-American great-grandmother and washwoman, and Jo, a white teenage girl trying to find her place in her family.  As the tornado destroys their homes, they realize they might be connected by more than just tragedy.

Faced with tremendous loss, both women need to be strong in piecing their lives back together.  But racial tension in this town is thick, even after everything that’s happened.

Fans of The Help and Calling Me Home will find much to love in this novel.  The writing is beautiful, yet propels the narrative along.  Even though the story takes place over a few days, I felt like I had spent years with these families.

My thanks to the publisher for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

About the author: Minrose Gwin is the author of The Queen of Palmyra. She has written three scholarly books, coedited The Literature of the American South, and teaches contemporary fiction at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill.

 

Thanks to the publisher, I have one copy to give away to a lucky reader.  U.S. and Canada only, please.  Enter on the Rafflecopter.
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The Secret Life of Mrs. London Review & Giveaway

When I started this book, I had no information about the famous author, Jack London.  He wrote such classics as The Call of the Wild and White Fang.  But this book is more the story of Jack told from his wife’s point of view, Charmian.  What a fascinating person she was.  I believe the word used in the book was “pluck.”  Never afraid to speak her mind or

As Jack’s typist and editor, Charmian is at his beck and call whenever the inspiration strikes.  His sister runs his estate and employs hundreds of helpers.  When the famous couple meet the Houdinis for the first time, Charmian feels an attraction to both the magician and his wife, Bessie, just for a friend to talk to.

I loved reading Houdini’s magic scenes, as I’m such a fan of illusionists, and I felt like I was in the audience watching.  The socializing and witty banter when they all got to drinking also propelled the book along.  I mean, this husband and wife boxed each other first thing in the morning.  With boxing gloves.  Can you imagine? And, oh, the scandals!  Like reading a soap opera back in the early 1900s.

Rosenberg put a lot of research into this book and it shows.  She knows what she’s talking about down to the minute details.  Fans of historical fiction or those wanting to learn more about the famous men and their wives will get a kick out of this story.  Grab a cocktail and thank me later.

My thanks to the publisher and Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

 

About the Author

A California native, Rebecca Rosenberg lives on a lavender farm with her family in Sonoma, the Valley of the Moon, where Jack London wrote from his Beauty Ranch. Rebecca is a long-time student of Jack London’s works and an avid fan of his daring wife, Charmian London. The Secret Life of Mrs. London is her debut novel.

Rebecca and her husband, Gary, own the largest lavender product company in America, selling to 4000 resorts, spas and gift stores. The Rosenbergs believe in giving back to the Sonoma Community, supporting many causes through financial donations and board positions, including Worth Our Weight, an educational culinary program for at-risk children, YWCA shelter for abused women, Luther Burbank Performing Arts Center to provide performances for children, Sonoma Food Bank, Sonoma Boys and Girls Club, and the Valley of the Moon Children’s Home.

For more information, please visit Rebecca’s website and blog. You can also find her on Facebook and Goodreads. Visit the Facebook page for The Secret Life of Mrs. London.

Thanks to the publisher, I have one copy to give away to a lucky reader.  U.S. only, please.  Enter on the Rafflecopter.
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A Piece of the World Review & Giveaway

A Piece of the World: A Novel (Paperback)


New From: $13.64 USD In Stock

After having read and loved Orphan Train, I knew when this book released that I wanted to read it.  Unfortunately, life and time got in the way and I didn’t have a chance.  So I was thrilled when TLC Book Tours asked if I’d be interested in helping to promote the book for its paperback release.

I had never seen or heard of the painting that is the subject of this novel, Christina’s World, by artist Andrew Wyeth.  I’m kind of glad I went into it blind because it provided a unique reading experience in which I learned something new.  And I loved the author’s note and acknowledgements because she provided her inspiration for the story after having come across the painting.

From the back cover: To Christina Olson, the entire world is her family farm in the small coastal town of Cushing, Maine. The only daughter in a family of sons, Christina is tied to her home by health and circumstance, and seems destined for a small life. Instead, she becomes Andrew Wyeth’s first great inspiration, and the subject of one of the best-known paintings of the twentieth century, Christina’s World.

This book had so much to offer: family ties, relationships, artistry, exploration, finding a sense of place.  But my favorite was reading Christina’s back story, how her childhood and teenage years shaped her.  You couldn’t help but feel sympathetic for the way she grew up and all her tribulations, yet she was the victim of her own choices at times.  If you are a historical fiction fan, this is a must read.

Even if you’ve already read and enjoyed the hardcover, you’re going to want to get a copy of the paperback not only because the cover is luminescent and colorful but because it contains an exclusive interview with bestselling author Kristin Hannah and a connected stand-alone story that didn’t appear in the original.

My thanks to TLC Book Tours and the publisher for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About Christina Baker Kline

Christina Baker Kline is the author of six novels, including the #1 New York Times bestseller Orphan Train as well as A Piece of the World. She lives outside New York City and spends as much time as possible on the coast of Maine. Learn more about Christina at www.christinabakerkline.com.

Connect with Christina on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Thanks to the publisher, I have one copy to give away to a lucky reader.  U.S. only, please.  Enter on the Rafflecopter.
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Best Books of 2017

It has been such an amazing year for books that I decided to do a little something different this year.  Instead of my short list, I am separating my favorites into categories.  This way, if you’re looking for a specific type of book or want to give a gift, it’s easier to sort through the choices.  I wish I had time to read everything, but these are my favorites from what I did read.

You can click directly on the book images to get to their Amazon page.

LITERATURE & FICTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MYSTERY & THRILLER

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HISTORICAL FICTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NONFICTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on these if you read them and your favorites of 2017.  Leave me a comment.  Here’s to a healthy 2018 filled with loads of good reading!

The Trick Review & Giveaway

The Trick: A Novel (Hardcover)


New From: $8.95 USD In Stock

For those of you who enjoy circus stories, there is a large element of that in Bergmann’s debut.  Combine that with magic, WWII, and a present day story of a family in crisis, and you have The Trick.

The Great Zabbatini was best known for his illusions and spells.  He will be the first to tell you he wasn’t a magician, but rather a mentalist.  And that’s just the kind of magic Max Cohn needed to put his family back together.  When he sets out to find the man, they are both in for a rude awakening in trying to mesh their personalities.  If you remember what a curmudgeon Ove was in Fredrik Backman’s story, A Man Called Ove, you get the idea.

I loved reading the history of Zabbatini’s character, even though it was fictional.  It had the feeling of listening to the life story told by a relative.  So I can imagine this book would sound great on audio.  For Max’s modern day story, I felt the dialogue was a little basic and amateur.  I’m not sure if he did that because of the age of the character, but I didn’t think it was necessary.  That’s why I loved jumping back into the history.  And I always enjoy getting a new perspective on WWII, one I haven’t read before.

Surprisingly, a nice little twist wrapped this book up nicely.  If you’re looking for historical fiction with a light touch, try this one out.  No heavy duty angst and agony here.

Thanks to the publisher for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Be sure to follow the tour for more reviews and more chances to win!

Thanks to TLC Book Tours, I have one copy to give away to a lucky reader.  U.S. or Canada only, please.  Enter on the Rafflecopter.
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Eden Review & Giveaway

Eden: A Novel (Paperback)


New From: $10.37 USD In Stock

I was delighted to get a chance to read Eden, a story many of my blogger friends were raving about.  I didn’t know much before reading, but if you are a fan of the family saga, keep reading.

Eden tells the story of Becca Fitzpatrick, matriarch of her extended family and living in Eden, the beach house her father, Bunny Meister, built at the beginning of the century.  Her daughter lives with her currently, along with her granddaughter Sarah who shows up to announce her pregnancy.  When Becca finds out her deceased husband has misspent all of their savings, she’s despondent that it might be her last summer at Eden, so she works to get the family together one last time.

The book alternates between the present, leading up to the family weekend, and the past, long before Becca is even born.  It is a story of four generations.  And while there are lots of family members, it is easy to follow their stories and connections.  If you do have trouble, the author included an easy-to-follow family tree in the beginning for reference.  I loved traveling back in the past and learning about how Eden came to be along with all the historical events like the Stock Market crash and the 1938 New England hurricane.

There is something about a family saga that is so endearing.  You quickly become attached to characters since you follow them throughout their lives.  The Meister family experienced many hardships and they all made choices I did not agree with.  But I was eager to see how they played out.  And I love that the Eden house became its own character in the novel, one that also endured many ups and downs.  I look forward to what Jeanne writes next.

My thanks to the author for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.

About the author: Jeanne Blasberg is a voracious observer of human nature and has kept a journal since childhood. After graduating from Smith College, she surprised everyone who knew her by embarking on a career in finance, making stops on Wall Street, Macy’s and Harvard Business School, where she wrote case studies and business articles. A firm believer that you are never too old to change course, Jeanne enrolled at Grub Street, one of the country’s pre-eminent creative writing centers, where she turned her attention to memoir and later fiction. Eden is her debut novel. Jeanne and her husband split their time between Boston and Westerly, RI. When not writing, she can be found playing squash, skiing, or taking in the sunset over Little Narragansett Bay. For book group questions and to learn more, please visit www.jeanneblasberg.com.

Thanks to the author, I have one signed copy to give away to a lucky reader.  U.S. only, please.  Enter on the Rafflecopter.
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