Forrester, Novak, Drinkwater, and Lewycka - Lots of New Books! Plus a Snip-sharing ROW80 Check In

Books, books, and more books!

Under the fiction-writing pseudonym James Forrester, famed historian Ian Mortimer crafted a thrilling adventure through Tudor England in his Clarenceux trilogy, praised by The Times of London as "an ingenious, authentically imagined treat."
The Final Sacrament presents the gripping conclusion to this Elizabethan adventure, where religious tensions, political intrigue, and personal vendettas collide.

1566. William Harley, Clarenceux King of Arms, has risked his life to protect a secret document, which could endanger Queen Elizabeth's place on the throne and plunge the country into civil war. But when his family goes missing, Clarenceux is put to the final test.

Will he abandon queen and country to save the ones he loves, or sacrifice everything for the good of the nation?

Filled with Mortimer's signature historical detail and vivid characters, The Final Sacrament delivers a dramatic close to the Clarenceux saga that highlights the adventure and spiritual struggles of Elizabethan England.

Those of you who read my reviews of the first two books in this series, Sacred Treason, and The Roots of Betrayal, will know how much I enjoyed Clarenceux's previous adventures -- but the final installment takes things to a whole new level.

If you're a writer who's constantly trying to raise the stakes for your own characters, you'd do well to take a page out of Clarenceux's struggles. At the risk of being spoilerish, there's a big shock near the beginning of the novel for readers of the previous two novels -- and the ending is very bittersweet. The latter is not a spoiler, I promise, but a warning.

Life does not go easy on any of the characters in this novel, as they face choices that will lead them to question their consciences to a depth that is often not explored in stories nowadays. As Forrester says in his note at the end of the novel: "Loyalty and betrayal simply meant so much more in the sixteenth century than they do today. That is why I set the Clarenceux trilogy in that period."

Forrester deftly introduces new characters amongst the familiar, and leads the reader to care for each of them, even (most of) the villains. There was one line among many ["Don't thank me," said the old man. "I just whispered it to the fire."] that twisted my heart a little, knowing how desperate was the plight of this family I've grown so attached to, yet aware at the same time that they had so few options left.

The author raises an interesting question with regard to historical accuracy -- how far should one go to match the written record?

Forrester states that "the real test of historical fiction is not how accurate it is but how good it is" and that "the social landscape of the past is much too interesting to be seen as a backdrop only to what actually did happen."

Having, I confess, been unable to finish Harry Turtledove's Elizabethan novel, Ruled Britannia, mostly due to the language, I much prefer Forrester's method of capturing the sights and sounds and smells of the era, as well as the tone of the language, without attempting to descend into outright recreation.

James Forrester is the pen name of acclaimed British historian Ian Mortimer, author of nonfiction works including The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England (a Sunday Times bestseller). He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society in 1998, and was awarded the Alexander Prize (2004) by the Royal Historical Society for his work on the social history of medicine.
Praise for the Clarenceux Trilogy
"Forrester delves deeply into 16th-century intrigue to deliver a whale of a yarn... A winner for any reader who loves historical, action-packed novels."--Kirkus Reviews (STARRED)
"No one can create a sense of historical space as convincingly as [Mortimer] does."--Daily Telegraph
"Writing fiction as James Forrester, medieval historian Ian Mortimer provides an authentically detailed backdrop for this fast-paced Elizabethan thriller."--Booklist
"James Forrester captures the sights, smells, and dangers of Tudor England and tells a gripping story."--Philippa Gregory, author of The Other Boleyn Girl

Also this week, Brenda Novak's latest, a Victorian romance called Through the Smoke, is out!

I loved the forthrightness of the female characters in this story! There were a few anachronistic word choices that jumped out at me, but Forrester had a good line about that, regarding his use of the word nursing: "Explaining such things in a novel -- and not using such terms when otherwise I was using normal modern speech -- seemed counterproductive and unlikely to enhance the reader's enjoyment."

In the case of Through the Smoke, I think the trouble was more the English vs American language. Some of the interactions, especially with the servants, didn't ring true to me, especially since the story is set in 1840, right around the time of Dickens.

I don't want to dissuade anyone from reading the book, though. If you're looking for a well-paced crossing-the-class-barrier romance, then this is a great read! I definitely wished for more bedroom scenes between Rachel and Truman, since their every day interactions were so great at showing how well suited they were. Sometimes it's a shame that romance novels tend not to have sequels.

I think that's why I enjoy Novak's Whiskey Creek series -- at least the reader can catch glimpses of couples from previous books in the later stories of new relationships.

The prologue and first chapter of Through the Smoke are up on Novak's website, and she's also hosting a giveaway for a Kindle Paperwhite! Plus, if you purchase the book, you can send the receipt to Danita Moon and you'll receive a thank you gift.

And there's more - if you sign up to receive Amazon's romance newsletter before 20 October, they will gift you the first book in the Whiskey Creek series!

I also read these two last week, the first a new story and the second a book that I can't believe it took me this long to get around to reading:

I'd recommend both! The first is a sadly sweet love story, and the second is one of those books that's fun and easy to read, yet captures the heart and soul of a family while they're struggling through hard times. Here's the first line of the novel:
"Two years after my mother died, my father fell in love with a glamorous blonde Ukrainian divorcée. He was eighty-four and she was thirty-six. She exploded into our lives like a fluffy pink grenade, churning up the murky water, bringing to the surface a sludge of sloughed-off memories, giving the family ghosts a kick up the backside."
I'm delighted to discover that Drinkwater is writing some YA and that Marina Lewycka has many more novels!

ROW80 is going even better than I'd hoped, now that the first of this month's writing marathons on the Forum is under my belt.

Nothing like a bit of accountability to get me doing more work than usual. I typed up 1450 the first day, 2050 the second, over 1400 the third day, and I got an extra day in on Canadian Thanksgiving, and typed up 2100 words! Somewhere in there I also wrote a 200 word vignette...

Jen shared a great snip the other day. Here're the rules of her snip-sharing game:
"I decided it's game time. I have no idea who's out there reading this blog -- doesn't seem like all that many, but I'm hoping some of y'all will join in.

If you're a writer -- use your current WIP to play. If you're not a writer, but love books, use the book you're currently reading to play. That way, we can all play. :)

First -- figure out the number of pages in your WIP/book. Then go here and get a randomly generated number between 1 and said number of pages.

Got your page #?

In the comments, post the entire page if you choose -- or bits that you really enjoy. It's up to you. If using another author's work, be sure to include proper credit. If you blog, please pass on the game and see if we can really get it going. Don't leave me hangin', yo!"
Here's my page - the opening to Captive of the Sea, the novel I'm madly typing away:
I was born on King Arthur's grave.

My earliest memory is of Father telling me stories of the court of the king, who reigned over 500 years ago. Each tale started with a daring knight who, peradventure, fell afoul of a lovely maiden, and fought his way through perils back into grace and favour. The stories were scarfed by the mists of time, and my father ended them all with the words, "you are a daughter of Snowdonia, of the mountain whence Arthur will rise again."

Then the battles of the kings of our time began anew, and my father packed up our household and brought us to the teeming, reeking city of London. He disappeared every day into the milling crowds, seeking his fortune, and I hardly ever saw him except for an hour or so at sunset.

The fogs and smoke choked me, and I stayed as much as I could indoors. I'd look out my window early in the morning, seeking green sloping hills and purple-headed mountain ranges. Yet I could not look long; the fog and surrounding walls shut off all farsight, and my mother's strident tones soon summoned me to my duties.

My father returned home later and later of nights, and he did not tell me stories anymore.

Anyone want to share a snip?
Do you have any must-read book recommendations?


Carrie-Anne said…
Historical accuracy is definitely important. I expect a writer to do all of the research and not just write (as I used to in my earlier, juvenile days) stories that read like contemporaries that just happen to be set in the past. However, I hate if characters are TOO historically accurate. I don't expect them to be just like modern people, but I like to see some people who break the mold in ways that are plausible and acceptable within the parameters of their era.

One of the reasons I hated Betty Smith's Joy in the Morning, set around a Midwestern college campus in the 1920s, was because the annoying leading couple were way too bought into the status quo of the era. It made me so depressed and angry to see Annie in particular just accepting a controlling, chauvinistic husband, slut-shaming (even doing it to other women!), and a jerk OB who treated her like a small child, sabotaged nursing, the whole nine yards.
M Pax said…
Oh, I love the sound of Ian's book. I love historical fiction.
Crystal Collier said…
Ooh, I love Forrester's words: "the real test of historical fiction is not how accurate it is but how good it is." I needed to hear that. I've been struggling with the same thing--embracing the attitudes and lifestyle of a time period, but taking quite a bit of license otherwise.
Anonymous said…
Wow, great work on the word counts and Ian's book sounds great. I may check it out. x
S.P. Bowers said…
I've read A History of Tractors in Ukrainian. I'll have to put James Forrester on my list.
You're rocking with ROW80! Keep it up.
Tia Bach said…
What a great post. I found out about some great new books, enjoyed your snippet, and felt inspired to get my butt to writing. Congrats on your writing focus, and thanks for all your sharing.
JMom said…
Hi dropping in from the Final Sacrament blog tour. Your review was spot on. I really enjoyed reading the author's comments insights into the book too.
JMom @ Found Not Lost
Deniz Bevan said…
Ooh, that does sound difficult to read Carrie-Anne. No matter the era, I have trouble reading about weak characters. I couldn't even finish Wuthering Heights!

Thanks for coming by everyone!
Nick Wilford said…
You must have smoke billowing from your keyboard with the amount of words you're writing! Congrats!

I admire anyone who can write historical well. Although the story must come first, it's quite a feat to effectively weave a narrative around the facts.
Deniz Bevan said…
Thanks Nick!
That's one reason I'm loving the iPad - the keyboard is silent. Otherwise, on a real keyboard, I start sounding like Kramer, when he got that guest spot on Murphy Brown...
I just finished reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. I really enjoyed it.
Deniz Bevan said…
I haven't read that one yet, Theresa! Way too many books on the wishlist...