I’m so thrilled to reveal the cover for The Broken Tree, the third book in The Laurelhurst Chronicles saga, due out August 1, 2019!
An anxious homecoming, a three-hundred-year-old legend, and an obsessed, scorned heir bent on revenge. Welcome back to Laurelhurst.
Fifteen years ago, Lydie Cavert Bainbridge left the dark days of her youth at Laurelhurst Manor behind her. Now thirty-two and mistress of her family’s Lancastrian estate, Lydie is nervous as she and her family of five returns to the storied manor in the summer of 1959.
Not long after they arrive, Lydie and her husband Henry come across an ancient broken oak tree on the edge of the moors that holds a heartbreaking connection to a long-standing enemy who wants nothing better than to destroy Lydie and Henry’s happiness.
As Lydie and Henry’s siblings Edward Cavert and Kate Douglas arrive, they bring a host of new challenges and secret loves that threaten to unravel the bonds between them.
As Laurelhurst’s annual summer bank holiday party approaches, tempers flare, rivalries emerge, and accusations explode that could shatter Henry and Lydie’s world forever. Will the bonds between siblings stay strong, or will they splinter apart like the ancient tree they found near the moors?
The White Venus, The Love and War Series Book Two by Rupert Colley
Rating: Five Stars
When you trust your enemy more than your family
June 1940. A village in northern France awaits a garrison of conquering Germans.
To their dismay, 16-year-old Pierre and his parents are forced to accommodate a German major. He is the enemy within their midst and, more pertinently, the unwanted lodger within their home.
The problem, however, is that the German is annoyingly pleasant. The major, with a son of his own, empathises with Pierre in a way his father has never been able to.
But when his father is arrested by the Gestapo, Pierre has to ask where his loyalties lie, and who are his friends and who, exactly, is the enemy.
Desperate to prove himself a man, Pierre is continually thwarted by those he trusts – his parents, the villagers and especially Claire, the girl he so desires.
Pierre’s quest brings to the fore a traumatic event in the family’s past, a tragedy never forgotten but never mentioned. Can Pierre confront his trauma, and prove himself a man in a country at war?
Disclosure: Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links and at no additional cost to you, I’ll earn a commission. When you purchase books using my Amazon affiliate link, they compensate me, which helps make this blog possible. Know that I only recommend books that I personally stand behind, or feel could enrich others’ lives.
It’s rare that I find a book that I want to read in one sitting, but I stayed up all night reading this brilliant book. Characters move stories, and I was instantly taken with young Pierre. His character arc is superb. He first comes across as this young boy who has difficulty killing a chicken, but as the novel progresses, Pierre finds his strength.
It’s hard not to feel for Pierre as so much of what he thought was true is called into question, yet the novel is filled with humor as a young man’s boyhood antics with his friend Xavier and his perpetual crush on the lovely Claire heighten all the joy and angst of adolescence.
You will laugh and cry as you read this superb read filled with all the wonders and pain of a coming of age tale. I cheered Pierre on all the way. This was my first read of one of Colley’s novels, and I will certainly read the rest of the series.
If you’ve been waiting for both books of The Laurelhurst Chronicles saga to go on sale, wait no more! My e-books are 99 cents from now until the end of April 2019! It won’t be long before The Broken Tree will be available for pre-order, so grab this while you can at this low price if you haven’t already!
I’ll be chatting about my series and signing books at the McComb Public Library on April 4th, 2019 at noon as part of the McComb Public Library’s Munch-a-Lunch program! Come see me and have books signed!
Today on my blog I’m honored to review the stunning historical fiction anthology The Darkest Hour: A WWII Tales of Resistance featuring novellas by Roberta Kagan, Jean Grainger, Marion Kummerow, Ellie Midwood, Alexa Kang, Mary D. Brooks, Deborah Swift, Kathryn Gauci, John R. McKay, and Ryan Armstrong.
Full disclosure, grab a box of Kleenex and your favorite beverage with this book because you will need it. I connected with characters in such a way I was right there with them. I wish I could say that I read it all in one sitting, but I frequently found myself recovering from such a powerful collection of stories.
I will be the first to admit that I sobbed like a baby with Roberta Kagan’s Bubbe’s Nightingale. I rallied on some fierce heroines in Jean Grainger’s Catriona’s War, Alexa Kang’s The Moon Chaser, Mary D. Brook’s Enemy at the Gates, and Kathryn Gauci’s Code Name Camille. I felt the unbelievable struggle in deciding to choose between your husband and everything else in Marion Kummerow’s Reluctant Informer and Deborah Swift’s The Occupation. I felt right back in Prague in Ellie Midwood’s Killing the Hangman as two brave Czech operatives carried out the perilous mission of assassinating Reinhard Heydrich. I was swept up with Charles’s small display of protest in John McKay’s V for Victory as he proved that even small measures can help win a war. I was absolutely terrified for American teen Charles who had the mother of all worst uncles in Ryan Armstrong’s Sound of Resistance. (Seriously, you will need your favorite beverage of choice on that one. I will warn that the language and content was hard to stomach).
As a writer of a teenager heroine in the first book of my series, I will note that loved seeing courageous teens in this anthology. I felt the pain of Brook’s Zoe as she resolved to fight for her Greek homeland after losing her father. I cheered on McKay’s Charles on as he took chalk and paint and boldly marked V for Victory and Vive La France while waiting for his father to come home after being taken prisoner of war. I felt a bond with Armstrong’s Charlie with his love for jazz records amidst his uncle Erich’s brutality.
What always moves me with stories both as a writer and a reader is when I feel so strongly for the character, and each of these ten stories deliver. I loved too the variety of the ages and nationalities of these risk-taking, rule-breaking characters. They were awe-inspiring in courage and heroism. I loved them so much that I am buying more of their work to continue the story.
If you are looking for a good read that will warm these cold winter nights, please read The Darkest Hour. All proceeds go to a worthy cause at the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. If you’re ever in D.C, please go visit this museum. It will fill you with more stories of courage and inspiration amidst darkness.
I’m pleased to mark the beginning of a new blog post series on the historical background of Before the Flood, and we’re starting off with Lydia’s artistic background at Barnard College, one of the Seven Sisters colleges of the Northeast.
Someone asked me if Lydia is based upon a real historical figure, and the answer is no. Lydia is a completely a fictional character that is my brainchild, yet I draw influences from historical figures and real people of the time. I researched the lives of Barnard College women through archives of the Barnard College Bulletin, then a weekly student newspaper, and the Barnard Mortarboard, the college yearbook. I then poured over the work and biographies of mid-century female artists to help sculpt the portrait of a young artist at the beginning of her career.
Lydia entered university in a time when a college education a privilege and not as accessible as we know of it today. The women of her class knew they were daughters of fortune. From Convocation in 1946 with Dean Helen Gildersleeve (a powerhouse and great advocate for the international exchange of ideas) to their Commencement in 1950 with Dean Millicent Carey McIntosh, these women were “expected to be adults, and expected to change the world.” They knew from their first days at Barnard that they had a great responsibility to use their knowledge and background to impact not just themselves, but their communities and the world around them. It emboldened them to lead lives that distinguished between artifice and reality. (6). It’s these qualities that will mold Lydie for the rest of her life.
Getting to know these ladies through research and their biographies led me to want to discover what achievements they made, especially Lydia’s fine arts sisters at Barnard. This led me to Mary Carroll Nelson, one of the surviving class members of the Class of 1950. Call it intuition or fate or what have you, but it drew me to her. Recently after viewing some of her artwork at Weyrich Gallery in her adopted home of Albuquerque, New Mexico of many years, I contacted Mary and that led to a lovely correspondence that I’m privileged to share. More about my visit to Weyrich later in this post.
Just who is Mary Carroll Nelson, how do you put such a life into words? Her accomplishments are many. She’s a celebrated Marquis Who’s Who Lifetime Achiever. She’s been listed in Who’s Who of America, Who’s Who of the West, and Who’s Who of American Women. She’s also the founder of the Society of Layerists in Multi-Media (http://www.slmm.org) and a respected artist, panelist, teacher, and author.
But who was Mary in college, and how did Barnard impact her world as an artist and a person? Well, she was someone I definitely wanted to know. She stayed up late to study and took the bottom bunk in her dorm room so her roommate could to go to bed early. She noted that campus was rather ugly at the time and her recollections of her dorm Brooks Hall, “when I arrived to move into Brooks Hall the rooms were truly ugly. A double-decker bed bought as war surplus from the Navy was the first thing I saw. A little basin, a pair of low dressers, and a middle room with desks for four, and a third room where two juniors were living. I and my roommate were their wards for the first year. In a while, we had made the room our own, more personal and with some color here and there. (1)”
She also wrote in her correspondence that she looks back on Barnard with gratitude. Her “fine arts education there has nourished my lifelong commitment to art, as student, collector, admirer, and artist. It is how I view history. The rest of the required curriculum was widely dispersed and provided a background for understanding the origins of things, ideas, places, and events.”
Her career piqued my interest because like Lydie, their paths post graduation are similar: both became elementary school teachers and art teachers and both married within the same year they graduated from Barnard.
Born in Bryan, Texas, to James Vincent and Mary Elizabeth Carroll, Mary Carroll Nelson married Edwin Blakely Nelson, a West Point graduate and physicist in 1950, the same year she earned a BA in Fine Arts from Barnard College. Her mother was also an alumna of Barnard, class of 1923. She raised two children before returning to earn her M.A. in art education at the University of New Mexico in 1963, and further education in 1969- 1970. Her accomplishments as a panelist, juror, co-ordinator, author and artists are lengthy. For a more detailed catalogue of her achievements, please visit Marquis Top Artists Who’s Who and Mary’s website.
What drew me to her was her views on originality and style. On originality, Mary Carroll Nelson states that: “The actual breakthrough in the privacy of the studio, when one dares to apply paint in a new manner, is a solitary thrill, dependent upon no one else.” One of Lydie’s opening statements in Before The Flood as she stands in her studio, her most sacred space, Lydie transforms from a place of doubt and fear into wholeness. It’s a place where she comes back from beyond the brink back to herself.
Lydie’s background of abuse from her uncle, and the trauma she witnessed and experienced, art releases the anguish she feels to form her own style. Although Lydie’s art evolves throughout the series, she uses the power of visuals to transform those negative images in her mind into empowering, beautiful things that touch and impact lives long after we’ve finished the last stroke. To quote Mary, “every artist who evolves a style does so from illusive elements that inhabit his or her visual storehouse.”
I wish I could have discovered Mary’s life and work a lot earlier, but I was ecstatic to get to opportunity recently to see her work in person, and while she’s still with us. As Mary noted in her one of her emails her class was a fine group and is shrinking by the year. With her permission, I’m sharing a few of my photographs of her work I took from my visit a short time ago.
If you get the chance to visit with Gary Tibbetts, you’re in for a real treat. He’s a wonderful fountain of knowledge, and a great guy. You will stay there a while, and you will love it. I wanted several of Mary’s pieces, and I left with her book on Crop Circles, something she has researched for over fifteen years. Many of her books on art are available for purchase online on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Mary-Carroll-Nelson/e/B001K8F84Y
Some of Mary’s work. I apologize that I’m not the best photographer:
For more on Mary’s pieces at Weyrich Gallery, visit http://weyrichgallery.com or if you’re in the Albuquerque area, stop by at 2935-D Louisiana NE.
Next up on Behind the Book, it’s Henry’s turn I go Behind the Book to share the physicians that mentored Henry at Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons.
I’m thrilled to be part of this year’s Bookluver’s Christmas Hamper giveaway with both of my books Beneath a Moonless Sky and Before the Flood! There are a lot of excellent books in the hamper this year, including some by my friends Marion Kummerow and Dianne Ascroft. There is something in every genre to fill your Kindle full of new books as we settle into the colder months.
Speaking of Kindle, one of the giveaways is for a Kindle and other great prizes!
I always believe that you can get to know a city by eating your way through it. While researching Before the Flood, I got to know quite a few lost treasures of the Big Apple. One of these featured in the novel is Lydie’s birthday cake: the legendary Brooklyn Blackout Cake. Lydie never passes up a good piece of cake and neither can I.
The Brooklyn Blackout Cake was made famous by Edinger’s Bakery in Brooklyn, New York. It was a favorite hostess gift, a beloved birthday cake, and a holiday staple of yore. Ebinger’s signature green box tied with string evoked memories of anticipation and joy to those who knew it. Legend has it that the Blackout Cake was coined from blackout drills in Brooklyn during World War II.
The recipe posted on Politico’s article (http://politi.co/2gdDULd) is not the exact recipe from Ebinger’s (the bakery closed years ago and they took their trade secret with them) but according to the article, it does pass muster with those who knew the cake from its heyday. It’s a full on chocolate experience. These are my notes from testing.
Make no mistake, chocolate is the star of this cake in all its glory. The recipe calls for the best chocolate you can get because it is front and center. With a devil’s food cake, cooked chocolate pudding filling, and an intense bittersweet frosting traditionally topped with a crumb coating, this is chocolate upon chocolate with more chocolate. The recipe is labor intensive with many steps, but they are worth it.
Let’s start with the chocolate pudding filling. This is now perhaps now one of my favorites. My grandmother used to make stove-top chocolate pudding when I was a child, and this takes me right back to hers. I could have eaten the entire bowl of it had I not needed it for the cake. The only suggestion I would make after trying it is to perhaps make more. First because you are going to want “sample” it while you are waiting for the cake to bake, and second because I found that perhaps a bit more could be used in between the layers. I tend to like more filling in my cake. That’s up to you. The cornstarch paste/slurry gives it the thickening it needs. Be sure to place your cling-wrap directly on top of the pudding to ensure a film doesn’t form. It sets up and thickens more in the fridge.
The batter for this cake is time-consuming with many steps, but not essentially difficult if you bake regularly. Prepare to spend some time on this batter as this isn’t your boxed cake mix variety. If you aren’t familiar with whipping egg whites and folding them into a batter, then you might want to think twice.
When the batter is finished, it will have a mousse like consistency. Indeed, you might be tempted to eat it straight as is. I divvied it out between the two pans using a measuring cup to make sure the layers were even. As an aside, I dust my pans with cocoa powder instead of flour. I just like it on a chocolate cake, but you can use flour that the recipe calls for.. Do not over-bake. I baked mine for 40 minutes, but your oven might be different. The pudding filling definitely helps to keep this cake luscious and moist.
On the layering: the cake calls for three layers with the fourth reserved for the signature crumb coating. I filled the layers, covered the cake, and set it in the fridge overnight to let the cake set up a bit. My top layer wanted to slide a bit, so I decided to cooling it the fridge would help it to set. As recommended in the article, you can use toothpicks or help from sliding.
The frosting reminded me more of a ganache with the corn syrup added in to give it a firmer consistency. It won’t harden as much as say Magic Shell will. It’s more like Boston Creme Pie frosting consistency. I used a seventy percent cacao bittersweet chocolate that reminds me more of European cakes that tend to be a bit less sweet.
This classic NYC cake is a show stopper. I would definitely make this for the holidays or a really special occasion. There are a few bakeries in New York that make a version of the Blackout, but if you aren’t near NYC and want an intense chocolate cake, try this one. It reminded me of being in some of my favorite European bakeries. I would even consider shaving some chocolate curls on the top if you don’t want the crumb coating, but that might deviate from the original nostalgia. It’s possible to make more of the filling and use it as a frosting.
Pros: intense chocolate experience, solid cake, intense flavor, pudding is a must have on its own
Cons: labor intensive, can be expensive depending on how dear the chocolate is
If you have any memories of the Blackout Cake or have made it, please feel free to drop me a line!