Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Giveaway! Death and the Devil by Frank Schatzing

Good evening! Only one week left until Halloween, and to kick of the festivities I am participating in the Spooktacular Giveaway Hop hosted by Kathy @ I am a Reader, Not a Writer. This year I am giving away one copy of Death and the Devil by Frank Schatzing; the winner will be chosen at random by Rafflecopter. To enter in this giveaway you must be a follower of The Muse in the Fog Book Review and fill out the form below.

Synopsis (From the Publisher):
"In the year 1260, a great cathedral, the most ambitious ecclesiastical building in all of Christendom, is rising high above the bustling city of Cologne under the supervision of the architect Gerhard Morart. Far below the soaring spires and flying buttresses, a bitter war rages between the archbishop and the city's ruling merchant families—a deadly conflict that claims Morart as the first of its many victims. But there is a witness to the murder of the unfortunate architect, pushed to his death from the cathedral's scaffolding. A cunning, street-smart, politically naive petty thief called "Jacob the Fox" has seen it all—and seeing has made him the target of a relentless and ruthlessly efficient assassin who's been stripped of his humanity by dark, hidden secrets. Ensnared in the strangling vines of a terrifying conspiracy, the Fox must now run for his life. But who—and what—is he running from?"

a Rafflecopter giveaway

~This is an INTERNATIONAL giveaway!
~Ends October 31st~ 
Good Luck everyone!

Check out the other 400+ bloggers who are participating this year!

Copyright © 2012 Svea Love. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Author Interview: C.W. Gortner, Author of The Queen's Vow

Today I am thrilled to bring you another interview with the fabulous C.W. Gortner, author of exceptional historical fiction including, The Last Queen, and his newest release, The Queen's Vow (read my review). Thank you, C.W., for delighting us with your presence and giving us a glimpse of what goes into your work! 


When did you first realize that you wanted to write a novel about Isabella of Castile?

I grew up in southern Spain, near a castle that had belonged to Isabella, and I often went to visit Granada, site of perhaps her greatest triumph. She is of course a legendary figure in Spain and so I learned about her in school, as well. I always found her fascinating yet forbidding; I knew only the basics about her life until years later, when I was writing my first novel, The Last Queen, about her daughter, Juana. In that book, I portray Isabella after the fall of Granada in 1492 –she is the triumphant, middle-aged queen of legend who set the stage for Spain’s emergence as a modern Renaissance state. During my research, however, I learned the story of Isabella’s youth and her tumultuous rise to power— it’s a tale rife with danger and drama yet so rarely told; I knew then it was a story I had to write. I’m always interested in characters who evolve and transform in unexpected ways, and Isabella is one of those characters. In THE QUEEN’S VOW I set out to explore how Isabella became the queen and woman she was. 
Your novel covered the majority of Isabella's life-- from her years as a young Infanta, to her struggle to claim the throne, and then the first decade of her reign-- out of these is there a particular period in her life that you enjoyed writing about to a greater extent than the others?

I enjoyed all of it, but I think I was most intrigued by the period when she was struggling to assert herself during the first years of her reign. Isabella faced tremendous obstacles, both because of her gender as well as her decision to marry Fernando of Aragon, a prince whose kingdom was a long-time rival of Castile. How she went about pacifying this prejudice and establishing herself both in her political and personal life is quite surprising. Many of us tend to see Isabella as an implacable woman with an iron fist but in truth she was temperate and cautious. Her motto in the book, con blandura (with softness) is not fictional; she believed in compromise and was an astute judge of character. She rarely acted impulsively, yet she had a streak of obstinacy that could be daunting. I love discovering this kind of duality in a character. 

The relationship between Isabella and Ferdinand seemed to be strained throughout their marriage. Obviously a great sum of this can be contributed to the political battles and the stress that came along with trying to unify a country, but can some of it be contributed to a resentment felt by Ferdinand due to the fact that Isabella held Castile in her own right?

Absolutely. He had a tough time being the partner of lesser power, especially as he was king in his own right in Aragon; deep down, I believe he never fully accepted it. Isabella brought out the best in him and kept the worst at bay; it’s a testament to her extraordinary gift for compromise that she managed to balance her rights as a sovereign queen with what she perceived as her duty to her husband. She strove to create equality between them and in many ways, she achieved it. We might regard Isabella as being “weak” for giving into her husband’s demands but that would be a mistake. Her strength was her very ability to move past Fernando’s immaturity; to see him for who he was and enhance those parts of his personality that made him better. Isabella is the quintessential Renaissance queen; she had a traditional view of her role as a wife and mother, and yet she never sacrificed her divinely appointed right to rule Castile.

How much preparation and research went into the making of this historical novel? 

All my books take years. I’m usually researching one book while writing another and it all spills over. For example, Rodrigo Borgia, Pope Alexander VI, is a peripherally mentioned character in this novel and I’m now writing about him and his daughter Lucrezia. I would say that THE QUEEN’S VOW took close to 6 years to both research and write, as I really started working on it while I was writing The Last Queen. 

So far you have written about Isabella of Castile and her daughter Juana, are there any other members of this particular royal family you would like to write about in the future? 

Yes, I would. And that’s all I can say, on my agent’s orders J 

Can you tell us a bit about your current work in progress?
As mentioned, I’m working on a novel about Lucrezia Borgia, focusing on her early years in the Vatican, when she went from being the na├»ve illegitimate daughter of an ambitious Spanish cardinal to one of Italy’s most notorious and feared women. Her thrust into notoriety and dangerous struggle to define herself as she battles the rapacity of her own family has offered me another remarkable story of perseverance and harrowing transformation. The book will be published by Ballantine, Random House, in 2014.

I’m also preparing the outline for the third book in my Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles; the second book (following The Tudor Secret) is titled The Tudor Conspiracy. This time, Brendan Prescott reluctantly goes to the court of Mary Tudor, where he’s hunted by a shadowy foe even as he plunges into London’s treacherous underworld to unravel a dark conspiracy that could make Elizabeth queen—or send her to her death. The book is scheduled for publication by St Martin’s Press in the US in July, 2013, and Hodder & Stoughton in the UK.
Thank you so much for having me. I sincerely hope your readers enjoy THE QUEEN’S VOW. I’m always available to chat with book groups via Skype or speaker phone; to learn more about me and my work, please visit me at: www.cwgortner.com


Copyright © 2012 Svea Love. All Rights Reserved.

Review: The Queen's Vow by C.W. Gortner

The Queen's Vow by C.W. Gortner
Publication Date: June 12th 2012
Format: Hardcover 400pp

Synopsis (From the Publisher): 
"No one believed I was destined for greatness. 
So begins Isabella’s story, in this evocative, vividly imagined novel about one of history’s most famous and controversial queens—the warrior who united a fractured country, the champion of the faith whose reign gave rise to the Inquisition, and the visionary who sent Columbus to discover a New World. Acclaimed author C. W. Gortner envisages the turbulent early years of a woman whose mythic rise to power would go on to transform a monarchy, a nation, and the world. 
Young Isabella is barely a teenager when she and her brother are taken from their mother’s home to live under the watchful eye of their half-brother, King Enrique, and his sultry, conniving queen. There, Isabella is thrust into danger when she becomes an unwitting pawn in a plot to dethrone Enrique. Suspected of treason and held captive, she treads a perilous path, torn between loyalties, until at age seventeen she suddenly finds herself heiress of Castile, the largest kingdom in Spain. Plunged into a deadly conflict to secure her crown, she is determined to wed the one man she loves yet who is forbidden to her—Fernando, prince of Aragon. 
As they unite their two realms under “one crown, one country, one faith,” Isabella and Fernando face an impoverished Spain beset by enemies. With the future of her throne at stake, Isabella resists the zealous demands of the inquisitor Torquemada even as she is seduced by the dreams of an enigmatic navigator named Columbus. But when the Moors of the southern domain of Granada declare war, a violent, treacherous battle against an ancient adversary erupts, one that will test all of Isabella’s resolve, her courage, and her tenacious belief in her destiny. 
From the glorious palaces of Segovia to the battlefields of Granada and the intrigue-laden gardens of Seville, The Queen’s Vow sweeps us into the tumultuous forging of a nation and the complex, fascinating heart of the woman who overcame all odds to become Isabella of Castile."

My Review:

Holding a new novel by C.W. Gortner in your hands is like the excitement felt the night before a long awaited trip. The anticipation of embarking on a new literary adventure is tremendous, and once the novel has begun, each turn of the page is a moment to be savored... The Queen's Vow is no exception to this type of delight.

From the first page of this enthralling novel, the reader is given a heartfelt introduction to one of histories most empowering women, Isabella of Castile. Her life was surrounded by chaos and the ever looming threat of danger, but had her destiny been known to the political leaders of her time, her life wold have been in even more peril. Since this was not the case, everyone, including Isabella, thought there was little use for her beyond that of a political marriage. But when a sudden turn of events puts her within reach of the crown, she must utilize her innate strength and wisdom in order to prove worthy of her natural right. 

Told in elegant prose, and steep in historical detail, The Queen's Vow illuminates the life of Isabella flawlessly. The three dimensional characters are vastly different, allowing the reader to form a unique connection with each one. In addition to this, like Gortner's other novels, it is amazing how each character can demand so much of the readers attention without ever taking away from the emphasis on the main character. There is no need for any foreknowledge of Isabella of Castile or the Spanish Inquisition in order to fully comprehend and immerse yourself within this book. In fact, even if you are well versed in these subjects, there is still so much to gain by reading this exceptional literary work. I highly recommend The Queen's Vow to anyone who takes pleasure in historical fiction while receiving a facinating history lesson; it will no doubt hold a special place in your library. 

To learn more about The Queen's Vow and C.W. Gortner's work:

Copyright © 2012 Svea Love. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Author Guest Post: Karleen Koen, Author of Before Versailles

It is a pleasure to welcome Karleen Koen to The Muse in the Fog Book Review today, as she shares with us the inspiration behind her stunning novels of 17th century France. 

"Sometimes I’m asked in what order someone should read my books. I guess this is because some of the same characters appear in the three which are published. (Author's note: now there are 4.) First, I think it doesn’t matter. Read whichever one comes your way, and go from there. Each book is written to stand alone: a full-fledged story with beginning, middle, end. But as the one who writes them, it is very interesting to me the way they have unfolded in my imagination. The first one was written to heal over a great hurt. The second one was written because the publisher made an offer I couldn’t refuse. The third one was written because that’s what was there for me to do when I left a regular job. The fourth one is being written now because it’s the one I’ve been trying to write since the second. (It is out, part of this blog's review and is a giveaway: Before Versailles.)  A piece of it tumbled out in the third. That was when I realized how large this particular story (Louis XIV) was, and that my mistake had been to try to fit that story into one book. So now I write another piece of that story. And when it is finished, I will take one thread and unfurl it forward into the time period of Dark Angels, and those characters, Richard and Alice, will come back on stage. But then the book after, six, if I’m counting correctly, will again look backward to Alice’s girlhood. And then, and only then, will I be ready to go forward to the early 18th century in which Barbara, the character of the first and second novels, lives. Somehow, there’s a psychic order. I must finish with Louis XIV and Alice before I can begin again with Barbara. It’s as if I threw a rock in a pond, and the rock was the first book, and these which come after are the ripples in my imagination. Those basic themes of what is love, what is forgiveness, what is redemption just keep widening."

Also by Karleen Koen:

To learn more about Karleen and her work you can visit her here:

Intrigued by the decadence and courtly intrigue of 17th Century France? Be sure to check back later today for my review of Before Versailles and giveaway!


Copyright © 2012 Svea Love. All Rights Reserved.