Sunday, February 23, 2020

Book Review: The War in Our Hearts

Time for another random book review, this one from Eva Seyler, my publisher's other historical fiction author.

I read The War in Our Hearts, which came out around this time last year, before I became friends with Eva on Twitter. I was interested first because we shared a publisher, but also because I've always had a soft spot for WWI stories.

The description from Amazon: France, 1916: Estelle Graham faces a nightmare. Expecting to meet her beloved husband and bring their newly adopted daughter home to Scotland, she instead finds him gravely injured and unconscious in a casualty station. As she fights for his care, she takes solace in his journals and letters.

In a farmhouse in Somme, Captain Jamie Graham is forever changed when he meets young Aveline Perrault. Both of them broken and walled off from the cruel and cold world around them--made even crueler and colder by the Great War--the pair form an unlikely bond. She finds in him the father she never had, and with her love, he faces the pain from his own childhood.

Discover the depth of love and faith in the face of brutality and neglect as they learn to live while surviving World War I.

This is not your standard WWI story. While it certainly covers the horrors of war, much more of it is made up of the actions that brought the protagonist, Jamie Graham, to this point - his awful childhood, his years at school, finding his love of music. His meeting and courtship of Estelle. And, finally, his fellow soldiers - and Aveline - who he encounters in France prior to his injury.

Unusually told in flashbacks, diary entries, letters and memories, this is a mosaic of a tale that will stay with you long after you've finished.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Weekend Roundup

An letter from Anne Boleyn to her king.
16th century handwriting transcribed
by the folks at Hever Castle.
I post a lot of interesting historical goodies over on my writer Facebook page, but for those of you not on the festering dumpster-fire that can be Facebook, I thought I would share the more interesting links over here, on a semi-regular basis (as in whenever there are enough of them to make it worth our mutual while).

To the left, a transcription of a letter from Anne Boleyn to Henry VIII. It wouldn't pass as a love letter these days - then again, neither would a letter - but that was apparently enough to keep the king hot and bothered.

When I was a kid, I was fascinated by metal detectors. This treasure hunter found a ring which may well have belonged to one (or two) of Henry's queens.

And for readers of Songbird, you'll have noted that the sweating sickness was mentioned several times. It was a strange and often deadly disease in Tudor times. There were only five documented outbreaks, but they were memorable. has a good article about it here.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Never mind. Just one more section.

The strangest thing happened the other morning. It was good strange, but I will probably never experience its like again.

I've mentioned before how much I like Twitter, and how many like-minded writer folk I've found there. Well, there's one who I've gotten friendly with - we discuss our reading and plot ideas both on Twitter and by DM - and she started reading Songbird a few weeks back.

Life got in the way and she hadn't been able to progress very far, though she assured me she was enjoying it.

And then I woke up yesterday to a tag which said she'd been up until 3 a.m. (west coast) reading. There's no better feeling than keeping someone up all night. Then I checked my messages, and she LIVE MESSAGED HER REACTIONS AS SHE READ THE BOOK. It was a long, long string, because she read for over 3 hours, but it made my day.

I told her during the day how much it meant, seeing her reaction in real time to what I put my poor characters through, and I got to experience it in even more real time as she finished the book last night - thankfully before my bedtime.

As I sat on the couch alternately watching TV and reading Twitter messages on my phone, Mario asked, "Which one of you is supposed to be entertaining the other here?"

I think it was mutual. I know that I value these messages even more than her Amazon and Goodreads reviews, because I got to actually watch my work hit home and hear her reactions to my story. That's not something every writer gets to experience. Honestly, some probably wouldn't like it, but I did.

I really did.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Fait Accompli - for now

I should have posted this sooner, but I've been taking a little down time and recovering. I finished the first draft of my second Tudor novel on January 31. That was my goal, and I did it.

 A first draft is a rough creature. In the sewing realm, where I still meet a lot of my readers, it would be a jacket with three sleeves or a skirt with a zipper at the top and the bottom. It might be the wrong
fabric for the intended purpose. Or the right fabric, but the wrong garment.

As with all completed projects, written or sewn, it's going into the magic closet for a month to rest. I'll be able to see it a lot more clearly after that. At this point, I'm not even dipping back into the document to look for the highlighted portions, which are things that need to be researched for the second draft. I'll get there. But this was a longer book than I thought it was going to be, not so much in words but in span of time, and there are still incidents during the period that need to be researched so I don't don't sound like I'm talking out of my butt.

That's both the joy and sorrow of historical fiction. You have to be accurate, and when you can't be accurate, you have to at least be plausible. You can't come up with something that will jar readers out of the story, make them cock their heads and go, "Huh?" At the moment, I fear that would be the reaction in at least several crucial places. So Robin Lewis, and the dissolution of the monasteries, and Thomas Cromwell and all sorts of other fun, are sleeping it off in the magic closet.

I'll let you know when they emerge. In the meantime, I'm thinking of new projects...

Friday, February 14, 2020

Happy Valentine's Day

So you thought because the book was published that the snippets would stop?

Alas, no.

This is from a moment partway through the book where Bess, the protagonist, is being particularly obtuse with Tom, her oldest and dearest friend, who feels a lot more than friendship toward her.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Quick, get my smelling salts!

Well, this was a lovely treat to wake up to this morning. Mary Anne Yarde, a historical fiction author and book blogger, reviewed Songbird on her blog this morning, and I haven't completely come down to earth yet.

My favorite bit:

"There are many great Historical Fiction books based on the Tudor era, but Songbird by Karen Heenan is something not only extraordinary but also unique. It is witty and inspired and so incredibly vivid. I loved every word, every sentence. It is a book that deserves to be read over and over again. Songbird is a vastly entertaining read and absolutely impossible to put down. It is tense, and it is powerful — a real treat."

I'm going to go and lie down until the swelling in my head subsides. If you want to read the entire review, it's here.