Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Book Spotlight: Anywhere But Schuylkill by Michael Dunn


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In 1877, twenty Irish coal miners hanged for a terrorist conspiracy that never occurred. Anywhere But Schuylkill is the story of one who escaped, Mike Doyle, a teenager trying to keep his family alive during the worst depression the nation has ever faced. Banks and railroads are going under. Children are dying of hunger. The Reading Railroad has slashed wages and hired Pinkerton spies to infiltrate the miners’ union. And there is a sectarian war between rival gangs. But none of this compares with the threat at home.


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Michael Dunn writes Working-Class Fiction from the Not So Gilded Age. Anywhere But Schuylkill is the first in his Great Upheaval trilogy. A lifelong union activist, he has always been drawn to stories of the past, particularly those of regular working people, struggling to make a better life for themselves and their families.

Stories most people do not know, or have forgotten, because history is written by the victors, the robber barons and plutocrats, not the workers and immigrants. Yet their stories are among the most compelling in America. They resonate today because they are the stories of our own ancestors, because their passions and desires, struggles and tragedies, were so similar to our own.


When Michael Dunn is not writing historical fiction, he teaches high school and writes about labor history and culture.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Book Spotlight: Bound in Roses by Katherine Kayne


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A red-hot Hawaiian romance blooms for a buttoned-up botanist who must learn to let go and embrace the ancient voice within her.

After a failed engagement to a high-society suitor in San Francisco, Lokelani "Lucky" Letwin returns home to Hawaii, leaving her beloved rosebushes behind. She's desperate to establish a life of her own-a daunting task for any unmarried female in the early twentieth century but particularly for one passionate about the science of plants. A stubborn, song-filled girl now grown into an accomplished woman Lokelani is haunted by a family tragedy. She is as reluctant to acknowledge her past as she is to accept the supernatural force building inside her, strong and inevitable. She is a mākāhā, a Gate, ever connected to the power of the islands . . . if only she will admit it.

In her quest to retrieve her roses, Lokelani is reunited with Artemus Chang, a childhood friend, who's now a handsome and successful lawyer. As the spark between them grows, Artemus agrees to help her recover her roses, only to discover her kisses leave him literally breathless. When a mystical teacher enters her life, Lokelani's embrace of the voice of ancient power bubbling up within her takes on new urgency and new apprehensions.

Will Lokelani continue to be bound by guilt and fear? Or will she learn to reconcile her gifts - as both a practical botanist and a mystical Gate - to sing once more and claim her love?


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Award winning author Katherine Kayne writes deeply romantic historical fantasy set in old Hawaii. Her critically acclaimed debut novel BOUND IN FLAME delivers myth, magic and all the sparks promised by the title. The next installment in her Hawaiian Ladies' Riding Society series, BOUND IN ROSES, is available for preorder now.

Katherine's novels are filled with horses and history and happily ever after . . . and heroes strong enough to follow their heroine's lead. She spends a part of each year on Hawaii Island immersing herself in Hawaii's past. Aided of course by the occasional mai tai. Katherine created the world of the Hawaiian Ladies Riding Society to tell the stories of the fearless horsewomen of the islands' ranches. Because who doesn't love a suffragist on horseback? With a bullwhip? Wearing flowers?

If you come along for the ride, be prepared for almost anything to happen. Katherine can promise you fiery kisses, charming cowboys, women who ride like the rainbow to save the day, and that rarest of beasts-handsome men who like to dance.

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Book Spotlight and Snippet: Signatures in Stone: A Bomarzo Mystery by Linda Lappin


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Captivating critics and readers, SIGNATURES IN STONE, was the OVERALL WINNER in the DAPHNE DU MAURIER AWARDS for Excellence in Mystery and Suspense Writing - best mystery of 2013


Rome, Italy - November 2023 - Pleasure Boat Studio is thrilled to announce the release of the second edition of Linda Lappin's celebrated novel, SIGNATURES IN STONE: A BOMARZO MYSTERY. This captivating suspense tale takes readers on a thrilling journey through the enigmatic Monster Park of Bomarzo, also known as the Sacred Wood, an extraordinary Baroque sculpture garden in Italy. With the 500th anniversary of the park's creation, this edition is accompanied by a magnificent new cover and a series of Tarot card illustrations by Santa Fe artist Carolyn Florek.


In SIGNATURES IN STONE, readers are transported to the atmospheric setting of the Monster Park of Bomarzo, a sixteenth-century garden adorned with mythical creatures believed to represent a terrifying journey into the realm of nightmares. Against this backdrop, four travelers find themselves intertwined in a fate-driven Italian holiday. Daphne, a British writer of occult mysteries, her down-on-his-luck aristocratic publisher Nigel, the aspiring artist and American gigolo Clive, and the art historian Professor Finestone, all converge in a dilapidated villa near the park. They are attended by rustic servants who harbor secrets of their own.


Professor Finestone has made a groundbreaking discovery, revealing that the garden was designed by one of Italy's greatest artists as a transformative experience that delves into the shadow side of life. Over the centuries, the park's meanders continue to influence the minds and destinies of those who venture within. As the group explores their heart's desires amidst the haunting sculptures, they become entangled in a web of intrigue and danger. When Daphne, renowned for writing cozy murder tales, becomes the prime suspect in a shocking homicide, she must confront her own darkness and rely on her sleuthing skills to uncover the terrifying truth.


Linda Lappin's gripping tale presents an intriguing exploration of gardens in Renaissance Italy, where they were regarded as tools for altering consciousness and changing destiny. The Monster Park of Bomarzo becomes the backdrop for a "Gothic-in-Wonderland" phantasmagoria, immersing readers in a suspenseful and thrilling journey.


New Edition of Linda Lappin's Award-Winning SIGNATURES IN STONE: A BOMARZO MYSTERY Commemorates the 500th Anniversary of the Monster Park.


 “Layers of mystery are woven into Linda Lappin's beautifully written and atmospheric historical novel set in Bomarzo, Italy's enigmatic park of stone monsters.”

~ Gigi Pandian, author of The Accidental Alchemist.

“Deftly mixing fascinating art history and murder with an exotic atmospheric setting (the Bomarzo garden actually exists), dramatic historical period (1928 fascist Italy), and fully fleshed characters, Lappin (The Etruscan) has written a hallucinatory gothic mystery in which no one is as they appear. Daphne is a most memorable, if a bit unreliable narrator. Readers looking for an intelligent summer mystery will find much to savor here.”

~ Wilda Williams, Library Journal


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  .•*´¨) ¸.•*¨) ( ¸.•´



Without inspiration, I could not write. What I needed was a new batch of signatures, those curious messages our waking life sends us from our own unconscious, which I have come to see as promptings from the muse, and even as a spiritual guide for my own existence.

We are constantly immersed in a network of signs and symbols, whose meaning eludes us, but which, if only we could read them, would reveal every detail of our past and even predict our future.

The mind talks to itself not with words, but with scrambled symbols, pictures, fragments, often severed from any literal meaning. If we wish to learn to read them, we must abandon the rational links of words to thoughts.  Signatures are always there waiting for us, like unopened letters slid beneath the front door, accumulating after a long absence, written in a hieroglyphic alphabet we have forgotten.

Linda Lappin, poet, translator, novelist, and travel writer is the prize-winning author of four novels: The Etruscan (Wynkin deWorde, 2004); Katherine’s Wish (Wordcraft, 2008), dealing with the last five years of Katherine Mansfield’s life; Signatures in Stone: A Bomarzo Mystery (Pleasureboat Studio, 2013,2023), overall winner of the Daphne Du Maurier award for best mystery novel of 2013; and Loving Modigliani: The Afterlife of Jeanne Hébuterne (Serving House Books, 2020), 2021 Daphne Du Maurier award finalist and shortlisted for the 2021 Montaigne Medal for Books of Distinction.

She is also the author of The Soul of Place: Ideas and Exercises for Conjuring the Genius Loci, (Travelers Tales, 2015), winner of a Nautilus Award in the category of creativity in 2015.

A former Fulbright scholar to Italy, she has lived mainly in Rome for over thirty years. She is at work on a second Daphne Dublanc mystery novel, Melusine, set in Bolsena. The second edition of Signatures in Stone (2023) has been issued to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Monster Park.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Book Spotlight: The Low Road by Katharine Quarmby


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In 1828, two young women were torn apart as they were sentenced to transportation to Botany Bay. Will they ever meet again?

Norfolk, 1813. In the quiet Waveney Valley, the body of a woman – Mary Tyrell – is staked through the heart after her death by suicide. She had been under arrest for the suspected murder of her newborn child. Mary leaves behind a young daughter, Hannah, who is later sent away to the Refuge for the Destitute in London, where she will be trained for a life of domestic service.

It is at the Refuge that Hannah meets Annie Simpkins, a fellow resident, and together they forge a friendship that deepens into passionate love. But the strength of this bond is put to the test when the girls are caught stealing from the Refuge's laundry, and they are sentenced to transportation to Botany Bay, setting them on separate paths that may never cross again.

Drawing on real events, The Low Road is a gripping, atmospheric tale that brings to life the forgotten voices of the past – convicts, servants, the rural poor – as well as a moving evocation of love that blossomed in the face of prejudice and ill fortune.

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Katharine Quarmby has written non-fiction, short stories, and books for children, and her debut novel, The Low Road, was published by Unbound in 2023. Her non-fiction works include Scapegoat: Why We Are Failing Disabled People (Portobello Books, 2011) and No Place to Call Home: Inside the Real Lives of Gypsies and Travellers (Oneworld, 2013). She has also written picture books and shorter e-books.

She is an investigative journalist and editor, with particular interests in disability, the environment, race and ethnicity, and the care system. Her reporting has appeared in outlets including the Guardian, The Economist, The Atlantic, The Times of London, the Telegraph, New Statesman and The Spectator. Katharine lives in London.

Katharine also works as an editor for investigative journalism outlets, including Investigative Reporting Denmark and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

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LinkedIn: Katharine Quarmby - Writer, Journalist, Editor - Self-employed | LinkedIn


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Monday, January 15, 2024

Book spotlight and excerpt: THE BEAUTY DOCTOR: A NOVEL by Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard


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Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard
Audiobook narrator: Lisa Bozek

A Bone-Chilling Mystery-Suspense-Thriller Set in the Edwardian Era

Finalist, Eric Hoffer Book Award

"Beauty is power," Dr. Rome told her. "And with enough power, one can achieve anything."

Straightening noses, trimming eyelids, lifting jowls . . . In the year 1907, his revolutionary beauty surgery is considered daring, perhaps dangerous. Still, women want what Dr. Rome promises. Neither is his young assistant Abigail Platford immune to Dr. Rome's persuasive charm.

Abigail once dreamed of becoming a doctor, though of a much different sort. That dream ended with her father's tragic death from a medical error for which she holds herself responsible. Dr. Rome, who proudly displays his medical degree from Johns Hopkins, seems to believe in her. If he were willing to act as her mentor, might there still be a chance to realize her dream of someday becoming a doctor serving New York City's poor?

But something feels terribly wrong, as though an insidious evil is closing in. Broken promises, lies, and intrigues abound. The powerful are threatening to destroy the weak, and a doctor's sacred duty hangs in the balance. Abigail no longer knows who to believe; but with Dr. Rome now her mentor and her lover, she desperately wants to trust him.

Even when she discovers that one of their patients has mysteriously disappeared.

From bestselling author Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard, a suspenseful work of historical fiction grounded in the social and moral issues of the Edwardian era in America. Second Edition with Author's Preface.


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 .•*´¨) ¸.•*¨) ( ¸.•´


On the chance Dr. Rome was still attending to Mr. Kilroy, she lay in wait. He was clearly surprised to find her loitering in front of the Kilroys’ townhome. She explained that she was calling off her engagement and needed to find employment. He seemed interested. It wasn’t until they were sitting across from each other at Café Le Jour on Forty-sixth Street that Abigail began to think she’d made yet another terrible mistake.

“You are a very beautiful young woman,” he said, smiling at her over his coffee cup. “I suppose people tell you that all the time.”

“Not so often, actually.” That he had begun on such a personal note, and with the same overabundance of charm he’d displayed at the Hennessys’ banquet, had an unsettling effect on her. As did his gaze, which was direct and insistent.

“I’m sure you’re only being modest, but you need not be around me. I appreciate beauty for what it is and for the entitlements it brings to those lucky enough to have it.”

“I’ve never been one to think much about entitlements. I was taught that if you desire something, you work for it. Which is why I wanted to speak with you—”

“There are lots of women who work very hard at being beautiful and still they can’t hold a candle to you. I’d even go so far as to say that you, Miss Platford, are the embodiment of everything I hope to achieve for my patients. That’s why you may actually be the perfect one to assist me with my new practice. You see, what I really need,” he said, the excitement in his voice building, “is a foil. A stunningly beautiful foil.”

“A foil?” She wasn’t sure what the word meant, but didn’t like the way it sounded.

“Yes. Someone to make the rounds with me at parties and events, anywhere we can meet women—the kind of women with both the desire and the means to avail themselves of my services.” This was not what she’d expected, nor was it a welcome development. Her purpose in approaching Dr. Rome was a far more serious one than his words implied. She had imagined herself working at his side, much as she had done with her father, helping to put patients at ease, assisting with their care. And though it was not her favorite duty, she would readily have consented to manage his schedule and fulfill the required paperwork if he were to ask her. But this business of attending parties and events—what did it have to do with doctoring?

“You speak of meeting women in need of your services, but surely you plan to take care of men as well. Mr. Kilroy is your patient, isn’t he?”

“For the moment, yes—though that was only a favor. But let me explain.” He took a hasty gulp of his coffee and set down the cup. “I’m about to embark on a new facet of my career, a new field. Transformative surgery. Have you heard of it?”

“I don’t believe I have.”

“Some call it beauty surgery.”

She instantly recalled splashy advertisements she’d seen in the newspapers for practitioners who claimed to specialize in straightening noses, pinning back ears, and plumping up wrinkles with paraffin. At best, such solicitations had struck her as tasteless. At worst … might Dr. Rome be nothing more than a charlatan?

“Oh—you’re a beauty doctor.” The inflection in her voice no doubt came across as somewhat disparaging. She dipped her head, hoping to obscure the visual evidence of her skepticism beneath the plethora of ostrich feathers on the brim of her blue velvet hat.

“Just imagine it for a moment, Miss Platford,” he said, seeming not to have found anything disturbing in her reaction. “Your mere presence by my side would stimulate, in any average woman, an intense longing for beauty; then, arising quite naturally from that, a burning curiosity. With just a hint, she would be eager to learn what I offer in the way of beautifying procedures. That’s how one goes about building a thriving beauty practice. Stimulate the need, offer the solution. Or, if you prefer, think of it this way: You would be helping to enlighten women about advances that can greatly enhance their lives. No different from selling a product. A product that people would certainly buy if they only knew its benefits.”

So, he wanted her to help him sell the concept of beauty surgery to other women? That was not what a doctor does! To take part in such activities would compromise everything she believed in. “Your idea is to use me as a sort of walking advertisement?”

“I wouldn’t put it like that.”

“Forgive me for being blunt, but are you really a doctor?”

He shoved aside his coffee cup, almost knocking it over. “Would I call myself a doctor if I wasn’t one?”

“I don’t mean to offend you. It’s just that I don’t know any other doctors who are engaged in your kind of work.”

“Because no medical school in this country has the foresight to embrace transformative surgery. That’s why it was necessary for me to receive advanced training in Europe. I returned from Paris only recently.”

“But you did train in medicine? Here in America?”

“Certainly, but the typical doctor’s training only goes so far. The medical establishment is very set in its ways. It resists anything that might challenge the status quo. And that is exactly what transformative surgery does. The social implications are immense. It represents possibly the greatest force for the empowerment of women in all of human history.”

“Empowerment of women?” Despite her disappointment, she had to smile. “I’m sorry, but I don’t see what your transformative surgery could have to do with the movement for women’s rights.”

“Maybe you’ve never thought of it this way, but beauty is power,” Dr. Rome said, with the calm certainty of a man who knows he speaks the truth. “And with enough power, Miss Platford, a woman can achieve anything.”

 Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard is the author of bestselling historical novels. Her 2023 release, Sisters of Castle Leod, is an Amazon Kindle #1 Bestseller (Historical Biographical Fiction, Historical Literary Fiction), winner of the 2023 Maxy Award for Historical and Adventure Fiction, and an Editors’ Choice of the Historical Novel Society. Her biographical novel Temptation Rag (2018) was hailed by Publishers Weekly as a “resonant novel . . . about the birth and demise of ragtime . . . in which romance and creative passions abound.” Elizabeth’s 2017 historical mystery-suspense-thriller, The Beauty Doctor, was a finalist for the prestigious Eric Hoffer Book Award. The book’s re-release (Jan. 4, 2024) features a stunning new cover and an Author Preface with insights into social and moral issues of the Edwardian era that frame this shocking fictional story set in the early days of cosmetic surgery. Before becoming a full-time author, Elizabeth was executive editor of an international aesthetic surgery journal, and senior consultant to the National Cosmetic Network in conjunction with Johns Hopkins University’s plastic surgery educational program. Learn more about Elizabeth and her books at

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Monday, January 8, 2024

Book Spotlight and Excerpt: The Dream Collector “Sabrine & Sigmund Freud” Book 1 by R.W. Meek


The Dream Collector immerses the reader into the exciting milieu of late 19th Century Paris when art and medicine were in the throes of revolution, art turning to Impressionism, medicine turning to psychology. In 1885, Julie Forette, a self-educated woman from Marseilles, finds employment at the infamous Salpêtrière, hospital and asylum to over five thousand disabled, demented and abandoned women, a walled city ruled by the famed neurologist and arrogant director, Dr. Jean-Martin Charcot. 

Julie Forette forms a friendship with the young, visiting intern Sigmund Freud who introduces her to the altering-conscious power of cocaine. Together they pursue the hidden potential of hypnotism and dream interpretation. After Freud receives the baffling case of the star hysteric, Sabrine Weiss, he is encouraged by Julie to experiment with different modes of treatment, including “talking sessions.” Their urgent quest is to find a cure for Sabrine, Princess of the Hysterics, before Dr. Charcot resorts to the radical removal of her ovaries. 

In Paris, Julie finds a passion for the new art emerging, Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, and forms friendships with the major artists of the period, including Pissarro, Monet, and Degas. Julie becomes intimately involved with the reclusive Cezanne only to be seduced by the “Peruvian Savage” Paul Gauguin.  Julie is the eponymous ‘Dream Collector’ collecting the one unforgettable, soul-defining dream of the major historical figures of the period.

Praise for The Dream Collector:

"Meek never fails to stun and impress with his evocation of scenes and events, of sights and dialogue, and of peoples' reactions to them."

~ HFC Reviews

"Tribute must be paid to the obvious and clear literary skills of the author R.W. Meek and to his ability to invoke historic personages and the Belle Époque he so evidently adores."

~ Julian de la Motte, award-winning author of Senlac


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 .•*´¨) ¸.*¨) ( ¸.•´


“Meeting Cezanne”

I agreed to take my clothes off under certain conditions.  First, Cezanne would give me a dream. What I wanted was the dream that no one forgets. The dream that defies the gravity of common sense, escapes propriety, and trespasses past the boundaries of morality. The dream which opens a door to the most improbable fantasies and desires. I had a theory I hoped to prove—Cezanne’s chosen dream would be the lodestar to explain what led the artist along his path.

The second condition was that I would not pose in a recumbent position. I deemed Cezanne too innovative to follow the worn-out pattern of the compliant nude. 

Lastly, the more elaborate condition, I had to observe his painting method. Cezanne said that he could, through a series of mirrors, set at proper angles, fix it so that everything was visible to me. I would have a view of his palette, the colours he chose, and also a glimpse over his shoulder to watch how his brushstroke was applied.

“Your desire to understand the construction of painting,” he admitted, “is impressive.”

R.W. Meek has a Master’s degree in Art History from the American University in Washington, D.C., his areas of expertise are Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, with a particular interest in Vincent van Gogh.  He has interned and conducted tours at the National Museum of American and the National Gallery of Art. In 2022 and 2023 five of his chapter excerpts from his soon to be published novel “The Dream Collector” were either finalists or published in various literary journals. The author has also won the Palm Beach Book Festival Competition for “Best Writer in Palm Beach’ his manuscript judged by a panel of NYT Best Selling authors. “The Dream Collector” also received gold and silver medals in the Historical Fiction Company literary contest and earned runner-up for the “Best Historical Fiction Novel’ of 2022.

The author was born in Baltimore, adventured in Europe for many years, and recently moved from Delray Beach, Florida to Santa Clarita, California.  His wife is a psychologist, sculptress, playwright and stand-up story teller.  His daughter Nora is a story board artist in the animation world and resides in Hollywood, California. His favorite writers are Dostoevsky, John Fowles, and Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

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