#Blogtour By Her Own Design by Piper Huguley

It’s an absolute pleasure to take part in the BlogTour By Her Own Design: A Novel of Ann Lowe, Fashion Designer to the Social Register written by Piper Huguley. I loved this book!

About the Author

Piper Huguley is the author of the Home to Milford College and the Migrations of the Heart series. She is a multiple-time Golden Heart finalist. Piper blogs about the history behind her novels on her website. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband and son. Follow @piperhuguley on Twitter, Visit piperhuguley.com

About the book

The incredible untold story of how Ann Lowe, a Black woman and granddaughter of slaves, rose above personal struggles and racial prejudice to design and create one of America’s most famous wedding dresses of all time for Jackie Kennedy.

1953, New York City – Less than a week before the society wedding of the year where Jacqueline Bouvier will marry John F. Kennedy, a pipe bursts at Ann Lowe’s dress shop and ruins eleven dresses, including the expensive wedding dress, a dress that will be judged by thousands. A Black designer who has fought every step of the way, Ann knows this is only one struggle after a lifetime of them. She and her seamstresses will find the way to re-create the dresses. It may take all day and all night for the next week to accomplish the task, but they will do it.

1918, Tampa – Raised in Jim Crow Alabama, Ann learned the art of sewing from her mother and her grandmother, a former slave, who are the most talented seamstresses in the state. After Ann elopes at twelve with an older man who soon proves himself to be an abusive alcoholic, her dreams of becoming a celebrated designer seem to be put on hold. But then a wealthy Tampa socialite sees Ann’s talent and offers her an amazing opportunity—the chance to sew and design clothing for Florida’s society elite. Taking her young son in the middle of the night, Ann escapes her husband and embarks on the adventure of a lifetime.

Based on the true story of one of the most famous designers of the twenties through the sixties who has since been unjustly forgotten, By Her Own Design is an unforgettable novel of determination despite countless obstacles and a triumph celebrated by the world.

Review

Although the story of Ann begins at the end of her life, it perhaps does her more justice, because the battles she fought and the hills she had to climb to achieve her dreams and goals – the reader thinks they know how her journey will progress or at least they think they do. 

The reality of course is that the hardships endured, the racism faced, and the courageous and dangerous decisions made, are the norm for her because she is a black woman. The white privilege she is surrounded by is a pill to be taken daily with a portion of steadily controlled seething anger. And yet at the core is the child, the girl who is plucked from innocence and thrust into the stark reality of womanhood. The girl, who learns to covet and embrace the bonds of sisterhood, maternal strength and the protection of those who endured and survived the same before her.

This is the story of an artist, a woman with an incredible talent for design and fashion, who wrote history and yet has been forgotten by those who wrote it.

I absolutely loved this book and I really hope someone makes a screen version of it – Oscar material right here. The author has fixed an injustice by bringing the important story of Ann to the forefront of our minds, and in doing so ensures that she receives her rightful place in the history of design and fashion. Kudos to the author for the storytelling, the excellent writing and for sharing this story with us all.

It is a travesty that the voices, the achievements, designs, inventions, and their pivotal input and influence on our developments and history in general, of women – especially women who belong to marginalised and oppressed groups – have been erased from historical narratives. Whitewashed from history. This is a perfect example of every detail being known to the world, except the part where a black woman designed the wedding dress of one of the most well-known historical figures of the 20th century, and yet somehow it has become the one detail that is never mentioned. I highly recommend this book – it’s an excellent read.

Buy By Her Own Design at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher : William Morrow PB, pub date 21 July 2022. Buy at Amazon com.

#BlogTour Sparks Like Stars by Nadia Hashimi

It’s a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour Sparks Like Stars by Nadia Hashimi.

About the Author

Nadia Hashimi was raised in New York and New Jersey. Both her parents were born in Afghanistan and left in the early 1970’s, before the Soviet invasion.  In 2002, Nadia made her forst trip to Afghanistan with her parents. She is a pediatrician, and lives with her family in the Washington, D.C, suburbs. She is the author of three books for adults, as well as the middle grade novels One Half from the East and the Sky at Our Feet. Follow @NadiaHashimi on Twitter, Visit her online at nadiahashimibooks.com

About the book

Kabul, 1978: The daughter of a prominent family, Sitara Zamani lives a privileged life in Afghanistan’s thriving cosmopolitan capital. The 1970s are a time of remarkable promise under the leadership of people like Sardar Daoud, Afghanistan’s progressive president, and Sitara’s beloved father, his right-hand man. But the ten-year-old Sitara’s world is shattered when communists stage a coup, assassinating the president and Sitara’s entire family. Only she survives. 

Smuggled out of the palace by a guard named Shair, Sitara finds her way to the home of a female American diplomat, who adopts her and raises her in America. In her new country, Sitara takes on a new name—Aryana Shepherd—and throws herself into her studies, eventually becoming a renowned surgeon.

New York, 2008: Thirty years after that fatal night in Kabul, Aryana’s world is rocked again when an elderly patient appears in her examination room—a man she never expected to see again. It is Shair, the soldier who saved her, yet may have murdered her entire family. Seeing him awakens Aryana’s fury and desire for answers—and, perhaps, revenge.

Review

Sitara’s world is destroyed when he affluent family falls prey to the political machinations of a brutal and lethal coup. She doesn’t necessarily see her escape and subsequent life as fortunate, as she finds it difficult to put the horrors she experienced to bed. The sounds, images and emotions that have dimmed and become quieter as her drive pushes her to success in her new life, are suddenly awakened when she encounters a pivotal person from her past.

I really enjoyed the read, Hashimi has a knack of fusing fact and fiction, so the reader isn’t quite sure where the two meet or separate. It gives the historical inspiration behind the story more validity and I think it also leaves a bigger imprint because of it. That in itself is quite important with historical fiction, when readers encounter history they perhaps haven’t encountered in their life or educational, cultural background.

In a time and era of such discourse and division, and with many more countries becoming melting pots of diversity, due to immigration, refugees and mass migration – it’s paramount that we all understand the history of those around us. It gives context, especially in regards to culture and indeed often the trauma they have experienced and bring with them.

It’s a fascinating story of betrayal, trauma, pain and also one about closure. About dealing with the past and acknowledging that no action in the present or the future will change the past, which means learning to accept to gain some semblance of peace. I really enjoyed both the story and the writing.

Buy Sparks Like Stars at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎William Morrow pub date 2 Mar. 2021. Buy at Amazon com.

#BlogTour A Wild Winter Swan by Gregory Maguire

 It’s my turn on the BlogTour A Wild Winter Swan by Gregory Maguire. A poignant coming-of-age story inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s The Wild Swans,’ set amid the magic of Christmas in 1960s New York. (Author photo by Andy Newman)

About the Author

Gregory Maguire received his Ph.D. in English and American Literature from Tufts University, and his B.A. from the State University of New York at Albany. He was a professor and co-director at the Simmons College Center for the Study of Children’s Literature from 1979-1985. In 1987 he co-founded Children’s Literature New England. He still serves as co-director of CLNE, although that organization has announced its intention to close after its 2006 institute.

The bestselling author of Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, Lost, Mirror Mirror, and the Wicked Years, a series that includes Wicked, Son of a Witch, and A Lion Among Men. Wicked, now a beloved classic, is the basis for the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical of the same name. Maguire has lectured on art, literature, and culture both at home and abroad.

He has three adopted children and is married to painter Andy Newman. He lives with his family near Boston, Massachusetts.

About the book

Laura lives on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in an aging brownstone with her old-world grandparents – but she may well be sent to a boarding school in Montreal in the new year after being expelled from school for behaviour unbecoming of a young lady.

Constantly telling herself stories about the events surrounding her to divorce herself from te tragedies of her life, Laura truly finds herself inside a fairy tale when a handsome boy with a swan wing in place of a left arm lands on her roof. But Laura must forge unlikely allies in her quest to keep this storybook character from overturning her life in all the wrong ways.

Greogory  Maquire conjures a haunting tale of magical realism that illuminates one young woman’s heartbreak and hope as she begins the inevitable journey to adulthood.

Review

Laura has a hard time connecting to her peers and finds her grandparents rules and choices hard to comprehend. She is isolated, and yet lives in a family where her safety and wellbeing is paramount. When her life is disrupted by a young man with one arm and a wing for the other, she recognises him from the many fairy tales she has read. It seems so magical in the stories, however the reality of the swan boy is slightly more disturbing and disruptive.

I haven’t read anything by Maguire before, but I will certainly be changing that going forward. He writes with such eloquence and projects the illusion of shallow, whilst delivering great depth. The fluid interpretation of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales as he merges them with a story filled with magical realism.

In a way it feels as if the story is an homage to Andersen, and simultaneously it is a postmodern tale with pinch of noir and a flair of repressed violence, which lends itself to a more speculative read. The balance between old-world and modern is noted in the relationship between the grandparents and Laura. The grandparents try to keep her cocooned in their bubble and views, to protect and nurture. Laura is trying to burst free of the constraints of her own anxieties, her additional needs, and the the grandparents who are reluctant to let her fly.

The swan boy becomes an analogy for the gilded cage, the fear of the unknown, the equally repressed fluttering of sexuality, the longing to escape and desire for love.

I absolutely loved it. It’s a beautifully crafted story.

Buy A Wild Winter Swan at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: WmMorrowPB; pub date 14 Oct. 2021. Buy at Amazon com.

#BlogTour Three Words for Goodbye by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

 It’s my turn on the BlogTour Three Words for Goodbye by Hazel Gaynor & Heather Webb. Three cities. Two sisters. One chance to correct the past.

About the Authors

Hazel Gaynor is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of When We Were Young & Brave, A Memory of Violets and The Girl Who Came Home, for which she received the 2015 Romantic Novelists’ Association Historical Romantic Novel of the Year award. Her third novel, The Girl from The Savoy, was an Irish Times and Globe and Mail bestseller, and was shortlisted for the Irish Book Awards Popular Fiction Book of the Year. 

In 2017, she published The Cottingley Secret and Last Christmas in Paris (co-written with Heather Webb). Both novels hit bestseller lists, and Last Christmas in Paris won the 2018 Women’s Fiction Writers Association Star Award. Hazel’s novel, The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter, hit the Irish Times bestseller list for five consecutive weeks. Hazel was selected by Library Journal as one of Ten Big Breakout Authors for 2015. Her work has been translated into fourteen languages and is published in twenty-one countries worldwide. She lives in Ireland with her husband and two children. Join Hazel’s Book Club Newsletter Follow @HazelGaynor on Twitter, Visit hazelgaynor.com,

Heather Webb is the USA Today bestselling, award-winning author of The Next Ship Home, Rodin’s Lover, Becoming Josephine, and The Phantom’s Apprentice, as well as two novels co-written with Hazel, Last Christmas in Paris , which won the 2018 Women’s Fiction Writers Association Star Award, and Meet Me in Monaco, a finalist in the 2020 RNA Awards as well as the 2019 Digital Book World Fiction awards. 

To date, Heather’s works have been translated into fifteen languages worldwide. She is also passionate about helping writers find their voice as a professional freelance editor, speaker, and adjunct in the MFA in Writing program at Drexeul University. She lives in New England with her family and one feisty bunny. Join Heather’s newsletter Follow @msheatherwebb on Twitter, Visit heatherwebbauthor.com

About the book

Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb have reunited for the third time with another unforgettable historical novel following their award-winning bestseller Meet Me in Monaco. In Three Words for Goodbye, estranged sisters Clara and Madeleine Sommers take a journey across Europe inspired by Nellie Bly, one of the first investigative journalists, who set out to circumnavigate the globe in less than eighty days. This inspired co-written novel is already earning top praise from Kristin Harmel, who said: “I loved being swept away to 1930s Paris, Venice and Vienna” while Gill Paul compares the novel to “reclining in a comfortable beach chair with warm sun on your skin and a glass of champagne at your elbow.”

New York, 1937: When estranged sisters Clara and Madeleine Sommers learn their grandmother is dying, they agree to fulfil her last wish: to travel across Europe—together. They are to deliver three letters, in which Violet will say goodbye to those she hasn’t seen since traveling to Europe forty years earlier; a journey inspired by famed reporter, Nellie Bly.

Clara, ever-dutiful, sees the trip as an inconvenient detour before her wedding to millionaire Charles Hancock, but it’s also a chance to embrace her love of art. Budding journalist Madeleine relishes the opportunity to develop her ambitions to report on the growing threat of Hitler’s Nazi party and Mussolini’s control in Italy.

Constantly at odds with each other as they explore the luxurious Queen Mary, the Orient Express, and the sights of Paris and Venice, Clara and Madeleine wonder if they can fulfil Violet’s wish, until a shocking truth about their family brings them closer together. But as they reach Vienna to deliver the final letter, old grudges threaten their reconciliation again. As political tensions rise, and Europe feels increasingly volatile, the pair are glad to head home on the Hindenburg, where fate will play its hand in the final stage of their journey.

Perfect for fans of Jennifer Robson, Beatriz Williams, and Kate Quinn, Gaynor and Webb have written a meticulously researched narrative filled with colourful scenes of Europe and a stunning sense of the period. This unstoppable historical fiction author duo will have readers enthralled as the sisters explore the luxurious Queen Mary and ride the long-haul rail to take in the sights of Paris and Venice.

Review

Violet is coming to the end of a very privileged and content life, but it is also one full of secrets. The kind of secrets that could make the wonderful family façade she has built crumble to dust. Instead Violet hopes that her granddaughters will retrace her steps and plead forgiveness in her stead.

From the exceptional majesty of a ship the Queen Mary, the mystery of the Orient Express, the history making cities on the way to the amazing feat of engineering that was the Hindenburg. Each step pulls the fighting sisters closer together, as they uncover the secrets Violet left for them to discover, and in doing so build a new relationship with each other.

Gaynor and Webb capture the beauty of the adventure and possibilities of the pre World War 2 era seen through the eyes of two young women willing to embrace each new experience. The message and words of Nellie Bly are echoed in these pages and mirrored via Clara and Madeleine.

It’s a dynamic family saga, and yet also historical fiction, whilst the relationship between two sisters serves as the platform to deliver a compelling and often quite emotional story. This author duo knows how to pull readers in with characters they can relate to and moments in history that cement the story.

Buy Three Words for Goodbye at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: William Morrow; pub date 2nd September 2021 / Paperback / £8.99. Buy at Amazon com.

#BlogTour Count the Ways by Joyce Maynard

It’s a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour Count the Ways by Joyce Maynard.

About the Author

Joyce Maynard is the author of nine previous novels and five books of nonfiction, as well as the syndicated column, “Domestic Affairs.”

Her bestselling memoir, At Home in the World, has been translated into sixteen languages. Her novels To Die For and Labor Day were both adapted for film. Maynard currently makes her home in New Haven, Connecticut. Follow @joycemaynard on Twitter, Visit joycemaynard.com

About the book

In her most ambitious novel to date, New York Times bestselling author Joyce Maynard returns to the themes that are the hallmarks of her most acclaimed work in a mesmerizing story of a family—from the hopeful early days of young marriage to parenthood, divorce, and the costly aftermath that ripples through all their lives Eleanor and Cam meet at a crafts fair in Vermont in the early 1970s. 

She’s an artist and writer, he makes wooden bowls. Within four years they are parents to three children, two daughters and a redheaded son who fills his pockets with rocks, plays the violin and talks to God. To Eleanor, their New Hampshire farm provides everything she always wanted—summer nights watching Cam’s softball games, snow days by the fire and the annual tradition of making paper boats and cork people to launch in the brook every spring. If Eleanor and Cam don’t make love as often as they used to, they have something that matters more. Their family.

Then comes a terrible accident, caused by Cam’s negligence. Unable to forgive him, Eleanor is consumed by bitterness, losing herself in her life as a mother, while Cam finds solace with a new young partner.

Over the decades that follow, the five members of this fractured family make surprising discoveries and decisions that occasionally bring them together, and often tear them apart. Tracing the course of their lives—through the gender transition of one child and another’s choice to completely break with her mother—Joyce Maynard captures a family forced to confront essential, painful truths of its past, and find redemption in its darkest hours.

A story of holding on and learning to let go, Count the Ways is an achingly beautiful, poignant, and deeply compassionate novel of home, parenthood, love, and forgiveness.

Review

I can imagine this story will resonate in a completely different way with readers, some will experience this as a tale of the complexities of love, relationships and family dynamics. To others it will be the autopsy of a marriage and of family life.

For me it didn’t evoke feelings of love, nostalgia or understanding, but rather very much the opposite. When a relationship has borne the fruits of many years of intimacy, friendship, love, laughter and birth, slowly disintegrates into ashes made up of resentment and disillusionment – the result can be a harrowing picture. Often that picture is lopsided and misinformed, as it is here.

By protecting her children from the truth of their father, which is the correct, therapeutic and socially acceptable thing to do, you run the risk of being at the short end of the stick. History is then written to report of the angry, scorned woman. The woman who left without reason, and the woman who abandoned the status quo. the woman who causes all discontent and problems in the children of said divorce. How utterly unforgivable, which is mirrored in the way her friends and children treat her. I was angry for her. I know women like her who have sat on the truth for decades to protect the emotions of their children, only to be treated with contempt, whilst the husband and father is lifted up on a pedestal. She has a right to own her anger.

Perhaps the clearest image to emerge is the fact that once you have suckled, pampered, taught and raised your children into adulthood and they decide to treat you with disdain for whatever imagined or real ailment they might have or problem they encounter, then perhaps you have served your obligation to them. Indeed there seems to be a 21st century wave of parental blame that encompasses everything a person may feel or do. 

I really enjoyed it. I thought Maynard had her finger on the pulse of family, especially when it is redefined involuntarily. She paints an accurate picture of the gender inequality when it comes to being a parent, in situations of divorce and in romantic or sexual relationships as one veers beyond the younger years. It’s an excellent read by an observant and skilled writer.  

Buy Count the Ways at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎William Morrow pub date 13 July 2021. Buy at Amazon com.