Get in My Kindle: Lady of the House by Charlotte Furness

514LNpfVg0L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Title: Lady of the House – Elite 19th Century Women and their Role in the English Country House

Author: Charlotte Furness

Release Date: October 11, 2018

Description: This book tells the true stories of three gentile women who were born, raised, lived and died within the world of England’s Country Houses. This is not the story of ‘seen and not heard’ women, these are incredible women who endured tremendous tragedy and worked alongside their husbands to create a legacy that we are still benefitting from today.

Harriet Leveson-Gower, Countess Granville was the second born child of the infamous Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire who married her aunt’s lover, raised his illegitimate children and reigned supreme as Ambassadress over the Parisian elite.

Lady Mary Isham lived at Lamport Hall in Northamptonshire with her family where, despite great tragedy, she was responsible for developing a house and estate whilst her husband remained ‘the silent Baronet’.

Elizabeth Manners, Duchess of Rutland hailed from Castle Howard and used her upbringing to design and build a Castle and gardens at Belvoir suitable for a Duke and Duchess that inspired a generation of country house interiors.

These women were expected simply to produce children, to be active members of society, to give handsomely to charity and to look the part. What these three remarkable women did instead is develop vast estates, oversee architectural changes, succeed in business, take a keen role in politics as well as successfully managing all the expectations of an aristocratic lady.

Why I Can’t Wait to Read: I have an affinity for historical non-fiction. As a writer who concentrates on different historical time periods, I love learning about the day-to-day life of people, specifically women, who influenced the world around them. I don’t want to read a book of facts. I want those facts to come to life; I want to see the world in which these fascinating people lived and what implications their choices had on the world at large.

When I first learned that this book was set to be released, I immediately pre-ordered a copy knowing I’d devour it once it arrived. I looked up the author on various social media platforms to get a sense of who she was. I was surprised to find someone who felt real and passionate about the subject matter. She didn’t feel ‘academic.’ She felt like someone who wanted to take this little niche of history and show the world how these women influenced the female role in the aristocracy. In some ways, it’s like getting an inside peek into delicious bits of history about the English upper class. How many of us read romance books about Dukes, Earls, and Vicounts and their love affairs? Now we get to savor a few real stories. And we all know that truth is stranger than fiction!

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Writing Wednesday: The Writer Fantasy

I read an article recently that looked closely at what we think of when we picture the lifestyle of a writer. Believe it or not, we feed into this trope by seeing images of the starving artists, the intellectual friend, the drinking of coffee and liquor, being surrounded by books and living with an obscure schedule and routine while words are scribbled on some old typewriter or on paper with a quill pen and ink.

Maybe some writers live this life – this fantasy of an untouchable creature who puts words on the page and creates works of writing that can only be produced by living in pain and anguish while tucked away in some office that smells of stale smoke and dusty books. But the reality for most of us is quite different.

Writers are just normal people. Yes, we might qualify as a little weird or aloof and our rituals sometimes make us quirky, but our lifestyle isn’t the fantasy that is shown to the world. Take my writing lifestyle, for example.

I don’t have an office filled with inspirational posters and perfectly decorated environments meant to put me in the right head space. I write on a 13-year-old couch with slip covers that are in constant need of being washed because of the dogs. Most of the time I have kids making noise in the background, Fortnite blaring from the Xbox, and somebody asking for something. Just about the time I get into my writing and feel the words flowing, I have to stop and make dinner. Or drive the kids’ activities. Or help with algebra.

Most of my writing notes are in old Moleskine journals or spiral notebooks leftover from a previous school year. I’m making outlines and character sheets with pens likely stolen from the orthodontist on our last visit. Yes, I’m surrounded by books when I write – mainly because my decorating style is ‘early American paperback’ and our house reflects that we love to read. I write my stories on a new Macbook only because I spilled coffee on my old one and it was cheaper to replace it than fix it.

When I’m lucky enough to get a full day to work on my writing I end up spending it in my pajamas in the bedroom. Then I get the joy of having a door to shut. I’d like to say that those work days are spent cranking out word after word after word, but there is so much more to it. There is social media to update and understand so that the algorithms work in my favor. Decisions need to be made – keep a Facebook page or start a group? There are critiques to finish for other authors I work with, graphics to make, sales to set up and advertise, websites to maintain, and other projects to outline and flesh out. The kids usually open the door and then whisper ‘Oh, you’re writing. Never mind.’ The dryer is beeping, the phone is ringing, and random text messages are coming in from family wanting softball schedules or updates on what sizes the kids are wearing these days. Usually the coffee on the nightstand is already cold and the dogs are just begging to lay in the bed with me.

The chaos continues around me. And it never stops. But, to be a writer I must adjust and accept the circumstances. I must work around them, find the inspiration, and get the words on the page. As much as I would love a utopian cabin in the woods overlooking a lake where I can create all the hours of the day – that is just a fantasy. The reality is a 10:30 bedtime, a 5:00 AM alarm clock, and a few words squeezed in between a reheated meatloaf and Tuesday karate class.

Does this fit your view of a writer? If not, what did you picture? If you’re a writer, what does your writing life look like?

Return Reads: The Blue Willow Brides Series by Maggie Brendan


Once upon a time, there was a lovely young woman who fell in love with her father’s humble assistant. This love affair angered the young woman’s father because of the difference in their backgrounds. To keep his daughter from continuing the relationship, the father dismissed the assistant and built a huge fence around his property to keep the young lovers apart. He arranged for his daughter to marry a powerful Duke instead. When the Duke arrived to marry the young woman, he presented her with a box of jewels. On the eve of the wedding, the young assistant disguised himself as a servant, slipped into the house, and escaped with the jewels and the woman he loved. Using the Duke’s ship, the young couple escaped to a secluded island where they lived happily for many years. When the Duke learned of their location, he sent soldiers to capture the couple and put them to death. The gods, touched by their unfortunate situation and the power of their loved, transformed the couple into doves, thus returning them to freedom.

Lovely tale, isn’t it? This is the story, behind the Blue Willow china pattern that became popular in 18th century England.

Blue Willow China

It’s also the inspiration behind a series of books I recently rediscovered buried deep in my kindle library.

The Blue Willow Brides series by Maggie Brendan follows three sisters as they immigrate from Holland to the wilds of the western territory of America to become mail order brides. Each sister has a love of blue willow china, its meaning held deep in their hearts. That love surrounds each of the three books in the series and is enough to make anyone want to start collecting the delicate pattern.

Maggie Brendan writes genuinely vivid characters and journeys that leave readers feeling satisfied with the happy ending they crave. Her stories deal with the trials – and sometimes humor – that comes from navigating romantic relationships without succumbing to traditional romance tropes. It’s no wonder her novels have won many awards.

Rediscovering her series and rereading them much later into the night than I expected reminded me how much I love her writing! I’ve since downloaded several of her other books that I plan to read this autumn when the weather gives me a perfect excuse to curl up with a good book. Check out Maggie’s Blue Willow Brides series and I promise you’ll be reading it (and rereading it) late into the night, too!

We’d love to hear your views on rereading. Are you a re-reader? Why or why not?

Gateway Books: Magical Realism

If you’ve always wanted to know what magical realism is or get a few book recommendations in this genre, read on. Click on the book covers to find the books on Amazon. 

A few years ago, I read a book that introduced me to a genre of books I hadn’t experienced before: Magical Realism. It was one of those reading experiences I remember so fiercely. It challenged many of the usual pictures I create in my mind’s eye when reading and replaced them with curiosities I could question as abstracts yet accept as completely real.

Considered to stem from Latin American Literature, magical realism is not only a genre of narrative fiction, but also a concept seen in paintings, films, and a variety of different areas of art. It’s one of those genres that leaves most readers confused because they often can’t quite identify what it is about a piece, but know something is strangely well, magical. These elements of magic and the supernatural tend to exist in an otherwise ordinary world. The balance is difficult to achieve yet perfectly splendid when it does because it refuses to reveal everything to the reader.

Here are five books to add to your reading list if the appeal of the imaginary blending with the ordinary is to your tastes. I encourage you to explore this genre and discover for yourself if magic really is real.

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
Foolish love appears to be the Roux family birthright, an ominous forecast for its most recent progeny, Ava Lavender. Ava — in all other ways a normal girl — is born with the wings of a bird. In a quest to understand her peculiar disposition and a growing desire to fit in with her peers, sixteen-year old Ava ventures into the wider world, ill-prepared for what she might discover and naive to the twisted motives of others. Others like the pious Nathaniel Sorrows, who mistakes Ava for an angel and whose obsession with her grows until the night of the summer solstice celebration. That night, the skies open up, rain and feathers fill the air, and Ava’s quest and her family’s saga build to a devastating crescendo. First-time author Leslye Walton has constructed a layered and unforgettable mythology of what it means to be born with hearts that are tragically, exquisitely human.

Chocolat by Joanne Harris
In tiny Lansquenet, where nothing much has changed in a hundred years, beautiful newcomer Vianne Rocher and her exquisite chocolate shop arrive and instantly begin to play havoc with Lenten vows. Each box of luscious bonbons comes with a free gift: Vianne’s uncanny perception of its buyer’s private discontents and a clever, caring cure for them. Is she a witch? Soon the parish no longer cares, as it abandons itself to temptation, happiness, and a dramatic face-off between Easter solemnity and the pagan gaiety of a chocolate festival. Chocolat’s every page offers a description of chocolate to melt in the mouths of chocoholics, francophiles, armchair gourmets, cookbook readers, and lovers of passion everywhere. It’s a must for anyone who craves an escapist read, and is a bewitching gift for any holiday.

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart—he, breaking under the weight of the work of the farm; she, crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season’s first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone–but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees.
This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who could have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in this beautiful, violent place, things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform all of them.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (considered one of the first books using Magical Realism)
One of the twentieth century’s most beloved and acclaimed novels, One Hundred Years of Solitude tells the story of the rise and fall, birth and death of the mythical town of Macondo through the history of the Buendia family. Inventive, amusing, magnetic, sad, and alive with unforgettable men and women—brimming with truth, compassion, and a lyrical magic that strikes the soul—this novel is a masterpiece in the art of fiction.

The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind by Meg Medina
Sixteen-year-old Sonia Ocampo was born on the night of the worst storm Tres Montes had ever seen. And when the winds mercifully stopped, an unshakable belief in the girl’s protective powers began. All her life, Sonia has been asked to pray for sick mothers or missing sons, as worried parents and friends press silver milagros in her hands. Sonia knows she has no special powers, but how can she disappoint those who look to her for solace? Still, her conscience is heavy, so when she gets a chance to travel to the city and work in the home of a wealthy woman, she seizes it. At first, Sonia feels freedom in being treated like all the other girls. But when news arrives that her beloved brother has disappeared while looking for work, she learns to her sorrow that she can never truly leave the past or her family behind. With deeply realized characters, a keen sense of place, a hint of magical realism, and a flush of young romance, Meg Medina tells the tale of a strong willed, warmhearted girl who dares to face life’s harsh truths as she finds her real power.

Shelf talk: Have you read any of these books? Have other recommendations? Let us know in the comments section. 

You Oughta Know: Book Vloggers

5 Vloggers Who Will Change the Way You View Books

Several years ago, I fell into a YouTube rabbit hole. I clicked on a random recommended video showing a book haul and discovered a whole corner of the video platform dedicated to people who love all the bookish things. One recommendation led to another and suddenly I was subscribed to over 50 channels where I could spend hours getting lost in recommendations, analysis, and videos dedicated to anyone with a literary heart.
I began watching all these videos on a regular basis and I’d be lying if I said they didn’t influence my reading choice and my book buying habits. I quickly grew to love this community that prided itself on connecting with others over their literary adventures. It wasn’t like a book club, per se, but it felt like a conversation with friends who dearly love the same things I did. For a while I even created my own BookTube videos and learned to appreciate the camaraderie from all sides. After all these years I still have favorite BookTube vloggers whose videos I watch instantly. They all have their merits and styles, but what they have in common is a love of books and reading that could make a reader out of anyone.

1. Jen Campbell – Jen is an author, poet, podcaster, bookseller, and fairytale love. Her channel was one of my first BookTube finds. She shares book hauls, intimate reviews, recommendations, and so much more. While she’s a literary judge of several book prize competitions, she’s extremely down to earth and makes books approachable by everyone. Check out her fairytale video on the history of Sleeping Beauty!

2. Jean BookishThoughts – Jean made me fall in love with antiquity. She studies Greek and Roman works of literature and brings such a young eye to works we might otherwise dismiss. She runs a book club through Goodreads called “The Feminist Orchestra” and it’s incredible. Not only does she share recommendations, but she also gives in-depth looks into her university studies and her Ph.D. program. Check out her review of “The Gracekeepers.”

3. Climb the Stacks – I consider this to be a very academic channel, but that’s why I love it! When Ashley shares her reviews and analysis of different books it’s like talking to the most awesome English teacher ever. She just has a way of making the most difficult literature feel approachable. While she doesn’t upload as frequently as others, her videos are worth waiting for. Check out her playlist on different book genres.

4. Books and Pieces – Elizabeth is an amazing vlogger, bringing such a fun energy when she talks about books. Much of her channel focuses on Science Fiction, but she does an amazing job sharing aspects of books in general. She is also one of the few vloggers who gives a realistic view into the ‘behind the scenes’ side of the book industry. Check out her playlist on bookish jobs and careers.

5. Elena Reads Books – Elena is like the mom friend we all wish we had! She is outgoing, fun, and covers such a variety that it’s hard to put her into one category. She makes such great reading choices and rarely do I watch one of her videos without adding at least a couple books to my wish list. Check out her best books of 2017.

There are so many wonderful vloggers bringing books to the front and center. Show these BookTubers some love and I promise you won’t be disappointed. If you end up down the bookish rabbit hole, however, I take no responsibility!

Happy Watching!

Did we miss your favorite booktuber(s)? Share them in the comments!

Page to Screen: Anne with an “E”

Erica here. Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to one of my favorite people, Christina Yother. Christina and I (along with Dana R. Lynn) were matched together as critique partners way back in 2013. Christina is the author of the inspirational historical romance series Hollow Hearts. All the details about the Hollow Hearts books (Reverie, Reliance, and Reconcile) can be found on christinayother.comI love her blogs on books and writing. She’s one of the best writers I know, and she helped me come up with Page to Screen. Page to Screen is where we will discuss books that have been turned into movies, TV movies, or TV shows. This week, Christina tackles Anne with an “E,” the Netflix series based on Anne of Green Gables. 

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”

I still remember reading that line and thinking that Anne Shirley understood my love of autumn like no one else. I grew up with L.M. Montgomery’s beloved character and spent hours of my childhood floating down the river as The Lady of Shalott and suffering through the cruelness of having red hair. Anne’s despairs were my despairs – at least in my imagination. I felt that I was made a kindred spirit just by reading about her adventures.

Over the years there have been many times when our spirited heroine was brought from the pages of the books to the big screen. From the beloved 1980’s PBS classic to several made-for-tv movies, Anne, Gilbert, Diana, and the Cuthberts delighted us with their adventures and growing pains. Last year Netflix released a new interpretation called “Anne with an E,” giving their own spin to the tales we all remember.

Anne with an E“Anne with an E” still carries the same bones as the book series. Anne Shirley is an orphan adopted by the brother and sister duo, Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert. She is befriended by Diana and engages in a competitive friendship with Gilbert Blithe. The show gives us many of the wonderful adventures and misadventures that we’ve come to love from the book series – Gilbert calling Anne “carrots,” Anne’s wild imagination, the infamous puffed sleeves. But, what I love about this interpretation is the liberties it takes and the “darker” themes running through the story.

I would go so far as to say this series is meant for adults – men and women who grew up with Anne of Green Gables but are willing to view it through a different lens. We are given a deeper look into Anne’s past and the abusive nature of her experiences as an orphan. We see the effects its had on her and the trauma she lives with as she tries to accept her recent adoption. The show also deals heavily with sexuality in a tasteful yet real manner, showing what it was like to be “different” in an age when such views were much less accepted. We journey with several characters, young and old, as they explore and understand queerness and all forms of love. New characters and characters we’ve grown to love are shown to have a depth that the books didn’t address. Viewers are faced with a look at racism beyond what we’ve been taught in history class, including tolerance and inclusivity. And, we must watch the characters grapple with the emotions and reality of mental illness. There is a huge theme surrounding the roles of women and how they struggled to embrace their identity and power in an age when the expectation was to raise mothers and wives. There is a realness in this series that takes a sweet and beloved classic and explores it in a modern way. And I think that is what makes this new interpretation so relatable and powerful.

Of course this series won’t be to the liking of everyone. Many will view the liberties taken as a butchering of something they once loved. But, it’s important to remember that when any book moves from page to screen there will be specific aspects of the story that either don’t translate to the screen or simply don’t make the cut. One interpretation of a story isn’t right or wrong – creative freedom comes in to play. If we, as viewers, remember to appreciate a screen adaptation for what it is than our expectations are less likely to be disappointed. In the case of “Anne With an E” we can all use this new take on an old classic to understand the complexity of human emotions and experiences. It’s still a coming of age story, but this darker twist makes it even more timeless and relevant.