December 7, 2016
Nothing fits better in a Christmas stocking than a book. Here are my recommendations for your next shopping trip, ten of the best books I read in 2016 (though not all were published this year) and just who you should buy them for . . .
1. "Fingersmith" by Sara Waters
A taut, atmospheric, Victorian-era thriller with more twists and turns than a Whitechapel alley. At first absolutely no one is likable in this tale, which centers around a queasy scheme to lock an heiress in a mad-house and seize her fortune. But the plot whip-lashes like a snake, accomplishing the impossible in making us empathize deeply with characters we at first despised. And the tender romance that grows between two brutalized women is a heart-breaker.
Buy for: your thriller-loving bestie who has lived for morally-gray anti-heroines ever since "Gone Girl."
2. "The Betrayal" by Helen Dunmore
Soviet Russia comes to life here in all its paranoid complexity, seen through the eyes of an idealistic young doctor and his quiet wife, both survivors of the devastating Leningrad siege. All they want is to enjoy the tiny pleasures of life allowed by the state, but the wheels of power have a way of grinding people like this into paste, and they both know the danger they are in when the doctor is called to treat the mortally ill son of a powerful party member. Terrifying and intense to the last page.
Buy for: that Marx-reading uncle who still drones on at Thanksgiving about how communism could have worked if only. Chortle silently as you introduce him to the historical reality.
3. "The Engagements" by J. Courtney Hall
"A diamond is forever." A sharp-witted ad-woman pens the immortal line for Tiffany's in the 40s, and launches four seemingly unconnected stories of love, marriage, fidelity, infidelity, secrets, and and marriages. Poignant character-building, diamond-bright prose, and witty observations about the insidiousness of the wedding industry make this one a gem.
Buy for: your wedding-obsessed office intern, the one addicted to "Say Yes To The Dress." Get her thinking about WHY she wants that dress and that big sparkly rock--innate romanticism, or clever marketing?
4. "The Vatican Princess: A Novel of Lucrezia Borgia" by C.W. Gortner
One of Gortner's most unique heroines. Unlike his other "bad girls of history" leading ladies, Lucrezia Borgia sees the capacity for violence rooted in her family blood as a concrete thing, not a product of the scandal machine. Her struggle isn't against revisionist history unfairly painting her as wicked and corrupt; her struggle is not to BECOME wicked and corrupt. Inside the shell of papal politics and gorgeous Renaissance settings, this is an extremely personal story about a girl fighting to save her own soul.
Buy for: your psychologist neighbor who lives down the block or in the upstairs apartment. They'll get a kick trying to diagnose the various Borgia family psychoses, neuroses, and manias.
5. "The Wrath & the Dawn" by Renee Ahdieh
Fairy-tale retellings are nothing new, but mostly we see European fairy-tales being told, and really, it is about damn time someone delved into the rich legacy of stories further east. This YA historical fantasy retelling of the 1001 Arabian Nights stars Shahrzad, a tough, clever girl determined to avenge her cousin, who was the latest victim in the parade of brides to march into the Caliph's bedroom and out to an executioner's garrote. On every page the jewels sparkle, the sand grits, the perfume intoxicates, the food is mouthwatering--and the end is a dark cliffhanger. Don't worry, the sequel is already out.
Buy for: the teenage girl in your life, whether daughter or cousin or little sister, whom you're trying to wean off Mary Sue heroines to more bad-ass role-models. Be ready for the excited discussion of how quick wits and a fast imagination really are every bit as bad-ass as being Katniss-Everdeen-quick with a bow.
6. "The Scent of Secrets" by Jane Thynne
For all the myriad novels written about the fight against Hitler, there are few that take place in the belly of the beast--in Berlin, rather than on the battlefield or in some sympathetic Allied nation. But the world of Nazi Berlin is exactly what we get in "The Scent of Secrets," and it's fascinating. Heroine Clara Vine is half-German and half-English, a Mitford-esque society girl making her living on the Berlin film scene as an actress . . . but secretly she uses her connections to Nazi high society to spy for England. The details of Third Reich weddings, bride schools where German girls are trained for marriage, and the shark-like waters where high-society Nazi wives like Magda Goebbels and Emmy Goring rule the roost make for some of the most chilling world-building I've read.
Buy for: your fiery feminist grandmother, who will drop some very ungrandmotherly expletives about the pernicious doctrine of Kinder, Kirche, und Kuche
as she devours every page.
7. "The Summer Before the War" by Helen Simonson
Humorous, heart-breaking, tender, and tragic: a small English village with its cast of eccentrics, academics, intellectuals, and locals, all thrown into disarray first by the arrival of Belgian refugees fleeing the pre-WWI conflict in Europe, and then by the overwhelming tide of war itself.
Buy for: your mother, if like mine she swoons both for rural English novels and Wilfred Owen's war poetry.
8. "The Fireman" by Joe Hill
Writing talent must run in Stephen King's family, because the horrormeister's son pens a thrilling tale here. It's a familiar dystopian saga of a band of survivors hiding from the fallout of a strange incendiary plague--but the high-wire pacing, the sympathetic characters, and some truly detestable villains make this dystopian epic a standout.
Buy for: your brother in the fire department. He'll get a kick out of the mysterious pyro-gifted hero.
9. "America's First Daughter" by Stephanie Dray & Laura Kamoie
Sure, I'm good friends with both authors--but this was one of the break-out historicals of the year, coming 3rd in the Goodreads Choice Awards, so clearly there are plenty of readers out there who agree with me about the merits of this warts-and-all look at one of our most complicated, troubling Founding Fathers. Told through the eyes of Jefferson's daughter Patsy, AFD examines themes of racism, slavery, politics, revolution, domestic abuse, war, and the secret legacy that all those influences has left in America's past.
Buy for: your civics-minded dad who still can't understand how the election turned out the way it did, and who has been reading a lot of American history ever since to figure out how exactly we got here.
10. "Before The Fall" by Noah Hawley
A private plane inexplicably crashes into the ocean fifteen minutes after take-off, and only two survivors emerge from the wreckage. Why? This deeply character-driven twister of a story unravels forward and backward from the central accident: the survivors limping ahead into the chaotic aftermath of the crash, and the dead who one by one tell the stories that brought them to the plane on that fatal morning. Who or what caused the crash? The answer will surprise and move you.
Buy for: your brainiac husband, who lives to untangle plotty whodunits. Bet him dinner at a 3-star restaurant if he fingers the right perp. Smile, collect your filet mignon and bay scallops, and admit you didn't get this one right on your first read either.
Get thee hence to a bookstore and finish up your holiday shopping. Happy Saturnalia!
November 17, 2016
Hurrah! Finally I can share the awesome cover for my upcoming THE ALICE NETWORK. I love everything about this cover and have been dying to show it to the world.
And not only is the cover out, but the pre-order page is up on Amazon. This book will be officially releasing on June 6, 2017, and you can pre-order it here!
"The Alice Network, which hinges on the unsung valor of female espionage agents in the Great War, perfectly balances a propulsive plot, faultlessly observed period detail, and a cast of characters so vividly drawn that I half expected to blink and see them standing in front of me. This is historical fiction at its best--thrilling, affecting, revelatory."
--Jennifer Robson, international bestselling author of Moonlight Over Paris
"Both funny and heartbreaking, this epic journey of two courageous women is an unforgettable tale of little-known wartime glory and sacrifice. Quinn knocks it out of the park with this spectacular book!"
-- Stephanie Dray, New York Times
bestselling author of America's First Daughter
"A ring of daring female spies known as the Alice Network left a legacy of blood and betrayal. Two women suffering the losses of two different wars must join forces, one to find her voice and her redemption, the other to face her fears and her oldest enemy. Kate Quinn strums the chords of every human emotion with two storylines that race over continents and through decades to converge in one explosive ending."
--Marci Jefferson, author of The Girl on the Golden Coin
October 18, 2016
Today marks the release of the third collaborative novel I have ever had the pleasure of taking part in! First time around my co-authors and I explored the destruction of Pompeii; the second time around, Queen Boudica's rebellion against Rome. For our third endeavor, the team (mostly the same lineup, with some delightful new faces replacing those too deadline-slammed to join this time around) tackled the Trojan War.
The result? "A Song of War: a novel of Troy."
Our third collaborative was bigger, longer, and darker than either of our previous efforts--we like a challenge! And in the process of its creation, we had about as much fun as is legally possible to have while still calling it work. Approximately three million emails passed between the seven of us as we wrote, debating everything from the political complexities of the Bronze Age to the knotty issue soon known as "that effing Trojan fleet problem." We're all very proud of "A Song of War," and we hope you enjoy it too.
Buy your copy here!
Amazon US (paperback and Kindle)
Amazon UK (paperback and Kindle)
Barnes & Noble
August 11, 2016
It's here: the cover AND the Pre-Order info for the Trojan War project! We are all super excited how it turned out, and we hope you will be, too!
Title: A Song of War: a novel of Troy
Authors: Christian Cameron, Libbie Hawker, Kate Quinn, Vicky Alvear Shecter, Stephanie Thornton, SJA Turney, and Russell Whitfield, with an introduction by Glyn Iliffe.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Release Date: October 18, 2016
Amazon US (paperback and Kindle)
| Amazon UK
Troy: city of gold, gatekeeper of the east, haven of the god-born and the lucky, a city destined to last a thousand years. But the Fates have other plans—the Fates, and a woman named Helen. In the shadow of Troy's gates, all must be reborn in the greatest war of the ancient world: slaves and queens, heroes and cowards, seers and kings . . . and these are their stories.
A young princess and an embittered prince join forces to prevent a fatal elopement.
A tormented seeress challenges the gods themselves to save her city from the impending disaster.
A tragedy-haunted king battles private demons and envious rivals as the siege grinds on.
A captured slave girl seizes the reins of her future as two mighty heroes meet in an epic duel.
A grizzled archer and a desperate Amazon risk their lives to avenge their dead.
A trickster conceives the greatest trick of all.
A goddess' son battles to save the spirit of Troy even as the walls are breached in fire and blood.
Seven authors bring to life the epic tale of the Trojan War: its heroes, its villains, its survivors, its dead. Who will lie forgotten in the embers, and who will rise to shape the bloody dawn of a new age?
July 21, 2016
A couple of things I love to do is introduce my readers to other great books in the genre. So what's better than having a chance at winning one of my books this summer? How about a chance to win books and prizes from 18 other top writers of historical fiction today? Best of all, it's just in time for you to kick back, put your feet up, and enjoy the warm weather with a great book.
Not to mention the fact that we are giving away a $100 gift card to either Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or iTunes--winner's choice which one! That's a lot of new books right there . . .
Pick five books that you'd like to win!
June 20, 2016
If you're a fan of "Outlander" or a fan of food, this post is for you.
A few years ago when my Borgia duology was coming out, I had the idea of putting together a virtual potluck with several food bloggers who would cook Renaissance dishes out of my book. The results were fantastic
, and I made the acquaintance of some wonderful cook--among them Theresa Carle-Sanders, pro chef and blogger extraordinaire at Outlander Kitchen
, where she has been faithfully recreating one fabulous recipe after another from Diana Gabaldon's epic series. And with the recent smash hit of the Starz Outlander mini-series, I wasn't at all surprised to hear Theresa had landed an official cookbook deal!
I've already sampled several recipes out of this sensational cookbook (order here!)
but this has to be my favorite so far--hands down winner when it came time to pick a recipe spotlight!
GOAT CHEESE AND BACON TARTS
It was a savoury made of goat’s meat and bacon, and he saw Fergus’s prominent Adam’s apple bob in the slender throat at the smell of it. He knew they saved the best of the food for him; it didn’t take much looking at the pinched faces across the table. When he came, he brought what meat he could, snared rabbits or grouse, sometimes a nest of plover’s eggs—but it was never enough, for a house where hospitality must stretch to cover the needs of not only family and servants, but the families of the murdered Kirby and Murray. At least until spring, the widows and children of his tenants must bide here, and he must do his best to feed them.
“Sit down by me,” he said to Jenny, taking her arm and gently guiding her to a seat on the bench beside him. She looked surprised—it was her habit to wait on him when he came—but sat down gladly enough. It was late, and she was tired; he could see the dark smudges beneath her eyes.
—VOYAGER, chapter 4, “The Dunbonnet”
From Theresa: Vegetarian options were tough to come by in the eighteenth century, and goat meat can be hard to find for some in the twenty-first, so I’m claiming food-from-fiction license with this switch-up from a meat pie to one-bite puff pastry rounds topped with a savory goat cheese spread. A delicious addition to the snack table at your next book club meeting or office party.
From Kate: These are a wonder. Cheese, bacon, and herbs all packed into one delicate, flavorful bite. A recipe done easily in several stages; light work for big payoff (especially if you go with frozen puff pastry). A winner!
4 slices thick-cut bacon, cut crosswise into ¼-inch strips
½ recipe Blitz Puff Pastry (page 29), chilled, or 1 pound (450 grams) frozen puff pastry, thawed
8 ounces (225 grams) goat cheese
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
3 tablespoons olive oil
Zest of 1 lemon, grated or minced
1 large egg
2 tablespoons butter
36 small fresh sage leaves, or 18 large ones, cut in half lengthwise
Move a rack to the top-middle rung and heat the oven to 400°F.
In a frying pan, crisp the bacon over medium heat. Drain on paper towels.
On a lightly floured counter, roll the pastry out to a 16-inch square. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the goat cheese, bacon, poppy seeds, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, and lemon zest in a small bowl and stir well. Cover and refrigerate.
Lightly beat the egg with 1 teaspoon cold water to make an egg wash. Use a 3-inch round cutter to cut 36 rounds from the pastry. Transfer to a parchment paper–lined baking sheet and brush with the egg wash. Bake until puffed and golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool completely on the baking sheet.
Reduce the oven to 300°F.
In a small frying pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and the butter until bubbling over medium heat. Fry the sage leaves in batches until crisp. Drain on a paper towel–lined plate and repeat with the remaining sage leaves.
Top each puff pastry round with a teaspoonful of the goat cheese mixture and a
fried sage leaf. Heat in the oven for 5 minutes and serve. Makes 36.
May 2, 2016
For more than a year now, I've been working on a new book. Something very new, very different, and until now, very hush-hush. Until now I've kept the details under wraps--but as of today, the announcement is official. My new project will launch in summer 2017 at Morrow, with my fabulous new editor Amanda Bergeron at the helm.
Bestselling author of "Mistress of Rome," Kate Quinn’s THE ALICE NETWORK, a novel taking place in 1915 and 1947, in which an unmarried and pregnant American launches a desperate search for a beloved cousin who vanished in Nazi-occupied France, and finds her only ally in a chain-smoking, battle-scarred old woman who belonged to the real life network of female spies led by Louise de Bettignies during the First World War and who remains haunted by a thirty year old betrayal.
This book was a departure for me, but I loved every minute of it. I loved the 20th century setting, I loved the intermeshing dual timelines, and above all I loved the real-life female spies whose story is so fascinating it begged to be told--google Louise de Bettignies
and see for yourself!
I loved writing THE ALICE NETWORK, and I hope you love reading it next summer!
April 18, 2016
I have been LONGING to share this new project, and finally I can: the H Team is back with a fabulous new collaboration. Vicky Alvear Shecter, Simon James Atkinson Turney, Russell Whitfield and I are joined by new team members Christian Cameron, Libbie Hawker, and Stephanie Thornton in a seven-part tale of the Trojan War.
You know the story of the Iliad . . . but not like this.
Expected release date: October 2016
March 21, 2016
Every day, rain or shine, I throw on a pair of sneakers, leash up the dogs, and go for at least an hour-long ramble in the local park. Even when I'm on deadline and scrambling to give my WIP every possible minute, I carve that hour out. Why? Because it's the best writing aid in the world, bar none.
Victorians were very fond of long pointless rambles, generally up to some scenic location which could then be penned in endless flowery journal entries, but in the modern era, nobody seems to walk anymore. We don't walk to the grocery store or the post office; we don't have time. We don't let our kids walk to school; too dangerous. We don't walk for exercise; we drive to the gym and get on a treadmill so we can walk to nowhere and know exactly how many calories we burned doing it. But I'm a big believer in walking as an aid to writers, and here are six reasons why.
1. It gets us outside.
When you have the ultimate indoor job, a ramble outdoors means you're soaking up some much-needed sunshine on what is probably a pasty-white face. Sun may be bad for you, but there's a reason most early cultures revolve around sun worship: sunlight makes people feel good. Slap on some sunscreen, but get outside; you'll feel better.
2. It makes us unplug.
Even if we take our phones, you're still getting away from the hypnotic glare of the laptop screen. We all need to do this more often.
3. It's exercise.
Writing is sedentary. Tire your legs out before you sit down for six hours of editing, and you'll be a lot less foot-jittery. Also slimmer.
4. It will untangle your plot problems for you. Seriously.
If you've been banging your head repeatedly against the latest brick wall your ms has thrown up in your way, go for a walk. While walking your mind falls into an absent-minded kind of meditation. “Oooh, sunshine . . . Rats, I forgot to put on sunscreen . . . Pretty trees . . . I wonder if “Crimson Peak” is out on DVD yet . . . What should I have for dinner . . . Oh! I know exactly how my heroine gets out of that locked trunk now!” Plotting problems have a habit of unspooling when you let your mind wander in random directions rather than trying to focus hard-core—it's like one of those trick pictures where you see it clearly only by looking slightly to one side. Not to say we can't let our minds wander at home, but most of us have to-do lists that start distracting, emails that start pinging, chores silently begging to be done. Go for a long stroll, however, and your mind has no choice but to wander.
5. It's the best way to talk your way through a new idea.
Take a friend on your walk and yatter through your writing problems. Bouncing ideas off a like mind is a fast way to get inspiration for a new project, plan a new book, or unravel that character dilemma you don't know how to handle. And something about walking-and-talking makes the ideas flow twice as fast; no idea why. I take the phone and call the Dowager Librarian every morning as I ramble; by the time we hang up, whatever plot dilemma facing my daily word-count is solved.
6. It makes the dogs leave you alone.
Just try hitting your word-count when you have two pooches staring at you soulfully, informing you that you are a monster on a level with Mussolini for not getting up right now and taking them out to chase squirrels. Once back from the walk, they'll go to sleep and leave you in peace. Besides, watching dogs chase squirrels is the cutest mood-lifter on earth if you're a little down after killing 650,000 fictional characters in a mass historical slaughter.
So, grab a pair of sneakers and go for a walk. I guarantee your word-count will thank you.
March 1, 2016
I am SO proud of this book, having been lucky enough to get an early peek as critique partner: a fabulously-researched story about the founding of the country, finally available for readers wherever books are sold.
In this compelling, richly researched novel that draws from thousands of letters and original sources, bestselling authors Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie tell the fascinating, untold story of Thomas Jefferson’s eldest daughter, Martha “Patsy” Jefferson Randolph—a woman who kept the secrets of our most enigmatic founding father and shaped an American legacy.
About the Book
From her earliest days, Patsy Jefferson knows that though her father loves his family dearly, his devotion to his country runs deeper still. As Thomas Jefferson’s oldest daughter, she becomes his helpmate, protector, and constant companion in the wake of her mother’s death, traveling with him when he becomes American minister to France.
It is in Paris, at the glittering court and among the first tumultuous days of revolution, that fifteen-year-old Patsy learns about her father’s troubling liaison with Sally Hemings, a slave girl her own age. Meanwhile, Patsy has fallen in love—with her father’s protégé William Short, a staunch abolitionist and ambitious diplomat. Torn between love, principles, and the bonds of family, Patsy questions whether she can choose a life as William’s wife and still be a devoted daughter.
Her choice will follow her in the years to come, to Virginia farmland, Monticello, and even the White House. And as scandal, tragedy, and poverty threaten her family, Patsy must decide how much she will sacrifice to protect her father's reputation, in the process defining not just his political legacy, but that of the nation he founded.
Buy AMERICA'S FIRST DAUGHTER:
Learn more about the book
Advanced Praise for America’s First Daughter:
“America’s First Daughter brings a turbulent era to vivid life. All the conflicts and complexities of the Early Republic are mirrored in Patsy’s story. It’s breathlessly exciting and heartbreaking by turns-a personal and political page-turner.” (Donna Thorland, author of The Turncoat)
“Painstakingly researched, beautifully hewn, compulsively readable -- this enlightening literary journey takes us from Monticello to revolutionary Paris to the Jefferson White House, revealing remarkable historical details, dark family secrets, and bringing to life the colorful cast of characters who conceived of our new nation. A must read.” (Allison Pataki, New York Times bestselling author of The Accidental Empress)
About the Authors:
STEPHANIE DRAY is an award-winning, bestselling and two-time RITA award nominated author of historical women’s fiction. Her critically acclaimed series about Cleopatra’s daughter has been translated into eight different languages and won NJRW's Golden Leaf. As Stephanie Draven, she is a national bestselling author of genre fiction and American-set historical women's fiction. She is a frequent panelist and presenter at national writing conventions and lives near the nation's capital. Before she became a novelist, she was a lawyer, a game designer, and a teacher. Now she uses the stories of women in history to inspire the young women of today.
Stephanie’s Book Club |Stephanie’s Website | Facebook | Twitter | Newsletter
LAURA KAMOIE has always been fascinated by the people, stories, and physical presence of the past, which led her to a lifetime of historical and archaeological study and training. She holds a doctoral degree in early American history from The College of William and Mary, published two non-fiction books on early America, and most recently held the position of Associate Professor of History at the U.S. Naval Academy before transitioning to a full-time career writing genre fiction as the New York Times bestselling author, Laura Kaye
. Her debut historical novel, America's First Daughter, co-authored with Stephanie Dray, allowed her the exciting opportunity to combine her love of history with her passion for storytelling. Laura lives among the colonial charm of Annapolis, Maryland with her husband and two daughters.
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