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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Blog Tour: In The Shadow of the Storm by Anna Belfrage (Review, Interview & Giveaway)



Genre:
Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance, 
Publication.Date  November 1st 2015
Pages:396
Published By:  SilverWood Books
AuthorAnna Belfrage

In The Shadow of the Storm on Amazon
My review copy:Received from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Where to get:


Adam de Guirande owes his lord, Sir Roger Mortimer, much more than loyalty. He owes Sir Roger for his life and all his worldly good, he owes him for his beautiful wife – even if Kit is not quite the woman Sir Roger thinks she is. So when Sir Roger rises in rebellion against the king, Adam has no choice but to ride with him – no matter what the ultimate cost may be.

England in 1321 is a confusing place. Edward II has been forced by his barons to exile his favourite, Hugh Despenser. The barons, led by the powerful Thomas of Lancaster, Roger Mortimer and Humphrey de Bohun, have reasons to believe they have finally tamed the king. But Edward is not about to take things lying down, and fate is a fickle mistress, favouring first one, then the other.

Adam fears his lord has over-reached, but at present Adam has other matters to concern him, first and foremost his new wife, Katherine de Monmouth. His bride comes surrounded by rumours concerning her and the baron, and he hates it when his brother snickers and whispers of used goods.

Kit de Courcy has the misfortune of being a perfect double of Katherine de Monmouth – which is why she finds herself coerced into wedding a man under a false name. What will Adam do when he finds out he has been duped?

Domestic matters become irrelevant when the king sets out to punish his rebellious barons. The Welsh Marches explode into war, and soon Sir Roger and his men are fighting for their very lives. When hope splutters and dies, when death seems inevitable, it falls to Kit to save her man – if she can.

In the Shadow of the Storm is the first in Anna Belfrage’s new series, The King’s Greatest Enemy, the story of a man torn apart by his loyalties to his baron, his king, and his wife.


"Where am I?" Kit asked.
"Where you are doesn't matter. It is what you are that is important." The lady gave her an icy smile. "You are soon-to-be bride. At noon, you will wed Adam de Guirande."



     It's not very often that you find a historical fiction novel written in a way that is evocative of the time period, faithful to the historical events and extremely entertaining to read at the same time. Frankly, I was quite blown-away by Anna Belfrage's In The Shadow of The Storm (alright, to be honest, I was completely and utterly blown-away by it, but let's try to hold off on the fangirling, alright? Let's at least try.)

     I'm not even sure what other book or series I could compare this novel to, because it feels like this book is its own, unique brand of exciting, nail-biting historical fiction. I really don't think I've ever read anything quite like it!

    In The Shadow of the Storm is the first book in Anna Belfrage's second historical fiction series, The King's Greatest Enemy. The backdrop of this series is 14th century England and the growing conflict between Edward II (also known as Edward of Caernarfon) and his barons. The details of this conflict, the politics and the relationships between all the parties involved, are rather complicated and not easy to summarize quickly, but it all comes down to Edward's inability to be a proper leader (he is more interested in male company than leading the kingdom for sure), and the chaos that inevitable ensues.

     The main character we are following, Adam de Guirande, is a fictional character, but as Anna herself points out in one of her brilliant blog posts on the subject, "the historical events he lives through are anything but, a mere decade in which England was rocked by a power struggle of gigantic proportions between Edward II and his disgruntled barons." (Read the character introduction here, Anna does a fabulous job explaining some interesting details!). Plus, given the complicated and tense situation in the kingdom, there could've been dozens of people just like Adam living during the time period.

    The story revolves around conflicts and loyalties, politics, intrigue and deceit, and it's quite an explosive read. Anna does a fantastic job introducing first Kit, who is forced to pretend to be someone she's not and be wedded to Adam, and then Adam himself, whose tragic past and friendship with baron Mortimer (based on gratitude and loyalty), leads to all sorts of trouble. The character cast is plentiful and rich, the historical details - fascinating and illuminating, the tension is ever-present and the fast-paced plot line is sure to leave you breathless. I really loved everything about this book. It's a high-intensity read from page one, the author doesn't spend any time trying to set the historical backdrop and shove boring historical facts down the reader's throat - instead, she just lets the backdrop set on its own, and kind of naturally come to life as she's telling us about Adam, Kit, king Edward, baron Mortimer and other people. I loved that about this book!

     I could go on raving about In The Shadow of the Storm, but really, you just have to read it and see for yourself just how wonderful it is. Even if you're usually intimidated by historical fiction, even if you don't know anything about the time period, even if you think this book is outside of your comfort zone - give it a try, you'll be surprised how much you'll love it. I promise!


About the Author



Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a professional time-traveller. As such a profession does as yet not exists, she settled for second best and became a financial professional with two absorbing interests, namely history and writing. These days, Anna combines an exciting day-job with a large family and her writing endeavours.

When Anna fell in love with her future husband, she got Scotland as an extra, not because her husband is Scottish or has a predilection for kilts, but because his family fled Scotland due to religious persecution in the 17th century – and were related to the Stuarts. For a history buff like Anna, these little details made Future Husband all the more desirable, and sparked a permanent interest in the Scottish Covenanters, which is how Matthew Graham, protagonist of the acclaimed The Graham Saga, began to take shape.

Set in 17th century Scotland and Virginia/Maryland, the series tells the story of Matthew and Alex, two people who should never have met – not when she was born three hundred years after him. With this heady blend of romance, adventure, high drama and historical accuracy, Anna hopes to entertain and captivate, and is more than thrilled when readers tell her just how much they love her books and her characters.

Presently, Anna is hard at work with her next project, a series set in the 1320s featuring Adam de Guirande, his wife Kit, and their adventures and misfortunes in connection with Roger Mortimer’s rise to power. The King’s Greatest Enemy is a series where passion and drama play out against a complex political situation, where today’s traitor may be tomorrow’s hero, and the Wheel of Life never stops rolling.

The first installment in the Adam and Kit story, In the Shadow of the Storm, will be published in the autumn of 2015.

Other than on her website, www.annabelfrage.com, Anna can mostly be found on her blog, http://annabelfrage.wordpress.com – unless, of course, she is submerged in writing her next novel.
Excerpt:


Chapter 1

“Will she do?” The voice came from somewhere over Kit’s head. 
“Do? She will have to, won’t she?” 
With a series of grunts, the men carrying her deposited her in a cart. Kit made as if to protest. A large hand gripped her by the neck, tilted her head, and held something to her mouth. No. No more. She spat like a cornered cat, to no avail. Her mouth was forced open; sweet wine was poured, obliging her to swallow. And then there was nothing but a spinning darkness. Nothing at all.
When next she came to, a wrinkled face was peering down at her. 
“Remarkable,” the old woman said. “Absolutely remarkable.” 
Kit shrank back. Her heart leapt erratically in her chest, her gaze flitting from one side to the other in this unfamiliar chamber, taking in tapestries and painted walls, streaks of sunlight from the open shutters. Where was she? All she had were vague recollections of days on a cart, being jolted this way and that. Days in which strong fingers pinched her nose closed until she was forced to open her mouth and swallow the unctuously sweet concoction that submerged her in darkness. 
“Not so remarkable when one considers that they have the same father,” someone else said 
daily. A pair of light blue eyes studied Kit dispassionately. The eyes sat in a narrow face, a nose like a knife blade separating the two halves. A wimple in pristine linen and a veil in what Kit supposed to be silk framed a face that would have looked better on a man than on a woman – harsh, aloof and with an expression which reminded her of old John back home when he’d cornered a rat.
“M…m’ lady,” Kit stuttered. She tried to sit up but was pushed down again. 
“Oh, no. You will not move until we have reached an agreement.”
“Agreement?” Kit pulled at her hands, noting with a burst of panic that she was tied to the bed – a simple thing, consisting of a rough wooden frame and a straw mattress. 
“We are in a quandary,” the lady with the blue eyes said. For an instant, she pressed her lips together. “Stupid, wilful child!”
“Me?” Kit’s head hurt, a constant thudding behind her eyes. What had happened to her? 
There was a barking sound which Kit took for laughter. 
“You, little one, will be anything but wilful. If you are…” The lady made a swift motion across her throat with her hand. Kit cowered. What did they want with her, these two old crones? The older of the women patted her hand.
“It will be none too bad.” From the homespun material of her clothes and the coarse linen of her veil, Kit concluded that she was not a lady but a servant. 
“Where am I?” Kit asked.
“Where you are doesn’t matter. It is what you are that is important.” The lady gave her an icy smile. “You are a soon-to-be bride. At noon, you will wed Adam de Guirande.”
Kit did not know what to say. She didn’t like the look in the lady’s eyes, and for some reason she suspected that should she refuse to comply, she would end up dead in the latrine pit – the lady had that sort of air to her.
“Who are you?” she whispered. 
“Me?” The lady cackled. “Why, I am the bride’s mother, Lady Cecily de Monmouth.” 
Kit wanted to protest. Her mother was Alaïs Coucy – dead since two months back. Grief tore at her, and she turned her face towards the wall, not wanting these strangers to see the tears welling in her eyes. 
“I know all about your whore of a mother,” Lady Cecily said. “My husband’s great love, no less.” 
She sounded bitter. “But at least his bastard will come in handy.”
Kit tugged at her bindings. “I am no bastard!”
“What lies has little Alaïs told you? That your father is dead? That he abandoned her to pursue a religious vocation?”
Kit flushed. “My father—”
“Is my husband, Thomas de Monmouth. My husband, you hear?”
“But…” Kit slumped back against the thin pillow. For most of her eighteen years, she’d heard her mother’s sad story: how two young lovers fled their irate parents, exchanged their vows before a priest and hoped for an eternity together – except that her father had died of a fever. She didn’t understand. Life as she knew it was caving in on top of her – all at the say-so of this unknown woman. “You lie,” she tried.
“I most certainly do not,” Lady Cecily said. 
Kit closed her eyes to avoid that penetrating light blue gaze. She suspected the lady was telling the truth: every question Kit had ever asked about her father had been met with an evasion, or the sad tale of star-crossed lovers as trotted out by her mother. When she’d taken her questions to John or to Mall, they had looked discomfited and referred to her mother. 
A hand on her shoulder shook her – hard. “No time for all that now. Those dolts I sent to abduct you took their time getting you here, and we have urgent matters at hand. First and foremost, your impending wedding. Mabel, call for a bath – the child is revoltingly dirty.”
“No.” Kit raised her chin and stared Lady Cecily in the eye, summoning what little courage she had. “I’ll not wed on your say-so.”
“No? Oh, I think yes.” Lady Cecily’s eyes were of a sudden far too close, filled with such menace 
Kit flinched. “If you don’t, I will have you thrown out of Tresaints and publicly branded a bastard.”
“Tresaints? It’s my home.”
“It was deeded to your mother for life. And she is quite, quite dead, isn’t she?” Lady Cecily smirked. “You have nowhere to go, little…Kit, is it? But here you’ll respond to the full version of the name you share with your sister, Katherine.” 
A sister? Kit gaped. 
Lady Cecily smiled wickedly. “What? You didn’t know you had a trueborn half-sister? A girl who looks just like you?” She laughed as she straightened up to her full height. “So, what will it be? Destitution or marriage?”
Kit wanted to say destitution. She wanted to snarl and spit in Lady Cecily’s face – accuse her of abduction, even – but she knew it would be futile. Women like Lady Cecily had power and wealth on their side. Kit had nothing. She swallowed a sob.
“If you say no, I will evict every single one of the tenants as well,” Lady Cecily said, effectively nailing down the lid on what felt very much like a coffin.
“And if I say yes?”
“If you say yes, your father will include Tresaints in your dowry.” 
Kit was trapped. She knew it; Lady Cecily knew it. She acquiesced with a single nod. 
Lady Cecily patted her cheek. “Good girl.”



Giveaway:

Rules
– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on December 22nd. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open internationally.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.
In the Shadow of the Storm
Tour schedule:

Tuesday, December 1
Review at I’m Shelfish
Review at Let Them Read Books
Spotlight at Passages to the Past
Wednesday, December 2
Review at Beth’s Book Book
Review & Interview at Bookish
Thursday, December 3
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time
Friday, December 4
Review at Singing Librarian Books
Spotlight at Historical Fiction Connection
Sunday, December 6
Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews
Monday, December 7
Review at One Book Shy of a Full Shelf
Tuesday, December 8
Review at Book Nerd
Guest Post at One Book Shy of a Full Shelf
Wednesday, December 9
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Thursday, December 10
Review at Book Drunkard
Review at Impressions in Ink
Interview at Flashlight Commentary
Friday, December 11
Spotlight at The Never-Ending Book
Monday, December 14
Review at Unshelfish
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
Guest Post at To Read, Or Not to Read
Tuesday, December 15
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Review at Historical Fiction Notebook
Wednesday, December 16
Review at Room with Books
Review at Griperang’s Bookmarks
Thursday, December 17
Review at Just One More Chapter
Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book
Friday, December 18
Interview at Just One More Chapter
Interview at Oh, For the Hook of a Book
Monday, December 21
Review at Puddletown Reviews
Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book
Tuesday, December 22
Review at Bookramblings
Review at Broken Teepee

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