Santa Montefiore: On Reading and Research

Hello, everyone.

I have Ms. Santa Montefiore on the blog today for my Timeless Tour stop. I never know what questions to ask whenever I do these kind of things. And sometimes, I ask too many questions that the blog post becomes a novel. 🙂 So today, I limited my questions to three and I made sure they count.

Thank you for taking the time, Ms. Santafiore. I loved your book and I’m looking forward to finding out more about the Devirells.

I noticed that Songs of Love and War was not the original title of the novel. Was there a specific reason for this? 

That’s a good question. I think the American’s felt the title was too grand and remote for their readership. They called it The Girl in the Castle and later changed it to The Irish Girl. To be honest it’s very unsatisfactory and causes all sorts of problems because people buy the book thinking it’s new and then get furious with me when they realise they’ve already read it under a different title. All the bad reviews on Amazon were about that, not about the book, which was really depressing for me. I prefer my foreign publishers to keep the same title to avoid that confusion!


I can only imagine! I must say that these titles and covers still look gorgeous and very much appropriate. 

Songs of Love and War is such an epic saga spanning years and generations of history. I can only imagine the amount of work it took you to write it. What was the most interesting fact that you’ve discovered during your research of this book?

I knew very little about the Irish War of Independence and the Civil War that followed. While researching the books I learned a great deal about the Irish struggle for independence. It was fascinating and enlightening, and I really sympathised with their cause.  I was lucky enough to meet a man on the internet, who was a fan of my work, who was Irish, born in Co Cork, and had an encyclopaedic knowledge of his country’s history. He was full of amazing stories. I had no idea that poor children did not wear shoes, even in midwinter in the snow! Right up until the second world war! That’s extraordinary. The poverty was terrible. I immersed myself in the history by reading wonderful novels as well as watching movies, and became totally obsessed with that era. I adore Ireland, but my love of that beautiful, gothic, mystical island has definitely deepened through my learning about it.

Based on what I’ve read, the Irish people were sure made from some tough stuff!


I read some wonderful book, here they are: Daphne du Maurier’s Hungry Hill;  Walled Garden by Annabel Goff; Trinity by Leon Uris; A Long Long Way, by Sebastian Barry; Troubles by JG Farrell; Voices from the Great Houses, Cork and Kerry by Jane O’Hea O’Keefe; Picnic in a Foreign Land by Ann Morrow; The Children of Castletown House by Sarah Conolly-Carew; Experiences of an Irish R.M.  Somerville & Ross. I also watched movies like Michael Collins and The Wind that Shakes the Barley.




[736]: Come From Away by Genevieve Graham

A poignant story about the heartbreaks and anxieties of war; of love and trust, and of second chances.

Come From Away
by Genevieve Graham

Genevieve Graham has made it her purpose to “breathe life back into history one story at a time.” Certainly good news for someone like me who knows next to nothing about Canadian History. Truly, I never knew how close the Germans were to our East Coast until I read this book. “U-boats” or submarines have sank 20 merchant ships and 3 Canadian warships in our waters, particularly in St. Lawrence River and the gulf.

Come From Away is the story of one German sailor whose U-boat sank and was the lone survivor stranded in Canada. Once he realized he was on his own, he set out to hide in the wildnerness – from the Canadian authorities and from his own Navy as well. It was luck that he stumbled upon a camp that was properly stocked that would shelter him from the brutal winter. As a child, he was taught to trap and to hunt – skills that would help him survive as he figures out what he should do with his life: return to Germany to keep fighting for a war whose very ideology was no longer his own? Or start anew in a country who could not be as forgiving to someone like him, a Nazi who’s feared and hated at the same time?

But supplies do dwindle and must be replenished. So it was those days when he was left with no choice but to make the trek into town that he would have encounters with Grace Baker.

Grace has personally known the worries and apprehensions of someone whose loved ones were away fighting in the war. Her father was a former soldier and her three brothers were serving the country. She’s known the heartbreaks as well, so her deep rooted hatred for the Nazi was well founded. Meeting Rudi was a distraction from her worries. But that was before she found out his true identity.

Their love story has a back and forth progression. The attraction was instantaneous that was only tampered when Rudi came out of hiding. Grace was livid to say the least. But her anger was more because she felt betrayed and possibly a little humiliated that she was taken for a fool.

Rudi, for his part, did his best to earn the trust of her family. He had a good upbringing; raised by parents whose ideologies were to think first and foremost, to question, and to be human. That’s why Grace’s anger toward him didn’t really last long. Because Rudi was a good man, but also a soldier who followed orders all his life. The Baker’s were a true blue Canadian. They gave Rudi the benefit of the doubt despite being on the opposite sides of allegiances.

Come from Away is everything I’ve come to admire about Ms. Graham’s novels. The romance, the history, the stories of the human condition when faced with difficult choices. It’s a tender romance between people who triumphed over adverse circumstances. It’s about forgiveness and second chances. Ms. Graham truly has the corner in Canadian Historical Fiction. I’m looking forward to reading more and learning more.

[735]: Bellewether by Susanna Kearsley

 A perfect blending of romance, history, and mysticism.

by Susanna Kearsly

Ms. Kearsley is widely known for writing novels that slip from one time period to another. She writes them so well that I could easily imagine her characters – both from the present and the past – walking the same path and at the same time. I don’t know if that makes sense but she does the time slips so seamlessly. And she employs the same methodology with efficacy in her latest novel.

Fair warning: I might be inclined to talk about Lydia and Jean-Phillippe more over Charley and Sam. And that’s just because, the romance between them has one of my favorite dynamics.

Bellewether features two major plot points that I couldn’t get enough of. Often times, I was desperately looking for spare seconds just to get back to the story. I’m a romance reader first and foremost. So Lydia’s and Jean-Philippe’s doomed romance was the proverbial potato chip that I couldn’t stop devouring. I couldn’t read fast enough. In truth, I found myself skipping banal descriptions of places, people, and objects because I was trying to get to the good parts. It’s horrible to admit, for sure. But I know I will read this again in time and will savor their stories when that time comes.

Charley and Sam’s romance was, for the most part, well, regular – for lack of a better word. There weren’t any fireworks to speak of when they met. But that doesn’t mean theirs didn’t produce any as the story goes on. Honestly, I was very focused on her “haunting”, more than anything because like I mentioned above, I was more interested in the other couple.

Back to Lydia and Jean-Phillippe, theirs was not an instant, blatant attraction from the start. Lydia, for the most part, was almost always antagonizing – understandable, considering what she and her family had recently gone through. But Jean-Phillippe had always held her in a quiet regard. I love their rocky start. I love how it culminated into a slow-burning fire.

Ms. Kearsly also writes the best heroines; set in their ways, determined, and fierce. This could not be more obvious with both Lydia and Charley. I love that Lydia spoke her mind as well as Charley. Conversely, they also know when to pick their battles. Jean-Phillippe and Sam are their perfect counterparts. And though, I found their characterizations to be minimal, I had the barest understanding that Ms. Kearsely wanted the focus on Lydia and Charley.

The thing about SK’s books is that you’re always getting more than what you’ve paid for. Her uncanny ability to seamlessly combine two stories is one of her best strength as a writer. Her books are always well-researched and meticulously close to being accurate. Her passion for history shines through and as a reader, I’m always inclined to read up on the topic with which her novel discussed. And I think, as a historical fiction writer, you’ve more than did a great service in educating us if you were able to induce such curiousity.



On the Night Table with Susanna Kearseley

As a certifiable bibliophile, I’m always curious to see what a person is reading. So I take advantage of any opportunity that I can get to see what an author/blogger/celebrity is reading at any given moment. Well, today, I have Ms. Susanna Kearsely. She’s incredibly busy, I know this. But she’s such a lovely person for indulging my quirks.

I don’t read much fiction while I’m writing. Every writer is different, but for me, I find that if another storyteller’s voice is strong, it sometimes influences mine without my even knowing it, so I usually stick to more visual entertainment like movies or TV while writing.

Between books, though, I do try to make a dent in my ever-growing TBR stack.

These five books are closest to the top. The fact they’re all male-authored mysteries is because the novel I’ll be writing next, The Vanished Days, has a mysterious storyline narrated by a man, so I’m doing research—pleasure reading with a purpose:

Thieftaker and Thieves’ Quarry, by D.B. Jackson—the first two books in his Thieftaker Chronicles, a historical urban fantasy series set in pre-revolutionary war era Boston, with a conjurer hero named Ethan Kaille.

Cloudland, by Joseph Olshan, a literary thriller based on a true story of unsolved crimes, set in Vermont, and written by the award-winning author of Clara’s Heart.

So Disdained, a World War II thriller by one of my favourite writers, Nevil Shute. I’ve read most of his novels, but I’ve purposely held back a few, like this one, to reward myself with between writing my own books.


The Man From St. Petersburg, by Ken Follett. I read this one years ago, when it first came out, but I’ve mostly forgotten the finer details of the plot, so I’ve cycled it back again onto my reading pile.

Give it a week, though, and I’m sure there’ll be other books piled on top of these. My TBR bookstack grows like a weed. I can’t help myself.

Thank you for sharing, Ms. Kearsely. These books sound intense in their own way. Piqued my curiosity, to say the least. 🙂

Genevieve Graham and Her Love for Canadian History

In high school, I had no interest in history. Now that I’m an adult, there’s a lot I don’t know. Non-fiction usually puts me to sleep, so I turned to historical fiction. My obsession with the genre started with “Outlander”, and I never stopped reading.

I’d never written anything, never dreamed of it, but in 2007 I made my first attempt and my Scottish historical trilogy became a bestseller. In 2008, my family and I moved to Nova Scotia, and it was full of history! My first eye-opening lesson was about the Halifax Explosion, the largest manmade explosion before Hiroshima. Despite my excellent education, I had never heard of it. I needed to know all about the Explosion, and I learn by visualizing. I dropped my fictional characters into the setting and walked beside them, writing as we went.

I have become addicted to the little known or untold stories in Canadian history and am determined to tell more. “Promises to Keep” covered the Acadian Expulsion. “Come From Away” returns to Nova Scotia during WWII, and soon I will get back to work on three more books which are already partially written: the Klondike Gold Rush (and the early Mounties), the British Home Children, and more.

My agent once told me the secret to successful publishing is to “write a really great book.” Well, I want more than that. I want to write a good book and I want to bring history back to life … so no one sleeps through class anymore.


Thanks for stopping by, Genevieve. As a Canadian, and as someone who didn’t have the opportunity to study here, I try to glean as much history as I can from the books I read. So reading your books is something that I look forward to with great interest if only to learn about the country that have embraced me and my family so warmly. Thank you for all you do and for taking the time to write this piece. 

@GenGrahamAuthor | Facebook | Website

Buy her books here: Amazon | Chapters Indigo | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

The Timeless Tour Kick Off

Last year, I was fortunate enough to have been a part of The Timeless Tour hosted by Simon & Schuster Canada. I was really excited to see which authors and works I’ll get to discover. I’m happy to see Ms. Genevieve Graham again and super pumped to read her recent work. Ms. Kearsley is, of course, a household Canadian name so to see Bellewhether amongst the list of books is a delight. I’ve already read Songs of Love and War by Ms. Montefiore and have loved it. As well, Ms. Van Alkemade’s Bachelor Girl.

To kick off this tour, we were asked three questions about our interest in Historical Fiction. As you know, I read a whole variety of stuff. But I find myself leaning towards Historical Fiction when I’m in need of something more cerebral, oddly enough.

To understand the past is to determine our future.

Historical fiction enables me to travel back in time and learn about the world I live in. History is not always an enthusiastic subject for me, but it feels different to see it through another person’s story instead of a stone-cold statement of facts. The irony is, I love to read about historical facts told in a fictional account of someone’s story.  So I love learning about it any way I can.

If I could travel back in time, which period would I want to be and why?

Elizabeth Bennett has done her part in making me feel like the Georgian era would be ideal for me. All we have to worry about is dodging our meddling mothers in finding us husbands and we’ll be golden.

Dinner for Two

There’s never been a great representation of grace and charm than the late Princess Diana. She’s not a perfect person, sure. But her life was the epitome of goodness and kindness towards the less fortunate, the sick children, and those in need. She would’ve had a lot of stories and experiences to tell, so if I could have a sit down with any historical figures, I would give a limb to have that time with her.

Thanks for reading!

[734]: Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen

Monsters in human form. Courage from desperation.

Orphan Monster Spy
by Matt Killeen

This book will have you engrossed from the get go. From the time you realize that Ursula is more than your average teen, she’s already outwitted Nazi soldiers and have found herself working as a spy for the British government. All these at a tender age of 15. And considering her life hasn’t been the easiest and was only going to get worse, Sarah/Ursula is indeed a remarkable young woman.

I supposed a true mark of a legendary spy in the making is one’s ability to quickly overcome emotions to avoid certain death or just even to survive. Ursula passed every single test that came her way. She used her freshman acting abilities to get away from a strange man soon after witnessing her mother’s murder. She then followed her instinct to saved the same man from the soldiers by playing as his daughter.

Captain Floyd easily saw exactly how intelligent, multi-talented, and useful she could be to their cause. And he didn’t hesitate to take advantage of her. Ursula was only too willing to be used as life has left her an orphan without a choice or a future. And that’s how she found herself in a nightmare disguised as a boarding school. It is a boarding school that knows no kindness, just cruelty; gives no education, just Aryan ideology.

But nothing could diminish Ursula’s courage and strenght. Not the tortorous hands of teachers and students alike; not a music teacher whose admiration left her cold. Not even a fellow student’s father who used his own daughter to lure girls like Ursula to drug them and rape them. And not especially when she found out that Captain Floyd knew beforehand just what kind of monsters she had to deal with on her first mission.

This book was difficult to read most of the time. But oh, it’s so good. I couldn’t stop reading. My stomach churned at every turn. But I was glued to the pages because I was wholly vested in what happens to Ursula. I was happy for her when she met Captain Floyd. I thought she was saved. But like Ursula, I was duped. This novel is indeed about monsters. The obvious ones whose cruel intentions are visible, and the ones whose inhumanity is hidden in the facade of kindness.

At Home: Achieving the Boho Style

I’m one of those people who’s not a fan of going stagnant when it comes to the decor of my house. So every Spring, my home goes through a transformation of sorts. I tend to drive my family crazy with the whirlwind of cleaning and rearranging to achieve the kind of look I want. This year, I opted for the style of the moment: Bohemian Chic. At first, I was a little hesitant to make the change because everything was about minimalism in my house last year. And to achieve the boho chic decor, you must shed your inhibition towards contrasting colours and textures; filling your rooms with house plants, and woven knick-knacks on every available surface of your house.


Both my couches are now littered with pillows featuring a variety of colours and vintage-looking prints of varying patterns. Anything that offers a contrast to the overall appearance of a room got me one step closer to joining the Bohemian movement. Persian rugs are also a must. Unfortunately, they cost a lot of money. But if you try your luck at IKEA, they have some great ones that are inexpensive. Of course, having vintage rugs are optimal. But I can barely afford a runner so I’m saving up for when I can get a big rectangular one that can over a wide area in my living room.


On my thrifting weekends, my eyes are always peeled to textiles and blankets. They may look like eyesores now but when they’re properly mixed with the overall aesthetic of your house, it works.

So yes, my house is an ever-changing landscape. I’m never satisfied with how it looks. Who knows what I would be into in the summer? What about you? Do you get bitten by the decorating bug quite often? What’s your style like? Come back next time for more about this Bohemian chic style. But for a few ideas about it, here are a few Instagram accounts that I follow:











[733]: Obsidio by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

A thrilling, amazing and bittersweet conclusion to a favourite series.

by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

It’s always tough to write a review for a book in a series that had easily became one of your favourites. Most of the time, your thoughts are jumbled, out of sequence and holding very little sense but to you alone. That’s probably why I did not even bother writing reviews for Illuminae and Gemina – both of which blew my mind.

Obsidio, much like its predecessors, used one an avant-garde method of story-telling. Utilizing hand written notes, witnesses accounts, and chat threads, the series was a delight to the senses. At times, it certainly felt like my eyes couldn’t keep up with my brain; struggling to follow the storyline written on the pages but already seeing in my mind’s eye what’s happening with our beloved characters. Still, I soaked it all in. Often even going back and forth as the story is being narrated on audio.

There were so many things I looked forward in this ending. Least of all is the demise of the evil BeiTech empire. Mostly, I looked forward to seeing how our teens have been faring while they try to find purchase in the galaxy. And I mean that literally, as their ship was barely limping to the next jump station or some such. Meanwhile, back in Kerenza, there are still pockets of survivors barely eking out a so-called life. Slaved by BeiTech invaders, starved and worked to the bone, there are rebels who are only too willing to forfeit their lives. Heartbreaking stories abound. I have cried a tear or two for the people of Kerenza.

In the end, there really isn’t much to say, is there? The authors gave us closure. These books may look daunting. I went through so much while reading these books, but oh, the labour of love was so worth it.  I bought the audio and the hardcover copies of the series. I wanted the audio for the number of narrators and ingenious way they were read. And I wanted the hardcover for the ingenious way they were presented.

Hoarders, Books Edition: Episode 210

The Chaos of Standing Still by Jessica Brody | American Heart by Laura Moriarty | The Traitor’s Kiss by Erin Beaty | The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce | Meet Cute by Various Authors | The Cruel Prince by Holly Black | How To Stop Time by Matt Haig | theMystery.doc by Matthew McIntosh

I surprised myself this week by going to the bookstore, picking up a bunch of books, then putting them all back on the shelves because I wanted to buy a $50, 1660-page behemoth of a book. Yeah. I’m talking about theMystery.doc, of course. You know I’m a huge fan of mixed-media type of novels, so as soon as I saw the lone, plastic-wrapped copy, I had to get it. #bookhoarderproblems

Such a sad, sad weekend for Canada and the hockey world as we learned about the tragic accident that took 15 lives of junior hockey players. My husband and I were at the Winnipeg Jets hockey game on Saturday night and experienced the moving tribute our Jets team and the Chicago Blackhawks gave for the entire community of Humboldt. A group of young men chasing their dreams only to end so soon. Really heartbreaking. The response from the entire world has been so wonderful, though. <3 Faith in humanity, restored for sure.

I received another copy of I Have Lost My Way by Gayle Forman in the mail courtesy of Penguin Random House. I’m going to read it soon then will hopefully run a giveaway for the extra copy. I’m a little worried as it hasn’t been receiving the best reviews, but still. I’m looking foward to reading this.

As per usual, I’m all over the place. I have no idea how to take control of my TBR – especially my for-review books. I need to find a way to handle it as I’m starting to feel a little overwhelmed again. Last week, I was able to make some headway with the books that I’ve started. I think I just need to train my brain to stick to one book at a time instead of randomly starting a new one. I know some of you probably solves this issue by having a bullet journal but just the thought of taking some more of my precious time to organize and write makes me want to jump off a bridge. Gah.

Anywho, I’m flying by the seat of my pants. I literally have no idea how my week is going to go as I’m starting a new fitness routine. Blog posts are yet to be drafted (apart from this) and books remain half read. But don’t worry.

I’m fine.


Really, really fine.