Fresh FIction Box Not To Miss
Debbie Wiley | Discovering New Women in History
Author Guest / September 13, 2021

History was one of my least favorite classes in school. Don’t get me wrong–I had some great teachers and I enjoyed a lot of the South Carolina history we were taught, but a lot of what we learned seemed far off and not relevant to my life. I knew that wasn’t true because one of my awesome teachers quoted us time and again about not forgetting the past or being doomed to repeat it, but I didn’t see it reflected through the history books we studied. Very little was taught about the various individual lives of people, in particular the women in history. Anne Frank’s story brought to life what the Jewish people suffered under Hitler, but I learned about her mainly through my literature classes. In fact, it was through literature classes that I learned about how women were treated as property or outcasted from society for exhibiting behaviors identical to the men of their times. Now here I sit, many, many years later, and I am still learning through literature. Whether it’s a graphic novel, such as PERSEPOLIS by Marjane Satrapi, or a novel such as BRIGID OF KILDARE by Heather Terrell, there is so much history to…

Debbie Wiley | The Ultimate Lady of Mystery
Author Guest / July 12, 2021

I fell in love with mysteries at an early age. Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, and the Hardy Boys were my first foray into the genre. Then I discovered Phyllis Whitney’s young adult mysteries, Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple mysteries changed my world. Hercule Poirot bragged about using “the little gray cells” while both he and Sherlock Holmes carefully observed the tiniest details and made brilliant observations around those details. Miss Marple, on the other hand, listened to town gossip and used her years of wisdom about human nature to deduce what others missed. All three of them shrewdly found the solutions to murders that stumped even the cleverest of inspectors. I devoured all sorts of mysteries and thrillers, trying to astutely deduce the murderer just as my fictional favorites of Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, and Sherlock Holmes had done. Recently, while driving back and forth to South Carolina, I listened to several of Agatha Christie’s stories as produced by the BBC, including POIROT’S FINEST CASES and MORE FROM MISS MARPLE’S CASEBOOK. My love for all things Agatha Christie re-ignited, and what a joy for me to…

Marie Benedict & Victoria Christopher Murray | 20 Questions: THE PERSONAL LIBRARIAN
Author Guest / June 30, 2021

1–What is the title of your latest release? Victoria Christopher Murray: THE PERSONAL LIBRARIAN which I co-authored with Marie Benedict. Marie Benedict: THE PERSONAL LIBRARIAN, which was co-written with Victoria Christopher Murray. 2–What is it about? VCM: It is the story of Belle da Costa Greene, a woman who walked into JP Morgan’s library in 1906 when she was in her twenties, became his personal librarian, and rose to be one of the most powerful women in the art world. She helped to build Morgan’s art and rare books and manuscript collection. MB: THE PERSONAL LIBRARIAN is the remarkable story of J. P. Morgan’s personal librarian, Belle da Costa Greene, who became one of the most important people in the art world during her lifetime and left a lasting legacy that enriched our nation but could only do so by passing as white and hiding her true Black identity because of the racist, segregated society in which she lived. 3–What do you love about the setting of your book?  VCM: It’s in New York (my favorite place in the world) and so much of it takes place at the Morgan Library which is incredibly beautiful for lots of reasons. MB: The book…

Julia Justiss | History ReFreshed: Four Fabulous Women for February
Author Guest / February 19, 2020

For your Valentine gift this year, I’m offering up an in-depth fictional look at four fascinating women who defied the rules of their time to live life on their own terms, bringing them fame, notoriety, love, and heartbreak. Moving chronologically, we begin with THAT CHURCHILL WOMAN by Stephanie Barron.  When beautiful, willful, wealthy Jennie Jerome, who grew up in Gilded Age Newport and Second Empire Paris, agrees to marry the son of a duke she’s known for just three days, she’s thrust into the maelstrom of British politics and society. The husband of the new Lady Randolph Churchill is a member of the Marlborough House Set, well-born men seeking political rank and fortune.  As a charming but free-thinking American skeptical of British social rules, Jennie quickly wins both admirers—and enemies.  Mother of one of the twentieth century’s most important men, she works to further her husband’s Parliamentary career while remaining true to herself.  And when, as tragic illness loosens her husband’s grip on sanity, she falls in love with compelling diplomat Count Charles Kinsky, she must decide how much destruction she’s willing to risk to follow her heart. The Churchill story continues with LADY CLEMENTINE by Marie Benedict, which gives…

Julia Justiss | History ReFreshed: Daring and Danger – A Tribute to WWII
Author Guest , History / July 17, 2019

Continuing with WWII fiction in honor of the 75th anniversary of D-Day, we’ll focus on stories that illumine some fascinating but lesser-known people and events in the war, most based in historical fact. We begin with THE ONLY WOMAN IN THE ROOM by Marie Benedict.  In pre-WWII Austria, beautiful—Jewish–actress Hedwig Keistler catches the eye of the wealthiest man in Austria, arms dealer Fritz Mandl.  Knowing that marriage to the powerful Mandl may keep her and her family safe from the rising tide of anti-Semitism, after a short courtship, Hedwig weds him.  Certain his glamorous wife doesn’t care about or understand the weapons he develops and sells, Mandl discusses them freely around her with his business partners.  But Hedwig is brilliant as well as beautiful, with a life-long interest in science nurtured by her father. When Mendl becomes ever more abusive and controlling, Hedwig flees from him, first to London and then to America—where she becomes film star Hedy Lamarr.  But she also carried with her the plans for the Nazi’s weapons systems—and an invention of her own that will pave the way for secure communications and cellphone technology. A look behind the glamorous façade, Benedict’s book reveals a woman as…

Fresh Fiction Favorite Historical Fiction of 2018
Author Guest / December 19, 2018

Every day from now through the end of the year, we’ll be sharing our reviewers’ favorite reads of 2018. A different genre will be featured every day! We’ll share why these books were some of our favorites and what made them so special. We hope you’ll share yours in the comments, too! Today, we are discussing our favorite historical fiction novels of the year. What were some of yours? CARNEGIE’S MAID by Marie Benedict Reviewer: Clare O’Beara Carnegie’s Maid contrasts the Irish people who come to America with the Scots who came one generation earlier and are now wealthy industrialists, so lots to see. We find out how Carnegie got his love of libraries. Women’s Fiction Historical [Sourcebooks, On Sale: January 16, 2018, Hardcover / e-Book, ISBN: 9781492646617 / ] A self-made man takes lessons from his Irish maid A TOUCH OF DOWNTOWN ABBEY AND AN AMERICAN DYNASTY Buy CARNEGIE’S MAID: Amazon.com | Kindle | BN.com | Powell’s Books | Books-A-Million | Indiebound | Ripped Bodice | Amazon CA | Amazon UK | Amazon DE | Amazon FR *** NEXT YEAR IN HAVANA by Chanel Cleeton Reviewer: Danielle This book captured the spirit and turmoil of Cuba during a major…

Julie Justiss | History ReFreshed: For Richer or Poorer
Author Guest , History / December 19, 2018

With Christmas nearly upon us, thoughts turn to gifts, gift-giving and what a “gift” truly means.  What could be a greater blessing than realizing the “American Dream,” proving that with hard work and determination, a person can come from anywhere with virtually nothing and achieve whatever success they desire?  The set of stories we’ll look at this month feature both “haves” struggling to fit into their world and “have-nots” determined to create for themselves a future better than their past. Moving chronologically, we begin with THE SATURDAY EVENING GIRLS CLUB: A NOVEL by Jane Healey.  The author follows the lives of four young immigrant women in Boston’s North End, who find friendship and hope for a better life amid pottery-making and conversation at the Saturday Evening Girls Club.  All must fight not just poverty and prejudice, but the traditional expectations of their conservative ethnic families. Enterprising Caprice longs to become an entrepreneur running her own hat shop; bookish Ada, to obtain a college education, stunning Maria to avoid becoming trapped, like her Italian Catholic mother, in marriage to an abusive alcoholic, while timid Theo yearns to escape the rigid requirements of her strict Jewish tradition.  The friendship and support forged…

Julia Justiss | History ReFreshed: The Supporting Role
Author Guest , History / November 30, 2018

As we head into the holiday season, most of us anticipate sharing time with friends and family: those people who love us, assist us and bring joy to our lives.  Traditionally, women have played the supporting role in the family, taking care of the everyday business of life to smooth the paths for husband and children, sometimes at the cost of their own ambitions and talents.  This month we’ll look at fiction that focuses not on two famous, almost mythically larger-than-life men, but on the private lives of the often-overlooked women they married. Starting with the brilliant, we have THE OTHER EINSTEIN by Marie Benedict. Abandoning the usual early twentieth-century female role of wife and mother, Mitza Maric earned a coveted place studying physics at an elite Zurich university.  There she met another, equally brilliant student – the young Albert Einstein. Though Mitza had pledged with several fellow female students to avoid marriage and devote her life to science, she eventually agreed to wed Einstein, with whom she worked and collaborated – there are even proponents who believe she, not Albert, was the true author of the theory of relativity.  In any event, her husband removed her name as co-author…

Five Lessons I’ve Learned from Writing THE OTHER EINSTEIN and CARNEGIE’S MAID
Author Guest / December 6, 2017

Over the past two years, I have spent considerable time in the company of the inspiring historical women at the heart of my two novels THE THE OTHER EINSTEIN and CARNEGIE’S MAID, and although the women hail from different times and different places, they have taught me countless shared lessons. Sometimes their instruction focuses upon the writing process — the particular conundrums inherent in writing historical fiction — and sometimes their tutelage concerns life itself. Whittling that voluminous list of lessons down to five is a daunting task, but I hope their teachings resonate. Lesson 1 One of the delights and challenges in writing historical fiction is the research material, which can be simultaneously overwhelming and sparse. This might seem contradictory, but if you’ve ever gone down a historical rabbit role in search of a specific answer, only to emerge with an abundance of information about a seemingly fruitful, but ultimately tangential topic and nothing that answers your original question, then you know what I mean. One of my favorite authors — Kate Atkinson — has some excellent advice on this problem, which I’ve adopted with modifications in my own writing process. I begin by immersing myself deeply in the…