Sunday, March 15, 2020

Blog Tour Excerpt: Promised by Leah Garriott


Margaret Brinton keeps her promises, and the one she is most determined to keep is the promise to protect her heart.

Warwickshire, England, 1812

Fooled by love once before, Margaret vows never to be played the fool again. To keep her vow, she attends a notorious matchmaking party intent on securing the perfect marital match: a union of convenience to someone who could never affect her heart. She discovers a man who exceeds all her hopes in the handsome and obliging rake Mr. Northam.

There’s only one problem. His meddling cousin, Lord Williams, won’t leave Margaret alone. Condescending and high-handed, Lord Williams lectures and insults her. When she refuses to give heed to his counsel, he single-handedly ruins Margaret’s chances for making a good match—to his cousin or anyone else. With no reason to remain at the party, Margaret returns home to discover her father has promised her hand in marriage—to Lord Williams

Under no condition will Margaret consent to marrying such an odious man. Yet as Lord Williams inserts himself into her everyday life, interrupting her family games and following her on morning walks, winning the good opinion of her siblings and proving himself intelligent and even kind, Margaret is forced to realize that Lord Williams is exactly the type of man she’d hoped to marry before she’d learned how much love hurt. When paths diverge and her time with Lord Williams ends, Margaret is faced with her ultimate choice: keep the promises that protect her or break free of them for one more chance at love. Either way, she fears her heart will lose.



These days most of my reading time is taken up with my grad studies, but I wanted to take a moment to spotlight a new Regency-set title from debut author Leah Garriott, Promised. We've been given an excerpt from the book, which I'll share below. I hope you enjoy! After the excerpt, check out the other stops on the Promised Blog Tour, which has been in progress since February 17th. There you will find more content about Promised, reviews, interviews and more!



Exclusive Excerpt of Promised, by Leah Garriott

     Only a few minutes would pass before my mother discovered my absence and sent someone to call for me. If I hurried, I could glimpse the man through the window in the parlor. Then I could be prepared. I would have the upper hand when we were introduced.
     I scrambled off the bench and raced up the stairs. Bending low to avoid being seen, I raced across the lawn and climbed onto the low wall surrounding the house. With my arms outstretched for balance, I shimmied toward the parlor windows, trying to avoid falling forward into the prickly bushes growing between the wall and the house. When I found a good spot, I adjusted my feet, inhaled deeply, and peered inside.
     My mother stood nearest, though she was angled away from the window as though watching the door for my arrival. My father stood a few steps from her, facing the other side of the room. They both looked uncomfortable, my mother furtively glancing to the door, my father unmoving with a small frown on his face. I leaned closer to the window, trying to see who else was in the room, but I couldn’t maneuver past the unruly yew bush growing next to the house and over the wall.
     The only other person visible was Daniel, standing by himself in the middle of the room. I waved my hand to catch his attention. When he noticed me, he frowned and shook his head. Why was he so serious? It wasn’t his future that was being destroyed. I made a face. He didn’t respond, though I imagined I heard him clear his throat to stifle a laugh. I gestured to the side of the room, wanting to know what the man was like. Daniel didn’t move. Undeterred, I hunched over, pressing one hand to the small of my back while holding a pretend cane in the other. I took a step along the wall and shook my pretend cane at him in imitation of his Russian from the day before.
     Suddenly a man appeared between us and looked directly at me. The intensity of his blue eyes threw me off balance. My arms flung out, flailing for anything to stop my fall, but there was nothing to grasp. My feet slipped and I fell backward onto the lawn. After struggling to regain my breath, I looked at the house. I had fallen too close to the wall to see the window, which meant no one could see me. I was safe.
     Except, I was not safe. I knew those icy blue eyes. They were Lord Williams’s eyes.
     It couldn’t be.
     I lifted myself onto my elbows and peeked over the wall.
     It was.
     Lord Williams was in my home, standing in my window, though he’d turned and now his back was to me. Even the way he carried himself, formal yet relaxed, testified to his belief that all should bow before him.
     Surely this couldn’t be the man my parents had spoken of. He must be here for some other reason. To disabuse me to my parents? To warn them of his cousin since I’d refused to pay heed to him before?
     If it was the latter, the joke was on him. My marriage plans had already taken a tumultuous detour.
     I would not stand for any more meddling from him, whatever his purpose. Especially not when I was already consumed with deciding how to eradicate a soon-to-be-arriving fiancĂ©. Ladylike or not, I would confront him and let him know exactly what I thought of him. And then I would throw him out.
     I stood and, without looking again at the window, walked calmly to the front door, straightening my skirt. Taking a deep breath, I pushed the door open and almost collided with Alice.
     “I was just coming to get you,” she said excitedly, her eyes sparkling. “The baron has arrived, Margaret. Isn’t it thrilling?”
     The baron? She said it as though he were the only baron in all of England. I bit back a remark and shook my head, instead grasping Alice’s hand and forcing myself toward the parlor. Just before I reached the open door I paused.
     “Do I look presentable?” I asked.
     “Yes, you look very pretty. Are you nervous?”
     “To face Lord Williams? I should think not.” I rolled my shoulders back, lifted my chin, and strode into the room.
     All eyes fixed on me as I entered. Keeping my head up, I quickly surveyed the small party. No one had moved from their positions of a moment before. The only difference was that there were now red splotches on Daniel’s cheeks as he struggled for composure, no doubt the effect of witnessing my fall.
     My mother bustled up to me wearing a mask of pleasantness, but her eyes were tight at the sides. I felt the smallest hint of sympathy for her. Lord Williams’s presence in our house, or anywhere in the county, for that matter, was enough to make anyone unhappy.
     “Margaret, let me introduce Lord Williams.” She placed a firm hand on my arm and directed me to the middle of the room.
     Lord Williams moved in front of me and bowed. It would have been a very gracious bow, except his eyes never left mine.

(Chapter Nine, pages 72-76)





PROMISED BLOG TOUR

Debut novelist Leah Garriott tours the blogosphere February 17 through March 15, 2020 to share her new historical romance, Promised. Forty popular book bloggers specializing in historical romance, inspirational fiction, and Austenesque fiction will feature guest blogs, interviews, exclusive excerpts, and book reviews of this acclaimed Regency romance novel.







PROMISED: A PROPER ROMANCE TOUR SCHEDULE:


February 17 My Jane Austen Book Club (Guest Blog)
February 17 Austenprose—A Jane Austen Blog (Review) 
February 18 Katie's Clean Book Collection (Review)
February 18 Wishful Endings (Interview)
February 19 RelzReviewz (Character Spotlight)
February 20 Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen (Spotlight) 
February 21 The Lit Bitch (Excerpt)
February 22 The Debutante Ball (Interview)
February 23 Adventure. Romance. Suspense (Review)
February 24 A Bookish Way of Life (Review)
February 24 Austenesque Reviews (Guest Blog)
February 24 Half Agony, Half Hope (Review)
February 25 Frolic Media (Excerpt)
February 26 Heidi Reads (Guest Blog)
February 26 The Caffeinated Bibliophile (Interview)
February 27 Wishful Endings (Review)
February 28 Lu Reviews Books (Review)
February 29 KJ's Book Nook (Review)
March 01 My Vices and Weaknesses (Excerpt)
March 02 Bringing Up Books (Review)
March 02 Christian Chick's Thoughts (Review)
March 02 For Where Your Treasure Is (Interview)
March 03 Heidi Reads (Review)
March 04 Romance Junkies (Guest Blog)
March 04 Gwendalyn's Books (Review)
March 05 Laura's Reviews (Review)
March 06 Scuffed Slippers Wormy Books (Spotlight)
March 07 Fiction Aficionado (Review)
March 08 The Christian Fiction Girl (Review)
March 09 Austenesque Reviews (Review)
March 10 Bookfoolery (Review)
March 10 From Pemberley to Milton (Review)
March 11 Faithfully Bookish (Interview)
March 12 Impressions in Ink (Review)
March 13 Robin Loves Reading (Review)
March 13 The Green Mockingbird (Review)
March 14 Inkwell Inspirations (Review)
March 15 The Calico Critic (Excerpt)
March 15 Bookworm Nation (Guest Blog)





About the Author

Though she earned degrees in math and statistics, Leah Garriott lives for a good love story. She's resided in Hawaii and Italy, walked the countryside of England, and owns every mainstream movie version of Pride and Prejudice. She's currently living her own happily ever after in Utah with her husband and three kids. Leah is represented by Sharon Pelletier at Dystel, Goderich, and Bourret.


Connect with Leah Garriott








Now available in multiple formats!



Monday, February 17, 2020

Book Review: Courting Mr. Lincoln by Louis Bayard

From the prizewinning author of Mr. Timothy and The Pale Blue Eye comes Courting Mr. Lincoln, the page-turning and surprising story of a young Abraham Lincoln and the two people who loved him best: a sparky, marriageable Mary Todd and Lincoln’s best friend, Joshua Speed.

When Mary Todd meets Abraham Lincoln in Springfield in the winter of 1840, he is on no one's shortlist to be president. Rough and reticent, he’s a country lawyer lacking money and manners, living above a dry goods shop, but with a gift for oratory. Mary, a quick, self-possessed debutante with a tireless interest in debates and elections, at first finds him an enigma. “I can only hope,” she tells his roommate, the handsome, charming Joshua Speed, “that his waters being so very still, they also run deep.”

It’s not long, though, before she sees the Lincoln that Speed knows: a man who, despite his awkwardness, is amiable and profound, with a gentle wit to match his genius and a respect for her keen political mind. But as her relationship with Lincoln deepens, she must confront his inseparable friendship with Speed, who has taught his roommate how to dance, dress, and navigate the polite society of Springfield.

Told in the alternating voices of Mary Todd and Joshua Speed, and rich with historical detail, Courting Mr. Lincoln creates a sympathetic and complex portrait of Mary unlike any that has come before; a moving portrayal of the deep and very real connection between the two men; and most of all, an evocation of the unformed man who would grow into one of the nation’s most beloved presidents.

Louis Bayard, a master storyteller at the height of his powers, delivers here a page-turning tale of love, longing, and forbidden possibilities. 





Today’s post falls on President’s Day in the U.S., so it seems appropriate to examine a fictional treatise on one of our beloved presidents. In this case, Courting Mr. Lincoln by acclaimed author Louis Bayard will be our point of focus. This finely-crafted novel revolves around the titular Abraham Lincoln, his future wife Mary Todd and his dear friend Joshua Speed. As Mr. Bayard notes in his post-novel essay Inside an Enigma, thousands of titles have been produced about President Lincoln, so one may wonder what new perspective might be brought to the table in this narrative. Courting Mr. Lincoln is unique in that Abraham, Mary and Joshua form a triangle that has previously been unknown to many. In fact, had I known that this book dealt specifically with this particular theory, I doubt I would have accepted the invitation to review it. 

A number of years ago I heard rumblings of a speculation regarding the true nature of the relationship between Abraham Lincoln and his bachelor-days roommate, Joshua Speed. While it was common for male roommates to share a single mattress in the 19th century due to financial constraints, this did not always indicate same-sex attraction between them. However, some Lincolnian scholars have offered the notion that Abraham and Joshua held more than just a platonic relationship, especially after examining the letters shared between them. At the same time, these men lived in a society that overwhelmingly did not accept same-sex relationships. It was expected for men to settle down, marry and have a family by their late 20’s, if not sooner. As Lincoln began to run in political circles, he might have felt even more pressure to marry, as candidates are often seen as more reliable if they have a wife. These issues are considered throughout Courting Mr. Lincoln.

Using alternating the viewpoints of Joshua and Mary, Louis Bayard examines the years in which Lincoln meets and develops his relationships with both of them. Bayard’s writing is masterful. People magazine has termed it “exquisite”, and this is not an exaggeration. Not only is his prose well-researched for the period, but his word choices are extraordinary. On several occasions I found myself highlighting text to look up in the dictionary, delighting in the discovery of new corners of the English language. Aside from the interesting storytelling, Courting Mr. Lincoln was an educational and delightful read from a linguistic point of view.

I previously mentioned that I may have objected to reviewing this novel had I known its central theme, which isn’t overly apparent within the book’s description. I am a conservative Christian, and am generally not a supporter of LGBTQ causes. So when I eventually detected the relationships that Mr. Bayard was offering in his novel, I became concerned about how the story would play out. Would it become too racy for my sensibilities? Would there be scenes I would regret seeing in my mind’s eye? Fortunately, I can report that Bayard has handled the material with obvious intent, but in a fairly discreet manner. His point was made in a powerful way, one that I think is reasonable if you look at the content of the actual Lincoln/Speed letters. At the same time, I breathed a sigh of relief when I finished the last pages of the Epilogue, grateful that the possible same-sex attraction between Abraham and Joshua was handled in the way it was.

As mentioned, there have been myriad perspectives on the man who is considered by many to be the greatest American president. Louis Bayard has presented to his readers a tale that was offered in compelling fashion and with expert writing skill. Abraham Lincoln was a complicated, enigmatic figure, and this holds true in
Courting Mr. Lincoln¸ a unique fictional examination of a man who may never be truly known. 






About the Author

Louis Bayard is a New York Times Notable Book author and has been shortlisted for both the Edgar and Dagger awards for his historical thrillers, which include The Pale Blue Eye and Mr. Timothy. His most recent novel was the critically acclaimed young-adult title Lucky Strikes. He lives in Washington, D.C., and teaches at George Washington University. Visit him online at www.LouisBayard.com.

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