Tea And Scones With Katherine Longshore

unnamed (3)March 28th, MB14 was thrilled to welcome Katherine Longshore, author of the historical fiction novels GiltTarnish, and most recently, Manor of Secrets. Set in the early 1900s, Manor of Secrets tells the story of Charlotte Edmonds and Janie Seward, two girls who, despite living under the same roof, dwell in entirely different worlds. Charlotte is wealthy but powerless, longing for a life of freedom while Janie is lowborn and practical, dreaming of a better life. The story follows Charlotte and Janie as their two lives are pulled closer together, carrying all complications and rules in tow, threatening an inevitable collision between their upstairs and downstairs lives (for more information, check out MB14’s review of Manor of Secrets). In honor of Manor‘s release we enjoyed an evening of tea and scones, completed by a discussion with Katherine Longshore.

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First, we asked Katherine to talk a little bit about her experience writing historical fiction. She described writing historical fiction as a combination of unnamed (5)world-building and time traveling — that historical time periods are the ultimate secondary worlds. Manor of Secrets was brought about thanks to a demand for a Downtown Abbey-esque young adult novel, requiring extensive research to build Janie and Charlotte’s intricate world. The inspiration for the manor came from an old house near where Katherine used to live in England. Currently in ruins and completely overgrown, at one point it would have been nothing short of pristine, with perfectly manicured and cultivated grounds and an absolute order and hierarchy that governed every aspect of manor life.

We then asked Katherine to discuss her path to publishing — how she went from writer to publishedunnamed (2) author. Her story began when she was working at a preschool and had an idea for a picture book about Henry VIII. That picture book idea turned into a children’s novel, then middle grade, and eventually became Gilt, a book she was expecting to be a stand-alone but turned into a series of three (don’t miss Brazen, coming soon). She also mentioned that Manor of Secrets, while currently a stand-alone, allows for the possibility of a sequel, and she may later return to Janie and Charlotte’s stories. And here’s a fun fact — if you check out the front and back of Manor of Secrets, you’ll see that it’s the same model for both Charlotte and Janie!

unnamed (1)The evening wound to a close with some casual conversation and signed copies and final bites of scones. All in all, we are so grateful to Katherine Longshore for taking the time to stop by and sit down with us, to answer all of our questions (if she could choose one book to become a movie, it would be Brazen) and sharing her insights and for the wonderful conversation. Hopefully we’ll see Katherine again soon, and in the meantime, don’t miss out on reading Manor of Secrets.

Click here to order Gilt, Tarnish, Manor of Secrets, and Brazen.



Title: Gilt

Author: Katherine Longshore

Release Date: Available

Loyalty and friendship are qualities often explored between the covers of a book, but they’ve never been so strongly portrayed than in the character of Kitty Tylney. Yet these virtues don’t lead her down quite the path she’s expecting.

In fact, Kitty does not expect to come to much at all, however, her best friend Catherine Howard, known as Cat, has very high ambitions. When she charms a duke into picking her and taking her to court as a serving girl, she’s aiming for the top: the King. When Cat leaves with the duke, she promises Kitty that she’ll find a way to bring her to court. Going to court was Kitty’s dream, but is she ready to face the deceptions, betrayals, promises and losses that reside there?

I love history, and I think that Gilt captures the reality of King Henry VIII’s court and his marriage to Catherine Howard. The character of Kitty is a great portrayal of a friend till the last. I really sympathized with her, because she has always lived in Cat’s shadow. Towards the end of the book she gradually stops worshiping Cat and develops her own persona, yet she still remains fiercely loyal, even if it leads to her own downfall.

As you can tell from the cover, this book is female orientated, but I still greatly enjoyed reading it, and I would recommend this book to anyone who likes historical fiction.

Review by Ben

Order Gilt from Book Passage

Manor of Secrets

Manor of Secrets

Title: Manor of Secrets

Author: Katherine Longshore

Release Date: Available

Despite the seemingly endless number of elegant halls and chambers, despite the sweeping staircases and undeniable atmosphere of luxury, to Lady Charlotte Edmonds, the Manor has rarely felt like anything more than a prison. Because built into the walls of the Manor itself is the rigid social code and unflinching set of expectations that defines every aspect of Charlotte’s life — dictating her actions and decisions, determining her future with no room for questions or debates. And as Charlotte grows older, this certain future takes shape in the form of an expected marriage to an equally wealthy and well-bred individual, the promise of which fills Charlotte with anxiety, dread — with the urge to run as far as her feet can carry her. She dreams of a life filled with adventure and excitement and love, pouring these desperate wishes into pages of writing, casting leads who demonstrate both bravery and courage, who fight for opportunity and chances. But rather than act on her desires, Charlotte continues to be little more than a dreamer, until she follows kitchen maid Janie Seward into the woods one day and, for once, dares to try something different.

Janie, despite also calling the Manor home, lives in a world far removed from Charlotte’s. All Janie knows is a life of servitude, bound by its own set of laws, threatening loss of job and lack of security for any step out of line. Janie knows this and accepts it, quietly dreaming of a better life, but content with the uncomplicated certainty of her station. And then Charlotte arrives, pulling Janie from the confines of her comfort zone into the world upstairs, potentially risking her future for the promise of friendship and excitement. Manor of Secrets follows Charlotte and Janie as their two lives are pulled closer together, carrying all complications and rules in tow, threatening an inevitable collision between their upstairs and downstairs lives.

While at times it seemed that Manor of Secrets leaned a little too heavily on traditional YA cliches, especially concerning the romance aspects of the story and various plot twists, I have to acknowledge Katherine Longshore’s beautiful prose and stunning descriptions of the setting she built for her characters in 1911. Charlotte and Janie and the cast of characters move through pages of exquisite detail and vivid imagery, through seamlessly constructed and flowing sentences. I also loved watching the relationship between Janie and Charlotte grow and develop, inspired and affected by the characters’ own development. However, it seemed that with all the focus placed upon those two, the other characters ended up slightly lacking. I wish there’d been the opportunity to explore the secondary figures to a greater extent, to hear their backstories, to know them better, so that rather than being supports to Charlotte and Janie’s story, they could stand alone with their own motives and history.

I can’t call myself someone who’s heavily explored the ranks of YA historical fiction, and so have little comparison for where Manor of Secrets stands among its fellows, but between the covers of Katherine Longshore’s novel, I found an intriguing and beautiful story that, despite the hints of romance, was ultimately an examination of how people learn and live and grow through friendship. I found a YA story that didn’t beat me over the head with a boy-meets-girl plot line, and instead, sought to tell the story of two girls fighting not just for their own rights and beliefs, but fighting for each other. Elegant and engaging — to put it simply, Manor of Secrets is a novel that’s well worth the read.

Review by Kayla

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Title: Venom

Author: Fiona Paul

Release Date: Available

Secrets, murder, forbidden love, spying, mystery, and more – you want it, Venom has it. Oh, and did I mention it takes place in Venice during the Renaissance? Venom, the first book in The Secrets of the Eternal Rose trilogy, by Fiona Paul, combines intense murder mystery with passionate romance as the protagonist navigates the canals of Venice in the early 17th century. I have to be honest – I love historical fiction. Lacy gowns, whalebone corsets, ink quills, fans, and masquerade balls all make me wish I lived in Renaissance times (well, maybe not the corsets!). Young adult readers who have taken AP European History will appreciate the references to Michel de Montaigne and Titian; I also loved when the main character was reading a book “by a little-known English playwright named Shakespeare, and the story was about a pair of young lovers kept apart by a family feud.”

The book is about Cassandra Caravello (Cass, to most people), a sixteen year old free spirit living with her protective aunt. The multiple storylines add dimension to the plot, although at times can get a bit long. A love triangle between a peculiar but intriguing boy who denounces religion and the proper, studious man to whom she is betrothed augments romantic tension, and the realization that a murderer is on the loose adds a sense of urgency – a murderer who might be trying to kill Cass! The mysterious Order of the Eternal Rose is another plot point readers are trying furiously to uncover as the book unfolds.

Although there were moments toward the middle of the book when I was ready to skip the detailed, numerous adventures and find out what happened, near the suspenseful end, I couldn’t stop reading. Fiona Paul writes in an elegant style that is perfect for the time period about which she is writing. Her incredible detail paints a vivid picture of 17th century Venice. Whether you are looking for a book with excellent imagery, a thrilling story, or both, you won’t be disappointed with Venom.

If you’re going to read this book, be prepared for a cliffhanger ending! I was shocked to discover I wasn’t going to find answers to all of my pressing questions by the end of the book. However, I was relieved to learn that Venom was the first book in a trilogy and Fiona Paul is writing two more books in the Secrets of the Eternal Rose collection (Belladonna will be released in 2013 and the currently untitled final book in 2014. Check out Fiona Paul’s blog for more about her and her books!)

All things considered, this book was rather long, and there were times when the detail became tedious. However, it was thrilling and captivating to read, and I know I will be waiting eagerly for the remaining books in the trilogy to come out. If you like romance, murder mystery, and historical fiction, you’ll love Venom.

Review by Katie

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