The Scribe of Siena by Melodie Winawer #Review @melodiewinawer @TouchstoneBooks

The Scribe of Sienna cover

Back in November, I received an email from Simon & Schuster offering a free ebook if I was willing to take part in a study to help them learn more about how readers engaged with their books. All I had to do was create a Jellybooks account, pick my freebie, and start reading. At the end of every chapter, I would click on a button that said ‘sync reading stream’… easy-peasy.  Of the five book choices, I had already read one of them, and had my request on Netgalley declined for another. Thinking I would choose the latter, I signed up. I had to read the blurbs for the other books—no self-respecting bibliophile would skip doing that, right?—and my mind was changed as soon as I read the blurb for The Scribe of Siena.

I’ll own up to the fact that it was the Outlander mention/comparison that made my choice an easy one. (If you know me, you know I am totally obsessed with love the story of Outlander, so you aren’t surprised in the least.) I think I would have chosen this book regardless, because the plot greatly appealed to me. I went into reading it a bit warily, though, because the last book I read that compared itself to Outlander—despite being a very good book—felt like false advertising, in that regard. After giving it some serious thought, I’ve come to decide that the The Scribe of Siena is worthy of the comparison. The stories, settings, and plots aren’t mirror images, of course. It is exactly like Outlander, however, in that it can’t be boxed into one single genre, but to a group of genres—specifically time travel, historical fiction, suspense, and romance. They are close enough in the ways that count to make it an acceptable comparison to me.

When books have historical settings, it’s important that everything fits the time and place;  dress, language, societal hierarchies… all of it has to be right, to feel right. Lovers of historical fiction are sophisticated enough to hone in on little details that don’t belong, and it can’t ruin the entire book for them when it happens. Thankfully, that didn’t happen with this book. Winawer clearly did the necessary historical research to bring this fourteenth-century medieval Italian setting to life, and it paid off beautifully in vivid characters, settings, and dialogue.

The conspiracy at the heart of the story was gripping, and my breath caught more than once as the conspirators set about committing their dastardly deeds. I enjoyed how it tied in to the research Beatrice’s brother did prior to his death, and why a particular person in the present day was so motivated to get his hands on that research.

As much as I loved the historical portions of the story, the present day story was equally enjoyable to read.  Most of the action understandably takes place in 14th century Siena, but Beatrice’s life in modern-day Siena had memorable moments, as well.

The love story between Beatrice and Gabriele was sweet. As is typical concerning lovers from different centuries, Beatrice ultimately has to decide whether to stay in his time, or go back to hers. The catalyst for this decision wasn’t something I’d foreseen, and that was a welcome surprise.

I absolutely adored this book, and I highly recommend it. I think fans of the Outlander series would really enjoy it, as well as readers who enjoy a good time travel story lush with historical detail, a healthy dose of romance, and a good batch of suspense added to the mix. The Scribe of Siena is a brilliant debut, and I’m fervently hoping to see more novels from this author in the future!

I received an advance reader copy of this book courtesy of Touchstone and Jellybooks.

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Author: Melodie Winawer

Title: The Scribe of Sienna

Genre: Historical Fiction, Time Travel, Romance

Publication Date: May 16, 2017 by Touchstone

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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About the Book

Equal parts transporting love story and gripping historical conspiracy—think The Girl with a Pearl Earring meets Outlander—debut author Melodie Winawer takes readers deep into medieval Italy, where the past and present blur and a twenty-first century woman will discover a plot to destroy Siena.

Accomplished neurosurgeon Beatrice Trovato knows that her deep empathy for her patients is starting to impede her work. So when her beloved brother passes away, she welcomes the unexpected trip to the Tuscan city of Siena to resolve his estate, even as she wrestles with grief. But as she delves deeper into her brother’s affairs, she discovers intrigue she never imagined—a 700-year-old conspiracy to decimate the city.

After uncovering the journal and paintings of Gabriele Accorsi, the fourteenth-century artist at the heart of the plot, Beatrice finds a startling image of her own face and is suddenly transported to the year 1347. She awakens in a Siena unfamiliar to her, one that will soon be hit by the Plague.

Yet when Beatrice meets Accorsi, something unexpected happens: she falls in love—not only with Gabriele, but also with the beauty and cadence of medieval life. As the Plague and the ruthless hands behind its trajectory threaten not only her survival but also Siena’s very existence, Beatrice must decide in which century she belongs.

The Scribe of Siena is the captivating story of a brilliant woman’s passionate affair with a time and a place that captures her in an impossibly romantic and dangerous trap—testing the strength of fate and the bonds of love.

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About the Author

Melodie Winawer
Melodie Winawer (Photo © Dana Maxon)

Melodie Winawer is a physician-scientist and Associate Professor of Neurology at Columbia University. A graduate of Yale University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Columbia University with degrees in biological psychology, medicine, and epidemiology, she has published forty-seven nonfiction articles and book chapters. She is fluent in Spanish and French, literate in Latin, and has a passable knowledge of Italian. Dr. Winawer lives with her spouse and their three young children in Brooklyn, New York. The Scribe of Siena is her first novel.

Author photo and bio via Simon & Schuster.

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Guest Post: Behind the Title (Creation of a Love Story) by Cynthia Roberts @CynthiasRomance

I’m happy to share a guest post by romance author Cynthia Roberts with you today. In it, Cynthia discusses how music and literature are connected, and how she made use of that connection in her Love Songs Standards book series. As an added bonus, Cynthia also tells you how you can access a FREE download of the first book in the series, Unchained Melody. Enjoy!


Behind the Title
(Creation of a Love Story)
By Romance Author Cynthia Roberts

Romance Author Cynthia Roberts
Author Cynthia Roberts

Creating romantic fiction has been a passion of mine, ever since I was old enough to understand the connection between the sexes.  I think I was twelve, when I wrote my first love story and like most young minds; I truly thought it was a masterpiece.

There’s another masterful connection that has been going on now for centuries, and that is the one between music and literature.  There is a full alphabet of songs that have been written retelling a work of literature as far back as the 18th century.

“If I Die Young” by The Band Perry was based on a poem, Lady of Shallot.  “Love Story” by Taylor Swift is loosely based on Romeo & Juliet.  The artist Sting’s “Moon Over Bourbon Street” was based on an Anne Rice novel, Interview With A Vampire.

More interesting though, the anatomy of a song has also within its lyrics a pretty fascinating back story as well.  For more than five decades, authors have been creating fictional pieces and bringing readers deep inside the lyrics.  I grew up listening to my mom’s collection of romantic ballads from the 40s, 50s, and 60s.  Those lyrics have forever been embossed into my brain, I still sing along whenever I hear them.  Lyrics like those back then told a story, and they were so strong, and emotional, their affect were everlasting.

I have a library of love songs on iTunes I listen to religiously, while I write, as a source of inspiration and a tool that gets me in the mood and mindset I need to be in.  It is from this list, I began to formulate a series of ideas, followed by cryptic notes on paper, and finally the creation of my Love Song Standards series.  I made a list of the songs I connected with personally, whittling it down to thirty-five.  That number was quite overwhelming and I thought virtually impossible to create that many scenarios.  So, I chipped away at the songs and their lyrics, until I decided on a top ten.

I had made a commitment to myself to finish one book a month throughout 2016, writing a chapter every day, leaving me ample time to polish and edit each one.  I knew from the on-start, what I wanted my covers to look like.  They had to resemble each other in a way that would tie them together, but strong enough for them to stand on their own.  My designer Covers by Ramona did an exceptional job tying all my ideas together.

Love Song Standards series covers

After Book 6, Chances Are, was completed, my brain was fried.  I took a short reprieve and switched it up a bit with a romantic suspense, A Pawn for Malice.  Happily, the first two books of my series received a 5-Star Readers Favorite Award, which ended my promotion efforts.  I was forced to take an extended break due to personal issues that had set me back both physically and emotionally.  My focus now is to both promote my series and finish the final four titles All The Way, It’s Impossible, Sincerely, and Unforgettable.

If you’re a lover of contemporary romance, please do check out my Love Song Standards series.  I know you’ll be pleasantly pleased.  Buy links and descriptions are available on my website at RomanceAuthorCynthiaRoberts.com.  If you subscribe to my mailing list, we can stay in touch as to when the other titles are completed PLUS you’ll receive a complimentary copy of Book 1, Unchained Melody.  All that I ask is for you to please, please share an honest review at the online retailer you use most. It will help me dramatically towards promoting my book and the series.

Hugs from me to you. ❤

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“This is definitely a novel that I would read again. It is going to stay on my bookshelf for a very, very long time.”  —Readers’ Favorite


Review: Finding Fraser by KC Dyer

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This review contains spoilers.

The truth? I read this because I really love Outlander, and it’s going to be a long time before book nine is published. So I thought I’d give it a try, and hoped it would be a fun read. And it was, most of the time.

The reason I’m giving this book three stars, even though I truly enjoyed parts of it, is because I got annoyed with Emma more than a few times for being so damned stupid. She trusted Susan (or rather, Gail, but I’ll call her Susan since that’s how Emma always referred to her, even after she learned her true identity) far too easily, and I wasn’t a bit surprised when Susan robbed her blind. I understand it was important for something to happen that would turn Emma’s plans upside down—I didn’t have a problem with that—but it would have been much more dramatic if I hadn’t seen it coming right from the start. It was too easy to figure out.

And Hamish? It took a bit longer, but it was soon clear that he wasn’t all he was cracked up to be, either. Too many brief, not-quite-dates and then there was the insulting way he casually gives her a gym pass, saying she needed to work on her abs and get her body “bikini ready” for when they go to California. Rather than give him an earful and breaking it off with him, she becomes obsessed with looking at pictures of women with perfect abs online. Seriously? I really started to dislike Emma at this point, and felt like it served her right when she discovered Hamish tangled up with Susan in the garage.

The redeeming factor was her relationships with other people she met along the way. Jack Findlay, Morag, Gerald… it was fun watching these friendships develop. And the snarky emails from her sister were always entertaining to read. Very believable. The blog posts Emma made, her joy and awe as she marveled at the beauty of Scotland, and her interactions with people who followed her blog… all these things were enjoyable to read. (These are the parts of the story deserving of a higher rating, but I just couldn’t get past the things that annoyed me enough to feel motivated enough to do it.)

Another thing: If Emma hadn’t been so busy blindly thinking of Hamish as her Fraser she might have noticed that Jack was definitely interested in her, and had more time to spend with someone who was far more worthy of her. So much time wasted on the wrong man!

I did enjoy Susan/Gail finally getting her just desserts, and Hamish having his California dreams ruined. Ha!

Overall? I mostly enjoyed this book, but the parts I didn’t like, I really didn’t like. I’m not sorry I read it, though, and would probably read this author again. I do have mixed feelings about this particular book, but wouldn’t use that as a deciding point on whether or not to read another of her novels.

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Author: KC Dyer

Title: Finding Fraser

Genre: Romance

Published:  5/15/2015 by Lions Mountain Literary

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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About the Book

Sometimes searching for true love can be a little…Outlandish.

I met Jamie Fraser when I was nineteen years old. He was tall, red-headed, and at our first meeting at least, a virgin. I fell in love hard, fast and completely. He knew how to ride a horse, wield a sword and stitch a wound. He was, in fact, the perfect man.

That he was fictional hardly entered into it.

At 29, Emma Sheridan’s life is a disaster and she’s tired of waiting for the perfect boyfriend to step from the pages of her favorite book. There’s only one place to look, and it means selling everything and leaving her world behind. With an unexpected collection of allies along the way, can Emma face down a naked fishmonger, a randy gnome, a perfidious thief, and even her own abdominal muscles on the journey to find her Fraser?

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About the Author

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Author K.C. Dyer

kc dyer resides in the wilds of British Columbia in the company of an assortment of mammals, some of them human. She likes to walk in the woods and write books.

Her most recent novel—an Amazon #1 Bestseller in romantic comedy for grown-ups—is FINDING FRASER, first published in 2015, with a new Berkley edition slated for release in May, 2016 . For teens, kc’s most recent work is FACING FIRE, a sequel to the acclaimed novel, A WALK THROUGH A WINDOW, published by Doubleday/Random House. kc is represented by Laura Bradford of Bradford Literary Agency.

Author photo via Amazon. Author bio via author’s website.

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