Spotlight, interview, and giveaway: The Beautiful American

The Beautiful AmericanThe Beautiful American

(historical fiction)


Jeanne Mackin

Release date: June 3, 2014
at New American Library/Penguin

352 pages

ISBN: 978-0-451-46582-5

Website | Goodreads



As recovery from World War II begins, expat American Nora Tours travels from her home in southern France to London in search of her missing daughter. There, she unexpectedly meets up with an old acquaintance, famous model-turned-photographer Lee Miller. Neither has emerged from the war unscathed. Nora is racked with the fear that her efforts to survive under the Vichy regime may have cost her daughter’s life. Lee suffers from what she witnessed as a war correspondent photographing the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps.

Nora and Lee knew each other in the heady days of late 1920’s Paris: when Nora was giddy with love for her childhood sweetheart, Lee became the celebrated mistress of the artist Man Ray, and Lee’s magnetic beauty drew them all into the glamorous lives of famous artists and their wealthy patrons. But Lee fails to realize that her friendship with Nora is even older, that it goes back to their days as children in Poughkeepsie, New York, when a devastating trauma marked Lee forever.

A novel of freedom and frailty, desire and daring, The Beautiful American portrays the extraordinary relationship between two passionate, unconventional women. [provided by the author]
For reviewers’ attention: brief, very mild sex and violence


Praise for The Beautiful American

“Readers will rank [it] right up there with The Paris Wife…. A brilliant, beautifully written literary masterpiece…”–New York Times bestselling author Sandra Dallas

“Will transport you to expat Paris… and from there take you on a journey through the complexities of a friendship…breathes new life into such luminaries as Man Ray, Picasso, and, of course, the titular character, Lee Miller, while at the same time offering up a wonderfully human and sympathetic protagonist in Nora Tours.”–Suzanne Rindell, author of The Other Typist

“Achingly beautiful and utterly mesmerizing… Sure to appeal to fans of Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife and Erika Robuck’s Call Me Zelda, or indeed to anyone with a taste for impeccably researched and beautifully written historical fiction.”– Jennifer Robson, author of Somewhere in France

“Beautiful…A fascinating account of a little-known woman who was determined to play by her own rules.”–Historical Novel Society



I sat carefully on a settee, self-conscious about the run in my stocking and wishing Lee had not sprung this event as a surprise. For someone like Olga Picasso, now sitting ramrod straight in a Louis Quinze chair, one should at least comb one’s hair, refresh one’s lipstick. I felt like a child at a grown-ups’ party.

In one corner, an electric train had been set up for the little boy, Paulo and several times I caught Olga giving that messy train set the kind of look a hostess gives a stray dog that wanders into a formal garden. She did not want it there. I decided I would spend the evening playing with Paulo and his train.

Picasso stood smiling in the middle of this battle of wills, perfectly at ease, the sun around which everyone else in the room revolved. (Lee explained later that his real studio, his working studio, was upstairs in a different part of the building, and no one, absolutely no one, not even Olga, was allowed into it. No one except his mistress, Marie-Thérèse, that was.)

Lee sat on a settee opposite Olga, and Man sat next to her, so close their elbows rubbed.

“Lee,” Picasso said, “are you still wasting your time with those fashion photographers?” He tugged at his long, straight forelock and smoothed it back, a gesture he repeated frequently that evening. It was gesture I had seen in other men, usually those proud of their thick hair, an emblem of youth, but in Picasso the gesture was so exaggerated it seemed more a ritual, a superstition, than simple vanity.

“Fashion pays the bills,” Lee said. “Cheers.” She drained her glass and held it out for a refill.

“My portraits pay the bills,” Man said darkly.

“And you, young man, are the new assistant?” Picasso turned to Jamie. “Man doesn’t usually take male assistants, only young girls.”

“He did it as a favor to me,” Lee said, finishing her second cocktail. “I thought it would be fun to have a young man around.” She turned ashen, realizing what she had just said, and that it could not be taken back. So she went forward. “Besides, he’s taller,” she said, slipping her arm through Man’s. “Finally, I can make you jealous.” And that was the perfect ploy. His ego was flattered. His mistress longed for his jealousy.


Jeanne MackinJeanne Mackin is the author of several historical novels set in France,
and has earned awards for her journalism
as well as a creative writing fellowship
from the American Antiquarian Society.
She lives in upstate New York with her husband,
cats and herd of deer,
and is still trying to master the French subjunctive.

Visit her website.

Follow Jeanne Mackin on Twitter | Facebook

Buy the book | on Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Books a Million | Google Play | iBookstore | Indiebound | Powells


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5 copies:
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giveaway winner of: Madame Picasso

The winner of the giveaway

Madame Picasso

Madame Picasso

In full compliance with FTC Guidelines,
I received this book for free
in exchange
for a fair and honest review.
I was in no way compensated
for this post as a reviewer,
and the thoughts are my own.
Madame Picasso
Anne GirardPublisher: Harlequin MIRA
Release Date: August 26, 2014

ISBN:  978-0778316350
Pages: 432

Historical Fiction 

Source: Received
from the publisher for a
virtual book tour on HFVBT


Buy the Book

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Madame Picasso winner


 The mesmerizing and untold story of Eva Gouel, the unforgettable woman who stole the heart of the greatest artist of our time

When Eva Gouel moves to Paris from the countryside, she is full of ambition and dreams of stardom. Though young and inexperienced, she manages to find work as a costumer at the famous Moulin Rouge, and it is here that she first catches the attention of Pablo Picasso, a rising star in the art world.

A brilliant but eccentric artist, Picasso sets his sights on Eva, and Eva can’t help but be drawn into his web. But what starts as a torrid affair soon evolves into what will become the first great love of Picasso’s life.

With sparkling insight and passion, Madame Picasso introduces us to a dazzling heroine, taking us from the salon of Gertrude Stein to the glamorous Moulin Rouge and inside the studio and heart of one of the most enigmatic and iconic artists of the twentieth century.  [provided by HFVBT]


to see why you should buy it if you didn’t win!




Book Club: 10 titles for our August 2014 meeting

Recap of our Block Book Club August 2014 meeting


Recap of the titles we shared [synopsis from].

1) The Skin Collector (Lincoln Rhyme #11) by Jeffery Deaver (May 2014)
presented by A.

A new type of serial killer is stalking the streets of New York – one more devious and disturbing than ever before.

They call this butcher The Skin Collector: a tattooist with a chamber of torture hidden deep underground. But instead of using ink to create each masterpiece, the artist uses a lethal poison which will render targets dead before they can even entertain the prospect of escape . . .

Drafted in to investigate, NYPD detective Lincoln Rhyme and his associate Amelia Sachs have little to go on but a series of cryptic messages left etched into the skin of the deceased. As the pair struggle to discover the meaning behind the designs, they are led down a treacherous and twisting path where nothing is as it seems. And with the clock rapidly ticking before the killer strikes again, they must untangle the twisted web of clues before more victims – or they themselves – are next.

2) John Wayne: The Life and Legend by Scott Eyman (April 2014)
presented by J.

John Wayne was one of Hollywood’s most famous and most successful actors, but he was more than that. He became a symbol of America itself. He epitomized the Western film, which for many people epitomized America. He identified with conservative political causes from the early 1930s to his death in 1979, making him a hero to one generation of Americans and a villain to another. But unlike fellow actor Ronald Reagan, Wayne had no interest in politics as a career. Like many stars, he altered his life story, claiming to have become an actor almost by accident when in fact he had studied drama and aspired to act for most of his youth. He married three times, all to Latina women, and conducted a lengthy affair with Marlene Dietrich, as unlikely a romantic partner as one could imagine for the Duke. Wayne projected dignity, integrity, and strength in all his films, even when his characters were flawed, and whatever character he played was always prepared to confront injustice in his own way. More than thirty years after his death, he remains the standard by which male stars are judged and an actor whose morally unambiguous films continue to attract sizeable audiences.

Scott Eyman interviewed Wayne, as well as many family members, and he has drawn on previously unpublished reminiscences from friends and associates of the Duke in this biography, as well as documents from his production company that shed light on Wayne’s business affairs. He traces Wayne from his childhood to his stardom in Stagecoach and dozens of films after that. Eyman perceptively analyzes Wayne’s relationship with John Ford, the director with whom he is most associated and who made some of Wayne’s greatest films, among them She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, The Quiet Man, and The Searchers. His evaluation of Wayne himself is shrewd: a skilled actor who was reluctant to step outside his comfort zone. Wayne was self-aware; he once said, I’ve played the kind of man I’d like to have been. It’s that man and the real John Wayne who are brilliantly profiled in Scott Eyman’s insightful biography of a true American legend.

3) Personal Memoirs by Ulysses S. Grant (1885)
presented by R.

The memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant’s are lucid, compelling, and brutally honest, a chronicle of triumph and failure, from his boyhood, to his heroics in battle, to the grinding poverty from which the Civil War ironically rescued him. 

Madame Picasso

4) Madame Picasso by Anne Girard (published on Aug 26)
presented by me

The mesmerizing and untold story of Eva Gouel, the unforgettable woman who stole the heart of the greatest artist of our time.When Eva Gouel moves to Paris from the countryside, she is full of ambition and dreams of stardom. Though young and inexperienced, she manages to find work as a costumer at the famous Moulin Rouge, and it is here that she first catches the attention of Pablo Picasso, a rising star in the art world.

A brilliant but eccentric artist, Picasso sets his sights on Eva, and Eva can’t help but be drawn into his web. But what starts as a torrid affair soon evolves into what will become the first great love of Picasso’s life.

With sparkling insight and passion, Madame Picasso introduces us to a dazzling heroine, taking us from the salon of Gertrude Stein to the glamorous Moulin Rouge and inside the studio and heart of one of the most enigmatic and iconic artists of the twentieth century.

I invite you to read my ecstatic review of this book. You can see there a book trailer of the book as well. 

5) Moonlight Mile (Kenzie & Gennaro #6) by Dennis Lehane (2010)

presented by S.


Amanda McCready was four years old when she vanished from a Boston neighborhood twelve years ago. Desperate pleas for help from the child’s aunt led investigators Kenzie and Gennaro to take on the case. The pair risked everything to find the young girl—only to orchestrate her return to a neglectful mother and a broken home.

Now Amanda is sixteen—and gone again. A stellar student, brilliant but aloof, she seemed destined to escape her upbringing. Yet Amanda’s aunt is once more knocking on Patrick Kenzie’s door, fearing the worst for the little girl who has blossomed into a striking, clever young woman—a woman who hasn’t been seen in weeks.

Haunted by their consciences, Kenzie and Gennaro revisit the case that troubled them the most. Their search leads them into a world of identity thieves, methamphetamine dealers, a mentally unstable crime boss and his equally demented wife, a priceless, thousand-year-old cross, and a happily homicidal Russian gangster. It’s a world in which motives and allegiances constantly shift and mistakes are fatal.

In their desperate fight to confront the past and find Amanda McCready, Kenzie and Gennaro will be forced to question if it’s possible to do the wrong thing and still be right or to do the right thing and still be wrong. As they face an evil that goes beyond broken families and broken dreams, they discover that the sins of yesterday don’t always stay buried and the crimes of today could end their lives.

Sherlock Holmes in America by Martin H. Greenberg (2009)
also presented by S.

Sherlock Holmes makes his American debut in this fascinating and extraordinary collection of never-before-published crime and mystery stories by bestselling American writers. The world’s greatest detective and his famous sidekick Watson are on their first trip across the Atlantic as they fight crime all over nineteenth-century North America. From the bustling neighborhoods of New York City and Washington, D.C., to sunny yet sinister cities like San Francisco on the West Coast, the world’s best-loved British sleuth will face some of the most cunning criminals America has to offer, and meet some of America’s most famous figures along the way. Each original story is written in the extraordinary tradition of Doyle’s best work, yet each comes with a unique American twist that is sure to satisfy and exhilarate both Sherlock Holmes purists and those who always wished that Holmes could nab the nefarious closer to home. This is a must-read for any mystery fan and for those who have followed Holmes’ illustrious career over the waterfall and back again

7) The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (1998)
presented by P.

The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it — from garden seeds to Scripture — is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family’s tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.

8) Sleeping Beauty by Judith Michael (1991)

presented by J.


Anne Garnett was a brilliant Los Angeles divorce lawyer — tough, smart and untouchable. The vulnerable girl who had run away from her wealthy, influential family was hidden now behind the glossy facade of her high-powered career. Only the death of Anne’s beloved grandfather could bring her back to the town he had built — Tamarack, the Colorado playground of the rich and famous. Once there she would be drawn again into the tangled passions and fortunes of those who had betrayed her so long ago…

Embraced by a sister’s love, challenged by a man who offers her everything she could want, Anne is confronted once more by Senator Vincent Chatham, the charismatic man who still waits to destroy her. But Anne is no longer a frightened girl. She is a proud, beautiful woman who must release the paralyzing pain of the past and discover her power to win…in a battle for family empire, honor, and the richest treasure of all…a deep, abiding love.

9) The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and One Man’s Quest to Be a Better Husband by David Finch (2012)

presented by P.


At some point in nearly every marriage, a wife finds herself asking, What is wrong with my husband?! In David Finch’s case, this turns out to be an apt question. Five years after he married Kristen, the love of his life, they learn that he has Asperger syndrome. The diagnosis explains David’s ever-growing list of quirks and compulsions, his lifelong propensity to quack and otherwise melt down in social exchanges, and his clinical-strength inflexibility. But it doesn’t make him any easier to live with.

Determined to change, David sets out to understand Asperger syndrome and learn to be a better husband—no easy task for a guy whose inability to express himself rivals his two-year-old daughter’s, who thinks his responsibility for laundry extends no further than throwing things in (or at) the hamper, and whose autism-spectrum condition makes seeing his wife’s point of view a near impossibility.

Nevertheless, David devotes himself to improving his marriage with an endearing yet hilarious zeal that involves excessive note-taking, performance reviews, and most of all, the Journal of Best Practices: a collection of hundreds of maxims and hard-won epiphanies that result from self-reflection both comic and painful. They include “Don’t change the radio station when she’s singing along,” “Apologies do not count when you shout them,” and “Be her friend, first and always.” Guided by the Journal of Best Practices, David transforms himself over the course of two years from the world’s most trying husband to the husband who tries the hardest, the husband he’d always meant to be.

Filled with humor and surprising wisdom, The Journal of Best Practices is a candid story of ruthless self-improvement, a unique window into living with an autism-spectrum condition, and proof that a true heart can conquer all.


10) Genealogy: Everything You Need to Climb Your Family Tree Without Falling Out (Beginner to Intermediate) by Katheryn Maddox Haddad (July 2014)
also presented by P.

This step-by-step comprehensive book on genealogy covers every possible way of discovering who your ancestors were and how they lived. Birth and marriage records are some of the easiest documents to find For death records, death certificates, obituaries, funeral homes, cemeteries and tombstones are uncovered. Don’t forget interviewing relatives. Some won’t want to talk “about those old people”, and some will try to get you sidetracked with stories; methods of drawing out the facts are discussed. Organization is not overlooked because it is vital once you begin collecting reams of documents. Locating where ancestors lived can be tricky because the county you found them in may not exist any more.Census records are a favorite of every genealogist. Explanations are given where to find censuses in 1790 – 1930 are given, along with how to read them and get all the information on your ancestor they provide. But old hand writing can be tricky, because 150 years ago, people formed common letters different than we do today. Examples are given along with explanations on how to read old records are given.

Was your ancestor in World War II, World War I, the Spanish American War, the Civil War, the War of 1812, the Indian Wars, the Revolutionary War? All are explained and websites listed where to find their records.

Fraternal organizations provide surprise information on many ancestors: Grange, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen, Elks, Knights of Labor, American Federation of Labor, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Moose, Freemasons, Shriners, Kiwanis, Lions Club and other such organization are discussed along with websites where you can find their records. Also, information on how to find the archives of old newspapers is given.

This book has something for everyone, whether beginner or intermediate.