Today I’m thrilled to take part in the book tour for Liza Perrat’s latest novel Blood Rose Angel! A historical drama/romance set in fourteenth century France, the book is the latest in a series about the women of L’Auberge des Anges—kinswomen connected by their talent for healing, and the mysterious angel talisman they carry. Read on for more on the book, and author interview, and an awesome giveaway!
1348. A bone-sculpted angel and the woman who wears it—heretic, Devil’s servant, saint.
Midwife Héloïse has always known that her bastard status threatens her standing in the French village of Lucie-sur-Vionne. Yet her midwifery and healing skills have gained the people’s respect, and she has won the heart of the handsome Raoul Stonemason. The future looks hopeful. Until the Black Death sweeps into France.
Fearful that Héloïse will bring the pestilence into their cottage, Raoul forbids her to treat its victims. Amidst the grief and hysteria, the villagers searching for a scapegoat, Héloïse must choose: preserve her marriage, or honor the oath she swore on her dead mother’s soul? And even as she places her faith in the protective powers of her angel talisman, she must prove she’s no Devil’s servant, her talisman no evil charm.
Blood Rose Angel, by Liza Perrat. Release date: November 14, 2015. Genre: historical fiction, drama, romance. 349 pages. ISBN: 978–2954168197 Get it on Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Liza Perrat grew up in Wollongong, Australia, where she worked as a general nurse and midwife for fifteen years. When she met her French husband on a Bangkok bus, she moved to France, where she has been living with her husband and three children for twenty years. She works part-time as a French-English medical translator, and as a novelist. Since completing a creative writing course twelve years ago, several of her short stories have won awards, notably the Writers Bureau annual competition of 2004 and her stories have been published widely in anthologies and small press magazines. Her articles on French culture and tradition have been published in international magazines such as France Magazine, France Today and The Good Life France. Spirit of Lost Angels is the first in her French historical trilogy, The Bone Angel Series. The second—Wolfsangel—was published in October, 2013, and the third, Blood Rose Angel, is published in November, 2015. She is a founding member of the author collective, Triskele Books and reviews books for BookMuse.
I first stumbled on the Bone Angel series two years ago and was immediately hooked. Perrat is very good at transporting her readers back in time and immersing them in the world of her characters, and Blood Rose Angel is no different. From the first lines I was hooked on Heloise, who is feisty and strong-willed and yet struggles with such common human problems, like her torn loyalties between her mother and her husband. She has so much compassion for the people around her and is willing to risk so much to help them, even when it means putting herself in grave danger, both from the plague and from political figures who suspect she’s up to no good.
One thing I never really connected to the Black Plague before reading this book was the way people in that time period viewed the disease as a possible “end of the world” event. Of course now we can look back in time and pinpoint the spread and the things that may have helped it move so far so fast (like the general lack of cleanliness). It made me think about some of the freaky events that we experience today, like natural disasters or terrorist attacks, that cause people to say “it’s the end of days!” I wonder if someday people will read about us in a novel and how we furthered terrible events through our own ignorance.
Since this is chronologically the first book in the series, it does give us a bit more insight into the origins of the angel talisman that Heloise wears. (Just a side note for anyone new to the series—you can read these out of order if you like, they work well as standalone novels.) I really enjoyed reading more about the culture and customs of the era and about Heloise’s medical practice. It’s always interesting to see how scientific processes worked back in a time when superstition was basically the law of the land.
Just one side note, don’t start this book if you have to put it down soon for work or school…it’s too addicting! The story is full of nail-biting drama and surprise twists (no spoilers!) that kept me turning the “pages” on my Kindle long after my bedtime.
I was lucky enough to have the chance to ask Liza about her creative process and what inspired her to write the Bone Angel books. Check out her answers here:
IRBR: For readers who are new to the series, would you mind explaining what inspired you to create the story of The Bone Angel series and the kinswomen who pass through the doors of the Inn of Angels?
LP: The idea for the first in the series, Spirit of Lost Angels came to me on a Sunday walk around the French village in which I live. On the riverbank, I came across a small stone cross (croix à gros ventre, or cross with the big belly) commemorating the drowning of two peasant children in the 18th century. Intrigued, I wanted to know more about them; to give them names, a family, a village. An identity. The children had died in the years leading up to the French Revolution, so that seemed the most obvious setting: the peasants versus the aristocracy—the small scale of my story paralleled with the larger, real-life scale. Once this book was finished, I realized the village of Lucie-sur-Vionne and the farmhouse (L’Auberge des Anges) had more tales to tell, so I wrote two further books, set in different historical eras. For the second in the series, Wolfsangel, a visit to the town of Oradour-sur-Glane, and learning of the tragic WW2 crime that occurred there, inspired me to set that book during the Nazi occupation of the same village, featuring the descendants of the same family. By the time I reached the 3rd novel, I’d become intrigued by the medieval period. So the bubonic plague seemed a logical choice for the setting of Blood Rose Angel. Again, one woman against the village, symbolizing the people’s fight against the greater enemy of the plague.
IRBR: You’ve explored three different historical periods so far—the French Revolution in the eighteenth century in Spirit of Lost Angels, World War Two in Wolfsangel, and now the Black Plague in the fourteenth century in Blood Rose Angel. They’re very well-researched and draw from true events in French history. Do your books require a lot of research before you begin drafting the story, or do you like to start with a basic plot point and then conduct research to fill in the gaps as you go?
LP: As I said in your first question, I chose these dramatic backdrops for the novels’ settings to draw parallels with the everyday person against a greater “enemy”, however the general story idea and the characters always came first. And yes, there was a lot of research involved for each era, which I did before I started the stories, and continued on as I was writing. But I loved the research, and enjoyed learning a lot about each era from it. The research also managed to solve a few sticky plot problems, for example, when Victoire is imprisoned in La Salpêtrière Asylum, I discovered that an infamous woman had been incarcerated there too: Jeanne de Valois of The Diamond Necklace scandal involving Queen Marie Antoinette. That was an exciting find and shaped the rest of my story!
IRBR: The women of Lucie-sur-Vionne live through some of the darkest periods of history, and yet they carry hope and healing to those around them. How do you write about such grim historical events without producing a bleak manuscript?
LP: Ah yes, I have had a few comments about my dark and grim stories, however I try and infuse them with some light and happy moments to create a balance, and to leave the reader with hope for a brighter future, at the end.
IRBR: The women in your stories deal with sexism and superstition. As we move through the different time periods in the books, it seems that even as time passes, people don’t really change; many of the problems that Heloise faces in the fourteenth century plague her kinswomen many years later. These women constantly find their desire to heal conflicting with the religious values around them, their marital obligations at home, and the societal norms of their respective eras. Do you think a modern kinswoman in the line would face similar problems, or would she have an easier time of it?
LP: I wanted to evoke the sense that people—women and men—remain essentially the same, whatever time period they exist in. However, the women of times gone were certainly more bound by society’s rules and norms than we are today, though of course sexism and superstition still exist against women in many societies. And even if the modern, Western woman has gained rights and value, she now “has to pay the price” for her liberation, i.e.: doing the housework, having the babies AND working. So I’m not sure if we’re that much better off in the end. Be careful what you wish for…
IRBR: Do you draw heavily on your own experience as a nurse and midwife while writing your characters? Any anecdotes in particular that made their way into the books? (For readers new to the series, the women at the Inn of Angels all work as healers and/or midwives.)
LP: Certainly I drew from my background as a nurse and midwife when developing the characters and writing scenes. I can’t think of any specific anecdotes, but many of the herbal medicines and treatments used throughout the ages are still employed nowadays. Women still experience pain and fear in labour, and it’s still the midwife’s job to alleviate that.
IRBR: My readers who are also writers will want to know: do you have a writing “routine”? (A certain time of day, favorite place to write, rituals like music or snacks, etc.) What’s your favorite part of the writing process (outlining, research, rewriting, etc.)? Any least favorite parts?
LP: Mornings are my best writing time, though I do have a part-time job, so I have to juggle that too. I’m lucky to have a lovely sunlit attic office with a view over the Monts du Lyonnais countryside. Afternoons are generally spent on admin things like emails and networking. The outline, or first draft, gives me the most trouble, trying to create a feasible storyline. I think of it like constructing a house: laying down the initial ideas/thoughts and building up the bricks, little by little. I generally end up with about 20 drafts before the final version. I really enjoy the final edits, trying to create lyrical prose –– like choosing the furnishings for the new house. As I said, I enjoy the research, and love learning about each time period, though I often get so caught up in the research that I forget about my actual story!
IRBR: Finally, for those who just can’t get enough historical fiction to satisfy them: what are your favorite historical novels that everyone should read?
LP: In fact I don’t really fancy historical novels set around noble families, kings and queens etc, even though I’ve read a lot of them. I love Karen Maitland’s medieval novels, Daphne du Maurier’s books, anything written by Sarah Waters, Kate Grenville, Anne Tyler, Kate Atkinson and Maggie O’Farrell, just to name a few. Not all of those are historical novels though, and I’d say I probably prefer reading literary fiction actually, over historical fiction.
And now for a fun giveaway! Eight lucky readers will win a print or digital copy of Blood Rose Angel. Even better, the giveaway is open internationally! Be sure to follow each participant on Twitter/Facebook for more chances to win!