Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Blog Tour: Review of Illuminations of the Heart and Interview with Joyce DiPastena

Title: Illuminations of the Heart
Author: Joyce DiPastena
Blog: JDP News
Series: Connected to Loyalty's Web
Genre: Fiction/Romance/Historical
Publisher: Walnut Springs Press (click for blog)
ISBN: 978-1935217268
Format: Trade Paperback, 425 pages
List Price: 17.95US
Reviewed: August 31, 2009
Rating: 5 pearls (4.7)
Warnings: None

Synopsis: Triston de Brielle finds himself the unlikely guardian of Lady Siriol Calendri, a young widow whose resemblance to his late wife is uncanny. Battling his feelings for his dead wife and his new feelings for his beautiful ward, Triston must also contend with his enemy's treasonous plotting.

My two cents: Illuminations of the Heart is an exciting tale of love and political intrigue. Ms DiPastena paints a vivid picture of the time. Her attention to detail in regard to Medieval garb, food, and politics is enough to give an accurate view of the time without being "textbook-y" or overly descriptive. She touches on several practices and beliefs of the time that are horrifying but refrains from getting too in-depth, thereby retaining the power that love possesses in all time periods. While this book is commonly described as "sweet"--and it is indeed sweet in regard to love scenes--I think there is enough reality present to keep one from thinking the time period was all fluffy romance and fantasy.

The characters, I felt, were believable, likable, and well-developed. We got a sense of Triston's feelings of guilt, his regret and his frustration. Siri's personality was strong without being the overbearing female so many authors seem to think a strong woman should be. She knew what she wanted almost from the start and when faced with opposition, she did what most people do: she made rash decisions. I found her to be quite realistically portrayed.

The story takes us from Siri's arrival at Triston's home, to his enemy's home, and to the palace of Duke Richard, a future King of England. There were no parts that felt choppy or out of sync. The story flowed along what felt like a natural path leading up to the HEA for Triston and Siri. Not to say there are no twists or surprises. But that is something you will have to find out for yourself.

Overall, I think this book was entertaining, well-researched, and a definite keeper. I am particularly pleased that the love scenes are not detailed and the main characters do not hop into bed together at the first opportunity. In fact, if you are looking for a book with sex, this is not the book for you. Everyone who enjoys the romance for the romance, give Joyce's books a chance. She does not disappoint.

Normally, that is where I end a book review. Today, however, I have a special treat. Joyce has graciously agreed to answer a few questions, giving us a glimpse into the wonderful workings of her creative mind.

Hi, Joyce. Thank you for joining us here at Romance, Old School.

Thank you so much for participating in my blog tour, Jaimey! I'm a little nervous about being interviewed, though.

There's nothing to be nervous about. They are very painless questions, I promise. You are probably asked this a lot, but have you always wanted to write?

I never thought seriously about writing until I was in junior high school. That's when I started picking up my pencil and doodling out stories that had nothing to do with school assignments. I can't really point to anything that triggered me to start writing. I just did. To this day, I couldn't tell you why.

It surprises me how many authors just sort of "stumbled" into writing. Next question: I know you owe your interest in the Medieval time period to a certain book you read in high school. Can you give us a brief description of that book and why it touched you in such a way?

That book was The Conquering Family, by Thomas B. Costain. Actually, Costain had written a series of four books covering the reigns of the Plantagenet kings of England. I read the second book first, The Three Edwards, which dealt with the reigns of Kings Edward I, Edward II, and Edward III (father, son, and grandson kings). The Plantagenet line of kings pretty much stretched throughout most of the Middle Ages in England, so reading The Three Edwards was my first serious foray into the medieval period. Edward I quite captured my fancy at the time, and I initially thought he would be "my favorite king". But then I read the first book in the series, The Conquering Family, which covered the reigns of Henry II (founder of the Plantagenet dynasty) and his sons, Richard I (the Lionheart) and John. Henry II just blew Edward I out of the water for me. Quite simply, I fell in love with him. Not “romantic” love. There was nothing particularly handsome or dashing about him. (Perhaps quite the opposite.) Yet there was just something about the way his contemporaries described him that stirred a great affection in me for him. He seemed to be one of those rare kings who was actually more interested in trying to improve his country than in simply enjoying the “glory” or “privileges” of his rank. He is described as a man who hated war, even though circumstances forced him to spend most of his adult life at war. He was a man of tremendous energy and intellect, passion and humor. And he laid important foundations to the legal system that we have inherited from England and enjoy ourselves today.

His legacy was marred by his quarrel with Archbishop Thomas á Becket, and the son who succeeded him, Richard the Lionheart, is a more flashy character of legend. But everything I’ve read about Henry II since those high school days has only increased my love and admiration for this man. Loyalty’s Web and Illuminations of the Heart are both set during his lifetime, and although he has not yet actually appeared on the scene in any of my books, the references I make to him, small though they might be, are my own way of paying tribute to this great, underappreciated king.

Fascinating, Joyce. I can see why you have chosen Henry II as your favorite king. What are three of your favorite research materials?

For the political background of my stories, I have relied heavily on the biography, Henry II, by W.L. Warren. Life In a Medieval Castle, by Joseph and Frances Gies, is an excellent source of basic information on life among the medieval nobility. One of my favorite books for descriptions of medieval clothing is 900 Years of English Costume, by Nancy Bradfield.

Excellent! I have the first two books already. I'll have to get my hands on a copy of 900 Years of English Costume. What was the inspiration behind Illuminations of the Heart?

Basically, I fell in love with the character of Triston while I was writing Loyalty's Web, and wanted to give him a "happily ever after" story of his own. :-)

I can totally understand that. On another topic, one of the main focuses of Illuminations of the Heart is illuminated manuscripts (clever name for the book, by the way). Can you tell us, briefly, what that is?

Put simply, "illumination" was the art of decorating books in the Middle Ages with miniatures or ornamental designs painted in brilliant colors or silver or gold leaf to "illuminate" or bring light to the pages. If you'd like to see an example of a page from a medieval illuminated manuscript, you can click on this link:

http://colophon.com/gallery/minsky/jpegs/chemise.jpg

Gorgeous! Makes me wish I was more of an artist. Is there one research book that you would recommend above all others that talks about illuminated manuscripts?

I actually used a combination of four research books to pull together my descriptions of illumination in Illuminations of the Heart. They were: The Book of Hours, by John Harthan; The Illuminated Manuscript, by Janet Backhouse, not to be confused with Illuminated Manuscripts, by D.M. Gill, which I also used in my research; and The Medieval Book, by Barbara A. Shailor. (By the way, you can read more about each of these books and how I used them on my Medieval Research with Joyce blog at http://medievalresearch.blogspot.com.) :-)

I highly recommend that everyone follow Joyce's research blog. It is an excellent resource.

Joyce, I know you were having some trouble recently with your current WIP (work-in-progress). Have you worked all that out enough so you can tell us a little bit about it? And is it tied in with your two current novels?

Well, I don't want to give too much away, as the hero of my new WIP is a character from Illuminations of the Heart, and for those who haven't read Illuminations yet, I don't want to spoil the fun of guessing what this character's motivations might or might not be in that story. :-) My new hero (the character from Illuminations) has never been the problem in my WIP. Just as I had a pretty good grasp of Triston from Loyalty's Web before I spun him off into his own story, I have a good grasp of my new hero from his role in Illuminations of the Heart and pretty much know where I want to take him in many respects. My challenge has been finding the right heroine for him. Siri came so easily when I began Illuminations of the Heart, but pinning down the heroine for my new WIP has indeed been giving me fits. I'm pretty sure I finally know who she is and what she wants and how and why she and my hero are going to fall in love. (Maybe. My characters have a way of surprising me with their own ideas once I actually let them loose on the page.) But I think I'm over that little bump in the road. Is my WIP tied in with my two current novels? It's tied into Illuminations by virtue of the hero having appeared first in that volume, but I'm not anticipating using any other characters from that book in this particular story. Heléne and Gunthar from Loyalty's Web will be making reappearances, though.

I know who your new hero is and I can hardly wait for his story! I'm already half in love with him. :o)

Thank you so much for joining us today, Joyce. It was a lot of fun picking your brain.

How would you like the chance to win your own copy of Illuminations of the Heart? You can, you know. All you have to do is a leave a comment on this post and you are entered to win. And three $10 gift certificates are also being given away, to go towards the purchase of Illuminations of the Heart, redeemable at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Deseret Book. If you want to be entered more than once, leave a comment on the other blogs in the tour who have posted a review of Illuminations of the Heart.

*To skip the contest and purchase the novel now, click one of these links for the store of your choice: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Deseret Book

4 comments:

Elizabeth Morgan said...

I love how this is a clean romance book. so many book these days are heading in the wrong path.

Joyce DiPastena said...

Thanks for all those pretty pearls, Jaimey! I'm so glad you enjoyed Illuminations. :-) Thanks for the fun, painless interview, too!

Miss Mae said...

Congrats on the five pearls, Joyce! All I've seen about this book is incredible high-five's, so I really, really have got to read this. And the excerpt I've read in a few places....hmm, tantalizing!

Rachel Rager said...

Great review! And I loved this book!It's always fun picking Joyce's head and you did it beautifully! Great job, both of you!

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