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Tuesday 31 December 2019

Discovering Diamonds Historical Fiction Review Blog Awards 2019

Annual Awards
 (no prizes, just the praise!) 

The winner is chosen from 
the books that were selected 
on Discovering Diamonds
as Book of the Month
and are a personal choice by me, Helen Hollick, 
as founder of the site.

For my own enjoyment I want a book to be entertaining, not necessarily amusing - a novel that can make you think or even cry is a novel worth reading. I look forward to meeting new (and old!) fictional friends and becoming engrossed in their worlds which are sandwiched between the covers of books, (or in my case, on my Kindle.) What I want is a good story with believable characters enacting believable situations, even if these are fantasy, alternative or set in the distant past. My choices for Book of the Month are the novels that I enjoyed for the story/adventure and for the 'what happens next'? For Book of the Year I have chosen the one that left me thinking about the characters and the situations they had been in - and those thoughts stayed with me for a long while...

Book of the Year 2019
My choice for 2019 is a novel set in post WWI. It was not an action, fast-paced story. There was no breath-taking adventure, no high-speed drama. There were no murders, no derring-do or desperate romance. In fact, it was a gentle stroll through a couple of months one summer, narrating the day-to-day of the main characters as they went about their lives together. Each character had their own background and story, each with new friendships that blossomed and flourished. Each with their own secrets, their own fears and hopes.

A simple story with believable, likeable characters doing ordinary everyday things - and yet the story was not slow or boring. More than any other novel that I've read that deals with WWI, this one brought home the tragic consequences of war for the ordinary men and women, be they soldier or civilian. Eavesdropping on the characters as they went through the summer of 1920, the detail of the every day, the dreadfulness of the trenches and the aftermath of WWI was portrayed so well that the characters came alive. It was quite a shock, at the end, to discover that the author had made them up, and that he had not, personally, been there - a tribute to the research he undertook.

This novel really brought home the tragic deaths and awful injuries suffered by so many young men. Of the trauma that stayed with those who survived, of their wondering why they had survived and even regret that they had. How the grief of a son or husband who would never come home broke the hearts of so many. As a second layer, it told of the pioneering work of surgeons who helped put severely damaged men back together again in the years before we had plastic surgery and state-of-the-art prosthetics. The 'Tin-Nose' surgeons.

And then there was a third, factual, layer to this novel. While the characters went about their daily routines and struggled with their individual troubles, the real story of how the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior came to be placed in Westminster Abbey  was revealed.

I cried at the end. An evocative book, beautifully written.

My choice for Book of the Year 2019 is:

read our review
The Great War is over but Britain is still to find peace and its spirit is not yet mended. Edward and William have returned from the front as  changed men. Together they have survived grotesque horrors and remain haunted by memories of comrades who did not come home. The summer season in Margate is a chance for them to rebuild their lives and reconcile the past. Evelyn and Catherine are young women ready to  live life to the full. Their independence has been hard won and, with little knowledge of the cost of their freedom, they are ready to face new challenges side by side. Can they define their own future and open their hearts to the prospect of finding love? Will the summer of 1920 be a turning point for these new friends and the country? 

* * *

Cover Design of the year 2019

cover design by Katie Anderson
Read Our Review

Honourable Mention Cover of the year for 2019:

Designer Unknown
Read Our Review

* * * 
Cover Designs Reviewed in 2019
 but were designed by  the judges, 
 were excluded from judging
so deserve a mention instead

Designed by Tamian Wood
Read Our Review
Designed by Cathy Helms
Read Our Review
Designed by Cathy Helms
Read Our Review
Designed by Cathy Helms
Read Our Review
Designed by Cathy Helms
Read Our Review
Designed by Cathy Helms
Read Our Review
Designed by Cathy Helms
Read Our Review
Designed by Cathy Helms
Read Our Review

Beyond Design International

Avalon Graphics
click HERE for previous winners


Wednesday 25 December 2019

Tuesday 17 December 2019

Only Gossip Prospers: A Novel of Louisa May Alcott in New York by Lorraine Tosiello

My Guest This Week Lorraine Tosiello

How the Only Gossip Prospers: A Novel of Louisa May Alcott in New York Came to Be

Four years ago, I visited Emily Dickinson’s home and Louisa May Alcott’s home on sequential days. I was struck with a feeling, a hunch, a wild idea that the two women might know each other. I came home and read everything I could about the two of them. They have multiple common friends, MULTIPLE, from Louisa’s hero Thomas Wentworth Higginson (who was Emily’s first editor) to Emily’s Norcross cousins, who lived in Concord and attended Bronson Alcott’s School of Philosophy, and believe me many many more. But of course, no clear documented connection existed between these two women who seem from absolute different universes yet lived exactly contemporaneously in Massachusetts.

Emily Dickinson
Three months later, I reconnected with a high school friend (we are in our early 60’s!) and asked her impetuously: “Who is your favorite poet?” “Emily Dickinson”, was the reply of course. And Louisa May Alcott reigned for me as the guiding light of my life, morally, socially, personally. Emily and Louisa.

Louisa May Alcott
Thus, a book began, in completely episulatory style, letters between the “secret pen pals” Emily and Louisa. I write the Louisa letters and Jane writes the Emily letters. We are about two-thirds finished and the work is luminous. However, my Emily, being Emily, is much more thoughtful and reticent to write, so Louisa is waiting for some letters owed…..and it was suggested that rather than twiddle my thumbs waiting for Emily to catch up,  that I write a novel about Louisa May Alcott.

A novel requires a plot and a lot of words….hmmm….and the entire plot came to me almost in a dream (I woke one day and set the  chapter titles down, with the events and characters.) But, of course that moment occurred only after I walked the streets where Louisa had visited friends, where the Bath Hotel once stood, found Mrs. Croly’s home address, etc. I spent weeks in the New York Public library reading newspapers of 1875. One personal ad is word for word and letter for letter the one that catches Louisa’s eye about the piano player. yes, it did have the initals L.W. and that he was from Poland. Yes, that is how I figured out to have Laddie in New York with Louisa.

Bird's eye panoramic view print of Manhattan in 1873, looking north.
The Hudson River is on the west to the left.
The Brooklyn Bridge (to the right) across the East River
was under construction from 1870 until 1883.
Image: Wikipedia
Other findings are historical, and perhaps some of the first connections ever made to Louisa May Alcott  in New York. The one that places Matilda Heron, G.W. Bishop and Louisa at the same table at the Bath Hotel has never been stated in any Alcott scholarship that I have read (and I think I have read it all.), and I found it by a Google search in an obscure theatrical journal. Louisa herself wrote in her essay “My Girls” about F (my inspiration for Rebecca) “I think Bijou Heron will never play a sweeter part than that, nor have a more enthusiastic admirer than F was when we went together to see the child actress play “The Little Treasurer” for charity.” Father Isaac Hecker was indeed in New York the same winter that Louisa was. Did they ever reconnect after the Fruitlands disaster 30 years before? Why wouldn’t they? So, it is in the story.

But, the most interesting thing to me, was when I started out the work, it appeared to a modern eye that Louisa had wasted her time with a lot of “unknowns and no-names.” Because the names of Gibbons, Croly, Booth and  Botta are unknown to us today. But in reading about the women, I was blown away by their literary, social and intellectual impact on New York of their day. Yet, they are lost to our collective interest today.

I am certain that Louisa could have gone about writing a similar story on her own. She would take a topic (Victorian women’s impossible standard of conduct, imposed on them by the men of the time; women’s author’s rights; the untenable position of women in marriage---all things Louisa would write about) describe real family and personal situations, spin it as a fiction and have her iconic style.

My book is a love letter to New York of 1875, a celebration of forgotten herstory and a wild fiction based on fact about three months in Louisa May Alcott’s life.

Lousia's signature


As everyone knows, having a manuscript does not always translate into having a published book. Enter Pink Umbrella Books, who in 2018, the 150th anniversary of the publication of Little Women, sent out a call for essays to be including in an anthology of writings about Little Women. My essay “Piccole Donne” was included in Alcott’s Imaginary Heroes: The Little Women Legacy. And I met the editors and the publisher on a glorious day to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Little Women at Alcott’s Orchard House. It was a day of book signing and music, readings and cake, all celebrated on the autumnal lawn of the famed home of the authoress of Little Women.

These lovely women agreed to publish my novel. Their commitment and their energy, knowledge and fearless (ie. brutal) editing ideas made the book a delight to read. I wish, truly that Louisa May Alcott could have experienced the warmth and support of an all female publishing firm.

Only Gossip Prospers: A Novel of Louisa May Alcott in New York        
Lorraine Tosiello

About the Book:

In late 1875 Louisa May Alcott spent a winter in New York City. Her journals give a rough sketch of the people she met, the salons she attended and a few outings that she enjoyed. She intended to stay “until I am tired of it,” but left abruptly in mid-January.

Filled with biographical references to Louisa’s family, New Yorkers of the time and Alcott’s literary works, Only Gossip Prospers intertwines the real people Louisa met, the actual events of New York City and a host of fictional characters who inhabit a world that Louisa herself would recognize.  Written in a style reminiscent of Alcott’s juvenile fiction and short adventure stories, the book is part historical fiction, part love letter to the charm of 1870s New York and part biography of Louisa and her contemporaries.  Only Gossip Prospers enters the debate that still hovers over Little Women as to what was “real” and what was “made up.” There are some twists and surprises, including one that will satisfy the greatest question left unanswered for fans of Little Women: what really happened between Jo and Laurie?

Only Gossip Prospers mashes together fact and fiction to draw a realistic portrait of Louisa May Alcott at the height of her fame.

About the author:

 Lorraine Tosiello read Alcott’s Little Women in the first grade—and re-read it again and again throughout most of her childhood.  The book equipped her to set off on a journey of motherhood, traveling, rabble-rousing and work as a physician devoted to medical education and primary care medicine. Rereading Little Women in later adulthood rekindled her Alcott enthusiasm, and years of happy study resulted in her first novel, Only Gossip Prospers. She lives with her husband in midtown Manhattan and at the New Jersey shore.

join Lorraine on Facebook

Buy the Book:


December 12: The Singing Librarian
December 15: In the Bookcase
December 16: Older and Smarter
December 18: The Fairy Chamber
December 19: The Reader’s Salon

Tuesday 10 December 2019

Tuesday Talk: Read the Story... Guess the Song

A Discovered Diamond
Awarded for all 5 star reviews

As most of my regular readers and followers know, I founded and run (supported by a fantastic team of reviewers and admin helpers) an historical fiction review blog - Discovering Diamonds. We 'opened for business' in January 2017 and have been going from strength to strength ever since. We recently had our 1,000th submission enquiry and have had over 334,000 page views, and are (at time of writing this) 14th on the Top 35 Historical Book Blogs & Websites To Follow  listing
Awarded for all 4 star reviews

We are quite picky about the books that get a review published - they must reach a certain 'value for money' standard, not only for the writing but for the presentation as well. No one wants to pay good money for a novel that is poorly formatted, let alone poorly written. We only review historical novels with at least 75% of the story set prior to 1953 (that's because I was born that year, and I refuse to think of myself as 'historical'!)

But during December we take a break from posting reviews every day and treat our regular (and many new!) visitors to a special entertainment.

Read the first story HERE

We have a variety of authors - some well-known, others not as familiar - contributing a short story that was inspired by a song. These stories are not necessarily historical-based (although some are) some are amusing, some thoughtful. Some are romances, some are not... in short (excuse the mild pun) anything goes! 

And apart from enjoying a superb variety of stories, written by a variety of authors, there is a second 'entertainment' - as you are reading, can you guess the song? I give a picture clue at the start of the story - although most are not easy clues!

For instance, can you guess the song that goes with this image? (Don't cheat by scrolling down to reveal the answer!)
Kids, Kids Reading, Children, Read, Storybook
Here's a clue to the song!
I would like to thank all our authors for taking part with such enthusiasm and talent, and also take this opportunity to thank our reviewers, the followers on Facebook and Twitter who share and retweet our reviews, and thank all the who visit Discovering Diamonds, whether as readers, authors, publishers or just out of interest...
Hand, Write, Pen, Paper, Thank You, Letters

We offer more than just posting a review, however: we have Cover of the Month and Book of the Month and then Cover and Book of the year. For every book we review I leave a brief comment on Amazon UK, Amazon US and Goodreads, and have links to these two Amazon platforms plus Amazon Canada to make it easy for potential readers to buy the book reviewed. From January 2020 we will be adding links to Amazon Australia and Goodreads.

Storytelling, Story, Telling, Tale, Storyteller

Our logos (and the review itself) do not carry copyright so that authors are welcome to use either as, where and when they like (although we do appreciate accreditation of 'Reviewed by Discovering Diamonds').

Our aim is to promote quality Historical Fiction and good authors - especially Indie writers who, unlike mainstream authors, find marketing their books a challenge.

And, to have a bit of fun of course!

If you would like to submit a book for potential review email me (Helen) on Or if you would like to help us support good authors we always welcome new reviewers!

So... did you guess the song?

Telling Stories by Tracy Chapman
(official video)

Note: there is strict copyright regarding lyrics - but no copyright for ideas

The Full List of Authors Taking Part
(Start Here - then follow to 'Next Story>')

2nd   M.J. Logue   First Love  

3rd   Richard Tearle Chips and Ice Cream
Richard is our senior reviewer
He is writing his first novel

4th    Helen Hollick Promises, Promises

5th    Paul Marriner Memories

6th    Pam Webber One Door Closing

7th    Louise Adam Hurt Me Once
(Louise is the pen name of one of our reviewers
for personal reasons she wishes to remain anonymous)

8th    Barbara Gaskell Denvil Sticks and Stones

9th    Judith Arnopp Secrets

10th  Erica LainĂ©  Silk Stockings

11th   Anna Belfrage Hold Me, Love Me, Leave Me? 

12th  Annie Whitehead Frozen

13th  Tony Riches Alas, My Love

14th  Clare FlynnZipless
15th  J.G. Harlond The Last Assignment

16th  Elizabeth St John Under The Clock

17th  Alison Morton Honoria’s Battle

18th  Jean Gill The Hunter

19th  Patricia Bracewell Daddy's Gift

20th Debbie Young It Doesn't Feel Like Christmas

21st   Ruth Downie  Doing It Properly

22nd Nicky Galliers What God Has Joined
Nicky is not yet published
(but she's working on it...)

23rd  Elizabeth Chadwick The Cloak

26th  Helen Hollick Ever After
27th   Barbara Gaskell Denvil Just The One... Or Maybe Two

28th   Deborah Swift Just Another Day

29th   Amy Maroney What The Plague Brings
30th   Cryssa Bazos River Mud


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