Friday, November 7, 2014

HFVBT: Mary F. Burns' The Spoils of Avalon - Spotlight and {Giveaway}

Publication Date: November 1, 2014
Sand Hill Review Press
Paperback; 300p
ISBN: 978-1937818289
Series: A John Singer Sargent/Violet Paget Mystery (Book One)
Genre: Historical Fiction/Historical Mystery

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The death of a humble clergyman in 1877 leads amateur sleuths Violet Paget and John Singer Sargent into a medieval world of saints and kings—including the legendary Arthur—as they follow a trail of relics and antiquities lost since the destruction of Glastonbury Abbey in 1539. Written in alternating chapters between the two time periods, The Spoils of Avalon creates a sparkling, magical mystery that bridges the gap between two worlds that could hardly be more different—the industrialized, Darwinian, materialistic Victorian Age and the agricultural, faith-infused life of a medieval abbey on the brink of violent change at the hands of Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell.

First in a new series of historical mysteries, The Spoils of Avalon introduces two unlikely detectives and life-long friends—beginning as young people on the verge of making their names famous for the next several decades throughout Europe and America: the brilliant and brittle Violet Paget, known as the writer Vernon Lee, and the talented, genial portrait painter John Singer Sargent.

Friends from the age of ten, Paget and Sargent frequently met in the popular European watering places and capitals, frequenting the same salons and drawing rooms in London, Rome, Paris, Florence, Venice, Vienna and Madrid. Both were possessed of keen minds and bohemian tendencies, unorthodox educations and outsized egos (especially Paget). Their instant, natural bonding led them to address each other as “Twin”, and they corresponded frequently when they were apart.

Henry James once described Violet Paget as having “the most formidable mind” of their times, and he was an active fan and patron of John Sargent, introducing him to London society and his own inner circles of literary and artistic genius.

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Praise for The Spoils of Avalon
“An artist, a writer, a murder, a mysterious tome, a dissolving time, a crime, Arthurian legends, ancient saints books and bones. Burns’ prose drives and is sublime, with characters and settings that live on in your mind. This is an original historical mystery connecting the Age of Industry with the Age of Miracles.” – Stephanie Renée dos Santos, forthcoming novel: Cut From The Earth

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About the Author
Mary F. Burns is the author of PORTRAITS OF AN ARTIST (Sand Hill Review Press, February 2013), a member of and book reviewer for the Historical Novel Society and a former member of the HNS Conference board of directors. A novella-length book, ISAAC AND ISHMAEL, is also being published by Sand Hill Review Press in 2014. Ms. Burns’ debut historical novel J-THE WOMAN WHO WROTE THE BIBLE was published in July 2010 by O-Books (John Hunt Publishers, UK). She has also written two cozy-village mysteries in a series titled The West Portal Mysteries (The Lucky Dog Lottery and The Tarot Card Murders).

Ms. Burns was born in Chicago, Illinois and attended Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, where she earned both Bachelors and Masters degrees in English, along with a high school teaching certificate. She relocated to San Francisco in 1976 where she now lives with her husband Stuart in the West Portal neighborhood. Ms. Burns has a law degree from Golden Gate University, has been president of her neighborhood association and is active in citywide issues. During most of her working career she was employed as a director of employee communications, public relations and issues management at various San Francisco Bay Area corporations, was an editor and manager of the Books on Tape department for Ignatius Press, and has managed her own communications/PR consulting business, producing written communications, websites and video productions for numerous corporate and non-profit clients.

Ms. Burns may be contacted by email at For more information please visit Mary Burns’s website. You can also connect with Mary on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads, or read her blog posts at:

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Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @jwriter9

Watch for my review...coming this weekend!

Follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter form below to enter for a chance to win one copy of The Spoils of Avalon (eBook or Print, Winner's choice), open to US, UK, Canada, and Australia residents.

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Thank you for visiting and taking the time to comment. It means so much.

I apologize for word verification, but as soon as I changed the settings from only users with Google accounts, I started receiving a ton of spam comments...within one hour of changing the settings. The bots are on high alert apparently.

  1. Raffle copter does not seem to work for me. I think Henry changed the rules for purely selfish reasons.

  2. Hi Mystica, I double checked that it's working and it is. You might want to clear your cookies/cache and/or try a different browser. Sorry it's not working for you.

  3. I don't really have in depth knowledge about Henry VIII. but he seems to have been a complex man and his actions must have come from a variety of motivations. Did he have an inclination toward change or did he have a realization that change was unavoidable?

  4. Henry Vlll changed religion because he wanted a divorce and to marry Anne Boleyn so he started the Church of England. His religion became Protestant.

  5. I think that Henry changed the religion of England for many reasons. He wanted a divorce from Katherine of Aragaon so he could marry Anne. I also think he believed in the divine right of kings and did not like the fact that the pope had power over him. He also greatly benefitted monetarily through the dissolution of the abbeys and convents.

  6. I've never researched him but most things I've read or seen underscore selfish reasons.

  7. I think it was for selfish reasons, since he wanted a divorce. I don't think he would have changed it if he gotten the divorce when he wanted it.

  8. Great question, I'm going with purely selfish. He wanted what he wanted & the change made it possible.

  9. This sure sounds like a GREAT read!! What a combination of elements
    -- a writer, an artist, sleuthing, and two widely divergent historical periods....AWESOME!!

    Now, to answer your question: Henry VIII was undoubtedly the worst
    misogynist that ever lived. His reason for asking the Pope for permission to
    divorce Catherine of Aragon was a purely selfish one -- she could not produce the "all-important" male heir. When the Pope refused to grant this
    permission, Henry then decided to set up his own church, with himself as the

    The irony of this situation is that, according to some scholars, Henry very
    possibly had syphilis, and then infected Catherine, as he most likely infected
    the rest of his wives. Syphilis can cause premature births, stillbirths, and
    miscarriages, when an infected woman becomes pregnant.

    Besides, Henry was already having an affair with Anne Boleyn, and also
    wished to get rid of Catherine for that reason. So his defiant action of
    breaking with the Catholic Church were purely selfish. I HATE this guy!!

    Here's another irony: the Church of England, otherwise known as the Anglican Church, or the Episcopalian Church (U.S.), has been ordaining women priests for several years now. Take THAT, Henry, you male chauvinist

    Thanks so much for the giveaway!!! : )

  10. P.S. Check out this blog post I found. It deals with the possibility (I would say "probability" instead) of Henry having syphilis.

  11. I think Henry liked to be the boss and this was one area he couldn't control; until he did.

  12. Maybe a little of both; certainly self-interest was at the heart of every decision.

  13. Maybe some of both but mostly selfish reasons...

  14. My guess is that Henry Tudor saw a way to get what he wanted that he felt could be in England's long-term interest. I think keeping it local made sense to him as a way to preseve his own power over his kingdom, to maintain England's independence, and most of all to keep church matters handled by people within the country so as to enable some reforms to church practice In England and especially to better root out corruption and abuses of church power locally. For both Henry's personal purposes and to give his people a more accountable church better able to work with the state and serve the needs of the English people.

    Thanks for the interesting question and this delightful opportunity to win this exciting new book! Cheers, Kara S

  15. I believe Henry VIII did it to suit his needs at the time. He needed to call the shots in order to obtain his goals.

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