COVER REVEAL for The Rose Code by Kate Quinn

Today, I’m delighted to share the cover for The Rose Code, Kate Quinn’s newest novel – release date March 9, 2021. It has a wonderful colour scheme, an intriguing female figure – don’t you love the red dress and pearls? – and a back drop that suggests the computers used for WWII code breaking.

Kate’s novels are well known for larger-than-life characters, page-turning tension, and superb writing. Her ability to transport readers in time and place has earned her high praise from readers and reviewers. This new novel follows Kate’s highly successful novels, The Alice Network and The Huntress, and I can’t wait to read it.

The New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Huntress and The Alice Network returns with another heart-stopping World War II story of three female code breakers at Bletchley Park and the spy they must root out after the war is over.

The Rose Code by Kate Quinn ~~

1940. As England prepares to fight the Nazis, three very different women answer the call to mysterious country estate Bletchley Park, where the best minds in Britain train to break German military codes. Vivacious debutante Osla is the girl who has everything—beauty, wealth, and the dashing Prince Philip of Greece sending her roses—but she burns to prove herself as more than a society girl, and puts her fluent German to use as a translator of decoded enemy secrets. Imperious self-made Mab, product of east-end London poverty, works the legendary codebreaking machines as she conceals old wounds and looks for a socially advantageous husband. Both Osla and Mab are quick to see the potential in local village spinster Beth, whose shyness conceals a brilliant facility with puzzles, and soon Beth spreads her wings as one of the Park’s few female cryptanalysts. But war, loss, and the impossible pressure of secrecy will tear the three apart.

1947. As the royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip whips post-war Britain into a fever, three friends-turned-enemies are reunited by a mysterious encrypted letter–the key to which lies buried in the long-ago betrayal that destroyed their friendship and left one of them confined to an asylum. A mysterious traitor has emerged from the shadows of their Bletchley Park past, and now Osla, Mab, and Beth must resurrect their old alliance and crack one last code together. But each petal they remove from the rose code brings danger–and their true enemy–closer…

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Earlier in the year, Kate Quinn was on the blog reflecting on her writing career. She had this to say on what she loves about writing historical fiction:

It’s a way to examine universal human issues through a lens of the past–and a way to make people realize that humanity has not changed, even if it dresses in different clothes and uses different language than we do in the modern era!



M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website

The Splendor Before the Dark by Margaret George

Margaret George is a superb writer of historical fiction. Her novels are deep character studies, and she has tackled people from Elizabeth I to Mary of Magdalene. I had the pleasure of an early copy of her second and concluding novel about Emperor Nero.

Margaret introduces Nero and the novel:

The Splendor Before the Dark closes the life story of Nero, one of the most remarkable emperors Rome ever saw.  The era was indeed one of splendor, as well as passions, conspiracies, and outsized characters, none more so than the emperor Nero himself.   He was a complicated person, though, with many contradictory traits, and strangely modern in that he put self-fulfillment as his highest value.  In that way, I think readers of today will find him fascinating, and familiar.

My Review: Following The Confessions of Young Nero, Margaret George concludes her tale of Emperor Nero with an insightful and passionate novel of the final four years of Nero’s life. On every dimension – superb writing, feeling immersed in time and place, characters both heroic and human, authenticity, and compelling plot – The Splendor Before the Dark is a winner.

Politics and power. Throughout the novel, these two are tangled in an intricate dance where one false step can lead to tragic consequences. Despite the warnings of those who know him best, Nero is unaware of, or willfully blind to, the false steps he takes. The people of Rome are fickle. Although Nero understands that “The crowd. They can turn to beasts in an instant,” he remains convinced of his people’s love far beyond the time when popular opinion begins to shift. And with his far-flung empire at relative peace, Nero fails to appreciate the fissures that threaten his leadership and Rome’s stature: religious unrest; rebellious territories; ambitious commanders; betrayals; and resentment of the costly and extravagant rebuilding of Rome.

Underlying all this complexity—and making crucial decisions more difficult—are Nero’s conflicting personas: the dutiful emperor, the idealistic artist, and the man who allows his dark side to take over. As the novel gathers momentum and urgency, I found myself wanting to whisper in Nero’s ear, to warn him before he stumbled into further danger; before it was too late.

Margaret George tells the story through three voices: the voice of Nero; that of Acte, a woman he has always loved; and that of Locusta, a woman who specializes in herbal medicine and poisons. Through Acte we see the young Nero and his idealist and artistic side, while through Locusta we see Nero’s dark side. The author’s research and interpretation of Nero has such depth that as the novel progressed, I felt I understood Nero on an intimate level.

Here’s Locusta reflecting on Nero:

“If, all those years ago when the prospect of being emperor was a poison mushroom away, did he have any comprehension of what was waiting on the other side? … Now he had entered fully into another kind of bondage, with no deliverance as long as he lived. Emperors did not retire into private life, like philosophers. There was only one retirement for an emperor—the grave. And if he is lucky, a natural descent into it at an advanced age.”

Near the end of the novel, Nero broods on what has happened:

“There is none so blind as he who will not see.”

The Splendor Before the Dark is historical fiction at its most powerful. Highly recommended.


M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website

#HNS2017 – Weaving the Twin-Stranded Storyline

Susanna Kearsley shared insights on what she called twin-stranded – or dual timeline – stories at #HNS2017 in Portland, Oregon. I remember reading Kearsley’s novel, The Winter Sea, a number of years ago and being enchanted by the story of an author writing about her long ago ancestors and suddenly finding herself transported back into the very time and setting of her novel. Having written my own dual-timeline story – Time and Regret – this was definitely a session I wanted to attend.

Kearsley feels this type of story is an “easier entry point for readers into historical fiction” because of the way it uses the present day to explain some of the history. Another feature of these novels is the ability to use foreshadowing to create suspense for the storyline set in the past. An author can also cut from one thread to another at a suspenseful moment – thus extending the suspense until returning to the earlier thread.

Kearsley used the image of a river and a boat to describe how she works her twin-stranded stories. The past is usually the river having more power, suspense and action while the present-day story is the boat bobbing along the river. Keeping readers oriented in both stories and avoiding confusion is critical.

When developing her novels, Susanna mirrors one story with the other in terms of themes although her characters often make different choices when faced with similar circumstances which allows her – and her readers – to explore these themes more deeply.

Helpfully, Susanna provided us with a handout. One section called Making the Switch: Techniques is a description of seven ways to switch from one storyline to the other.

  1. Start a New Chapter or Section
  2. Use a Line Break with a Clear Lead-in
  3. Change from 1st to 2nd and/or 3rd Person
  4. Change the Narrator
  5. Protagonist Tells Us Where We Are
  6. Author Tells Us Where We Are – usually with a date line
  7. Change the Font

The second section of the handout offered novels and films illustrating six types of twin-stranded stories.

MEMORY – The Shell Seekers by Rosamund Pilcher, Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, the film Titanic

STORYTELLING – A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute, Every Secret Thing by Susanna Kearsley, the film Definitely, Maybe

CONSCIOUS ACTION – like time travel – The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier, Bid Time Return by Richard Matheson, the film The Two Worlds of Jennie Logan

UNCONCIOUS MEMORY – time slip or ancestral memory – The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley, Before I Wake by Robert Wiersema, the film Sliding Doors

ONLY THE READER KNOWS – often suspense fiction – Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett, Touch Not the Cat by Mary Stewart, the film Day of the Jackal

RESEARCH/LETTERS – a very common approach – Possession by A.S.Byatt, The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig, the film The Words

The audience paid close attention throughout the session – with more than fifty in attendance I suspect we’ll soon be seeing more twin-stranded stories! At the airport on Sunday, I discovered Susanna Kearsley waiting for the same flight back to Toronto and we had a lovely time talking about writing and historical fiction.

For further thoughts on twin-stranded or dual-timeline stories, have a look at The Mapmaker’s Children – A Dual Timeline Mystery or 8 Tips on Writing Dual Timeline Mysteries.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION follow A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website