Wednesday, March 8, 2023

'The Orchid Hour' Can Be Read on NetGalley

If you have an account on NetGalley, you can read my summer novel 'The Orchid Hour' now. NetGalley helps book advocates and industry professionals discover and recommend books to their audiences. If you are a bookseller, book trade professional, educator, librarian, reviewer, blogger, journalist or in the media, you can join NetGalley.

You can find The Orchid Hour here.

Here's the latest review:

"I needed this book as a New Yorker in this post-pandemic world because NYC was, and always will be, heaven on earth. Five out of five stars, as a NYC, murder mystery, and historical fiction lover. From a New Yorker’s perspective, this book is spot on when describing New York City and its famous neighborhoods, love that! The roaring jazz age of the 20’s feels like a fresh timeline when reading historical fiction. I fell in love with the main character Audenzia, right from the start. And I love libraries! So these four things made the book unputdownable for me! It was a slow burn for the first 3 chapters, and by chapter four, the tension was fast-building. My heart was in my throat as the danger got worse, but the book made me smile too, as the Italian accents were perfect. It made the story suspenseful and fun at the same time. I didn’t know what it was like to live in NYC in the 20’s, so I learned a bit as well. The danger and racism at that time was captivating to read about. Watkin’s and Audenzia’s friendship was a joy (and sad) to see develop. The book really pulled together all the many, many details about this murder mystery at the end, it left me very sad when the book was finished, not because of the ending (which was awesome!) but because I wanted the story to go on and on. For me, it was a perfect historical mystery with excellent character development. Thanks to Lume Books and NetGalley for this ARC. I volunteered to read it and give my honest opinions. #TheOrchidHour #NetGalley"

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

My Historical Novel "The Orchid Hour": On Pre-Order Now

I'm happy to present the cover of my new historical novel, THE ORCHID HOUR. It will be published in ebook and original paperback on August 10, 2023. It can be pre-ordered on amazon now. Click here.

There is a certain hour, in the dead of night, when the orchid’s scent can put you under a spell…

"Nancy Bilyeau has created a beautifully layered and utterly seductive tale… and, at its living, tender heart, a strong-willed and magnetic heroine." – Emilya Naymark, author of Behind the Lie
, finalist for the 2023 Sue Grafton Award

In Little Italy, New York, during the heady atmosphere of the Roaring Twenties, a young widow named Zia De Luca finds herself at the center of a murder investigation. Searching for answers, Zia enters the shadowy underworld of speakeasy The Orchid Hour. But to bring the killer to justice, she’ll have to beat notorious racketeers Arnold Rothstein and Lucky Luciano at their own game.

Nancy Bilyeau, author of The Blue, returns with a tantalizing novel about one woman caught up in a secret nightclub that one can only reach through a certain florist on a cobblestone street.

New York City, 1923. Zia De Luca’s life is about to be shattered. Having lost her husband to The Great War, she lives with her son and in-laws in Little Italy and works at the public library. But when a quiet poetry lover is murdered outside the library, the police investigation focuses on Zia. After a second tragedy strikes even closer to home, Zia learns that both crimes are connected to a new speakeasy in Greenwich Village called The Orchid Hour.

When the police investigation stalls, Zia decides to find her own answers. A cousin with whom she has a special bond serves as a guide to the shadow realm of The Orchid Hour, a world filled with enticements Zia has shunned up to now. She must contend with a group of players determined to find wealth and power in New York on their own terms. In this heady atmosphere, Zia begins to wonder if she too could rewrite her life’s rules. As she’s pulled in deeper and deeper, will Zia be able to bring the killers to justice before they learn her secret?

Available in paperback and ebook in the UK, the US, Canada and Australia. Preorder here.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

When January 1st Wasn't the First Day of the Year

 In less than two weeks it will be the first day of 2023. Time to hang your freshly bought calendars and write a new year on your checks.

         But strange as it may seem, January 1st did not always signal the beginning of a new calendar year. Up to 1752, the two were separate things in England and its colonies. Until that point, people began each calendar year on March 25, which was Annunciation Day—or Lady Day. This was the day the Angel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary to deliver the news that she had conceived and would give birth to Jesus in nine months.
It took an 18th century act of Parliament for England to officially begin each new calendar year on January 1st. The centuries of discrepancy caused lots of headaches for historians and genealogists. There’s no question that it’s strange, not least because England lagged behind much of the rest of Western Europe. Why did this Protestant nation cling to Annunciation Day—by its very definition a day revolving around the Virgin—as the time to change the calendar when most Catholic countries had already shifted to January 1st in the 16th century or 17th century?

         The reason for the January 1st controversy has a lot to do with England’s refusal to take orders from a pope after Henry VIII’s break from Rome in the 1530s. It was Pope Gregory XIII who replaced Julius Caesar’s calendar, devised in 45 BC, with a new one in 1582—and it’s the Gregorian calendar we all use today.  Reform was unquestionably needed. There were too many days in the year; the equinoxes were out of whack; the Julian calendar had strayed 10 days from the solar calendar.

         Among other things, the pope’s new calendar established that each calendar year begin on January 1st. Once it was issued, Italy, Spain and Portugal instantly adopted the Gregorian calendar, followed by France and the other Catholic countries of Europe. But England, Germany and the Netherlands refused. So for centuries, there were two calendars in Western Europe. It wasn't a strictly religious-led decision either. In Protestant Scotland, they changed to the Gregorian calendar in 1600. But England stubbornly refused.


         The first step to understanding this furor is to realize that Pope Gregory XIII was not simply someone who cared about calendars. Born in Bologna as Ugo Buoncompagno, he was a transitional pope. Certainly not as venal and corrupt as the Borgias a century earlier, he was a gifted teacher and administrative talent who nonetheless had an illegitimate son before marrying and really liked to spend money. 

         Once he became Gregory XIII, he spent huge sums on not only Catholic colleges but also displays such as the Gregorian Chapel in St. Peter’s. To pay for all this, he resorted to papal confiscation. Most relevant to our story, he supported the overthrow of Henry VIII’s Protestant daughter with Queen Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth I.

         Gregory’s predecessor, Pope Pius V, had already excommunicated Elizabeth and declared her a usurper in 1570. During his papal office, Gregory put intense pressure on the Spanish king, Philip II, to invade and dethrone England’s queen. Gregory personally financed an armed force of 800 men to land in Ireland to join a Catholic rebellion against Elizabeth (it fizzled). Moreover, a Jesuit led the papal commission to devise the Gregorian calendar—and the Jesuits were the religious order specifically created to fight the Protestant Reformation. This all fueled Elizabethan England’s refusal to accept anything that originated in the Vatican.

         The fierce clashes between Catholic and Protestant in the 16th century are the tumultuous background of my historical thrillers. The heroine of my novels, The Crown, The Chalice, and The Tapestry, is a novice in the Dominican Order at Dartford Priory, outside London. But it’s not just the Christian splintering in early modern Europe that fascinates me. I also love studying what came long before the Renaissance.

         One October, as Halloween approached, I researched the roots of the holiday’s celebration in Tudor England and made some discoveries. I learned that the roots of Halloween reach back to the Dark Ages Celtic festival of Samhain (“summer’s end”), when people lit bonfires and put on costumes to scare away the spirits of the unfriendly dead. All-Hallows-Even, which was shortened to “Halloween” in the 16th century, was a complex blend of Celtic and Catholic customs. After all, the holiday was the run-up to All Saints’ Day on November 1st, an occasion to venerate all the Catholic martyrs. Not surprisingly, the Protestant Reformers took a dim view of Halloween, but its popularity was so great that they were unable to stamp it out.

         My  blog post on Halloween stirred up so much attention that it made me want to keep reading about the distant and complex roots of what we celebrate today.

         I began thinking about the origins of Christmas and New Year’s Day the morning of December 20th one year, when I stood outside my apartment building with my son, waiting for his school bus to arrive. Although it was 7:15 a.m., dawn had barely broken; the Christmas lights that the superintendent had strung over the bushes glowed yellow in the purplish-gray light. A hazy fullness hung in the air—and it seemed to carry a strange potency. Almost like something magical. I had no idea as I stood there that what I sensed would connect to January 1st and the fascinating furor over when to begin the calendar year.


         I snapped a photo and posted it on my Facebook page, along with sharing a description of the strange feeling all around me. A high school friend, D.K. Carlson, offered an explanation: “The solstice is almost here.” It made me shiver to think it was the power of the winter solstice that touched me that morning: the approach of the shortest day of the year, the moment when the earth is in a point of its orbit farthest away from the sun. I find it very interesting that Julius Caesar established December 25th as the date of the winter solstice. It was—you guessed it—Pope Gregory XIII who made the adjustment to December 21st.

         Long before the time of Julius Caesar, man honored the solstice. Bronze Age archaeologists have uncovered symbols and signs that reveal awareness of the shortest day of the year. The monuments of Stonehenge and Newgrange in Ireland are believed to have solstice alignments. In 2000 BC, people may have gathered at Stonehenge in mid-December to pray for the sun to return again, the source of all life.

         Again and again, in many societies and religions, the solstice has great meaning. For the Druids, it was Alban Arthuan, the Light of Winter. As part of the celebration, priests cut the mistletoe that grew on winter oaks and blessed it. Germanic pagans launched the tradition of burning the Yule log and decorating a home with clippings of evergreen trees.

         In Rome, not surprisingly, the celebrations became more debauched. Saturnalia, which took place in mid-December, ran the gamut from heavy drinking to gambling to reversing society norms, with masters waiting on slaves. Lighting candles was very important. So was the tradition of children going house to house, offering small gifts, such as wrapped fruit, in exchange for other tokens.

Saturnalia was so popular that not even the Fall of Rome could kill it. It morphed into the Feast of Fools, celebrated from the Fifth Century until the Renaissance in much of Western Europe on January 1st. The servants became the masters, with a lower-echelon “Lord of Misrule” chosen to preside over all drunken festivities beginning in late December and concluding on the first of January.
         Not surprisingly, the early Catholic Church did not look kindly on the parties--stimulated by the winter solstice--that marked January 1st. The church leaders didn’t want something as important as beginning a new year to take place on that same day. In 567 AD, a Council of Tours decreed that the first of January was abolished and the blameless Annunciation Day was chosen. It took a while for this to be accepted, but by medieval times, people in England looked on March 25th as the beginning of the year. And this tradition stuck through the Plantagenets, the Tudors, the Stuarts, and into the time of the Hanoverians.


         Until finally, in 1751, in the reign of George II, England—and its colonies in the Americas—gave in and made the change, moving from the Julian Calendar to the Gregorian. Parliament passed An Act for Regulating the Commencement of the Year; and for Correcting the Calendar now in Use. To make this work, 16 days were dropped from 1751, and January 1, 1752 was officially deemed the beginning of the year.

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

'The Blue' Ebook Is .99 cents for Cyber Monday

Update: My novel THE BLUE, set in the 18th century and following a Huguenot painter's secret mission to discover the formula for the most beautiful shade of blue ever created, is discounted as an ebook in the United States and the United Kingdom.

I was fortunate enough to win endorsements for THE BLUE from some wonderful authors:

'Definitely a winner!' -- Kate Quinn, author of The Alice Network

'Fascinating' -- Ian Rankin, author of the top-selling Rebus mystery series

‘...transports the reader into the heart of the 18th-century porcelain trade—where the price of beauty was death.’ - E.M. Powell, author of the Stanton & Barling medieval mystery series.

'Bilyeau is an impressive talent who brings to life a heart-stopping story of adventure, art and espionage.' - Stephanie Dray, author of My Dear Hamilton.

'With rich writing, surprising twists, and a riveting sense of 'you are there,' The Blue is spine-tingling entertainment.' – Gayle Lynds, New York Times bestselling author of The Assassins

To download an ebook in the US, go here.

To download an ebook in the UK, go here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

'The Fugitive Colours' Is Here

My sixth historical novel, The Fugitive Colours, is officially on sale!

London 1764. Genevieve Planché, from a family of Huguenot refugees, struggles to keep her silk-weaving business, her family, and her own nearly-crushed dreams of being an artist alive. An invitation to the house of leading painter Joshua Reynolds raises hopes that at last an art career is in reach. Genevieve soon learns that for the portrait painters ruling over the wealthy in London society, fame and fortune are there for the taking. But such high stakes spur rivalries that darken to sabotage and blackmail—and even murder. And watching from the shadows are ruthless spies who wish harm to all of England.

"Nancy Bilyeau's sequel to her breakout hit The Blue is a riveting read in its own right: a woman of ambition, and the net that weaves to take her down. Resourceful Genevieve Sturbridge struggles to keep her silk-weaving business, her family, and her own nearly-crushed dreams of being an artist alive in the stifling constraints of eighteenth century London, only to find herself embroiled in a web of plotting portraitists, seething courtiers, and international spies. Deftly written and deeply atmospheric, The Fugitive Colours is a book you'll have trouble putting down!" Kate Quinn, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Diamond Eye

"A worthy successor to Nancy Bilyeau's excellent The Blue. Genevieve Planché is back with another edge-of-your-seat mystery, packed with fascinating characters and rich, well-researched historical detail. The Fugitive Colours proves that Bilyeau is one of the best authors of historical thrillers working today." - Olivia Hawker, bestselling author of One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow

"The Best Books to Read in May": The Fugitive Colours -- Town & Country magazine.

"A cracking historical spy thriller."- Historical Novel Society

To order the novel:

In the U.S., the book is available on AmazonBarnes & NobleBookshop.orgWalmart, The Golden Notebook, and other retailers.

In the UK, the book is on AmazonWaterstones and other retailers.

In Canada, the book is available on Amazon

In Australia, the book is available on Amazon and Dymocks Books and Gifts


Monday, May 9, 2022

Join Me on May 12th at One of My Fun Online Events

I'm launching my novel THE FUGITIVE COLOURS with an in-person event in Woodstock, NY, on May 14th.

But also I am doing two exciting online events on Thursday, May 12th, and I'd love to include you at one--or both!
The first event is an online panel on historical fiction. I'll be joined by superb novelists Finola Austin (Bronte's Mistress), EM Powell (Canterbury Murder), Eva Stachniak (The School of Mirrors), and Cristina Loggia (Lucifer's Game).

The event is from 7 to 8 BST (GMT), which means that it's perfect for people in the UK. But anyone from all over the world can attend. (That's beginning at 2 pm EST and 11 am PST)

To register for the free event, click here.

The second event is a Facebook party from 5 pm to 7 pm EST, organized by Amy Bruno of Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours. I'll read a little, announce the giveaway winners, and do an interview with fellow author Peter Andrews, who is an acclaimed writing coach. I plan to be on the front porch of my 1908 farmhouse in the Catskills. And I've asked four talented authors of new or upcoming books to stop by:

Evie Hawtrey (Sophie Perinot) on 'And By Fire'
Mariah Fredericks on 'The Lindbergh Nanny'
Ellen Marie Wiseman on 'The Lost Girls of Willowbrook'
Kris Waldherr on 'Unnatural Creatures'

You are all officially invited. I'd love to see you drop by. Click here to sign up and get the reminder:

And if you ARE local and would like to come to the Woodstock event on the 14th, you can get more information here.

Friday, April 29, 2022

Pre-Order 'The Fugitive Colours'

My historical novel 'The Fugitive Colours' goes on sale May 12th in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, and Australia. It comes in ebook and paperback formats and will be an audiobook too. 

London 1764: Huguenot painter Genevieve Planche accepts an invitation to the Leicester Fields home of Joshua Reynolds. She may think that this is her chance for an art career at last, but instead she is pulled ever deeper into conspiracies weaving together the worlds of art, science, and international espionage. 

"Set in Georgian-era London, The Fugitive Colours is an immersive historical mystery full of surprising twists." - Foreword Reviews

A worthy successor to Nancy Bilyeau’s excellent The Blue. Genevieve Planché is back with another edge-of-your-seat mystery, packed with fascinating characters and rich, well-researched historical detail. The Fugitive Colours proves that Bilyeau is one of the best authors of historical thrillers working today." - Olivia Hawker, bestselling author of One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow

Nancy Bilyeau's sequel to her breakout hit The Blue is a riveting read in its own right: a woman of ambition, and the net that weaves to take her down. Resourceful Genevieve Sturbridge struggles to keep her silk-weaving business, her family, and her own nearly-crushed dreams of being an artist alive in the stifling constraints of eighteenth century London, only to find herself embroiled in a web of plotting portraitists, seething courtiers, and international spies. Deftly written and deeply atmospheric, The Fugitive Colours is a book you'll have trouble putting down!" Kate Quinn, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Diamond Eye

In the U.S., the book is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble,, Walmart and other retailers.

In the UK, the book is on Amazon, Waterstones and other retailers.

In Canada, the book is available on Amazon

In Australia, the book is available on Amazon and Dymocks Books and Gifts