Win a Trip for Two on Cunard’s Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria Image Courtesy of Cunard
Queen Victoria Image Courtesy of Cunard

Here is your chance to sail on one of the most luxurious cruise ships during an unforgettable event. Cunard’s Queen Victoria pays tribute to the Lusitania on the 100th anniversary of her sinking, a tragic event which may have ushered the United States into WWI. During the commemorative journey, all guests will be invited to attend ceremonies and events at the memorial in Cobh, close to where Lusitania still lies.

Lusitania Image Courtesy of Cunard
Lusitania Image Courtesy of Cunard

According to Cunard’s press:

“The Lusitania (1907), also called at the time ‘Lucy’, was a true ‘Monarch of the Sea’ designed to outclass the German liners like Kaisee Wilhelm der Gross and the Deutschland. Cunard decreed that their accommodation was to be ‘of a spaciousness and splendour hitherto unknown outside the great luxury hotels of the world’.”

“While still serving as a passenger liner, she left New York for Liverpool on 1st May 1915 with 1959 passengers and crew onboard. On 7th May 1915, a single torpedo fired from the German U-boat U-20 slammed into the starboard side of the Lusitania off the southern coast of Ireland. The ship listed and sank in just 18 minutes. While 761 of those on board were rescued, most were not so fortunate.”

“The Lusitania was the largest ship ever built, until her sister Mauretania was completed the same year, 1907.”

“Designed to be the fastest ship on the Atlantic, she took the Blue Riband Award for crossing to New York in 4 days, 19 hours and 52 minutes.”

“Built for war as well as peace she was capable to carry guns and travel 25 knots in order to outpace submarines.”


This opportunity is presented by The Crown Publishing Group, Tastebook; Travel+Leisure, and coincides with the publication of Erik Larson’s highly anticipated new book, Dead Wake.

“One of the most luxurious vessels the world had known… the Lusitania tended to draw the richest, most prominent passengers.”

Indulge in seven glorious days on the historic Lusitania Remembered cruise, sailing from England to Guernsey, France and Ireland. Revel in Queen Victoria‘s many culinary and entertainment offerings and celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Lusitania.

Winners will enjoy:
•Onboard speakers: maritime historian Chris Frame and journalist Martin Bell
•Invitations to anniversary ceremonies in Cobh, Ireland
•Signed copies of Dead Wake, the newest novel by New York Times bestselling author Erik Larson

Check out the library on the Queen Victoria! Two-tiers with wood panels; a spiral staircase and 6,000 volumes. I wouldn’t need to pack a back-up book for the cruise!

Image Courtesy of Cunard
Image Courtesy of Cunard

To enter the contest, go to:


Guilty Pleasures Abound in The Secret of Lost Things by Sheridan Hay

I love books. I love books about books; bookstores, writers, book collectors…well, you get the idea. As a result, I plunged into “The Secrets of Lost Things” like a child diving into a summer pond; joyfully and without restraint. I reveled in the descriptions of miles of maze-like shelves with dusty, redolent books while sympathizing with the (somewhat obligatory) idiosyncratic cast of characters.

The Strand Bookstore Basement. Image Courtesy of Jim Henderson via Wikipedia.
The Strand Bookstore Basement. Image Courtesy of Jim Henderson via Wikipedia.

While some reviewers found the plot thin, or felt the narratives unresolved, I was willing not only suspend disbelief, but to chuck it out the window and bask in Hay’s homage to obsessive book collecting.

I am not a big fan of coming-of-age novels or first person narratives, but since Hay worked in bookstores and lived in Sydney, AU, the novel worked for me. The novel felt both intimate and expressive.

After traveling from Tasmania to New York with $300, 18 year-old Rosemary Savage finds work and fellowship in the Arcade Bookshop. As described, the mysterious bookstore resembles New York’s Strand, where Hay once worked.

The Strand Bookstore is one of those rapidly vanishing treasure: an independent bookstore. Located at 828 Broadway, in the East Village of Manhattan, The Strand is one of the last remaining member of “Book Row,” a once thriving mecca of 48 bookstores. The store occupies three and a half floors, and, as of December 2011, had 2.5 million books and more than 240 employees. (Wikipedia)

“Strand Bookstore” by Beyond My Ken – Own work. Licensed under GFDL via Wikimedia Commons

While working in the bookstore, protagonist Savage blithely interacts with her fellow employees, including an embittered albino manager, a good-hearted transsexual cashier, an insufferably aloof nonfiction expert, and an avuncular rare-books curator.

Just as Savage learns about her co-workers, she walks the streets of New York to become familiar with her new home. The description of the Martha Washington Hotel for Women bears no resemblance to the contemporary sleek boutique lodgings located at 29 East 29th Street in NYC.

Image Courtesy of Martha Washington Hotel
Image Courtesy of Martha Washington Hotel

Perhaps the more fanciful description hotel description is, as the Melville quote purports, “not down on any map; true places never are.” If that is the case, I’m sure I would be more comfortable in the actual Martha Washington Hotel.

The reference is apt, since Melville plays an important role in “The Secret of Lost Things.” In addition to a coming-of-age story, Hay weaves a mystery about a missing Melville manuscript, and sends protagonist on the hunt.

With a lost literary masterpiece, book lovers and collectors and a thinly disguised world famous bookstore, “The Secret of Lost Things” clicked all the boxes on my list for a fun novel.

The Strand Books
Martha Washington Hotel

Edited 9/5/2016. Sad to report, the Martha Washington Hotel has changed its name and owners. You can find more information here: