This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle, This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, This other Eden, demi-paradise, This fortress built by Nature for herself Against infection and the hand of war, This happy breed of men, this little world, This precious stone set in the silver sea, Which serves it in the office of a wall Or as a moat defensive to a house, Against the envy of less happier lands,-- This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England. ~~William Shakespeare, Richard III

Sunday, September 27, 2009

This Day in History...

September 27, 1888 - The name 'Jack the Ripper' is used for the first time in an anonymous letter to the Central News Agency. He went on to kill five women, and it's believed he may have been responsible for the deaths of four more. The identity of this man has never been discovered and there have been many speculations as to who he really was (there was even a rumor that it was really Queen Victoria's oldest son!).

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Some Awesome Discoveries!

There have been some AWESOME discoveries in England this week! First, it was a HUGE horde of Anglo-Saxon treasure!! They say this is the largest horde of Anglo-Saxon gold found in England...even more than what was found at the Sutton Hoo burial ship. The items that they have found are absolutely beautiful. I don't know why they call those times the "dark ages" and think they didn't have any art...just look at the craftsmanship on some of those pieces! Click here for more information on that find.

Then there was an article today about 4 coins being found that date back to Norman England. Click here for information on that amazing find!

When I see things like this, it really makes me wish I had majored in British History so I could help at these archeological sites. I just think it would be truly amazing to find something in the ground and know that you are the first person to touch that item in 500 years (or 1000 years or whatever). It also fascinates me to wonder: who buried this here? why did they do it? why did they never come back and get it? what happened to those people? It really boggles the mind and I love that.

Thank you to Michelle at History Buff for links to all of these articles!!

This Day in History...

September 26, 1580 - English seaman (or pirate depending on what country you're from!) Francis Drake returned to Plymouth becoming the first British navigator to circumnavigate the earth. He also took the opportunity to plunder a few Spanish galleons en-route and brought much needed gold back to Queen Elizabeth.

Friday, September 25, 2009

This Day in History...

September 25, 1066 - England's King Harold II defeated Harald Hardraada, King of Norway, and his own brother, Tostig, at the Battle of Stamford Bridge. This battle lured him to the north of England while William the Conqueror landed on the southern coast, ready to win his right to the English crown.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Book Review: Legacy

Legacy, Susan Kay
4 roses

This book came highly recommended by fellow bloggers and the ladies over at Goodreads and I was quite excited to finally get it from (go...join...its awesome!). It is a fast read and kept me turning pages frantically even though I know Elizabeth's history very well.

Legacy covers the life of Elizabeth I from birth until her death and it seems to mainly focus on her relationships with the men in her life - namely Robert Dudley, William Cecil, and Essex. Despite knowing how history turns out, the way Kay has written it made it a page turner. Even though a few of the plot twists that she added didn't really mesh with other novels I have read on Elizabeth they did not detract from the story and probably added to some of the suspense. The ending was very touching as it gives you the feeling that Elizabeth and Dudley were finally able to be together.

The characterization of the main players are fairly consistent with how they are portrayed in other works. There were only a few things that stood out to me and made me raise an eyebrow. The first was the constant reference to the possibility of Elizabeth being a witch. Yes, her mother, Anne Boleyn, was accused of witchcraft but I can't remember reading anywhere that anyone other than her enemies thought Elizabeth might be a witch as well. Dudley seems to be the one constantly mentioning it, wondering if she has a second sight since she always seems to know how events are going to turn out. I can understand how people could have thought this about Elizabeth; woman weren't supposed to have a brain in their heads at that time and it was probably unimaginable that a Queen would be intelligent enough to accurately assume the outcome of a situation. She also came across as having this extremely dark and almost evil side to her nature. This seemed a bit odd to me as I am sure Elizabeth would have been ruthless at times to protect herself and her kingdom but I have never found anything that portrayed her as "evil." Other than the evil, witchy aspect, Elizabeth's character is very believable and very well written.

Something else that caused me to raise an eyebrow was how Kay portrayed Cecil's relationship with Elizabeth, making it seem like he thought he might be bewitched since his attachment to her is so strong. At times is almost seemed like he might have been in love with her. Anytime he was asked why he was so devoted to his Queen he couldn't answer. I didn't have a problem with the way Kay decided to write out their relationship, it was just intriguing and quite different from everything I've read previously.

As for the other two main men in her life, Dudley and Essex, their portrayals here don't stand out as very different from the way they come across in other works, though at times I did think that Dudley seemed a bit weak, which is something I've never thought about him before. The relationship between him and the Queen really was touching at times as they could not over come their individual prides to admit their feelings to each other. Elizabeth's Queenship was also a huge stumbling block, of course. Essex really seems like an arrogant, self-centered young man who gets his just desserts in the end; he really was "asking for it" the whole time.

The other characters in the story behave in the manner that I would have expected and there were no raised eyebrows over any of their actions. That certainly did not take away from the overall story whatsoever though. It was extremely well written, had wonderful characters, incredible emotions, and an overall storyline that really kept me immersed in their lives. I was surprised that I could feel suspense in a work about Elizabeth's life but it was there and I liked that. This could have easily fallen into the "just another book on Elizabeth" category but it didn't and I think that is the sign of a good author; she took material that is very well known to people and kept it interesting and exciting. While Miles' I, Elizabeth is, for me, the best novel about Elizabeth, I thoroughly enjoyed this one and I could not put it down!

I Won a Super Scribbler Award!!

Christy at Christy's Book Blog AND Lizzy J at Historicall Obsessed gave me a Super Scribbler Award! I am so shocked, I tell you! My very first blog award!!! :) Thank you, Christy and Lizzy!!!

In keeping with the rules of the award, which are:
  • Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends.
  • Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award.
  • Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog, and link to This Post, which explains The Award.
  • Each Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we'll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives This Prestigious Honor!
  • Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.
Now, to continue the tradition and follow the rules, here are my 5 Award Winners:

This Day in History...

Couldn't find much for today but I thought this literary-ish tidbit was interesting.

September 24, 1842 - Bramwell Bronte, brother of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Bronte, died of drugs and drink.

Booking Through Thursday - Saddest

Booking through Thursday is hosted by Deb at Wordpress.

Q: What's the saddest book you've read recently?

This is a tough one! I read it a couple of months ago, but I am going to say Devil's Brood by Sharon Kay Penman. Now, the book itself is NOT really going to be considered sad but I'm choosing it because, to me, it was just so sad how trusting and forgiving Henry II was to his arrogant, ungrateful, rebellious sons and they just kept betraying him. I really felt sad for Henry because he honestly wanted to be a good father and have the love of his sons and he was doing whatever he could (he thought anyway) to secure their inheritances and make them strong. He didn't want his sons to ever have to fight for what was theirs like his mother tried to do. Yes, he was irritatingly stubborn but he didn't deserve the way his sons treated him.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

This Day in History...

September 23, 1459 - The Yorkists defeated the Lancastrians at the Battle of Blore Heath, the first major battle in what was to be known as "The Wars of the Rose."

Wordless Wednesday

Picture into Tennessee Smokies from a stop at Newfound Gap.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Book Giveaway - The Killing Way

Amy at Passages to the Past is giving away a copy of Tony Hays book about King Arthur. This one looks really, really interesting! Click the link below for more information and a preview.

King Arthur Mystery

This Day in History...

September 22, 1862 - President Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation. This set a date for freedom for the more than 3 million slaves in the United States. It also recast the Civil War in history as just a fight against slavery. After this was issued, backing the Confederacy was seen as favoring slavery and it became impossible for anti-slavery nations, like Great Britain and France, to get involved and help the South.

Teaser Tuesday

TEASER TUESDAYS is hosted byMizB at ShouldBeReading and asks you to:

♠Grab your current read.
♠Let the book fall open to a random page.
♠Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page.
♠You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
Please avoid spoilers!

Legacy, Susan Kay

Rage stripped away the mask of patience and restraint which Mary had cultivated for nearly three years, exposing her raw emotions to the air. And Elizabeth allowed Darnley to escape to Scotland at the precise moment when she judged her cousin to be ready to fall in love with the first handsome candidate who crossed her path.

Within a month, the marriage was celebrated by civil war. James led her outraged Protestant nobility in open rebellion against her and she rode into the field against him, nursing a devastating personal knowledge of the perverted drunkard who was now her King-Consort. The peace which Mary had so skillfully preserved in Scotland since her arrival was shattered beyond repair, while in England Elizabeth smirked as the new Earl of Leicester paid out his thousand gold pieces and seriously began to wonder if she had second-sight.

Monday, September 21, 2009

This Day in History...

September 21, 1327 - King Edward II, forced to abdicate his throne to his son, was murdered in Berkeley Castle, by order of his wife Isabella and her lover Roger Mortimer, to ensure the succession of his son Edward III. It was rumored that he was killed by a red hot poker because of his sexual preferences.

Mailbox Mondays

Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page and is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week (checked out library books don’t count, eBooks & audio books do). Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

Here are the books I got this past week, all coming from fellow bloggers and will be reviewed soon!

Pride and Prescience, Carrie Bebris

This one looks interesting as it is a "Mr. and Mrs. Darcy Mystery" and I've always loved Jane Austen's books. There certainly has been a lot of re-writing and creating sequels lately. This author apparently has done numerous books like this and I may be tempted to try the others after I read this one.

Two Brothers, David H. Jones

My first historical love was the Civil War and I am looking forward to reading this story of two brothers fighting on opposing sides.

Stranger's Kiss, Mary Blayney

So this one is not in my usual reading subject area but even I enjoy a romance every once and a while. Sometimes you just need some lighter fare and these stories usually fit in nicely.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

This Day in History...

September 20, 1863 - The Confederate Army of Tennessee drove part of the Union Army back into Tennessee from Chickamauga Creek in northern Georgia in one of the bloodiest battles in of the Civil War - the Battle of Chickamauga. Technically a Confederate victory the battle really had little effect on the war.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

This Day in History...

September 19, 1356 - The English led by Edward, the Black Prince, defeated the French at the Battle of Poitiers. This was another battle in the Hundred Years' War between the English and French over the French crown.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Book Review: The Constant Princess

The Constant Princess, Philippa Gregory
4 roses

Of all Gregory's novels, this one and TOBG are at the top of my list. I was surprised that I really enjoyed this novel as I tend to lean in the Anne Boleyn corner. This was the first novel solely about Katherine of Aragon that I ever read and I really liked the way she was portrayed. I never, under any circumstances, thought she was a horrible person or anything like that - I just have always tended to side with Anne. This novel really opened my eyes to what Katherine's life might have been like and has allowed me to feel sorry for the horrible way she was treated by Henry towards the end of her life. As is the case with all Gregory's works (and all historical fiction authors), I know there are cases where creative license is taken with historical fact but, at least in this book, this doesn't take away from the story at all. There is nothing here that really seems out of place or "over the top" unbelievable.

The story covers Katherine's (Catalina) life from her childhood in Spain through her marriage to Prince Arthur, his death and her six years of being a "hostage" of Henry VII, her marriage to Henry VIII, and her defeat of the Scots King in 1513. Obviously Gregory doesn't go into the story surrounding Anne Boleyn's arrival of court and the upheaval she caused since that is covered in TOBG but she does make a short mention of it from Katherine's perspective as she heads into Blackfriars Hall for the "trial" in 1529.

Little Catalina is raised knowing that one day she will go to England and marry the heir, Prince Arthur. She is even called the Princess of Wales from a very young age and believes it is her destiny to become Queen of England. She loves her mother Isabella dearly and truly believes that she and God really work together. When she finally arrives in England (the scene where Henry VII demands to see her, arguing with her duenna Dona Elvira is wonderful) and sees her husband-to-be she feels she will be happy. It is not long after that Arthur begins to treat her harshly because of his injured pride and her haughtiness. It takes an extremely cold ride in a horse litter with Catalina coming close to death to make him see how foolish he had been. After that, their love story is quite touching. They fall in love while at Ludlow Castle and begin to enjoy planning how they will rule England once they are King and Queen. I thought it was very touching how she wanted to show Arthur the styles and customs of her country and how he enjoyed learning about them. I also had to give them a cheer for secretly disobeying Margaret Beaufort's rules about how often they should be together as man and wife. Tragedy does strike when Arthur dies but before he does, he makes Catalina swear a promise that changes the course of English history. It was very touching to see how devoted they became to each other and it was painful to see how much Catalina prayed for his recovery.

Once back at the King's Court, Catalina becomes a pawn between her father and Henry VII. She is kept in this limbo for over six years. During that time she gains the King's wrath because she turns him down when he proposes to her. He then gets his revenge by agreeing to marry her to the new heir, Henry, but never allowing the marriage to take place. Catalina is reduced to poverty while waiting for her future to be decided. This was one of the first times I did feel sorry for the Princess as she was trapped because she was only seen as a useful pawn in politics. She does eventually end up marrying Henry VIII once he becomes King and finally feels that she is where she was destined to be - Queen of England - and insists on going by the English version of her name from that point on. The rest of the story is fairly common knowledge - the many miscarriages, stillbirths, and the birth of the Princess Mary. It was heartbreaking to see how the death of their little prince affected Katherine. During all this, Katherine really begins to grow and mature and begins to realize that maybe her mother wasn't right about everything, as she thought as a child. She also comes to realize that Henry is not going to be faithful and she knows that any pretty young girl could turn the King's head, hoping to gain his affection and possibly supplant her. It is an eerie prophecy of things yet to come. The last major event in the story is Katherine's triumph over the Scottish King. It was quite interesting to see her go through all the steps needed to muster and equip not only her husband's army bound for France, but the one she held back knowing the Scots where a danger. I think this really showed Katherine at her best and is one of the reasons why the English people loved her so much.

This really was a well written and intriguing story. Katherine tends to get lost in all the drama surrounding Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn and it was refreshing to see another side of this Queen. The plot moved along well and I never felt bogged down in details or events. It really was a touching love story through the first half of the book. The characters in this telling were interesting and had personality - you could like them at times and dislike them at others. This was even the case with Katherine; while I liked her throughout the story there were some times when her stubbornness in believing it was her destiny to become Queen of England got a bit old, though I don't see it as being "out of character" for her. Gregory's portrayal of Henry VII was also very interesting. While I don't know if there is anything recorded in history of Henry actually desiring the Princess, it certainly was fun to read about him trying to conceal his feelings for her and then his happiness when he thought he would be able to marry her. The way he treated her after her refusal was horrible but to be expected from him so it wasn't surprising.

Overall a really good book and one that I reread from time to time. The characters are engaging enough so I care about what happens to them. It is easy to get caught up in the story and enjoy it as well. I would say this is one of Gregory's best works, along side TOBG. I would recommend this to anyone interested in the time period, especially to those who have read TOBG so they can compare their feelings towards Katherine in the two novels.

**Something else I found interesting in this story are the occasional references to Elizabeth of York's relationship with Richard III. Since Gregory's current series of novels covers that period of English history it will be interesting to see if these chance comments fit with what is eventually in those newer novels.

This Day in History...

September 18, 1793 - The cornerstone of the US Capitol building was laid down by George Washington. Amazingly, the first president of the United States never worked in the building as it took almost a century to complete - architects came and went, it was set on fire by the British in 1812, and it was used during the Civil War.

Book Giveaway - 2 Anne Boleyn Books!

To close up the Historical Fiction Bloggers' Round Table, there is a fantastic giveaway going on over at The Burton Review. She is offering 2 of Robin Maxwell's books on Anne Boleyn - The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn and Mademoiselle Boleyn - to one lucky winner! Click the link below for the details.

Anne Boleyn Books

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Book Review: The Virgin's Lover

The Virgin's Lover, Philippa Gregory
1 rose

I was excited to find this book in an airport bookstore as I enjoyed TOBG (entertainment wise and interesting characters) and I love reading anything I can get my hands on about Elizabeth I so I settled down with this one on the flight home. I wanted to throw it out the window and see it land in a river somewhere between Shreveport and Atlanta. It was horrible. While I have said before that Gregory's works are good just for entertainment value and characters interesting enough to keep you wanting to read about them, she must have been on medication while writing this book. I kept reading because I kept telling myself it had to get better at some point. It didn't.

This installment of Gregory's Tudor series covers the first couple of very dangerous and uncertain years of Elizabeth I's reign. There are two storylines running parallel to each other in this: Elizabeth and Robert Dudley's story at court and then Robert's story with his wife Amy. Gregory goes back and forth throughout the novel letting the reader see what Amy's life is like being the cast off and unwanted wife of a very ambitious man and what Elizabeth is having to deal with as she tries to keep ahold of her crown. Elizabeth's close advisor William Cecil plays a big part in this telling as well. The novel drags on for 400 something pages with Robert's schemes to marry Elizabeth and to get Cecil out of the way, Amy's hysterical outbursts at everyone, courtiers threatening to kill Dudley, Cecil trying to save his Queen, etc, etc. There was not one interesting thing in this book - no interesting plot twist, no mystery, nothing. It seems like Gregory was trying to write for a bunch of rowdy teenagers who wanted to read nothing but sex on every other page.

The way Gregory portrays the main characters in this book are absolutely horrible and so totally OUT of character from the way history usually portrays them. I understand authors taking creative license and I don't mind that but really? A Queen Elizabeth who giggles constantly, can't make one rational decision without Dudley, and who acts like a complete airhead? I don't think so. Yes, Elizabeth is documented as being vain and a flirt but she used it to successfully control her council, her suitors, and her enemies. She was a highly intelligent woman who knew what she needed to do to keep her crown; there is no sign of that woman in this Elizabeth. She was very determined not to let a man run her life and I find it hard to believe that she wouldn't have been able to think straight and make a coherent decision about her realm without Dudley being nearby. Gregory makes her seem like a valley girl! Robert Dudley comes across even worse (which is hard to believe). I found myself hating him for his over-the-top ambition and most especially his arrogance. I'm sure the real Dudley was ambitious and wanted to get all he could but I don't think anywhere in history is it recorded that he was as sly, sneaky, possessive, domineering, arrogant, and down right mean as Gregory portrays him. I really can't see the real Robert Dudley getting into a screaming match with his wife in the middle of the road in front of others. As much as I wanted to shake Elizabeth for being such an idiot I wanted to punch Dudley full in the face and I was quite happy to see him deprived of his dream at the end.

The only two characters that weren't butchered, in my opinion, were William Cecil and Amy Dudley. Cecil seems to act the way I would expect him to, having spies everywhere to make sure he knows what's going on in the realm, trying to guide Elizabeth, being horrified at Dudley influence over her, etc. However, there is so much more to him and his character really could have been expanded more; he was really one dimensional. What was a bit intriguing was Gregory's take on how Cecil had a hand in Amy Dudley's fate; as it is still a mystery even to this day what really happened it was an interesting road for Gregory to take. As for Amy, I don't think there is much about her in historical record so Gregory probably had much more freedom to create a personality for her and she does a decent job. Throughout the story there are times when I want to shake her and smack her across the face for her stubbornness and her blindness to things but at other times I feel so incredibly sorry for her (though I will admit those times are few). She really irritated me most of the time but there were those few moments where something else shone through and that is what made her probably the most well rounded character in the story; she had more than one side to her personality and it made her somewhat interesting. That is what was lacking in the two main characters - Elizabeth acted like an idiot the whole time and Dudley was sickening in his arrogance the whole time.

I really can find nothing in this book to recommend it to anyone. Perhaps someone who isn't interested in much history and is just reading for the sex could enjoy it. This story holds so much potential because Elizabeth is such a fascinating woman. Gregory completely missed with this one.

*NOTE: It seems like I set out to trash this book but that really wasn't the case. I just really did not like it and I don't think I should just review books I like. Just because I didn't like it doesn't mean someone else won't. I felt a bit bad when someone commented on the "trashing."

This Day in History...

September 17, 1862 - Beginning in the morning, Confederate and Union forces met near Antietam Creek in Maryland. This battle became the bloodiest one day battle in American military history. Over 4,000 were killed and Lee had to retreat.

Booking Through Thursday - Enjoyable

Booking through Thursday is hosted by Deb over at Wordpress.

Q: What’s the most enjoyable, most fun, most just-darn-entertaining book you’ve read recently? (Mind you, this doesn’t necessarily mean funny, since we covered that already. Just … GOOD.)

I love to read and I tend to pick out books that fit into my tastes so I pretty much like everything that I read (with a few exceptions of course!) but Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey is probably the most entertaining book I've read recently. I really enjoyed seeing how Detective Grant went through all the evidence about Richard III and came up with his own theory. I am drawn to stories about Richard anyway but this one had a very interesting take on the story that I really liked. It was fun to see him take all the available evidence and prove (to himself and his researcher friend anyway) that the Tudors conducted a highly successful smear campaign against the last Plantagenet King. The "mystery" Tey puts into this book makes it really good and not just another retelling of Richard's story. This was a good book and even though I know full well that Tey took some liberties with what she included in her book (to make sure it fit with the point she wanted to get across) it doesn't take away from the story, how much I enjoyed it, or that I think the evidence she included is pretty convincing.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

This Day in History...

September 16, 1485 - The Yeoman of the Guard who were the bodyguard of the English Crown - they are more popularly known as 'Beefeaters' - was established by King Henry VII. Even today they still wear a Tudor style uniform.

Beefeater at the Tower of London - 2001

Wordless Wednesday

Big Ben, London - 2001

Book Giveaway - Royal Panoply!!!

Ms. Lucy over at Enchanted by Josephine is giving away an awesome book!! Royal Panoply is a non-fiction book that covers all the British monarchs from William the Conqueror to Elizabeth II. Check it out by clicking the link below!

Royal Panoply Giveaway

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Book Review: Devil's Brood

Devil's Brood, Sharon Kay Penman
5 roses

This is the final novel in Penman's trilogy about Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine and is centered around the implosion of their marriage and the rebellions of their sons. While this book can stand alone I would recommend readers start with When Christ and His Saints Slept and then Time and Chance to get the full and amazing story. It is a long novel just like her others but it is well worth the read in my opinion. This last installment of this amazing story has everything you could want in a novel: love, hate, betrayal, greed. Let me just say that Penman is an extraordinary writer. I wish all writers could make characters come alive like she does. The political and personal turmoil of this family is as twisted and complicated as any modern government bill but Penman manages to write it in a way that is very easy to understand and fun to read. A big part of this is her ability to make these people that have been dead for hundreds of years come alive on the pages.

This story picks up where the last one left off. Henry has gone to Ireland after Becket's death supposedly to put down rebellions there (though it is most likely to avoid punishment from the Church). Henry and Eleanor's three oldest sons feel like they are of an age where they can handle more power, which their father refuses to give them. They end up in a rebellion against him, aided in part by their mother Eleanor and Louis, the French King. He quells the rebellion and eventually forgives his sons (not a great move on his part) but he can not forgive his wife and he imprisons her (and she stays that way for sixteen years). This should be the end of matters but Henry's sons behave like they don't have a brain in their heads. They scoff at their father's generosity and turn on him again and again. He forgives them again and again (again, not a great move on his part), blindly trusting them and finding all kinds of excuses for their behavior because he does love them. Two of his sons eventually pay the price of their treachery, though not at their father's hands, and one does become king upon Henry's death.

Eleanor certainly comes across differently in this novel than she did in the last one. Yes, she does spend most of this book imprisoned by her husband but (probably because of that) she really grows and matures throughout. She learns, as her arrogant sons never could, the error of her past actions (for the most part) and how they helped cause this rupture of their family. I still like her character here, even though I was mad at her for rebelling in the first place. You can really feel how helpless she feels when she hears of the trouble her sons are causing. The later scenes between her and Henry are quite touching as you can tell that these two very stubborn and prideful people, while not able to say it out loud to each other, realize the errors they've made.

I feel so sorry for Henry through this entire novel. Even though I do get irritated at his stubbornness and his complete blindness when it comes to his sons, I pity him for what happens again and again. It really broke my heart how he kept forgiving those arrogant boys, offered them wonderful things, trusted them, made excuses for them, and they kept turning around and stabbing him in the back. For a man as smart as he was it is amazing that he couldn't see what his sons were really like. He did bring some of it on himself; the crowning of Hal, while he was doing it to make sure what happened to his mother didn't happen to his son, was probably one of the biggest mistakes he ever made. He also was maddeningly stubborn at times but overall I felt like he was trying his hardest to make everything strong and secure for his son.

I did not like any of the sons. None of them. I felt like they were spoiled, arrogant, selfish, and incredibly ungrateful. I wanted to throttle all of them at many, many points throughout the novel. Yes, their father was a stubborn man but they couldn't see that 1, he was doing what he could to make their "empire" strong and stable so they wouldn't have to worry about much when they took the reins, and 2, they'd eventually have control of their lands when their father died. That was the trouble though - they wanted it all and they wanted it NOW. And not only do they stab their father in the back repeatedly, they turn on each other over and over again. They truly seemed as if they were the devil's brood.

Penman has created another wonderful masterpiece here. I would recommend this book, along with all her others, to those that love historical fiction and to those that haven't been bitten by that bug yet, to readers who are quite familiar with this period of history and to those that are not. This book and author are sure to open your eyes and you will probably end up being bitten by that wonderful historical fiction bug along the way.

**Note: William Marshal does play a roll in this story but if you are looking on more about him I would highly suggest Elizabeth Chadwick's The Greatest Knight.

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB over at Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! All you have to do is:

♠ Grab your current read.
♠ Let the book fall open to a random page.
♠ Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page.
♠ You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
Please avoid spoilers!

Legacy, Susan Kay

"Yes, Cecil, as you so rightly say but seem to be in danger of forgetting, I am the Queen. And I warn you now that the man who tries to use the spur with me will take a fall from which he'll never recover!"

And now he was finding it hard - perhaps impossible - to rule the lion's cub. He had thought himself in partnership with this splendid young lioness, but now he saw how easily she might break the chains of discipline and dignity, and turn upon him with rending claws, as the great Henry had turned on his loyal servants Wolsey and Cromwell. Never trust a cat, the least domesticated of all animals!

This Day in History...

In honor of the wonderful historical fiction events going on this week, I found a history tidbit to fit right in!

September 15, 1890 - The English detective novelist, the "Queen of Crime," Agatha Christie was born in Devon. Christie created such memorable characters as Hercule Poirot and Miss. Marple.

Blogger Giveaway!! The Heretic Queen!!

On the second day of the fun Bloggers' Round Table event, Marie over at The Burton Review has a great giveaway for Michelle Moran's second book, The Heretic Queen, which is about Nefertari. Click the link below for all the information and don't forget to check out the other events going on this week!

Nefertari Giveaway!!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Who Would you Want to Be???

Here is my first fun post for the Round Table week! I was thinking of this all weekend and couldn't wait to post it and see what comments appeared (I do love comments!).

So my question for all you historical fiction lovers (and anyone else of course):

You've just been given the lead roll in a movie about your favorite person from history! Who are you?

I kind of have a tie here actually! My top pick would have to be Eleanor of Aquitaine. She is such an interesting and mysterious lady. People are still have questions about her hundreds of years after her death! She was an intelligent, witty, strong, ambitious woman who was the mother of a dynasty that lasted for 300 hundred years. Not only did she go on a Crusade with her first husband, Louis of France, she became Queen of England, was caught in a rebellion with her sons against their father (her husband) Henry II, and endured 16 years of captivity at his hands (and lost two sons during that time). Who wouldn't want to play this clever and sexy lady?

My runner up here would be Anne Neville, the wife of Richard of Gloucester. I know she probably wouldn't be considered a MAIN player in history but I think she is a lady worthy of some attention. She was the daughter of Warwick the Kingmaker, was married off to Edward Prince of Wales by her father in order to secure an alliance with Marguerite d'Anjou, ended up in the clutches of the Duke of Clarance (and he possibly hid her in an inn as a kitchen maid hoping to keep her from marrying Richard so he could get his hands on her inheritance), and was finally married to Richard. Even then she had a hard time of it. She was ill a lot, her son was very frail and she eventually lost him, and she had to endure the rumors and scandals floating around about her husband.

This Day in History...

No historical tidbits the last couple of days as I've been out of town. Found this interesting one this morning...

September 14, 1752 - The 3rd of September became the 14th as the Gregorian Calendar was introduced into Britain, changing from the Julian calendar.

Mailbox Mondays

Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia over at The Printed Page and is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week (checked out library books don’t count, eBooks & audio books do). Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

I got several this week so hang on!

1.Legacy, Susan Kay

This cover's Elizabeth I's life from childhood to old age. I've been so excited about getting this book as it came highly recommended by the ladies over at Goodreads. It came in the mail from while I was out of town this weekend.

2.The Greatest Knight, Elizabeth Chadwick

Grabbed this one at a bookstore while on vacation this weekend. I've been wanting to delve into Elizabeth Chadwick's books and though this one would be a great start. It's about William Marshall who lived through the very stormy times of Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine.

3.The Sixth Wife, Jean Plaidy

I picked this up at the bookstore at the same time as the book above. I love Plaidy and I love this style of cover so I'm trying to get all I can before they're gone. This one is about Henry VIII's sixth and last wife, Catherine Parr (not to be confused with wife 1, Katherine of Aragon, or wife 5, Katherine Howard).

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Historical Fiction Bloggers' Round Table!!

This is being hosted by Lucy over at her blog and some great ladies have some awesome stuff planned for this week!!! Click the box below and head on over to Enchanted by Josephine's blog for all the details!!

Friday, September 11, 2009

This Day in History...

September 11, 1297 - The Scottish hero (and rebel) William Wallace defeated the English army at the Battle of Stirling Bridge.

And in memory of all those lost....

September 11, 2001 - Terrorists hijacks 4 commercial airplanes and flew them into the World Trade Center in NYC and the Pentagon in Washington DC in the worst attack on the US since Pearl Harbor. The passengers of the 4th plane heroically regained control of the plane before crashing it into a field in Shanksville, PA.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Book Review: I, Elizabeth

I, Elizabeth, Rosalind Miles
5 roses

This is a wonderful "autobiographical" novel by Rosalind Miles and probably the book that got me hooked on British historical fiction and history. I have read this tome several times (and it is pretty big) and have loved it each time. It is still at the top of my favorites list (though it has been joined by SKP's Sunne!)

It is wonderfully (and very believably) written in Elizabeth's "voice" and as a reader I could honestly see Elizabeth acting, thinking, and talking like that. Miles really makes her come alive in this telling that covers Elizabeth's earliest memories as a child, her precarious position during her brother and sister's reigns, the tumultuous early years of her own reign, and the numerous issues she had to deal with during her life (from about age 4 up until 2 years before her death). Elizabeth is portrayed in many different ways (flirty, vain, silly, brilliant, cunning, clever, stubborn, manipulative, caring) but they all fit together wonderfully and these different attributes are what made her an amazing queen. I think one of my favorite things about the novel is the humor you see from Elizabeth. I really enjoyed some of her "one liners" and her sense of humor. It really makes her seem human.

Through Elizabeth's eyes you get a very interesting perspective on her father Henry VIII, her brother Edward, and her older sister Mary. Her feelings concerning her father change over the course of her lifetime and you really see the different events (and her maturing) that help bring about that change. She moves from loving and adoring him to fearing him and eventually hating him (quite a bit of that is due to what he did to her mother). You also see that she very much takes to heart the lessons to be learned when a woman marries and gives all the power to her husband. She has her mother's example always looming over her, she saw what happened to her stepmother Catherine Parr, and she also sees what happens to her sister Mary after she marries King Phillip. She also sees what befalls her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots, in her disastrous marriages. Who can blame her for not wanting to stumble into the same trap?

There is a lot of time devoted to Elizabeth's male favorites, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and the Earl of Essex, throughout the course of this novel. These two men played a large roll in her life and I did not mind reading about her feeling and interactions with them, especially Dudley. Elizabeth really does seem to have loved him and wanted to marry him but she knew she couldn't (and wouldn't want to) give up any power to a husband. In her mind she was married to England and England came first in her heart. As to the Earl of Essex, I never liked him and I wanted to shake Elizabeth a few times for letting him get away with some of the stunts he pulled. She even said many times that she knew what he was doing, that her feelings for him had died, that she realized he was a traitor, but she always forgave him. It took a very drastic act for her to finally have him arrested and sign the warrant for his execution.

You can't talk about Elizabeth without mentioning her cousin Mary and Miles does a wonderful job of showing how torn Elizabeth was on this subject. She knew that Mary was a huge and dangerous threat to her and was well aware of her plotting to take the English throne. As a queen she knew that she should let Mary have the justice she deserved for plotting against her (many times) so as to secure the safety of her realm. However, Mary is after all an anointed queen (and her cousin) and she sees the danger in setting a precedent in which the Lords of a land can put a queen on trial and condemn her to death. She tells her councilmen many times that what they do to Mary could easily be done to her. Elizabeth really struggles with this for twenty years until she finally makes that ultimate decision. During all that time you can really sympathize with her and feel how hard she struggles with this.

This is a wonderful book and I would recommend it to anyone interested in the Tudors. It is a well written novel and you really get a glimpse into what Elizabeth was really like (perhaps) and the sacrifices she(maybe) made to keep England safe.

Booking Through Thursday - Informative

Booking through Thursday is hosted by Deb at Wordpress.

Q: What's the most informative book you've read recently?

I would have to say Sharon Kay Penman's Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine trilogy (When Christ and His Saints Slept, Time and Chance, and Devil's Brood). I had never read much about this period of British history (I think Plaidy's Courts of Love is the only one I've read and that is squishing all that info into one book). There is a lot of historical information contained in these three books but I enjoyed reading every bit of it. Her books are full of good information and its written beautifully. You can really connect with the different characters.

You can check out my reviews of the first two novels in the series by clicking HERE and HERE.

This Day in History...

September 10, 1224 - The Franciscans, a Catholic religious order that was founded in 1209 by St. Francis of Assisi, first arrived in England. They were originally called Grey Friars because of their grey habits.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Book Giveaway - The Virgin's Daughters

A great giveaway of the new book "The Virgin's Daughters." Check it out at Booking Mama! This one does deal with Elizabeth I.

This Day in History...

September 9, 1513 - While Henry VIII was in France with his army, the Scots crossed the border into England. They were met by Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey and his army. The Scots were easily defeated by the English at the Battle of Flodden Field and the Scottish King James IV was killed, along with all his nobles.

Wordless Wednesday

Cades Cove, Tennessee

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Thanks again!

Just wanted to give another thanks to those of you who responded to my SOS earlier!!

Thank you for the hints and advice and I'm happy to say...I figured out how to make my blog with 3 columns. Yay. (everyone clap)

But my blog looks no different and there are only 2 columns, you say? Yes. You can count correctly, don't worry! I did indeed figure out how to make 3 columns. Unfortunately, my pretty background is only set for 2 columns. So until the creators make a 3 column version (or I find another background that I like and so far I have been amazingly unsuccessful) it will stay 2 columns.

Sad face.

But thank you for all the help! I know how to do it now!!

This Day in History...

Almost forgot about this feature today! To make up for being late with it, I'll put in two events today.

September 8, 1157 - King Richard I (the Lion Heart) was born to Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. He was not the oldest son but when Hal the eldest died, Richard became heir to his father's throne. Of all the Kings of England he is probably the one that spent the least amount of time in the country during his entire reign.

September 8, 1560 - Amy Robsart, wife of the Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, died from a fall at Cumnor Place. Many suspected that Dudley (and perhaps even Elizabeth herself) had her killed to free Dudley so he could marry the Queen. If that was the case, it backfired on Dudley as Elizabeth realized that, however slim the chances had been of her being able to marry Dudley before the murder were, she certainly could never marry him with the shadow of his wife's death always with him.

Need More Blog Help!!!!

Yes...I come posting another question about the technical sides of this blog! Hahahaha. I used to be so knowledgeable about computer stuff...guess technology has moved right on past me. :)

So, the issue I need help with today:

I would like to have a 3 column blog. I've seen others with this but I do not see a blogger template with three columns. Is there a 3 column template I don't know about?

Someone PLEASE help!!!

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB over at Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! All you have to do is:

♠ Grab your current read.
♠ Let the book fall open to a random page.
♠ Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page.
♠ You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
Please avoid spoilers!

Devil's Brood, Sharon Kay Penman

"I head something very interesting in the hall today - that you and Louis are locking horns again, this time over Richard's marriage to Alys. And no, it was not Maud who told me; I overheard your justiciar talking with Ralf de Glanville. Is it true that you are facing the threat of an Interdict?"

Henry had forgotten how sharp she could be, had forgotten how much he'd once enjoyed talking to her about the stratagems, subterfuges, and feints that were such an important part of a king's arsenal. Reluctant to admit that she'd read him so easily, he did not reply.

Monday, September 7, 2009

This Day in History...

September 7, 1533 - Elizabeth is born to Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII. After surviving a childhood full of danger and political intrigue she became Queen of England in 1558 and reigned until 1603. She was known as the Virgin Queen because she never married; she did not want to share power with anyone else and knew if she married that is what she would have to do. During her reign England became one of the most powerful countries in the world and the arts, especially literature, flourished.

Mailbox Mondays

Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia over at The Printed Page. It is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week (checked out library books don’t count, eBooks & audio books do).
So, without further ado...

I think I posted this one last Monday but I think it came that day so I'm posting it again. I read this in less than a day! It is a wonderful and intriguing look at the mystery of Richard III and his nephews the Princes in the Tower. The main character, a detective from Scotland Yard, decides to look at all the available evidence and go through it like a policeman, trying to discover if Richard did indeed murder his nephews. Read this'll like it. You can check out my review of the book here

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Book Review: The Other Boleyn Girl

So, I said I'd review this one and I will. With all the hype a few weeks ago about Philippa Gregory's newest novel, The White Queen (you can find my review for it here).I thought I'd go ahead and do this review, even though its been several months since I read this book.

The Other Boleyn Girl, Philippa Gregory
3 roses

This is probably the most well known of Gregory's historical fiction novels and a movie version did come out a year or so ago. I enjoyed this book because it was entertaining, I felt like the characters had some depth to them so I cared about what happened to them, and it was an interesting story. That being said (as I said with The White Queen), there are loads of historical inaccuracies. This would not bother me so much if Gregory did not present herself as such a wonderful, through, and in depth historian/researcher. The story covers one of the most intriguing times in British history - Henry VIII's need for a son and break with the Catholic Church. Most people know about Anne Boleyn - Henry's second wife that he moved heaven and hell (literally!) to marry. This story is not told from Anne's point of view but from her younger sister Mary's point of view.

Mary comes to Henry VIII's court a young, innocent girl who has recently married. She is pretty and catches Henry's eye. Her power hungry and scheming family see this as their ticket to bigger and better things and they pretty much shove Mary into Henry's bed. Mary ends up falling in love with the King and baring him two children. She constantly disappoints her family though as she is not really cut out for the manipulative game they're playing. She also has moral qualms about what she is being made to do which directly contradicts what her family expects from her and she struggles with this throughout the story. Despite her family's ambitions, she feels loyalty to Queen Katherine and constantly apologizes for what she is doing on her family's bidding. She is eventually set aside in favor of Anne and watches her astounding rise to power and fame as an unwitting accomplice., knowing that she will forever be in her sister's shadow. Mary takes things into her own hands though and marries a man for love, gaining the animosity of her sister who banishes her from Court. In the country she learns the life of a country wife and realizes she would much prefer it to life at Court. That life catches up to her and she has to return to help Anne through miscarriages and Henry's quickly declining favor. Mary is able to avoid the arrest, imprisonment, and eventual execution that awaits Anne and their brother George.

This is an intriguing and entertaining story to read. It has everything that keeps most readers occupied - love, hate, sex, betrayal, greed, backstabbing, political intrigue, etc. It is NOT, however, the wonderful piece of HISTORICAL fiction that it is promoted as being. There are just way too many historical inaccuracies. Mary, for instance, by most accounts was the older sister though the sisters' exact birth dates are uncertain. Anne, while I do believe she was a very intelligent, shrewd person, I do NOT believe she was the horrible person Gregory portrays her as in this novel. There is also no proof of George's sexual preferences or the possible incest between him and Anne. In fact, the charge of incest between the siblings was most likely concocted by Cromwell and others in order to further damn Anne at her trial. These are just some of the bigger issues with the book (there are a lot of other smaller, more nit-picky points though). I have no problem with Gregory including these things in her story if that is her interpretation of history but she should not be trying to insist that this is absolutely what happened.

The characters in the story are interesting enough for me to care about. I feel sorry for Mary through much of the story because of the way her family treats her. At times I really do not like Anne and at others I can pity her (especially towards the end). Henry really comes across like a selfish little boy and I don't particularly like him either. Queen Katherine is a likable figure (must more so than in the Gregory story about her, The Constant Princess) and I do have to feel sorry for her on occasion.

Overall it is a good read and one that I think most people will enjoy if they don't care about the historical aspect too much. This book has really brought historical fiction to the forefront again and I am extremely grateful to Gregory for this.

This Day in History...

September 6, 1620 - Dissatisfied with the Church of England and persecuted in their own country, 149 Pilgrims set sail from England in the Mayflower and Speedwell bound for America. The Speedwell leaked so badly it wasn't able to make the trip.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Giveaway - Cleopatra's Daughter

A wonderful giveaway over at Historical Obsessed.

This one is for Michelle Moran's new novel Cleopatra's Daughter. Click the link below to check it out for yourself!

Cleo Giveaway!

This Day in History...

September 5, 1774 - The first session of the Continental Congress meets at Carpenter's Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This was in response to Parliament's enacting of the Coercive Acts. 56 delegates from all the colonies (except Georgia) drafted a declaration of grievances and rights.

Friday, September 4, 2009

If I Were Producing a Movie - Edward II and Isabella

Another installment of my "If I were producing a movie" where I pick a historical person (usually from British history...come on...that's my specialty!) and I try to decide which modern actors and actresses I think would do an awesome job in the roles.

This time I'm gonna tackle an interesting period from British history...the story of Edward II, his neglected Queen Isabella, and his male favorites. This ought to get interesting!!

As always, if you can think of a more suitable person for a particular role, please let me know!!

Edward II -

Queen Isabella- Kate Winslett (I think she'd do a bang up job in this role!)

Piers Galveston - Henry Cavill

Hugh le Despenser - Paul Walker

Hugh le Despenser (the elder) - Mel Gibson John McEnery

Eleanor le Despenser - Debra Messing

Roger Mortimer - Jude Law

Prince Edward -