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

Saturday, October 31, 2009

This Day in History...

October 31, 1485 - The coronation of Henry VII, the first of the Tudor rulers. The Tudor had defeated Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth in order to claim the English throne. He married Elizabeth of York, eldest daughter of Edward IV, to strengthen his claim.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Book Review: O, Juliet

O, Juliet, Robin Maxwell
4 roses

Now don't get all excited! This is NOT my full review of the novel!!! I will be posting that in January to go along with all the fun events, giveaways, interviews, etc that Ms. Maxwell is planning leading up to the release of this book in February 2010.

Please check out her website to see more about the books and the fun things she has planned to promote her newest novel!!

From Amazon:

Before Juliet Capelletti lie two futures: a traditionally loveless marriage to her father's business partner, or the fulfillment of her poetic dreams, inspired by the great Dante. Unlike her beloved friend Lucrezia, who looks forward to her arranged marriage, Juliet has a wild, romantic imagination that knows not the bounds of her great family's stalwart keep.

The latter path is hers for the taking when Juliet meets Romeo Monticecco, a soulful young man seeking peace between their warring families. A dreamer himself, Romeo is unstoppable, once he determines to capture the heart of the remarkable woman foretold in his stars. The breathless intrigue that ensues is the stuff of beloved legend. But those familiar with Shakespeare's muse know only half the story...

I wanted to go ahead and post a little something about this novel to keep everyone interested! I thought it was a wonderfully written book. It took me a few chapters to get into it but once things started happening and the plot moved along, I couldn't tear myself away. Maxwell has used as reference the earliest Italian stories written about two young, "star-crossed lovers," the same stories Shakespeare used as a basis for his famous play. This is a much different look at a story that is well known to most of us while retaining some of the same characters (though with different names), events, and even lines. It truly was a wonderful book that had me holding my breath until the end.

Please stay tuned for an author interview and giveaway after the first of the year!!

This Day in History...

October 30, 1485 - Henry VII founded the Yeoman of the Guard, 'Beefeaters,' to guard Royal Palaces in London. These gentlemen can still be found at the Tower of London.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Book Review: The Court of the Midnight King

The Court of the Midnight King, Freda Warrington
3.5 roses

I was really excited to finally get my hands on this book! It came in the mail from a friend over at Goodreads and I dove into immediately. It wasn't exactly what I had expected; it could almost be called historical fantasy because of the magical aspect involved. This is another version of Richard III's story and I really enjoyed it ... until the last 2 or 3 chapters. Then the author kind of lost me and I was left sitting there scratching my head. That is why, even though I liked the story, I only gave it 3.5 roses. Please be aware that in my review there could be some spoilers!!

Richard's story is seen through the eyes of two people, Katherine, a priestess/sorceress of the "old ways," and Raphael, a young boy who Richard saves and ends up serving him faithfully. The story spans from the death of Richard's father through Edward's reign up to the Battle of Bosworth and switches between their two points of view. Katherine and Richard run into each other by accident when Richard somehow wanders into "the hidden world" and they end up doing what lots of young people do when they find themselves alone. However afterward, Richard believes she is a witch and runs off. Kate ends up pregnant but manages to have the child in secret. She then serves Isabelle, Warwick's daughter, through their exile, return, Warwick's death, and finally Isabelle's own death. At that point, after fearing for her life at the hands of George, Duke of Clarance, she is sent to serve Isabelle's sister, Anne, now Richard's wife. There she tries to convince herself she is NOT in love with Richard and begins a relationship with Raphael. The rest of the story is about their relationship, her trying to avoid Richard (and ignore her feelings for him), Raphael's "visions" about what will happen to Richard and his reputation, and the battle that changes the history of England.

I had hoped that a story about Richard would be full of a lot more about him but instead we see a lot of Katherine's life. Since the story is from the point of view of two people who loved him, though with conflicting emotions sometimes, we do get to see him from two very different perspectives. These two fictional characters are interesting and I didn't mind reading about their lives. Richard himself is portrayed very realistically. He comes across as very human in his struggle between dark and light. The author shows Richard as innocent of ordering the murders of his nephews yet feeling guilty and to blame because he possibly "wished it" in his heart. I found this portrayal of Richard very touching; I really got a sense of how he suffered with this guilt he carried around. I could really sympathize with him and feel his suffering as he tried to do what was right and save his kingdom and his life.

His relationship with the two fictional characters is quite different: Raphael becomes a trusted friend who is beside him until the end and he is secretly in love with Katherine, turning to her for her honest opinion many times. Raphael never wavers in his devotion to Richard, despite the horrible visions he has about what will happen to Richard's reputation. This devotion does become an issue between him and Kate as she tries throughout the story to convince herself that she hates Richard. As to Richard and Kate - have you ever read a story where you wished the two characters would just "do it?" Well, that is how I felt about Kate and Richard at several points in the story. They both struggle with their feelings for each other even though they constantly turn to one another for comfort and/or opinions. We see other historical people throughout the story but none of them play a pivotal role in the author's narrative; they're there because they were really there in fact. We also see the "author's" life in a few snatches as she researches and becomes immersed in Richard and Raphael's stories. I didn't really like the inclusion of these parts though I understand why they were included.

The book is full of very descriptive writing - you can really see, hear, feel, taste what is being described. You really get a sense of place and time in the writing. The author does a great job with all the details and I never felt bogged down by them. I could almost close my eyes and see what she was talking about. The fantasy aspect to this story did not set too well with me. Some would have been okay but it was a bit over the top at some points for my taste. There is kind of an idealized point of view on the conflict between the Church and the old pagan ways but it is possible to believe that some of those old ways were still around at this time. The whole story really moved along at a fast pace until the end and then it was weird. The last few chapters had Kate and Raphael somehow interacting with the "author" and there was talk of parallel universes and things of that nature. That is where I began scratching my head in confusion. I am not going to mention here what happens with the Battle of Bosworth or the few days afterward but it was not what I was expecting at the end of this book. While I don't mind the author's take on this, it seemed a bit out of place with the rest of the story. Her "could have been" just seemed far fetched to me, even though it fit with the struggle between the "hidden and outer worlds" that had been a constant throughout the rest of the story.

This is a good book, don't get me wrong, and I'm sure I will read it again because I did enjoy it, even if I was a bit confused at the end. Warrington seems to have done her homework where Richard is concerned and she is a great storyteller. I would recommend this to anyone interested in reading about Richard. Die hard Ricardians will be pleased that he isn't portrayed as a villain and those that really know nothing about him will be swept into the story.

Booking Through Thursday - Blurbs

Booking through Thursday is hosted by Deb at Wordpress.

Q: What words/phrases in a blurb make a book irresistible? What words/phrases will make you put the book back down immediately?

Hmm...this one required some thinking. When I'm looking at books and considering purchasing them, a title or cover may catch my eye but I always read the back covers to see if the story is interesting. Short "blurbs" don't really affect me one way or another but the book description on the back cover (or inside flap on a hardback) certainly sway me one way or another. Anything dealing with British historical fiction is going to find its way into my bag (especially Plantagenant and Tudor). If it seems like some fluffy romance novel I probably am not going to buy it. Once I actually own the book I will, unless its absolutely horrible and/or boring, read the entire thing.

This Day in History...

October 29, 1618 - English seafarer, explorer, courtier, and writer Sir Walter Raleigh was beheaded at Whitehall. He had been a favorite of Queen Elizabeth but under her successor, James I, he had been falsely accused of treason and sentenced to death, commuted to imprisonment. He was released after 13 years to try and find the legendary gold of El Dorado. He failed, and returned to an undeserved fate.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Site of Battle of Bosworth Found

Lots of news stories coming out today about how researchers have finally found (or are as close to certain as you can be) the site of the Battle of Bosworth...and its not where it was originally thought to be. From what all the articles have said, its about two miles "down the road." This certainly doesn't detract me from my goal of trying to visit the site if I can get to England in the spring.

Here's a link to one article about this news.

Bosworth Found!

Wordless Wednesday

I love dressing up for the Renaissance Festival! No, the guy with me is not my hubby, just one of the actors. Yes, I realize my sunglasses are not period authentic!

This Day in History...

October 28, 1216 - Henry III, son of King John, was crowned. His son was the warrior king, Edward I, who fought the Scots and William Wallace.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme hosted by MizB over at Should be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

The Court of the Midnight King
, Freda Warrington

"I don't understand anything south of the Trent," he said darkly. "Here, things are simple. I carry out the law with fairness and, I hope, good sense, and I ensure that all my subjects can feed and clothe themselves. What more is there? But no, in the south there are half a dozen factions trying to eat each other up with jealousy, hatred, and sorcery. God, I'm glad to be out of it."

"Yes, Kate, I'm sorry." His hand came out of the darkness and found hers, pressing it to the stone. His voice was husky. "That you endured such misery at the hands of my brother - tenfold what he caused Anne, for he wasn't so crazed then - I can't tell you how ashamed I am. But I must know what happened. This is why I wanted to speak with you alone. It's desperately important. I've heard some of it, so outlandish is surpasses belief. Would you tell me what really happened?"

This Day in History...

Nothing too exciting today...just a real estate transaction.

October 27, 1662 - King Charles II sold the coastal town of Dunkirk to King Louis XIV of France.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Book Review: The Tudor Rose

The Tudor Rose, Margaret Campbell Barnes
3.5 roses

This was a reissue of a book originally published in the 50s. It is the story of Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV, wife of Henry VII, and mother of Henry VIII. It was a good book but not exceptional, hence my rating of only 3.5 roses. I did enjoy it though, just not enough to give it a higher rating.

The story starts right before Edward IV's sudden death as Elizabeth is trying on her wedding dress, thinking she is to be married to the Dauphin of France, and ends a few months before her death. The reader is taken through all the turmoil of Bess's life: her father's death and her mother whisking them into Sanctuary, the knowledge that her brothers were murdered in the Tower, her feelings towards her Uncle Richard, her life married to Henry Tudor, and the uncertainty Perkin Warbeck throws over her in regards to the fate of her brothers.

In this novel, Barnes gives the reader a much more detailed look at Elizabeth of York. Other stories that have her in it really don't delve much into who she really was or what she was really like; we usually just see her as the quiet, submissive Queen to Henry VII. Being the daughter of Edward IV though, she could not have been that quiet and Barnes's portrayal of her here is of a very loving, caring, and passionate woman who desperately wants to know the love of a man. She seems to understand the world she is living in and that she is just a pawn to be used but at the same time she seems a bit naive when it comes to men, especially when it comes to her husband. It is mentioned many times throughout the book that she just wanted to find a man to love her. A lot of the story hinges on her feelings for her brothers, who she loved dearly, and how she makes some of her decisions based on that. While Richard is alive, and even at some points after his death, Bess seems to be struggling with her feelings for him; she can't decide how she feels. She wants to hate him and always appears to be trying to find reasons to convince herself of that, including convincing herself that he did indeed kill her brothers. Still, she is drawn to him. Her attempts to excuse and love her husband seem to me more of her trying to rid herself of her feelings towards her uncle.

There were some surprising aspects to the story, including Bess's relationship with her mother-in-law, Margaret Beaufort. In all the previous accounts I have read there really was no relationship between them; Bess was always pushed to the side and almost ignored by Margaret. Here, we see a very loving, caring relationship between them. Bess is also shown to have a very sweet, caring relationship with her youngest son, Henry. We also see Bess helping the conspiritors early on by writing a letter to Henry in Brittany telling him that she will marry him if he comes and defeats Richard.

Barnes seems to follow the thinking that one of the brothers, Richard of York, might have managed to escape the Tower, but we don't really know that until almost the end of the story and even then she never comes right out and says it. Bess has very conflicting emotions when it comes to Perkin Warbeck and after meeting him in a garden, she convinces herself that it can't be her brother because Richard murdered her brothers (more attempts at convincing herself he was evil). She clings to this belief until after his death when she hears about his attempted escape from the Tower. While she never says anything in the story we are lead to believe that she changed her mind when she heard about Perkin running and opening the lion cages at the Tower before trying to get out the gate.

This was a well written book with great descriptive writing. There were good details included but not so much that you would get bogged down in them. Richard is shown to be a much more sinister person but Barnes doesn't go all the way to make him appear down right evil. We see some of how Bess worked behind the scenes to help bring about some of the events known to history but yet once she is married we still don't see her playing an active roll in politics; we only see her strong emotions and feelings towards what is happening around her. Thankfully there was no magic thrown in to this story where Elizabeth Woodville is concerned. The ending was peaceful and sweet with Bess in the garden with Harry and the other children, a few months away from the birth of her last child. I'm glad Barnes did not end the story at Bess's death but instead choose to end it showing that Bess did have people around her that loved her.

Overall it was a good book and one that I would recommend to other readers interested in the period. It was refreshing to finally read something that went deeper into Elizabeth of York's character to look at her feelings and emotions, rather than just keeping her on the fringes of events and never knowing what she thought about them. Even with my Ricardian sympathies I wasn't upset over how he appeared in this novel.

This Day in History...

October 26, 899 - King Alfred the Great, Saxon King of Wessex, is believed to have died on this date. He was a soldier and scholar, he fought against the invading Danes (Vikings), and formed England's first navy. He is the only English King to ever be called "the Great."

Mailbox Mondays

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

So I got two this week that I was super excited about!!

The Court of the Midnight King, by Freda Warrington

I got this one from a friend over at Goodreads. Thank you MAP! I have been anxiously awaiting this one! It is another novel about Richard III (and y'all know about my obsession with things dealing with Dickon!).

O, Juliet, by Robin Maxwell

I was honored to receive an advanced copy of her upcoming novel! It is a telling of the story of Romeo and Juliet...but not Shakespeare's version!! I can't wait to get into this one! Also, there will be a lot of fun stuff coming in the next couple of months leading up to the release of this book! Stay tuned!!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

This Day in History...

October 25, 1415 - King Henry V's army (comprised of the longbowmen who became feared in battle after this) defeated a vastly superior French Army at the Battle of Agincourt. This was another battle in the Hundred Year's War between England and France over the Crown of France.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

This Day in History...

October 24, 1537 - Jane Seymour, Henry VIII's 3rd wife, died following the birth of the long awaited heir, Edward VI. Edward only lived into his teens and his sisters Mary then Elizabeth each came to the throne, so all Henry's hard work was for naught.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Who Would you Invite??

I borrowed this idea from a post over in one of the groups at Goodreads (here is the link to the original thread). One of the ladies started a discussion that has generated some wonderful answers and I had to borrow it to post here! I hope I get some interesting responses!!

If you could invite any 5 historical people to a dinner party, who would you invite and why?

1. Elizabeth I - Queen Bess would have to be my first choice as my interest in her really got me into reading historical fiction and my love of British history. I would really love to ask her how she really felt about her father, what her relationship with Dudley was really like, was she lonely and regretted not marrying and having children, what was her childhood like being cast off by her father, did she have an illegitimate child, etc, etc? I think she would be a fascinating dinner partner.

2. Anne Boleyn - I would just love to find out what this lady was really like. While I don't believe she was as evil as some historians have made her out to be, it would be interesting to see just what made up her personality. Of course, I'd have to ask all the obvious questions dealing with Henry and the adultery charges, etc, etc. It would also be nice to have her at the table with her daughter. I think she would find it amazing how much she is still talked about and discussed over 500 years after her death.

3. Richard III - I have become fascinated with this man, probably for some of the same reasons I enjoy reading about Anne Boleyn - he has been so vilified by history that I want to see how accurate any of it is. I'd have to ask him about his nephews in the Tower because that is just something EVERYONE is dying to know (at least historical fiction people LOL!), did he really love his wife, Anne, or did he just want her money, did he really want the Crown? I'd also like the chance to tell him that finally, not everyone believes he was a horrible, murdering hunchback. Since I don't believe he was that horrible (probably somewhere in the middle) I actually find myself liking the man!

4. Eleanor of Aquitaine - She was an absolutely fascinating woman who lead a fascinating life. I would love to hear the details from her. There are so many things that I could ask her about (her sons, what did she think of what eventually happened with John, why did she take part in that rebellion, etc, etc) but one of the first things I'd ask would be about Rosamund Clifford and if Eleanor had anything to do with her death.

5. Boudicca - For those of you not familiar with the name, she was the leader of the Eceni tribe and lead an almost successful revolt against the Romans. I have been interested in this lady since I saw a program about her on the History Channel. Since this period of Britian's history is scantily recorded (except by the Romans and they're going to be biased) I would love to learn what it was really like during those times, what she really was like, and what eventually happened to her.

I had an extremely hard time choosing. I would much rather have a big dinner party so I could talk to lots of historical people: William of Normandy, Henry II, Edward I, Queen Isabella, Hugh Despenser, Edward III, John of Gaunt, Katherine Swynford, Henry V, Elizabeth Woodville, Elizabeth of York, Henry VIII (I'd love to let Henry VIII know that it was his daughter that reigned so successfully after him, most don't even know he had a son, and that people today think he was a tyrant), William Shakespeare, and more. However, as there would probably be a lot of tension with a group like that, I wouldn't want blood shed at my table!

This Day in History...

October 23, 1642 - Charles I and Prince Rupert led the Royalists and the Earl of Essex led the Parliamentarians in the first major battle of the English Civil War at Edgehill in South Warwickshire.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

This Day in History...

Couldn't find anything that really interested me (or was really old) for today but this certainly was important...

October 22, 1962 - JFK announces in a televised speech that US spy planes had discovered Soviet missile bases - still under construction but almost completed - in Cuba that would be within striking distance of major US cities.

Booking Through Thursday - One Question

Booking through Thursday is hosted by Deb at Wordpress.

Q: If you could ask your favorite author (alive or dead) one question … who would you ask, and what would the question be?

Wow! This one required some thinking but I'd probably want to question Sharon Kay Penman. I think I'd probably ask her, based on how successful Sunne in Splendour is and how so many people love it, would she ever consider writing more about the Wars of the Roses? I think I read some where that she had no plans to write on the Tudors but I'd love to read more from her about the Wars of the Roses.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

This Day in History...

October 21 1805 - Nelson gave his famous signal, ‘England expects...’ which flew from the HMS Victory shortly after 11:00 a.m at the Battle of Trafalgar . The British won this important battle against Napoleon’s combined French and Spanish fleets, but Nelson was one of the day’s casualties.

Wordless Wednesday

One of many Knot Gardens at Hampton Court Palace

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme hosted by MizB at ShouldBeReading. 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!

The Tudor Rose, Margaret Campbell Barnes

Frightened by her anguish and by the churchmen's solemn faces, Richard felt the budding manhood he had clung to so desperately deserting him. He turned his back on them and caught at her dress.

And because she wept Richard wept too, and they clung together so that the gentle Aboot had perforce to part them. The Queen turned away, covering her eyes with a dramatic gesture and leaving the boy sobbing alone in the midst of them. It was one of those devastating scenes which the Woodville Queen seemed almost involuntarily to create.

This Day in History...

October 20, 1774 - In response to the "Intolerable Acts" passed by British Parliament, the First Continental Congress created the Continental Association. This called for the complete ban on all trade between American and Great Britain.

Monday, October 19, 2009

This Day in History...

Got a couple things for today.

October 19, 1781 - The American Revolution came to an end when, after a three week siege, British commander Lord Cornwallis surrendered his 8,000 troops to George Washington at Yorktown, in Virginia.

October 19, 1216 - King John (Richard the Lionheart's younger brother) died during a Civil War which was the result of his refusal to recognize the Magna Carta which had been signed the previous year.

Mailbox Mondays

Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page. It is a place to share books that showed up in your mailbox last week (or that you purchased or swapped, etc.). Books checked out of the library do not count.

Well, I have had to cut back on the spending as the financial situation is not great at the moment. I'm hoping to get some work soon and then I can get some more books. There are so many coming out that I want to get!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

This Day in History...

October 17, 1777 - In the first large scale surrender of British troops in the Revolutionary War, British general John Burgoyne surrenders his 5,000 British and Hessian troops to American General Horatio Gates at Saratoga, New York. Soon after the victory, King Louis XVI of France agreed to recognize the independence of the U.S and the French ambassador began arrangements for French aid to the cause; this aid became crucial to the eventual American victory.

Friday, October 16, 2009

This Day in History...

October 16, 1555 - Queen Mary had English bishops Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley burnt at the stake for heresy. This was more of Mary's attempt to bring the Catholic Church back to England. All she achieved by burning Protestants was the hatred of the public.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Thoughts on Richard III

So I was trying to think of something else I could post on my blog here besides book reviews and history tidbits and I realized I never post about my own thoughts pertaining to historical people and events. That in mind, I decided I would try to post at least once a week about a person or event from history and my thoughts, opinions, etc, on them. This first week I picked a topic that (hopefully!) draws some attention: Richard III.

If you ask someone about Richard III and if they actually know who you are talking about, their response is probably going to include: evil, hunchback, killed his nephews in the Tower. We have the wonderful William Shakespeare to thank for this view of Richard. I never bought into the evil, hunchbacked Richard of Shakespeare. I realized he was writing to satisfy the current Tudor monarchy and it certainly wouldn't do to have a nice Richard (or to make Elizabeth I's grandfather look like a usurper, which would make her claim to the throne shaky, etc). Aside from that, I never thought much about him until about the last year, when I started reading a lot on the War of the Roses and have spent lots of time researching on the internet (and listening to the folks in various discussion groups and forums) and came up with my humble opinion on what could have happened.

First, as to if he wanted the crown or not, I think most people at the time probably would not have minded having the crown of England on their head. I doubt Richard was any different. However, I don't think he ever believed the opportunity would come his way, since he was first, the 4rd son of the Duke of York, and second, once Edward had sons they would naturally come after him. He also seemed quite content being Lord of the North and was very well liked in the northern part of England. So to that I don't think he lusted after the crown and power, but once the opportunity presented itself, he took it.

Now, as to how that opportunity came about. From what I've read about Richard, it seems that he was a fairly good and honest person (as much as human beings can be anyway) who wanted to do what was good and right for the people. It certainly doesn't seem like he wanted the crown upon his brother's death. Something had to have happened to make him believe that the Woodvilles were up to something. He might have been concerned with what the Woodvilles would do, not only to him and his family, but also to the country, as they do come across as rather grasping and power hungry (I am not for or against the Woodvilles, just want to make that clear). Making sure that he was there with Edward V before he got to London and in the clutches of his mother's family was, in his mind, probably the only way to make sure that Edward IV's command that R3 be Protector was carried out (it is documented, I believe, that Richard was already weary of the Woodvilles). It does seem that he had every intention of making sure his nephew was crowned King of England (having people swear fealty to Edward, planning for his coronation, etc). If he had started out with the intent on taking the crown, why did he not come down from York with a full complement of soliders ready for battle? He only sent for them later on and that, to me, seems like the actions of someone worried for his safety. He knew his brother wanted his son to follow him and Richard usually followed Edward's orders. So something must have happened to alter Richard's plans for Edward V. When he was confronted with the evidence (I have to believe that Stillington had SOMETHING that proved a pre-contract since I don't think Richard would just take one person's word on something that important. Then again, he might have been that trusting.) that Edward V was illegitimate, he felt that the only right thing to do was to accept the crown. I don't believe he set out with the intention of cheating his nephews out of what was rightfully theirs (and after they were declared illegitimate, it wouldn't have been their right anyway, correct?). This many years distanced from the events it is hard to know what R3's true feelings and intentions were, of course.

On to probably the biggest mystery of R3's reign: the boys in the Tower. I honestly don't think Richard killed them or ordered their murder. Even if they WERE illegitimate, they were still his nephews and he seemed very loyal to his family. I have two theories on what happened to them.

1. Buckingham, on his own, took matters into his own hands and had the boys murdered, hoping that Richard would thank him for helping him out of a delicate situation. Then, Buckingham heads a rebellion against this same King he had been friends with. If this rebellion happened AFTER the boys disappeared and it was rumored that they were dead, Richard may have discovered that Buckingham had ordered it and become really angry at him, words may have been exchanged, Buckingham may have thought that he would loose the power he DID have and R3 would possibly arrest HIM, thus causing him to think that his best chance of survival (and retaining some power) would be to back Tudor. Now, why, if Buckingham did the boys in, didn't R3 make some public acknowledgment of what happened, thus possibly clearing his name? Leaving it in the dark certainly made him look worse. It could be that, seeing how public opinion was already turning against him, he knew that the public would probably never believe that he hadn't ordered it in the first place.

2. It seems fairly logical that the person with the most to gain or loose from the boys being dead/alive is Henry VII. If they are still alive, whether legitimate or not, they are going to be a rallying point for people still loyal to the Yorks and wanting to get rid of HIM. It seems that having them secretly murdered and letting the blame fall on Richard solves his problems. Smearing the reputation of the monarch you just defeated is always helpful. With them dead he can legitimize Edward IV's children so he can marry Elizabeth without the taint of bastardy and not have to worry about anyone trying to set Edward V or the little Duke of York on the throne. As to the evidence proving Edward IV's pre-contract, I think that if there was hard evidence proving this, Henry would have destroyed it as quickly as possible. He needed Elizabeth of York to be legitimate to help his claim. He did destroy all copies of Titulus Regius, which had declared all of Edward IV's children illegitimate.

His mother, Margaret Beaufort, also could have ordered them murdered, knowing that having them permanently out of the picture would make the way easier for her son (she was rather ambitious for him, wouldn't you say?). If this was the case, and he didn't know, it could explain why Henry VII was so cautious about Perkin Warbeck's claim to be Richard, Duke of York. She certainly was aware that Elizabeth of York was a key to holding the support of Yorkists and a marriage with her would help solidify his claim but she had to be a legitimate heir to the crown. However, once you legitimize her, you do the same for her brothers, so they had to be out of the way.

What about Shakespeare's version of Richard's story? Well, consider a few factors here. The biggest is of course, the fact that Shakespeare's monarch was Elizabeth I. It certainly wouldn't have done Will's career any good to write a play portraying the grandfather of England's favorite monarch as a usurper. Shakespeare also based some of his play from Thomas More's A History of Richard III which was considered "the" authority on Richard's life. Without going into a lot of detail here, More was just a small child when Richard was King and was defeated by Tudor so he would not have a reliable memory of what happened during Richard's life or reign. He seemed to have gotten a lot of HIS information from a man who had hated Richard. Also, as with Shakespeare, you need to look at who was the reigning monarchs when More was writing: Henry VII and Henry VIII. I see More's work as Tudor propaganda to further discredit R3. What better way to turn public feeling against a beaten King than turning that King into an evil, nephew murdering hunchback?

These are just my opinions. Now, Richard could have been lusting after the crown and made up the pre-contract and then had the boys murdered. It also has never been proven that they WERE murdered. It is entirely possible that R3 had them moved somewhere secretly for their own protection. Maybe Henry VII is totally blameless. Who knows for sure unless something concrete is discovered. Anything is possible. That's what makes it so interesting and fascinating.

Booking Through Thursday - Old Books

Booking through Thursday is a weekly bookish meme hosted by Deb over at Wordpress.

Q: What do you do when you have to weed out your book collection? Throw them away? Donate? Put on Paperbackswap, etc,?

My book collection is not huge by any stretch of the imagination but when I buy books, I only purchase ones that I'm pretty sure I'm going to want to read over and over. This being the case, there aren't many books that I ever want to get rid of. I have gone through some of my books from college and a couple I or my husband received as Christmas presents that we'll never read and put them on Paperbackswap. I have also reposted a few of the books received off Paperbackswap when I finished, knowing that I didn't really like them and would not be reading them again.

This Day in History...

October 15, 1863 - The first successful submarine, the C.S.S Hunley, sinks during a test run in Charleston Harbor. The inventor, Horace Lawson Hunley, and seven crew members drowned. Surprisingly, another crew volunteered and the Hunley went back to work. In February 1864 it torpedoed a US ship outside Charleston Harbor. It was the first sub to ever sink a ship in battle. Unfortunately that was its only successful mission - it sank on its way back into Charleston Harbor, killing another crew.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

This Day in History...

October 14, 1066 - English King Harold met and was defeated by William of Normandy at The Battle of Hastings on the southern coast of England. King Harold was killed and William 'The Conqueror' was proclaimed King of England. The famous Bayeux Tapestry depicts the events leading up to and during the battle. It was believed that the tapestry was created by William's Queen Matilda and her ladies-in-waiting but scholars believe it was commissioned by William's brother Bishop Odo.

Book Review: The Queen's Handmaiden

The Queen's Handmaiden, Jennifer Ashley
2 roses

I was not impressed with this book but it wasn't completely awful, though I'm glad I only checked it out from the library. This is a rather lukewarm telling of Elizabeth's rise to be Queen of England.

The story is told from the eyes of Eloise Rousell who is sent to her aunt, Kat Ashley, when her new stepfather wanted her out of the way. She is an expert seamstress and quickly becomes close with the Princess Elizabeth. Eloise stays with Elizabeth throughout her time in Catherine Parr's household and the mess caused by Thomas Seymour, and throughout her time as her sister Mary's prisoner. Eloise becomes a close friend and confidante to the Princess and takes many risks to help some of the plots to rescue Elizabeth and put her on the throne. She also meets her future husband while involved in these plots. After Elizabeth's triumphant coronation, Eloise remains a close friend and when Kat Ashley dies, she steps into the place of Elizabeth's closest confidant.

The whole story just fell flat for me. I thought the whole thing could have been written much better. There really wasn't anything that interesting in it that made me want to keep turning pages and find out what happened to the characters. Eloise did not seem very well rounded to me; there just was nothing interesting about her, nothing that made her stand out. In fact all the characters, perhaps with the exception of Elizabeth, seemed dull and lifeless most of the time; there was nothing about any of them that made them remotely interesting. Throughout the story Eloise is able to take part in the plots and remains unsuspected because she is "a mere seamstress." It would seem that those in power would eventually figure out who was working as a go between even if it was just a seamstress, but Eloise constantly says that she can take part because she'd never be suspected. She is eventually arrested but released a few months later. And for her being a seamstress there really is not that much about her craft in the story, which would have been fairly interesting to read about. There is also nothing mentioned about how she manages to get messages between Elizabeth and conspirators until something slips in a chance sentence much later in the story. Eloise's method of communication is rather brilliant and it would have been interesting to see it explained in more detail.

I also had some issues with the way the story flowed. There were some instances where things are moving along and then we find out something pretty important has happened but we were never told about it and Eloise pops in with something like, "Oh, let me tell you how this came about." The most glaring example of this was her own marriage to James Colby. Eloise is called to meet with her mother and stepfather and is told she is to be given in marriage to a much older man. Eloise says she can't do that because she is already married! The author then has Eloise tell the reader:

I must retrace my steps and explain how it happened that when my stepfather was ready to bind me into an unwelcome match, I was already legally sworn to a more welcome one.

Yes, there had been a friendship between Eloise and James Colby leading up to this point and I could already tell that they would end up married before the end of the story, but there was no hint that they had married. Eloise kept it secret because she didn't want to disappoint Elizabeth and I suppose the author decided to keep it secret from the reader as well to make it seem like Eloise was indeed keeping it quiet. While I found the scene amusing as she stood up to her stepfather, I just don't like the way episodes of this sort popped up in a few places throughout the story. It just doesn't help with the flow of the story and it seems like the author got to a place where she needed to change something in the past to fit with what was happening at that moment.

The only other small issue I had with the story was the ending and it really isn't a huge problem, just something that caused a raised eyebrow. The story pretty much ends after Kat Ashley dies and we have a final scene where Eloise is watching Elizabeth across the room, thinking about what a glorious Queen she is, and then we find out that Eloise puts herself in Kat's old place as sole confidant to Elizabeth:

Across the great hall, her eyes met mine, and she gave the barest twitch of lips. We would do it, she and I, she the ruler, and I her conscience.

Like I said, its not a big issue but from most things that I have read about Elizabeth, once her trusted Kat Ashley died, she took no one else into her confidences the way she had with Kat. I have come across references to this in several different spots and here we have Eloise setting herself up as Elizabeth's right-hand man. Like I said, not a huge issue, but it didn't sit quite right with me, though I understand the author had to close the story in a nice, tidy way and so it appeared that Eloise would "live happily ever after."

For me this was a very mediocre novel, so much so that there really wasn't that much to discuss in a review besides the dullness of the characters and the uninteresting story. It was not a BAD novel, just not a good one. My perception could be a bit biased as I have read so much about this period of time that most anything I read might seem a bit dull as I already know the whole story so well. I gave this one 2 roses because while I didn't really enjoy it, I could read it again if I had nothing else around; it certainly wasn't a wall-banger for me. I would suggest this one to those that don't know Elizabeth's story too well or just want some light reading.

Wordless Wednesday

The Chapel at Chawton, Jane Austen's home.

Book Giveaway - Pendragon's Banner!

Enchanted by Josephine is giving away Helen Hollick's book Pendragon's Banner, the second in her King Arthur series. Check out her interview and the giveaway by clicking the link below!

Arthurian Giveaway!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme hosted by MizB at Should be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) "teaser" sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!! (Make sure that what you share doesn't give too much away! You don't want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title and author so other TT participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teasers!
Here are my two for the week. I've started a book that deals with the Civil War, which is a switch from my usual British historical fiction.

Two Brothers: One North, One South, David H. Jones

McHenry noted that William and his friends had the look of rough service. They were poorly clad in a hodgepodge of civilian clothing and presented an unwashed appearance from their exertions over the past few days. However, they were carrying very effective-looking rifles that left no doubt that these were soldiers engaged in serious business.

"We were sent by train back up to Harpers Ferry Last week with instructions to burn everything," William replied. "Of course, Marylanders are more likely to do things sensibly rather than follow orders to the letter, so we brought back a whole bunch of seasoned gunstocks. I heard Colonel Steuart say that we're going to send them to North Carolina in appreciation for these fine Mississippi Rifles they gave us."

This Day in History...

October 13, 1399 - Henry Bolingbroke becomes Henry IV (the first King of the House of Lancaster) when he was crowned king of England. He had been exiled by his cousin Richard II and returned when his father, John of Gaunt, died and the King confiscated all his lands. Henry returned saying he did so just to get his father's lands back but ended up gaining enough power and support that he was crowned King. Richard was sent to Pontefract Castle and died there under "mysterious circumstances."

Henry's oldest son, Henry of Monmouth, would become the famous victor of Agincourt - Henry V.

Monday, October 12, 2009

This Day in History...

October 12, 1537 - After moving heaven and earth (and two previous wives) in order to get a male heir to the throne, Edward VI, the only son of Henry VIII by his third wife Jane Seymour was born. Jane died 13 days after giving birth to him. Edward unfortunately was not very strong and his brief reign only lasted a few years, which allowed his sisters Mary and then Elizabeth to take the English throne (so all that hard work on Henry's part to get a male heir to keep a woman off the throne of England was for naught!).

Mailbox Mondays

Mailbox Mondays is hosted by Marcia 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). Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

There have been several books out since the beginning of October that I wanted and I have managed to get two of them. I did find another I really wanted but it was only in hardcover and I can't pay $25 for one book at the moment.

The Queen's Mistake, by Diane Haeger

This is a novel about Henry VIII's fifth wife, Catherine Howard. I have read one other of this author's works and wasn't too thrilled with it so I'm hoping this one is a bit better.

The Tudor Rose, by Margaret Campbell Barnes

This is a reprint/issue of one of her novels that was published back in the 50s (I think). The copy I got at Borders has a different cover on it though. It is the story of Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV, wife of Henry VII, and mother of Henry VIII. I'm looking forward to reading this one because I have become really fascinated with the Wars of the Roses over the past several months, though I have heard that Richard of Gloucester is not painted in a very favorable light in this version.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

This Day in History...

An interesting day...I couldn't pass up these two tidbits I found!

October 11, 1216 - King John (Richard the Lionheart's younger brother) lost his crown and jewels whilst crossing 'The Wash'. This incident is portrayed in Elizabeth Chadwick's wonderful novel The Marsh King's Daughter which I read and reviewed.

October 11, 1521 - Pope Leo X conferred the title of 'Defender of the Faith' on King Henry VIII for his book supporting Catholic principles against Luther's attacks. In later years, Henry hoped that being on good terms with the Pope would help him get his divorce from Catherine of didn't.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

This Day in History...

October 10, 1877 - The US Army held a funeral service with full military honors at West Point for Lieutenant-Colonel George Armstrong Custer. Custer had been killed the year before in Montana during the famous Battle of the Little Big Horn by Sioux and Cheyenne Indians.

Omg!! Look at that hair!!!

Friday, October 9, 2009

This Day in History...

October 9, 1470 - King Henry VI of England was restored to the throne after being deposed by the Yorkists in 1461. However, six months later he was deposed again when Edward IV regained the throne. Henry was lodged in the Tower of London and supposedly died from heartbreak.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Booking Through Thursday - Discuss

Booking through Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by Deb over at Wordpress. This week's "question" is a bit different as we're putting out questions to be discussed by other readers.

"I was wanting to try a certain author and wished I knew someone who had read her works so I could get a recommendation when it occurred to me that having a “YOU ask the question” Booking Through Thursday might be fun. Each participant could ask a question they’ve wanted to discuss with other readers. Perhaps, like me, you’d like a recommendation of a certain author’s best work, or perhaps you LOVE a certain genre or series but no one else you know does and you’d just like to discuss it with someone. Or perhaps you want to try a new genre and would like recommendations from seasoned readers."

It was incredibly hard to narrow this down to one question as I have so much I would love to discuss, as well as get recommendations from other readers. So, here is my question to other readers:

Do you prefer to read historical fiction that is only lightly based on historical fact or would you prefer to read one that is much more historically accurate?

I tend to lean a bit more towards having more things historically accurate in what I read, but if the book is well written then I will enjoy it either way. Some would say if a book sticks solely to known historical facts they're probably going to be dry and boring, like a history book. Not so. One of my favorite authors, Sharon Kay Penman, is very historically accurate in her novels and they are absolutely riveting reads. There has been a lot of discussion lately about Philippa Gregory's works. I enjoy her books (for the most part) and find them entertaining, interesting, and fun to read. I know that they are not the most historically accurate and that would be fine EXCEPT....she is really promoted as being such a wonderful and thorough historian. That bugs me. There are some other historical fiction authors that I have really loved and I know their books have plenty of historical inaccuracies but they do not promote themselves as impeccable historians so the inaccuracies don't bug me nearly as much. Am I saying a historical fiction author should always stick to only what is known? Goodness no. Most of what these authors write happened hundreds of years ago and there is no way of knowing for certain what someone said, felt, did, how certain events actually came about, etc etc, and the authors HAVE to fill in with what they believe is probable. That is what makes it FICTION after all.

Book Review: The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn

The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn, Robin Maxwell
5 roses

I do not give many books 5 roses but this is, hands down, my favorite book about Anne Boleyn. I love the way her story (the diary) is intertwined with her daughter Elizabeth's. Of all the books about Anne that I have read, this is probably the only one that doesn't portray Anne as a horrible, vindictive, almost evil person. She is shown as a very passionate and ambitious person, though. As with all historical fiction, I am aware that the author certainly took some creative license in the telling of her story but there is nothing that seems really out of place or too over the top for me.

Not long after her coronation, Elizabeth receives a visit from an elderly lady who served her mother, Anne Boleyn, during her last days in the Tower. This lady gives Elizabeth something priceless: her mother's secret diary, which she had kept for most of her life. The rest of the story switches back and forth between the entries in Anne's diary and Elizabeth's life. Through the reading of her mother's diary she learns a great deal about the woman she never knew and realizes Anne was not the horrible person she had always been told she was. In the diary Anne recounts her time spent in France, her love for Henry Percy and the heartbreak over their forced separation, Henry's wooing, the rise of her power along with her family's, her marriage to Henry and Elizabeth's birth, and the events that lead up to her imprisonment and execution. While reading her mother's diary, Elizabeth is embroiled in an affair with Robert Dudley which threatens not only her reputation but possibly her Crown as well.

This story was beautifully written and in such a way that I could almost feel what some of the characters were feeling. Anne's portrayal here is much more in line with what I believe: that she was a fairly innocent but extremely intelligent young girl who, because she was thwarted in her one true love, became a bit bitter and wanted revenge on those who caused the hurt. Once she was caught up in the relationship with Henry she probably felt she had no way out and enjoyed the power that it did give her. I have never believed she was really evil or mean but certainly ambitious. She does come to realize that her anger and need for revenge have come back to haunt her. There were some powerful and emotional scenes in her diary, especially in her feelings for Elizabeth and when she realizes that Henry has lost interest and means to be rid of her. One of my favorite moments was when Anne was describing how afraid she was at her coronation - until she felt her child kick in her belly. I thought that was a very touching moment. As her story began to wind down to its ultimate conclusion, I could feel Anne's desperation and panic as she tried to keep Henry's affections and then her resignation as to what was going to happen to her. It really made me wish things had turned out differently for her.

As for Elizabeth, she does change while reading her mother's diary. Probably the main thing she realizes is that she does not want to give up power and control to any man (though that doesn't stop her affair with Dudley), as she has seen what it did to her mother. I think she also benefits from learning that Anne did love her and while she was certainly no saint, she was not a horrible person. One of the most telling of Elizabeth's comments was when she was talking to the elderly woman who had brought the diary to her:

"It is you who have done me the honor, good lady. You have returned to me a treasure I had no idea I had lost. And a love I had forgotten I owned."

For me however, the two most emotional parts of the book were towards the end. The first was when Elizabeth discovered a small room that was filled with what remained of her mother's possessions - shoes with her the imprint of her foot still in it, a dress, cosmetics, books. The second moment almost had me in tears. Elizabeth goes to the Tower to stand in the Great Hall where her mother was condemned, to stand at the spot the scaffold stood and her mother lost her life, and finally, in the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula. While standing there she is first overcome with grief knowing that her mother's body was beneath the stones and then she finally has a memory of her mother's scent, laugh, and her smiling eyes. I was almost in tears as she cried out for Anne (and I do not usually get emotional while reading).

This was a marvelous and emotional book. Maxwell is able to pull the reader into the story and you can really sympathize with some of the characters. Writers should all strive to elicit some emotional response - be it laughter, anger, or sadness - in their readers; Maxwell succeeds in this book. I would recommend this to anyone who is interested in Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth.

*If anyone is interested in more about Anne, Maxwell also wrote Mademoiselle Boleyn which is a look into Anne's life at the Court of France.

This Day in History...

October 8, 1871 - The Great Chicago Fire breaks out, lasting 2 days, killing between 200-300 people, destroys 17,450 buildings, and doing $200 million in damages (in 1871 dollars; now it would be over $3 billion) . It was supposedly started by a spark in Patrick and Catherine O'Leary's barn.

And something a bit literary as well....

October 8, 1908 - Kenneth Grahame's classic children's book The Wind In The Willows was first published. It has never been out of print in its entire history.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Book Review: The Queen's Bastard

The Queen's Bastard, Robin Maxwell
3.5 roses

This was the sequel to Maxwell's The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn (which I have read and loved and intend on posting a review here) and it covered a controversial subject - the idea that Elizabeth and Robert Dudley had a child, Arthur. The book is set up almost like a frame story: part is Arthur's memoirs and the other part is an omniscient third-person telling of Elizabeth and Dudley's story. While I really don't buy into the theory (and I have now read three books that present this theory as part of the plot) this was an enjoyable, interesting, and well written read.

It is still early in Elizabeth's reign and she and Dudley are indeed lovers. When she discovers that she is pregnant, Elizabeth is determined to have the baby and hide it until she can name the child as her successor. She then sets about hiding the fact that she's pregnant and arranging to travel around the country on progress to remote manors when it is impossible to hide the fact. However, her loyal lady Kat Ashley and William Cecil think that the Queen's plan will never work; that she'll never be able to hide the child and enemies might be able to use him or her against the Queen. They come up with a plan to protect Elizabeth and England: to switch the baby at birth with a stillborn child and place Elizabeth and Dudley's child with an adoptive family. Amazingly, they are successful and Elizabeth and Robert believe their child died at birth. This loss cements their love for each other and, despite the turmoils their relationship goes through over the years, they remain devoted to one another.

Meanwhile, Arthur is brought up by a close friend of Kat Ashley - Robert Southern. While Arthur's "father" loves him his "mother" hates him and really makes his life difficult. He is quite the horseman and the highlight of his young life is when he gets to show off his skills for the Queen and Leicester. Arthur eventually joins the military and goes to fight against Spain in the Netherlands, where he meets William of Orange. This meeting seems to have a profound influence on the young man's ways of looking at things in the world. It is while he is in the Netherlands that he learns that his father is dying and he hurries home. On his deathbed, Robert Southern reveals to Arthur the circumstances of his birth. Obviously in shock, Arthur debates what to do and finally goes and presents himself to Robert Dudley. It doesn't take long for Dudley to realize this is his son but cautions Arthur not to reveal himself to Elizabeth yet. Arthur then becomes a spy, working for his father and Walsingham in Spain. In Spain he is injured and falls in love with the lady that nurses him back to health. Eventually he is caught and thrown in prison, left to die when Phillip realizes this most likely is Elizabeth's son and thus a threat to his plans for the English throne. Arthur manages to escape, thanks to the family of his lady love, and ends up on a ship in the Spanish Armada where he is able to do some sabotage before finally being discovered and jumps overboard to be picked up by an English ship. It is after this that Dudley and Arthur go to Elizabeth and reveal his identity. She wants to name him as her heir but he, politely, declines saying it just isn't the life for him. She gives him money and he sets off for the New World in order to find his lady and her family, where they have moved to avoid persecution for their religion.

Maxwell is a fantastic storyteller and this was a well written book with characters that had enough depth that you actually cared what happened to them and you wanted to keep reading to see what would eventually be the outcome. There is an Arthur Dudley in history who claimed to be the son of Elizabeth and Dudley but there is not much about him and he disappears from history after he ends up in a Spanish prison. Maxwell managed to take what little information there was and weave a very intriguing background for this young man. There was nothing in the story that made me think it was too over the top or far fetched. The characters all behaved in a way that I would pretty much expect from those known so well to history and the fictional characters were quite believable. This book only received 3.5 roses, however, for just a few reasons. One was some of the pages and pages of Arthur's memoirs dealing with his time in the Netherlands, some of which I felt really didn't need to be in there as it didn't move the storyline along any (only some of it, other parts of his time there is essential to his development). The second reason was because of the ending which I felt was a bit abrupt. I would have liked a bit more of Arthur's story once he got to the New World and since there is no more record of him in history there would have been nothing wrong with extending his tale a bit further. Overall though it is a good read and I would recommend it to anyone interested in Elizabeth, especially if they are interested in reading stories that play into the pregnancy theory (and this one, in my opinion is better than the other two that I have read that use the possible pregnancy as part of their storyline). Maxwell takes a rumor and, through excellent writing, makes it seem like it could be possible.

This Day in History...

October 7, 1765 - Delegates from nine of the thirteen American colonies protested against the British Stamp Act which placed a tax on all forms of paper (legal documents, newspapers, playing cards, etc) used in the Colonies. The purpose of the tax, in British eyes, was to pay for troops still stationed in America after the victory in the Seven Years War and, since the Colonists were benefiting from the military presence, Parliament felt they should pay for some of the expense. The Colonists saw this as "taxation without representation" and was more fuel on the fire that lead to the American Revolution.

Wordless Wednesday

Anne Hathaway's Cottage, 2001

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Book Review: The Last Boleyn

The Last Boleyn, Karen Harper
4 roses

I was so happy to finally snag a copy of this off It was originally published under the title Passion's Reign and is the story of Mary Boleyn, sister to Anne and George. For those of you who have read Philippa Gregory's version The Other Boleyn Girl you are probably going to be a bit surprised at how Harper presents Mary's story. While the basic story is the same, there are differences in some of the details, relationships, and character behavior. I really liked this version of Mary's story. Harper seems to have stayed more within the known facts about Mary's life (little though there is) than Gregory did in her version. While I have nothing against Gregory's version (and I enjoyed it quite a bit) I enjoyed reading something a bit more historically accurate (though of course there are some instances where Harper has taken some liberties but they don't really bother me as Harper hasn't promoted herself as an impeccable historian).

The story starts when Mary is about 8 and learns she is to be sent to France with Princess Mary Tudor. She forms a friendship with Mary that lasts throughout the novel. While in France she meets Leonardo Di Vinci, falls in love with the King, and eventually becomes Francois's mistress. It doesn't turn out how she expected as she's seen as the King's possession and is passed along to his friends. During one of her father's visits to France she meets William Stafford and thus begins their long and slightly rocky relationship. Eventually Mary returns to England, King Henry marries her off to William Carey, and she becomes Henry's mistress. She gives birth to a son but the true identity of the father is unknown. By this time Anne has come to court and caught Henry's eye and Mary has fallen in love with William Stafford, despite still being married to an unloving William. After William dies she and Stafford secretly wed and are able to keep it a secret until she becomes pregnant. When she tells Anne (who has now been Queen for some time) she and Stafford are banished to his manor, which is what they wanted anyway, and they have a peaceful and happy life there.

Mary seems much more worldly and wise in this telling of her story and, based on what happens to her, its no wonder she "grew up quickly." She matures from a naive girl, foolishly thinking that the King of France really loves her, to a young woman who knows when to "cut her losses." Her overwhelming love for her Father and her desire to impress him and make him proud of her influences a lot of her decisions until she is finally able to see that he does not care about her and is only interested in gaining more power. The big eyeopener for Mary is when she sees how her Father is trying to use her son as a pawn with King Henry (though it is asserted throughout this book that his father's identity is uncertain). Once she is able to let go of the devotion to her Father, she is more easily able to make decisions that make her happy and content. She knows she is being used as a pawn by her Father and husband and she hates it; as the story progresses she is able to take more control of her life. I really like Harper's portrayal of Mary (more than Gregory's) because Mary's character seems much stronger, more able to make decisions for herself, while at the same time still a sympathetic character because of the circumstances surrounding her.

Thomas Boleyn seems as ambitious and cruel here but Elizabeth Boleyn's character is much more caring and sympathetic to Mary. George doesn't play nearly as big of a role in this novel as he did in Gregory's version and Anne does come across as a bit more sympathetic. Will Carey's character is hideous and I felt incredibly sorry for Mary since she was stuck with him. King Henry is obviously around but there isn't as much of him and there is only one nice little scene between Mary and Queen Catherine. Mary's second husband, William Stafford, is quite likable, is always there when she needs a shoulder or a hand, and is quite wise in the ways of the Court and politics. While I liked Staff's character he sometimes comes across as a bit too perfect.

Overall it was a good book that I would highly recommend, especially to those that have read The Other Boleyn Girl and would like to see another version of the story. If you are looking for a book that has a lot about Anne in it, I wouldn't suggest this one as it is truly about Mary's life.

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) "teaser" sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!! (Make sure that what you share doesn't give too much away! You don't want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title and author so other TT participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teasers!

Dreaming the Eagle, Manda Scott

Airmid spat. She had forsaken the grey cloak of Mona and armed herself with blade and helmet. Of itself, it said she would not be taken alive as a slave. If they died, it would be together: a dreamer and her warrior.

Breaca reached down and pulled Airmid up behind her on the grey. A shadow moved to her left. She thrust out with her shield and drew back her blade for the swing. The red mare moved ahead of her and the enemy warrior died in a plash of blood and splintered bone.