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, December 26, 2010

Merry Christmas!!

I hope everyone out there had a wonderful and blessed Christmas this year! We got SNOW here in Georgia! That's big news since we haven't had a white Christmas since 1882!!

Hope everyone has a fun and safe New Year!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Historical Fiction Challenge 2011

This wonderful challenge is being hosted in 2011 by Historical Tapestry. I finished the challenge this year by May I believe so I don't think I'll have too much trouble finishing it next year (though I will have a baby arriving in May!).

There are, as usual, different levels you can join at and I am, again, going for the biggest (I do love to read even though its been difficult lately!). I am going to join up at the Severe Bookaholism level which means I'll need to read 20 book from January to December. Easy. :)

Head on over to their blog to check it out and join up if interested!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Author Guest Post: Stephanie Dray

I was privileged to receive an advance copy of Stephanie Dray's new novel Lily of the Nile for review and Ms. Dray wrote a guest post for my blog to discuss the main character of her novel, Cleopatra Selene, Cleopatra's daughter.

How Cleopatra Selene Saved Isis
by Stephanie Dray

The heroine of my forthcoming debut novel,Lily of the Nile, is Cleopatra Selene, daughter of the much more famous Cleopatra VII of Egypt. Only ten years old when her parents committed suicide, Selene was taken prisoner by the Romans and marched through the streets in chains. Her life was spared, however, and Augustus, Rome’s first emperor [1], took her into his household, where she had to curry favor to survive.

Like her mother before her, Selene was a worshipper of Isis, the all-powerful sorceress and mother-goddess of the Nile. Unlike her mother, however, Selene practiced her faith in a time during which it was politically disadvantageous, and perhaps dangerous, for her to do so.

Generally speaking, the Romans employed a liberal philosophy when it came to religion. If a conquered nation submitted to Roman civil authority, they were free to worship their native gods. There were notable exceptions to this policy, however. The early Roman hostility towards Christianity is well-documented. Druids were persecuted and effectively wiped out. During the Augustan Age, Rome was also particularly antagonistic to the worshippers of Isis.

Augustus had a special enmity for the Isiac faith, no doubt owing to the fact that Isis was the patron deity of his arch rival, Cleopatra. Like the Ptolemaic queens before her, Cleopatra embraced Isis, presenting herself as a veritable living incarnation of the powerful mother-goddess. The worship of Isis often eclipsed that of her husband Osiris and her son Horus, such that she made a perfect symbol for queens seeking to rule on their own. Cleopatra knew this and made great political use of the Isiac priesthood to further her political aims.

By the time Rome declared war upon Cleopatra, Isis worship had spread throughout the Mediterranean world, so Cleopatra’s religious influence was a genuine threat. However, Augustus remained hostile towards Isiacism even after Cleopatra’s death [2]

This was almost certainly because the Isiac temples promoted values antithetical to the “back to family values” political campaign that Augustus was waging to consolidate his power base. In short, Isiacism wasn’t simply the worship of some foreign goddess, nor even simply posthumous support for his conquered enemy, but the promotion of a set of political and religious philosophies that Augustus did not want to spread.

For the Romans, religion was typically public business. Roman temples were generally open and visible to the street, and their private chambers were generally limited to an inner sanctum for the cult statue. By contrast, Isiac temples typically fostered a more intimate atmosphere by enclosing the temple by walls so as to preserve the privacy of the worshippers. This sense of privacy was greeted with mistrust by some Romans who considered Isiac temples a hotbed of conspiracy where the disaffected could gather and secretly plot against the state.

Perhaps they were not entirely wrong. Isiac temples admitted freedmen, women, and even slaves to their community, not just to foster a more personal relationship with the goddess, but also to help promote the cause of social justice. That Isis was a goddess of mercy who allegedly frowned upon slavery and other social ills may not have been half as dangerous as the notion that a great goddess like Isis might take the part of a lowly slave over the cause of his master. Or that she might take interest in a slave at all. After all, this was still an age of orthopraxy versus orthodoxy, where the emphasis was upon correct ritual toward the gods rather than any intense personal relationship with the realm of the divine. As a forerunner of Christianity, Isiacism was starting to change the very idea of religion.

Moreover, during the Augustan Age, Isis worship promoted a more egalitarian relationship between the sexes and admitted both men and women into the priesthood. While there is evidence that Isiacism promoted chastity and periods of abstinence, Isis was a great favorite amongst prostitutes and was also associated with sexual license and mysterious fertility rites.

All this ran counter to Augustus’ policy of preserving the social hierarchy and his place as the religious leader of the state. At a time when he was regulating sex, marriage, and the role of women [3] to conform with traditional values--or what he imagined those traditional values to be--Isiacism was an obstacle. That it was a popular religion made it only worse; he closed Isiac temples, forbade the worship of Isis within the old sacred boundary of Rome, and eventually sent his second-in-command, Agrippa, to put down an Isiac rebellion of some sort [4] and prohibit the worship of Isis in Rome and her surrounds.

That this assault on Isis worship happened during Selene’s lifetime--much of it while she was actually living in Rome--is nothing short of astonishing when we recall that she was, like her mother, an important figure to Isiacs. For her mother’s partisans, she represented a chance to return to power and for Isis worship to flourish where Augustus tried to stamp it out. As Cleopatra’s daughter, a surviving Ptolemy, and an heir to that dynasty, Selene was also, undoubtedly, the faith’s most prominent adherent.

Under the circumstances, especially considering that her survival depended upon Augustus’ good will, one might have expected Selene to renounce her patron’s least favorite goddess. But if the numismatic evidence of her reign is any indication, Selene never wavered in her faith. This little captive princess eventually became Queen of Mauretania where she explicitly adopted Isis as her goddess. Selene’s coins--the currency of her realm, all but guaranteed to be seen by Augustus himself--repeatedly would display Isis symbols. Moreover, Selene and her husband Juba II would go on to establish in Mauretania a giant temple of Isis where sacred crocodiles were kept.

As the most prominent client queen of the Augustan Age, Selene’s actions would have made her an influential religious dissident. Whether she paid a political price for this is unknown, but if Augustus ever considered returning her to the throne of Egypt, this may have tipped the scales against the idea. With apparent determination, Selene expanded the reach of Isiacism into Western Africa [5] and created a safe-haven for Isis worshippers at a time when their cult was imperiled. What’s more, Selene’s spiritual influence may have reached into Augustus’ own household.

Though Augustus’ successor, Tiberius, was also hostile toward the Isiacs to the point of crucifying some of them, the other emperors of the Julio-Claudian dynasty gave Isis an elevated status in the Roman world that would last for hundreds of years. Claudius, Nero, and Caligula all descended from Selene’s half sisters, the Antonias, leading one to speculate whether or not these women were receptive to Selene’s religious ideas and passed them on to their sons. Moreover, Selene’s beliefs may have influenced Augustus’ daughter, Julia, whose villa featured a painting of flamboyant priestesses of Isis wearing high headdresses and shaking rattles. One can only speculate what her father may have thought of that.

It is possible that the persecution of Isiacs only made her worshippers stronger in their faith and that the religion would have grown even without Selene’s active participation. However, the Queen of Mauretania’s unambiguous support of Isiacism must have encouraged worshippers throughout the Mediterranean and may well have protected the faith during the Augustan Age so that it could later flourish. This is especially relevant since Isis is a living faith even today and Cleopatra Selene is one of its unsung heroines.

[1] Some might argue that Augustus was not Rome’s first emperor, but given the outcome of his climb to power ended the Roman Republic, I always refer to him as such.
[2] In spite of this hostility, he appears to have allowed himself to be portrayed in reverence to Isis in carvings throughout Egypt. Historian Diana E. E. Kleiner suggests that this is because the power of Isis iconography was so influential in Egypt that it was easier for Augustus to portray himself as Cleopatra’s successor in Egypt than her conqueror. In the rest of the empire, the political situation differed, and Augustus marked the Isiacs as his enemies accordingly.
[3] One of the ironies of the Augustan Age is that while Rome’s first emperor apparently held deeply misogynistic ideas that would be used to oppress women for the next two thousand years, his wife Livia was one of the most powerful women in history.
[4] Why Agrippa needed to restore order by suppressing the Isiacs isn’t well understood. Whether Isiacs were protesting their treatment or involving themselves in intrigues against the state isn’t known, but it is significant to note that this occurred in 22 B.C. following a period of famine and food riots. Perhaps the Isiacs were agitating for charity. Or perhaps they had involved themselves in the Murena-Caepio conspiracies surrounding Augustus’ new regime. They may even have been angry or emboldened by the invasion of Egypt that year by the Kandake of Meroe.
[5] While the worship of Isis was not unknown in the amorphous area then known as “Libya,” the dominant goddess was Carthaginian Tanit. That Selene clung to Egyptian Isis even while trying to win over her new Mauretanian subjects is a testament both to her faith and her intention to re-found her mother’s dynasty.

I would like to thank Stephanie Dray for this extremely interesting post about a little known, but fascinating, figure in history. I hope everyone will look for my review of her debut novel, which should be posted tomorrow.


Hello all!

I know I have been absent from my blog for stretches here lately and I want to apologize for that. There have been many things I've wanted to post but have not been able to sit at my computer.

From about September to November I was dealing with the exhaustion and quesiness of a difficult pregnancy (they say each is different and I didn't have a moment's problem with the first one!) and finally shook off that ick around Thanksgiving. Since then I have been in bed almost the entire month of December with either upper respiratory infections, sinus infections, or horrible colds. Needless to say it has really interfered with my computer time (and has made this Christmas not so fun).

I promise I have NOT forgotten you and I do have some wonderful reviews up coming (Susan Higginbotham's new novel Queen of Last Hopes is one!).

Saturday, November 27, 2010

This Week in History...

November 20, 1591 - Christopher Hatton, a favorite of Elizabeth I, died at Ely Palace, penniless and childless.

1947 - The future Elizabeth II and Philip of Greece married at Westminster Abbey.

November 21, 1272 - Edward I is crowned King of England. He had been on his way home from crusade when his father, Henry III, died.

1620 - The colonists sign the Mayflower Compact.

November 22, 1428 - Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, is born. Warwick would become known as the "Kingmaker" for his role in helping Edward IV gain the English throne.

1515 – Marie of Guise, wife of James V of Scotland and mother to Mary, Queen of Scots, was born.

November 23, 1499 - Henry VII hanged Perkin Warbeck, who claimed to be the younger of the Princes in the Tower, Richard, Duke of York, at the Tower of London.

1503 – Margaret of York, wife of Charles I, Duke of Burgundy and sister to Edward IV and Richard III, died in Burgundy.

November 24, 1273 - Alfonso, Earl of Chester, son of Edward I, was born in France. At the time, he was his father's only surviving son.

1541 - Margaret Tudor, daughter of Henry VII, sister of Henry VIII, and wife to James IV of Scotland, died of a stroke in Scotland.

1859 - Darwin publishes his On the Origin of the Species.

November 25, 1120 - William the Aetheling, Duke of Normandy, son and heir of Henry I, died when the White Ship sunk off the coast of Normandy. This death resulted in the succession crisis between his sister Matilda and their cousin Stephen.

November 26, 1326 - Hugh le Despenser (the Younger) was tried and executed for treason by Queen Isabella (wife of Edward II, mother of Edward III) and her lover Roger Mortimer.

1504 - Isabella I of Castile, wife of Ferdinand of Aragon and mother of Catherine of Aragon, died in Spain.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Tale of Two Emmas

I have fallen in love with Jane Austen's novel Emma and ever since reading it I have watched two versions of the story: the 1996 Miramax movie starring Gwyneth Paltrow as Emma and Jeremy Northam (sigh) as Mr. Knightley and the 2009 TV mini-series starring Romola Garai as Emma and Johnny Lee Miller as Mr. Knightley. Both had their good points and both are a joy to watch but I have to say that my favorite is probably the 1996 version (mostly likely because of Northam's presence!). That being said, both movies had things I really liked, making it difficult to say for certain which was the better movie. Here is a run down...

Emma - The title character is played in the 96 version by Gwyneth Paltrow and by Romola Garai in the 09 mini-series. I can't say that I feel either of them are the "perfect" Emma Woodhouse. While Paltrow had the easy grace and dignity I would have expected from a lady of Emma's situation, I found myself liking Garai's personality a bit more. Paltrow just came across as a bit too haughty for the part and I have never felt Emma was haughty. Neither really "looked" like I have always pictured Emma, either; Garai didn't seem quite good looking enough and Paltrow seemed a bit too ... ethereal. Though in the end I think I'd pick Paltrow's Emma because, on occasion, Garai's seemed a bit ... clownish.

Mr. Knightley - I'm sorry but for me there can be no other Knightley except Jeremy Northam. Johnny Lee Miller played the role in the 09 series and he did a fine job but for me, Northam IS Knightley. Everything about his performance says "Regency British Gentleman." The manners and behaviors of a 19th century English gentleman come so easily to him that you would think he was born in the time period. Miller's portrayal, while good, seemed a bit too rough and stiff for my taste.

Harriet Smith - This was really a toss up for me. Toni Collette played the part in the 96 movie and Louise Dylan had the role in the 09 mini series. I actually liked both of these ladies but for different reasons. Dylan's Harriet looked more like the Harriet I envision from Austen's description but I positively LOVE Collette's portrayal of the character. Dylan's portrayal just got on my nerves occasionally and Collette just didn't LOOK like Harriet. If I could mesh the two I think we'd have the perfect Harriet Smith.

Jane Fairfax
- Again, this was a bit of a toss up for me but I think in the end I actually prefer Polly Walker's Jane in the 96 movie over Laura Pyper's portrayal in the 09 version. To me, Walker had the beauty and grace that Jane is said to have had (over and over and over), though she seems a bit old for the role. Pyper's personality was very sweet and genteel, like I would expect from Jane, but she just didn't have the beauty that Jane was supposed to possess.

Miss. Bates - Hands down I prefer Sophie Thompson's (did you know she's Emma Thompson's sister?) Miss. Bates in the 96 movie over Tamsin Greig's in the 09 series. Thompson's portrayal was spot on in my opinion. She had the sweetness and silliness of the character down perfectly. Greig's version did not have the lightness about it and it really left me a bit cold. In fact, in the famous scene where Emma insults her at the Box Hill picnic, my heart aches for Thompson's Miss. Bates while I feel absolutely nothing for Greig's.

Frank Churchill - Chalk one up for the 09 series here! While I like Ewan McGregor, his portrayal of Frank in the 96 movie is almost so bad it hurts. I don't know if was just the way the part was written but it really was laughable (though there are some scenes that I really loved). And what in the world did they do to his hair?? Rupert Evans did a good job with the part in the series. He looked the part for one and his personality seemed to fit, and while there were a few times when his attitude really annoyed me, he had the charm I'd expect from Frank.

Mrs. Weston - I really can't say which of the two I liked more. Greta Scacchi's version in the 96 movie really had the "motherly" aspect I see in Mrs. Weston and her age seemed more appropriate, though I do think she may have been a bit too good looking to have been "just a governess." She also had a grace and dignity I would expect from a lady who had been paid to teach a young girl how to be a lady. Jodhi May did a fantastic job and she looked much more like I envisioned Mrs. Weston but to me she seemed a bit too young to have been a governess for seventeen years.

Mr. Elton - I think to pick a favorite here will depend on the type of Mr. Elton you envision. If you like a slightly arrogant but slightly comical Mr. Elton, then Alan Cumming's portrayal in the 96 movie will be to your liking. Cumming did a wonderful job with the role though his version is much more humorous and you can't quite take him seriously sometimes (I LOVE the scene where he sits between Emma and Knightley at the Christmas party). However, if you would prefer Mr. Elton to be oozing arrogance and come across as almost creepy, then Blake Ritson's version in the 09 series is right up your alley. I honestly think I prefer Alan Cumming's Mr. Elton for the main reason that I find Ritson's just too creepy to watch! His arrogance is sickening while Cumming can make you laugh at him.

Mrs. Elton - While both actresses did a fine job with the role, I'm going to have to go with Christina Cole's version in the 09 series over Juliet Stevenson's more comical portrayal in the 96 movie. While I LOVED Stevenson's comical Mrs. Elton I think Cole's portrayal is much more accurate in her arrogance and bossiness. She does a splendid job as coming across as an overbearing, arrogant, selfish Mrs. Elton, which I always envisioned when I read the novel (I could use a much more colorful adjective to describe how she appears in the movie, which is spot on for Mrs. Elton, but I never know who might be reading my blog!). Cole's Mrs. Elton also has the look and age I would expect.

Scenery - This goes to the 09 series because it just shows so much more. The scenery in the 96 version were beautiful - what little you actually saw - but there is just so much more included in the 09 series. I really loved seeing more of the homes where the different characters lived; Donwell Abbey in the 09 version is exactly what I would have pictured (though I did prefer the Hartfield that is shown in the 96 movie). I think showing more helps a modern audience grasp the times so much better.

Storyline - I believe I have to give this to the 09 series simply because it shows so much more of the story than the 96 movie. Yes, I know the 96 movie had to fit the whole story into two hours, and they did a fine job with it, but there was so much that was left out that is just fun to read in the novel. The mini-series was able to include so much more of Austen's original story and gave some characters (which had been virtually left out of the 96 movie) new life, namely John and Isabella Knightley. I do have to say that some of the individual lines from the 96 movie were fantastic (Northam's wonderful and powerful "Badly done, Emma! Badly done" for one). I also liked the opening of the series where they show how the three "children" (Emma, Frank, and Jane) came to be in their respective situations.

So there you have it. My run down of the two versions I have seen. Looking at it, it seems that I prefer more of the actors and actresses in the 96 version but I like the actual storyline and scenery from the 09 version. I'd say its pretty much a draw for me, though I do think I like the 96 movie better overall. Both movies had good points and bad points and in the end, each viewer is going to have their own reasons for liking or disliking one or the other.

Friday, November 19, 2010

This Week in History...

November 13, 1002 - English King Æthelred (the Unready) ordered the killing of all the Danes in England.

November 13, 1312 - Edward III is born at Windsor.

November 14, 1060 – Geoffrey II, Count of Anjou, died.

November 14, 1501 - Arthur, Prince of Wales, son of Henry VII, and Katherine of Aragon were married at St. Paul's Cathedral.

November 14, 1948 - Prince Charles, son of Queen Elizabeth II, was born at Buckingham Palace.

November 15, 1515 - Thomas Wolsey is invested as a Cardinal.

November 16, 1272 - Henry III died at the Palace of Westminster.

November 16, 2010 - Prince William, son of the Prince of Wales, announces he is going to marry his longtime girl friend.

November 17, 1326 - Edmund FitzAlan, Earl of Arundel, is executed by Queen Isabella and her lover, Roger Mortimer, after their invasion of England and the capture of Edward II.

November 17, 1534 - Parliament passes the Act of Supremacy which make Henry VIII the Supreme Head of the Church of England.

November 17, 1558 - Mary I died at St. James Palace. Her half sister Elizabeth became Queen.

November 17, 1558 - Reginald Pole, the last Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury, died from an illness only a few hours after his Queen.

November 17, 1796 - Catherine the Great of Russia died in St. Petersburg.

November 18, 1590 - George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, died at home. He is probably best known as Mary, Queen of Scots' long time jailer. She was in his custody for eighteen years.

November 19, 1600 - The future Charles I was born at Dunfermline Palace in Scotland. His father would become King of England in 3 years.

November 19, 1620 - The Mayflower arrived at Cape Cod.

November 19, 1703 - The Man in the Iron Mask, a mysterious French prisoner, dies.

Friday, November 12, 2010

This Week in History...

November 6, 1429 - Henry VI was crowned King of England seven years after acceding to the throne when he was only eight months old. He was crowned King of France two years later.

November 6, 1479 – Juana of Castile was born to Ferdinand and Isabella. She was Katherine of Aragon's older sister and gained a reputation for being "mad" later in life.

November 7, 1485 - Henry VII's succession is confirmed when Parliament passes an Act of Succession.

November 8, 2003 - The author of this blog got married!

November 9, 1384 – Isabella of Valois, second wife of Richard II, was born in France.

November 9, 1841 - The future Edward VII, eldest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, was born.

November 10, 1480 - Bridget of York, daughter of Edward IV, was born. Bridget would eventually become a nun.

November 10, 1483 - Martin Luther was born.

November 11, 1100 - Henry I married Matilda of Scotland at Westminster Abbey.

November 11, 1620 - The Mayflower Compact is signed near Cape Cod.

November 12, 1035 - Canute, King of England, Denmark and Norway died.

November 12, 1094 – Duncan II of Scotland died.

Friday, November 5, 2010

This Week in History...

October 30, 1460 - Henry VI is again King of England after the Earl of Warwick defeats the Yorkists. He wouldn't remain king for more than a few months.

October 30, 1485 - Henry VII is officially crowned King of England.

October 30, 1938 - Orson Welles's radio broadcast of H.G. Wells's "The War of the Worlds" causing panic in the US. Many thought the broadcast was real.

October 30, 1944 - Anne Frank and her sister Margot are transported from Auschwitz to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

October 31, 1795 - English romantic poet John Keats was born.

November 1, 1396 - Richard II and Isabella of France married in France.

November 1, 1604 - Shakespeare's Othello is presented for the first time at Whitehall.

November 1, 1611 - Shakespeare's The Tempest is presented for the first time at Whitehall.

November 1, 1765 - The British government enacts the Stamp Act.

November 1, 1894 - Nicholas II becomes the new (and last) Czar of Russia upon the death of his father Alexander III.

November 2, 1083 – Matilda of Flanders, wife of William the Conqueror, died in Normandy.

November 2, 1160 – Henry the Young King, son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, and Marguerite of France, daughter of King Louis VII, were married in Normandy.

November 2, 1483 – Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, is executed for treason by Richard III.

November 3, 1783 - Highwayman John Austin is the last person to be publicly hanged at Tyburn in London.

November 4, 1470 - Edward V, son of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, is born in sanctuary at Westminster Abbey.

November 5, 1605 - Guy Fawkes was arrested when his plan to blow up Parliament and James I was discovered.

Friday, October 29, 2010

This Week in History...

October 24, 1537 - Jane Seymour, Henry VIII's third wife, died from complications from childbirth at Hampton Court Palace. She is buried in St. George's Chapel.

October 25, 1154 - England's King Stephen died at Dover Castle. Henry II, son of the Empress Matilda, became the first of the Angevin kings.

October 25, 1400 - Geoffrey Chaucer, famous for his Canterbury Tales, died.

October 25, 1415 - Henry V's English army defeated a vastly superior French army at the Battle of Agincourt.

October 26, 899 - Alfred the Great is believed to have died on this day. He was a Saxon King of Wessex (south west England).

October 26, 1760 - George III was crowned. His is one of the longest reigns in history (60 years).

October 26, 1989 - The Globe Theatre reopened for the first time in 350 years.

October 27, 1401 – Catherine of Valois, future wife of Henry V, was born.

October 28, 1216 - Henry III was crowned King of England.

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

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Recent Search Terms!

I know I'm horribly behind in posting but things are really crazy at home these days. Here are some of the recent search terms used to find my blog...some of them have me scratching my head!

gwyn's cancer fight

Wow...I guess I should have taken that call from the doc...

reading books

No, I really don't. I just like the way they look lined up on my bookshelf.

johnny kingdom talking about lady who died

Oh yes, THAT lady.

find a mistress in kalispell, montana

What? I don't know whether to laugh or be worried that this searcher was directed to my site...

Roger Bigod time of singing virgin?

I don't think he'd appreciate it if we asked.

Susan Kay Penman scottish history

I must have missed this book?

Friday, October 22, 2010

This Day in History...

October 22, 1071 - William IX, Duke of Aquitaine and Eleanor of Aquitaine's grandfather, was born.
He is sometimes considered to be the first troubadour.

October 22, 1734 - Famous American pioneer Daniel Boone was born.

* TDIH is going to become This Week in History starting next week. There are so many things going on in my life at the moment that I have a hard time getting to the computer each day. I haven't decided if I'll post at the beginning of the week or at the end so keep an eye out! *

Thursday, October 21, 2010

This Day in History...

October 21, 1449 - George, Duke of Clarence, son of Richard, Duke of York and brother of Edward IV and Richard III, was born in Dublin, Ireland.

October 21, 1772 - English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born.

October 21, 1805 - The British fleet defeats the combined French and Spanish fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar. Admiral Nelson was killed in the battle.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

This Day in History...

October 20, 1632 - English architect Christopher Wren is born. He was responsible for rebuilding St. Paul's Cathedral after the Great Fire of London.

October 20, 1714 - George I is crowned King of England.

October 20, 1803 - The US government ratified the Louisiana Purchase, doubling the size of the country.

October 20, 1910 - The hull of the RMS Olympic (sister ship to the Titanic) was launched at the shipyard in Belfast, Ireland.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

This Day in History...

October 19. 1216 - King John died of dysentery at Newark Castle in the midst of a rebellion which was the result of his refusal to recognize the Magna Carta signed the previous year.His nine year old son Henry succeeded him as King of England.

October 19, 1745 - Irish author Jonathan Swift, best known for his tale Gulliver's Travels, died in Dublin.

Monday, October 18, 2010

This Day in History...

October 18, 1469 - Ferdinand II of Aragon married Isabella I of Castile.

October 18, 1541 - Margaret Tudor, daughter of Henry VII, wife of James IV of Scotland, and sister of Henry VIII, died in Scotland.

October 18, 1851 - Herman Melville's novel Moby Dick is first published (under the name The Whale) in London.

Friday, October 15, 2010

This Day in History...

October 15, 1582 - After the Pope implemented the Gregorian calendar, this day followed October 4 in Europe.

October 15, 1793 - Marie-Antoinette is tried and condemned to death in a swift, pre-determined trial.

October 15, 1815 - Napoleon begins his exile on Saint Helena.

October 15, 1959 - Sarah Ferguson, one time Duchess of York, was born in London.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

This Day in History...

October 14, 1066 - Harold, the last Saxon king of England, is defeated and killed by William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings.

October 14, 1217 – Isabella of Gloucester, the first wife of King John (their marriage was annulled) died and is buried at Canterbury Cathedral.

October 14, 1586 - Mary, Queen of Scots goes on trial for her part in the plot against Elizabeth I.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

This Day in History...

October 13, 54 - Nero becomes the Emperor of Rome.

October 13, 1362 - For the first time, Parliament is opened with a speech in English.

October 13, 1399 - The House of Lancaster was begun when Henry IV was crowned King of England.

October 13, 1453 - Edward, Prince of Wales, son of Henry VI, was born at Westminster Palace.

October 13, 1884 - Greenwich is established as the Universal Time Meridian of longitude.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Book Review: The Princeling

The Princeling, Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
3 roses

In the third book of the epic Morland family saga, Elizabeth I is on the throne and the very Catholic Morlands are having to adapt to the Protestant wave sweeping over England. Having not read the second book yet (oops) I was afraid I might be missing some vital points in the family story but I found I had no problem understanding where the family was at this point. That being said there were a few family issues that I think I would have understood better if I had read the second book in the series but I can still say that its not completely necessary to read all the books to keep up with the family.

The novel covers many years, starting at the beginning of Elizabeth I's reign. Being Catholic, many of the Morlands have issues with the New Religion that has come to England and that ends up causing some problems as some family members are more open to the new ideas. As in the first book, the issue of continuing the Morland name, power, and estate is the main thread that flows through the story and you see various matches and marriages made (or attempted) in order to secure the family fortune. Throughout all the dynasty issues the Morlands have various interactions with the English and Scottish courts, thus throwing them into the dangerous politics of the time.

This was a good read but I have to be honest when I say I enjoyed the first novel much better. To me, the characters here just were not as interesting or engaging as the original Morlands and I found that I really didn't care what happened to most of them. I liked the "matriarch" in this novel, Nanette, even though her own storyline wasn't really all that exciting. The entire situation involving the heir, John, and his time in Northumberland just seemed a bit far fetched and a bit unbelievable to me. Then there is the big mystery surrounding the birth of Nanette's adopted son, Jan, which is never entirely made clear for the reader (though you can pretty much figure it out by the end of the story). I actually liked Jan throughout most of the story, until he let his greedy wife Mary talk him into trying to steal the Morland inheritance. As for the rest of the family, they all kind of blend together (with a couple of exceptions), nothing really setting them apart or making their individual story lines that interesting. There is also more than one storyline that just seems way too far fetched for me. The surrounding historical parts of the story were not very attention grabbing either (though compared to the highly volatile Wars of the Roses that is the backdrop of the first novel, most will pale in comparison!). In the first novel the family's fortune and success was intimately tied with the monarch and so the historical part of the story and the fictional, family part of the story were closely entwined. You don't get that feeling in this novel. While the family is concerned what a new Protestant Queen will mean for their business and future, you just don't get the feeling that the two are closely connected. Perhaps if we had seen more of the family involved with the Queen and the interesting events at court there would have been more excitement to the story. One thing I did enjoy about this novel was how uncertain the family's future was; at some points it looked like the family dynasty was going to end. Of course we know it doesn't end (or there wouldn't be over thirty more books in the family series!) but it does add some nice tension to the story which keeps it from being somewhat boring.

It may sound like I didn't like this novel but I did enjoy my read and if I hadn't read the first novel (which I think was really wonderful) I most likely would not have had any issues with anything in this story. It was an easy and fast read and I am certainly still interested in reading on about this family and seeing how they evolve as England evolves and changes around them. I would recommend this novel to any readers but be warned: you will most likely not be able to just read one book about this family!

*Thank you to Sourcebooks for the advanced readers copy to review.

This Day in History...

October 12, 1459 – The Lancastrians score a victory over the Yorkist at the Battle of Ludford Bridge.

October 12, 1537 - Jane Seymour gives birth to the future Edward VI, Henry VIII's only son. Jane died 13 days later from complications.

October 12, 1692 - A letter from Massachusetts Governor Williams Phips ends the Salem Witch Trials.

October 12, 1989 - The remains of Shakespeare's original Globe Theatre were found on London's Bankside.

Monday, October 11, 2010

This Day in History...

October 11, 1216 - While crossing 'The Wash' King John lost his crown and jewels and most of his possessions.

October 11, 1521 - The Pope gave Henry VIII the title of 'Defender of the Faith' for his book supporting Catholic principles.

October 11, 1727 - George II was crowned King of England.

October 11, 1982 - Henry VIII's flag ship, the Mary Rose, is raised near Portsmouth, England.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


Hello all!

Sorry for the lack of posts the last few days. Besides being overwhelmed with personal issues our internet connection randomly disconnects itself many, many times during an online session thus preventing me from being able to do anything online.

I'm hoping to have the connection fixed by Monday so hopefully I'll be able to start my daily posts again and get some reviews up that are DUE!!

Happy weekend!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

This Day in History... far not much seems to be happening in October!

October 7, 1363 - Lionel of Antwerp, Duke of Clarence and son of Edward III, died in Italy.

October 7, 1765 - Delegates from nine of the American colonies protested against the British Stamp Act.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

This Day in History...

October 6, 1536 - William Tyndale was strangled and burned at the stake for heresy. He translated the New Testament into English.

October 6, 1542 - English "poet" Thomas Wyatt died. He is sometimes rumored to have been one of Anne Boleyn's lovers.

October 6, 1847 - Charlotte Bronte's novel Jane Eyre was published.

October 6, 1892 - England's 'Poet Laureate' Alfred Tennyson died.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

This Day in History...

Can't find anything for today!

October 5, 1930 - The British Airship R101 crashed in France while en route to India on its maiden voyage. It is thought the crash was caused by overloading.

October 5, 1962 - The Beatles release their first hit record "Love Me Do."

October 5, 1962 - The first James Bond film "Dr. No" is released.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Book Review: Elizabeth, Captive Princess

Elizabeth, Captive Princess, Margaret Irwin
3 roses

After reading and reviewing the first novel in this trilogy, Young Bess, I was looking forward to the second. This is not a "new" trilogy but a wonderful reissue from Sourcebooks. This was a very easy and pleasant read.

Picking up at the very beginning of her half-sister Mary's reign, this novel follows Elizabeth through the first couple of years of Mary's dangerous time as England's Queen. We see her through Mary's triumphant entrance into London, her gradual slide from favor, and her time as Mary's prisoner in the Tower. The novel ends with Elizabeth's first meeting with her sister's new husband, Philip of Spain and that is where the last book in the series will pick up.

This novel was originally published by Ms. Irwin in the late 1940s and so many historical fiction readers today could be a bit surprised by some of the ideas put forth here but as the author was writing with what was known at the time that is completely acceptable to this reviewer. Even keeping that in mind, there really was nothing glaringly inaccurate that made me scratch my head and wonder "Did they actually believe that when this was written?" Ms. Irwin presents a very elegantly written story that is full of emotion and I feel that is the real draw to this book and this author. While there were no "new" ideas or information introduced here, the portrayal of Elizabeth and her way of dealing with the extremely dangerous and stressful years she lived through are brilliantly displayed. It is very easy to feel the stress, tension, and fear she probably suffered while Mary was on the throne. Ms. Irwin does a marvelous job of showing just how intelligent and quick witted Elizabeth was as she navigated the traps of Mary's reign and kept her head quite literally on her shoulders. The story shifts between Elizabeth and Mary's perspectives at points during the novel but I didn't feel that this interrupted the flow of the narrative and actually did a good job at showing the very powerful emotions and tensions that both sisters endured. Some novels focused on Elizabeth will portray Mary in such a way that you can't help but dislike her and feel that she should never have been Queen, but Ms. Irwin does a good job of showing Mary as very human. While she did make some wrong decisions, in this novel you can easily see the stress she was under and her reasoning behind her choices and she does come across more sympathetic. There are some lovely descriptions that make it easy for a reader to picture the scene they are reading about (especially the scene where Elizabeth is holding a dance in her rooms right across the courtyard from Mary's windows!) and this author is not going to overwhelm you with tons of facts and dates. The characters were all true to form and none of them really did anything that seemed unbelievable or "out of character." I felt the ending was wonderful and very full of suspense as Elizabeth meets her brother-in-law Philip for the first time and the instant attraction between the two is recognizable.

This was a good read and one I enjoyed. While I was not blown away it was certainly a nice Tudor historical fiction to pick up and loose one's self in for a few hours. I would recommend this to any reader interested in Elizabeth's earlier years. I am anxiously awaiting the next book in this series Elizabeth and the Prince of Spain.

*Thank you to Sourcebooks for the advanced reader copy and the opportunity to review this book!

This Day in History...

Catching up on a few days over the weekend!

October 2, 1452 - The future Richard III is born at Fotheringay Castle.

October 3, 1283 - Welsh prince (brother to Llywelyn the Last) Dafydd ap Gruffydd is executed by Edward I. He is probably the first person to be hanged, drawn, and quartered.

October 4, 1160 - Princess Alys of France, daughter of Louis VII, was born. She would be betrothed to Prince Richard (Richard the Lionheart) for almost twenty years and possibly was his father Henry II's mistress at one point.

October 4, 1535 - Miles Coverdale, a London printer, published his English version of the Bible.

October 4, 1582 - Pope Gregory XIII implements the Gregorian calendar. In several European countries this day is followed by October 15.

Friday, October 1, 2010

This Day in History...

October 1, 1207 - The future Henry III was born to King John and his wife Isabella.

October 1, 1935 - Actress and singer Julie Andrews was born.

October 1, 1947 - Nazi leaders are sentenced at the Nuremburg Trials.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

This Day in History...

September 30, 1399 - Henry IV is proclaimed King of England after deposing his cousin.

September 30, 1630 - John Billington, one of the original pilgrims, was the first man executed in the colonies. He was hanged for shooting another man in a quarrel.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

This Day in History...

September 29, 1328 – Joan of Kent, wife of Edward, the Black Prince, and mother of Richard II was born. She would be called the "Fair Maid of Kent" during her life.

September 29, 1399 - Richard II was the first English monarch to abdicate. He was replaced by his cousin Henry Bolingbroke, who became Henry IV.

September 29, 1938 - England, France, Germany and Italy signed the Munich Pact in which the Sudetenland was given to Nazi Germany. In return, Hitler promised not to make any further territorial demands in Europe.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

This Day in History...

September 28, 1066 - William, Duke of Normandy began his invasion of England, landing at Pevensey in East Sussex after claiming his right to the English throne.

September 28, 1663 - Henry FitzRoy, 1st Duke of Grafton, was born. He was the illegitimate son of Charles II and Barbara Villiers, Countess of Castlemaine.

Monday, September 27, 2010

This Day in History...

Really couldn't find much of interest today!

September 27, 1722 - One of the leaders of the American Revolution, Samuel Adams, was born in Boston.

September 27, 1888 - The name 'Jack the Ripper' is used for the first time in an anonymous letter to the Central News Agency. This anonymous man killed five women and is suspected in the deaths of four more. His identity has never been discovered.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

This Day in History...

September 25, 1066 - England's Harold II defeated the King of Norway at the Battle of Stamford Bridge.

September 25, 1506 – Philip the Handsome, husband of Juana I (Katherine of Aragon's sister), died in Castile.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Alphabet in Historical Fiction Challenge: S

Each fortnight the ladies at Historical Tapestry will post a new letter of the alphabet and you do a blog post about a work of historical fiction that has that letter:
  • as the first letter in the title
  • as the first letter of the author's first or last name
  • the first letter of a character's first or last name
  • the first letter of a place where an historical event took place
So here is my post for the next letter of this challenge: S

The Sunne in Splendour, Sharon Kay Penman

From the back cover: In this beautifully rendered modern classic, Sharon Kay Penman redeems Richard III - vilified as the bitter, twisted, scheming hunchback who murdered his nephews, the princes in the Tower - from his maligned place in history with a dazzling combination of research and story telling.

Born into the treacherous courts of fifteenth-century England, in the midst of what history has called the War of the Roses, Richard was raised in the shadow of his charismatic brother, King Edward IV. Loyal to his friends and passionately in love with the one woman who was denied him, Richard emerges as a gifted man far more sinned against than sinning.

I honestly don't know where to start with this one! I can say that it is probably the best book I have ever read. The story begins when Richard is about seven years old and witnesses the Lancastrian sacking of Ludlow and ends a few years after his death with Elizabeth of York reminiscing. Ms. Penman does an absolutely fantastic job of refuting the generally accepted version (from Shakespeare's play) of Richard's life and personality. She gives us a human Richard, one who had fears and doubts but was unfailingly honorable and loyal. One of the things that stand out in this novel is the way Ms. Penman shows how events and people around him while he was growing up really helped shape the man Richard would ultimately become. As in all her books, her impeccable research is beyond compare and her knowledge of her subject really shows; you can tell she did her homework before writing her novel. She blends history with her storytelling so beautifully that the reader is transported to another time and place effortlessly. All of the characters in the story are wonderfully written and developed, making it seem like you are old acquaintances and could reach out and touch them. While full of detail and description, the narrative does not get weighed down or feel like you're plowing through an encyclopedia; everything is relevant, helping the story move along and giving the reader a deeper insight to not only Richard's life and personality but to the world around him which helped make him who he was. She also (thankfully) does not twist the history completely out of shape simply to fit the story she is trying to tell or include all manner of rumors just because they are sensational. She will mention in her author's note the places where she did make some changes to help the story along as well as how she developed her theories on Richard. There just is no one else who can write like Ms. Penman and tell such a remarkable story.

This is a large book but don't let that keep you from it; you will not regret the time you spend between its covers! Once you begin reading I promise you will not want to put it down. Every time I immerse myself in Penman's world I find it very difficult to pull myself away. Please look for a more in depth review on my blog in the next week.

This Day in History...

September 24, 1645 - The Parliamentarian army was victorious over the Royalist army led by Charles I at the Battle of Rowton Heath.

September 24, 1842 - Bramwell Bronte, the Bronte sisters' brother, died of drugs and drink. His sister used him as the model for the drunkard Hindley Earnshaw in Wuthering Heights.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

This Day in History...

September 23, 1158 - Geoffrey, Duke of Brittany and third son of Henry II, was born.

September 23, 1459 - The Battle of Blore Heath, the first major battle in the 'Wars of the Roses,' results in a Yorkist victory over the Lancastrians.

September 23, 1909 - French writer Gaston Leroux published The Phantom of the Opera.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

This Day in History...

September 22, 1515 - Anne of Cleves, Henry VIII's fourth wife, was born.

September 22, 1761 - George III and his wife Charlotte of Mecklenburg were crowned King and Queen of Great Britain.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

This Day in History...

September 21, 1327 - The deposed Edward II was murdered in Berkeley Castle, some say by order of his wife, to ensure the succession of his son Edward III.

September 21, 1411 – Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York, was born. The Duke was a claimant to the English throne and father of Edward IV and Richard III.

September 21, 1937 - J.R.R. Tolkien publishes The Hobbit.

Monday, September 20, 2010

This Day in History...

September 20, 1258 - Salisbury Cathedral is consecrated.

September 20,1486 - Arthur, Prince of Wales, son of Henry VII, was born in Winchester.

Friday, September 17, 2010

This Day in History...

September 17, 480 BC - Leonidas and his 300 Spartans begin the Battle of Thermopylae.

September 17, 1701 - James II died while in exile in France.

September 17, 1745 - The Jacobite supporters of Bonnie Prince Charlie occupied Edinburgh.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

This Day in History...

September 16, 1387 - The future Henry V was born at Monmouth.

September 16, 1400 - Owen Glyndŵr was declared Prince of Wales by his supporters.

September 16, 1485 - The Yeoman of the Guard, the bodyguard of the English Crown (or the 'Beefeaters') - was established by Henry VII.

September 16, 1620 - The Mayflower began her journey to America from Southampton.

September 16, 1701 - James Stuart, the "Old Pretender," becomes the Jacobite claimant to the English throne.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

This Day in History...

September 15, 1500 - John Morton, Archbishop of Canterbury, died at his home in Kent. He was a strong opponent of Richard III and some believe he may be the originator of Thomas More's History of King Richard III (which Shakespeare's play is based on).

September 15, 1789 - James Fenimore Cooper, popular American novelist, is born.

September 15, 1890 - World famous English detective novelist Agatha Christie was born.

September 15, 1984 - Prince Harry, 3rd in succession to the throne, was born to Princess Diana and Prince Charles.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

This Day in History...

Can't find too much today!

September 14, 1435 - John, Duke of Bedford, younger brother of Henry V and at one point Regent of England for his nephew Henry VI, died in Normandy.

September 14, 1752 - The 3rd of September became the 14th when the Gregorian Calendar was introduced into Britain.

September 14, 1851 - American author, James Fenimore Cooper, died. He is best known for his Leatherstocking Tales featuring Natty Bumppo (Last of the Mohicans).

September 14, 1852 - The Duke of Wellington, victor of Waterloo, died at age 83.

Monday, September 13, 2010

This Day in History...

September 13, 122 - Work begins on Hadrian's Wall.

September 13, 1410 – Isabella of Valois, second wife of Richard II, died in France.

September 13, 1475 - Cesare Borgia is born.

September 13, 1520 - William Cecil, Elizabeth I's closest and dearest adviser, was born.

September 13, 1940 - A German bomb fell on Buckingham Palace while George VI is in residence.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Where Were You?

Where were you on September 11, 2001? Do you remember? Is it still so clear in your mind it could have been yesterday? I certainly hope so. What happened MUST be remembered. The innocent victims MUST never be forgotten. If we forget, we give those cowards a victory.

I was in Kalispell, Montana. My cousin had been married on the 8th. My mom and I arrived at the tiny airport early in the morning on September 11. Our flight was to leave at 8ish mountain time. I had talked to Johnny the night before - the flight was wide open, we'd have no problem getting on (we were flying standby). We got to the gate ... and the flight was suddenly full. This was a bit of a problem as the next flight out of this tiny airport to Salt Lake City wasn't until after 1pm. Sigh.

We went back to the main area of the terminal. Mom walked to the windows on the opposite side to contact our family to see if we could get a ride back to their house. I sat down at a table in the small "cafe" to wait and see what we'd be doing. I remember an airport worker coming up to the lady in the cafe and telling her that there had been a plane crash and to turn on the news. The first thing that popped in my head was "Oh my stars! The plane we were just supposed to be on has crashed!" So the cafe lady turned the little TV mounted on the wall on and flipped through the channels; I recall it went past a station and there was a picture of the Twin Towers there, smoking, but we didn't notice it, we were looking for plane crash coverage. The first worker told her," No, no. Go back. That was it!" Horrible reality set in.

I sat there in my little chair staring at those building with smoke pouring out of them. The two ladies stood there staring. I kept trying to get my mom's attention across the room. Slowly, people in the airport gathered around in silence. My mom came back to the table. This airport is really small (REALLY small) and its not going to be noisy like Hartsfield here in Atlanta but it was dead silent. Dead silent. I remember glancing around at the people gathered around us, maybe a dozen or so, and everyone had the same expression: shock, horror, sadness.

Then there came the report that another plane had been flown into the Pentagon in DC (and I think I remember there was a mention of a fire or explosion on The Mall). I looked at my mom and said, feeling like I was 5 and not 22, "Mom, what in the world is going on?" She just looked at me, tears in her eyes, and shook her head. I have never felt so young or helpless or confused or scared in my life. This was America. Things like this didn't happen here! We hadn't been attacked since 1941 and even then there was a war going on (even if we weren't in it then).

Suddenly, there was more smoke pouring from one of the Towers and a gentleman to my left said there had been another explosion. I stared at what was on the screen and knew that was no explosion and cried, "No! The building is collapsing!!" They didn't want to believe me. Nerd that I am, I have watched those shows where they show building demolition and I recognized the sight of a building collapsing. It was soon apparent I had been right. I remember glancing kind of behind me and to my left. There was an elderly couple standing there, the gentleman had a cowboy hat on, and I can still see the expression on his face. We probably all looked like that. There was no sound; we all watched in silence as the second Tower fell.

We heard the flights had been canceled. We went to the Delta desk to ask what we should do? When would there be another flight? I'll never forget the poor girl behind the counter in tears just shaking her head and saying over and over "I don't know, I don't know."

I have never been so glad to see someone as I was when my cousin walked in to pick us up and take us back to their house in town. We would be stuck there for another week as there were no open seats once flights resumed (standby remember?); there weren't even any rental cars left in town. I am just glad that we were with family.

When we were finally able to get on a plane home a week later, the flight from Salt Lake City to Atlanta was....interesting. After dinner, while they were serving us ice cream sundaes we hit some turbulence. Not really bad but enough to bounce the plane around pretty good for a couple minutes. Needless to say, everyone on the plane was pretty freaked out. We had been lucky enough to get seats in first class for that trip and I remember the stewardess looking pretty freaked out herself.

We can never forget what happened to this country. There are people out there that just want to wipe us off this planet. They will try again.

Never Forget...

It seems like only yesterday that I was stuck in an airport in Kalispell, Montana, watching the cowardly attacks on our country.

Make sure you NEVER forget what was done to our country.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday Funny

I hope everyone can read the print on this! I can't figure out how to make it any bigger!

This Day in History...

September 10, 1167 - Empress Maud, daughter of Henry I and mother of Henry II, died at the Abbey of Notre Dame in France.

September 10, 1547 - The English defeated the Scots at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh. The battle was sparked by demands that Edward VI, aged 10, should marry 5 year-old Mary, Queen of Scots.

September 10, 1608 - John Smith is elected council president in Jamestown, Virginia.

September 10, 1669 – Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I, died in Paris, France.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

This Day in History...

September 9, 1087 - William the Conqueror died in France from injuries he sustained in a fall from his horse. His son Robert became Duke of Normandy and his son William (Rufus) became King of England.

September 9, 1513 - The Scots were defeated by the English at the Battle of Flodden Field. James IV was killed along with all his nobles.

September 9, 1543 - Mary Stuart is crowned Queen of Scots at the age of nine months.

This Day in History...

September 8, 1157 - The future Richard I was born in Oxford, England.

September 8, 1397 - Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester and son of Edward III died in France.

September 8, 1560 - Amy Robsart, wife of Robert Dudley, is found dead at the bottom of a staircase. Her death is considered highly suspicious.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Book Review: George Knightley, Esquire

George Knightley, Esquire, Barbara Cornthwaite
5 roses

I am not totally against the recent trend of writing sequels and Austen spin-offs (the weird monster mash trend is the exception there...shudder) and some of them are fairly good and enjoyable though of course there are some that fall short of the brilliance that was Jane Austen, never quite hitting on that Austen feeling. However, Barbara Cornthwaite's retelling of Emma from Mr. Knightley's view point is absolutely brilliant. I am so glad I came across this one!

As this is a re-telling of Emma there is no need to go through a brief summary of the story. This is book one of a two part series in which we see the events from the original novel through the eyes of the hero, George Knightley. The narrative picks up as Knightley is walking to Hartfield after Miss. Taylor's wedding and ends after Frank Churchill leaves Highbury (which postpones the ball). Something I like about these re-tellings is the fact that you will sometimes get a glimpse of what "could have been" happening off screen, so to speak, and you get that with this novel. Besides the original scenes where Mr. Knightley appears, you get a glimpse of his life beyond what Austen wrote and Ms. Cornthwaite does a fantastic job of creating a voice and distinctive personality for Mr. Knightley that is in no way contradictory to how Austen created him. I have no problem envisioning him engaged in the conversations and activities that Ms. Cornthwaite creates for him; his personality here is entirely believable and really a joy to read. He is still the true Regency English Gentleman. Something the author does here that I feel even goes beyond Austen's wonderful portrayal is the humor she gives to Mr. Knightley. There are some priceless moments in this story: the scenes with Mr. Knightley and "the cat" are wonderful and if those don't give you a laugh the letters between Knightley and his younger brother John will certainly have you laughing out loud. I thought these letters between the brothers one of the highlights of Ms. Cornthwaite's narrative. The way in which Knightley comes to realize his true feelings for Emma is very well written and very believable (you're not going to find the annoying "for some reason" phrase used over and over here). There are some very sweet scenes between the two. As the author had to find some way for Knightley to fill his time in those moments when he wasn't "on stage" in the original, we see him at Donwell performing his duties as local magistrate and top landowner in the parish and I found it fascinating the things that were required of these gentlemen. There are some wonderful descriptions of more everyday things like clothing, homes, taxes, etc, that Austen did not include in her novels (but of course she had no need to include these things as her readers did not need this information!) and it is a fascinating look into the Regency world. Ms. Cornthwaite also creates a few new characters to help fill Knightley's time and I especially enjoyed the addition of Mr. Spencer.

I heartily recommend this book to any Austen fan. It is a wonderfully written and thought out novel, furthering our knowledge of the delightful Mr. Knightley. Some might enjoy reading it along side the original just to see how they compare. It is in no way a tedious read and you will fly through it in no time! I couldn't put it down once I started! My only negative comment is the fact that the second book has not been published yet and I am absolutely on pins and needles to see what Ms. Cornthwaite does with the second half of the story. Give this one a try; I do not think you will be disappointed in any way! Jane Austen would be proud!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Why Do I Read...What I Read?

I get asked that question quite frequently. People see all my books and wonder why I read them (or how I manage to read so many). Personal preference is my answer and I think most avid readers of a specific genre(s) will give you the same response. We read what interests us, what stimulates our mind, what makes us want to know more (in some cases anyway). That is certainly why I pretty much stick to my preferred genres. It also helps that I truely love to read; I always have. There is nothing better than curling up under a soft blanket with a yummy drink near by and loosing yourself in a totally different time.

I read historical fiction. I can be more specific than that even: I read mainly medieval British historical fiction (with some stories from earlier times and of course Tudor material as well). I also dearly love Jane Austen (and even some of the numerous sequels that have become all the rage). That is not to say that I don't occasionally read something from another time period (or even another genre) from time to time - though you will never see me with any of that vampire nonsense in my hands. I just prefer historical fiction and the information it brings me. I love to learn and some authors have a wonderful way of teaching me new facts and details; I can't gobble it up quick enough sometimes. There is just something magical in feeling like you're being transported to a time very distant and strange from your own and reading about people who lived, loved, laughed, hundreds of years ago. As I dearly love British history, these novels help in my constant quest for more knowledge. Yes, yes, I know they are technically fiction but my favorite authors (Sharon Kay Penman, Elizabeth Chadwick, Susan Higginbotham, to name three) are very meticulous and detailed in their research; I know they are not going to lead me astray by filling their pages with junk merely to appeal to the masses and to sell their book. I think it takes a very talented writer to be able to take a person who has been dead for hundreds of years and create a life for them out of the small bits of historical fact that has survived ... and to make that story not only believable but very enjoyable to read. Historical fiction can also give you many different sides to known history. History is, after all, written by the victors and we are not likely to get a very truthful look at the losers. That is such a fascinating aspect to historical fiction - it can really show you the "could have beens." Some authors do an absolutely brilliant job of bringing these distant times to life for their readers and make it incredibly easy to envision the landscape, the food, the clothes, the daily lives, the weather, etc. What is equally wonderful about these books is after finishing them I usually want to know more about the people, events, and time period, leading me to do research on my own and discover more interesting facts. In many instances I have come across another historical figure or event while researching on my own which in turn makes me want to find some historical fiction about that person. It is a never ending cycle...thankfully! Historical fiction has also opened up a whole new world to me - the blogging world! I have really enjoyed getting to know other HF bloggers, authors, and blogging on my favorite topics!

As I stated at the beginning I also love Jane Austen. There is something so peaceful about reading her novels. I find the Regency period fascinating with their strict codes of etiquette, elegance, and beautiful clothing. Her wit and sarcasm is wonderful and I love the fact that in many cases she is poking fun at the very class she writes about. She obviously went about the world with her eyes open and saw things for what they really were. I think what really attracts me to Austen's novels - besides the fact that they are brilliantly written with some fantastic story lines and very memorable characters - is the respect and honor and dignity that guided every aspect of their lives. We are sadly lacking in anything near respect and honor in today's society and it is refreshing to loose myself in a time when people had manners, respected and honored each other, and had morals. How can you not adore a period of such elegance? When men respected ladies? I am glad that a new era of readers is being introduced to Austen's writings and her world via the new fad of publishing Austen sequels and prequels and spins offs.

I do read other things from time to time - a non-fiction book on a topic that has captured my interest, random chick lit (I do enjoy Danielle Steele and Nora Roberts for instance), the occasional bodice ripper type romance (when I feel like indulging myself in something that doesn't require a ton of thinking!), and I still will pick up my copies of the Anne of Green Gables series or the Little House on the Prairie books if the mood hits me. Like I said, I LOVE to read and in a pinch I will read almost (almost) anything. My books of choice, though, will remain historical fiction and Jane Austen.

Why do you read what you do?

This Day in History...

September 7, 1151 – Geoffrey V (the Handsome), Count of Anjou, died.

September 7, 1533 - Elizabeth I, daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, is born at Greenwich Palace.

September 7, 1534 - Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, married his ward Lady Catherine Willoughby.She was 35 years his junior and the marriage created a bit of a scandal.

Book Review: The King's Mistress

The King's Mistress, Emma Campion
3 roses

I had been eying this one for a while, waiting for it to be released in the US. Once I finally got a copy I dove right in, eager to read about this enigma of a woman. While the novel was well written and fairly interesting, I wasn't overly impressed with it. For me, there just seemed to be something missing.

Alice Perrers was a tradesman's daughter and married a tradesman. However, after only a couple of years of wedded bliss, Alice's world is turned upside down when her husband disappears and she is forced to live at the court of Edward III as a handmaiden to Queen Philippa. She catches the king's eye and ends up in his bed and from that moment on she is a target for the royal family and commoners. After the king dies and she looses his protection, Alice must struggle to regain her life.

The novel had great potential. The catalyst that drives the action early in the story is the fact that Alice's husband and his family have a secret agreement with the king's mother, Isabella, and are being pursued by someone who wants their information. There really is a mystery here and I feel if this story line had persisted the novel would have been much better. However, that mystery soon gets lost in the world of silks and dresses and fashion once Alice is forced to Court. We never find out who "they" are (the people that are after the Perrers family) and it is really frustrating not to have a conclusion to that mystery. To be honest, that really was the only interesting thing throughout the story. While the author has obviously made a very good attempt to redefine Alice, to me the story was just ... boring. In history Alice has been portrayed as nothing but a harlot and a scheming gold-digger and Campion has attempted to give her story new life. She was apparently reviled in her own time and the author has tried to rehabilitate that reputation but the product of her labor is really a weak, very naive, almost goody-goody Alice who seems only concerned with fabrics. While I am doubtful that the real Alice was as horrible as history has portrayed her (history is, after all, written by the powerful and the powerful at this time hated her) I do not think she was as goody-goody as she comes across here. I think that is probably my biggest beef with the novel - the protagonist is not all that believable, thus making her hard to like and follow. The line that seems to drive Campion's narrative is Alice's "When had I a choice to be other than I was?" I can see the author's attempt to show the reader that perhaps Alice had no choice in what happened to her (which is entirely possible; royal ladies rarely had much say in their own lives and a commoner would have even less) but it really didn't come across as all that believable. I think it would have worked better for me if she wasn't constantly saying, after asking and receiving good, sound advice from various people, that she would take their advice to heart but then never attempting to change and just saying "well, I have no choice!" As the novel headed towards it conclusion and Alice was forced into an undesirable marriage and attempted to regain her property, I could feel some sympathy for her. She really was dealt a bad hand and was powerless to receive justice and you could almost feel the helplessness of her situation.

All in all the story was not badly written and it had great potential. The other characters in the book really did not grab my attention or make me care what happened to them; they just seemed to be there in order to move the story along. The relationship between Alice and Edward wasn't all that interesting either which was a disappointment. The descriptions of fabrics and fashions of the time were amazing and obviously well researched but they seemed to take up way too much space in the story. I thought this story did do a wonderful job of showing how a person's reputation can be completely twisted by history one way or another and how a commoner really was at the mercy of the royal family. I am certainly not sorry I read this book as it showed me that Alice might not have been the gold-digger she has always appeared to be but I thought the author could have done much more with certain aspects of the story. I think most readers will not have a problem with it but those who crave a bit more substance to a plot might come away disappointed.

Monday, September 6, 2010

This Day in History...

September 6, 1620 - 149 Pilgrims set sail from England in the Mayflower bound for America.

September 6, 1666 - The Great Fire of London was finally put out after burning for four days. It destroyed more than 13,000 houses and almost 100 churches - including St Paul's Cathedral.

September 6, 1847 - Henry David Thoreau leaves Walden Pond and moves in with Emerson.

September 6, 1997 - The funeral for Diana, Princess of Wales, was held at Westminister Abbey.

Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme created by Marcia at The Printed Page. It is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

Mailbox Monday is on a blog tour! The popular meme is being hosted for the month of September by Bermudaonion Weblog.

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

I finally decided to buy another copy of this novel as the one I had started reading quite a long time ago has disappeared. Once I finish this one perhaps I'll venture into the plethora of sequels and the like.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

This Day in History...

September 5, 1174 - Canterbury Cathedral was destroyed by fire.

September 5, 1548 – Catherine Parr, sixth (and last) wife of Henry VIII, died in childbirth with her fourth husband's (Thomas Seymour) child.

Friday, September 3, 2010

This Day in History...

September 3, 1189 - Following the death of his father Henry II in July, Richard the Lionheart was crowned king at Westminster Abbey in London.

September 3, 1783 - Britain finally recognised the USA, signing the Treaty of Paris officially ending the American War of Independence.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Giveaway Winner!

Thanks to those of you who entered my drawing for the beautiful hardcover copy of Philippa Gregory's first novel in the Cousins' War series The White Queen!

The winner is comment (generated by ...

#9 - Amy!!!!

Please email me your mailing address so I can get this out to you!

This Day in History...

September 2, 31 BC - Octavius Caesar, the future Emperor Augustus, defeated Mark Antony at the Battle of Actium.

September 2, 1348 - Joan, daughter of Edward III, died of the plague on her way to marry the Infante Pedro of Castile. She was buried in France.

September 2, 1666 - The Great Fire of London began in a baker's shop in Pudding Lane. It rapidly ended up destroying most of London's buildings and houses. This was the end of medieval London (and the end of thatch covered roofs in the city).

September 2, 1752 - The Julian calendar was used in Britain and the Colonies 'officially' for the last time. The following day became 14th September in the Gregorian calendar.

September 2, 1945 - World War II officially ended with the Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

This Day in History...

September 1, 1159 - The only Englishman to ever hold the position, Pope Adrian IV (Nicholas Breakspeare) died.

September 1, 1939 - At dawn on Germany invaded Poland and bombed Warsaw, beginning World War II.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

This Day in History...

August 31, 1422 - Henry V died. His son, Henry VI, aged nine months, acceded as King of England.

August 31, 1888 - The body of Mary Ann 'Polly' Nichols, Jack the Ripper's first victim, was found mutilated in Buck's Row.

August 31, 1997 - Diana, Princess of Wales, her companion Dodi Fayed, and their driver were killed in a car crash in the Place de l'Alma underpass in Paris. It is believed they were trying to avoid the paparazzi.

Monday, August 30, 2010

This Day in History...

August 30, 1146 - European leaders outlawed the crossbow. It was hoped that wars would eventually end by banning the weapon.

August 30, 1682 - The founder of Pennsylvania, William Penn, sailed from England.

August 30, 1831 – Louise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg, mother to Prince Albert (Queen Victoria's husband), died. She had only been married to Albert's father for five years before the marriage was dissolved.

August 30, 1862 - Confederates beat the Union at the Second Battle of Bull Run.

Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme created by Marcia at The Printed Page. It is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

Mailbox Monday is on a blog tour! The popular meme is being hosted by Chick Loves Lit for the month of August!

Georgette Heyer's Regency World, Jennifer Klouster

Thank you so much Lizzy at Historically Obsessed for sending this one my way! I am already loving it!! It is a wonderful and detailed look at everything about the Regency period - from hats to gambling debt and everything in between.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Book Review: For the King's Favor

For the King's Favor, Elizabeth Chadwick
4. 5 roses

I love Elizabeth Chadwick's books and always look forward to a new one eagerly. This novel was published (in the UK I believe) as The Time of Singing but I had never read it so I was excited when the opportunity arose through Sourcebooks to review the novel for it's US release. I was not disappointed - but then, I have never been disappointed with Ms. Chadwick's novels.

The novel tells the story of Roger Bigod, heir to the earldom of Norfolk, and Ida de Tosney, mistress to Henry II. While at Henry's court to settle his inheritance, Roger meets Ida, Henry's somewhat reluctant mistress and mother to his illegitimate son William Longespee, and something sparks between the two. What follows is a story full of conflicts as Roger and Ida try to form a life together - Roger constantly having to prove he is not the traitor his father was, Ida's heartbreaking choice as a mother, the ongoing problem with Roger's stepmother over the Norfolk inheritance, and the troubles within the royal family - and all this is after Roger has to truly "win" his lady love and get permission from the King to marry his former mistress!

While this may all sound a bit fantastic, Roger and Ida's story is true, which makes this novel so much more lovely. Readers who have enjoyed the series on William Marshal will be thrilled to see him appear here in as a secondary character. Unlike William Marshal, there is no where near as much recorded history about Roger Bigod; however Ms. Chadwick is able to piece together what is known with her little bits of creativity flawlessly, creating a very believable character and story. Her attention to historical detail and accuracy is again very obvious but you do not feel like you are being beaten over the head with information. Once again she has used her wonderful talent of effortlessly recreating medieval life for her readers making it easy for a modern person to picture what life was truly like for these very real people. She has created characters that are multi-dimensional and a joy to read about, taking people who could have been lost in the mists of time and given them new life. I thought Roger Bigod, while not a stud like William Marshal, was a good, noble, and honorable man and it was very easy for me to root for him throughout the novel. While reading I noticed that Roger's struggle with his stepmother and stepbrothers slightly resembled a "Cinderella" type story and that gave me a little chuckle. Ida's story is heartbreaking at points (my heart ached for her when she would pull William's baby shoes out and look at them). Her struggle to rebuild a relationship with the son she had to give up is very touching and Ms. Chadwick brilliantly shows what a rough life a medieval woman - even a noble born one - had to struggle through. Just like modern couples, Roger and Ida have some serious conflicts to work through during the course of the novel, making their story even more accessible to readers. The other characters in the novel all have a very distinct personality and it is easy to like them or despise them. I found myself really disliking Ida's firstborn, William, as he grew older; his arrogance really grated on my nerves and his snobbish ideas on his mother's new family made me want to spank him. Beyond the characters populating the novel, there is wonderful description of the extremely turbulent times Roger and Ida are trying to struggle through. Life could be quite rough on a normal basis but at this point in time there was the added danger of political intrigue nobles had to navigate through and Ms. Chadwick does a superb job of portraying how this threat could really hang over someone's head, influencing every aspect of their life. One surprise for me was the fact I really enjoyed all the information on the rebuilding of the Bigod estate, Framlingham, in Norfolk. I also enjoyed seeing characters that figure into Ms. Chadwick's newest novel about Roger Bigod's son Hugh and the Marshal's oldest daughter Mahelt. It is amazing how she is able to weave all these stories together, even in separate books!

I will caution some readers - this is not an action packed, super suspenseful novel. It is a well written story of two people struggling to create a life together amidst a very turbulent time. It is a very enjoyable read (but of course we are talking about Elizabeth Chadwick!) that will introduce the reader to two little known figures in history. I can easily recommend this book to all readers. Chadwick fans will certainly enjoy another fantastic novel, readers who are rather picky about the historical accuracy in their historical fiction will be pleased with the attention to research, and those who aren't picky will get facts that aren't skewed out of shape to fit the author's storyline. Pick this one up; I don't think you will be disappointed!

To read more about the Bigods, read Chadwick's newest novel To Defy a King.

*Thank you to Sourcebooks for the review copy of this novel!