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, January 30, 2010

New Movie: Ironclad

I came across this trailer today. It is a movie, scheduled for release this year, about the rebellion against King John that lead up to Magna Carta.

The preview looks good...guess I'll have to wait and see if there is any substance to it.

The Alphabet in Historical Fiction Challenge: D

Whew! Just barely getting mine in on time!!

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 fourth letter of this challenge: D

Here Be Dragons, Sharon Kay Penman

From the back cover:

Thirteenth-century Wales is a divided country, ever at the mercy of England's ruthless, power-hungry King John. Llewelyn, Prince of North Wales, secures an uneasy truce by marrying the English king's beloved illegitimate daughter, Joanna, who slowly grows to love her charismatic and courageous husband. But as John's attentions turn again and again to subduing Wales - and Llewelyn - Joanna must decide where her love and loyalties truly lie.

The turbulent clashes of two disparate worlds and the destinies of the individuals caught between them spring to life in this magnificent novel of power and passion, loyalty and lies.

I absolutely, positively loved this book. Sharon Kay Penman is really a top notch storyteller. I could not put this one down! Llewelyn and Joanna's story is simply amazing and so full of life and love. You can't help but fall in love with Llewelyn - he is so courageous and honorable and passionate. I want to travel to Wales just in the hopes of seeing him appear somewhere! Joanna is such a complex and changing character throughout - from a young, scared girl married into a strange land to a woman desperately in love with her husband but torn with loyalty to her father to a mature woman who knows she has to live with the consequences of her actions. There are many other intriguing and well developed characters running around, including Joanna's father, King John, and Llewelyn's arrogant son, Gruffydd. As usual, Penman's descriptions, this time of Wales and its people and their traditions and customs, really help to bring to life a time very distant from our own and one that most are not familiar with. I think a true sign of a good author is when you can close your eyes and really see what they are talking about; you feel like you can almost reach out and touch it. That is achieved magnificently in this novel. I can not wait to read the next two books in the trilogy, Falls the Shadow and The Reckoning.

*I will be posting a more detailed review in a few days.

Friday, January 29, 2010

This Day in History...

January 29, 1596 - Sir Francis Drake, the most famous English seaman and adventurer of the Elizabethan era was buried at sea.

January 29, 1820 - King George III died at Windsor Castle. He was 81 years old and, at the time, the longest reigning British monarch (over 59 years).

Thursday, January 28, 2010

This Day in History...

A couple of biggies today..

January 28, 1457 - Birth of Henry Tudor, the future Henry VII. He was the founder of the Tudor dynasty, defeating Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth, father of Henry VIII and grandfather of Elizabeth I.

January 28, 1547 - Henry VIII, one of the most infamous English monarchs, died at Whitehall Palace. It was exactly 100 years after the birth of his father Henry VII.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

This Day in History...

January 27, 1606 - The trial of Guy Fawkes and his fellow conspirators began. They were charged with treason for attempting to blow up the Houses of Parliament, with the royal family inside.

Book Review: The Winter Mantle

The Winter Mantle, Elizabeth Chadwick
3.5 roses

This was another fast paced work of wonderfully blended history and fiction from Elizabeth Chadwick. While my rating may not show it, this was a good book. There were just a few things that brought my overall rating down. It is the true story of Waltheof of Huntington, an English lord held hostage by William of Normandy after the Battle of Hastings, and his Norman bride Judith, William's niece. After finally marrying the woman of dreams, Waltheof realizes that she is not as wonderful as she originally appeared. After many turbulent years of marriage and children, Judith eventually makes a decision that seals Waltheof's fate. As their daughter Matlida grows, she desperately wants to avoid the situation her parents ended up in.

This is a wonderfully written book with great descriptions and details and good character development. Chadwick really excels at making the past come alive for the reader in her descriptions of all things in the medieval world. Surprisingly, there really are no "villains" in the story, just some really annoying and arrogant people (Judith's mother for one). Waltheof is honorable and quite likable though his one weakness, his inability to think before he acts, lands him in trouble again and again. Sometimes I just wanted to shake him and tell him to wake up. Judith starts out as a character I could feel a bit sorry and cheer for because of what she puts up with from her mother. She appears to be a loving, kind-hearted girl who just wants to find love - until she and Waltheof marry. This is where my rating on the book began to drop. Once married, Judith morphs into a horrid, shrewish person I wished Waltheof would slap some sense into (or just slap for that matter). Her constant arrogance over her Norman blood being better than Waltheof's English really made me dislike her. The unending scorn she held for the Simon de Senlis, the boy Waltheof saved, was really irritating as she felt he kept showing up just to make her feel guilty about the part she played in it. She really turned into her mother. It was hard for me to comprehend how someone could change so drastically and so quickly. After her roll in Waltheof's downfall I had absolutely no pity or sympathy left for her. At this point I was a bit confused because the story switches and focuses on Waltheof and Judith's daughter, Matilda. While this was a complete change and not what I was expecting from the book, Matilda's story was enjoyable to read. The whole episode dealing with her marriage to a friend of her father's, just to get away from her mother was priceless (and I liked seeing Judith get what was coming to her). It was interesting to see how she matured and tried to avoid the mistakes her mother made.

This was a good story, as usual, from Elizabeth Chadwick but not one of my favorites. The change in Judith's character was a huge swing that left me scratching my head a bit. The chemistry between her and Waltheof was so wonderful to read about in the beginning but then it just disappeared. I really loved reading about Waltheof and hated the way he was treated by the woman he loved. The switch in the focus of the story was a bit of a shock as well, though Matilda's story was interesting to read. Those two issues though are what brought my overall rating down on this book.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Teaser Tuesday

TT is a weekly bookish meme hosted by Miz B 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, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

The Last Kingdom, Bernard Cornwell

I already knew what we would do; perhaps I had always known.

I am an Englishman of England, but I had been a Dane while Ragnar was alive for Ragnar loved me and cared for me and called me his son, but Ragnar was dead and I had no other friends among the Danes.

This Day in History...

January 26, 1788 - A fleet of British ships, carrying convicts, arrived at the colony of New South Wales. This is basically the founding of Australia.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Mailbox Mondays

Mailbox Monday 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). Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!!

Only have one to share this week!

The White Boar, Marian Palmer
Thank you Lynn for sending this to me! I can't wait to read it! I am always happy to get my hands on a novel about Richard III!! This one was published in the late 60's I believe so it will be interesting to see the author's take on Richard.

Book Review: O, Juliet

O, Juliet, Robin Maxwell
4 roses

I have been chomping at the bit to post my full review of this marvelous book! Robin Maxwell's newest masterpiece will be released on February 2 so make plans to run (yes run) out to pick this one up. You will be glad that you did!

Maxwell's newest novel is a fascinating look at Romeo and Juliet's story without the Shakespearean language. Let me say first that this is NOT a retelling of Shakespeare's play but rather a look at what really "might have been." The basic storyline is the same but everything else is told in much more detail with some slight changes to help the story along. As Shakespeare based his famous play off several Medieval love stories, Maxwell also used those in her research for this novel. There is a wonderful blend of the familiar story mixed with marvelous details of the time period which I feel really help immerse the reader in the story. Maxwell fills in all the details that Shakespeare's play leaves out: customs, traditions, business practices, treatment and status of women, etc. These details really help separate this novel from the play. Where as the play is really just the love story between two teenagers Maxwell's novel is really a look at the lives of these two young adults and the events in the world around them.

There are recognizable characters though some may have different names and different personalities (for instance the rather quiet, meek Paris becomes Jacapo Strozzi, a truly malicious and despicable man). I really enjoyed the characterization of Romeo and Juliet in this novel. Romeo is portrayed as a sensitive but energetic young man who loves Juliet not just for her beauty but for her intellect and passions as well. Juliet is a feisty young woman who is educated, has a sense of adventure, and is quite determined to go after what she wants. It was wonderful to see the two as individual people with other issues in their lives rather than a pair of moon-struck teenagers. Our two protagonists are also in their late teens here which makes their feelings for each other seem much more real and staying, rather than a teenage crush. Maxwell really outdid herself with her portrayals of these two famous characters.

Besides familiar characters, there are familiar events in the novel, though the way they come about or the outcome may be different. I really enjoyed the way Juliet managed to get away in order to marry Romeo. We get a better look at why there is a feud between the Capelletti and the Monticecco and Romeo is even able to negotiate a truce between the two. It was wonderful to see that a relationship between the two could have been possible at this point, as the two families were able to "make friends." Jacapo, Juliet's bethrothed, is really the catalyst that causes all the friction and problems between the two families. He really is a loathsome creature. It is his influence that really puts pressure on the couple as the story nears its climax and I was eager to see what Maxwell's resolution to the situation would be. I will not give away the ending but it was quite emotional.

This is a very fun, entertaining, and fast read. Shakespeare's basic story is really embellished and filled out with wonderful detail. It will really hold your attention! I would recommend this to anyone: Shakespeare buffs, romance fans, general readers. Please head over and see my interview with Ms. Maxwell and stayed tuned...there may be a giveaway!!

This Day in History...

January 25, 1327 - Edward III acceded to the English throne.

January 25, 1533 - King Henry VIII secretly married Anne Boleyn. She had discovered ten days earlier that she was pregnant.

January 25, 1554 - Sir Thomas Wyatt gathered an army in Kent to start his rebellion against Queen Mary. The rebellion failed and he was executed on 11th April.

Friday, January 22, 2010

This Day in History...

January 22, 1788 - The future poet George Gordon Byron, better known as Lord Byron, was born in London.

January 22, 1901 - Queen Victoria died at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. She was 81. Her reign lasting 63 years was the longest in British history.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

This Day in History...

January 21, 1549 - Parliament passed the first of four Acts of Uniformity. The first Act required the exclusive use of the Book of Common Prayer in all public services of the Anglican Church.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

This Day in History...

January 20, 1265 - The first Parliament met at Westminster Hall in London, convened by Simon de Montfort, the Earl of Leicester. Montfort would later be killed in battle and considered a traitor.

*You can read more about Montfort in Sharon Kay Penman's Falls the Shadow, the second book in her Welsh Trilogy.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme hosted by Miz B 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, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Her Mother's Daughter, Julianne Lee

Though Mary disliked the execution of so close a relative as her cousin, it might be unavoidable, for Mary had learned well from her father to beware of those with blood ties too close to the Crown.

"With all due respect, Your Grace, the entire congregation rose against your priest, he angered them so with his attacks on their faith. I feel Your Grace may be underestimating the determination of Protestants to remain on their chosen path."

Book Review: Hugh and Bess

Hugh and Bess, Susan Higginbotham
5 roses

After reading The Traitor's Wife last year I have been eagerly awaiting the time when I could read more of Ms. Higginbotham's novels. Once I started reading this one I could not put it down and I finished it in less than a day. This one comes next in chronological order after TW, telling the story of Hugh le Despenser the younger's son, Hugh, and his young wife Elizabeth de Montacute.

Bess is over ten years younger than Hugh and not happy that she is to marry the son of an executed traitor. I couldn't be annoyed with Bess about her attitude toward Hugh in the beginning as all she had heard about this man's family was horrible; it was only to be expected that she would not want to marry into a family with that kind of past. As the story starts when she is quite young we really get to watch her grow and mature. Hugh is easily likable and it was really touching to see how careful and patient he was with his young bride. He has a wonderful sense of humor and his comments about his own family's past are priceless. I loved watching how they came to truly love one another. It is easy to sympathize with each and still be able to place blame on both of them in their one "big argument." They are both stubborn and opinionated people but neither have any real horrible character flaws. I have to say though that Hugh was my favorite side of that pair. While there is plenty of history thrown into the mix, the real "star" is the love story between the two. I was almost in tears reading about the coming of the Black Death and those that suffered from it.

This really was an interesting look at many people not usually focused on in history or historical fiction. The major players in the events of the time are certainly mentioned but they do not play a leading roll in the story, which is refreshing; its always nice to read about new people. Higginbotham is a wonderful writer and she had me hooked from the start; I kept wanting to turn the pages, eager to find out what happened next. The novel is excellently written with very interesting characters and great plot/story development and is an easy read. Like Sharon Kay Penman, Higginbotham manages to blend fiction with well researched history seamlessly but manages to keep the reader from getting bogged down in too much detail. It is always nice to read really good historical fiction where the author hasn't changed or altered too much history to suit their own story needs. So much of this history is so fascinating and intriguing already; it doesn't really need any more drama thrown in!

I would certainly recommend this to any readers (even readers that enjoy romance). If you have read her first novel, make sure to pick this one up.

This Day in History...

January 19, 1544 - Francis II, King of France was born. He was Mary, Queen of Scots' first husband.

January 19, 1547 - Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, was beheaded at the Tower of London, for high treason. His father, the Duke of Norfolk, was spared by the death of Henry VIII.

Monday, January 18, 2010

New O, Juliet Love Games Competition!!

As we're another week closer to the release of Robin Maxwell's new novel, she has posted another competition on her blog and this one is pretty cool!

Head over to the O, Juliet site to check out the new poetry contest! The winners will receive, among other things, an awesome leather bound, Renaissance style journal.

This Day in History...

January 18, 1486 - Henry VII married Elizabeth of York, eldest daughter of Edward IV. After 30 years of civil war the Royal Houses of Lancaster and York were united.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Jean Plaidy Challenge 2010

One of my favorite authors of historical fiction is Jean Plaidy. Some of her Queens of England series really solidified my love of this genre.

Arleigh and Lucy over at Plaidy's Royal Intrigue have a wonderful challenge starting now and running though the end of the year, full of fun and giveaways. Head over to the blog and check out all the details and sign up!

The levels you can join at:

Ms. Carr: read 6 Books
Ms. Holt: read 8 Books
Grand Plaidy Lady: Over 12 books

At the end of the year, 1 winner will be picked from each level.

I will be aiming for the Ms. Holt level, though I may change that as the year progresses!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

This Day in History...

January 16, 1572 - Thomas Howard, the Fourth Duke of Norfolk (and kinsman to the Queen), was tried for treason for his part in the Ridolfi plot to put Mary, Queen of Scots on the throne and restore Catholicism in England. He was executed at the Tower.

Friday, January 15, 2010

This Day in History...

January 15, 1535 - Henry VIII assumed the title 'Supreme Head of the Church' after breaking with Rome in order to divorce his first wife.

January 15, 1559 - At the age of 26, Elizabeth I is crowned Queen of England. She was Henry VIII's daughter by his second wife, Anne Boleyn.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

This Day in History...

Just a few little tidbits...haven't found anything really interesting the past few days. Guess its too cold for people to do much in January!

January 14, 1742 - Sir Edmund Halley, who gave his name to the famous comet, died. He was 86.

January 14, 1878 - Queen Victoria watched a demonstration of Alexander G. Bell’s telephone at a home on the Isle of Wight.

January 14, 1898 - Lewis Carroll, author of Alice in Wonderland, died.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

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, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Lady Macbeth, Susan Fraser King

Approval gathered for Mabeth like a wave all around us as we continued our progress.

While I knew that many Moray men would be willing to watch Macbeth's back, I was astounded at the breadth of his following.

This Day in History...

January 13, 1964 - The first Beatles record, "I Wanna Hold Your Hand,"is reluctantly released in the US by Capital Records. They only did it 'to see how it goes.' Within only three weeks, a million copies had been sold.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

This Day in History...

January 12, 1976 - Crime writer Dame Agatha Christie died. She supposedly left a rumored multi-million dollar (or pound) fortune and a final book waiting to be published.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Mailbox Mondays

Mailbox Monday 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). Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!!

I have a few to share this week, including one I somehow forgot to post a few weeks back!

Her Mother's Daughter, Julianne Lee

While I'm not a huge Mary I fan, I am looking forward to reading this account of her life. It is always interesting to see familiar history through a new perspective.

Between Two Queens, Kate Emerson

This is the second book in her Secrets of the Tudor Court series. I'm always up for some good Tudor reads.

The Lute Player, Norah Lofts

I love Norah Lofts so I had to pick this reissue up about Richard the Lionheart. Having read Sharon Kay Penman's trilogy on Richard's parents, Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, I'm looking forward to reading about his life. It will also hopefully hold me until Penman's next book about Richard is published!

Second Love Games Challenge!!

Robin Maxwell has posted her second challenge and giveaway in promotion of her upcoming book release O, Juliet. Head over to her blog to check out all the details and the giveaway (along with a sneak peak at the book!).

For this challenge, Ms. Maxwell is asking you to come up with your favorite love quotation from literature, poetry or song and share it on the blog.

This Day in History...

January 11, 1994 - The Duchess of Kent announced that she was converting to Catholicism. She was the first member of the Royal Family to do so since James II in the 17th century.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Interview with Robin Maxwell about O, Juliet!!

Author Robin Maxwell was gracious enough to answer some questions about her new novel O, Juliet, due to be released at the beginning of February. Please check out her website dedicated to the new novel and participate in the Love Games and giveaways!

1. What made you want to write this version of Romeo and Juliet's story?

While love had played an important role in all my novels, none of them could have been considered a true "love story." And as that emotion has always played a central role in my own life -- I've been with my wonderful husband for going on thirty years -- I really wanted, as an author, to take a shot at high romance. How much higher and much more romantic can you get than Romeo and Juliet? It's the template for almost all the great love stories that exist -- two young people from opposite sides of the track who must fight against society, convention and families in order to be together.

When I realized that nobody had ever written it as a full-blown novel, I could hardly contain myself. I had just completed SIGNORA DA VINCI and had a terrific grasp of Renaissance Italy. My editor had been hoping that I might stay in that place and period for my next book, and when she heard this idea, she flipped.

2.This story was made famous by Shakespeare and was even around before that in Italian short stories. How did you decide which bits and pieces from these previous tellings fit into the story you wanted to tell? How did you make sure your story was different?

When I re-read Shakespeare's version (I hadn't done this since 8th grade English class) I was overwhelmed with the beauty of the language, but I found myself frustrated by the lack of detail about the intimate lives of the protagonists. They must have had families and friends, homes, beds, businesses and conversations over dinner tables (with fabulous Italian food, I imagined!), fears, secrets and dreams -- and I wanted to explore those details while I took Romeo and Juliet through the classical storyline that could really not be improved upon.

3. What would you like to tell readers who might think that this is just going to be Shakespeare's story all over again?

Firstly, where Shakespeare's entire play takes place over a period of less than a week, O, JULIET plays out over several months. And as I wanted my protagonists to have full-blown emotional and intellectual lives, I added a few years to their age (in the play they are fourteen and fifteen). I suppose where I really departed from the Bard's tale was in the creation of Jacopo Strozzi -- the man that Juliet has been prommised to in marriage by her parents. He is her father's business partner, and I chose to make him as despicable as Romeo is fabulous. Some readers might take umbrage with that decision as unsubtle or cliched, but having been a writer for thirty years now, I never underestimate the importance of a great villain.

I've also, from the start, set Romeo in the role of a peacemaker between his and Juliet's family, even before the two of them meet. And I wanted to give the couple something substantive that they have in common (other than mutual love at first sight) so I chose poetry -- they're both amateur poets, and they're both Dante freaks. Dante was the John Lennon, the Bob Dylan of the medieval world -- a real rock star. And because I made that fateful creative choice, I was forced to write poetry in both Romeo's and Juliet's voices. Aaaiigghhh!!!! Of course, I'm no Shakespeare, but it was a hoot trying my hand at romantic verse. And just for a laugh (and to Romeo's chagrin) I made Juliet a better poet than him.

So while the basic story line is the same, O, JULIET is thickly woven with the details of daily life, and the protagonists' inner lives, that you won't find in Shakespeare. As Sharon Kay Penman said, " readers get to see what happens off stage."

4.How did you go about researching Romeo and Juliet's lives? Is there any evidence that suggests there really was a couple similar to this?

Certainly there have been tales of star-crossed lovers that go back to ancient Greece and Rome. And there are the three Italian short stories that claim to tell of the Tuscan couple's tragic affair (alternately in Siena or Verona). But even earlier -- in 1215 in Florence -- two families on either side of the bloody, long-running feud between the Guelfs and the Ghibellines were involved in a broken betrothal, a clandestine love affair, and a cousin stabbed to death near Ponte Vecchio. How the story was spun by various authors over the centuries has more to do with those writers' imaginations and sense of drama than historical truth, but nobody can deny the archtypes of Romeo and Juliet run deep and strong in our culture and psyche.

5. What was your favorite part of the story? Favorite character?

I think my favorite part was having Romeo actually succeed, for a time, in bringing the families together as friends. Their two fathers have an especially hard time of it, but under Romeo's gentle guiding hand, even Roberto Monticecco and Capello Capelletti find common ground. My favorite creations were Roberto (a kind and sensitive man driven to vengeful acts by family pressures); Marco -- Juliet's clownish cousin; the aforementioned Jacopo Strozzi and his "dragon lady" mother; and Cosimo de' Medici (the man who single-handedly brought about the Renaissance).

6. Lucrezia Tornabuoni (de' Medici) is well know to history. Why did you decide to cast her in the role of Juliet's friend and confidante?

Actually, when I was trolling around for a new book idea my editor, Kara Cesare, suggested I write one with Lucrezia as the protagonist. She was Lorenzo "The Magnificent" de' Medici's fabulous mother, whom I'd introduced in SIGNORA DA VINCI. I immediately said no, as I didn't feel there was enough about her life to hang a whole novel on. But when I conceived of O, JULIET, I realized that if I set it in Florence just before Lucrezia married into the Medici clan, she and Juliet could be best friends. That way I could illuminate Florentine society in a relatively peaceful moment in its history, just as it was about to explode into the brilliance of the Renaissance, and weave into the story some real historical figures -- something that I'm extremely comfortable with. Lucrezia, a famous beauty with a stellar education and a sweet heart, was a perfect foil for my feisty and sometimes outrageous Juliet.

I want to thank Ms. Maxwell again for taking the time to do this interview for me. I hope everyone is excited about the release of her new book O, Juliet next month. Please stay tuned for my review, which I will post next week, and a possible giveaway!! Make sure to head over to the O, Juliet website to check out the fun!

This Day in History...

January 8, 1877 - Indian Chief Crazy Horse and his warriors lost their final battle against the U.S. Cavalry in Montana. Only six months earlier, Crazy Horse and his allies had beaten General Custer at the Battle of Little Big Horn.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

This Day in History...

January 7, 1536 - Catherine of Aragon died at Kimbolton Castle in Cambridgeshire. She was Henry VIII's first wife and Mary I's mother. It was her refusal to give Henry a divorce so he could marry Anne Boleyn that led to Henry's eventual break from the Roman Catholic Church.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Historical Crushes

This topic was discussed in some groups I'm in over at Goodreads and I thought the idea was too good to pass up blogging about.

We all have crushes at some point in our lives (ahh...high school) but on historical people? On people that have been dead for hundreds of years in many cases? Could it be true? Oh yeah...its true alright. What is it about some of these long ago people that just pull us in? Here are my historical crushes and the reasons I could come up with explaining why they're on this list!

Richard III - Yes, I know so many things have portrayed him as a horrible, evil, deformed, nephew killing king but I personally don't believe he was that bad. I've read many, many (many) books on the man and I've come to the conclusion he was probably somewhere in between and that was probably on par for the way most men were in that era. Why the crush? It kinda grew on me actually. I just really (really, really) like the man and think he's gotten a really bad rap throughout history.

Edward the Black Prince - He seems like such a chivalric guy, right out of a medieval romance. I really loved Karen Harper's The First Princess of Wales that is about him and his wife Joan of Kent. I'm not sure how accurate that love story is but it sure made my little heart do a leap every now and then!

William Marshal - How can a girl NOT crush on this guy after reading Elizabeth Chadwick's wonderful The Greatest Knight? He is THE knight any lady would want rescuing her from distress and playing all the games of courtly love. I tell ya, the last few chapters that cover the relationship between William and his young wife were just wonderful! What a great guy!

John of Gaunt - Read Anya Seton's book about his mistress Katherine Swynford and then tell me that you're not a little bit swept off your feet by the man! What a great (and TRUE) love story. He loved Katherine, supported her and their children, and eventually married her despite the fact that other ladies at court thought she was beneath him. True love conquers all?

Llewellyn - The last true Prince of Wales will steal your heart when he's still a small boy and it will just grow from there. Always something sexy about a man who will stand up the King of England.

So the question of the day is...who is YOUR historical crush??

This Day in History...

Several historical tidbits to share today!

January 6, 1066 - Harold II is crowned King of England, succeeding Edward the Confessor. He only reigned for ten months before he was killed at the Battle of Hastings.

January 6, 1367 -Richard II, son of Edward the Black Prince is born in Bordeaux.

January 6, 1412 - Joan of Arc, the Maid of Orléans, is born.

January 6, 1540 - Henry VIII married his fourth wife Anne of Cleves. The marriage only lasted a few months as Henry found her disgusting and had it annulled. She became known as his "dear sister."

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

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 & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

  • Young Bess, Margaret Irwin

    By the time that letter reached Gloucestershire all Tom's pride and joy were being dashed to the ground.

    For they did not grasp at once that she was delirious when she complained to her husband that he was really wanting her to die, so that he would be free to marry the Princess Elizabeth.

    One Lovely Blog Award

    A big thank you to Muse in the Fog for giving me this pretty award! I'm honored to be on the same list as some of the other ladies!!

    Here are the rules:
    1) Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award and his or her blog link
    2) Pass the award to 15 other blogs that you’ve newly discovered.
    3) Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

    I'm afraid I don't have 15 newly discovered blogs but here are a few that I have discovered in the not too distant past that are really nice:

    1. Christy at Christy's Book Blog

    2. History Hoydens

    3. Leslie Carroll's Royal Affairs and Notorious Royal Marriages

    Book Review: The Queen's Mistake

    The Queen's Mistake, Diane Haeger
    2.5 roses

    In this offering, author Diane Haeger gives us a new look at Henry VIII's doomed fifth wife Catherine Howard. This book, while covering a queen that there's really not a lot to write about, had potential but this reader felt it fell short. While its not a bad novel, it seems poorly written in some places and the spins on history the author takes just don't work.

    **May contain spoilers**

    The basic story presented here - Catherine grows up at her grandmother's, leads a promiscuous lifestyle while there, gets sent to court as bait for Henry VIII, becomes his queen, and finally meets a bad end - is correct. The way Haeger stitched it all together did not sit well with me. It seemed almost like a young adult romance dressed up as historical fiction. Most of the characters simply were not believable to me. I felt the author really went out of her way to try to paint Catherine Howard as an innocent who was just used as a pawn and had no idea what she was doing. While she was not as politically savvy and ambitious as her cousin Anne Boleyn, I do not believe that she was in any way innocent or really that unaware of what was going on around her; she just didn't care about what was going on. Haeger goes to great pains to show that Catherine was not technically unfaithful to Henry once they were married, though historical record (I'm fairly certain) shows otherwise. I really felt nothing for Catherine at any point in the novel; I just didn't care what happened to her. None of the other characters were interesting either and some were portrayed in a very unbelievable way. I can't see Henry VIII really asking advice from a groom of the bedchamber (Thomas Culpepper). Jane Rochford comes across as kind and nurturing, only wanting to help Catherine, though everything else you read about Jane paints her as a very jealous, insecure, and selfish woman. At one point we find out that Catherine's uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, wanted her to gain experience on how to please a man while living with her grandmother so that she would be ready to be thrown under the king's nose. Considering the drama over whether Henry's first two wives were virgins or not when they married, I find it hard to believe that Norfolk would risk his neck by trying to pawn off another niece as a virgin. Norfolk was highly ambitious and power hungry but stupid? I don't think so. One character I was intrigued by was Mary Lassells, one of the girls that was with Catherine in her grandmother's home. The little bit we see of Mary's feelings and motivations for her actions towards Catherine are quite interesting. Her story really had some potential and I think the novel would have been much better and more convincing if it had been told through Mary's point of view. We certainly would have gotten a much different look at what happened.

    Besides the uninteresting and (sometimes) unbelievable characters, the story itself just wasn't that interesting. It just didn't reach out and pull me in to the lives of the people between the pages. Some of the historical inaccuracies really jumped out at me as well: I'm certain it is recorded in history that Catherine accompanied Henry on his trip to the North (and had some private meetings with Culpepper along the way) and I honestly don't think anyone could ride, on horseback, from York to London in a day. I know that authors are going to take some liberties with history to fit their stories but when an author completely changes or ignores what is in recorded history, that really bugs me. Besides changing known history, another of my big pet peeves with novels is when the author feels the need to repeat something over and over and over; Haeger does this in an abundance that reminds me of Philippa Gregory. I really didn't need to read on every other page how gross the king appeared or how Catherine really didn't think anyone would care what she had done in her early years.

    This was a very fast read and as I said at the beginning it is not bad, just not interesting enough for this reader. I would only recommend it for those that aren't that familiar with the time period and want an easy introduction, those that are complete Tudor fanatics and can't get enough of anything that deals with the period, and readers that just want some easy reading. Those that are a bit more particular about their historical fiction may have issues with this one. If you are interested in reading more about Catherine Howard, Philippa Gregory has a book covering this same time period, The Boleyn Inheritance, that is a more interesting take on the story.

    This Day in History...

    January 5, 1066 - Edward the Confessor, the last Anglo-Saxon king of England, died. He was called ‘the Confessor’ because of his great piety. His death led to the invasion and conquest of England by William of Normandy.

    January 5, 1531- Pope Clemens VII told King Henry VIII he could not divorce his first wife and re-marry. This led to Henry's creation of the Church of England so he could re-marry and get a male heir.

    Monday, January 4, 2010

    First "O, Juliet Love Games" Giveaway!!

    2010 has started and we are a little under a month from the release of Robin Maxwell's next novel O, Juliet. As promised, Ms. Maxwell has started a giveaway on her site to promote the new book. You have three Mondays to enter and the winner will received a signed copy of the novel and a special heart necklace. Check out the link below to see more information on the giveaway and Maxwell's newest book!

    This Day in History...

    January 4, 1642 - Armed soldiers entered Parliament under orders from King Charles I. The English Civil War started not long afterwards.

    Friday, January 1, 2010

    This Day in History...

    January 1, 1887 - British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli proclaimed Queen Victoria Empress of India. It could truly be said at this point that "the sun never set on the British Empire."