Saturday, December 31, 2011
Having a baby threw my reading time way off this year but I still managed to get plenty of books read (just not as many as I'd like and I wasn't able to get reviews posted for most of them). Here are some of my top picks from the year!
1. Lady of the English, Elizabeth Chadwick
Ms. Chadwick's latest novel is about Henry II's very strong mother, the Empress Matilda, and her struggle with King Stephen over the English Crown. This was a really good book (but of course, everything Ms. Chadwick writes is awesome!) and you can read my review here. If you like to read books "in order," this one will come before her phenomenal The Greatest Knight which is about William Marshall and his dealings with Henry II and his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine.
2. George Knightley, Esquire: Lend me Leave, Barbara Cornthwaite
I LOVED this novel!! It was book two in the author's retelling of Jane Austen's Emma through the hero George Knightley's eyes. You can see my review of book one here and of this book here. Ms. Cornthwaite really captured the spirit and language of Austen's world and added in some wonderful humor and character description and development. These were fantastically written versions of Austen's original and I highly recommend them to Austen fans!
3. Queen by Right, Anne Easter Smith
This was the author's fourth novel in her York family series though this one comes before the previously published novels. It deals with the life of Cecily Neville, Duchess of York, mother of Edward IV and Richard III. It was a really good book and I enjoyed reading more about Cecily, who usually only appears sporadically in novels about this turbulent time period. Check out my review here.
These are just my top 3 but I read many more great books this year! Here are a few others that deserve mention:
Queen of Last Hopes, Susan Higgianbotham
To Be Queen, Christy English
The King's Grey Mare, Rosemary H. Jarman
The Adventures of Alianore Audley, Brian Wainwright
Bath Tangle, Georgette Heyer
Vlad: The Last Confession, C. C. Humphries
Three Maids for the Crown, Ella March Chase
Thursday, December 29, 2011
I have participated in this challenge for two years and I love it. The first year I blew way, way past the level I was aiming for (the highest, 20 books and reviews in a year) and this year...well, having a baby can eat up A LOT of time! I certainly read enough books to reach my 20 but I couldn't get reviews written and posted.
So, I'm looking forward to a new year and a new set of books to work on and review! You can click the link below to take you to Historical Tapestry for all the details and to sign up!
Sunday, December 25, 2011
I just wanted to pop in (take a quick break from finding homes for all the new toys!) and wish everyone a very Merry Christmas!! I hope everyone had a wonderful day; I know we did!
And for those wondering...that is Merry Christmas in the three languages that make up my heritage (English, Welsh, and German).
Thursday, December 22, 2011
Readers of this blog will know my love and admiration for Richard III. I have longed for a new movie or TV show to be made about this King to "clear the air" and show him more like he might have been - instead of the monster Shakespeare and his Tudor contemporaries have made him.
British actor Richard Armitage has dreamed of making a film about Richard III and needs our help! He has a site set up and a petition to possible financiers to try to turn his dream into a reality. Please click the link below to go to the website and the link to the petition is near the top!
King Richard Armitage
You will find information about Richard Armitage and Richard III (who he is named for) at the site. You can also find information about Richard III here on my blog in several places.
Monday, December 19, 2011
Monday, December 5, 2011
For those of you unfamiliar with this time period, the "Kingmaker" was Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick. He helped place Edward IV on the throne and then later rebelled against him. The novel will be about his daughters Isabella and Anne. Both sisters married younger brothers of Edward IV: Isabella to George, Duke of Clarance, and Anne to Richard, Duke of Gloucester (future Richard III).
Followers of this blog know my partiality for Richard III and so I will be looking forward to this book, though with a bit of caution. I am always nervous when I don't know how an author is going to portray my favorite King! Richard appeared in the first novel in this series The Winter Queen, which covered the life of Elizabeth Woodville, and she did not make him out to be a horrible monster so I have some hope for this novel!
If you are interested the other novels in this series (in order of release date) are:
The Winter Queen (Elizabeth Woodville, wife to Edward IV)
The Red Queen (Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII)
Lady of the Rivers (Jaquetta Woodville, Elizabeth's mother)
Monday, November 14, 2011
From Brandy Purdy's blog:
When young Robert Dudley, an earl’s son, meets squire’s daughter Amy Robsart, it is love at first sight. They marry despite parental misgivings, but their passion quickly fades, and the ambitious Dudley returns to court.
Swept up in the turmoil of Tudor politics, Dudley is imprisoned in the Tower. Also a prisoner is Dudley’s childhood playmate, the princess Elizabeth. In the shadow of the axe, their passion ignites. When Elizabeth becomes queen, rumors rage that Dudley means to free himself of Amy in order to wed her. And when Amy is found dead in unlikely circumstances, suspicion falls on Dudley—and the Queen…
Still hotly debated amongst scholars—was Amy’s death an accident, suicide, or murder?—the fascinating subject matter makes for an enthralling read for fans of historical fiction.
Please note this book is published in the UK as A Court Affair by Emily Purdy.
Friday, October 14, 2011
Three Maids for a Crown, Ella March Chase
Chase's latest novel looks into the lives of Lady Jane Grey's younger sisters Katherine and Mary, and how they struggled through the twists and turns of the turbulent times.
Vlad: The Last Confession, C.C. Humphreys
Humphreys' novel about Vlad (the inspiration for Stoker's Dracula) is a very interesting look into the life of the historical and very real Prince.
The Tudor Throne, Brandy Purdy
Purdy's lastest novel focuses on the lives of half sisters Mary and Elizabeth and how they both reacted to the trying events in their lives.
Bath Tangle, Georgette Heyer
Another wonderful Regency novel by one of the masters, this novel tells a fun story of tangled relationships.
Be on the lookout for these reviews!
Saturday, October 8, 2011
That is the story driving the upcoming movie by Columbia Pictures Anonymous. The movie looks at the old rumor that William Shakespeare did not write all his famous plays; that he was just the front man for another writer who, for reasons to be revealed in the movie (politically based), wanted to remain anonymous.
You can watch a trailer here.
So what is this old rumor? Basically that the Earl of Oxford, not William Shakespeare, wrote all the plays. Who was the Earl of Oxford? A courtier in Queen Elizabeth I's court. What do I think of this old rumor and the movie based on it? I believe Shakespeare probably did write most of the plays and poems but could certainly have had some help along the way. As for the movie, I'll go watch it because it concerns one of my favorite time periods and historical figures (Queen E) and the idea behind it is certainly intriguing. Besides, the sets and costumes look gorgeous and that's reason enough for me to go see it (I'm always dying for a chance to see this time period on the big screen!).
Does it really matter if Shakespeare worked alone on his plays or not? They are still the wonderful masterpieces whether he wrote them or if someone else wrote them.
Coming to theaters 10/28.
Monday, September 5, 2011
This is book 2 in Ms. Cornthwaite's series in which she retells Austen's Emma from the hero, George Knightley's eyes. I read book 1 several months ago (you can read my review here) and I have been anxiously waiting for book 2 to be published! I ordered as soon as it came out, it arrived on a Saturday, I picked it up to start it on Sunday evening (I was trying to finish another book but finally couldn't wait any longer!), and finished it around 1am Monday morning. It was fantastic!
Book 2 picks up right after Frank Churchill leaves Highbury at his aunt's command and the ball is postponed and continues until the end of the novel and we see Mr. Knightley and Emma leave for their wedding trip. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing how the author continued the story and filled in the gaps that Austen left. We continue to see Mr. Knightley performing his duties as local magistrate (and it is still amazing to me that these gentlemen were expected to do so much with so little training!) and his increasing agony as he feels he has lost Emma to Frank. I could almost feel his panic and despair as he watched the two of them together at the Box Hill party. The side stories that Ms. Cornthwaite weaves in to fill the gaps left in the original (in regards to how Mr. Knightley spends his time away from Hartfield) are quite believable and quite interesting and really throws some light on another side of life in Regency England. The humor is still there as well and I again got some laughs out of Knightley's letters to and from his brother and his talks with Madam Duval. One of my favorite laugh out loud moments was at the very end when John was writing to George and describing what was going on in Highbury in his absence. I won't spoil it for anyone but the last sentence was fantastic (and gives me hope for the author continuing telling Knightley and Emma's story)! In the first book I was thrilled with the humor the author brought to the story; in book two I was thrilled to finally get some of the passion I wanted to see between Mr. Knightley and Emma. Towards the end, once Knightley has declared himself and been accepted we finally see something between the two of them besides a deep and true friendship and I absolutely loved this! I didn't feel any of it was out of place or wrong for something based on Austen. As in the first book the writing style, descriptions, and character dialog are spot on; Ms. Cornthwaite does a fantastic job of recreating Austen's style but yet keeping it from being too wordy and confusing for the reader (which I feel is what some people have a problem with in Austen's works). Her characters are wonderful and seem more developed than Austen's originals. It is obvious that the author took her time and did her research in order to give the reader not only a wonderful story but a very accurate look at the time period. This is where I think she excelled even beyond Austen - she is able to describe the customs, manners, life styles, etc, in such a way to make it very easy for readers to visualize this world of strict etiquette. Austen, of course, did not have to include all the little details because she was writing for people who were living in this almost foreign world - there was no need to describe everything - and I feel that can sometimes make it difficult for readers to understand all the aspects of her stories. Ms. Cornthwaite fills in all those gaps beautifully.
I can, again, highly recommend this novel to any Austen fan. Make sure to read the first in the series so that you can enjoy the author's wonderful story even longer! I sincerely hope that Ms. Cornthwaite will take up her pen again and continue the story; I have yet to be satisfied with any Emma sequel I've come across and I think she is the one to pick up where Jane left off. I truly think Jane would approve!
Mailbox Monday is being hosted this month by Amused by Books.
Treated myself to a couple from Amazon this week! So excited to read these!
George Knightley, Esquire: Lead Me Leave, Barbara Cornthwaite
This is book 2 in Ms. Cornthwaite's retelling of Austen's Emma from the hero, George Knightley's eyes. I absolutely LOVED book 1 and I have been waiting anxiously for book 2 (while reading some of the author's excerpts on her blog!).
Three Maids for a Crown, Ella March Chase
This will be the second book by this author that I have read (the first was The Virgin Queen's Daughter). Ms. Chase again delves into Tudor intrigue as she tells the story of the three Grey sisters. Very much looking forward to getting into this one.
Friday, September 2, 2011
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
You? Yes, I thought so! Me too!
And what goes great with a good book?
Correct! A yummy snack and a good drink! Y'all are just so smart!
So where can you find some really yummy food and drinks that are quick and easy to make?
Well I'm glad you asked! I have the perfect solution for you!! Check out my website HERE and see what Tastefully Simple has to offer!
What is Tastefully Simple?
Awesome question! Tastefully Simple is the original home taste-testing company. We offer a wide variety of quick and easy to prepare, gourmet quality foods, helping people spend less time in the kitchen and more time with their friends and family.
What kind of products do you have?
Another great question! I knew I had smart readers! The company's best known products are the Bountiful Beer Bread and the Absolutely Almond Pound Cake. There are also a variety of spices, dips (cold and warm), desserts, meal starters, and drinks. Reading a Jane Austen novel on a cool evening? Stir up a mug of our Malted Cocoa and grab an Orange Cranberry Scone (both products available starting September 1). Need a quick meal? Cook up a batch of the Perfect Parmesan Biscuits and Perfectly Potato Cheddar Soup. How does a glass of Samba Sangria Slush sound?
If any of these sound tempting to you, please check out my website and consider ordering something; everything is shipped directly to you (I'm sorry but the company can not ship internationally at this time). There are over 60 products and gift ideas in the catalog so I'm sure you can find something you'd love to have on your table!
Thank you for your support!
Sorry for the moment of shameless self promotion! ;)
Friday, August 26, 2011
Thursday, August 25, 2011
I was honored to receive this novel for an early review and to participate in the author's virtual book tour (details here). Sandra Byrd has written an interesting story about the life of Meg Wyatt, sister of Thomas Wyatt and close friend to Anne Boleyn.
Having read novels covering the tumultuous years of the Tudors it is always refreshing to read a novel that comes from the view point of a person that is little known to history, thus giving an old story new life. That is the case with Ms. Byrd's newest work. In To Die For the author follows the life of Margaret Wyatt, a person rarely mentioned in Tudor novels. The Boleyns and the Wyatts grew up "next door" to each other and Anne and Meg became very close friends. Meg watched Anne's fabulous rise to power and her ultimate downfall all the while having to navigate the tricky and devious ways of the Tudor Court in order to survive.
I found the book an interesting read, though not a very in depth or heavy book. As I have read countless novels covering all aspects of this time period there weren't any new historical details introduced to me but Ms Byrd did a good job of not butchering history either. However, I think this novel's strength is in showing the reader what life was really like for a courtier in Henry VIII's court - and it wasn't always pleasant. Meg has to constantly watch her step as everyone was out for personal gain and would do anything to achieve more power or money or position. I liked Meg's character as she actually had personality; she was a true and faithful friend, a strong woman, and selfless. She had to overcome quite a bit throughout the course of the story - an abusive father, a very vindictive brother, the loss of her true love to the priesthood, and the eventual loss of her friend - but these trials really helped shape her into a strong and honorable woman who I was rooting for throughout. The author's characterization of other players in this novel were wonderful as well; I honestly felt my skin crawl every time Simon or Meg's brother appeared on the page. The writing is just very well done and will carry the reader along. Ms. Byrd's wonderful details of meals and fashion and the palaces will really immerse the reader in the time period, which to me is a sign of an author who has done their homework. She blends fact and fiction together beautifully and I never had a moment where I thought something that was spoken or described seemed untrue to the times.
I can easily recommend this novel to lovers of the Tudor time period. It would be an easy and informative read for anyone just beginning to delve into the intricacies of the period. Ms. Byrd's writing is easy to read and her details and historical information will not bog a reader down.
Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours is celebrating the new release by Sandra Byrd To Die For and I was honored to have the author supply a guest post on a secret world at Hampton Court Palace.
Henry VIII had a famously acquisitive nature – and it wasn't limited to women. The man also had a passion for real estate. As king, he inherited many castles and palaces owned by the crown, but throughout his reign he added others by purchase, trade or payment of debt; through reclamation to the crown due to attainder; "recovering" property through the dissolution of assets formerly owned by the Roman Catholic church; and by "gift." A primary advisor in the early years of Henry's sovereignty was Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, a man with tastes as extravagant as the King's and who also had the means to indulge them. When the King saw Hampton Court Palace, Cardinal Wolsey’s sumptuous, Thames-side property, he envied him of it. Knowing that he was on uncertain terms with the king, Wolsey offered Hampton Court Palace to him. Henry accepted the generous gift but did not reinstate Wolsey in his favor.
Once he owned the palace, Henry set about remodeling. One of the most beautiful reconstructions was to the Great Hall. The Great Hall was a large chamber where the king dined in public and where entertainments were often held. The hall, like everything else in Henry's court, was to be well-appointed to represent his power and glory. Historian Neville Williams claimed that masons worked round the clock for five years to complete the rebuilding of the hall to Henry's showy satisfaction. The room would have been overpowering to the senses, the tastes and smells of rich foods and spices, the feel of lush wood paneling and tightly woven tapestries, the music of players, the courtly flirtations. But high above the heads of the guests, tucked into the dark corners of the roof beams, lurked one of the Great Hall's most interesting features of all.
Fine embellishments had been carved into the ceiling beams, among them an HA crest for Henry and Anne Boleyn which remains to this day, but especially intriguing are the Eavesdroppers. The word eavesdropper has been in circulation since at least the 900s, coming from the old English, yfesdrype. It meant then just what it means now - someone listening to conversations in secret, watching and hearing without the permission or knowledge of the speakers. The cherubic, courtier faces would have smiled down upon guests, reminding all that Henry was aware of everything at his court through courtiers and servants. Even while at play there was never a time for loose tongues among long ears, as those who spoke freely often did to perilous consequence. At the Tudor Court, it was better to see nothing, hear nothing, and say nothing till you were in private chambers where eavesdroppers, one hoped, did not lurk.
Thank you again Sandra Byrd for this fabulous guest post! Below you will find information that will direct you to Ms. Bryd's website, blog, and Facebook page. Make sure to read my review of this newest Tudor novel!
Author Website/Ladies in Waiting Web Page Here
Sandra Byrd's Blog Here
Sandra Byrd's FB Page Here
Monday, August 22, 2011
On this day in 1485, the most maligned King in English history was killed at the Battle of Bosworth field. He was betrayed by some of his lords and was "piteously slain and murdered" (as is recorded in the York City records), paving the way for the usurper Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond (Henry VII). Thus began the Tudor Dynasty, based on a very weak and illegitimate claim to the throne, and the complete destruction of Richard's reputation.
The battle was mainly a hand-to-hand encounter (which was typical of the times), with the Stanley family (who had promised Tudor that they would desert Richard) keeping away from the fight until, at a critical moment when it was obvious which way the victory was headed, they joined Tudor. Richard, realizing that he was betrayed, cried out, "Treason, treason!" He knew he'd either leave as the King of England or dead and refused to leave the field until, overpowered by numbers, he fell dead in the middle of his enemies. He came very close to dispatching his enemy, Henry Tudor, killing his standard barer, William Brandon (the father of Henry VIII's close friend, Charles Brandon). The crown was supposedly picked up on the field of battle and placed by Sir William Stanley on the head of Tudor, who was at once proclaimed king by the whole army. After the battle Richard's body was carried to Leicester, carried naked across a horse's back, and buried without honor in the church of the Greyfriars. His death was the end of the Plantagenet Dynasty which had ruled England since the succession of Henry II in 1154.
Monday, August 15, 2011
Mailbox Monday is being hosted this month by Life in the Thumb.
The Tudor Throne, Brandy Purdy
I received Ms. Purdy's newest novel about Elizabeth and Mary today after winning it on her blog. Thanks so much! Looking forward to reading it!
Monday, August 8, 2011
If you have not read Ms. Cornthwaite's wonderful telling of Mr. Knightley's story then you are really missing out! The author has a wonderful command of the language and culture of Regency England and Mr. Knightley is brought to life in incredible detail. It is truly a wonderful read, probably the best Austen spin-off or sequel I have read to date.
I posted a review about Book One (Charity Envieth Not) several months ago. You can read it here.
Visit Barbara Cornthwaite's blog here.
Visit her at the Crownhill Writers' website here.
Saturday, August 6, 2011
To Die For
Make sure to keep an eye on my blog as well! My review will be posted on August 25 and I will have a guest post from the author on August 26.
Friday, August 5, 2011
Thursday, August 4, 2011
I love Elizabeth Chadwick's novels and was super excited to get her newest for review. While all her novels can be read alone, this novel precedes her phenomenal The Greatest Knight which, while about the early life of William Marshal, also covers the life of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II. Lady of the English is an amazing look into the life of Henry II's formidable mother Matilda, Empress of Germany and heir to the crown of England.
For those not familiar with the history, Henry I (son of William the Conqueror) lost his only son and heir in a ship wreck, leaving his daughter Matilda (one time Empress of Germany) his only heir. When he died Matilda's cousin Stephen usurped the crown thus beginning a horrible period of war and strife in England. I was immediately drawn into Matilda's story - her sadness at loosing her first husband, the frustration of knowing she would be forced into another marriage to suite her father's plans, the anger after realizing the English barons were not going to support her just claim simply because she was a woman. Ms. Chadwick paints a picture of a very strong and passionate woman who is determined to gain her birthright - first for herself and then for her son - and does whatever is necessary. History seems to imply that Matilda was disliked for her pride and arrogance, that she didn't treat the barons with the respect they thought they deserved, and that she wouldn't listen to sound advice when it was given. While you certainly see some pride on Matilda's part in this novel I didn't feel that she was portrayed as overly proud or as having treated anyone in particular in a demeaning way. I found it very interesting to see how her relationship with her husband Geoffrey matured and developed throughout the novel - evolving from nothing but scorn and passion to (grudging) acceptance and the knowledge that they worked well together. I also liked seeing how the two of them raised Henry (future King of England, husband to Eleanor of Aquitaine) to be strong and proud and very well equipped to handle the quagmire of English politics. You will get glimpses of King Stephen and some of his favorites along with tantalizing scenes with John Marshal (father of the wonderful William Marshal and will make you want to read the author's novel about him!). Their characters, I felt, were not as deeply developed as some would like but I had no problem getting a feel for what their personalities were like. Alongside Matilda's story is that of her stepmother Adeliza. I really liked her character. She was quiet and obedient, did what was expected of her as a wife and mother but underneath the quiet was a woman with strength and opinions of her own. Make sure to have a tissue handy towards the end of the novel as Adeliza's story is quite sad. As with all of Ms. Chadwick's novels, she has blended fiction and superb research beautifully, creating a world that is easy for the reader to visualize. Her writing will make the reader feel like they could reach out and touch these people that lived hundreds of years ago; they become that real.
Every historical fiction fan (and even those that aren't fans) should read Ms. Chadwick's novels. They are always exceptionally researched and written and will transport you to a different time period. This novel is a great read and I highly recommend it. This author has other novels about this time period covering many of the different players and all can be read as stand alone novels or can be read in chronological order.
Friday, July 29, 2011
Thursday, July 28, 2011
I absolutely LOVED this author's novel about Richard III, A Rose for the Crown, and thoroughly enjoyed her novel about Richard's sister Margaret (Daughter of York) and Edward IV's illegitimate daughter Grace (The King's Grace). When I heard Ms. Smith was publishing another novel in her York series I was thrilled and I couldn't wait to get my hands on it! I was not disappointed.
This novel steps back in time (before the events of her other three novels) and tells the fascinating story of Cecily Neville, wife to Richard, Duke of York, and mother to Edward IV and Richard III. Readers familiar with Edward and Richard's stories know who their mother is but she usually only appears for a brief time in most novels. Her tale begins as the Duchess, mourning the death of her husband, looks back on her life, starting with when she was only nine and first met Richard Plantagenet. Through her reflections we see not only how she manages to make her way through this incredibly turbulent time in English history but also the true and deep love she and Richard shared throughout their lives. I really enjoyed Cecily's character and felt drawn into her story. As a child she was outspoken and headstrong, two traits she never really grew out of but was able to control in later years. As a woman she was beautiful and proud but much loved for her kindness. I enjoyed how the author showed the many trying events and people that caused Cecily to become very pious later in her life (having just had a baby myself my heart ached for Cecily when she lost her first children). It was fascinating to watch not only Cecily's character develop and grow because of what she was dealing with but her husband Richard's as well. Theirs was a unique relationship in a time when men generally did not discuss business or politics with their wives. Richard not only discussed issues with Cecily but (sometimes) listened to her advice. Richard, Duke of York, was another character that I genuinely enjoyed learning about since, as with Cecily, his character and personality is usually not developed in novels covering this time period as most authors prefer to focus on their sons. Beyond the wonderful character development, Ms. Smith has created a very realistic and believable medieval world for the reader. There is not an abundance of action in this novel but I did not expect much considering it is based on the life of a woman; much of the information comes from word of mouth or letters. This does not detract from the story in my opinion and I had no problem with the way the novel was laid out.
I have no problems recommending this novel to any reader. Yorkists will enjoy this look into the life of the family matriarch and those just beginning to delve into this very chaotic time period will not find themselves overwhelmed with the story. Queen by Right is intended to be the first of the author's York series but it certainly can be read as a stand alone novel. Bravo to Anne Easter Smith for another beautiful and fantastic look at the York family.
Monday, July 25, 2011
Mailbox Monday is being hosted this month by A Sea of Books.
I got a couple that I can't wait to read; gotta get through a couple of others and post reviews first.
The King's Grey Mare, Rosemary Hawley Jarman
Ms. Jarman's novels have come highly recommended so I'm looking forward to getting into this novel about Elizabeth Woodville, Edward IV's wife. This came from Paperbackswap.com.
We Speak No Treason: The White Rose Turned to Blood, R. H. Jarman
Another Jarman novel from Paperbackswap.com. Unfortunately I do not have the first in this series so I am going to have to wait to read this one!
Friday, July 22, 2011
Monday, July 4, 2011
Mailbox Monday is being hosted this month by A Sea of Books.
The Adventures of Alianore Audley, Brian Wainwright
This came from Paperbackswap.com. Looking forward to reading it as I've heard its a delightful romp through the Wars of the Roses!
Bath Tangle, Georgette Heyer
This will be my first time reading anything by Ms. Heyer (besides the unfinished My Lord John) and I'm excited! Thank you to Sourcebooks for the copy to review!
Friday, July 1, 2011
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Being the die hard Ricardian that I am, this book about his wife Anne Neville caught my eye and I had to see how this author treated my favorite historical male. While there are almost an unending supply of novels focusing on the Wars of the Roses and Richard III, I know of only one that focuses on Anne and her life (Plaidy's The Reluctant Queen). Ms. O'Brien's novel focuses on Anne's early years and her relationships with the various (and major) players in the Wars of the Roses. I was not disappointed but I wasn't blown away by any stretch.
I am not going to rehash the ins and outs of the Wars of the Roses here (if anyone wants to know there is endless information available on the internet). The narrator of the novel is Anne Neville, a figure well known to readers of historical fiction: daughter of the Earl of Warwick (the Kingmaker), widow of Edward of Lancaster, and wife of Richard, Duke of Gloucester (Richard III). However, that is pretty much all that is known about the daughter of the most powerful Earl in England and one time Queen of England. We follow her through her youth at Middleham where she meets Richard, her father's quarrels with Edward IV, their exile to France and her disastrous marriage to Edward of Lancaster (son of Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou), the drama surrounding the issue of her inheritance, and her marriage to Richard. Ms. O'Brien has attempted to "fill in the gaps" and has created a voice for Anne which I did not find too unbelievable. Whereas in many novels about Richard, Anne comes across rather quiet, sickly, and insignificant, Ms. O'Brien's Anne is feisty, opinionated, and passionate; this Anne has a backbone which most other interpretations lack. Women during this time period are usually seen as being quite passive with little to no say so in what happens to them and while O'Brien's Anne is well aware that she has no choice and must do as she is told, she certainly has a strong opinion on what is happening to her and to those around her. I found this look at Anne rather interesting. I have to admit that my heart went out to her during the marriage to Edward of Lancaster as she endured all the humiliation heaped upon her. All that being said I did find the fact that she usually called her mother and father "the Earl" or "the Countess" a bit puzzling and her constant instance that Richard needed to declare his true feelings for her got annoying.
The author's treatment of other characters is pretty much in line with what you would expect in a novel about the time period. I did like her Richard as he was, without a doubt, Anne's "knight in shining armor" but he certainly had his flaws and ambitions. While I don't mind a "saintly" Richard, it is much easier to believe that he was a good man, with imperfections of course, and merely doing what needed to be done to survive in a very violent and ruthless time period. I am (obviously) not a fan of Margaret of Anjou or her son but the strange twist the author threw in concerning these two characters really seemed odd and just doesn't fit with history. George, Duke of Clarance, and Anne's sister Isabel, really come across as villains in the story and their behavior throughout the novel made my skin crawl. We don't see that much of Edward IV or Elizabeth Woodville and the personalities of Anne's parents aren't illuminated in much detail either (though the Earl certainly comes across as extremely ambitious).
As for the writing itself, some will not like the fact that it is told completely from Anne's point of view, restricting the author in what she could tell in the story. While I am not a huge fan of historical fiction being told in the first person (because it is so restrictive) I didn't really have a problem with it here, though that could be because I am already very familiar with the history of the period and didn't need to be told what all was happening. As in any historical fiction novel, the author has taken some liberties with known history but there wasn't really anything that made me cringe (the Margaret of Anjou/Edward of Lancaster twist the exception) or that ruined the novel for me. The narrative stops at the birth of Richard and Anne's son so a reader expecting to see Anne's thoughts on Richard's governance of the North and the drama of his reign will be disappointed (though the way it was left leaves it open for the author to continue their story in another novel). This is not a very deep novel and does not bring anything new to the table in regards to information about Anne Neville. It probably could be considered a bit more of a "historical romance" than a "historical fiction" as the main emphasis seems to be Anne and Richard's relationship.
This certainly is not a bad novel and I can easily recommend it to those unfamiliar with the Wars of the Roses and Richard III's story. It is very easy to read and you won't get bogged down in tons of details. Readers who want something more in depth will most likely be a bit disappointed. I still consider Sharon Kay Penman's The Sunne in Splendour as THE book on Richard.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Mailbox Monday is being hosted this month by The Bluestocking Guide.
Since my birthday was Sunday, I treated myself to an afternoon at the mall and dinner with a close friend. Of course, both of us being book junkies, we had to have a lengthy layover in Barnes and Noble. Here are my two purchases!
The Virgin Widow, Anne O'Brien
Being a Richard III fan I was immediately interested in reading this tale of his wife, Anne Neville. I haven't ever read anything by this author but it looked like an interesting read, especially since I don't know of any books from Anne's point of view (besides Plaidy's The Reluctant Queen).
Vlad: The Last Confession, C.C. Humphreys
This is a tale based on the life of Vlad Dracul, the inspiration for Bram Stoker's Dracula. I have never read anything about Vlad but I have seen a show on the History Channel about his life and thought this might be a very interesting read.
Monday, June 13, 2011
Mailbox Monday is being hosted this month by The Bluestocking Guide.
I haven't posted one of these in a while but I've been super busy lately (having a baby will do that!). Nevertheless, here is the one that showed up on my doorstep this afternoon!
Lady of the English, Elizabeth Chadwick
I was so stoked when I opened the package left on my doorstep to find EC's latest novel, due out in September! This is part of a familiar story that is rarely mentioned in historical fiction - the tale of Empress Matilda, heir to the English throne and mother of the future Henry II. Can't wait to dive into this one!!
Thank you Sourcebooks for the review copy.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours is celebrating the new release by Anne Easter Smith Queen by Right and I was honored to have the author supply a guest post on the main character in this novel, Cecily Neville!
I have been intrigued by Cecily Neville since enjoying Sharon Kay Penman’s Sunne in Splendour almost twenty years ago. She never appeared in my first book, A Rose for the Crown, but you could almost imagine her imposing presence every time I mentioned her. Some of my favorite scenes in Daughter of York were between Margaret and her mother, and it occurred to me that after three books describing the lives of her children and grandchildren, that I should go back to the beginning of the York family in the Wars of the Roses and tell their parents’ story.
The Hundred Years War between England and France was still raging when Cecily Neville was born at Raby Castle in County Durham. Dubbed “the Rose of Raby,” Cecily is the twenty-second and youngest child of Ralph Neville, the powerful Earl of Westmorland, and also cousin to the boy king, Henry VI. Cecily’s fate becomes entwined with the king’s when she is betrothed to her father’s ward, Richard Plantagenet, the orphaned duke of York, whose claim to the throne is arguably stronger than young Henry’s.
Believe it or not, there is very little written about Cecily that is not incorporated in biographies of the men of the period, but most of those portray her as proud, intelligent, and strong-willed. The second nickname that has come to be associated with her is Proud Cis. She was known for her reclusiveness and piety in the last 20 years of her life, and so I have tried to imagine what caused her to shut herself away. True, it was quite common for widows to retire to an abbey (like Elizabeth Woodville), but I chose to use a few life-changing experiences of Cecily’s that might have made her turn to God later in her life. I hope I have been true to the information we have about her.
I never did find the origin of either of her nicknames, but they are everywhere in the secondary sources down the centuries. It told me that Cecily must have been very beautiful, and it also told me she was not someone who suffered fools gladly. I have tried to show that she had a public side where she maintained a cool and aloof exterior and a softer yet passionate side when she was with her family. Unfortunately the personal feelings of most of historical people from that time are not recorded anywhere, except in letters, and even those are stilted and formal to our way of thinking. But it is believed by historians that Cecily and Richard had one of the few love matches among the nobility of the 15th century, and I tried to find reasons for this in my research. The fact that Cecily did insist on following Richard around so much instead of staying meekly at home with the children told me that they enjoyed being together. I also thought it was unusual for a wife to plead personally on behalf of her husband to the king on two occasions, which showed me how devoted she was. And when Richard landed in Wales after almost a year of exile in Ireland in1460, he immediately called for Cecily to join him even though the king’s forces were attempting to thwart Richard’s progress towards London and it could have been dangerous. It seemed to me husband and wife could not bear to be parted a moment longer, and Cecily joined him only a few days later leaving her children in London.
I try and stay true to those known facts about a character, and it is known Cecily was quite pious especially later in life. However, it is fair to say most medieval people of any learning did a lot of praying and were always concerned for their immortal souls. A man might commit adultery or order a murder one moment but be at the confessional the next being given a penance and telling his rosary. Religious ritual was a daily part of everyone’s life. Because it is a known fact about Cecily, I used the spiritual side of her life as a theme in the book.
Thank you again to Anne Easter Smith for her post! I can not wait to read this newest story about the York family!
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
1. William the Conqueror
Obviously we need to start at the beginning (or close to it anyway!) and that means the Norman Conquest of 1066. One of the most well known of William's contributions is the Tower of London. He originally built it to show the native English that he was now in charge and he was there to stay. Another of William's contributions to history, and one that may be more important historically, is the Doomsday Book, which was a very complete survey of England at the time (names of towns, who lived there, what they owned, etc, etc). Many customs, especially in the royal court, were formed during William's reign. The Anglo-Saxon ways were slowly erased. The coming of the Normans changed much in England and many of those changes remained through the years.
This youngest son of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II is usually seen as one of the worst kings in English history but there is one legacy from his reign that made a huge impact on the country and its future - Magna Carta. Because of the lack of trust between John and his barons, Magna Carta was eventually forced on John as a way of controlling some of the monarch's powers. While bits and pieces of this were whittled away over the years, some of the laws set down in the 13th century remain to this day. Some view Magna Carta as a "great constitutional document," the beginnings of the freedoms so many enjoy today.
3. Edward I
This warrior king changed the boundaries of England as no king before him had done. He accomplished what no king before him had managed - the conquest of Wales and Scotland. Granted, England's control of Scotland turned out to be temporary, but Edward did manage to expand England's boundaries and much of that remains in "English" hands to this day. In order to hang on to England's new territory and fill the local populaces with awe, Edward went on a building spree of massive proportions, building many castles along the Welsh border, most of which can be visited today (Caernarfon Castle for example).
4. Henry V
Another of England's warrior kings set quite a bit in motion for England's future, though at the time most of it could not have been imagined. His victory in France gave Englishmen a strong sense of pride, not to mention the desire continue the country's military successes for several generations. After his victory over France and claiming of the French crown (which many English monarchs tried to actually wear), he married the French King's daughter, who in turn gave birth to the future Henry VI, whose reign would be the main battle ground of the Wars of the Roses.
5. Henry VII
While I am not overly fond of the man, I add Henry VII to this list mainly for the fact that had he not been victorious on Bosworth Field, the next two powerful monarchs on my list would not have existed. It is hard to image British history without the presence of this king's son and granddaughter, not to mention the huge changes that occurred during their reigns.
6. Henry VIII
When talking about changes in England we can't overlook Henry's break from the Catholic Church in his quest for a divorce. One could say that, aside from the Norman Conquest in 1066, the break with the Church during Henry's reign is the most significant change in England's history. It certainly was momentous and fueled tension in the country for many years to come. Henry VIII also began the building up of England's Navy, seeing it as a way to help build and secure the empire he so desperately wanted to create.
7. Elizabeth I
Henry VIII's daughter had an equally important impact on England and its future - politically and culturally. The big triumph of Elizabeth's reign is the triumph of the English over the Spanish Armada. There is no way of knowing what England would be like today if Elizabeth and her small navy had not over come the much more powerful Spanish forces. However, Elizabeth's reign is particularly known for the achievements of artists, poets, and playwrights (does the name William Shakespeare ring any bells?); so many achievements and advancements were made during her reign that this literary time period is called the Elizabethan era.
I am well aware that these are not the only monarchs who have made an impact on England throughout its long history. I am also aware that these are just short little bits of information and many of these monarchs did much more than I have mentioned above. I simply wanted to highlight some of the kings (and queen) whose influence can still be seen through the country to this day.