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 2, 2012

2013 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

The lovely ladies over at Historical Tapestry are again hosting the yearly Historical Fiction Reading Challenge. Please click the image on the right to be taken to their blog if you'd be interested in signing up for the new year!

I have signed up for this challenge every year for the past three years (I think!) and I love it. 2012 was rough for me and while I read more books than the level I signed up for, I was never able to get more than just a handful of reviews actually posted.

Keeping in mind that I am now a mommy of two very active boys under the age of 6, I'm setting a much more realistic goal this year! This year I am going for the "middle" goal of Renaissance Reader, which is 10 books and reviews posted during the year. I the past I have always gone for the highest level and always achieved it...until last year. I don't like not reaching a goal so I'm going to set a smaller one this year.

Hope to see some of y'all over there!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Book Review: Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow

Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow, Juliet Grey
4 roses

I was very excited to have the chance to read this book for review for Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours as it covers a time and place in history that I have not read about at all - France and the French Revolution. This is the second novel in the author's trilogy about Marie Antoinette, Queen of France. I, of course, had always heard of Marie Antoinette but I had never looked into her history or read anything about what she went through. This was a real treat for me and I have to say it was enjoyable.

This second novel in Ms. Grey's Marie Antoinette trilogy covers a span of about 12 years and starts when Marie and her husband, Louis XVI took the French throne and ends in the midst of the French Revolution. I will be honest and tell you that I am very unfamiliar with French history (beyond knowing that there was a Queen named Marie Antoinette, there was a revolution, and there was Napoleon!) and so I can not say just how factually correct things are in the novel but the author does a very good job of blending her historical points with the narrative of Marie's life. Ms. Grey does include quite a lot of words and phrases in French throughout the story and I had trouble understanding what the characters were saying in these instances; I could make a reasonable guess on most of them but there were many that left me scratching my head. There is a glossary in the back of the book with all these French words and their English translations but it really was too much trouble to be constantly flipping back and forth to figure out what a particular word meant and interrupted the story too much for my taste. I can understand the author's desire to include bits of the language Marie would have been speaking but when the rest of the novel is in English I feel it probably would have been best to leave out all but the most well known French words. All that aside, the story itself was very rich in detail and I had no problem envisioning Marie sitting in her dressing room, having her hair styled in a towering "pouf," and listening to the chatter going on around her. The author did a marvelous job recreating this very sumptuous lifestyle for her readers. I found myself amazed many times at the descriptions of buildings, clothes, jewels, and of course, the towering (and quite comical in my opinion) hairstyles!

As for the characters themselves, Ms. Grey does a good job at bringing out their various personalities and how they react to the many different situations they are confronted with, making it easy for the readers to form an opinion on many of them. Louis XVI was a very kind man and seemed to really love his wife (and eventually his children) but his weakness was maddening. He seemed to really care about his country and his people but could not make a firm decision about anything, leading the populous to believe that he was cold and unfeeling. I felt sorry for him at the end as he was clinging to the idea that the French people were really good and would never do anything to harm the monarchy. I honestly just did not like him very much. When it comes to Marie herself I am quite torn as to how I felt about her. I could understand that she wanted to be involved with some of the decision making but Louis, in a contrary show of stubbornness, kept her away from anything that dealt with the running of the country and with this lack of something to keep her busy, and the fact that she had no children for quite a while, it was inevitable that she would find something to fill her hours. The way she chose to fill those hours got annoying after a while and when it came to her card games, clothes, and (ridiculous) hairstyles I really got a sense of immaturity in Marie. Even when she was being told that her extravagance was ruining her reputation she still "didn't get it." It was only towards the very end of the book that she finally realized that flaunting herself in expensive dresses and hairstyles was earning the public's scorn. I can feel sorry for her as she does seem like quite an innocent and it was heartbreaking to read all the vile things that were said about a Queen who was, most likely, one of the most virtuous Queens France had had in years. While I did feel very sorry for her I also felt like shaking her in the hopes of some sense finding its way into her head under those enormous hairdos. I think when you can feel this torn about someone in a novel then the author has done an excellent job at making a very multi-dimensional character that is quite real.

This really was a great read and I am determined to pick up the first novel in the series, Becoming Marie Antoinette, so I can see how Marie's early life shaped who she was to become later. For someone who was completely lacking in knowledge about the French Revolution, this was an eye opener. It gives the reader quite a bit of historical information but in a way that will not bore you or bog you down in needless details. I can easily recommend this novel to readers who are interested in the life of Marie Antoinette as she is beautifully brought to life on the pages. The only reason for the 4 of 5 roses rating was the way having to constantly flip back to the glossary to get the translations of French words interrupted the flow of the story.

There will be a third and final novel in the trilogy that will deal with the horrible consequences of the French Revolution.

Please CLICK HERE to be taken to the HFVBT blog and see all the other events and reviews in the Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow book tour!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Recent Search Terms

I haven't done one of these posts in a while so I thought it would be amusing to see what has brought readers to my page lately. Sadly, there weren't too many that didn't have to do with the Titanic...

big henry viii - I don't know if Henry would be insulted or proud.

gwyn the heretic - I am insulted by this one!

hampton court eavesdroppers - Probably more than you think!

marie antoinette's diamond necklace scotland - I must have missed that connection.

photo of battle - Thanks! That narrowed it way down!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Not Liking the "New" Blogger

I've been trying to work on several reviews (GASP! I know....) but I am discovering that I do NOT like this new way of doing things Blogger has created.  Perhaps Blogger is just acting up this evening. I hope that's all it is as I don't remember having these issues when I posted my last review.

Rest assured, I do, finally, have some reviews to post. Some are way overdue but I guess better late than never.

Now if Blogger will just cooperate! Why do companies have to change things? I liked the old set up just fine.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Henry VIII's Crown Recreated

Readers of this blog will know that I'm not the biggest Tudor fan (because of the way they obtained the Crown of England). Elizabeth I is the exception to this rule. All that aside, it still horrifies me when I think about how all the Medieval Crown Jewels were broken up, melted down, and sold when Cromwell took control in 1649. All the coronation regalia that English monarchs had worn from probably the time of William the Conqueror through the Tudors was completely gone. It makes me sick to think about that complete erasure of history.

Now, after countless hours of work, Henry VIII's crown has been recreated in detail using Tudor era metalworking techniques. You can click HERE to be taken to an article about the project and the recreated crown. Its really fascinating. I'd like to think that this could be done for other pieces of the Medieval Regalia that was lost to history.

Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow Virtual Book Tour

I am super excited to be able to review and be a part of the virtual tour for Juliet Grey's newest novel! It covers people and a time period that I've never read about - Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution. Please look for my review on November 2! In the meantime you can head over to Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours to see the entire schedule!

About the novel:

A captivating novel of rich spectacle and royal scandal, Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow spans fifteen years in the fateful reign of Marie Antoinette, France’s most legendary and notorious queen.

Paris, 1774. At the tender age of eighteen, Marie Antoinette ascends to the French throne alongside her husband, Louis XVI. But behind the extravagance of the young queen’s elaborate silk gowns and dizzyingly high coiffures, she harbors deeper fears for her future and that of the Bourbon dynasty.

From the early growing pains of marriage to the joy of conceiving a child, from her passion for Swedish military attaché Axel von Fersen to the devastating Affair of the Diamond Necklace, Marie Antoinette tries to rise above the gossip and rivalries that encircle her. But as revolution blossoms in America, a much larger threat looms beyond the gilded gates of Versailles—one that could sweep away the French monarchy forever.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Rest in Peace Richard

Richard III (Oct 2, 1452 - Aug 22, 1485)

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.

Richard was not the villain that his enemies made him out to appear. He had good qualities, both as a man and a ruler, and seemed to have a sound judgment of political needs (he had been able to keep the North of England in peace for his brother). However, it is impossible to clear him of the crime, the popular belief that was mostly likely the chief cause of his ruin - the death of his nephews, Edward V and Richard, Duke of York, in the Tower of London. He was not a monster but a typical man in an age of strange contradictions of character, an age of refined (for the day) culture mixed with horrible cruelty, and he possessed an emotional temper that was capable of anything (he was a Plantagenet after all). Tradition represents Richard as deformed but this has never been proven. After his defeat at Bosworth, Tudor and his supporters needed to solidify his claim to the throne and what better way to do that than to make the English people think that the King he replaced was a deformed, evil monster who killed his own nephews? No one did more to cement that belief than William Shakespeare with his play Richard III (who was undoubtedly writing to please the Tudors). They were hugely successful in their endeavors and, unfortunately, this view of Richard stuck until probably the 20th century when scholars really began to study him.

Loyaulte me lie

Monday, June 4, 2012

Book Review: The Queen's Pleasure

The Queen's Pleasure, Brandy Purdy
4 roses

I was so honored when Brandy Purdy asked me if I'd like to review her newest novel! I have enjoyed her previous novels and was eager to dive into this one. While it covers a time period I am quite familiar with, Elizabeth I's reign, it is about a person that I am only slightly familiar with: Amy Dudley, wife of the Queen's favorite, Robert Dudley. I wasn't sure what to expect with this story as there hasn't been much out there about Amy and the little bit I've read in different books has been contradictory, but I was not disappointed with what I found between the pages.


Before picking up this book I knew who Amy Dudley was and what happened to her and the speculation surrounding that event but that was basically all I knew. The one story I have read that focused on her life was so horrible that I found I didn't like any of the people in it and, as that author's portrayal of Elizabeth I was so twisted from everything else I'd read about her, I had a very hard time believing anything presented about Amy. However, Ms. Purdy has really opened up the life of this rather mysterious historical figure and presented a very interesting story that I thoroughly enjoyed reading and actually had a hard time putting down in the evenings. I thought she did a wonderful job of showing Amy as a simple, country girl who only wanted someone to love and to be loved in return and who, though still deeply in love and trying to cling to a little hope, knew that she had lost the man she loved. I could actually feel sorry for this Amy and hated the way she was treated by her husband (whereas in the other novel I read about her I couldn't stand her clingy ways and didn't care what happened to her). I could almost feel her helplessness as she realized that nothing she ever did would be good enough for Robert. Her struggle with the cancer in her breast was absolutely heartbreaking and I can not begin to imagine how terrifying it might have been for someone suffering from it during this time period of limited medical knowledge and medicine. As no one knows for certain what exactly happened to Amy that day at Cumnor Place, there were several theories at the time (and that still persist to this day) and Ms. Purdy has actually manged to weave most of them together, creating a believable story. I liked her portrayal of Elizabeth here as well: a strong, intelligent woman who knows her own mind and what she wants but yet likes to have a little fun, though never letting it influence her dedication to England (this is not the sniveling, unable to function without a man Elizabeth that you'll find in that other novel). I loved the way the author has Elizabeth stepping in as Amy's unknown "champion" when she realizes how Robert had lied to her about his relationship with his wife and how she was being treated. As for Robert Dudley, the more I read about him in various novels, the more I do not like him. I absolutely hated him here not only for the horrible way he treated Amy but for his disgusting arrogance and ambition to be King. I literally laughed in delight when Elizabeth finally put him in his place towards the end and he realized that his dream (or in his eyes, his destiny) to be King was not going to be realized.

No one knows for certain what really happened to Amy and even to this day several theories exist. The little bit of historical information about what happened (namely the findings of the jury investigating her death) really doesn't answer any questions and historians and novelists have been filling in the gaps ever since. I feel Brandy Purdy did a great job patching together the very scanty information available about Amy and creating a believable story. At no point did I think "well, that couldn't have happened" or "that doesn't sound like something he/she would've said." After reading Ms. Purdy's novel I am sad to know that this one woman whose untimely death (natural or unnatural) probably had a huge impact on England's history is so relatively unknown; there is really nothing out there that tells us what Amy Robsart Dudley was really like. I can recommend this to any lovers of Tudor historical fiction. It is also an easy read that readers new to the time period or genre would have no problem following or understanding.

Thank you Brandy for the chance to read your wonderful novel!

Note: This will be published in the UK as A Court Affair by Emily Purdy.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Recent Search Terms

I thought there were a few here that y'all would enjoy reading. Sometimes I really do just sit here, scratching my head in confusion. :)

buff mother reviews
That's not exactly what I'd call what I'm seeing in my mirror.

cat king
They do think they are, don't they?

pic of a peaceful medieval kingdom
Unfortunately these were lost right after they stopped being a peaceful medieval kingdom.

a treasury of scandalous scandals
Can be found right next to the book of Redundant Redundantness.

download the perfect bride for Mr. Darcy
A lost chapter in which Mr. Darcy looks for an email order bride.

i, too am looking forward

The King of Battle
In our next episode watch Henry V and Edward IV fight for the title while Henry VIII bribes the scribes just to give him the title.

october 5, 1962 + + love me
Umm...I am totally clueless on this one...

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Book Review: Crown in Candlelight

Crown in Candlelight, Rosemary H. Jarman
4.5 roses

This is only the second of Ms. Jarman's novels I have been able to get my hands on and read but if they're all as good as this one, I shall enjoy exploring her works further. This novel focuses on a time I have not read anything about beyond Shakespeare's play on Henry V. The story is about Catherine of Valios, the French princess who married England's King Henry V.  All I knew about Catherine before picking up this novel was that she was a daughter of mad King Charles of France, she married Henry V (who I can only picture as Kenneth Branagh!), gave birth to the future Henry VI, and may (or may not) have married Owen Tudor, thus giving birth to that future dynasty. That was the extent of my knowledge so I was happy to read something that truly focused on her life not only before she met and wed Henry but her life after he died. I loved every minute I was lost in its pages.


While there are two or three other narrators besides Catherine, the novel really is about her and the other narrators just give the reader a better idea of the events surrounding her. The first part of the book covers her early life and the struggles she had to get through with her father King Charles, who seemed to be a caring man when he was in his right mind, and her very formidable mother Isabeau who was only concerned with maintaining her power and money. Seeing the life she had before she met Henry its no wonder she was so deeply in love and devoted to him. Her closeness to her older sister Isabelle (who was married to Richard II) throws an interesting twist into her emotions later down the line. For me, the story really picked up once she was married to Henry. I don't know if that's because of the writing or just because things historically began happening at a pretty rapid pace from that point on. We also see how Owen Tudor ended up in the royal household and thus having the chance to meet the Queen. I loved the scenes between Catherine and Henry and my heart ached for the very fleeting time they actually had together. My heart also went out to Henry as he suffered with the sickness in his stomach that eventually killed him; he was obviously a very strong willed person to be able to battle (literally!) through all that pain. If Henry had lived I think theirs would have been a loving, successful marriage and she would have been a very successful Queen. It certainly would've changed history. The story between Catherine and Owen was a sweet tale of true love and I loved seeing their relationship grow. Even knowing what happened to them I was still hoping that somehow things would all work out in the end. The "villain" in this story is certainly Henry's overly ambitious and sneaky younger brother Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, who was made Protector over baby Henry VI after his father died. This man truly gave me the creeps whenever he showed up on the page and I wanted to reach back through history and smack him upside the head.

Beyond the characters and historical events, the writing in the novel, while keeping an "authentic" feel about it managed to not get bogged down with really heavy language, which I feel will make it easier for readers not familiar with the time period to read. The descriptions and details of battles, clothing, daily life also will help transport the reader to another time and place. I really enjoyed this look into Catherine's life, despite the fact that she was a pivotal player for the Lancastrians and gave birth to major figures in the Wars of the Roses. There was one line right at the end of the story, where Owen's Welsh friend is describing to the reader what she sees in the future, that put a huge smile on my face and took away any guilt I "might" have felt about enjoying a Lancastrian story (I won't spoil it for you but it has to do with my favorite English monarch, Richard III). I can easily recommend this story, especially if you'd be interested in reading more about Catherine, who is rarely talked about even though she is such an important part in history.

The Queen's Pleasure Virtual Book Tour

I am super excited to be a part of the next virtual tour introducing Brandy Purdy's newest novel The Queen's Pleasure! I will be posting my review on June 4 and I can not wait to share my thoughts on this story! Head on over to the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours blog where you can see the entire tour schedule and special events. You're not going to want to miss out on anything with this one!

About the novel:

Publication date: June 26, 2012

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.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Book Review: The Three Colonels

The Three Colonels, Jack Caldwell
3.5 roses

This novel from Jack Caldwell is a continuation of both Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility and is set only a few years after the events of the original novels. As the title suggests, the story focuses on the lives of three men: Colonel Fitzwilliam (from P&P), Colonel Brandon (from S&S), and Colonel John Buford (who is a creation of the author but marries a lady all Austen fans will know).


The beginning of the novel focuses on how, now with Napoleon exiled to Elba, these three gentlemen are home in England and concerned with getting their lives in order. Col. Brandon is enjoying his time at home with Marianne and their new daughter, Joy. Col. Fitzwilliam has been tasked with finding out why his aunt's estate is failing and ends up falling in love with his cousin, and Col. Buford is out to reform his somewhat scandalous image and find a wife - which he does in Miss, Caroline Bingley. When Napoleon escapes from Elba all three must head back to war and leave the women they love. Besides focusing on the gentlemen, there are several chapters that are from the ladies' points of view, giving readers a good idea of what life could have been like back at home during this conflict and showing how women had to adjust. All of these characters are connected in some way by Mr. and Mrs. Darcy (who do appear in the novel and do play a roll in the action but mainly from the background).

I have to admit that it took me a few chapters to get into the novel but once I did I really enjoyed it. At first I was a bit skeptical of how all the characters somehow knew each other (through the Darcys) but the author makes it work. I was surprised that, overall, the storyline I enjoyed the most was Col. Buford's and Caroline's! After reading Pride and Prejudice I thoroughly despised Caroline Bingley and was set to continue in my dislike. However, Caroline has realized how horrid her behavior has been and is determined to make amends and change her ways. Caldwell manages to turn her into a sympathetic character who wants to make amends for her past behavior (though I really liked her interactions with former "friends" as she still has some of that *itch still in her!). The transformation of Caroline and her love story with Col. Buford was the most interesting part of the entire novel. Col. Fitzwilliam's relationship with his cousin Anne de Bourgh was entertaining as well and a bit humorous because of his forced dealings with his aunt Catherine. Their storyline really gives the reader more background into why Lady Catherine was so determined for Anne to marry Darcy and was I was quite fascinated with how the author wove that story. Here Caldwell also manages to transform a familiar character, letting Anne mature from a meek and sickly girl to a young lady who knows her own mind and is determined in her course of action (Caldwell also solves why Anne was always so sickly and it is rather funny). Avid Austen readers will also be amused to see how he manages to connect Lady Catherine to a few characters from Northanger Abbey and Persuasion! To me the least interesting storyline was Col. Brandon and Marianne's. There wasn't that much happening besides Marianne's difficulties adjusting to being lady of the house. Willoughby does make a (very) short appearance but other than that there's not much going on here. Perhaps the author felt that there was enough emphasis on these two characters in S&S and wanted to focus more on the others (who were all secondary characters in the original novels).

Overall this was a good read. I always enjoy seeing what happened after the "happily ever after" at the end of Austen's novels and how new authors create more background for these very familiar stories. I would certainly recommend this one to Austen fans as it is entertaining with a nice bit of humor sprinkled throughout.

Received from Sourcebooks for review.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Mailbox Monday - March 19, 2012

Mailbox Monday is now on tour! It is being hosted this month by Diary of an Eccentric. To find out more about the history of Mailbox Monday and a list of future hosts visit the Mailbox Monday site.

Mailbox Monday is a gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week and explore great book blogs. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles, and humongous wish lists!

Two new ones this week!

Rose of York: Love and War, Sandra Worth

This is book one in the author's York trilogy and I've been waiting for over a year to get to the top of the waiting list on so I could read this book. Now to wait for the other ones...

The Three Colonels, Jack Caldwell

I received this one for review from Sourcebooks. It is about some of Austen's "fighting men" and looks pretty interesting.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Mailbox Monday - March 5, 2012

Mailbox Monday is now on tour! It is being hosted this month by Diary of an Eccentric. To find out more about the history of Mailbox Monday and a list of future hosts visit the Mailbox Monday site.

Mailbox Monday is a gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week and explore great book blogs. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles, and humongous wish lists!

Only one this week.

Threads, Nell Gavin

I've been waiting for this one for a LONG time and I finally made it to the front of the waiting list on The author takes a really different look at Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII's relationship, showing them connected throughout many lifetimes.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Mailbox Monday - February 27, 2012

Mailbox Monday is now on tour! It is being hosted this month by MetroReader. To find out more about the history of Mailbox Monday and a list of future hosts visit the Mailbox Monday site.

Mailbox Monday is a gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week and explore great book blogs. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles, and humongous wish lists!

A couple new books for review showed up over the past couple of days!

Her Highness, the Traitor, Susan Higginbotham

Very excited to get Susan's newest novel about Jane Dudley (Robert Dudley's mother) and Frances Grey (Jane Grey's mother)! Look for my review soon!

The Queen's Pleasure, Brandy Purdy

I also received this one for review as well! Very much looking forward to seeing the author's take on Amy Dudley's story (wife of Robert Dudley).

Friday, February 24, 2012

Recent Search Terms

Yes, I'm posting one of these a bit sooner than I usually would, but there were a few I came across that I just couldn't resist passing along! Some are funny, some just had me scratching my head wondering how in the world they ended up at my blog....

henry viii what did he believe the revolution would accomplish?
no new taxes

titanic sinking people
I don't think that was quite what it was going for...

historical information during 1603
Can we narrow it down just a bit?

cat as a king
Yes, they think so.

Mr. Darcy book
Well that narrows it down...

nols backcountry cooking cartoons

Susan, maybe you can help me with this one?

what did the plantagenets look like?
Like archers from France.

not funny cartoon
Defeats the purpose doesn't it?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Life Onboard Ship: Titanic's First Class

As the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic looms closer and closer, I am continuing in my posts about the ship. My first can be found here and is a "short" history on the Titanic. For this post I thought it would be fun to look at what life would have been like during the voyage for the lucky first class passengers. There are not many surviving pictures of the interior of the ship (the ones that are around were mostly taken by passenger Frank Browne) so I will use the ones I can find.

She had 1,343 passengers on board for her maiden voyage. 325 of them were in first class and resided in the most luxurious accommodations of the day, mostly in the upper decks, while the 706 in steerage (third class) were crammed into small rooms towards the very bottom and back of the ship. While Titanic wanted to cater to the fabulously rich, she actually carried more passengers in her second and third class areas (though you must remember that second class on Titanic was better than first on other ships, and third was equal to what second class was on other liners). I wish I had a good image of the Titanic's deck plans so you could see how the ship was sectioned off but I haven't been able to find anything online where the images are big enough for you to actually make out what's in them. First class passengers could pretty much go wherever they wanted to on the ship. Second class had basically the same freedom. Steerage passengers, however, were confined to their areas of the ship only and there actual locked gates to keep them in their place (these gates eventually caused significant problems the night of the sinking).

Titanic's interior was extremely lavish and White Star spared no expense in fitting her out with every luxury imaginable and every modern convenience (there were even flushing toilets on the ship, which was something most homes at the time still did not have). The most expensive staterooms a first class passenger could purchase for the voyage were the parlor suite rooms which ran about £870 ($69,600 today!). These suites (one on each side of the ship) had several rooms and their own private promenade deck (remember the scene in the movie the morning after Rose's character dances in third class with Jack?). They were called the "Millionaire Suites."In comparison, a third class ticket was £3 to £8 ($172 to $460 today) so you can see how very different the lives of these people were at the time. There were 67 other first class suites and staterooms available and they were all extremely luxurious and comfortable.

Picture of one of the Parlor Suite rooms

Besides their sumptuous rooms, first class passengers had many other marvelous and luxurious places to spend their time. Titanic was the first ship to have a swimming pool on board. There was also a Turkish Bath (like a sauna) next to the pool, which was considered one of the ship's most opulent areas. It was comprised of a steam room, hot room, and temperate room, shampooing rooms and toilets, and a cooling room. There was an extra charge to use the Bath and it was only available to first class passengers. Both of these were on F deck. Titanic also had a "state of the art" gymnasium on board, which was right off the Boat Deck. It had an electric camel, an electric horse, rowing machine, and cycles (I'm not entirely sure what those first two are!). There was an extra charge to use this as well. Besides the gym and pool there was also a Squash Court available for exercise, though I doubt many of the first class passengers actually used any of them.

Swimming Pool
Turkish Bath


There were many rooms for just sitting back, relaxing, and chatting as well. The First Class Smoking room on A Deck was for men only while the Reading and Writing Room, also on A Deck, was for the ladies. There was also the First Class lounge (or library) on A Deck and the Reception Room just adjacent to the First Class Dining Saloon on D Deck. Passengers could retire to these rooms in the evening for a drink or a smoke or just to relax and gossip. Relaxing was what the first class passengers wanted to do while showing off all their finery. Women went through several clothing changes during a day, leading up to their fanciest attire being pulled out for dinner. Men probably spent a lot of their time drinking and smoking and discussing all the money they were making. It really was a charmed life on board for these elite passengers.

First Class Smoking Room

First Class Reading and Writing Room
Picture of the First Class Lounge/Library

When first class passengers were hungry they had several options. They could go down to D deck and dine in the First Class dining saloon (which spanned the width of the ship). If they wanted to stay closer to their cabins they could have a meal in the Verandah Cafe, on A Deck, or the Cafe Parisian (with authentic French waiters) which was adjacent to the A la Carte Restaurant on B Deck. Passengers most likely had to pay for their meals at the cafes and restaurant. You may remember scenes from the movie which feature some of these rooms (they are in the Verandah Cafe when Cal orders Rose the lamb and there are several scenes in the dining saloon).

First Class Dining Saloon

Cafe Parisian

Verandah Cafe

The variety of food served to the first class passengers blows my mind! And not just WHAT they ate but HOW MUCH they ate! I really don't know how the women ate anything in the clothing they wore! But what delicious looking meals they had! A few menus from the Titanic did survive the sinking and they show us what many passengers had for their last meal. Can you imagine a ten or eleven course dinner? While some of the menu items sound so very tasty there are a few that make me cringe a little bit! Baked apples, fresh fruit, Quaker Oats, Grilled ham, and omelets for breakfast sound great but I'm not too sure about mutton kidneys! I could dig in to a lunch of vegetable dumplings, potatoes, custard pudding, and Virginia ham but I just don't think I could stomach corned ox tongue. As for dinner, chicken, filet mignons, potatoes, peas, rice, eclairs, and ice cream would make me happy! Before any meal a bugler would go from deck to deck sounding the traditional meal call and passengers would make their way to their dining saloons.

First Class Breakfast Menu from April 11, 1912

First Class Luncheon Menu from April 14, 1912

First Class Dinner Menu from April 14, 1912 (the last meal for so many)

For the first class passengers, Titanic was as luxurious as a hotel in Paris or New York, a true floating palace. It is quite sad that all that fantastic work ended up at the bottom of the North Atlantic.

My next post will be about life on board Titanic for the second and third class passengers.

Book Review: The Adventures of Alianore Audley

The Adventures of Alianore Audley
4 roses

If you are familiar with the Wars of the Roses and love a good laugh now and then, Brian Wainwright's humorous tale of the fictional Alianore Audley will be right up your alley! I received this tale from after waiting (not so patiently I might add!) to get to the head of the waiting list! I think I read it in a night or two, it was that easy and fun to read.

I am not going to rehash everything that happens in the turbulent period as many of my readers are familiar with it anyway and I don't have the motivation to type it all out right now. However, to get most of the jokes and tongue in cheek writing you probably need to have at least a passing knowledge of the events of the period. The author manages to weave facts about the period with humor and more modern (and to some, understandable) words and expressions, creating a really fun romp through the 15th century. Mr. Wainwright places Alianore right in the middle of the action where she unknowingly (or knowingly in a lot of cases!) does something that causes many of the "big" events we know from history to actually happen (such as accidentally revealing where the Princes are to Bishop Morton). Alianore is a staunch Yorkist supporter (and distant cousin) and becomes a spy for Edward IV and then for his brother Richard III and eventually finds herself at the helm of a Medieval version of the CIA! Alianore's character is hysterical with her dry humor and (very) quick wit. She can be quite bawdy at times as well. Her thoughts and opinions on the people around her are hilarious.

I highly recommend this novel to those that are familiar with the period; you will get a laugh out of most of it. I'm not saying you're going to be falling out of your chair because you're laughing so hard throughout all 200 or so pages, but you certainly are going to be amused! Mr. Wainwright really shows off his knowledge of the period in this fun parody.

Friday, January 20, 2012

RMS Titanic: A Short History

April 14-15, 2012 will mark the 100th anniversary of the Titanic striking an iceberg and sinking in the North Atlantic. Has it really been that long? My interest (obsession) with the Titanic began when I was really, really young and I happened to watch the National Geographic special on the discovery of the ship by Robert Ballard which my grandparents had on VHS tape. I was hooked. Why I could not tell you! Even now I have no idea how such a show on such a subject appealed to my child's mind. I got my first book on the Titanic in the fourth grade (its actually still at my parents'!). I was thrilled when the James Cameron film came out in 1997; not for the "love story" but for the sets that were created. I was so excited to "see" the interior of the ship which I had only seen in a few black and white photos. I've been wanting to write something about the Titanic and I thought the weeks leading up to the actual anniversary would be a good time to post about my first historical interest. I'll start with the basic story (history) of the ship and we'll see what later posts are about!

Titanic's story begins several years before that fateful April night.

Towards the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century transatlantic travel was becoming a big business. Companies were competing for the fastest passenger ships and the most luxurious passenger ships. This came at a time when the fabulously wealthy loved to show off their wealth and there was no better way to do this than on a transatlantic cruise which could take a week (from England to New York). According to legend, in 1907 Lord Pirrie, owner of Harland and Wolff, and Bruce Ismay, chairman of the White Star Line, gave birth to the idea of creating several massive, super luxurious steam liners, the "Olympic class,"of which Titanic would be the second and biggest (behind the Olympic and the Gigantic [later renamed Brittanic]). They decided that instead of going for the fastest liners in the world, they were going to go for the most comfortable and the safest; they were really going to cater to the most elite passengers and no expense would be spared. They put Thomas Andrews in charge of designing the massive ships.

Construction on the Titanic did not begin until March 31,1909 when her keel was laid. All three ships were built at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, Ireland. This new class of ships was so big that a special gantry and slipway had to be built in the shipyard to house them...before construction on the actual ships could even begin! (New docks also had to be built in Southampton because none of the existing ones were near big enough to house these behemoths!) Her construction lasted 3 years and thousands were employed to put her together. The company also wanted to have the safest ships afloat along with the most luxurious and Titanic's design included numerous state-of-the-art safety features. Leading up to her maiden voyage in 1912, White Star published many claims that the ship was "virtually unsinkable." While Titanic would carry passengers from all walks of life, it was in the first class cabins and public rooms where Titanic's true purpose was crystal clear. Besides sumptuous state rooms, first class passengers would have a swimming pool (the first on any ship), Turkish bath, gymnasium, and squash court in which to get exercise while at sea. There was also a writing room (for the ladies), smoking room (men only!), lounge, reception room, palm courts and cafes, and a restaurant. Titanic really was like a floating 4 star hotel. The opulance of Titanic's first class state rooms and public rooms really outclassed all other ships of the time. Second, and even third, class on the Titanic was better than some first class on other ships. She was launched on May 31, 1911 to begin her "fitting out" (interior painting, decorating, moving in furniture, etc) and to prepare for her maiden voyage.

Titanic was supposed to begin her maiden voyage on March 20, 1912 but her sister ship Olympic collided with another vessel towards the end of 1911 and White Star wanted her repaired and operational before Titanic sailed, thus (fatefully) pushing her maiden voyage back to April 10. Captain Edward J. Smith was in charge and this was to be his last command before retiring from an impressive career as a sea captain. She left the dock at Southampton at noon on April 10, narrowly escaping being hit in the side by a smaller vessel, and sailed across the Channel, docking at Cherbourg, France, after 6 pm. The next day she arrived in Queenstown, Ireland, took on more steerage passengers, and then headed out into the North Atlantic. The voyage was uneventful, with clear skies and calm waters, and Cpt. Smith increased her speed each day despite the fact that she began receiving ice warnings after only two days at sea. There have been reports that he was ordered by Bruce Ismay (who was on board for the maiden voyage) to speed up in order to break the Atlantic crossing record.

The night of April 14 was extremely cold, below freezing by dark, and the sea was unusually calm. The lookouts are advised to watch for icebergs and at 11:40 Titanic collides with her destiny. The berg is spotted directly in front of the ship, the lookouts sound the alarm bell three times, and phone the bridge with the alarming message: "Iceberg right ahead!" First Officer Murdoch is in charge at the time and ordered a "hard-a-starboard" to the man at the wheel, ordered the engines to stop and then full astern, and activated the watertight doors (all that basically means is he told the helmsman to turn the wheel hard to starboard, the engines to stop, and then to put them in reverse, trying to get the ship to turn and slow down). She did begin to turn but it was too late and the iceberg scrapped along her starboard side under the waterline. By 11:50, only 10 minutes after the collision, there is already water 14 feet above the keel in the very forepeak (very front) of the ship and the supposedly "watertight" compartments were beginning to flood. Cpt. Smith returned to the bridge and ordered designer Thomas Andrews (also on board for the maiden voyage) to survey the ship and the damage. He had bad news for the Captain when he returned: the ship was designed to stay afloat with any three of the watertight compartments flooded...five already were. He calculates the ship has about an hour and a half to live. Cpt. Smith orders the lifeboats uncovered, woman and children to be loaded first, and gave orders to the Marconi radio operators to begin sending out distress signals.

The first lifeboat was lowered at 12:45...with only 28 people (it could hold 68). Most of the passengers weren't aware of the trouble they were in for quite a while after the initial collision (they ship was supposed to be unsinkable, right?) and weren't keen on the idea of leaving the brightly lit, warm ship. Even if all the lifeboats had been lowered filled to capacity, they still only had room for about 1,100 of the 2,200 people on board. By about 1:15 Titanic's deck is starting to tilt much more noticeably and the lifeboats begin to leave more fully loaded. The only ship to respond to the distress calls, Carpathia, is on her way but she is over 50 miles away and will not make it to the Titanic in time. At 1:40 most of the lifeboats are away, Ismay makes his famous escape from the sinking ship, and the remaining passengers begin making their way to the stern of the ship which is slowly rising out of the water. The ship's lights finally went out at 2:20, sending the people left on board into a further panic. Cpt. Smith is last seen headed towards the bridge of the ship; Thomas Andrews was last seen staring into space in the smoking room. Titanic slipped beneath the waters of the North Atlantic just after 2:20 am, taking over half the passengers and crew down with her. The 705 survivors in the lifeboats waited in the freezing cold until the Carpathia arrived after 4 am in the morning. The Titanic survivors finally arrived in New York on April 18.

After the sinking there were inquiries on both sides of the Atlantic, trying to determine what happened and who was to blame. As a result of the sinking, new maritime laws were put in place to keep such a disaster from happening again.

Sorry for the lengthy post but there was a lot of information and I can be rather long winded when it comes to something I find interesting. Please be on the look out for further posts about the Titanic covering various topics.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Mailbox Monday - January 16, 2012

Mailbox Monday is now on tour! It is being hosted this month by At Home With Books. To find out more about the history of Mailbox Monday and a list of future hosts visit the Mailbox Monday site.

Mailbox Monday is a gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week and explore great book blogs. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles, and humongous wish lists!

A few new books showed up over the past two weeks! Looking forward to getting into these!

Dracula in Love, Karen Essex

I've been working on Stoker's original novel and I won this one from Arleigh's blog a couple of weeks ago. I always enjoy seeing a classic through another character's eyes.

Dark Sovereign, Robert Fripp

I won this one from Arleigh as well! The author has written the play the Bard SHOULD have written about the REAL Richard III.

The Simple Abundance Journal of Gratitude, S.B. Breathnach

Okay, so its not historical fiction or Regency related but this is something my best friend suggested (she's been doing it for a couple of years). I'm looking forward to the inspiration.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Recent Search Terms

I haven't posted any search terms recently (of course, I haven't posted much of anything at all lately!) and I decided to take a peek today and see what words or phrases folks out there used that landed them in my kingdom! There's a few that gave me a good chuckle this morning!


merry christmas sad cartoon - doesn't that kind of defeat the purpose of wishing someone a Merry Christmas?

christmas office humor fact cartoons - not quite sure about this one but apparently, from the looks of the search terms, my blog is now the place to find all kinds of Christmas cartoons...

great medieval battle - could we narrow it down just a bit, please?

lady medieval - as opposed to Lady Regency?

read - yes, please.

royalty free middle battle - so they're looking for a battle that's free of taxes perhaps? Somewhere in the middle?

Mailbox Monday - January 2, 2012

Mailbox Monday is on tour now! It is being hosted this month by At Home With Books! To find out more about the history of Mailbox Monday and a list of future hosts visit the Mailbox Monday site.

Mailbox Monday is a gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week and explore great book blogs. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

I didn't get any books for Christmas but I got a couple of Barnes and Noble gift cards and that works even better in my opinion! I loaded my boys in the car and ventured out to get some new books...its so hard for me to find any these days! I think I'm going to have to stick to ordering online and from the UK! Lol! Anyway, here's what I picked up...and I still have $10 left!

Cleopatra's Daughter, Michelle Moran

I've been a big fan of Ms. Moran since reading her wonderful novel The Heretic Queen a couple of years ago. I have heard really good things about this novel and can't wait to dive in!

Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen

I love Austen and my copy of this novel has vanished somewhere in this house. So, I picked up a replacement...which means I'll find my original any time.

Venetia, Georgette Heyer

After reading my first Regency novel by this author last year I was hooked! They didn't have much of a select (at all) but this one looked pretty good! Can't wait to see what Ms. Heyer has in store for me between the pages of this one!