|❤ Fri, Sep. 26, 2014|
Marriages today may not always be happy, but at least people learn from their own mistakes. Marriages in the past, especially royal marriages, were intended to be alliances and therefore they were usually arranged and approved by a royal’s family and councilors. It was no surprise then that many proved to be unhappy. Adultery was rampant and bad enough, but some marriages even ended in violence. In Leslie Carroll’s latest historical nonfiction book, Inglorious Royal Marriages: a Demi-Millennium of Unholy Mismatrimony, she explores these unfortunate and unhappy marriages between royals, beginning with Henry VI of England and his wife Margaret of Anjou and ending with Victoria Melita and her two subsequent husbands.
I love history and I love interesting subjects like the one Leslie Carroll chose for Inglorious Marriages. What is fascinating about about bad marriages? I am not sure, but as soon as I heard about this book, I wanted to read it.
It took me a little while to get into a comfortable pace with this book. It seemed dry to me at first, which was disappointing because Carroll dealt with such a fascinating subject. Although, I eventually got into the book, the pacing could be an issue for some readers. The chapters were broken up nicely between marital couples, but some marital couples who were also family shared chapters. When I read the one about the Medici and Orsini, I thought maybe Carroll combined the two because there was less information about them, but the chapter still seemed to go on and on. I understood that she may have combined them because they were related and their stories overlapped, but I felt both couples should have had their own chapters.
The stories I found the most interesting were the ones about Mary I of England and her husband Phillip II of Spain, even though I was already familiar with them; and the story of Louis XIII and Anne of Austria, which was unfamiliar to me.
Inglorious Royal Marriages is an enjoyable narrative historical nonfiction book for history geeks like me that covers five hundred years of unfortunate, unhappy, and deadly marriages; all of which are fascinating, if sad. Beware of the pacing if that is a deal-breaker for you. I felt it could have been broken up into more manageable chunks, but overall it was nice to brush up on some historical figures I was familiar with and to separate fact from fiction with others who were unfamiliar to me.
Leslie Carroll is the author of the nonfiction titles, Royal Romances, Royal Pains, Royal Affairs, and Notorious Royal Marriages. She also writes under the pseudonyms Juliet Grey and Amanda Elyot. She lives with her husband in Washington, D.C. and New York City.
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Tags: 2014 | review | review copy | paperback | 2014 150 Reading Challenge | historical | adult | Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours |
|❤ Fri, Sep. 12, 2014|
It is May 1651 and England is in the midst of civil war between the king and Parliament. The majority of nobles are Royalists while many of the common people support Cromwell’s Roundheads, but not everyone’s loyalties are so black and white.
A fifteen-year-old deaf girl, Abigail Chaplin, goes to work at Markyate Manor for the young Lady Katherine Fanshawe. Abi and her family used to live a comfortable life, but after a terrible accident and losing her father to the Parliamentary cause years ago, they are forced to make their living as tenants to the Fanshawes and as servants in the community.
Abi soons learns Lady Katherine is no ordinary noble when she catches her mistress in lies and secrets and men’s clothing. Soon, Abi and her brother Ralph are caught up in Lady Katherine’s problems as well as their own.
I wanted to read Shadow on the Highway because it sounded unique and exciting. Highwaymen were common, but not highwaywomen, and a lady to boot. I was looking forward to reading about Lady Katherine’s exploits, but with Abi as the narrator, I did not get to experience Lady Katherine’s adventures firsthand and they were never explained in too much detail. Because Deborah Swift based this new trilogy on Lady Katherine and her unique story, I expected to imbibe all of that adventure and mystery and motivation. I was disappointed.
Shadow on the Highway was still a good story. I did appreciate Swift’s choice of a deaf girl as narrator and in this seventeenth century time period. Previously, I had never considered what the life of a deaf person in that time would be like. It felt authentic and it was interesting to read.
Deborah Swift’s beginning to the Shadow on the Highway trilogy fell short for me because I expected it to mostly follow these highway robberies during this time of civil war, but they were kept in the background. I liked the premise of the story, it was a quick read, and the character of Abigail Chaplin was refreshing. I just wish there had been more highway action, but that may be addressed in the next two books. Shadow on the Highway will appeal to historical fiction readers who are interested in narrators who have disabilities and to those interested in England’s civil war period, but those looking for lots of highway robbery will be disappointed.
Deborah Swift is a historical fiction writer with a background in set and costume design in the theater and with the BBC. She has a MA in Creative Writing and is active in the Historical Writers Association, the Historical Novel Society, and the Romantic Novelists Association. Shadow on the Highway is based on the life of Lady Katherine Fanshawe and the exploits that earned her the reputation of a wicked lady. Swift’s other novels include A Divided Inheritance, The Lady’s Slipper, and The Gilded Lily. She lives in Lancashire, England.
To win a Paperback or eBook of Shadow on the Highway please complete the Rafflecopter giveaway form below. Five copies of each are up for grabs. Giveaway is open internationally. Giveaway ends at 11:59pm on September 15th. You must be 18 or older to enter. Winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter on September 16th and notified via email. Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.
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Tags: 2014 | 2014 150 Reading Challenge | ARC | historical | adult | eBook | Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours |
|❤ Wed, Jul. 02, 2014|
What should a woman do if her husband goes mad? Most especially, what should she do if he is the King of England?
It is 1788 and Queen Charlotte is trying to hold the court together while her husband’s, King George’s, behavior become more suspect. Rumors of his madness are spreading like wildfire around court and beginning to leak outside of England’s palaces. Charlotte does not know how to handle her beloved husband, especially when he begins to claim that he is not married to her. Their thirteen children are affected as well, especially their daughters, when news of George’s madness spreads to the courts of Europe. Who would marry a madman’s daughter?
In Queen of Bedlam, Laura Purcell alternated between the points-of-view of Queen Charlotte, her eldest daughter Charlotte (known as Royal), and a younger daughter named Sophia. It took place during King George III’s reign, the king we know as a tyrant in America and the reason why we had the Revolutionary War. It has always been easy to dismiss George III as a horrible person who wanted to make the lives of colonists miserable and leave it at that. But after reading this book, even as a fictional account, I had a lot more sympathy for him and especially for his family. As most of you know, I mainly stick to the Tudor era when reading historical fiction and I believe the Queen of Bedlam was my first foray into this particular dynasty. I found it highly interesting and Purcell’s novel has made me more interested in reading about this particular era in the future, especially to find out if some of the claims about George III were true because I was not too familiar with him.
In the novel, the reasons given for George’s madness were his loss of the American colonies and the ongoing revolution occurring in France. There may have been some history in his family; Charlotte kept mentioning bad blood on his side of the family, but if there was family history then certainly those two revolutions would have been enough of a trigger to unleash his illness. Purcell made me sympathize with George, but I really felt for Charlotte and her daughters. Charlotte had come to love George, so when he became unstable and claimed he was married to another woman and began pursuing her it broke Charlotte’s heart. And even though she was not without fault when it came to her relationships with her children, she was a strong character and had to endure a lot of stress. Royal, the eldest daughter, did not have a good relationship with her mother. She always craved more than Charlotte could or would give and between that and her father, she felt imprisoned and just wanted to marry and get away; her own vision of freedom. But what she wished for was not necessarily better. Her younger sister, Sophia, did not so much crave her mother’s affection, but she also wanted to be free and knowing that with her own illnesses and her father’s illness that it was unlikely she would find a husband, she found love closer to home but it was nothing like she expected.
Queen of Bedlam was an enthralling and intimate fictional look at the lives of King George III, Queen Charlotte, and their daughters and how affluence does not equal happiness and tragedy can happen to anyone. It was well-written and character-driven with alternating viewpoints. The story of this ruling family set after the American Revolution and against the backdrop of the French revolution was so interesting that I want to learn more about them in the near future. Queen of Bedlam will appeal to any historical fiction reader, but especially to those who enjoy eighteenth century fiction and family dynamics.
Laura Purcell debuted Queen of Bedlam in the UK on 10 June 2014 and it will be available in the U.S. in November 2014. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society and The Society for Court Studies and Historical Royal Palaces and has subsequently appeared on PBS’s “The Secrets of Henry VIII’s Palace” to talk about Queen Caroline and Hampton Court. She has plans to write more books set in the Georgian era and the next is tentatively titled Mistress of the Court. All will focus on the psychological and emotional ups and downs of the royal women of the time. She lives in Colchester, England with her husband and pet guinea pigs.
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Tags: 2014 | 2014 150 Reading Challenge | review | ARC | eBook | historical | adult | Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours |
|❤ Mon, Jun. 30, 2014|
How far would you go if you were trying to hide from scandal?
Emme Fifield serves as a lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth but dreams of being the mistress of her own home one day. All of her hopes are dashed when a former traitor to the Crown violates her in the worst way possible. Horrified by her ordeal and too terrified to confide in anyone, Emme hides her shame for months before rumors begin circulating. Desperate to keep the rumors from reaching the Queen’s ears, Emme keeps a low profile until she meets Kit Doonan and some other adventurers who plan to sail to the New World with the Queen’s support. For Emme, sailing to Virginia means freedom from her shame and freedom to start anew.
Kit Doonan is never far from the sea or adventure. When the Queen gives her permission for a crew to sail to Virginia he knows he may never see England again, but he jumps at the chance to make a new life for himself and for his young page.
The Lost Duchess was a very interesting book to read and I think it was the first adult historical fiction novel I have enjoyed in a while. The mysterious aspect of Jenny Barden’s latest novel was what really attracted me. Yes, there was a love story but that story took place in Virginia’s lost colony of Roanoke; a colony that is still shrouded in mystery today. It amazes me that we do not know what happened to the people of this colony to this day. In The Lost Duchess, Barden imagined what could have happened to the people of Roanoke through the fictional accounts of Emme Fifield and Kit Doonan.
As you may have already guessed, the love story and the characters were secondary for me. Although some of the side characters were real historical figures, like Governor White, George Howe, and the Dares, the plot and Barden’s fictional conclusions about what happened to the colony appealed to me the most. Not only did Barden provide a voice for her historical and original characters, but she also wove key historical facts into her novel, such as George Howe’s fate and the words “CRO” and “CROATOAN” carved into the trees at the colony. Barden’s fictional account of what happened at Roanoke was so believable that I found myself wanting it to be true.
If you are more of a character person (which I can be, but I find it really depends on the book whether I am into the characters or the story more), the secrets that Emme and Kit harbored were life-changing and brought them together in the New World before they were even revealed. There were a lot of snags, like creating shelter and defending themselves from warrior tribes, but if you need a love story you will find it in this book.
Whether you want a love story, adventure, history, or a hypothesis on the end of the lost colony, The Lost Duchess is the book for you.
Jenny Barden writes for the Historical Novels Review and has also authored the historical fiction novel Mistress of the Sea. She has a husband, four children, and lots of animals.
Tags: 2014 | 2014 150 Reading Challenge | review | review copy | adult | fiction | historical | Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours | paperback |
|❤ Wed, Jun. 18, 2014|
Please join Victoria Dougherty as she tours the blogosphere with HF Virtual Book Tours for her Cold War Historical Thriller, The Bone Church, from June 16 - July 31.
About the Book
In the surreal and paranoid underworld of wartime Prague, fugitive lovers Felix Andel and Magdalena Ruza make some dubious alliances – with a mysterious Roman Catholic cardinal, a reckless sculptor intent on making a big political statement, and a gypsy with a risky sex life. As one by one their chances for fleeing the country collapse, the two join a plot to assassinate Hitler’s nefarious Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, Josef Goebbels.
But the assassination attempt goes wildly wrong, propelling the lovers in separate directions.
Felix’s destiny is sealed at the Bone Church, a mystical pilgrimage site on the outskirts of Prague, while Magdalena is thrust even deeper into the bowels of a city that betrayed her and a homeland soon to be swallowed by the Soviets. As they emerge from the shadowy fog of World War II, and stagger into the foul haze of the Cold War, Felix and Magdalena must confront the past, and a dangerous, uncertain future.
Vatican City: March 11, 1956
The viscount with the dense, copper hair rocked back and forth in the front pew. He whispered to the man next to him.
Felix pretended not to notice the disturbance. He unlocked the tabernacle and retrieved a gold chalice, pyx, paten, and crucifix from its purple silk interior, then arranged them on the altar before the Cardinal. A sweet, breathy gust of air blew in from the only open window in the chapel, making Felix’s cassock flutter against his legs. It felt good – almost like the touch of a woman’s fingertips.
“In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen,” the Cardinal said, making the sign of the cross over his head and breast.
At long last, the viscount looked up from his rocking and whispering. He folded his hands and consigned them to his lap, where Felix could still see on the man’s middle finger the shiny indentation where a bulbous emerald ring had rested until a few weeks ago. It had come time to pay off the Romanian attaché and his pet border guard in exchange for a wispy woman with an advanced case of Parkinson’s disease.
“But what wouldn’t a man do for his mother?” The viscount had said upon their last meeting. Plenty, Felix had thought. He’d once watched a man shoot his mother in the face for a single gold tooth rolled in a piece of blood-stained suede. Of course, the attaché had failed to disclose that the viscount’s mother – in addition to her Parkinson’s – was also in the late stages of dementia, soiling herself and exhibiting a total vocabulary of five words: “Paris, last Christmas” and “hideous curtains!” Still, the viscount appeared grateful for her safe recovery. He’d even remarked that she was eating better.
“Judica me deus, et discerne causam meam de gente non sancta: ab homine iniquo; et doloso erue me.”
Psalm 42. Felix recited it in tandem with the Cardinal. Judge me, O God, distinguish my cause from the nation that is not holy; deliver me from the unjust and deceitful man.
Mass was brief – twenty-five minutes start to finish – and Felix was glad of it. Cardinal Carlo Merillini’s obligation to the row of elegant gentlemen bowed in the front pew was fulfilled. The Cardinal now stood in the back of the nave with Primo, his valet, while Felix collected the tithes and thanked the visitors: an Argentine cattleman, an American steel magnate, a Polish-born hotelier, the viscount, and a handful of other influential Catholics.
“Envy and death, Father,” muttered the cattleman.
“It’s all they know.” He was a little man, fully bald.
The cattleman spoke lovingly of his Lithuanian wife. Pretty woman. Felix had met her before.
“Envy and death,” the cattleman repeated.
The cattleman’s sister-in-law and young niece had been killed by a Russian soldier at the end of the War. Raped on a bed of horse dung in their stables, then bludgeoned with a bottle of cheap brown vodka. Only his wife’s daughter from a first marriage had survived the incident, hiding behind a bushel of hay and biting a salt lick to keep quiet. The cattleman mouthed the girl’s name.
It was just the year before last when Felix had finally been able to arrange passage for the girl. Already sixteen by then, she’d been instructed to dress as a prostitute – presumably for one of the port guards – but was instead folded into the bowels of a sofa and smuggled over the Baltic Sea into Sweden.
“She still hates horses,” the man said. “And she hates her mother.” The cattleman tapped Felix’s forehead with his index finger. “Poisoned her mind.”
Felix looked the man in the eye and clasped his hand. He then took the cattleman’s envelope and handed it to Primo.
“And this is the acquaintance I wrote to you about.” The cattleman tugged at Felix’s cassock.
Felix nodded at the Polish hotelier, though they hadn’t been officially introduced. The man took Felix’s hand and squeezed, bringing it to his lips and rubbing his twice shaved cheek over the priest’s knuckles.
“A tragic story if I ever heard one,” the cattleman said.
The Pole began to sob.
Felix put his hand on the Pole’s head and assured him that he would speak to the Cardinal on his behalf. “These matters take time,” he explained.
He didn’t have the heart to tell the man how far down in the queue he was – how many dozens had come before him begging about a wife, a husband, a son or daughter, a brother, a lover. And how Felix, too, had begged and prayed until finally his turn had come.
About the Author
Victoria Dougherty writes fiction, drama, and essays that often revolve around spies, killers, curses and destinies. Her work has been published or profiled in The New York Times, USA Today, International Herald Tribune and elsewhere. Earlier in her career, while living in Prague, she co-founded Black Box Theater, translating, producing and acting in several Czech plays. She lives with her husband and children in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The Bone Church Blog Tour Schedule
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Interview at Mina’s Bookshelf
Tuesday, June 17
Interview at Flashlight Commentary
Wednesday, June 18
Excerpt at The Musings of ALMYBNENR
Thursday, June 19
Guest Post at I’d So Rather Be Reading
Monday, June 23
Review at Based on a True Story
Tuesday, June 24
Review at Bibliotica
Friday, June 27
Review at Back Porchervations
Monday, June 30
Review at Dianne Ascroft Blog
Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book
Tuesday, July 1
Interview at Oh, For the Hook of a Book
Wednesday, July 2
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews
Thursday, July 3
Review at leeanna.me
Monday, July 7
Review at Library Educated
Thursday, July 10
Excerpt & Spotlight at Books and Benches
Monday, July 14
Review at 100 Pages a Day
Tuesday, July 15
Review at Kinx’s Book Nook
Thursday, July 17
Guest Post at Savvy Verse & Wit
Friday, July 18
Review at Curling Up By the Fire
Monday, July 21
Review at Book Nerd
Tuesday, July 22
Review at The Lit Bitch
Wednesday, July 23
Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews
Thursday, July 24
Review at Mari Reads
Review at bookramblings
Monday, July 28
Review at Queen of All She Reads
Review at Good Friends, Good Books, and a Sleepy Conscience
Guest Post at Historical Tapestry
Tuesday, July 29
Review at Historical Tapestry
Wednesday, July 30
Review at Luxury Reading
Thursday, July 31
Review at From the TBR Pile
Tags: 2014 | excerpt | Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours | adult | historical | fiction |