My Lady of Cleves covers the life of Anne of Cleves from right before her marriage to Henry VIII until his death in 1547. The story opens with an agit...moreMy Lady of Cleves covers the life of Anne of Cleves from right before her marriage to Henry VIII until his death in 1547. The story opens with an agitated King Henry VIII, talking with his ministers about his need for a new wife after the death of his third wife, Jane Seymour in childbed. Among the candidates are the Duchess of Milan and the Cleves Princesses. The Duchess of Milan has already replied with “Only if I had two heads”! Smart girl!
Hans Holbein is sent to Cleves to paint both Anne and her sister, Amelia. Once there he becomes quite smitten with Anne and they begin a friendship. He paints a flattering picture of her because that is the way he sees her. Unfortunately, Henry does not see the same way and is almost instantly put off by Anne’s looks and hard mannerisms. Henry likes the petite type (go figure!).
We follow Anne through her short marriage to Henry, her annulment, “retirement” to Richmond Palace, Henry’s next marriage to Katherine Howard and her eventual downfall. Anne even plays a part in the infamous scene where Katherine is desperate to talk to Henry and goes screaming for him through the halls of the Palace. Anne seems to resign herself to her fate; after all she still has her head! She genuinely enjoys the life of a Princess of England; she can come and go as she pleases and has no husband or man to answer to. In seeing the freedom that Anne as a “woman” had, that had to have been a big impact on Elizabeth I, who always said she would never have a master.
My Lady of Cleves was an interesting look into a woman that survived marriage to Henry VIII. Anne is a very likeable, intelligent, straightforward woman and I think she would have made a wonderful Queen, had she been given the chance. It pulls on your heartstrings to know that she never had the children she wanted and never married. I wish the story was longer and covered the time during Mary’s rule as Queen - I would have liked to have heard Anne’s thoughts on “Bloody Mary”.
Note: Anne of Cleves died at Hever Castle on July 16, 1557. She lived 10 years past Henry. Her tomb is in a “hard to find place” in Westminster Abbey.
Edith Pargeter's novel, The Brothers of Gwynedd is comprised of four stories: Sunrise in the West, The Dragon at Noonday, The Hounds of Sunset and Aft...moreEdith Pargeter's novel, The Brothers of Gwynedd is comprised of four stories: Sunrise in the West, The Dragon at Noonday, The Hounds of Sunset and Afterglow and Nightfall.
For this review we will be focusing on the first story: Sunrise in the West, which tells the story of Llewelyn ap Grruffyd (also called Llewelyn the Last) of Wales, grandson to Llewelyn the Great, through the eyes of his clerk, friend and closest confidante Samson. Samson is truly an invaluable narrator with his keen sense of insight and candidness. He's a character that you can't help but like immediately and I don't think this novel would have the depth that it does were it written first person. I believe that some people in our lives know us better than we do ourselves and thus can explain it more clearly, so through Samson, I feel I know the real Llewelyn.
Through a series of events including the death of their father and the imprisonment of Llewelyn's mother and brothers at the English court, and with King Henry III encroaching bit by bit into Wales it primarily falls to Llewelyn tohelp unite his country and drive the English out, though he is but the second son, not the heir. Like his grandfather and namesake Llewelyn dreamed of a complete Wales, united under one leader, one Prince.
Opposition to Llewelyn's ambition doesn't just come from afar, but close to home when his brothers take up arms against him and fight for a bigger piece of the Welsh pie. Llewelyn's victory and justice are swiftly dealt and he is now ready to take on King Henry III of England.
I have to admit that when I first started this book my initial feeling was one of confusion. Within the first few pages, I was baffled as to how was who and it doesn't help that they all seem to have the same name. But, hang in there, I promose it all became clear soon enough and there is a family tree to refer to. Pargeter's writing style took a little getting used to with the long sentences, but once you slow down and really savor the words it's quite beautiful and almost prose-like. And there are some excellent quotes throughout, my favorite being:
"So does the impetus of habit continue to carry us when the heart has ceased to put forth any power or passion"
I have thoroughly enjoyed reading The Brothers of Gwynedd....bear in mind that is no light read by an means, however it is an extremely rewarding one! Savor this novel...like you would a fine wine! It is well worth the journey!
*****Reviews on Book 2-4 will be added here as they are written.*****(less)
For young Lady Lucinda Denbigh life is not as sweet as she once envisioned it being with her handsome, young nobleman husband, Lord Denbigh. After bei...moreFor young Lady Lucinda Denbigh life is not as sweet as she once envisioned it being with her handsome, young nobleman husband, Lord Denbigh. After being married only a short while she quickly learns that is was her money he lusted after, not her. And being the gentleman that he is, he takes it upon himself to remind her of that daily. Constantly telling her she is fat and ugly, he is always keeping her on diets and restricted her food from the kitchen.
When the prospect of spending an entire weekend with Denbigh and his retched friends, being ridiculed and laughed at, takes her over the edge, she finally gets the courage to leave. She sneaks out after everyone's asleep and flees through the streets of London.
Being the smart girl that she is, when they married she kept a flow of money coming from her family straight to her and that is what she uses to finance her way out of her personal hell. Lord Denbigh has habit of gambling and an even nastier habit of losing.
In the midst of her escape a woman comes up to her, thrusts a young child into her arms and tells her she'll be right back. She quickly realizes that the woman is not returning and that is confirmed by a passing boy who saw the transaction. Lucinda, still pining for a child of her own, decides to keep her and names her Sophia.
Lord Hugo Wanstead, returning back home from war, is not in the best of moods when he first runs over (almost literally) Lucinda and Sophia. He learns in his abscence that she has rented a house on the property. Lucinda has told them she is a widow, her husband dying in the war, so there would be no questions as to why she is there alone and without family.
Lord Hugo, a huge bear of a man, is trying to heal emotionally and physically, with a leg wound, after coming home. His first wife died in childbirth and he still lives with the blame, vowing never to marry again. His return home is not an easy one for him - his father left the estate in a terrible way and it's up to Hugo to return it the glory that it once was.
As Hugo and Lucinda get to know each other they soon feel a connection neither of them can explain. To Hugo, she is not fat, but soft and voluptuous - a real woman he can love. To Lucinda, Hugo is everything Lord Denbigh was not and would never be.
The Lady Flees Her Lady is a novel about finding unconditional love and believing that you are worthy of it. Michele Ann Young paints a beautiful story of a woman running away from what she thought she deserved into the arms of someone that actually deserved her and the sweet feeling that comes from true love.
Acquired by Sourcebooks
Rating: 4 out of 5
Soundtrack: "Just the way that I am" by Martina McBride (less)
Hollick's Arthur is not the usual halo-crowned, knight in shining armour. No rose-colored version here! He has flaws, fears, a roving eye and is stubb...moreHollick's Arthur is not the usual halo-crowned, knight in shining armour. No rose-colored version here! He has flaws, fears, a roving eye and is stubborn as a mule! But, he has the heart, strength, cunning and courage necessary to excel as King. And you can't help but have a little crush on him!
Gwenhwyfar (or Gwen as I called her throughout the novel for sanity purposes - I just could not figure out how to pronounce!) is a girl after my own heart. A tomboy all the way - she is also strong-willed, tenacious and intelligent.
Arthur and Gwen are first bonded through a mutual suffering of abuse at the hands of evil, female caretakers. Both have a chance to save each other from these witches! Arthur & Gwen were a joy to read, these two have some great exchanges of words and make quite a pair!
The Kingmaking has everything without having too much. I much prefer this "real" Arthur to the "fairy tale" Arthur. What I like about historical fiction is that the people you read about were actually living, breathing human beings and that makes it so much easier to relate to their shortcomings or concerns or emotions. The Kingmaking was a fabulous novel, hard to put down and now on my list of all-time favorites! Helen Hollick's writing is fantastic and I am very much looking forward to reading the next two in the series!
Sourcebooks is releasing the other two in the Arthur Pendragon series...
Pendragon’s Banner (book #2): released September 1, 2009 Shadow of the King (book #3): released March 1, 2010 (less)
Lady Dona has grown weary of her high society life. She is fed up with the endless parties filled of people with too much money and too less to do. It...moreLady Dona has grown weary of her high society life. She is fed up with the endless parties filled of people with too much money and too less to do. It's an inane and nonsensical existence - sleeping until noon and staying up all night in the card houses. Playing silly jokes just to pass time. Boredom of the rich is nothing to scoff at.
Finally, she can't take it anymore, the urge to flee is too overwhelming. Telling her husband that she would like some time alone, she grabs her two kids and a nurse and sets off at break-neck speed to their house at Navron in Cornwall. Upon arrival, she finds there is only one servant, William with the strange accent that she can't quite place. He and Lady Dona seem to almost click at once, then develop a relationship throughout. They have some great repartee!
Dona settles nicely into life at Navron. Playing with the children, getting dirty and enjoying the country suit her just fine and you can feel the real Dona emerging. And the woman here is much more likeable than the woman in the beginning. She is mischievous and funny, laid back and a realist. It's solely to her precariousness that she stumbles across the Frenchman in his hidden creek - she figures quickly that this must be the pirate the locals have told her about. The French pirate that's been stealing from them, the one they have been unable to catch. She also links him to her servant, William, thus securing him as a partner in crime to her meetings with the Frenchman. Adventure awaits her upon La Mouette and she is not going to let this opportunity go by.
DaMaurier writes a smartly crafted novel about one woman's need to escape, the need to feel something real, something tangible. At the same time Dona is a realist and appreciates that she can't escape forever - above anything, she is a mother and knows her place is with them. But, she'll always have that memory, that moment, that is truly hers alone - and she can escape there anytime...with her mind.(less)
Lord Alverstoke is bored. Bored with mother's parading their daughters in front of him, hoping he'll bite and bored with the constant demands of his s...more Lord Alverstoke is bored. Bored with mother's parading their daughters in front of him, hoping he'll bite and bored with the constant demands of his sisters to assist with his neice's coming out ball. Being a wealthy bachelor is not only a blessing, it can be a curse.
Enter Frederica. Frederica and her siblings travel to London with the hopes of applying to Lord Alverstoke, their father's cousin, for help to introduce her sister to the ton. Charis, is a natural beauty and Frederica is sure she could make a much better match in London than the country. Lord Alverstoke is not sure what to think at first - he's never met these people and although their father is his cousin, it's a distant relation. But, he is very amused by Frederica and sees an excellent opportunity to royally piss off his sisters, so he agrees and let the drama begin!
"Eccentrics are all the rage" ~ Lord Alverstoke
One of the reasons I like Heyer is that she writes such fantastic characters! Frederica and Lord Alverstoke were very funny, but the younger brothers, Jessamy & Felix, stole the show for me. They were adorable with all of their crazy antics!
This one starts off a bit slow, but don't worry you'll be hooked soon. It's a nice paced read and if you're like me, you'll have a silly grin on your face the whole time! (less)
Most of you are aware of my love for Georgette Heyer, so it's probably no surprise that I couldn't resist trying out one of her mystery novels. And le...moreMost of you are aware of my love for Georgette Heyer, so it's probably no surprise that I couldn't resist trying out one of her mystery novels. And let me tell you, I was not disappointed! I do believe that this woman could make a grocery list read witty!
Behold, Here's Poison is an entertaining little murder mystery with a "Clue" sort of vibe to it. The characters are a little wacky, but in a delightful and amusing way. There's the outrageously thrifty Miss Matthews, moocher extraordinaire Mrs. Matthews and her spawn...and then there's Mr. Randall Matthews, newly made head of the family. I fell in love with his quick tongue and smart remarks...made me laugh out loud a few times, drawing odd looks from my husband!
Thanks to Danielle at Sourcebooks for the opportunity to read such a great book! I truly enjoyed it and I think you will too!(less)
The Swan Maiden is a novel based on the Irish legend of "Deirdre of the Sorrows", written by J.M. Synge. When Deirdre was a babe, the druid Cathbad pr...moreThe Swan Maiden is a novel based on the Irish legend of "Deirdre of the Sorrows", written by J.M. Synge. When Deirdre was a babe, the druid Cathbad prophesied that she would grow into a great beauty and bring about the downfall of their land. Ignoring requests that the babe be killed, the King of the Ulaids, Conor decides to hide the child with plans to marry her when she becomes of age. Conor enlists the help of Levercham, who teaches Dierdre the ways of the Druids. Attempts to dissuade Conor from his mission of marrying Deirdre fail time and again, much to Levercham's dismay. When Dierdre hears of this, she can no longer wait around, being fattened up like a pig for the day when Conor comes to collect her. She runs away and crosses paths with three brothers, Red Branch soldiers famous for their fighting skills, and they decide to help her. When Conor hears that Deirdre has fled and who she is with, he is beyond furious and pulls no stops to get her back. Naisi and Deirdre eventually fall in love and despite the brothers' aching for home and their fellow Red Branch soldiers, they find a place of their own and settle in (for a while at least). They are found and persuaded home with the promises of forgiveness, only to be betrayed by their King, again. The rest you should read for yourself, I don't want to give it all away!
I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this book!!! See, I even put three exclamation points after that sentence, just to make sure you grasp the emotion! Ha!
What I really enjoyed about The Swan Maiden was the way Jules writes about the connection with nature and animals that Deirdre feels. She describes scenes and it's like you're there (or at least you really, really want to be). I could even stomach the hunting scenes which I usually skim over. So many descriptive words come to mind when I think about this book - mythical, surreal, spiritual, magical, echanting. And the love between Deirdre and Naisi...aaahhh pure magic....the connection they have with each other is so powerful and Jules writes it so well!!
Readers you are in for a treat with this one, you will not want to put it down! Thanks to Jules Watson for sharing such a wonderful story with me, one that I'll remember for a long time! (less)
Orphaned at 18 months, Philip Ashley is taken in and raised by his cousin, the consummate bachelor, Ambrose. Their relationship is a close one as they...moreOrphaned at 18 months, Philip Ashley is taken in and raised by his cousin, the consummate bachelor, Ambrose. Their relationship is a close one as they share not only looks, but emotions and mannerisms as well.
Ambrose travels to Italy one summer, leaving Philip to watch over the house. Letter writing is how they keep in touch and it's the information written within these letters that carries the story. Ambrose writes to tell Philip that he has met his cousin Rachel, soon followed by another letter stating that they are now married and not long after that the letters become mysterious and full of paranoia - Ambrose has been suffering an unknown illness and seems to think his new wife is trying to poison him. Philip decides to go to Ambrose in Italy and find out for himself what is really going on. But when he gets there he finds that Ambrose has been dead for two weeks and cousin Rachel had already fled the villa. Convinced that Rachel killed Ambrose and makes a promise to himself to make her pay.
Back in England, Rachel shows up at Philip's manor unexpectedly. His mind is already made up to hate her, however when they meet his image of her is thrown right out the door. She's charming and dainty and sweet - she bewitches Philip from the start. She can't possibly have had anything to do with Ambrose's death. Or can she?
My Cousin Rachel explores the complicated mind of a woman and the men who try to decipher it. Du Maurier's writing flows very well and the pace is fluid throughout. The gothic atmosphere combined with the mystery of who Rachel really is, kept this reader enthralled and turning the pages quickly.
Thanks to Sourcebooks for giving me the opportunity to read such a wonderful novel!(less)
Elizabeth de Montecute (Bess) is not a happy camper when she learns she is to be married to the son of the notorious Hugh le Despenser, lover to King...moreElizabeth de Montecute (Bess) is not a happy camper when she learns she is to be married to the son of the notorious Hugh le Despenser, lover to King Edward II. The fact that the son is nothing like the father does nothing to assuage her displeasure.
Now, Hugh is no more thrilled about the arrangement than Bess, but he’s a realist and when the king offers you an heiress and daughter of his closest advisors, you take it!
After the grisly execution of his father, the third Hugh le Despenser was imprisoned for a few years and then granted a release from King Edward III, whom he serves loyally. Hugh made a name for himself as a great fighter and led troops in some of England’s greatest victories, never once deviating from his lifelong mission of bringing back honor to the family name. His efforts are rewarded with the return of family land and the young and beautiful Bess for wife.
Hugh & Bess is a story of two people coming to terms with their fate and the journey along the way. One thing that really sets Susan Higginbotham apart as an author for me is her ability to bring her sense of humor to each character. And characters that can poke fun at themselves are my kinda people! If you’ve ever read her blog, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Another thing Susan is also brilliant at is dialogue, which seems to me the hardest part of writing a novel.
Hugh & Bess is a great historical fiction novel for pro or amateur and at 320 pages it’s an easy one-sit read! (less)
The year is 1588. The Spanish Armada is threatening Elizabeth’s Protestant England, the Duc de Guise is harassing the cross-dressing, Metrosexual Fren...moreThe year is 1588. The Spanish Armada is threatening Elizabeth’s Protestant England, the Duc de Guise is harassing the cross-dressing, Metrosexual French King, Henri and Henri’s mother, Catherine de Medici, is still on the hunt for the Silver Rose.
The aging Catherine is not growing old gracefully and is desperate to find the Silver Rose. Louis Xavier, a necromancer, is Catherine’s last hope and she hires him to go to Faire Isle and to abduct the Silver Rose. Unfortunately for Catherine, she has been played false and Xavier is actually a pirate with no intention of going to Faire Isle. However, fate has another plan in mind.
The Silver Rose, now called Meg, is safe among the Daughters of the Earth on Faire Isle. Ariane, the oldest of the Cheney sisters, heads up this coven of healing women and is busy preparing for the naming of her successor when a stranger (Xavier) washes ashore of Faire Isle. She is quite shocked, to say the least, when it is revealed who this stranger truly is.
Jane Danvers, has been persecuted and exiled for her religious beliefs by Queen Elizabeth and is now living on Faire Isle. Jane feels a strange connection with this stranger from the beginning and offers to care for him while he recuperates. They eventually fall in love. However, the “and they lived happily ever after” part is going to have to wait – Xavier’s rouse has been found out by Catherine and she is one ticked off lady. Now he must do whatever possible to save himself, the Silver Rose and the other women on Faire Isle from The Dark Queen.
Twilight of a Queen is the fifth book in Susan Carroll’s Dark Queen series. While it is not a required to have read the other four before this one, you would really miss out on some good reading and I am ever the neurotic one when it comes to reading a series in order. I do have to say that I was a bit under-whelmed by this one. I found the other four books in the series more entertaining …Twilight of a Queen was more a love story, which is fine, but I wanted more Catherine and more drama!
Best Line: “Steel sheathed in velvet, that is what a woman must be in order to survive.”