After reading and loving Leslie Carroll's Royal Affairs, I just HAD to get my hands on her follow up non-fiction book, Notorious Royal Marriages: A Ju...moreAfter reading and loving Leslie Carroll's Royal Affairs, I just HAD to get my hands on her follow up non-fiction book, Notorious Royal Marriages: A Juicy Journey Through Nine Centuries of Dynasty, Destiny, and Desire! And, it did not disappoint! You see, Leslie has this great sense of humor that resonates throughout the book, making you laugh out loud and wishing high school history was taught this way! I, for one, would've stayed awake for sure! In Notorious Royal Marriages, Miss Carroll covers infamous Royal couples throughout history; from the tempestuous Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine to the 21st century love triangle between Princess Diana, Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles. What's really great about NRM, is that the chapters are nice and condensed, making it easy to pick up when you've only got a few moments and also, it is easy to jump around to certain chapters depending on what piques your interest. And even though some of the couples are well known, Leslie adds the most interesting tid-bits. For example, Mary Tudor (Henry VIII's youngest sister) had a wardrobe worth $30 million dollars in today's money when she was sent to marry King Louis XII. Yowza!! Can we say DIVA? She puts Paris Hilton to shame! The only thing that I think would bring a lot to the book is pictures. Not only because I am aesthetically stimulated, but also because I think it would be nice to have a visual reference when reading about a particular couple. Yours truly highly recommends Notorious Royal Marriages to all!
FTC: my copy of Notorious Royal Marriages was provided by NAL Publishing for review. (less)
I am one of those people that had no idea there was a REAL girl named Alice behind Alice in Wonderland…that is, until I read a gem of a novel written...moreI am one of those people that had no idea there was a REAL girl named Alice behind Alice in Wonderland…that is, until I read a gem of a novel written by a new voice on the scene, Melanie Benjamin. And I am so glad that her book Alice, I Have Been was my introduction to this very fascinating and endearing woman whose childhood will be forever connected with Wonderland. Alice Liddell was the daughter of the Dean of the prestigious college, Christ Church at Oxford and was raised there along with her siblings. She was the wild child compared to her compliant sisters, independent to their dutiful, always getting in trouble and underfoot, precocious to a fault. Her inquisitiveness drove adults to exasperation. All but one. Charles Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll, was a math professor at Oxford and a close friend of the Liddell family and would often take Alice and her two sisters out on day trips, where he would tell them stories and take their pictures. Though he was friendly with all three, it was Alice that was his favorite. It was on one such day trip that the story for Alice in Wonderland was born. Unlike his other stories, Dodgson, at Alice’s begging, wrote it down and the rest is history!
In Alice, I Have Been Melanie Benjamin takes us beyond Wonderland and examines the life of the girl behind the story and the woman she became. A woman who ended up trapped by the very childhood she, at one time, never wanted to give up. We watch Alice as she grows up, as she finds love, but also loss. We watch as she attempts to come to terms with her notoriety, to find out who she really is inside, away from the girl in the book. There is also a bit of a dark aspect to this novel, which I think the author covered tastefully. We know that years after the publication of Alice in Wonderland the Liddell family and Dodgson had a falling out, but no one is sure why. I’d have to say that Benjamin’s conclusion seems plausible, if not a little disturbing.
Benjamin’s writing is impeccable and while immersed in it, you forget that it’s not auto-biography…that’s how close to Alice you feel. Every character has their own distinct personality and you feel for all of them. Now, I usually find it hard to read a story which has a child narrator, but not so in this case. In the beginning of the novel, young Alice had me giggling out loud and I just fell in love with her instantly!
So, please, if you listen to anything I have to say this year, please let it be this….READ ALICE, I HAVE BEEN!!!! (less)
Like a lot of the world, I’ve been captivated by the story of Romeo and Juliet ever since the first time I read it. I was drawn in by the all-consumin...moreLike a lot of the world, I’ve been captivated by the story of Romeo and Juliet ever since the first time I read it. I was drawn in by the all-consuming passion these two characters felt for each other and the sad circumstances that led to their end. I remember thinking to myself that when I grown up I hope to have the chance to feel such an awe-inspiring love for another person. And once I met my husband, I knew what it was to feel that. It’s exhilarating, but scary at the same time!
In O, Juliet Robin Maxwell tackles her own version of Shakespeare’s golden couple – bringing new characters and plots into the mix. Juliet Capalleti is the 18 year old daughter of a prominent Florentine silk tradesman, and about to be married to a hideous soon-to-be business partner of her father’s, Jacopo. While loath to let his daughter go, this is the only way he can think of to save the family business. Jacopo, on the other hand, is quite happy with the situation – he gets to be part of Florence’s most famous silk producer and he also gets a wife, whom he plans on using as a baby-making machine, while still enjoying his mistresses.
One night, while attending her best friend’s party, Juliet meets Romeo, a member of the Capalleti’s rival family – the Monticecco’s. Drawn together by their mutual love of prose, in particular, that of Dante Alighieri, the teenagers fall in love and begin to meet in secret - their affection for each other growing with each meeting. As the time for Juliet’s wedding to Jacopo draws closer, they become more and more desperate to find a way to be together.
All in all, I found O, Juliet to be a very pleasant and mellifluous read. Maxwell is an excellent author – her descriptions of Florence and her ability to bring uniqueness to each character is a real telling of her talent. Juliet is sweet, feisty, intelligent young woman, in love with the written word and not afraid to go after what she wants! And Romeo, oh Romeo, is such a charming and gentle soul…add into that a romantic poet and you’ve got one irresistible guy! Now, I do have one critique about this book – it wasn’t long enough! I wanted more!
O, Juliet is a great novel to curl up to by the fire, sipping hot cocoa (cause chocolate is an aphrodisiac), with a little Barry White playing in the background!
Chocked full of passion, love and poetry, O, Juliet would be a welcome addition to any literature lover’s bookshelf!
In Royal Affairs, author Leslie Carroll, chronicles the many scandalous infidelities of the English Monarchs. From Henry II in the 12th century to the...moreIn Royal Affairs, author Leslie Carroll, chronicles the many scandalous infidelities of the English Monarchs. From Henry II in the 12th century to the current heir to the throne, Prince Charles, Royal Affairs is an entertaining excursion through the lives of our favorite salacious sovereigns!
Due to the fact that royal marriages were for solidifying political alliances between countries and strengthening royal families and NOT designed with love in mind, there comes the unfortunate by-product of infidelity. For the most part, neither the bride nor groom wanted each other and were just doing their royal duty. And infidelity is not only on the part of the the Kings, but Queens also.
Royal Affairs covers staples such as Edward II and his two lovers – Piers Gaveston and Hugh le Despenser, Henry VIII and his gaggle of mistresses, Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley and Mary, Queen of Scots and Earl of Bothwell.
Also included were a few interesting tidbits that I didn’t know prior:
Every English monarch from 1461 is descended from Katherine Swynford, the mistress and eventual wife of John of Gaunt. Mary II was in love with a woman in her youth. And one thing I found particularly amusing was that King James, who lent his name to the English-translated King James Bible, was a homosexual.
Carroll lends her incredible sense of humor to each story and it makes for a much more engaging read. Non-fiction can be stuffy and fact-filled, but not so with Royal Affairs! For example, she compares the 2 mistresses of George I to the ugly step-sisters in Cinderella and speaks about the fabulous upper “assets” of Caroline of Anspach – wife to George II.
With concise and succinct chapters, Royal Affairs is great to pick up when you have a few minutes or equally awesome to devour in one sitting – trust me when I say, it’s not easy to put down! I heartily recommend to anyone who likes a juicy story!
Many thanks to Leslie Carroll for sending me this fantastic read! Be on the lookout for her upcoming release called Notorious Royal Marriages! (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.”
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)
Sculptured from one of the earliest tellings of the legend of King Arthur, Geoffrey Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain, author Anna Elliott we...moreSculptured from one of the earliest tellings of the legend of King Arthur, Geoffrey Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain, author Anna Elliott weaves an enchanting and spell-binding tale of Trystan and Isolde in her debut novel Twilight of Avalon.
Isolde’s family tree is quite bewildering. She is the daughter of Gwnefar, who betrayed Arthur with Modred, Arthur’s son with his step-sister Morgan. After Isolde’s birth, Gwen flees to a convent where she dies. Her father Modred is often away fighting his father Arthur for the throne, so she is left in the care of her grandmother Morgan. Morgan is a known healer and seer, though some call her a witch and she passes on her knowledge to Isolde, though the gift of sight has all but left Isolde as the novel opens.
Isolde’s husband and the High King of Britain, King Constantine, has been murdered and rather than give way to grieving she is plotting a way to save her country and herself from the clutches of the new High King, Lord Marche, whom she believes brought about Con’s death. She meets Trystan after they are both able to escape from Marche and combine forces if you will to warn others of Marche’s plans on deceiving Britain to the Saxons. Along their journey they naturally become close and as flashes of Isolde’s memories that she has hidden for so long start to resurface, she begins to remember her past.
This is actually my second time reading Twilight of Avalon and I didn’t think it possible, but I liked it even more this time around! I think the first time I was so eager to keep those pages turning and know what was happening next and this time I was able to slow down and savor it more. Anna Elliott is a remarkable storyteller and has created a world that I could get lost in on a daily basis! Not only are Isolde and Trystan fantastic characters, but I also adored Trystan’s loyal friends Kian and Hereric. With great writing, a strong woman protagonist, a hunky, but broken hero and one really nasty villain you’ve got the perfect formula for one fabulous book!!!(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)
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)
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)
Grace Plantagenet, bastard daughter of King Edward IV of England is only mentioned once in history - in a account written first hand about the small p...moreGrace Plantagenet, bastard daughter of King Edward IV of England is only mentioned once in history - in a account written first hand about the small party seen escorting the Dowager Queen Elizabeth Woodville’s funeral barge. This lack of the Grace’s historical background provides the author, Anne Easter Smith, complete control over her heroine, which is quite unique in a historical fiction novel (if it’s a GOOD historical fiction novel, that is!).
Grace spends the first 11 years of her life in an abbey, when one day Dowager Queen Elizabeth Woodville summons her to court. England is in much turmoil at this time - King Edward IV is dead and the marriage between he and Elizabeth has been declared invalid and their children made bastards, based on the facts now coming to light of Edward’s previous betrothal. Edward’s brother, King Richard III wears the crown, the two York princes and heirs to the throne are in the tower for “safe keeping” and Henry Tudor is threatening to invade. When Henry Tudor succeeds with his invasion and King Richard III dies in battle, the Tudor Dynasty is born. Edward and Elizabeth’s daughter, Bess, reluctantly marries the usurper and surprisingly they end up very happy together. They will eventually produce four children: Arthur, Mary, Margaret and the infamous, Henry VIII.
As his hold on the crown is not very secure, Henry is constantly fearful and paranoid. He suspects Elizabeth Woodville of plotting against him and sends her to Bermondsey Abbey. Grace accompanies her out of respect and feelings of gratitude, although she never thought she’d be once again in an abbey. This part was really interesting to me – we get to see a softer side of the formidable Woodville woman and even though she’s every bit of a Royal snob, she is a real human being underneath and I actually grew to like her a bit! The proper and moral Good Queen Bess and her less than moral, impetuous sister, Cecily bring amusing moments to the novel and provide a sense of family among the siblings. Grace is the diplomat between these two very strong personalities.
Stories of a young man calling himself Richard, the lost duke of York, begin reaching England. No one knows what to believe – is it the lost prince or a boatman’s son from Tournai named Perkin Warbeck (sp) pretending to be Richard? And if he is just a boatman’s son, how does he know French & Latin? Grace’s inquisitive nature takes her on a mission to find out the truth – for her and for her family. In the end, nothing is quite what it seemed to be.
Not only is The King’s Grace about the mystery of Perkin Warbeck, but of Grace - a girl who is trying to find her own path in life and the obstacles she overcomes to get there. Sweet natured and one for the underdogs, Grace is a pleasure to read about and I truly enjoyed this story. I’m no expert on The Princes in the Tower, so I can’t really comment on Smith’s explanation of the Perkin/Richard debate, but her conclusion doesn’t seem too out there and was believable for me. And the happy ending was a nice change of pace from your usual historical fiction ending. (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)
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)