Never before has a book entranced me the way The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman has. I’ve literally just finished reading this book and I can’t get my m...moreNever before has a book entranced me the way The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman has. I’ve literally just finished reading this book and I can’t get my mind to settle down. It’s almost as if I’ve ran a race, my adrenaline is pumping and my heart beating a mile a minute, scenes from the book keep going around and around in my head. My urgent need to tell everyone about this beautifully haunting book is taking over all other thoughts, so I need to get this review out before I explode!
Alice Hoffman is the author of Practical Magic and The Red Garden, plus many, many other novels but The Dovekeepers is her first historical fiction work. Hoffman was inspired by a trip to Jerusalem, when she visited a place called Masada, a fortress built by Herod the Great that is situated on top of a large mountain, where a group of nine hundred Jews in the first century CE, who had fled their homelands from the invading Romans converged together to escape the slaughter of their people.
The Dovekeepers is the story of four women – Aziza, the girl-warrior; Shirah, the Witch of Moab; Yael, the lioness; and Revka, the revenging mother – who came to Masada after their homes and towns were destroyed, each arriving a completely different woman than who they had been before the invasion. They tell the stories of their own life, prior to and including their time in Masada, up to that fateful day and each story is more haunting and profound than the next.
Hoffman’s writing is among the most exquisite I have ever read! She has expertly woven a tale of tragedy and hope, hate and love, magic and human nature and I was mesmerized by every word. This book should come with a warning as it has the power to thoroughly enthrall a reader, causing them to block out the world around them completely. My household chores were abandoned, husband and child ignored, I was just absorbed into the pages of this novel that everything else took a backseat to the fascinating story enfolding in front of me.
I cried when I finished the novel, not only because of the sad fate of the people of Masada, but because I will miss these four bold and unyielding women. I will carry their story in my heart forever. (less)
No one does medieval historical fiction quite like Elizabeth Chadwick, and her latest novel, Lady of the English is just one more example of her enorm...moreNo one does medieval historical fiction quite like Elizabeth Chadwick, and her latest novel, Lady of the English is just one more example of her enormous talent for bringing the past to life!
Matilda has just returned to England after the death of husband, the German Emperor and is welcomed by her father, King Henry I and his wife, Adeliza. The two women become fast friends and a true companionship begins. Before King Henry’s death he makes his noblemen pledge their allegiance to his daughter Matilda as heir, but when the time comes they defy his wishes and her cousin Stephen assumes the throne. Matilda won’t back down without a fight and that’s exactly what she gives him. Factions soon form and the battle is on. Poor Adeliza is caught in the middle of the two sides as her new husband is fighting for Stephen. Adeliza knows that Matilda is the rightful ruler of England, but she loves her husband and wants to be loyal to both.
The characters of Matilda and Adeliza were portrayed wonderfully and Chadwick gives the reader such insight into each woman that when you finish the book you feel as if you’re saying goodbye to a friend. Chadwick’s impeccable research and knowledge of the medieval time period is, as always, very evident and her use of Akashic Records makes her novels that much more so and gives her that extra edge. I cannot recommend Elizabeth Chadwick novels enough, if you haven’t checked her out yet you are really missing out! (less)
When I read and reviewed Gillian Bagwell’s first novel, The Darling Strumpet, last year I knew she would be an author to watch, and boy was I right! G...moreWhen I read and reviewed Gillian Bagwell’s first novel, The Darling Strumpet, last year I knew she would be an author to watch, and boy was I right! Gillian’s sophomore novel of the woman who helped King Charles II escape from the grasp of his enemies and return to his rightful place on the throne of England is an extraordinarily engrossing read!
At twenty-five years of age, Jane Lane still lives at home, is unmarried and unsure of what she wants in life. All she knows is that she isn’t ready to settle down and become a wife to a man that she doesn’t feel passion for. When the exiled and penniless Charles Stuart lands in England to fight for his crown Jane’s royalist family supports his cause and her brothers take up his fight. She’s envious of the freedom their gender enables them and desires more than anything to be able to fight for her king, so when the opportunity arises and Jane is the one person who can help Charles escape from Cromwell’s army, she doesn’t hesitate to accept the challenge. Risking her life and the lives of her family Jane and her cousin race Charles to safety - sidestepping danger and capture along the way.
Charles would not be Charles if he wasn’t charming a lady out of her chemise and Jane succumbs most willingly to his magnetic allure, and a passionate love affair between the two begins, ignited by the dangerous circumstances they find themselves.
I have read quite a few HF novels on Charles II, but none that dealt with this part of his life or his time with Jane Lane, so this was quite a treat for me. Jane was a fabulous heroine and the sacrifices she made to restore Charles to the throne are what earned her a place as an important figure in the history of England and I am so glad to have read about her. Gillian did a wonderful job of bringing Jane and Charles’s story to life, and it’s such an important story to tell because it shows us that despite the limitations of the female gender in the 18th century a woman can and did affect the history of the world.
My congratulations to Gillian for another fabulous historical fiction novel! I loved The September Queen, it had everything that I look for in a novel – drama, romance, danger and adventure. I devoured it in two sittings and my copy is now sitting comfortably on my keeper shelf. Highly recommended! (less)
Two words come to mind when I think of Becoming Marie Antoinette by Juliet Grey… c’est magnifique!
The first book in Juliet Grey’s trilogy was a fascin...moreTwo words come to mind when I think of Becoming Marie Antoinette by Juliet Grey… c’est magnifique!
The first book in Juliet Grey’s trilogy was a fascinating look at the formative years of Marie Antonia, from a young princess of Austria through her transformation into the future Queen of France. Most of the books I’ve read cover the time when she is already queen, so it was really interesting to go back to the beginning and see how it all came to be. I was quite surprised to read all that went on behind the scenes to make this marriage happen and the many obstacles that Marie had to overcome to be good enough for Louis, including a grueling dauphine “boot camp”! Yet, despite all the training, she is ill-equipped to navigate the treacherous halls of the French court and as such, is easy pickings for those eager to exploit her naiveté for their own means.
I found Becoming Marie Antoinette to be a very entertaining read, one that I was hard pressed to put down and am waiting (ever so impatiently) for book two in the trilogy, Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow. Very highly recommended!(less)
The newest installment of Barbara Kyle’s Thornleigh series, The Queen’s Gamble, is a great historical mystery novel set in the early reign of Elizabet...moreThe newest installment of Barbara Kyle’s Thornleigh series, The Queen’s Gamble, is a great historical mystery novel set in the early reign of Elizabeth I. Readers meet up again with the Thornleigh family, but this time it’s the Thornleigh’s daughter, Isabel, and their son-in-law, Carlos, who are in the spotlight. Isabel has been blackmailed by the queen into aiding the rebels in Scotland who are fighting the French (and thus keeping them too busy to invade England) and her husband, Carlos, is called upon by duty to assist his lord, the French king. Spouses now find themselves on either side of a war neither of them wants and their small family is now at the mercy of a queen who will do anything to save her country. Beyond the religious strife running rampant through England and the threat of an invading French army, there is also inner-conflict within the Thornleigh family that makes for some interesting reading!
This is my second foray into the Thornleigh series and I have found both books to be really enjoyable. All four novels can be read as stand-alone novels, and while I don't feel I missed anything with not reading the first two books, I still wish that I had more knowledge on the background of the characters.
Historical mysteries are great escape reads for me, fictional characters set during real historical events, and Kyle has a real talent for writing page-turning action. All in all, I found The Queen’s Gamble to be a fun and entertaining read, jam packed with intrigue and adventure and I am looking forward to the next book in the series! (less)
Eleanor of Aquitaine seems to be the historical “it” girl of 2011 and adding to the bevy of books on her is Anne O’Brien’s novel, Queen Defia...more3.5 Stars
Eleanor of Aquitaine seems to be the historical “it” girl of 2011 and adding to the bevy of books on her is Anne O’Brien’s novel, Queen Defiant. This is truly one of the reasons why I love the historical fiction genre: you can read so many varied books on any one person and they all bring something new to the table.
In Queen Defiant, O’Brien chronicles Eleanor’s life from the death of her father, through her time as Queen of France and her unhappy marriage to the ineffectual and overly-pious King Louis. I have mixed emotions about this book, while Eleanor is portrayed as a strong- willed and determined woman, which I have always seen her as, at times she comes off a bit too haughty and kind of bitchy, which didn’t do much to endear her to me. I envision my Eleanor as a bit more subtle, and she’s definitely more outspoken here than I’ve seen her in other novels, though there were scenes that warranted it. That Louis could be so maddening! Louis’ character was pretty spot on from what I’ve read of him previously, though his piousness is taken to a whole new level. The fact that Eleanor managed to produce two children from this marriage seems to no less than a miracle and a testament to her tenacity.
Like any famous person, Eleanor has her share of rumors and scandals surrounding her and in Queen Defiant there is no shortage of drama! Not being a scholar on Eleanor I couldn’t tell you whether or not any of these are true, but they were interesting to read about to say the least! One qualm I had with this book was that I wished there had been more of a setting up of the scenes; it seemed that the characters were here and then they were there and it made the read a little disjointed in my opinion.
But, all in all I enjoyed the new perspective of Eleanor. Her story is one that I will never tire of and if you’re like me then I suggest you check out Anne O’Brien’s novel! (less)
In my quest to gobble up anything related to Queen Elizabeth I, I jumped at the chance to further my obsession and check out Bethany Latham’s book, El...moreIn my quest to gobble up anything related to Queen Elizabeth I, I jumped at the chance to further my obsession and check out Bethany Latham’s book, Elizabeth I in Film and Television: A Study of the Major Portrayals.
From the first film to feature Elizabeth, the silent movie Les Amours de la Reine Elisabeth with the Divine Sarah Bernhardt portraying the famed monarch to the more recent Elizabeth: The Golden Age, with the stunning Cate Blanchett as the Virgin Queen, Latham covers the map of Elizabeth portrayals. Elizabeth I in Film and Television explores the major Hollywood productions, television mini-series and even a few of the smaller roles, such as Judi Dench in Shakespeare in Love and Tim Burtons’ Alice in Wonderland.
Readers are given a back-stage pass and a behind the scenes look at each work. Bethany delves into the actress portraying Elizabeth, the historical accuracy of the film, status of the film industry, entertainment factor, people’s sentiments of Elizabeth at the time of production, picture making capabilities of the day, and the director’s vision/purpose of the movie. I was seriously impressed by the amount of research and at how thorough and in-depth her analysis was and have since began a mission to watch every movie covered in the book. For a non-fiction work I can tell you that this did not read dry at all! I had an inkling that I would enjoy the read, but I was quite surprised on how absorbed I became in it and not only because of Elizabeth, but even learning about the actresses, directors, the film industry in general and the history of picture making was fascinating!
So for those of you like Bethany and me, who continue to still be fascinated by Elizabeth and share a love of historical & period films, you will not want to miss this excellent read! (less)