Those familiar with Shakespeare’s Macbeth will recognize from this story the characters of Banquo, Fleance and the Three Weird Sisters. While they setThose familiar with Shakespeare’s Macbeth will recognize from this story the characters of Banquo, Fleance and the Three Weird Sisters. While they set the stage, the protagonist throughout most of the narrative is Walter Stewart—beginning with his early life as a Welsh outcast, to his glory days as the King of Scots’ confidante. Malcom III’s defeat over Macbeth, William the Conqueror’s Battle of Hastings and the subsequent uprisings in Northern England are among the action filled pages.
This story is a perfect introduction to 11th century Scotland, England and Wales (and even a bit of Brittany), with minute descriptions of the kingdoms and their people and ways of life. I tend to read and review books with a female protagonist, but had no trouble emphasizing with Walter and his plight. Anyone interested in the events of the 1066 Norman invasion of England will find a detailed account, with particular eloquence regarding battle scenes that even those not inclined to war novels will appreciate. There is a bit of romance, never overly described, and a host of admirable characters. Walter’s transition is the most remarkable facet of the novel, and I would liken him to Elizabeth Chadwick’s William Marshal from The Greatest Knight and The Scarlet Lion. I was also intrigued to meet several characters mentioned in Jean Plaidy’s Norman trilogy....more
Inspired by Titian’s famous painting, The Venus of Urbino, this is the story of Roman courtesan Fiammetta Bianchini as told by her dwarf companion, BuInspired by Titian’s famous painting, The Venus of Urbino, this is the story of Roman courtesan Fiammetta Bianchini as told by her dwarf companion, Bucino Teodoldi. Together they flee the sack of Rome in 1527 and head to Fiametta’s mother’s house in Venice. Upon arrival they find the house empty and their funds exhausted, and so must hastily come up with a scheme to launch Fiametta’s “services” to the wealthy Venetians. A healer is employed to restore the courtesan’s beauty while Bucino makes important connections about the city.
Once Fiametta is established, the story turns from her plight and centers on the hearler, Elena Crusichi, also called La Draga. While there isn’t a particular historical event highlighted, other than the small view of the sack of Rome in the beginning, there are numerous minor characters and mentions of note, including the painter Titian (Tiziano Vecellio) and the writer Pietro Aretino. La Draga’s story becomes haunting near the end, and though the book didn’t end as I’d have guessed, it was beautifully done.
I listened to the abridged audio version, though followed along in my paperback copy, reading the bits and pieces left out. The narrator did a wonderful job in making Bucino sound noble and intelligent, though his Aretino was a bit loud. I wouldn’t say this novel is an introductory type read, but does give a nice description of Venice and the surrounding islands. I enjoyed it for its quirky and endearing characterizations, and the twist near the end that ties up loose strings....more
A unique mixture of fact and fiction, this volume contains 14 short chapters on Queen Elizabeth I’s relationships with the various men in her life—froA unique mixture of fact and fiction, this volume contains 14 short chapters on Queen Elizabeth I’s relationships with the various men in her life—from her cold and distant father to her trusted councilors and, of course, the well-documented round of suitors. While some chapters give a brief history and descriptions of life at court, others are dedicated to a character, including a bio as well as a vignette. These fictionalized short stories display an insightful scene between the Queen and the man in question. Also included is a discussion on what the term “Virgin Queen” meant in Elizabethan times and the significance of the Queen’s astrological sign, Virgo—a link to the author’s full-length novel, Virgin and the Crab. A brief mention of Cecil’s son-in-law, Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, piqued my interest, as I lean toward the Oxfordian side of the Shakespeare authorship debate. This is a great resource for those looking for a short but informative read with an unusual twist....more
At the close of the opulent Belle Époque era in Paris, Eva Gouel makes her debut as a seamstress/designer at the glamorous cabaret Moulin Rouge, whereAt the close of the opulent Belle Époque era in Paris, Eva Gouel makes her debut as a seamstress/designer at the glamorous cabaret Moulin Rouge, where she first spots Pablo Picasso in the audience. Another meeting at an art exhibit furthers their acquaintance, and they begin a tête-à-tête that blossoms into a deep and inescapable devotion.
It is a struggle for Eva to accept love from a man she so revers, and she constantly questions his sincerity, for she feels less than confidant trying to fill the goddess-like shoes of Picasso’s last love, Fernande Olivier. This insecurity, coupled with the cold reception from many of the Montmartre set of artists and poets, flaws Eva’s happiness, but Picasso’s creativity flourishes under her adoration and care. As the coming war threatens their livelihood, a personal crisis looms that will define Picasso’s analytic cubism era and forever change the artist’s views on love and loss.
The story is so tremendously detailed that readers are transported to early 20th Century Paris, featuring such names as Moulin Rouge’s Mistinguett, Henri Matisse, Sarah Burnhardt, and Gertrude Stein. Picasso’s paintings are described, not only in technique, but with the artist’s feeling in each piece, perfectly setting the tone of the narrative. This is a story that will spark an interest in an era and bring to life Picasso’s intriguingly allusive love, Eva Gouel/Marcelle Humbert, who is not easily found in historical records. Highly recommended for those interested in art history, the Belle Époque era and fictional biographies!...more
The second in Wilcox’s Doc Holliday trilogy, this installment follows the legendary dentist-turned-outlaw from Galveston, Texas to Tombstone, ArizonaThe second in Wilcox’s Doc Holliday trilogy, this installment follows the legendary dentist-turned-outlaw from Galveston, Texas to Tombstone, Arizona in a series of adventures. Dr. John Henry Holliday doesn’t court trouble, but it seems to find him in every town, from Texas to Colorado and Kansas to the New Mexico territory. He continually tries to set up a respectable office, but his hot-headed Southern sensibilities usually get the better of good judgment, landing him in one legal battle after the other. The state of the government during the Reconstruction Era is tenuous, causing many men to turn to gambling or other illegal means to make a living. Doc, while not robbing banks or trains like the James clan, breaks the strict Texas laws on drinking and gambling, with gun fights added into the mix. His fragile health also causes concern, frequently aggravated by the dusty terrain.
Doc’s love life is no less complicated than the former book, Inheritance, as he still holds a candle for his cousin in Georgia, Mattie. Kate, the actress he met in St. Louis, comes back into his life, but underlying animosities serve in constantly pulling them apart.
Fans of the movie Tombstone, with Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer, will appreciate the presentation of the foundation of their friendship, and even gain some insight from vague lines in the film. Along with Wyatt Earp, many of the other lawmen and outlaws make an appearance, creating a connection between the parcels of dirty, pioneer towns featured in the book to the setting of the movie in Tombstone, Arizona.
While Inheritance introduces us to a Southern gentleman ready to take on the world to prove himself to his family, Gone West send’s John Henry through the motions that allow him to experience defeat, acceptance and redemption—finally giving him closure as to his flawed boyhood view of life. The final book in the series, The Last Decision, promises to be an exciting and much-anticipated conclusion to this illuminating biographical saga....more