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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Book Review: To Be Queen by Christy English

To Be Queen by Christy English
ARC, Paperback, 400 pages
NAL Trade
April 5, 2011

Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Received from Author for Review for HFBRT Event
“The author of The Queen's Pawn delves into the early life of the legendary Eleanor of Aquitaine in her new historical novel.

After her father's sudden death, fifteen-year-old Eleanor is quickly crowned Duchess of Aquitaine and betrothed to King Louis VII. When her new husband cannot pronounce her given name, Alienor becomes Eleanor, Queen of France.

Although Louis is enamored of his bride, the newly crowned king is easily manipulated by the church and a God that Eleanor doesn't believe in. Now, if she can find the strength to fight for what she wants, Eleanor may finally find the passion she has longed for, and the means to fulfill her legacy as Queen.”

In her follow-up to the highly enjoyable The Queen’s Pawn, Christy English brings us back a few years to a young Alienor who is just coming into her own as the up-and-coming Duchess of Aquitaine. We have the great privilege to follow Eleanor from Aquitaine to France, to the Holy Land and finally (at the very end) on to England. This novel allows us to really get a sense of how she came to be the powerful woman we know and love – the one who constantly opposes King Henry in The Queen’s Pawn. I really found myself liking this young Eleanor much more than the hardened Eleanor of later life – she was just so passionate.

I was also allowed the chance to get to know characters that were less familiar to me. Eleanor’s sister, Petra, plays an important role in the running of Aquitaine after Eleanor becomes Queen of France – I didn’t even know she had a sister but I quickly became a fast fan. King Louis was a more complex character than I initially thought. The relationship between him and his wife was interesting to watch develop – it was also painful to watch fall apart. You also get to see what attracted Eleanor to a young Henry of Normandy – he was determined and powerful – how could you not be attracted to him?

One of the strengths of the author in this novel was the ease in which she evokes the senses – sight and smell particularly. It really builds and adds to the descriptions of the world around us. The trip to the Holy Land was nothing like I imagined whenever I would hear that Eleanor went on Crusade with Louis. This trip was less focused on the events transpiring while en route and more on the evolution of Eleanor as a person. Building upon this, Christy develops a total woman in Eleanor – she is not just the stereotyped woman, although you can see where these famous stereotypes come from. We get to see a woman with flaws, but a woman who learns from them and grows.

A wonderful novel – just slightly more enjoyable than The Queen’s Pawn, mostly because I liked this version of Eleanor better. I can’t wait to see what she comes out with next!

Christy English has also written The Queen’s Pawn (you can find my review later this week). You can visit her website for additional information about her books. If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book?

My reviews of other works by this author:

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Here are some choices for purchasing the book: Amazon, B&N, RJ Julia (my fav indie bookstore).

Also going on today as part of the HFRT event:
@ HFRT - "Getting to Know Christy English"
@ Hist-Fic Chick - Christy's Guest Post - "All We Have Left of Her"

Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Kickoff HFBRT Christy English Event!

Today is the first day of the Historical Fiction Blogger Round Table March/April event. The event will run from March 30th (today) to April 5th and will be featuring Christy English and her newest release To Be Queen! As usual there will be reviews, guest posts, giveaways, creative content and more at the Round Table site, The Maiden's Court, Hist-Fic Chick, Historical-Fiction.com, and Historically Obsessed. Please stop by and enjoy the fun!  Be sure to visit the Calendar of Events to find out what is happening on each day.

Here is the schedule for what will be happening here at The Maiden's Court:

March 31st - Review To Be Queen
April 1st - Guest Post by Christy English "Eleanor's Inspiration: William X, Duke of Aquitaine" & Giveaway
April 3rd  - Review Queen's Pawn (Christy's first book)

Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Book Review: I Am the Chosen King by Helen Hollick

I Am the Chosen King by Helen Hollick
ARC, Paperback, 577 pages
Sourcebooks Landmark
March 1, 2011

Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Received from Sourcebooks for Review
“England, 1044. Harold Godwineson, a young, respected Earl, falls in love with an ordinary but beautiful woman. He marries Edyth despite her lack of pedigree, pitting him against his turbulent family and his selfish King, Edward. In France, William, the bastard son of a duke, falls in love with power. Brutal and dangerously smart, William sets his sights on England, finding ambition a difficult lust to conquer.
In 1066, with the old King Edward dying, England falls vulnerable to the winds of fate—and the stubborn will of these two powerful men. In this beautifully crafted tale, Helen Hollick sets aside the propaganda of the Norman Conquest and brings to life the English version of the story of the last Saxon King, revealing his tender love, determination, and proud loyalty, all shattered by the unforgiving needs of a Kingdom. Forced to give up his wife and risk his life for England, the chosen King led his army into the great Battle of Hastings in October 1066 with all the honor and dignity that history remembers of its fallen heroes.”

Helen Hollick’s I Am the Chosen King had a big role to fill in my reading life – this was my first book that revolves around the Norman Conquest of England – and it more than fulfilled my expectations. Most books that broach this subject approach it from the Norman perspective, however Hollick shakes it up by primarily covering the Saxon portion (with some Norman mixed in). As history is primarily written by the victors (and then repeated by subsequent writers) the Saxons and King Harold have had to fight to be heard – Hollick brings them right to the front and center!

I was excited to be immediately engulfed in the stories of some of my favorite characters from The Forever Queen upon cracking the spine of this novel. Queen Emma is back as is Earl Godwin and his wife Gytha. These familiar characters helped to introduce me to the newer main characters of this novel – mostly Harold Godwinson and his hand-fast wife, Edyth. I quickly found myself loving Harold and really all of the crazy Godwin family – even the not so nice ones! In a time when most of the nobility married purely for logistical dynastic reasons, Harold married for love and held on to it until the last possible minute. Set opposite to the Saxons, we have William “the Bastard” Duke of Normandy (and his wife, Matilda). He is a power hungry, ruthless, persistent man who is determined to always get what he wants. I got the feel from this read that the author is writing from a pro-Saxon standpoint – and I found myself being instantly drawn to them as well, and at the same time, really despising William.

I was most impressed with the writing of the actual Battle of Hastings – because, quite frankly, even though I loved seeing the characters stories, this was the part I was most interested in. I found it well written and that the outlooks of both sides in the battle were presented in a fair and well rounded manner. I have noticed that many times battle scenes can be too gory or that I lose interest in the intricacies of the battle – but that did not happen here. There was just enough detail without going overboard. I kept hoping, all the way to the last page, that history would be changed and that the Battle of Hastings would somehow go the other way!

Helen Hollick also has written The Pendragon Trilogy: The Kingmaking, Pendragon’s Banner, and Shadow of the King as well as the companion book to I Am the Chosen KingThe Forever Queen.  You can visit Helen Hollick’s website for additional information about the book. If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book?

You can also watch the book trailer below.

My reviews of other books by this author:

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Here are some choices for purchasing the book: Amazon, B&N, RJ Julia (my fav indie bookstore).


Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, March 28, 2011

Mailbox Monday #68

Mailbox Monday was created by Marcia at The Printed Page (now at its own website).  Mailbox Monday is currently on blog tour and for the month of March it is being held at I'm Booking It.

This will be just a short mailbox for me.

I received another upcoming episode of American Experience to preview - Stonewall Uprising.  Here is the blurb from the American Experience website:
When police raided the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar in the Greenwich Village section of New York City on June 28, 1969, the street erupted into violent protests that lasted for the next six days. The Stonewall riots, as they came to be known, marked a major turning point in the modern gay civil rights movement in the United States and around the world.
I am very unfamiliar with this event (to tell the truth, when I had heard the title I thought it might have something to do with Stonewall Jackson? Very clueless on this end!) so I look forward to seeing this episode.
Did you receive anything in your mailbox this week?

Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Suddenly Sunday - HFBRT March/April Kickoff

Good morning everyone!  Wow this weekend has went fast! - I guess that is what happens when you have to work half of it.  Just a quick Suddenly Sunday this week.

First I want to announce the winner of the India Black Giveaway.  Thanks to all who entered - we had a great turnout!  The winner is...

tired w/ kids

Congrats!  I will be sending out an email for your info.  If I don't hear from the winner within one week I will pick a new winner.

I also wanted to announce the next Historical Fiction Blogger Round Table event that will be starting up this week.  The event will run from March 30th to April 5th and will be featuring Christy English and her newest release To Be Queen!  As usual there will be reviews, guest posts, giveaways, creative content and more at the Round Table site, The Maiden's Court, Hist-Fic Chick, Historical-Fiction.com, and Historically Obsessed.  Please stop by and enjoy the fun!

Also, don't forget there are still two giveaways currently running - both end this week.  The three book Lisa Klein giveaway ends March 31st.  The M.L. Malcolm book giveaway ends April 1st.

Suddenly Sunday is hosted by Svea @ Confessions and Ramblings of a Muse in the Fog.

Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Friday, March 25, 2011

Triangle Shirtwaist Fire Commemoration

On this day 100 years ago the Triangle Shirtwaist disaster struck the heart of the Garment District in New York City.  This would be a ironic culmination of all of the picketing that had been going on for over the last year for safer work environments for these shirtwaist workers.  Triangle was known as one of the safer places, still in need of much work, but if this was safe - I can't imagine how the other facilities were!

Today we take time to remember those lost in this tragic fire.  You can read my previous post - Triangle Shirtwaist Fire: LEARN IT! - for additional information.  If you are in NYC today you may see some sidewalk chalk drawings commemorating the lives lost.  If you happen to hear bells ringing at 4:45 PM this is to correspond when the alarm was sounded for the fire (this is happening in several places across the country).

Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, March 24, 2011

TV Show Review: HBO's Triangle: Remembering the Fire

Triangle: Remembering the Fire
45 mins
March 21, 2011

I have to start this review off by giving major kudos to the producers of this HBO documentary.  They did a phenomenal job!  I had all the faith in the world that they would do justice to this terribly sad tragedy – but I never thought it would actually bring tears to my eyes.  It evoked so much emotion.  If you missed this one – look for it on demand or whatever way you can.  It should not be missed.

A few weeks ago I reviewed the American Experience episode – Triangle Fire.  As I described in my review this was more of a re-enactment/historical rendering of what happened before, during, and after the fire.  This HBO documentary dove more into the human aspect of the fire.  They still discussed the before, during, and after but it was told through stories and memories from decedents of those involved in the fire.  This brought out more of the emotional side of the story and I think it is what drew me to connect with it so strongly.  I thought that both shows were important for show two different aspects of the same event and watching them together really gives you a very complete sense of the tragedy.

A major portion of the show was made up of stories being told by descendents of those who lived the fire.  They were not just descendents of those who survived and those who died (like you would most likely expect) but also they were descendents of a more niche group – the elevator operators who really were heroes, the firemen, the family members who identified the bodies, those who jumped from the windows.  The biggest surprise for me in this whole show was one particular descendent who I never would have expected to have been a part of this, but who I am very glad was – the granddaughter of one of the Triangle Factory owners!  I found myself instantly to put up a wall against her (I initially went into the owner v. worker mode).  While she was happy that her grandfather was not incarcerated for this major tragedy (which I found more in my way to not liking her), she was also very sorry for the victims.  She had my favorite quote of the whole night, “if I had a daughter that had died in that fire, and he wasn’t my grandfather, I would have probably shot him”.  The telling of these stories really brought the story home for me. 

The ending of this film really brings the event right up into the 21st century and the 100th anniversary of this event.  They showed some of the remembrance events that are held every year – including the reading of names, laying of flowers and even showed some of the sidewalk chalk writing that I mentioned in my previous post.  They wrapped it up with a listing of all of those who died.

Overall I thought that this was a wonderful way to remember those who died in this tragedy.  I recommend if you missed this one that you see it.

Here is the trailer for the episode (I couldn’t find any longer clips):

Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

2 Exciting Giveaway Opportunities

I am excited to bring to you two very different (but also very similar) giveaway opportunities - both in relation to author M.L. Malcolm!

The first is an awesome giveaway sponsored by the author herself.

Win a Week at a Mountain Top Retreat
On April 7th one lucky person will win a week’s stay for up to six people at Laurel Edge, a lovely three-bedroom, fully-furnished mountain home located just outside the beautiful resort town of Highlands, North Carolina. Built on twelve tranquil, tree-covered acres atop an imposing mountain ridge, the home boasts breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Hiking, white water rafting and trout fishing are all available close by, as are many fine restaurants.
Enter by pre-ordering Heart of Deception, and sending proof of your purchase to mlmalc50@gmail.com, or by following these instructions for a non-purchase based entry (located about halfway down the page).  I am providing a link to Amazon where you can pre-order the book, or from any other of your favorite stores.

The other giveaway is being held here on The Maiden's Court - for one copy of the book Heart of Deception.  This is one of my most anticipated reads for 2011 so I am excited to be offering it to you.  This giveaway is open to residents of the US and Canada.  Just fill out the form below to be entered.  The winner will be announced April 2, 2011 (this will give you enough time to cancel your pre-order if you should win - book goes on sale April 5, 2011).  

Best of luck in these two great giveaways!

Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Book Review: Wild Romance by Chloë Schama

Wild Romance: A Victorian Story of a Marriage, a Trial, and a Self-Made Woman by Chloë Schama
Hardcover, 272 pages
Walker & Company
March 16, 2010
Genre: Historical Non-Fiction/Biography
Source: Received from publicist for review
“On a steamer passage from France to England in 1852, nineteen-year-old Theresa Longworth met William Charles Yelverton, a soldier destined to become the Viscount Avonmore. A flirtation began that soon blossomed into a clandestine, epistolary affair, ranging from the shores of England to the battlefields of the Crimean War. Five years after their first meeting they married secretly in Edinburgh, and then, at Theresa’s urging, they married again that summer in Dublin—or did they?
Separated by circumstance soon after they were wed, the two would never again live together as man and wife. When Yelverton left Theresa to marry another woman, Theresa found herself having to prove that their marriage had ever existed. Multiple trials ensued, in Ireland, England, and Scotland, and for months their scandal captivated each nation. Newspapers broadcast each detail of the proceedings, songwriters dedicated ballads to Theresa, and novelists such as Wilkie Collins borrowed the courtroom melodrama for their plots. Over the course of the very public ordeal, Theresa lost any chance of a private married life.
In this brilliant debut, Chloë Schama portrays a woman at the forefront of changes that the twentieth century would bring to women’s lives everywhere. Theresa’s story is both a courtroom drama full of steamy intrigue and the chronicle of how one woman made a life for herself as an unmarried author and public speaker in a society that had little space for either. Thrust into the spotlight, Theresa reincarnated herself as “Teresina Peregrina,” traversing the globe and writing about her journeys: she visited the Mormons in the American West, crossed paths with John Muir in Yosemite, and ventured into the far reaches of Asia and Africa, where she spent the last years of her life. Events beyond her control forced Theresa to become a woman of the world, when she would have settled for a world defined by her husband.
In Wild Romance, Chloë Schama unearths the inspiring tale of a woman who held onto her ideals of independence, of self-reliance, and—despite everything—of love, and who never gave up.”
I decided to read/review this book because the title of the book screams SCANDAL – and everyone loves to read about a good scandal!  This was certainly quite the scandal, but the book overall didn’t quite pan out that way I would have liked.
The first half of the book focuses on detailing Theresa’s relationship with Yelverton and then going into the various trials that ensued in Scotland, Ireland and England that were to prove whether these two were actually married or not.  This section of the book I found the most interesting.  Most striking were the legal rights and the differences between a married, single, or an abandoned woman.  Theresa had to tread carefully along these lines in carrying out her case.  The mental characters that I created of Yelverton and Theresa is that they were both, to some degree, crazy.  Theresa was fixated on Yelverton and I wouldn’t put it past her to have made up some things as she went along.  Yelverton, on the other hand, would constantly verbally push Theresa away, but he would always keep coming back – talk about mixed messages!  Reading about these two people kept me glued to the first portion of the book.
The second half I didn’t love much at all and I lost a lot of interest.  The second half focuses primarily on Theresa as a Victorian travel writer following the outcome of her trials.  We follow her through the US National Parks and meet John Muir (as my father would say, the man with the trees!).  I know that travel writing became a big thing in the Victorian days and the idea is somewhat interesting to me, but I think the execution wasn’t spot on here.  The transition from the trial to the travel writing was somewhat awkward and not nearly as exciting.  It also was dominated by more of a description of women travel writers than specifically about Theresa’s travels.  I just found this portion to be more dry and stuffy than the first, which was exciting.
On a side note – there were pictures scattered throughout the book that really helped to break up the text and were much appreciated.
You can visit the author’s website for some additional information about the book.  The paperback edition will be released in the UK in April 2011 – no date is set yet for US release but you can pre-order it on Amazon.
You can watch the video below where Chloe talks about the book
Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Here are some choices for purchasing the book: Amazon and B&N.

Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, March 21, 2011

Mailbox Monday #67

Happy Monday everyone and welcome to another exciting edition of Mailbox Monday!

Mailbox Monday was created by Marcia at The Printed Page (now at it's own Mailbox Monday website) and is currently on tour at a different blog each month.  For the month of March it is being hosted by Laura at I'm Booking It.

This week I received two exciting books in my mailbox - to try and even out the pressures of those ever present bills!

I received one book for review from Sourcebooks - Mary of Carisbrooke by Margaret Campbell Barnes.  I really didn't know too much about this book prior to accepting it - but I have rather enjoyed the Barnes books that I have read, so I jumped on this one.  Here is the blurb:

"The moving, tragic story of Charles I, the last absolute monarch of England, during his imprisonment in Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight. Richly drawn and inspired by the New York Times bestselling author’s own experience living on the Isle of Wight, this dramatic retelling brings to life the cavalier king whom Cromwell deposed. But even more fascinating than the account of royal hopes and misfortunes is the tale of a charming servant girl who is as romantic and tender in love as she is bold and resourceful in plotting the king’s escape."

The second book that I received has been on my wish list forever - and was won from a giveaway at Slice of Life - Outlander by Diana Gabaldon!  Very excited to hopefully get to read this one sometime sooner rather than later.  Thanks Joanne!

What kind of goodies did you get this week?

Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Suddenly Sunday - New HBO Documentary

Good morning everyone.  It has been a few weeks since I have done a Suddenly Sunday post - mostly because I have been very busy - but that is not an excuse!  I am so pleased that the weather is starting to finally warm up around here and I can turn the thermostat down and hopefully have less of a heart attack when the heat bill comes around this time.  Mostly in the 40's around here (last Thursday and Friday in was in the upper 60's!) it is still better than biting cold.  Oh, and today is the first day of Spring!!!!

Yesterday I went to the Old Sturbridge Village Maple Days festival.  It was nice to get out of the apartment and Nick's parents came with us - so that was nice.  And it was really funny because his dad makes maple syrup and candy and sugar and other delicious maple confections - so he was asking all sorts of questions to the re-enactors about the old school methods of sugaring.  A good time was had all around.

Airing tomorrow night (Monday March 21st) at 9:00 PM EST - HBO will be premiering its new documentary - Triangle: Remembering the Fire.  This is set to correspond with the 100th anniversary of the fire this Friday.  I am planning on watching it - and hope you will consider it too (if you have HBO).  I am going to have a review of it up Thursday and will hopefully be able to include some clips - so for those of you that don't have HBO you can still experience it.  I this this will be more of a remembrance show as opposed to what PBS aired last month (my review here)which was more of a recreation of the event.

Hope you are all having a wonderful weekend!

Suddenly Sunday is hosted by Confessions and Ramblings of a Muse in the Fog.

Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Friday, March 18, 2011

Movie Review: Goya's Ghosts

Goya’s Ghosts
The Saul Zaentz Company
113 mins.
Rated: R

This was an interesting movie that is going to be a little difficult to review. The setting for this movie is the Spanish Inquisition immediately following the French Revolution. The setting is realistic while the entire plot of the story itself is fantasy.

The basic plot works like this: Francisco Goya is painting in Spain, the Church thinks his paintings are heretical. Brother Lorenzo steps up and defends Goya and has a portrait painted by him. One of Goya’s models, Ines, is called in by the Inquisitors and incarcerated (her being put to “the question” was executed pretty well)– Lorenzo tries to defend her too, but really makes the situation much worse. Up until this point, the plot mostly made sense, afterward, when it jumps 15 years into the future, it sort of loses its footing. Ines is released from prison, Goya is deaf, and Lorenzo is…sort of flopping around trying to find where he belongs.

It felt like the plot was scrambling around trying to pull pieces together and not doing the best job. By the ending I was confused as to what had happened. I felt like the character of Lorenzo had no consistency to his decisions. As I look back on my notes as I try to write this review, they really don’t make any sense to me at all – and that was my overall impression of this movie.

The acting wasn’t terrible – Javier Bardem plays Lorenzo, Stellan Skarsgard plays Goya, and Natalie Portman plays Ines. I think that the actors did a decent job with what was given to them. I thought that the costuming and make up was very well done – especially Natalie after she is released from prison – time did not treat her well.

I think that the concept for the film was good but the execution and editing left a lot to be desired. I wouldn’t highly recommend this film, but this might be one of those movies that you watch if it is instant download on Netflix or something of that sort. I don’t regret watching it, but it wasn’t something that I loved.

Check out this trailer (it makes it look really compelling which is what drew me in!):

Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Movie Review: From Hell

From Hell
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
122 mins.
Rated: R

Last week I presented a new installment of Two Sides to Every Story featuring Jack the Ripper v. Prince Albert Victor. I happened to come across this film of TV this weekend (which I had actually wanted to see for awhile) and it ties right into that previous discussion. From Hell is a crime/mystery/drama film exploring the famous Whitechapel murders and who may have been the notorious Jack the Ripper.

Johnny Depp plays Inspector Frederick Abberline who has a psychic connection with the murders and is one of the investigators on the case. He leads us through all of the murders and tries to connect the dots. Heather Graham plays Mary Kelly a prostitute in the Whitechapel district – she is one of several women of the night who seem to work together in this movie. I felt that both did decent jobs in their perspective roles.

I was curious prior to watching this film to see what route they would take. As we know there is no definitive answer as to who the Ripper was so there are many theories out there. This movie incorporated bits and pieces of a few of them. The most central is the Prince Albert Victor and Royal Family connection. They address the Cleveland Street Scandal (which Leslie Carroll goes deeper into in Royal Pains) and the build toward the theory of his secret low-born lover and bastard child – they also throw in for good measure the theory of the Prince having a bad case of syphilis. And if you are reading this and saying “she is giving away the whole plot!”, rest assured, I am not. You will really be surprised when they reveal who their Ripper is. It wasn’t really someone that I considered – I was pretty sure they were going to leave it unsolved because they didn’t give a lot of clues throughout. One thing is certain; this is a story of revisionist history for sure. Not only is it based off of a theory but they change some MAJOR plot points that are known to have happened in the Whitechapel murders.

If you are worried about the R rating – it is mostly for one short scene of female nudity and some minor drug use. The way that they depict the murders is mostly with smoke and mirrors, flashes of light and shadow (except for one quick scene that was a little gross).

There were only a couple small things that bothered me. There was a semblance of a romance that felt a little awkward and left unfinished and I thought the very ending was a little ridiculous, but overall I really enjoyed the movie. They did a decent job of presenting much of the story and several of the theories and tying them nicely together – this could have been a real massacre (no pun intended!).

Also, I can’t close out this review without stating that this movie is loosely based off of the graphic novel, From Hell, which I haven’t read, so I don’t know how much of it is based on it.

Check out this trailer:

Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Lisa Klein 3 Book Giveaway!

Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Book Review: To Defy a King by Elizabeth Chadwick

To Defy a King by Elizabeth Chadwick
ARC, Paperback, 544 pages
Sourcebooks Landmark
March 1, 2011

Genre: Medieval Historical Fiction

Source: Received from Sourcebooks for Review
The adored and spirited daughter of England’s greatest knight, Mahelt Marshal lives a privileged life. But when her beloved father falls foul of the volatile and dangerous King John, her world is shattered. The king takes her brothers hostage and Mahelt’s planned marriage to Hugh Bigod, son of the Earl of Norfolk, takes place sooner than she expected. Mahelt and Hugh come to care for each other deeply, but Hugh’s strict father clashes with the rebellious Mahelt. When more harsh demands from King John threaten to tear the couple’s lives apart, Mahelt finds herself facing her worst fears alone, not knowing if she—or her marriage—will survive. 
A brilliant story of a vibrant woman in a tyrant’s world, To Defy a King is another impeccably researched masterpiece from a beloved author.
After reading four of Elizabeth Chadwick’s books I don’t think that there is anything she can do wrong in writing this genre. The characters are wonderful – fleshed out, individual, not stereotypical and graceful. The blend of action scenes and emotional scenes are well balanced. You come away from each of these books wanting more!

To Defy a King is no exception to the above. Even though most of the characters and many of the major events have been present in some way in several of her other books, Elizabeth Chadwick has a way of making them feel fresh and new each time. This is a wonderful quality because you still feel like the characters are familiar but you are getting a new take on them and their world. A perfect case in point – my feelings toward Roger Bigod are very different in To Defy a King than in For the King’s Favor. In King’s Favor, I loved Roger – I thought his romance with Ida was sweet and he was determined to preserve what was his. In To Defy a King I found that his character frustrated me because he seemed to have lost part of what I had loved about him – his connection with his wife. I also loved getting to see more of the Marshall brood – still from an insider perspective, from Mehelt, but she becomes a little of an estranged insider. It was also wonderful to see more of William Longspee – I enjoyed getting to see him grow up in King’s Favor and now we get to see more of his interaction with his half-brothers and how he grows into a man.

Elizabeth Chadwick really knows how to make believable relationships between her characters. I really loved watching the development of the relationship between Mehelt and Hugh. She was a very young girl when they first met and he was several years older. Seeing what they think of each other as time goes on was interesting. The way their relationship unfolds felt so true - even in regard to modern relationships, although we don’t get married quite so young. There is love, passion, frustration, anger, forgiveness, and acceptance.

The author is phenomenal at creating vivid scenes for the reader. When you are reading you will be completely swallowed up by the world and feel that you are right there too. The smells, sounds and visual stimuli are front and center in her writing.

I don’t think I can put in writing how much I enjoy reading these books. These characters are not just people created in an imagination; they feel like flesh and blood.  This book is now my second favorite of the 4 - but I don't think anything will top The Greatest Knight for me.  I’m not sure what the next USA release will be, I think Lady of the English comes out in September, but regardless of what it is I can’t wait to read it!

Elizabeth Chadwick has released many historical fiction books. Recently Sourcbooks has released The Greatest Knight, The Scarlet Lion, and For the King’s Favor You can visit Elizabeth’s website for additional information about her books. Elizabeth also has several blogs devoted to her books – you also might be interested in check out the Akashic Sessions that took place for To Defy a King. If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book?

You can also watch the book trailer below.

My reviews of other books by this author:

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Here are some choices for purchasing the book: Amazon, B&N, RJ Julia (my fav indie bookstore).

Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, March 14, 2011

Tudor's Hidden Object Game

If you haven’t had your fill of the TV show The Tudors, there is a video game for the computer out now. I happened to stumble across this in the store (I didn’t buy it, but thought I should share this).

The Tudors Hidden Object Adventure

Here is the product description: “Political intrigue spans national borders in this historical hidden object game. When King Henry VIII asks you to be his eyes and ears in Europe, you are drawn into a world of deception and murder. As you assume the role of the spy, you will find that even the simplest objects can hold vital clues.”

It looks like the game starts just after Henry has married Jane Seymour. There are mini-puzzles and click and search games. Reviews say that the graphics are good and that it is a lengthy game.  I enjoy this sort of game from time to time - so I might look into this at some point.  So if you enjoy these types of games and love The Tudors, this might be something you want to check out.

Have any of you played this game?

Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Friday, March 11, 2011

Two Sides to Every Story: Jack the Ripper v. Prince Albert Victor

Jack the Ripper v. Prince Albert Victor

As the second post in this Two Sides series I bring you the tantalizing story of Jack the Ripper v. Prince Albert Victor. I had originally heard a theory about this several months ago on a television show about Jack but it has been brought the forefront after reading Leslie Carroll’s newest book Royal Pains. There is a chapter on Prince Albert Victor and Leslie touches on the subject but I wanted to explore it more.

Jack the Ripper
By Tom Merry (Cover page of Puck magazine) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Jack the Ripper is the name that is given to the killer of about five women in Whitechapel London (I say about because there is some discussion as to the number of murders associated with the Ripper). The murders occurred between August and November of 1888. All of the women were believed to have been prostitutes. These women were all killed by strangulation and then had their throats slit. He also took a trophy from the bodies – one time a kidney was taken. He is believed to have had some form of surgical skill from the way these organs were removed. No one person was ever officially found to be the murderer although many, many suspects were brought through.

Prince Albert Victor
By W. & D. Downey (http://www.paulfrecker.com/) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Prince Albert Victor was the son of Bertie, Prince of Wales and his wife, Alexandra (he was thus the grandson of Queen Victoria). There were many scandals and rumors that abounded during his lifetime about him being slow, possibly homosexual, and involved in other situations that had to be hushed up – so why couldn’t he be Jack the Ripper of the Whitechapel murder fame? It is interesting to note that the rumor about Albert being connected to the murders became public in 1962 (also interesting to note, Albert died in 1981 to the flu epidemic, so the rumor was WAY after he died).

One story, by Dr. Thomas Stowell, paints Albert as a person in the late stages of a syphilis infection that caused him to go crazy and commit the gruesome murders, while the royal family tried to hide him away and commit him to a mental hospital. A second theory, by Frank Spiering, claims that Albert could have carried out these surgical techniques because he was good at “dressing deer” and acted out the murders during a hypnotism session with his doctor. The third and most thought out theory was that Albert had gotten a common girl pregnant and it needed to be hushed up. According to this theory, one of the victims was the child’s nanny, another was a case of mistaken identity and that they were all carried out to symbolize a Masonic cause.

All of these rumors have mostly been debunked. Not only was Albert not in London at the time of these murders (and has airtight alibis) but there is no solid evidence showing he had a child with Annie Crook. Spiering asked Queen Elizabeth II to make a statement indicating the whereabouts of Albert during the days of the murders or to open up the Royal Archives – the response was that the Queen was not going to make a statement but he was more than welcome to the Archives – which he turned down.

If you were that adamant about a theory, wouldn’t you have wanted to take a look at the files? Is it possible that it was a cover up and Prince Albert Victor did have some culpability in this crime? Or is it likely that people were just looking for attention – seeing as it was so many years later that Prince Albert Victor’s name was brought up?

Using modern technology new analysis is constantly being done regarding this crime and periodically new evidence appears (because people took trophy’s, just like the Ripper). Someday we may find who the killer was (especially if you believe some rumors that the killer was known and the name was covered up). Will Prince Albert Victor be officially off the hook?

What do you think?

You can read a much more in-depth analysis of Prince Albert Victor as a suspect or view other areas about this crime at Casebook: Jack the Ripper where some of the information used in this post was acquired.

Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Road to Publishing India Black: Guest Post by Carol Carr

As part of the blog tour for her new release India Black, Carol Carr has dropped by with a wonderful guest post on the road to publishing India Black. And what a road it was! Make sure you read to the end of the post for a giveaway of the book! Take it away Carol!

The Road to Publishing India Black

Guest Post by Carol Carr, Author of
India Black

Thank you, Heather, for inviting me to visit your blog.

As you know, India Black is my first published book. But like many authors, I had to write more than one novel before I finally cracked the code to the publishing world. I’d always harbored a desire to write, but I didn’t act on it until my mid-forties, after I’d left a stressful job in a large company. My first novel was about the thwarted ambitions and nefarious goings-on at a huge corporation, which resulted in the CEO being knocked off by a ruthless underling (very Freudian, that - I must have been exorcising some demons). Even I could tell the manuscript reeked, and I didn’t bother to try to find an agent.

I wasn’t deterred by the quality of my first novel. I just figured I’d learned a lot about the craft and started a second. I chose to write another mystery, about a young female deputy sheriff in the Ozarks, subsisting on starvation wages and fighting the scourge of meth labs that proliferate there. I grew up in the Ozarks (yes, that part of Missouri so favorably depicted in “Winter’s Bone”), and I know the people and places well. This novel was good enough to find an agent, but not a publisher.

I knew I was making progress as a writer, but I hadn’t found a project that really fired my imagination until India Black appeared in my life. I’ve been asked how I came to choose the owner of a brothel in Victorian London as my heroine, and the answer is that she chose me. I’ve always enjoyed reading about smart, savvy protagonists, and I wanted to create one myself. But India just parachuted into my life, fully-formed and raring to go. We share some characteristics (or personality defects, depending on your point of view) which makes her voice come naturally to me, but she is much braver and adventurous than I would ever be.

She nearly died a natural death, however. I was halfway through the book when my house burned down. Staring at the smoking remains the morning after the fire, I wasn’t thinking of India at all. When I’d had some time to survey the damage, I was sure that India was gone. The thought of trying to recreate the first 150 pages of the book seemed overwhelming, in view of everything else we had to do to get our lives back on track. I was shocked when the salvage company delivered a disk with my half-finished novel, downloaded from the hard drive of my laptop.

It was eighteen months before I could turn my attention to finishing the manuscript. I was determined to wind it up quickly. I worked through June and July of 2008, and by August of that year, I was sending query letters to agents. Having gone through this experience with my second novel, I anticipated months of waiting. Instead, I got an email within a week of sending out the queries, asking to see the rest of the novel. The woman who requested it read the entire manuscript overnight on the day she received it, and I had an agent. I was lucky. My good fortune continued. An editor at Berkley Prime Crime purchased the novel, and I signed a publishing contract for two books.

I think the longest year of my life was 2009, while I waited for the publication date of January, 2010 to roll around. Oh, there were things to do, of course. I had to write a second book (due out later this year), edit the first, learn the mysteries of marketing, and other things, but it was still a long wait. I admit to making a beeline to my local bookstore to see how India Black looked on the shelf (sort of insubstantial, next to Caleb Carr’s books). The thrill hasn’t worn off yet, but I’ve had to focus on the next stage of the process, which is waiting to see if the sales figures will justify another contract with the publisher (I’m optimistic, thanks to the wonderful response among book bloggers). I can’t complain at all about the publication process – my experience has been charmed.

You can learn more about Carol and India at www.carolkcarr.com.

I have one copy of India Black up for grabs for those of you in the USA and Canada (sorry to my other international followers). Fill out the form to be entered.

Other stops on the India Black Tour:

*March 8th and 9th: Let Them Read Books
*March 14th: Deb's Book Bag
*March 19th: Historical Tapestry
*March 15th and 16th: Chrisbookarama
*March 16th and 17th: One Book Shy of a Full Shelf
March 17th: The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader

* Guest post, interview, and or giveaway

Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

At Long Last! New George R. R. Martin Book!

To all of my fellow Song of Ice and Fire series fans:
I was so excited this morning to see an email in my inbox from Borders saying that the 5th (and long awaited) book in the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin will be released on July 12th!  I know we have seen pub dates come and go but as the author says on his website: "barring tsunamis, general strikes, world wars, or asteroid strikes, you will have the novel in your hands on July 12."  So get ready for A Dance with Dragons!! (I'm super excited even though I have to read books 3 & 4 first).  I couldn't wait to get home and post this news!

Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Book Review: India Black by Carol K. Carr

India Black by Carol K. Carr
Paperback, 304 pages
Berkley Trade
January 4, 2011

Genre: Historical Fiction/Mystery

Source: Received from Author for Review during Blog Tour
“When Sir Archibald Latham of the War Office dies from a heart attack while visiting her brothel, Madam India Black is unexpectedly thrust into a deadly game between Russian and British agents who are seeking the military secrets Latham carried. Blackmailed into recovering the missing documents by the British spy known as French, India finds herself dodging Russian agents—and the attraction she starts to feel for her handsome conspirator.”
I had no idea what to expect when I picked up this book. I had not read an HF/Mystery book before and my experience with novelized prostitutes or “ladies of the night” was next to nothing. I didn't know if this was going to be bawdy or what. If you are having these same thoughts when regarding this book, let those fly away because this was a hilariously funny read. Yes, much of it takes place in a brothel, but the comedy that ensues in the process is awesome.

India Black is a wonderful narrator for this story – she is frank, open, and to the point. She speaks right to the reader and tells you just what is going on. I loved how she is retelling this story and adds in little tidbits here and there that you wouldn’t have know if this story was being told as it was happening. One of the strengths of the author is her descriptions, especially of her characters. Let me show you one of my favorite examples about a street urchin you will grow to love from early in the book:
“In summer, he attracted more flies than a Cairo camel market, and in winter you could just tolerate being in the same room provided the fire was low and the window cracked open” (30).

I also loved French, a British spy, he is so dashing if he is a little cold.  But he will certainly grow on you too.

Carol Carr is also superb at keeping the story moving along full speed ahead. You learn what you have to of back story but you don’t get bogged down in it. It really is a lively romp across England – by carriage, sleigh, foot, and boat! One of the ways she keeps you reading is the cliff hangers at the end of almost every chapter – for someone who likes to stop at the end of the chapter it is impossible to put down because you don’t stop for breath – must…keep…reading…

This is a light weight, fun, mystery. This would be perfect to read between two books that are heavy or very emotional because it lets you put your guard down. I am interested in reading book 2 and possibly beyond (if it is picked up for that). This would be a series I would always enjoy reading.

There were a couple of minor, trivial things that bothered me as I read, but the journey was so fun that by the time I reached the end and thought back over the book, I really can’t remember what they were! So they can’t have been that troubling.

You can visit Carol Carr at her website http://www.carolkcarr.com/ or visit her blog for additional information about the book (like a book 2 coming out in October? or that there might even be 6 books?) In lieu of an excerpt, how about reading this short blog post written by none other than India Black about Valentine’s Day (a little late I know, but I couldn’t resist. It will give you the feel of the book).

Here are the other stops in this blog tour:

*March 8th and 9th: Let Them Read Books
*March 14th: Deb's Book Bag
*March 19th: Historical Tapestry
*March 15th and 16th: Chrisbookarama 
*March 16th and 17th: One Book Shy of a Full Shelf
March 17th: The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader

* Guest post, interview, and or giveaway

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Here are some choices for purchasing the book: Amazon, B&N, RJ Julia (my fav indie bookstore).


Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court