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Monday, January 30, 2012

Giveaway of By the King's Design by Christine Trent

I have the wonderful opportunity to offer a giveaway of 1 copy of Christine Trent's new release, By the King's Design to one lucky reader INTERNATIONALLY!. Last day to enter the giveaway is February 11, 2012.  Enter your information in the form below.

Here is an excerpt:
"Annabelle “Belle” Stirling inherited the family draper shop from her late father, only to have it sabotaged by her ne’er-do-well brother, Wesley. Belle travels to London to seek redress, and while there, the Prince Regent, future King George IV, commissions her to provide fabrics for his Royal Pavilion. As Belle’s renown spreads, she meets handsome cabinetmaker Putnam Boyce, but worries that marriage will mean sacrificing her now flourishing shop. 
When Wesley plots to kidnap the newly crowned King, Belle finds herself entangled in a duplicitous world of shifting allegiances, where every choice could have unexpected consequences for her future, her safety, and her kingdom…"

To follow the rest of the HFVBT tour for By the King's Design visit the website.

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Book Review: By the King's Design by Christine Trent

By the King’s Design by Christine Trent
ARC, Paperback, 384 pages
Kensington Publishing Corp
January 31, 2012

Genre: Historical Fiction, Regency

Source: Received from Author as part of Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour
“Strong-willed Annabelle Stirling is more than capable of running the family draper shop after the untimely death of her parents. Under her father’s tutelage, she became a talented cloth merchant, while her brother Wesley, the true heir, was busy philandering about Yorkshire. Knowing she must change with the times to survive, Belle installs new machinery that finishes twice the fabric in half the time it takes by hand. But not everyone is so enthusiastic. 
Soon, riled up by Belle’s competitors, the outmoded workers seek violent revenge. Her shop destroyed, Belle travels to London to seek redress from Parliament. While there, the Prince Regent, future King George IV, commissions her to provide fabrics for his Royal Pavilion. As Belle’s renown spreads, she meets handsome cabinetmaker Putnam Boyce, but worries that marriage will mean sacrificing her now flourishing shop. And after Wesley plots to kidnap the newly-crowned King—whose indiscretions are surfacing—she finds herself entangled in a duplicitous world of shifting allegiances. 
Painting a vivid portrait of life in the British Regency, Christine Trent spins a harrowing tale of ambition, vengeance, love, and complex loyalties against the dynamic backdrop of the early Industrial Revolution.”

This third outing from Christine Trent again brings us into the life of a young craftswoman - this time a draper. Belle Stirling has to push back against the opinion that a woman should not be in charge of a business as well as the undercurrents that are swirling around in society. Belle has to become her own woman and manage her own shop while also becoming one of the drapers who is working on the Prince Regents new pavilion.

This was my first Regency read and up until this point I wasn’t even sure what that exactly meant. This was a great introduction for me as I felt that through Christine Trent’s pen I was able to get to know the Prince Regent (and ultimately King George IV). I found out that I didn’t really like him, although at the same time during the interactions he had with Belle he didn’t seem quite so boorish. The issues that the Prince should have been facing were well detailed as were all of his mistresses and passions.

It is impossible to talk about By the King’s Design without bringing comparisons to A Royal Likeness and The Queen’s Dollmaker. I loved the nods to both of these books that the author included within this novel. Claudette Laurent has a small role in this book and a few of the events from A Royal Likeness are mentioned. It was a nice treat to the readers of these books. I didn’t find Belle as compelling of a character as Claudette or Marguerite from her prior books. The two prior heroines were more street smart and their own women, while Belle seemed to rely on the men in her life too much for my liking. She seemed to be clueless to the things going on around her most of the time.

As for the other characters in this story – I really enjoyed Wesley, Belle’s brother. He inherently finds trouble everywhere he goes and gets mixed up in some interesting situations. Put, the cabinet maker, was quite the gentleman who I think every girl would be happy with. There is also a famous author who makes her acquaintance with Belle and that was a great surprise. I will let you figure out who for yourself.

I love how Christine Trent includes some lesser known craft professions within her books – this time cabinetmaking and drapery. I found myself wishing for a few more details about the fabric shops and drapery while I felt comfortable with the amount of cabinetry information included.

Overall this was another enjoyable, quick, and compelling read from Christine Trent. I can’t wait to see what she brings to us next.

Christine Trent also has written The Queen’s Dollmaker and A Royal Likeness. You can visit Christine’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?

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).


You can follow the rest of Christine’s blog tour by visiting the Historical Fiction Virtual Blog Tours website.  You can also follow the tour on Twitter with #BytheKing'sDesignVirtualTour.


Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Mailbox Monday #97

This week I received two books for review, both from their respective publishers.

From Simon & Schuster I received The Crown by Nancy Bilyeau and from Penguin Group I received The Golden Hour by Margaret Wurtele.

I am looking forward to reading both of these.

What did you receive this week?

Mailbox Monday is on a monthly blog tour and for the month of January it is being hosted by At Home With Books.

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Weekend Cooking: Tatiana's Buttermilk Pancakes with Grated Apple

This week's Weekend Cooking comes from my newly acquired Tatiana's Table by Paullina Simons.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this title this is a companion piece to The Bronze Horseman Trilogy.  Food is a very important aspect of this book series and Paullina Simons has included many of the recipes of dishes mentioned in this unique cookbook.  She also pairs excerpts from the books with the recipes so you know the context they came from.

I have never encountered a recipe book based on historical fiction novel so I was very excited to find this one.

This week we made Tatiana's Buttermilk Pancakes with Grated Apple.

Tatiana's Buttermilk Pancakes with Grated Apple
4 Servings

1 egg yolk and 2 egg whites
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
4 Tbsp. butter, melted and cooled, plus some for greasing
2 cups buttermilk
2 cups flour
1 tsp. vanilla extract or fresh lemon juice
1 apple (Granny Smith or Cortland work best)
Maple syrup for serving

1) In a bowl, beat the egg yolk with the sugar and the salt.  Add butter and then alternate amounts of buttermilk and flour.
2) Grate one apple, mix with the buttermilk mixture.  Add vanilla or lemon juice.
3) In a medium bowl, whip the egg whites until fluffy (like making meringue) and fold carefully into the batter.
4) Preheat griddle and grease with butter or cooking spray.  Drop small amounts of batter onto the pan leaving 2 inches of space between each.  Cook about 1 minute on the first side and 30 seconds on the other side.
5) Place pancakes in the oven at a low temperature (approx. 200 degrees) while cooking the rest of the pancakes to keep warm.

I have never in my life made pancakes from scratch, it is usually just add water to the complete mix and you are good to go, so this took a lot more time, but the outcome was very good.  They were not as fluffy as regular pancakes, but were more moist.  My boyfriend compares them to a thicker version of a crepe.  I finely diced the apple (I used Cortland) rather than grated it because the last time I grated an apple in pancakes it was completely overwhelmed by the batter.  I also elected to use the vanilla rather than the lemon juice.  There was already a slightly bitterness from the buttermilk and I think the lemon might have made them too bitter.  The recipe got thumbs up all around.

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and and food or cooking related post can participate.

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Game Review - 7 Wonders

My boyfriend and I love playing board games and one that we have loved recently is 7 Wonders - and it is history related too! Today Nick is going to share a guest review of the game with us today! Take it away...

Title:  7 Wonders
# of players:  2-7
Play time:  30 minutes
Age range:  10+

Board games have come a long way from Scrabble and Trouble.  There are games based on so many different themes that someone with any kind of taste can find something they enjoy.  I have recently started to enjoy ancient cultures and ancient history, and 7 Wonders fits perfectly!

7 Wonders is a card game for two to seven players.  No matter how many players you chose to play with, the game usually only lasts about 30 minutes.  This makes it a great option for both small and large groups of people.

In 7 Wonders, each player takes on the role of a leader of an ancient civilization.  As such, they strive to build up their cities, make bold advances in science and technology, bolster military might against their neighbors, and construct their magnificent wonder.

Just a few of the available civilizations that players can rule - Olympia, Babylon,
Halicarnassus and Ephesus

The first thing that you will notice about 7 Wonders is the beautiful artwork on the cards.  Each card represents a structure and each structure is vibrantly detailed and colored.  As more and more cards get played, the table that you are playing on starts to bloom with color.  The game is just beautiful to look at, and although that doesn't say anything about the game play, it definitely goes a long way to making you want to play the game.

Speaking of game play, at the heart of 7 Wonders is a mechanic called "card drafting".  Each player is dealt a hand of seven cards, and they each choose one to play.  This card is laid in front of the player and the structure it depicts is considered to be built in their civilization.  Each player then passes the remainder of the hand to the player on their left, and everyone chooses another card from their smaller hands.

An example of a hand in 7 Wonders

The fact that you can only choose one card from each hand means that you need to make some very tough decisions.  Do you take that blood-red military card that will help you defend your city, or do you take that science card to become more technologically advanced?  The cards that you don't choose will be passed to your neighbor, and you may not get another chance to play them.

This mechanic is quite enjoyable, and gives you the feeling that you really need to weigh the pro's and con's of each card.  Each type of card (red military cards, green science cards, blue civilian structures, and purple guild cards) give their own type of benefit, and victory can be attained by using any combination of them.

As the game progresses, players put structures they have built in front of them,
growing their empires

In terms of theme, 7 Wonders is great in some aspects and O.K. in other aspects.  As noted earlier, the artwork on all of the components is beautiful, and this makes playing cards really feel like building the structures that they are meant to represent.  The player boards that represent the civilizations are especially detailed and are a joy to look at.  The one thing that distracts from the theme of the game is the drafting mechanic itself.  Selecting buildings and passing the remains of the hands along may be a great strategic element, but does not necessarily capture the essence of managing an ancient civilization.

All things considered, 7 Wonders is a very enjoyable experience.  The rules are easily understood and the game plays quickly enough to be accessible to all, regardless of your gaming experience.  The components are of excellent quality and the game feels very tight and balanced.  

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Movie Review: The Princess of Montpensier

The Princess of Montpensier
Paradis Films
139 mins.
May 16, 2010
Rated: PG-13

This is a beautiful French foreign film that was originally screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 2010. It is based on a short story by Madame de La Fayette published in 1662. It is believed that the events in the story are based on real events of people the author knew, but was changed to a different time period from that when it was written.

This is a romantic drama. The general plotline is that Marie, the Princess of Montpensier, is in love with the Duke de Guise, not her husband the Prince of Montpensier. There is also the Prince’s close friend, the Count of Chabannes who is in love with Marie as well. What will she do? Choose to learn to love her husband as everyone says she must or abandon him for the arms of the man she has loved since childhood? All of this is set within the reign of Catherine de’ Medici as the Queen Mother and encapsulates the Huguenot/Catholic drama and the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre.

The scenery is absolutely gorgeous. None of it is computer generated and it was all filmed on location. One of the things that I loved was getting to see how difficult riding long distances was – whether on horseback or in a carriage – it didn’t look fun. The costumes were GORGEOUS! I loved the colors and the styles and especially her hats! Her green riding outfit toward the very end of the film was my favorite.

The war/fight scenes were very well done. You could feel the emotions of the characters – although I really think that the Prince could have been a lot more than whiny. I thought that Melanie Thierry (Marie), Gregoire Leprince-Ringuet (Montpensier) and Gaspard Ulliel (Guise) were wonderful. I didn’t really love Raphael Personnaz as the Duke de Anjou – the character seemed a little creepy to me. I loved listening to the French dialogue – although I had no idea what it meant unless I read the subtitles.

A beautiful film and full of drama and intrigue.

Check out this trailer:

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Spotlight on the Massachusetts Historical Society

Today I wanted to take the chance to highlight the Massachusetts Historical Society. I have been doing research on the First Ladies as part of a class for my Masters program and I have used their website a lot. They have so much wonderful information on their website and I hope to get to their actual facility someday.

The Massachusetts Historical Society is located in Boston, Massachusetts. It has been around since 1791 and holds many great works of national significance, including all of the Adams’ family papers. They are not only a research library where you can go to access their many documents but they host many historical events there as well. This past week they hosted an event that I so wish I could have attended, Fifty Years and Two Continents: The Diaries and Memoirs of Louisa Catherine Adams. You can check out their schedule of events here. They have Stacy Schiff, author of Cleopatra: A Life coming in to speak on May 3rd if you are in the area and can attend – make sure you reserve online! They have prominent historians and speakers attend their lecture series. They also host changing exhibitions.

May of their resources are available online – those are the sources I have been using the most. Among their online collections there are: The Adams Digital Collection (letters between John and Abigail Adams, John Adams diaries, and autobiography of John Adams), Diaries of John Quincy Adams (all 14,000 pages!), The Thomas Jefferson Digital Collection (hundreds of pages of documents), Coming of the American Revolution (primary sources and essays), Antislavery Images (documenting Massachusetts role in the slavery issue), African Americans and the End of Slavery in Massachusetts (manuscripts and printed works about the lives of African Americans in Massachusetts), Massachusetts Maps, Maps of the French and Indian War, Siege of Boston (manuscripts/firsthand accounts of the experience of the Siege of Boston at the start of the Revolution), Abraham Lincoln: Selections from the MHS Collections, Battle of Bunker Hill exhibit, Photographs of Native Americans, and much, much more. I encourage you to check out some of these online sources, and you may see some of them pop up again on this website because they are just so cool!

MHS also publishes books, the most recent being Thomas Jefferson’s Granddaughter in Queen Victoria’s England. One of the editors will be having a book talk and signing at MHS on February 2.

They also have an official blog: The Beehive, if you wanted to check it out and have a Twitter account @JQAdams_MHS where they post a line a day from John Quincy Adams’ diaries.

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, January 23, 2012

Mailbox Monday #96

This week was the most awesome mailbox for me!!!

I finally received Tatiana's Table by Paullina Simons! I'm sure that many of you are aware that this book can be very hard to find. I actually spent all day on a Saturday in December trying to find this book. I found it on UK Amazon for $60 (with shipping and US conversion) which I didn't want to pay because that was ridiculous. In the US it was being listed for around $212 which I certainly wasn't going to pay! Then I found Abbey's Bookshop located in Sydney, Australia. They had the book and with shipping and US conversion it was $36 - which I found to be completely reasonable! So if you are looking for this book, check them out and also for any hard to find needs. Great customer service and fast shipping!  Also, my Weekend Cooking next Saturday will be from this book!  Stay tuned.

I also received another book I was excited to get - Look to the East by Maureen Lang.  This is the first book in a trilogy (of which I had books 2 and 3) about The Great War (WWI).  It is also Christian Fiction, but have yet had the chance to determine how much Christian Fiction it is.  I have heard good things about this series.  Thank you Holly @ Bippity, Boppity, Book!  This was my prize from winning the Chivalrous Deeds Challenge.

That's it for me, what about you?!

Mailbox Monday is on a monthly blog tour and for the month of January it is being hosted by At Home With Books.

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Weekend Cooking: The Chicken Curry Event

I didn't do a Weekend Cooking post last week, so this dish we made almost 2 weeks ago now. We chose a chicken curry dish from the Provisions and Politics cookbook. Similar to a couple weeks ago when we made a French dish, we have never made a curry dish before either, so it was interesting. I have a few adjustments I would make to the recipe for a second go around!

I have to admit, I have NO IDEA how to relate this recipe to Sarah Polk or anything historical. I have stretched my mind every way to try to come up with some connection, but to no avail, we just wanted to make the chicken curry.

The Chicken Curry Event
6 servings

1/2 cup unbleached flour
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3 Chicken breasts, boned and split
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 Onion, minced
2 Green bell peppers, chopped
3 Garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbsp curry powder
1 (15 oz) can stewed tomatoes
1 (15 oz) can Cream of Coconut
Tabasco to taste
Worcestershire sauce to taste
1 cup raisins or currants

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
2) Mix the flour with salt and pepper in a shallow dish. Coat the chicken with the flour mixture. Brown the chicken lightly on both sides in 3 Tbsp of the butter. Remove chicken to a baking dish, reserving the pan drippings.
3) Heat the remaining 2 Tbsp butter with the pan drippings. Saute the onion, peppers and garlic until onion is tender. Stir in the curry powder. Cook for 1 minute stirring frequently. Stir in the undrained tomatoes and cream of coconut.
4) Bring mixture to a simmer, stirring frequently. Season with Tabasco and Worcestershire sauces. Stir in currants or raisins. Spoon the curry mixture over the chicken. Bake covered for 45 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.
5) Serve over hot cooked rice, cashews, banana chips, chopped apples, mango chutney, toasted coconut, chopped scallions, or other condiment of choice.

OK, first of all I want to share an important lesson learned from this cooking experience about Cream of Coconut. I had never worked with this ingredient before so I had no idea what to do with it and the can offered no directions. I bought the Goya brand, you can find it in the International Foods section of your grocery store. When you open the can it looks like there is a 1 inch thick layer of wax that looks un-edible and then a liquid portion making up most of the can. Apparently that waxy substance is the cream part. After spending time online, I think you are supposed to use this part as well - I just threw it out because I thought it was wax to protect the liquid inside. Those of you that have used this are probably laughing at me, but neither of us had any idea what to do with this ingredient.

Also, I would probably use only 1 bell pepper next time, unless you love green peppers.  We used 1 1/2 and it felt like all I was eating was peppers, and I don't like them THAT much.  We also substituted dried cranberries instead of raisins, as we already had them at home and they worked great.  Overall, it was a great dish.  We used the 3 Tbsp of curry it indicated and it was just a little spicy, but if you like more spice feel free to add more.

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and and food or cooking related post can participate.

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Friday, January 20, 2012

TV Show Review: The Royal Diaries Elizabeth I

The Royal Diaries: Elizabeth I – Red Rose of the House of Tudor
Scholastic Productions
30 Mins
November 4, 2000

HBO and Scholastic (an odd partnership if there ever was one) partnered up to create three ½ hour episodes based on the popular Royal Diaries series. This was the second episode in the series. This episode is based on the book Elizabeth I: Red Rose of the House of Tudor.

If you have read the books, you know they are written as diaries – the episodes are set up the same way. Elizabeth is narrating the story and there are segments where she is shown writing in her diary. I thought this was one good way of tying the book to the episode. I did read the original book the episode is based on but it was so long ago I don’t know how closely they stayed to it. I do intend to reread the series at some point.

We get to see how Elizabeth deals with trying to live outside of the shadow of Anne Boleyn. We also get to see her opinion on the many wives of Henry VIII. She goes through the age old, “divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived” song, but it was so funny. The relationship between her and Princess Mary is super antagonistic. The episode certainly makes it out that Mary = bad and Elizabeth = good. And of course there is a young Robin Dudley following Elizabeth around like a lost puppy.

This would be a fun show for kids to watch. This episode features the youngest cast, the characters are right around 10 years old. The history is not at too high of a level for young adults to grasp and there are funny, kid focused events too – like searching for the ghost of Katherine Howard.

As this is only a half hour episode, a very limited story is shown – primarily the events right before the death of Henry and the attempt to have Katherine Parr done in. There is a voiceover at the end that tells what happened to Mary, Elizabeth, Edward and Katherine Parr. I thought the acting was good, the scenery was well done and would certainly pass for a child – hard core history enthusiasts might find many faults but as an introductory tool I think it was well done.

You can watch the entire episode on Youtube, which I have linked below for your viewing pleasure.

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Virtual Field Trip: American Museum of Natural History

I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you all a resource that might be interesting if you are a teacher or have school aged children or have enjoyed the books by Brian Selznick.

Scholastic has created a website that is a virtual field trip the to American Museum of Natural History in New York City.  Your tour guide for the trip his Brian Selznick.  There is a pertinent connection between the two, in case you thought this was just a random association.  Selznick has written two young adult books, The Invention of Hugo Cabret and his newest release Wonderstruck.  His novel Wonderstruck is set in the museum and prominently features the exhibits that he shows you in the virtual tour.  The exhibits featured are: the Wolf Diorama, the Ahnighito Meteorite, and the Giant Anopheles Mosquito.

For teachers, there are wonderful resources, teaching aids, and classroom activities to teach these books.  Scholastic describes these books as great ways to bring social studies, science and art to life.  For those who live far from the museum and may not have the chance to get there, this is an introductory tour.  It's interesting to watch whether you are a student or an adult.

Below is the complete tour of the museum.

Hope you enjoy the tour and have possibly found two new books for yourself or your children.

More about Brian Selznick's books:

The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Orphan, clock keeper, and thief, Hugo lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station, where his survival depends on secrets and anonymity. But when his world suddenly interlocks with an eccentric, bookish girl and a bitter old man who runs a toy booth in the station, Hugo's undercover life, and his most precious secret, are put in jeopardy. A cryptic drawing, a treasured notebook, a stolen key, a mechanical man, and a hidden message from Hugo's dead father form the backbone of this intricate, tender, and spellbinding mystery.

Ben and Rose secretly wish their lives were different. Ben longs for the father he has never known. Rose dreams of a mysterious actress whose life she chronicles in a scrapbook. When Ben discovers a puzzling clue in his mother's room and Rose reads an enticing headline in the newspaper, both children set out alone on desperate quests to find what they are missing.

Set fifty years apart, these two independent stories--Ben's told in words, Rose's in pictures--weave back and forth with mesmerizing symmetry. How they unfold and ultimately intertwine will surprise you, challenge you, and leave you breathless with wonder. Rich, complex, affecting, and beautiful--with over 460 pages of original artwork--Wonderstruck is a stunning achievement from a uniquely gifted artist and visionary.

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Audiobook Review: Mr. President Vol 1

Mr. President Vol 1
Unabridged, 10 hr.
Radio Archives
November 2011

Genre: Radio Show, History, Drama

Source: Received from Radio Archives as part of Solid Gold Reviewer Program at Audiobook Jukebox
"Mr. President" , a dramatic series that premiered over ABC Radio on June 26, 1947 and was heard until September 23, 1953, established its novel premise pretty much from the first broadcast: it dramatized weekly events in the lives of the various men who at one time held the highest office in the land, the Presidency of the United States of America. Created by Robert G. Jennings, "Mr. President's" 'hook' was that during each episode, the name of the President was withheld until a brief epilogue at the program's end. It became a challenge, then, for listeners to identify the subject of that week's drama...though students and scholars of American history probably had an advantage over the average listener by sifting through the clues frequently inserted in the scripts.

While this is an audiobook, it’s not at the same time. It isn’t an audio version of any book you will find in print. It is an audio production of a radio series that aired from 1947-1953. The 20 episodes on this production were aired from 1949 to 1950. I have always enjoyed listening to old time radio shows and this one was just wonderful as well.

One of the things that I loved about this production was the concept. Each episode is 30 minutes and presents an event in one of our President’s lives. Some of these events are very well known and some are a little more obscure, but all happened while they were President. It was very challenging and fun to not know who the President was throughout the episode and to try and guess by clues given – the name of his wife or children, other politicians, events that were taking place, etc. Some were easy, I knew John Adams within the first 5 words of the episode, but never could figure out Chester A. Arthur. Of the 20 presented, I didn’t eventually guess 5. It is sort of like a scavenger hunt.

Just like a radio show it is a full production. You have a different actor for each character within the show and all kinds of sound effects. It certainly kept your attention.

One of the added interesting pieces was that the commercials were still included in the production and I found that I loved them! There are just two very short commercials within each episode and they are nothing like the commercials today. There were segments for giving blood to the Red Cross, sending C.A.R.E. packages to the troops and refugees of the war, being welcoming to neighbors of all races/religions, etc. I think they were better than many commercials today.

There was one thing that I didn’t like about the collection. One of the episodes, the first episode, is included twice. I think this was included this way because they were showcasing the entire season of the show, but it wasn’t interesting to me to listen to an episode again. The allure of “who is the President” was gone and I found I just skipped past it.

Overall this was a wonderful production and I hope that they release more of these collections.

Here is a preview of the audio.

You can purchase the Mr. President Vol 1 collection as a CD set or digital download at the Radio Archives website.  I don't think it is available on other sites.

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Book Review: Hood by Stephen R. Lawhead

Hood by Stephen R. Lawhead
Book 1 in The King Raven trilogy
Paperback, 512 pages
Thomas Nelson
April 8, 2008

Genre: Historical/Fantasy Fiction

Source: Personal Collection
“For centuries, the legend of Robin Hood and his band of thieves has captivated the imagination. Now the familiar tale takes on new life, fresh meaning, and an unexpected setting. 
Hunted like an animal by Norman invaders, Bran ap Brychan, heir to the throne Elfael, has abandoned his father's kingdom and fled to the greenwood. There, in the primeval forest of the Welsh borders, danger surrounds him—for this woodland is a living, breathing entity with mysterious powers and secrets, and Bran must find a way to make it his own if he is to survive. 
Like the forest itself, Hood is deep, dark, and at times savagely brutal—yet full of enchantment and hope. Internationally-acclaimed author Stephen R. Lawhead has created a lyrical rendering of a time-honored story that will lead you down strange pathways into another time and place.”

I cannot get enough of various tales of Robin Hood and his faithful gang. Every author puts their own spin on the story and Lawhead is no different. Lawhead takes the gang from the forests of Sherwood to Wales in the end of the 11th century and puts us in the middle of the tensions between the Welsh and the Franks.

As much as I have always loved Hood tales sent during the reign of Richard II this setting felt more organic and I grew to love it. In taking advantage of this unique setting, the names of our heroes and villains have changed. While you have to think a little more to figure out who is who their attributes and actions will make the connections for you. All of Lawhead’s characters are well developed and he adds his own personality traits to those of our favorite characters.

One thing that was added into this book that I was extremely grateful for was a pronunciation guide for the Welsh words. I found myself referring to this reference time and time again. He also provides a great historical/author note explaining why he made the choice of setting that he did. His reasoning made a lot of sense to me and has led me to think maybe the story of Robin Hood evolved from a much earlier culture.

This story was not without its problems though, despite the interesting setting. The beginning and the end of the story moved quickly and I found myself engrossed in the story and the pages flying by. However, the middle was much more of a quagmire for me. There is very little action in this section compared to both the beginning and end – this is due to a lot of character growth and development in Bran. While this development was extremely important to the decisions Bran makes in the last 150 pages, I found myself having to put the book down after only a few pages because it was so boring. Once you get through this section the story take back off again.

I really enjoyed the time period the story was set in as well as the history that goes along with it. I have not had too much exposure to this time period. The characters were great and overall a good story with the feel of traditional Robin Hood tales. I am looking forward to reading more by this author and finishing the trilogy.

Stephen R. Lawhead also has written books 2 and 3 in The King Raven trilogy, Scarlet and Tuck as well as many other historical/fantasy fiction books. You can visit Lawhead’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?

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 © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Fashion of the First Ladies

One of the things that people think of when the topic of First Ladies is broached is the inaugural gowns. And who can blame them, some of them are quite beautiful? I have found some wonderful resources online regarding First Lady Fashion, so if you can’t make it to the museums you can check it out on the web.
Inaugural Gowns - Carter [L] and E. Roosevelt [R]

The Smithsonian Museum of American History in Washington D.C. has had an exhibit on First Lady inaugural gowns for quite some time, but in recent years has added more substance to the exhibit beyond the beautiful fashions. Since 1912 they have been asking each First Lady to donate a dress that represents her, with Helen Taft being the first in that tradition. It is now a popular media event. 1964 was the first year that the Smithsonian held their public event where the First Lady attended the presentation – Mamie Eisenhower began this tradition. The short video below is one of the many documenting current First Lady, Michelle Obama, donating her Inaugural Gown to the Smithsonian.

To be sure, they have gowns and other fashion accessories from earlier First Ladies, all the way back to Martha Washington. There is some fashion accessory to represent each administration. Not every item represents a First Lady, but a person who acted as hostess (sometimes if there was not a living wife, a daughter or niece would take over the role). There are 24 gowns on display and 11 are inaugural gowns. You can see all of the gowns and accessories here.
Accessories - Monroe [L], E. Wilson [B], Cleveland [T]

As a general rule, the Smithsonian only displays one gown per First Lady, and it has tended to be the dress from the first inaugural ball if the President was in for 2 terms. The second dress is typically displayed at the individual President’s library. You can read more about the Tradition of the Gowns at the Smithsonian here.
Evening Gowns - Washington [L], Madison [C], Lincoln [R]

Another great place to check out First Lady fashion is at the National First Ladies’ Library in Canton, OH. There will be another post in the future about taking a tour of the museum so keep an eye out for that. The National First Ladies’ Library recently acquired miniatures of the First Ladies inaugural gowns. These were originally created as a promotional piece for the perfume White Shoulders and they were donated to the Museum. Here is a slideshow of the pieces.

The below video takes us behind the scenes at the Smithsonian as they prepared to put the dresses back out on display in 2010. There are some historical tidbits about the different dresses provided as well.

Hope you have enjoyed learning about the fashions of the First Ladies.

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Mailbox Monday #95

I know this is a day late, but I still wanted to share what I received this week as I had a pretty good mailbox.  I received 4 books.

The first was a book I had originally borrowed from the library for my research project but decided it would be a good reference book to use to better understand the Siena Research Institute's First Lady poll results - Rating the First Ladies by John B Roberts II - purchased from Amazon.

For the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour for Christine Blevins I received The Turning of Anne Merrick from the publisher.  I'm excited to read this one!  Keep an eye out for the tour, my dates are at the end of February.

Using part of the gift card I got for Christmas for Barnes and Noble I picked up a copy of Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang by Chelsea Handler.  I have loved all of her books so far so I can't wait for the chance to dig into this one!

The final book I received finishes off my Little House on the Prairie Series - Old Town in the Green Grove by Cynthia Rylant.

What did you receive this week?

Mailbox Monday is on a monthly blog tour and is being hosted by At Home With Books for the month of January.

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, January 9, 2012

Interview with Anne Clinard Barnhill

Today I have the opportunity to host a tour stop on the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour for Anne Clinard Barnhill's freshman release At the Mercy of the Queen.  I had the chance to ask her a few questions and have the opportunity to share them with you today.

You have written a memoir, poetry, and a book of short stories among other things. How was writing this novel, your first, different from writing those other types of literature?

It was quite different--I had no idea what I was doing in many ways. The short story collection was the culmination of twenty year's work; the memoir was a story I had wanted to tell for a very long time and I knew what happened, of course; the poetry is also comprised of writing that sort of poured out of me over time. The novel was something I'd been thinking about for a very long time, but I had never written historical fiction before, so that was a challenge. And for me, just maintaining tension for 400 pages was different and, frankly, hard. The shorter forms of the story/poem come more easily in lots of ways. But, the novel allows you more time and space for development--I guess there are pluses and minuses to each form. I love reading novels and really like delving into writing them. I love being alive, but I have only this one life--by writing novels, I get more than one life--and also get the same by reading them.

Many people say that there has been an oversaturation of the market in the past few years with Tudor books. What sets your book apart from the sea of others on a bookstore shelf?

I think my story is different because of the family connection to Madge Shelton. Because of that, I've been doing research on the Sheltons for many years. I hope my own love for the people and the time will be transferred into the book and others will pick up on my enthusiasm--I hope that gives the book a life of its own.

I haven’t read any books featuring Madge Shelton as the main character. What was it about her that made you want to tell her story?

Several things. First, the fact that my grandmother told me about our kinship to the Sheltons started my whole obsession with the Tudors. And, I had read several historians speculate that Anne Boleyn put her cousin, Madge, up to seducing Henry so he wouldn't become interested in Jane Seymour. That idea sort of made me think about why someone would want to set up a husband with a person of their own choosing--kind of like Yoko Ono setting John Lennon up with May Pang--I can't seem to get my mind around that sort of thing. Nor can I understand why someone would go along with it--that was the question I had when I started the book. I think writers write to make sense of the world and each book begins with a question...That was my question--why would people behave like this?

What other time periods/places intrigue you as a writer? Whose story would you just love to tell?

Oh, I've got tons of stories I'd love to tell! I am interested in the Arthurian legend (which has been done to pieces!) and the American Civil War and post-Civil War period in the South. One of my students found a letter written in the 1880's from a woman in a mental institute in West Virginia, where I grew up. I've been wanted to tell that story for a very long time. I'm interested in women's stories because history has erased many of their stories--we have few facts but can piece together what might have been. I'm also interested in stories that have a spiritual element or an element of mystery. I'm working on a Tudor ghost story for my own amusement right now. I'm also interested in historical characters that were what we might consider minor characters on the grand stage of history. I'd love to do a book about Moll Cutpurse, who was quite renowned in Shakespeare's day for dressing as a man, smoking cigars and even appearing onstage.

Did you have any contribution to the cover artwork? I love that her whole head is showing even if she is looking away from the viewer and the cover is beautiful.

Oh, thank you! I had absolutely nothing to do with it--I thank the wonderful art department at St. Martin's. I, too, am glad she has a head--so many do not. I don't quite get that trend, but it would have been just awful to show Anne Boleyn without a head!

It says on your website that you are working on your second novel set in Tudor England. Can you tell us anything about this upcoming work?

Yes! It's set at Elizabeth I's court and involves another Shelton ancestor, Mary Shelton, who has the dubious honor of being remembered because Elizabeth broke her finger when Mary married a Catholic without the queen's permission. I started wondering why a person would get so angry, furious enough to break a bone! And, the story just evolved from there. It's still a work-in-progress but I hope to finish it up this spring. I love writing about Elizabeth--she is such a magnificent character! Thank you so much for having me on your blog. It's been a pleasure to be able to talk about writing!

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer these questions for me.  I love the sound of the story of the woman from the mental hospital - certainly not the kind of story you hear every day!  You can visit Anne at her website for additional information about her book.

If you would like to follow along with the tour you can follow on Twitter #MercyOfTheQueenVirtualTour or stop by the HFVBT website for the rest of the schedule!

Cover Blurb:
A sweeping tale of sexual seduction and intrigue at the court of Henry VIII, At the Mercy of the Queen is a rich and dramatic debut historical about Madge Shelton, cousin and lady-in-waiting to Anne Boleyn. 
At the innocent age of fifteen, Lady Margaret Shelton arrives at the court of Henry VIII and quickly becomes the confidante of her cousin, Queen Anne Boleyn. But she soon finds herself drawn into the perilous web of Anne’s ambition. 
Desperate to hold onto the king’s waning affection, Anne schemes to have him take her guileless young cousin as mistress, ensuring her husband’s new paramour will owe her loyalty to the queen. But Margaret has fallen deeply in love with a handsome young courtier. She is faced with a terrible dilemma: give herself to the king and betray the love of her life or refuse to become his mistress and jeopardize the life of her cousin, Queen Anne.

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Weekend Cooking: Potatoes Dauphinois

For this week’s Weekend Cooking segment we made a French side dish from the Entertaining Newport Style cookbook. I should point out that we have never made anything French inspired before because they tend to be more difficult recipes, this one however was fairly easy.
Dining Room at Marble House
The recipe we chose was Potatoes Dauphinois from the French-Inspired Formal Dinner Party menu at Marble House. William and Alva Vanderbilt summered at Marble House in Newport, Rhode Island. To give you a little information about Marble House and how the French theme ties in – the dining room of Marble House was inspired by the Salon of Hercules at Versailles. In 1897, a formal ball was held at Marble House and the theme was a French dinner party. French inspired touches included footmen dressed in the style of Louis XIV and the food courses prepared by 9 French chefs.

Potatoes Dauphinois
6 servings

1 Tablespoon butter, melted
2 Pounds baking potatoes (such as Russet or Yukon Gold), peeled and thinly sliced
Salt to taste
1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
1 cup (or more) heavy cream or half and half
Freshly grated nutmeg

1) Preheat oven to 350°F. Brush the inside of a 9 inch baking dish with the melted butter.
2) Place ½ of the potatoes in the prepared dish and season with salt. Sprinkle with ½ of the cheese. Add ½ cup of cream.
3) Repeat step 2 using the remaining potatoes, cheese and enough cream to cover. Sprinkle with nutmeg.
4) Place the dish on a baking sheet. Bake for 1 hour or until the top is golden brown and the potatoes are tender. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

I love au gratin potatoes and this was a very similar style dish. I think I would have added a little bit more salt than my boyfriend did, it was a tiny bit on the bland side, or maybe sprinkled a little nutmeg throughout rather than just on top. I also felt like I wanted a little bit more cheese, but that would be a personal preference choice. Overall the potatoes came out very good and would be a great addition to a steak or as the book recommends, lamb.

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth F at Beth Fish Reads. Any post remotely related to cooking qualifies!

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Friday, January 6, 2012

Caught on Tape: Nell Gwyn

I have always considered Nell as one of the most interesting of all of the mistresses of Charles II. She came from rags to riches and her story would be the one to lend itself more to a movie than some of his other favorites. So I went out in search of Nell. I found several films, but many of them were either bit parts or do not have movie clips. So I included a few still photographs where I could when I felt the film couldn’t be skipped over.

Sweet Nell of Old Drury (1911)

This film is an Australian silent film starring Nellie Stewart as Nell Gwyn and Augustus Neville as King Charles II. This film focused on the relationship between Nell and King Charles. The film is based on a play by the same name performed in 1900. While this film was shown in cinemas for 6 years, it is now considered a lost film and there are no copies believed to be in existence any more. I found this image, however it appears to be from possibly a performance of the play as its stars are not the same as the film.

Mistress Nell (1915)

This is another silent film this time starring Mary Pickford as Nell. Again, this was a play performed on Broadway first under the same name in 1900. Owen Moore co-stars are King Charles II (Pickford’s real life husband). An interesting note for me is that this was film in Connecticut – the state I grew up in! Again, I could not find footage of this film, but I do have and image of a theatre marquee announcing the film.

Nell Gwyn (1926)

This was the first of two movies based on the book Mistress Nell Gwynne by Joseph Shearing. This was a British romance film starring Dorothy Gish as Nell Gwyn and Randle Ayrton as Charles II. It traces the life of Nell through her relationship with Charles. Another silent film and yet another I do not have a video clip of. I have an image of Dorothy Gish as Nell – I think she is the person on the right during one of the various stage performances while Nell was an actress.

Nell Gwyn (1934)

This is the second film based on the book mentioned in the previous listing. This one however, was not a silent film. This film starred Anna Neagle as Nell (her first big success) and Sir Cedric Hardwicke as Charles II. The same plot line as the 1926 version, however the USA wanted to censor aspects of the film and add a moralistic element where Charles and Nell marry. I was able to find this clip of the film, however it appears to not have sound, which is disappointing.

The Last King: Charles II: The Power and the Passion (2003)

There is really quite a jump between the 1930s and 2000s. The Last King is a British miniseries about Charles II and of course Nell is featured. Emma Pierson is Nell and Rufus Sewell is Charles II. While the focus of the film is about Charles, you really can’t explore his life without involving his many mistresses. This miniseries won BAFTA awards for Best Costume Design, Best Drama Serial, and Best Photography and Lighting. The clip below is from Episode 3 and features Nell on stage and meeting Charles II. The actress seems very “Nell” to me. I have added this to my watch list.

Stage Beauty (2004)

She was the first of her kind, He was the last of his.

The last film I have for you today is Stage Beauty. This film is not about Nell, but she has a small part in it. This film is based on the play Compleat Female Stage Beauty. This film takes place right about the time that all male plays were being phased out in favor for female actress playing the female roles. The main character, Ned, is one of those male actors who played female roles and is not in favor of this change. Nell has a small but critical role in this film – and Nell is portrayed by Zoe Trapper. This is a film I might watch. I included the trailer for the film below because the part of the film featuring Nell is not available on Youtube. The film also stars Billy Crudup, Claire Danes, and Rupert Everett.

I have not seen any of these films in their entirety. Have you? Have any of you seen any of the silent films? I read that the 1926 and 1934 films are shown occasionally at certain artsy theatres.

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court