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Feb 28, 2010

Mailbox Monday Goodies Galore!

Sunday, February 28, 2010
Mailbox MondayMailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page. We share what books that we found in our mailboxes last week. And I am adding what I purchased, swapped, etc.

A fellow HF Blogger Round Table member sent me the following, all out of the sheer delightful kindness of her heart because she is just beyond cool that way:
Avalon by Anya Seton (originally published 1965)
"This saga of yearning and mystery travels across oceans and continents to Iceland, Greenland, and North America during the time in history when Anglo-Saxons battled Vikings and the Norsemen discovered America. The marked contrasts between powerful royalty, landless peasants, Viking warriors and noble knights are expertly brought to life in this gripping tale of the French prince named Rumon. Shipwrecked off the Cornish coast on his quest to find King Arthur's legendary Avalon, Rumon meets a lonely girl named Merewyn and their lives soon become intertwined. Rumon brings Merewyn to England, but once there he is so dazzled by Queen Alrida's beauty that it makes him a virtual prisoner to her will. In this riveting romance, Anya Seton once again proves her mastery of historical detail and ability to craft a compelling tale that includes real and colorful personalities such as St. Dunstan and Eric the Red."

Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Life by Alison Weir (April 3, 2001)
"Renowned in her time for being the most beautiful woman in Europe, the wife of two kings and mother of three, Eleanor of Aquitaine was one of the great heroines of the Middle Ages. At a time when women were regarded as little more than chattel, Eleanor managed to defy convention as she exercised power in the political sphere and crucial influence over her husbands and sons. In this beautifully written biography, Alison Weir paints a vibrant portrait of this truly exceptional woman, and provides new insights into her intimate world. Eleanor of Aquitaine lived a long life of many contrasts, of splendor and desolation, power and peril, and in this stunning narrative, Weir captures the woman— and the queen—in all her glory. With astonishing historic detail, mesmerizing pageantry, and irresistible accounts of royal scandal and intrigue, she recreates not only a remarkable personality but a magnificent past era."

King Hereafter by Dorothy Dunnett
"With the same meticulous scholarship and narrative legerdemain she brought to her hugely popular Lymond Chronicles, our foremost historical novelist travels further into the past. In King Hereafter, Dorothy Dunnett's stage is the wild, half-pagan country of eleventh-century Scotland. Her hero is an ungainly young earl with a lowering brow and a taste for intrigue. He calls himself Thorfinn but his Christian name is Macbeth.

Dunnett depicts Macbeth's transformation from an angry boy who refuses to accept his meager share of the Orkney Islands to a suavely accomplished warrior who seizes an empire with the help of a wife as shrewd and valiant as himself. She creates characters who are at once wholly creatures of another time yet always recognizable--and she does so with such realism and immediacy that she once more elevates historical fiction into high art."

From Paperbackwap, I was happy to get a beautiful hardcover of The Diamond by By Julie Baumgold, after reading a review by Arleigh at
"The Diamond is a brilliant, dazzling historical novel about a famous diamond -- one of the biggest in the world -- that passed from the hands of William Pitt's grandfather to the French kings and Napoleon, linking many of the most famous personalities of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and serving as the centerpiece for a novel in every way as fascinating as Susan Sontag's The Volcano Lover or Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose. Rich with historical detail, characters, and nonstop drama, the story centers on the famous Regent diamond -- once the largest and most beautiful diamond in the world -- which was discovered in India in the late seventeenth century and bought by the governor of the East India Company, a cunning nabob, trader, and ex-pirate named Thomas Pitt. His son brought it to London, where a Jewish diamond-cutter of genius took two years to fashion it into one of the world's greatest gems. After hawking it around the courts of Europe, Pitt sold the diamond to Louis XIV's profligate and deeply amoral nephew, the Duc d'Orlans. Raised to glory by this fortune, Pitt's grandsons would rule England and devote their lives to fighting the very Bourbon kings who wore their diamond, the enduring symbol of the rivalry between France and England. The diamond was worn by Louis XIV, Louis XV, and by Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. A beautiful blond whore placed it in her private parts to entice Czar Peter the Great on his visit to Paris. A band of thieves stole it during the bloodiest days of the Revolution. Found in an attic, it was pawned for horses for Napoleon's first campaigns. Napoleon redeemed the diamond and, though his wife Josephine craved it, set it in the hilt of his sword, where it appeared in many of his portraits. After his fall, his young second wife, Marie-Louise, grabbed it when she fled France. The Rgent was hidden in innumerable secret places, used by Napoleon III and the ravishing Empress Eugenie to impress Queen Victoria, and finally ended up on display in the Louvre museum, where it remains today, then and now the first diamond of France. Julie Baumgold, herself the descendant of a family of diamond merchants, tells this extraordinary story through Count Las Cases (author of Le Mmorial de Sainte-Hlne), who writes it in his spare time while in exile with Napoleon I. The book is in Las Cases's words, those of a clever, sophisticated nobleman at home in the old regime as well as in Napoleon's court. As he tells his story, with Napoleon prodding, challenging, and correcting him all the while, they draw closer. The emperor has a kind of love/hate relationship with the diamond, which represents the wealth and fabulous elegance of the French courts as well as the power for good or evil that possessing it confers on its transient masters. He thinks of it as his good luck charm, but is it? For the diamond has its dark side -- murder, melancholy, and downfall ever shadow its light. A glittering cast of characters parades through The Diamond: a mesmerizing Napoleon and the devoted Las Cases, stuck on Saint Helena with their memories; Louis XIV and his brother, the dissolute Monsieur; Madame, the German princess who married Monsieur; the Scottish financier John Law and Saint-Simon, who sold Pitt's diamond to Madame's depraved son; the depressed Louis XV; and Madame de Pompadour. Here too are the families, the Pitts in England and the Bonapartes in France; the men of Saint Helena; nobles and thieves; Indian diamond merchants and financiers -- nearly everyone of interest and importance from the late seventeenth through the early nineteenth century. Written with enormous verve and ambition, The Diamond is a treat, a plum pudding of a novel filled with one delicious, funny, disgraceful episode after another. It is grand history and even grander fiction -- a towering work of imagination, research, and narrative skill."

And for review, from the fabulous Christine Trent, The Queen's Dollmaker (Jan 1, 2010).. I know I am late to the tour party on this one.. so by the time my review posts you will all need to be reminded of it again so you can go out and buy it =) And I am extremely pleased to announce that we will have Christine Trent as one of our Round Table authors when her NEXT book comes out!! Gotta get in on the HF Bloggers Round Table list EARLY, folks!
"On the brink of revolution, with a tide of hate turned against the decadent royal court, France is in turmoil - as is the life of one young woman forced to leave her beloved Paris. After a fire destroys her home and family, Claudette Laurent is struggling to survive in London. But one precious gift remains: her talent for creating exquisite dolls that Marie Antoinette, the Queen of France herself, cherishes. When the Queen requests a meeting, Claudette seizes the opportunity to promote her business, and to return home...Amid the violence and unrest, Claudette befriends the Queen, who bears no resemblance to the figurehead rapidly becoming the scapegoat of the Revolution. But when Claudette herself is lured into a web of deadly political intrigue, it becomes clear that friendship with France's most despised woman has grim consequences. Now, overshadowed by the spectre of Madame Guillotine, the Queen's dollmaker will face the ultimate test."

Feb 27, 2010

The Sunday Salon~ Have you entered yet?

Saturday, February 27, 2010
The Sunday

Have you seen the Round Tablers on Facebook yet? We finally thought of creating a Facebook Fan Page for the Historical Fiction Bloggers Round Table!
That is our fan page, and I would love it if you would become a fan!!
We have added the event for The Secret of The Glass here and let's see you there!!

 (And of course don't forget the fan page for The Burton Review or my personal profile!)

Visit the main page!

As usual, we are featuring reviews and creative posts, as well as giveaways celebrating the new release of The Secret of the Glass!

My review was here, you can sign up right now at the main page to enter for your chance to win a copy of The Secret of the Glass by Donna Russo Morin. I have my copy of my ARC up for grabs along with a bookmark I made for my followers, ending March 6th. My creative post discusses the tough decision of Marriage vs. Cloister, and I would appreciate you chiming in with that discussion!
Do you remember my meeting ROSES author, Leila Meacham? I ran a giveaway for FIVE lucky commenters for a brand new copy of the book. 79 commenters! I think that is a record number of comments here. Some didn't fully grasp the instructions but for those that did, I entered your names into Random.Org and here are the Results! Beth Gordon, Suzanne, Emma, Rebecca Graham and
Jenny Girl!

I wish you all could have been winners, but at least there were FIVE this time! Congrats to these winners, everyone has responded and thanks for that, I've already submitted your addresses! Thanks for entering. I really enjoyed hearing who your choices were for authors you would like to meet.

OK Onwards to my reading endeavors for the week. I LOVED ELLEN HORAN's 31 Bond Street.. SO MUCHH!!!! My review posts on March 3rd... along with a GIVEAWAY!

I will also post the review for Susan Higginbotham's The Stolen Crown on 3/1/2010, and participate in the Blogsplash for Fiona Robyn. Speaking of Susan, she has the funniest post about the facebook adventures of the medieval characters she writes about, see the post here.

I am around halfway through Elizabeth Chadwick's newest novel, The Scarlet Lion, which will be our next event at the Historical Fiction Bloggers Round Table. I am so glad that I managed to squeeze in The Greatest Knight; I would not recommend reading The Scarlet Lion without reading the first book.
After this read, I have 400 books to read. Maybe 500. I will choose from the large review pile and hope that it doesn't topple over on top of me as I reach into it. I am glad that the round tablers have agreed to take the summer off so I can catch up on my personal reads! It's been a busy year already, my brain is sizzling and about to short out.

And on a really fun note, I love hockey. Seeing the Dallas Stars play on March 4.. go STARS! Looking forward to leaving the kids behind watching the Stars.

And as for Sunday's Olympic GOLD medal game vs. Canada (I love you, Lucy) GO USA!
And then after the game which I know is going to be fantastic, I will be watching Rupert Penry-Jones, who I fell in lovw with while watching Persuasion last week on Masterpiece we have him on at 9pm EST in The 39 Steps. (One 90-minute episode)

"Secret agent Richard Hannay battles German spies on the eve of World War I in a riveting and romantic new version of the thriller by John Buchan. Rupert-Penry Jones (Persuasion) stars as Hannay."

This guy was to die for in Persuasion. And with that fabulous tousled-hair-with-smoldering-eyes look.. I shall leave off.... (fans herself).

Feb 26, 2010

Giveaway:HF Bloggers Round Table: The Secret of the Glass Event: Marriage or Cloister?

Friday, February 26, 2010
Welcome to the continuation of the Round Table Week promoting The Secret of the Glass. Read my review of The Secret of The Glass here.


You have two chances to win Donna Russo Morin’s newest historical novel, The Secret of the Glass.
The Round Table is giving away 1 paperback copy to a lucky participant who comments at the main site at A separate giveaway is running for the beautiful glass pendant featured above, click the picture to reach that contest form.

You can also qualify for the book giveaway of the ARC of The Secret of the Glass by following the instructions at the end of this post.

Marriage or Cloister? Which would you choose?

For devotes, the alternative to marriage was clear. The woman who did not marry had no respectable option but to embrace the religious life. "Maritus aut murus" - a husband or a cloister - these were her only choices. By custom and by law she was considered too weak to live otherwise. "The common expression which tells parents to give their daughter 'either a husband or a cloister' seems to be based on hidden law by which woman is born to spend her life under the control and the guidance of others." ~ The Devotes: Women and Church in Seventeenth-Century France By Elizabeth Rapley

Although focusing on France, the above quote holds true for Venice in the time of Donna Russo Morin's newest novel, The Secret of the Glass. The additional hindrance adding to the sad reality of the above quote was the fact that Italy had an impossible dowry system for many of the families. The fifteenth century saw a huge inflation to a required dowry in order to secure a suitable mate for a dreaded daughter. Many women were forced into convents due to the lack of a dowry, which was set at an extremely high amount. What was originally supposed to be treated as an inheritance for the bride to retain at the end of said marriage, became something that was inevitably lost to the future husband. Families struggled to obtain these large sums that the high dowries dictated as it was a harsh reality that had to be adhered to if hopes of a good lineage was to be obtained for anyone in the family. More than likely, the rest of the daughters were to be cloistered in a convent, some of which in those days were reputed to be no better than a brothel.  

Nun in cloister
In reading Sarah Dunant's novel, Sacred Hearts in 2009 (my review), this issue regarding a young woman's future was also considered a main theme. This story had focused on the women who were indeed compelled to choose God as their only mate as they were forced into a strict convent. In Dunat's novel it also was apparent that the family who had enough money could at least choose a better convent as opposed to one not so popular. Some convents had access to funds from wealthier patrician families offering better foods, books, music or perhaps customs were not so strict as others. Interestingly enough, "nun" and the religious form of "sister" have distinct meanings in the Catholic Church, in most cases determined by the vows they take, solemn vows vs. simple vows, and the amount of good works devoted to the poor that are expected. To become a nun and live in a Catholic convent, the main requirement that is different that others is that one must eventually take the solemn vows and and recite the Liturgy of the Hours or other prayers within the convent community. A humble and honorable vocation indeed, and is to be admired and revered.

In The Secret of the Glass, the daughters are faced with the reality that when the elder sister marries, there will be no dowry money left to 'purchase marriages' for those daughters that remain.The main significance that the imposed dowry system imparts is the fact that women were essentially treated as a piece of property, to be bought and sold according to social status. In Dante's Paradiso, he observed the contrasts between his time and that of the times of his great-great-grandfathers. The great-great-grandfather had not yet seen the high inflation of the dowry, and therefore was not privy to that sinking feeling of despair when a daughter was born. Yet, if you were of a wealthy, noble patrician family, more than one daughter could be provided for with the dowry system which would maintain the family's higher social status. Through wills the wealthy would bequeath money to specific convents, or to a female family member for contributions to their dowry.

What is most mind-boggling is the reason why the dowries inflated so much, as there is no clear and specific reason for this. There were a myriad of forces at work from governmental loans and debts that were high, small costs of living and materials increases, and the inevitable supply and demand of the market with which to secure a future within a patrician family. In regards specifically to Venice, there seems to have been a favorable environment to increase and enourage the high dowries within the ruling class, with a widening circle of dowry contributors to promote lineage.  In Rome and Venice, when a father died, the sons were to take care of the daughters and the dowry; if there were no sons, the dowry responsibilites went back up the line through the male ascendants of the deceased father. When there are absolutely no male family members to be found, it is possible that the maternal side of the family would be responsible to help provide a dowry for the daughter.

Imagine yourself.. a second sister.. there is no money left over to buy you a suitable marriage. Before you are born, this fate has been set for you. When the time comes for you to grow up, you are sent to a convent to live out the rest of your days, regardless of what the extent of your devotion to God is. You have no hope for children of your own, to know the carnal knowledge of a man, never to have a home to call your own, no items of worth, not many secret treasures, no books other than the bible, seeing your family only sparingly... Such is the predicament for Sophia's sisters in Morin's The Secret of the Glass, unless Sophia figures out a way to change the sands of time.

In celebration of the Historical Fiction Bloggers Round Table event, I am offering up to one lucky USA winner my gently read advanced reader's copy of The Secret of the Glass, as well as a handmade bookmark featuring some glass beads (made by me so don't laugh openly), but you must answer this question:

What do you think you would prefer, if you were a young woman and perhaps in Sophia's shoes, who is betrothed to a man who she detests? Could you choose to become cloistered as a nun for the rest of your life almost in a state of poverty and neglect (depending on the convent)? Or would you prefer to at least have some material comforts in life and choose to marry someone who is horrid to you and treats you as a piece of furniture?

1 entry: Please provide your email address in your comment. (mandatory answer to question!!)
For extra +1 entry, follow this blog.
For extra +2 entries, put this graphic linking to this post in your blog's sidebar:

Bookmark and Book Giveaway!
Contest ends March 6, 2010.
Open to USA addresses only.

Don't forget to visit the HF Bloggers Round Table main site for a complete listing of events, from reviews, giveaways to more creative posts!
New posts for today include Book Review by Susie at All Things Royal and a new set of interview questions with the author Donna Russo Morin also at the main site. There is also a look at The Courtier's Secret, Donna Russo Morin's previous novel set in the time of Louis XIV.

Feb 24, 2010

New Tudor Book Alert!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Hot off the presses via Simon Schuster Alert in my E-mailbox this morning:

The third installment in Kate Emerson's Tudor series:

Secrets of the Tudor Court: By Royal Decree will be released on December 14, 2010 in Trade Paperback!!! I cannot WAIT to see this cover.. Emerson's previous books have been blessed with some very pretty embossed covers.

I found Emerson's books to be a refreshing look at the intrigues of the Tudor courts through fictionalized characters that Emerson brings to life:

See my review of Secrets of the Tudor Court: The Pleasure Palace, released February 2009.
See my review of Secrets of The Tudor Court: Between Two Queens released January 2010.

See all of my other previous Kate Emerson posts, which includes a fascinating guest post from the author.

Remember, don't confuse this series with the new book coming out by D.L. Bogdan, titled Secrets of The Tudor Court, which is releasing April 27, 2010. Confused yet?

Bookmark and Share

Feb 23, 2010

HF Bloggers Round Table Book Review: The Secret of the Glass by Donna Russo Morin

Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Available TODAY!

The Secret of the Glass by Donna Russo Morin
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Kensington; Original edition (February 23, 2010)
ISBN-13: 978-0758226921
Review copy provided by the publisher
The Burton Review Rating:3 stars

"At the dawn of the 17th Century, the glassmakers of Murano are revered as master artisans, enjoying privileges far beyond their station, but they are forced to live in virtual imprisonment, contained by the greedy Venetian government who fears other countries will learn the intricacies of the craft…and reap the rewards.
Sophia Fiolario, the comely daughter of a glass making maestro, has no desire for marriage, finding her serenity in the love of her family and the beauty of the glass. She learns of its secrets at her father’s side, where a woman is forbidden to be. The life Sophia loves is threatened by the poor health of her father and the determined attentions of a nobleman who could and would never love her but seeks to possess her wealth and the privilege it affords. Thrust into the opulent world of the Venetian court, Sophia becomes embroiled in the scheming machinations of the courtiers’ lives. The beauty of Venice, the magnificence of the Doge’s Palace, are rivaled only by the intrigue and danger that festers behind their splendid facades. As she searches for an escape, she finds the arms of another, a man whose own desperate situation is yet another obstacle in their path. Amidst political and religious intrigue, the scientific furor ignited by Galileo, and even murder, Sophia must do anything to protect herself, her family…and the secret of the glass."

Donna Russo Morin tackles seventeenth century Venice in her newest novel, The Secret of the Glass. She writes of many underlying themes while she tells the story of Sophia, a girl who is doomed to marry a nobleman against her wishes. She is the eldest child of a glassmaking family, and as such, she is the only daughter that is allowed to marry, bringing with her the inheritance of the lucrative glass factory that has been in heritage for years. The remaining daughters will be forced to enter a convent once Sophia's sickly father dies. The story centers around this possibility, and the fact that Sophia wants nothing to do with her betrothed, Pasquale. Worse yet, her father who suffers from dementia has alluded to the fact that Pasquale's family has something damning to hide, but Sophia cannot approach her father with further questions. She instead decides to follow her betrothed to see if she can find out something about him, as he is not very talkative when they are together.

The Secret of The Glass carries with it the intrigue of the glassmaking process, and gives details about it as Sophia herself creates the pieces. That is a subject that would be damaging to the family if anyone found out the fact that it has been Sophia making the glass for so long, since it is against the law for women to do so. When Sophia is presented with the possibility of losing the ability to make the glass due to her betrothal, she decides to try and devise a way out. Along the way, she meets the dashing fellow, Teodoro, someone who is not allowed to marry, and they are instantly attracted to each other.
MIEL, Jan (b. 1599, Beveren-Was, d. 1663, Torino)
Carnival Time in Rome: 1653
Beginning with the tradition of carnival time, the author slowly meanders her way through this story, presenting details of Venice that are intended to bring Venice to life. Although I am normally very appreciative of historical detail, I was turned off by the many Italian words that were inserted. I had no inkling of what many of these words meant, and that really distracted my attention span, which in turn failed to pull me into the story. I would assume that those readers who love Venice and its allure may truly be entertained by the endless snippets of detail that the novel imparts. For this reader though, I felt the reading was sluggish for me, and that it was hard to become emotionally attached to Sophia or any of her supporting characters. Her characters were interesting enough, and I was surprised by one character's actions at the end of the novel, so much so that it was too out of character. With a story that focused mainly on the political atmosphere at the time, which was the most intriguing, it seemed that more things were happening around Sophia but not directly to her, which makes the events and plot seem a bit more simple while describing the book. I am particularly interested to see how others will review this book, especially by those who really adore Italy. Perhaps this one was too far out of my comfort zone of England-related reads for me to appreciate at this time.

That being said, I was particulary intrigued by the scenes that included Galileo, as it is told in the novel Sophia made the lenses for his first telescope, which was the central instrument for the Scientific Revolution of the seventeenth century. This in turn affected the political, social and religious controversy of the times, which was one of the themes incorporated into this novel. Those who believed in theories of the astronomer Copernicus were branded as heretics, and those who supported Galileo were therefore tottering on that same edge of heresy. Another interesting theme was the Pope versus the doge, with an important case of clerics which occurred in 1605 and who should have the authority to govern disputes. I was also touched by one theme of the high dowry and forced marriage situations at that time. I will have another post coming up this week that explores this, and I would love to hear your thoughts on it.

Donna Russo Morin's previous novel, The Courtier's Secret, came out in February of 2009 averaging 4 stars on Amazon reviews, and coming March 2011 is To Serve A King.

As part of the Historical Fiction Bloggers Round Table Tour, we offer you some more Venetian inspired treats, from more reviews to giveaways to Glass Pendants!

Review at
Review at The Maiden's Court
Creative posts at All Things Royal, Historically Obsessed, and Enchanted by Josephine.
Interview Questions with Author at HFBRT
More to be posted during the week, visit the main site for a complete calendar of events.
Posted now is the new Murano Glass Pendant Giveaway!
Come back in a few days to win my ARC of The Secret of The Glass, when I post my creative post.
Bookmark and Book Giveaway!

Feb 22, 2010

Mailbox Monday: Ireland, France, Spain, Medieval England, Gothic and Regency, Oh MY! !

Monday, February 22, 2010
Mailbox MondayMailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page. We share what books that we found in our mailboxes last week. And I am adding what I purchased, swapped, etc.

I won an Ebay Lot of Victoria Holt/Phillippa Carr books, some are dupes so I've got those to bring to the used book store if they don't get claimed on Swaptree/bookmooch soon. I paid less than $14 total for all of the following books. The one I am most happy for is the 4 in 1 edition, but I also needed a couple of the paperbacks like Menfreya and The Witch from The Sea.

THE LEGEND OF THE SEVENTH VIRGIN published by Fawcett Crest 1981
MY ENEMY THE QUEEN published by Fawcett Crest 1978 ISBN #0-449-23979-9. 444 pages
THE SHADOW OF THE LYNX published by Fawcett Crest #P1720 1972. 320 pages.
ON THE NIGHT OF THE SEVENTH MOON published by Fawcett Crest #X2613 1973. 383 pages.
THE POOL OF ST BRANOK published by G.P. Putnam's Sons 1987 book club edition. 374 pages
THE SILK VENDETTA published by Doubleday & Company Inc. 1987 book club edition. 345 pages
THE TIME OF THE HUNTER'S MOON published by Doubleday & Company Inc. 1983 book club edition. 339 pages
THE PRIDE OF THE PEACOCK published by Doubleday & Company Inc. 1976
4 in 1 BRIDE OF PENDORRIC, THE SHADOW OF THE LYNX, KING OF THE CASTLE & MISTRESS OF MELLYN published by Octopus / Heinemann 1987. 862 pages
DAUGHTER OF DECEIT published by Doubleday 1991. 328 pages.
MENFREYA IN THE MORNING published by Fawcett 1966. 255 pages
THE WITCH FROM THE SEA published by Fawcett 1975. 320 pages
THE CURSE OF THE KINGS published by Fawcett 1974. 304 pages -
BRIDE OF PENDORRIC published by Fawcett 1991. 271 pages.
THE DEMON LOVER published by Fawcett 1984. 324 pages
THE ROAD TO PARADISE ISLAND published by Fawcett 1990

From Swaptree I swapped for:
Passion by Jude Morgan (2005) This looks awesome!
"Theirs was a world of obsession, genius, and above all… Passion...
In the turbulent years of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, three poets—Byron, Shelley, and Keats—come to prominence, famous and infamous, for their vivid personalities, and their glamorous, shocking, and sometimes tragic lives. In this electrifying novel, those lives are explored through the eyes of the women who knew and loved them—intensely, scandalously.

Four women from widely different backgrounds are linked by a sensational fate. Mary Shelley: the gifted daughter of gifted parents, for whom passion leads to exile, loss, and a unique fame. Lady Caroline Lamb: born to fabulous wealth and aristocratic position, who risks everything for the ultimate love affair. Fanny Brawne: her quiet, middle-class girlhood is transformed—and immortalized—by a disturbing encounter with genius. Augusta Leigh: the unassuming poor relation who finds herself flouting the greatest of all taboos.

With the originality, richness, and daring of the poets themselves, Passion presents the Romantic generation in a new and unforgettable light."

For Review, I received a newly released novel by Patricia Falvey, (who spends half her time here in Dallas and then Ireland) titled The Yellow House:

"THE YELLOW HOUSE (February 15th 2010) delves into the passion and politics of Northern Ireland at the beginning of the 20 century. Eileen O'Neill's family is torn apart by religious intolerance and secrets from the past. Determined to reclaim her ancestral home and reunite her family, Eileen begins working at the local mill, saving her money and holding fast to her dream. As war is declared on a local and global scale, Eileen cannot separate the politics from the very personal impact the conflict has had on her own life. She is soon torn between two men, each drawing her to one extreme. One is a charismatic and passionate political activist determined to win Irish independence from Great Britain at any cost, who appeals to her warrior's soul. The other is the wealthy and handsome black sheep of the pacifist family who owns the mill where she works, and whose persistent attention becomes impossible for her to ignore."

For review from the author (thank you!), Mitchell James Kaplan, By Fire, By Water (releases May 18, 2010):

By Fire, By Water
"Luis de Santángel, chancellor to the court and longtime friend of the lusty King Ferdinand, has had enough of the Spanish Inquisition. As the power of Inquisitor General Tomás deTorquemada grows, so does the brutality of the Spanish church and the suspicion and paranoia it inspires. When a dear friend’s demise brings the violence close to home, Santángel is enraged and takes retribution into his own hands. But he is from a family of conversos, and his Jewish heritage makes him an easy target. As Santángel witnesses the horrific persecution of his loved ones, he begins slowly to reconnect with the Jewish faith his family left behind. Feeding his curiosity about his past is his growing love for Judith Migdal, a clever and beautiful Jewish woman navigating the mounting tensions in Granada. While he struggles to decide what his reputation is worth and what he can sacrifice, one man offers him a chance he thought he’d lost…the chance to hope for a better world. Christopher Columbus has plans to discover a route to paradise, and only Luis de Santángel can help him.
Within the dramatic story lies a subtle, insightful examination of the crisis of faith at the heart of the Spanish Inquisition. Irresolvable conflict rages within the conversos in By Fire, By Water, torn between the religion they left behind and the conversion meant to ensure their safety. In this story of love, God, faith, and torture, fifteenth-century Spain comes to dazzling, engrossing life."

Swapped for The Traitor's Wife by Susan Higginbotham:

"Eleanor de Clare, favorite niece of King Edward II, is delighted with her marriage to Hugh le Despenser. It soon becomes apparent, however, that Eleanor's beloved uncle is not the king the nobles of the land - or his queen - expected. Hugh's unbridled ambition and his intimate relationship with Edward arouse widespread resentment, even as Eleanor remains fiercely loyal to her husband and to her king. But loyalty has its price.

At its heart, The Traitor's Wife is a unique love story that every reader will connect with."

This was Susan's first novel published in 2005, reissued in 2009 from Sourcebooks with this fabulous cover. I enjoyed her other two novels and will probably enjoy this one as well.

And THEN.. woo hoo... From a totally AWESOME win at Grace's Book Blog now known as Books Like Breathing.. ALL THREE BOOKS of Austen fun: Marsha Altman’s The Darcys and the Bingleys Trilogy! Thank you so very much!!

Feb 20, 2010

The Sunday Salon.. The Secret of the Glass begins!

Saturday, February 20, 2010
The Sunday

What a week. It has been a little crazy and didn't get to read too much until later in the week, but I have finished reading Elizabeth Chadwick's The Greatest Knight, which was issued last fall. I ultimately enjoyed it, but my review will come up closer to the Elizabeth Chadwick event that the Historical Fiction Bloggers Round Table are hosting in March. I spent most of  Saturday reading it, so this post will be short as my brain is a little fried.

We now have another event just beginning for February!

As usual, we will feature reviews and creative posts, as well as giveaways!

My review posts 2/23, but you can sign up right now at the main page to enter for your chance to win a copy of The Secret of the Glass by Donna Russo Morin. I will also have my copy of my ARC up for grabs for my followers starting 2/26.
I am now going to begin 31 Bond Street by Ellen Horan, and then sink my teeth into The Scarlet Lion by Elizabeth Chadwick. I'll be cutting it close to the event schedule but I think I'll manage. I am very glad I did get to sneak in the read of The Greatest Knight, because even though The Scarlet Lion novel can stand alone, I would hate reading the series out of order when I have the book sitting on my shelf. So I accomplished something... otherwise I am not feeling very accomplished at anything with the days going by and me not putting a dent in my review pile. It is quite daunting. I am pretty much set till July it seems. I must refuse requests or I will never get a handle on this.

In entertainment news, did you watch PBS's encore airing of Northanger Abbey last Sunday? I watched it, and loved it. The actress seemed absolutely perfect for the part. I cannot wait to read the actual book by Jane Austen!! And tonight, February 21, 2010, 9pm EST we have Persuasion (Encore Presentation; one 90 minute episode):
"Sally Hawkins plays Jane Austen's Anne Elliot, a woman destined for spinsterhood after refusing a proposal eight years earlier. Then her spurned suitor reappears."

I will be there!

Enjoy your Sunday, and your reads! (Sorry, no newsletter this week if you were wondering!)

Feb 16, 2010

Book Review: Hugh and Bess: A Love Story by Susan Higginbotham

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Hugh and Bess by Susan Higginbotham
ISBN: 978-1402215278
Price: $14.99
Published July 2009 by Sourcebooks, originally published 2007
Review copy provided by the author/publisher
The Burton Review Rating:4 stars!

"Forced to marry Hugh le Despenser, the son and grandson of disgraced traitors, Bess de Montacute, just 13 years old, is appalled at his less-than-desirable past. Meanwhile, Hugh must give up the woman he really loves in order to marry the reluctant Bess. Far apart in age and haunted by the past, can Hugh and Bess somehow make their marriage work?

Just as walls break down and love begins to grow, the merciless plague endangers all whom the couple holds dear, threatening the life and love they have built.

Award-winning author Susan Higginbotham's impeccable research will delight avid historical fiction readers, and her enchanting characters will surely capture every reader's heart. Fans of her first novel, The Traitor's Wife, will be thrilled to find that this story follows the next generation of the Despenser family."

I had saved this review so that I could post it close to Valentine's Day, as it is a perfect read to celebrate love. Hugh and Bess is the medieval story of two people who were not a love match at first sight. Young Bess Montagu expected to marry high due to her father's (William Montacute, 1st Earl of Salisbury) high standing in the royal ranks. She never expected to have to marry a man whose very name of Despenser was known as traitorous, due to both Hugh's father and grandfather having been executed at Queen Isabella's orders in 1326. But Hugh was working hard to restore his family name, and he knew it would please the king and himself to marry someone so close to royal favor. Hugh at 32 was also much older than Bess was; she was 14 and had naturally been hoping for a match that would be with someone closer to her age (and rank). We learn about Hugh's upbringing and the effects of being a traitor's son, and we meet Bess at a very young age as she is growing up within an exalted family.

As Susan tells it, the marriage was rough for a year so, and then especially so when Bess found her trusted friend in bed with her husband. Emma had become Bess's friend after she had been Hugh's mistress for years before he had married, which is something Bess had not known. Somehow, they got past the infidelity and fell in love with each other. They soon had a happy marriage, although childless. Sadly, the ending is not quite a happy one, and as I finished the story I had to struggle to maintain my composure. The beginning of the story started off with more of the historical facts of the times, where there were uprisings between the factions for Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer, versus those who were for the king. The history lessons abate as we get more into the marriage between Hugh and Bess. The history and the marriage are very interesting (perhaps in reality the marriage wasn't all that interesting) and even in the author's note we learn that the story still has so much more to tell.

I truly enjoyed this charming medieval love story, and however much is fictitious as far as the "love" part may be, it doesn't detract from the amount of historical detail that Susan imparts. I would see this as an excellent introduction to the years circa 1335 in England. There is quite a bit of information on the Edward the II and the III and many historical figures were also mentioned. There are not a multitude of encyclopedic facts to weigh the main story down, so those who have no idea about those particular years in England need not fear of being lost in the details. I would have liked to see a genealogical chart, as I always enjoy those; both Hugh Despenser and Bess each had enough siblings that could have gotten confusing. I truly enjoyed the characterizations of the two main characters, and I always wonder how true to life my historical reads are. I would hate to be disappointed but there doesn't seem to be alot of information available online as far as this particular Despenser. I am certainly intrigued enough to browse around for some other reads of the time period, such as Queen Isabella by Alison Weir which has been on my shelf for almost two years now.

Hugh and Bess: A Love Story by Susan Higginbotham is a fast and fun historical piece of work that I recommend to anyone who enjoys their history with a lot of love, romance and entertainment. Even though a love story, it also had its share of stark reality, such as the poignant scenes owing to the Black Death. This was my first Susan Higginbotham novel, but it won't be my last. Her wit and subtle humor shine through in this telling, and it helps to make this an easy read. Although this novel stands alone, Susan's earlier novel The Traitor's Wife, focuses on Hugh's father. The Stolen Crown: A Novel of the Wars of the Roses will be published in March 2010. Although the writing style is still with the same easy wit, The Stolen Crown is steeped with much more historical detail and not as quick a read as this one. Visit Susan's blog for more of her insights. And for Edward II facts I must mention Alianore's blog, because she has some very in depth essays there which are quite fun to peruse.

I will be reviewing Susan's The Stolen Crown on its release date March 1, and Susan is scheduled to be here March 9, 2010 with a guest blog, so be sure to check back to read about more Medieval History! (giveaway alert!!)

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Teaser Tuesday (or Tuesday Thinker)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010
TEASER TUESDAYS is hosted by ShouldBeReading and asks you to:
♠Grab your current read.
♠Let the book fall open to a random page.
♠Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page.
♠You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
Please avoid spoilers!

As I was reading my current read, Young Bess, by Margaret Irwin, I felt I came across a very important passage. So you must forgive me that it is not exactly two sentences long as the 'teaser' asks for.

Page 246
(From a fictional book on Tudor times)
Somerset, Protector of the Realm, Edward Seymour, King Edward VI's uncle who was making all of the fundamental decisions says:
"You are telling me that all they care about is hard cash....But no laws can make good men. Men have never been so mad as now to make money at expense of their meighbour. But that is not a cause, it's a consequence. Debased coinage, debased goods, they're the result of debased ideas. All the old ways are gone. The world is in the melting-pot. We have the chance now to build a far greater and happier State than ever before. But they cannot take that chance; they cannot even see it. They are blind with greed. They are like wasps in a honey-jar, never seeing that their neighbour's deaths lead only to their own."

Margaret Irwin published this novel in 1944, yet she was speaking of a period that was 500 years ago in England. How much of our present day political and economical situations mirror those that are quoted? Has anything changed? Will anything ever change? Why don't we ever learn? I believe that anyone running for any political office should be required to get straight A's in World History and American History classes for 4 years straight. This should be a pre-requisite before becoming a person that citizens are supposed to vote for. Perhaps learning from history, and applying that learning, we can cultivate ourselves for the greater good. Become that nation that stands as something to be proud of. Does being a policeman of the world give us that satisfaction? Does continuous war and grief bring us glory? 

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Feb 15, 2010

Mailbox Monday~ mixing it up!

Monday, February 15, 2010
Mailbox MondayMailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page. We share what books that we found in our mailboxes last week. And I am adding what I purchased, swapped, etc.

For review, from Sourcebooks:
A Cottage by the Sea by Ciji Ware
I LOVED her book Island by the Swans, (review here, interview here) I had to jump on the chance to review the next reissue.

"But after a scandalous Hollywood divorce, Blythe Stowe considered it damage control for body and soul. The pain, the humiliation, the daily tabloids shouting details as her famous husband dumped her for her own sister demanded a serious getaway: to the wild coast of Cornwall and a cottage by the sea that her Wyoming grandmother claimed had been home to her ancestors.

Some might call it chance . . .
But Blythe encountered more than just a quaint retreat nestled amid vivid skies and gorgeous ocean. And she had the odd sensation that her wickedly handsome neighbor Lucas Teague was more than a British gentleman going broke. He might be her destiny . . . "

From Paperbackswap:
Saraband for Two Sisters by Phillippa Carr (1976)
"Angelet and Bersaba Landor were born identical twins, but as they grew to adulthood, they found their likeness was purely physical. For while Angelet was outgoing with a sunny disposition, the passions that burned fiercely within Bersaba were of a different nature. Before she was seventeen Bersaba was convinced she was hopelessly in love with her handsome cousin, Bastian Casvellyn, and had undertaken to test that love.

It was the unexpected intrusion of the lovely Senara at the Casvellyn's ancestral Castle Paling, where once Senara's mother had arrived flung on the forbidding shores by a stormy sea, that brought an end to the Landor twin's pleasant, if bucolic, life. In short order Senara had usurped Bastian's devotion, discarded him and swept off to London to wed the dashing Sir Gervaise Pondersby, leaving chaos in her wake.
And when, shortly thereafter, Bersaba fell ill of the dreaded smallpox and Angelet was sent to the safety of London, life changed forever for the Landors. For among the teeming trading stalls of London's St. Paul's, Angelet encountered Richard Tolworthy, and almost before she could believe it found herself married to him -- a King's general, years her elder, whose first marriage had ended in tragedy -- and transported to preside over his considerable estates. Far Flamstead proved to be a handsome house, yet within it's walls, and outside them in the intriguing miniature "folly" castle, lurked a secret that was to threaten Angelet's happiness and, in course, her life itself.
At first there were days of happiness when it seemed Richard would have the heir he so desperately sought, and a terrible night after which he would not. Then a recovered Bersaba came to Far Flamstead to comfort her bereaved sister -- and met Angelet's husband. And so a swirl of dramatic events is set in motion, which sweep this romantic novel to its climax as battles flare, ghosts rise and the fate of a nation is settled."

Purchased from Roma's Books, Rockwall's only used bookstore with the sweetest owners:
"When Lucinda Greenham and her impetuous friend Annabelinda Denver leave London for finishing school in Europe, neither imagines the trouble to come. It takes many forms: Anabelinda's secret affair; the child born out of wedlock; and the German invasion of Belgium.

With the Germans one step behind, the girls flee across a stunned Europe on the brink of World War I, to arrive safely in England at last. Picking up the pieces of their lives, they consign Annabelinda's damaging past to secrecy, only to be faced with blackmail so severe it leads to murder. As the girls will learn too late, there is a time for truth and a time for silence."

The Tsarina's Daughter by Carolly Erickson
"Historical maven Erickson (The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette) delivers a top-notch narrative featuring beautiful and courageous Tatiana Romanov, daughter of Nicholas and Alexandra, during the final years of their reign. As life becomes increasingly bleak in pre-revolution Russia, Tatiana sneaks out of the palace and sees firsthand the poverty and violence pervading her country. With Communist rebels shouting for equality and enemy countries invading, Tatiana befriends a young and destitute pregnant woman whose fiancé has just been murdered by Cossacks, opening up her conscience in unexpected ways. But as the czar falters and the czarina takes refuge from her afflictions in the company of Father Gregory (better known as Rasputin), Tatiana finds solace in the arms of a fierce patriot. Erickson creates an entirely convincing historical backdrop, and her tale of a family's fall from power and a country in transition is both romantic and gripping."

From Swaptree:
The Exiled: A Novel by Posie Graeme-Evans  (2005)
"In this windswept story set in the lusty fifteenth century, the enchanting Anne faces the challenge of raising her child in exile. Always resourceful, she flourishes as a merchant and is able to support her household. But the local businessmen aren't pleased about competing with a woman and her foes are multiplying around her, desperate to put her back in what they believe is her rightful place.

Anne has a secret that her enemies could use to destroy her. Her beloved son is the product of a passionate affair with the king, Edward IV, who knows nothing of his existence. If this information were to fall into the wrong hands, it could prove lethal for Anne and her child. She struggles to find peace in a world of duplicity and suspicion, where adversaries masquerade as allies, and someone very powerful wants her dead. Yet, despite the pressure of her enemies, what pains Anne the most is that she is unsure when or if she will see her darling Edward again."

From Simon & Schuster, a surprise review copy:
Still Alice By Lisa Genova
"Alice Howland is proud of the life she worked so hard to build. A Harvard professor, she has a successful husband and three grown children. When she begins to grow forgetful, she dismisses it for as long as she can, but when she gets lost in her own neighbourhood she knows that something has gone terribly wrong. She finds herself in the rapidly downward spiral of Alzheimer's Disease. She is fifty years old.

Suddenly she has no classes to teach, no new research to conduct, no invited lectures to give. Ever again. Unable to work, read and, increasingly, take care of herself, Alice struggles to find meaning and purpose in her everyday life as her concept of self gradually slips away. But Alice is a remarkable woman, and her family, yoked by history and DNA and love, discover more about her and about each other, in their quest to keep the Alice they know for as long as possible.

Losing her yesterdays, her short-term memory hanging on by a couple of frayed threads, she is living in the moment, living for each day. But she is still Alice."
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Feb 14, 2010

Literary Lovers Results

Sunday, February 14, 2010
Who is your favorite Literary Couple?

I recently ran a contest for the book giveaway of Robin Maxwell's newest novel, O, Juliet.
The entrants were required to tell me who their favorite literary lovers were. Since it is Valentine's Day, I decided to tally up the entries and post the mentions that were duplicated more than once. If a single commenter mentioned more than one couple, I only counted the one they mentioned first.

THE WINNER of the FAVORITE Literary Lovers with NINE mentions is.....

Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler of the book/movie Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Runner up with EIGHT mentions are

Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy, of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Honorable mentions with 2 votes each are:
Jamie and Claire from the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon
Anthony and Cleopatra
Catherine & Heathcliff from Bronte's Wuthering Heights
Emma Woodhouse and Mr. George Knightly of Emma by Jane Austen

Happy Valentine's Day!
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The Sunday Salon~ Masterpiece Classic: Northanger Abbey tonight! Happy Valentine's Day!

Sunday, February 14, 2010
The Sunday
Many of you know that I live in North/East Texas. And if you don't .. now you do. And my goodness, these parts of Texas got some record breaking snow Thursday and Friday! So, the kiddos and ME stayed home on Friday! A snow day.. and that is something I have not had since my days of growing up on Long Island in New York.
It was truly fun to watch the kiddos' first experiences with the snow. Reminiscent of my old days so very much gone by.. and so odd how time seems to rewind and flash forward quickly in these nostalgic memories. The kids are off for President's Day also, so they get a 4 day weekend!

I have just finished reading Donna Russo Morin's newest novel coming out soon, "The Secret of the Glass". It is not a quick read and I am not going to be gushing over it. This is a read for the Historical Fiction Bloggers Round Table, therefore it won't post until that week of the 20th.  But, I will still have another review to post for you this week so you won't miss me. I am posting "Hugh & Bess" by Susan Higginbotham next week. And already posted for you this past week are two reviews: Roses by Leila Meacham, and The Masqueraders by Georgette Heyer.

I have just begun to read another great Sourcebooks reissue: Young Bess by Margaret Irwin (1889-1969). This was first published in 1944 and I am about 120 pages into it (after just starting it this Saturday) and enjoying this one very much. I have always admired Elizabeth I, and this is a story that is focused on her younger years, and the turbulent Tudor times of when Henry VIII dies leaving his young but sickly son as his heir to the kingdom. Book 2 in the trilogy will be reissued by Sourcebooks in October 2010. I love the easy writing style of Irwin; this should be a happy and quick read for me.

The highlight of my week was meeting the author of Roses, Leila Meacham.
It was truly a fantastic experience, and Leila now has a fan for life. Read my post about meeting Leila, and what I learned when I spoke with her, at this post. And for an extra special treat, Hachette Book Group is sponsoring an awesome book giveaway of Roses for lucky commenters on that post! So please stop by, and read my thoughts, and enter for you chance to win Roses! Thanks to Miriam for setting up the meet and greet with Leila, it is a memory that I shall hold dear.

Onwards to TV news.. the Masterpiece Classics show Return to Cranford is available for viewing online until February 16 only.. so hurry up and get over there. Did you see Emma which aired January 24-February 7, 2010? No? Watch Emma Online through March 9th!

For Valentine's Day on Masterpiece Classic is an adaptation of Austen's Northanger Abbey! I am so looking forward to it, as I was one of those Austen fans that really enjoyed the Masterpiece version of Emma.
The two book giveaways for Ciji Ware's Island of the Swans, and then for Robin Maxwell's O, Juliet each concluded 2/12. The winners have been notified via email (which is why I require your email address so be sure to include it when you enter my giveaways!). You have until Monday PM respond to my emails.

Winners of Island of the Swans: Holly and Lizzy!

Winner of O, Juliet: KELLY
Congratulations, and don't forget to enter for my newest giveaway of Roses!

Have a wonderful Valentine's Day everyone!