Charles IX of France was the third son of Henry II and Catherine de Medici and the second of their sons to be King of France. Born in 1550, he was only 10 years old when he became king, with his mother acting as regent. His reign was marked by the French religious wars and he will forever be associated with the Saint Bartholomew's Day massacre in 1572. This portrait was painted about that time by Francois Clouet. Charles was frequently ill and he died in 1574, probably of tuberculosis.
Every Sunday Tanzanite highlights books that will be released during the upcoming week. She hopes you find something you will enjoy!
The Greatest Knight by Elizabeth Chadwick. US release Septebmer 1, 2009. One of my favorite books (and authors!). I'm so glad that her books are finally going to be released in the US. Royal protector. Loyal servant. Forgotten hero.
A penniless young knight with few prospects, William Marshal is plucked from obscurity when he saves the life of Henry II's formidable queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine. In gratitude, she appoints him tutor to the heir to the throne, the volatile and fickle Prince Henry. But being a royal favorite brings its share of danger and jealousy as well as fame and reward.
A writer of uncommon historical integrity and accuracy, Elizabeth Chadwick resurrects the true story of one of England's greatest forgotten heroes in a captivating blend of fact and fiction. The Greatest Knight restores William Marshal to his rightful place at the pinnacle of the Middle Ages, reflecting through him the triumphs, scandals, and power struggles that haven't changed in eight hundred years.
Pendragon's Banner by Helen Hollick. US release (reissue) - September 1, 2009. Pendragon's Banner is the second book in Helen Hollick's exciting King Arthur trilogy, covering 459-465 A.D. This is not a fairy tale or fantasy. There is no Merlin, no sword in the stone, and no Lancelot. This is the most accurate Arthurian legend ever written, based on historical evidence and meticulous research.
At age twenty-four, King Arthur has the kingdom he fought so hard for and a new young family. But keeping the throne of Britain—and keeping his wife and three sons safe—proves far from easy. Two enemies in particular threaten everything that is dear to him: Winifred, Arthur's vindictive first wife, and Morgause, priestess of the Mother and malevolent Queen of the North. Both have royal ambitions of their own.
In this story of harsh battles, secret treasonous plots, and the life-threatening politics of early Britain's dark ages, author Helen Hollick boldly reintroduces King Arthur as you've never seen him before.
Tears of Pearl by Tasha Alexander. US release September 1, 2009. Looking forward to the joys of connubial bliss, newlyweds Lady Emily and Colin Hargreaves set out toward Turkey for an exotic honeymoon. But on their first night in the city, a harem girl is found murdered—strangled in the courtyard of the Sultan’s lavish Topkapi Palace. Sir Richard St. Clare, an Englishman who works at the embassy in Constantinople, is present and recognizes the girl as his own daughter who was kidnapped twenty years earlier. Emily and Colin promise the heartbroken father they’ll find her killer.
As a woman, Emily is given access to the forbidden world of the harem and quickly discovers that its mysterious, sheltered walls offer no protection from a ruthless murderer. Soon, the Valide (mother to the Sultan) is found strangled with a silken bowstring and the head Eunuch is brutally slain.
When the killer strikes again, kidnapping a concubine and threatening to kill her unless Emily agrees to meet him in secret, she cannot wait for Colin or the authorities to come to her rescue. In a heart-stopping finale, Emily must rely on her own sharp wits if she is to stop a killer bent on taking revenge no matter how many innocent lives he leaves in his wake.
The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran. US paperback release September 1, 2009. One of my favorite books last year and I love this new cover! The intricacies of the ancient Egyptian court are brought to life in Moran's fascinating tale of a princess's rise to power. Nefertari, niece of the famed heretic queen Nefertiti, becomes part of the court of Pharaoh Seti I after her family is deposed, and she befriends Ramesses II, the young crown prince. When Ramesses is made co-monarch, he weds Iset, the granddaughter of a harem girl backed by Seti's conniving sister, Henuttawy, the priestess of Isis. As Nefertari's position in the court becomes tenuous, she realizes that she, too, wants to marry Ramesses and enlists the help of Seti's other sister, Woserit. But when Nefertari succeeds in wedding Ramesses, power struggles and court intrigues threaten her security, and it is questionable whether the Egyptian people will accept a heretic descendant as their ruler or if civil war will erupt. Moran (Nefertiti) brings her characters to life, especially Nefertari, who helped Ramesses II become one of the most famous of Egyptian pharaohs. Nefertari's struggles to be accepted as a ruler loved as a leader and to secure her family's position throughout eternity are sure to appeal to fans of historical fiction.
The reign of Henry VIII was full of pagentry, glamour, political and religious intrigue and included a colorful and interesting cast of characters. In this book, Alison Weir looks at each of these in detail and weaves them together to give us a glimpse into life with the king.
This is not a biography of Henry VIII but is more a look at his life as a Renaissance prince. The major events in his life are covered and the book is broken down into 63 fairly short chapters (covering 496 pages) each focusing on some aspect or person of Henry's reign. At times, the level of detail is quite fascinating; sometimes it is excrutiating. There are often detailed lists taken from household accounts - furnishings, descriptions of clothing, paintings, food eaten, etc -which provide an idea of the manner in which Henry lived. His love of building and improving his many manors and residences are also covered. In order to give the modern reader a better idea of how grand the lifestyle really was, Weir provides modern money equivalents (at the time the book was written in 2000) and they are often staggering and jaw dropping - he spent how much on what?!
The names of the people attached to the court at various times often made my head spin and trying to keep straight who was who and how they were related was frustrating. A family tree which includes the descendants of Edward IV's brother, George, Duke of Clarence, is helpful.
One thing I discovered is that there are three known early (before 1525) depictions of Henry and one of them is housed at the Denver Art Museum! While confirming this on the museum's web site, I realized what an extensive Renaissance collection they have. As a side note, the museum also has a portrait of Edward VI as a baby which I got a chance to see when we were in London (the portrait had been loaned to the British Library for their Henry VIII exhibit this year). I definately need to go check it out.
Overall, this was an interesting look at the way of life of a king. While Henry's six wives and the political and religious drama that marked parts of his reign are covered, they are not the focus of this book so anyone expecting detailed coverage of those events will be disappointed. Weir includes an extensive bibliography (40 pages), end notes and several color illustrations and portraits.
Every week Tanzanite features upcoming historical fiction and history related non-fiction books that have come to her attention and may be of interest to others. Since she has an out of control TBR pile, so should everyone else!
An accessible biography of Henry VIII by one of the country's leading Tudor experts. The future Henry VIII was born on 29 June 1491, the second son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. This talented, athletic and temperamental man might have proved something of a handful to his elder brother, Prince Arthur, the firstborn, had he survived to wear the crown. But Henry's life was changed forever when Arthur died in 1502 and the course of English history took a very unexpected turn.
Seventeen year old Morgan Kinneson is protecting the old man he is helping to freedom in Canada. But the chance to kill a moose deer that would feed his family for the winter lures Morgan away, and on his return someone who wanted that old man – or what he carried – has murdered him. Too ashamed to return to his parents after this tragedy, Morgan decides to travel from northern Vermont south through war-torn America to the Great Smoky Mountains, searching for his older brother who is missing from the Union Army. Morgan is determined to locate the brother he idolizes and reclaim what little family and honor he feels he has left. However, Morgan learns that the old man’s killers are on his tail and that he unknowingly possesses something of dear value. As he dodges surprise attacks, his trek to Gatlinburg becomes a journey of intense survival.
By the author of Two Women of Galilee, The Prophetess is the story of the wife of the prophet Isaiah. In the Old Testaments there is a passing mention that he was married to the prophetess, a woman who gave him two sons. In this novel, the prophetess has a name and a voice.
From the bestselling author of Red Azalea and Empress Orchid comes the powerful story of the friendship of a lifetime, based on the life of Pearl S. Buck.
In the small southern town of Chin-kiang, in the last days of the nineteenth century, two young girls bump heads and become thick as thieves. Willow is the only child of a destitute family, Pearl the headstrong daughter of zealous Christian missionaries. She will ultimately become the internationally renowned author Pearl S Buck, but for now she is just a girl embarrassed by her blonde hair and enchanted by her new Chinese friend. The two embark on a friendship that will sustain both of them through one of the most tumultuous periods in Chinese history.
Moving out into the world together, the two enter the intellectual fray of the times, share love interests and survive early marriages gone bad. Their shared upbringing inspires Pearl’s novels, which celebrate the life of the Chinese peasant and will eventually earn her both a Pulitzer and a Nobel Prize. But when a civil war erupts between the Nationalists and Communists, Pearl is forced to flee the country just ahead of angry mobs. Willow, despite close ties to Mao’s inner circle, is punished for loyalty to her “cultural imperialist” friend. And yet, through love and loss, heartbreak and joy, exile and imprisonment, the two women remain intimately entwined.
In this ambitious new novel, Anchee Min brings to life a courageous and passionate woman who is now hailed in China as a modern heroine. Like nothing before it, Pearl of China tells the story of one of the twentieth century’s greatest writers, from the perspective of the people she loved and of the land she called home.
Elizabeth of York: Queenship and Power by Arlene Okerlund. Non-fiction. US release September 29, 2009; UK release October 2, 2009. This one’s a little pricey at almost $75!
This book tells the story of the queen whose marriage to King Henry VII ended England’s Wars of the Roses and inaugurated the 118-year Tudor dynasty. Best known as the mother of Henry VIII and grandmother of Elizabeth I, this Queen Elizabeth contributed far beyond the act of giving birth to future monarchs. Her marriage to Henry VII unified the feuding houses of Lancaster and York, and her popularity with the people helped her husband survive rebellions that plagued his first decade of rule. Queen Elizabeth’s gracious manners and large family created a warm, convivial Court marked by a rather exceptional fondness between the royal couple. Her love for music, literature, and architecture also helped inspire England’s Renaissance.
Rome: The Emperor's Spy by Manda Scott. UK release January 1, 2010; US release February 23, 2010.
AD 34: Sebastos Pantera is twelve. Training for the time when he too will be a soldier of Rome, he follows his father to a garden tomb on the outskirts of Jerusalem where he watches him greet two men and a heavily pregnant woman. In a moment that changes his life forever, he sees a wounded revolutionary being brought out of the tomb alive . . .Twenty years later, Pantera returns from five years undercover in Britannia as assassin and spy for the Legions. He is sick of spying, but a deadly combination of old loyalties and a sense of unfinished business combine to lure him homeward to the city of Rome where, his former mentor and spymaster, the Machiavellian Seneca the Younger, charges him with rooting out the revolutionaries responsible for the city’s seething unrest. Pantera discovers that the main troublemaker is none other than his closest friend, Saulos, a recent convert to the new religion of Christianity, and Saulos is planning the biggest single act of terrorism the Roman Empire has known.
Catherine de Medici was born in 1519 in Florence Italy. Orphaned as a child, she married the King of France's second son, Henri in 1533. She ultimately became Queen of France and later saw three of her sons sit on the French throne as well. Her sons however were largely incompetent and ruled with the guidance of their mother. She is largely blamed for the horrific St. Barthlomew's Day massacre in 1572 which resulted in the deaths of thousands. She died in 1589.
One of the defects in my personality is that when I find something I love, I want to acquire as much of it as possible. My love of historical fiction is no different but owning all of the new releases isn’t enough - I also feel compelled to get my hands on as many older, out of print books as I can. I do however have an internal “reasonableness” limitation – I will not be shelling out $70+ for Diana Norman’s Fitzempress’ Law for example since that would violate my motto of “buying books is cheaper than buying shoes”. So, I spend a lot of time each week trolling through used book sites and ebay looking for books.
A couple of years ago I came across a book about Anne Boleyn, The Dark Eyed Queen by Lozania Prole. Since then, I have acquired a couple of other books by Prole, including one about Katherine Parr, Henry’s Last Love. At the time, it was the only copy available on the internet (now there is one copy for $125) and I got it for less than the price of a new hardback which is usually my limit of “reasonableness”.
Written in 1958, Henry’s Last Love is a quick read and focuses on Katherine’s years at court as a young widow finding love for the first time; as the last wife of Henry VIII; and as a wife for a fourth time to the man she loved – and thought she had lost when she was forced to marry the king.
Prole covers the major events in Katherine’s life without providing a lot of detail. The writing is at times overly dramatic with lots of exclamation points for effect and for the most part there’s no real insight into the characters. The one exception is of Thomas Seymour. Arrogant, vain and self-absorbed, he is the ultimate cad and when it looks (to him) like he could make a better marriage, he takes matters into his own hands resulting in an ending to the book that was one of those "WTF" moments.
This is one of those books that it’s hard to say much about because there just wasn’t much to it. Nearly a quarter of the book covers Henry's previous marital history and there seems to be an abundance literally of flowery language - numerous references to various kinds of flowers and other plants that are either in the garden where the action is taking place or that will be in bloom during a particular season. I seriously considered throwing it against the wall a couple of times, but since I was reading it while at a cabin we had rented in the mountains for a couple of days, I didn't want to damage someone else's walls! Unfortunately, the other books that I had brought with me to pass the time were in the car, which my family took to go white-water rafting. Figuring that even a bad book was better than no book at all, I finished it.
The storyline is pretty simple and so this would be a book that’s good for a pre-teen who has an interest in the time period. For anyone with even a passing knowledge of Katherine Parr or if you are looking for a more in-depth story about her, I would suggest The Ivy Crown by Mary Luke (also out of print, but generally more reasonable in price!). I can only hope her other books are not like this one.
Some of today's covers are in black and white. As soon as I can find the color versions, I'll post them.
The Secret of the Glass by Donna Russo Morin. US release date March 2010. For hundreds of years, the glassmakers of Venice were ordered to live in the small cluster of islands known as Murano, to protect the secrets of the exquisite, expensive glass. Sophia is the eldest daughter of a renowned glass artist who has no male heirs, and in defiance of the law, he teaches her the process. As her father’s mind deteriorates, Sophia begins making the pieces in his stead.Though engaged to a Venetian prince, Sophia’s only goal is to bring her family to sanctuary before her father passes and before her wedding day. Using her royal betrothal as a key to the glittering courts of Italy, Sophia covertly spies, and in the process discovers dangerous secrets, forbidden love, and unexpected allies in this beautifully written, utterly compelling
When the Heavens Fall by Gilbert Morris. Christian fiction. US and UK release date May 4, 2010. From the grandfather of Christian fiction—the second novel in the Winslow Breed trilogy, with Quentin Winslow as a spy in the service of Princess Elizabeth. During the violent rule of Queen Mary, who allowed the prosecution of innocents in her zeal to return England to Catholicism, Quentin Winslow works as an artist with a growing reputation. After catching the eye of Princess Elizabeth—who is in danger of dying at her sister Mary’s hand—Quentin is asked to convert, in name only, to Catholicism and become a spy. Although he is only nominally religious, Quentin knows his conversion will hurt his parents and his true love, Adara Price, who is an ardent Protestant.
Quentin does as Elizabeth asks, and he is able to save a number of Protestants from “bloody Mary” and her nefarious plans. But when Mary names Adara a heretic and is prepared to execute her, all bets are off. Experiencing a personal relationship with God for the first time, Quentin and Adara flee the royal court with a price on their heads. Will Quentin’s service to Elizabeth cost him his life, and the life of his beloved? In When the Heavens Fall, bestselling author Gilbert Morris beautifully captures the tone of the Tudor period, chronicling the period’s excesses—and godly behavior—with skill and prudence. Morris' first book in the series is Honor in the Dust.
In the simmering hot summer of 1492, a monstrous evil is stirring in the Eternal City of Rome. The brutal murder of an alchemist sets off a desperate race to uncover the plot that threatens to extinguish the light of the Renaissance and plunge Europe back into medieval darkness.
Determined to avenge the killing of her father, Francesca Giordano defies all convention to claim for herself the position of professional poisoner serving Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia, head of the most notorious and dangerous family in Italy. She becomes the confidante of Lucrezia Borgia and the lover of Cesare Borgia. At the same time, she is drawn to the young renegade monk who yearns to save her life and her soul. Pursuing her father’s killer from the depths of Rome’s Jewish ghetto to the heights of the Vatican itself, this mistress of the dark is driven to confront the innermost demons that stand between her and the light for which she yearns.
The Stolen Crown by Susan Higginbotham. US release March 2010. Susan just posted the cover of her upcoming book on her blog today - isn't it pretty?!
When six-year-old Kate Woodville’s beautiful sister Elizabeth makes a shocking—and secret—marriage to King Edward IV, Kate and her large family are whisked to the king’s court. Soon a bedazzled Kate becomes one of the greatest ladies in the land when she marries young Harry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham. But Kate’s fairy-tale existence as a duchess is shattered when the ongoing conflict between the houses of Lancaster and York engulfs the Woodville family.
As Edward IV fights to keep his crown, Harry’s relatives become hopelessly divided between Lancaster and York. Forced constantly to struggle with his own allegiances, Harry faces his defining moment when his dear friend Richard, Duke of Gloucester, determines to seize the throne for himself as Richard III. With lives in jeopardy and nothing less than a dynasty at stake, Harry’s loyalties—and his conscience—will be put to the ultimate test.
In the heart of Medici Florence, part-time model and full-time prostitute Luciana Vetra stumbles across a deadly secret. Asked by one of her most exalted clients to pose as a favour for a painter friend, she finds herself the model for the central figure of Flora in Sandro Botticelli's famous Primavera. During her time in Botticelli's studio, Luciana makes a startling discovery. She enlists the help of the one man who has never wanted her – novice librarian Brother Guido of Santa Croce, in an effort to explain what she has found. Monk and Courtesan find themselves in mortal danger as they are pursued through nine cities of Renaissance Italy in an attempt to decode the painting's secrets. The pair soon realize that the Primavera's hidden message reveals a political conspiracy that reaches all the way up to Lorenzo de Medici himself.
A few weeks ago, Weekly Wishlist included Bridgid of Kildare by Heather Terrell. It looks like they have a new cover for it - I like this one much better!
While browsing Amazon today for something entirely not related, I came across these covers for two of Plaidy's books:
When I pulled up the details for both books, there is no new publication date and if you click on the image of the picture, it actually pulls up the older Three Rivers Press cover. I know nothing about the publishing world but it looks like they changed the covers to have the same look as their recent and upcoming releases. (they also show up on Three Rivers Press web site). Those are some serious 80's poufy sleeves on that blue dress!
The White Queen tells the story of a woman of extraordinary beauty and ambition who, catching the eye of the newly crowned boy king, marries him in secret and ascends to royalty. While Elizabeth rises to the demands of her exalted position and fights for the success of her family, her two sons become central figures in a mystery that has confounded historians for centuries: the missing princes in the Tower of London whose fate is still unknown. From her uniquely qualified perspective, Philippa Gregory explores this most famous unsolved mystery of English history, informed by impeccable research and framed by her inimitable storytelling skills.
The Boleyn Wife by Brandy Purdy. US release January 26, 2010. Previously released as Vengence is Mine. There was room for only one woman in George Boleyn’s heart—his sister, the mercurial and fascinating Anne Boleyn, who was destined to change history and wear a crown. To his adoring wife, Lady Jane Rochford, he was cold and indifferent. When Anne failed to give Henry VIII the son she had promised him, and he was tiring of her tart tongue and tantrums, false charges of adultery were hastily concocted. Lady Rochford provided the crowning touch when she accused her husband and his beloved sister of incest. Both died upon the scaffold. Lady Rochford paid dearly for her treachery. She was left alone, shunned and friendless, until wild, sweet, wanton Katherine Howard danced into her life and became Henry’s fifth queen. When Katherine, disgusted by the obese and impotent King’s fumbling attempts to make love to her, took a lusty young lover Lady Rochford helped them meet. And when the truth came out, she was the first to betray them. As she sits in the Tower of London, being tormented by the ghosts of George and Anne Boleyn, and awaiting her own appointment with the headsman’s axe, Lady Rochford takes up her pen. (description from Vengence is Mine).
The Heretic's Wife by Brenda Rickman Vantrease. US and UK release date March 16, 2010. Tudor England is a perilous place for booksellers Kate Gough and her brother John, who sell forbidden translations of the Bible. Caught between warring factions—English Catholics opposed to the Lutheran reformation, and Henry VIII’s growing impatience with the Pope’s refusal to sanction his marriage to Anne Boleyn—Kate embarks on a daring adventure that will lead her into a dangerous marriage and a web of intrigue that pits her against powerful enemies. From the king’s lavish banquet halls to secret dungeons and the inner sanctums of Thomas More, Brenda Rickman Vantrease’s glorious new novel illuminates the public pageantry and the private passions of men and women of conscience in treacherous times.
The Song of Troy by Colleen McCullough. Reissue. UK release date March 4, 2010. The tragic and terrible drama of the war between Greeks and Trojans, the long siege of Troy, and the impact of one woman's beauty on the fate of two nations, is played out again in this dazzling novel based on Homer's ILIAD. Meet enchanting Helen, who we first encounter as a spoiled teenager and whose passion for the handsome, reckless Paris leads to the betrayal of her husband, King Menelaus, and the fall of the House of Troy. Powerful King Agamemnon with his terrifyingly ambitious wife Klytemnestra and his soothsaying mistress Kassandra. Odysseus, doomed to wander the Aegean for twenty long years; brave Achilles, who is haunted by the mad shade of his mother; the heroes Hektor and Ajax, and many more.
Perhaps one of the most anticipated historical novels this year, Philippa Gregory’s latest book is the first in a new series about the “cousins war” or what we now call The Wars of the Roses. However some the promotional material that has been released (including some videos on You Tube) have generated quite a bit of controversy as historical fiction fans worry that the apparent witchcraft angle will create an over the top disappointment.
In 1464 the Lancaster and York branches of the Plantagenet family have been fighting over the throne of England. As a result, Elizabeth Woodville is a widow with two young boys who has been denied her rightful lands. Supposedly one of the most beautiful women of her time. Elizabeth hopes to catch the eye of the young York king as he passes near her parents home. Edward IV likes the ladies and can’t pass up a pretty face. Elizabeth finds that her plan has succeeded – and then some.
Refusing to become the king’s mistress, Elizabeth finds herself secretly married to Edward. When the truth becomes known, there are serious repercussions and the York faction finds itself fighting not only the Lancastrians, but each other. I am not going to recount the details of their struggles here. Suffice it to say that it’s all here – the treachery of the king’s brother George; the loyalty of his brother Richard; the resentment as Elizabeth’s family are given positions, land and power; Edward’s death resulting in Richard becoming king; and of course, the mystery of what happened to Elizabeth and Edward’s two sons, the “princes in the tower”.
Now, about that witchcraft angle. In, Elizabeth’s mother Jacquetta is descended from the water goddess Melusine. As a result, they both have a special relationship and special abilities with water, as well as some capabilities with “the sight”. Although these “pagan tricks” as Elizabeth refers to them are woven into the events that unfold, they weren’t the focus of the story nor did they overwhelm it. It is not “dark” magic, but something more subtle and earthy. Elizabeth also has to face the fact that sometimes the magic can have unintended consequences -one of which will be so drastic that it will change the country forever. However if you don’t like to read about spells and charms at all or are annoyed by references to Elizabeth as a witch, then you may not enjoy this book.
From some of the promotional information that has been put out there by either Gregory herself or her publisher, many have gotten the impression that this is just another portrayal of Elizabeth as the conniving, shrewish witch. I found that not to be the case. Elizabeth is a good and faithful wife, a loving mother and most of the time a smart and likeable woman. Yes, she advances the interests of her family, but really, who wouldn’t in her position? She doesn’t always seem to understand the animosity this causes, but her brother Anthony does and often tries to get her to recognize and appreciate their somewhat precarious position. Elizabeth is also one to hold a grudge and she vows revenge for the deaths of her father, brother and later, her boys. But she also has feelings of regret as she wonders if it was all worth it.
Elizabeth does seem to undergo somewhat of a personality shift following Edward’s death. Her hasty decision to go into sanctuary and the events that followed indicate how much she did not trust Richard. Why should he uphold her son’s claim when he could make one of his own? Although this does initially bode well for Richard’s reputation, there is somewhat of a turn around by the novel’s end. Since the book is written in first person (mostly) and from Elizabeth’s point of view some less than flattering remarks about Richard should be expected. But given the panic that Elizabeth feels after her husband’s death and her desire to protect her children, as a mother, I understood it. Were her fears reasonable? Maybe – maybe not. But by her actions, the real Elizabeth Woodville obviously had her reasons and to her, her reaction was totally justified. Whose to say what lengths we might go to protect our children and what we felt they were entitled to.
As Elizabeth plots against Richard she makes uneasy alliances with those who say they want to uphold Edward’s claim to the throne – notably the Duke of Buckingham and Margaret Beaufort. As the rumor of her sons’ death begins to spread, fingers quickly point to Richard. But did he really do it? Elizabeth begins to have doubts as she wonders who would benefit from the death of her sons.
The first person narrative for the most part works pretty well. One thing however drove me nuts - Elizabeth constantly refers to her older sons by their last name “my Grey sons; my son Thomas Grey etc” even before her other sons are born. It may have been to reduce the confusion from all of the people with the same name, but people don’t talk that way. At times, the story comes out of Elizabeth’s first person narrative and switches to third person to relate what is going on with Edward elsewhere. At first it was a little jarring, but I much preferred this to say Elizabeth or Jacquetta “seeing” what was going on.
Most of the extended Woodville family is barely mentioned. There is however a fun snippy little cat fight between Jacquetta and Cecily Neville shortly after Elizabeth and Edward's marriage. After Anthony’s death and as Elizabeth continues to stay in sanctuary, she finds herself battling her eldest daughter who questions her motives and accuses her of caring more about the crown than her own sons.
Overall, I really enjoyed The White Queen. It was a little hard to get into in the beginning, but once Edward and Elizabeth were married I thought it picked up. I've read a few books about Elizabeth (and many where she is at least a secondary character), and this seems to be one of the more balanced and perhaps even sympathetic portrayals of her that I've come across. Gregory seems to have become one of those authors that most people either love (for her entertaining style) or hate (for playing fast and loose with history, often in the guise of historical accuracy). Despite all of the controversy over some of the assertions and storyline choices she has made, I'm looking forward to seeing where she goes with the rest of the series.
Brothers with a difference: “Edward lives as if there is no tomorrow, Richard as if he wants no tomorrow, and George as though someone should give it to him for free.” Anthony to Elizabeth as he assesses her husband and his brothers.
Rating: Very Good
My thanks to Kelly at Simon and Schuster for sending me a copy to review.
Spain for the Sovereigns is the second book in Jean Plaidy’s Isabella and Ferdinand trilogy and covers the time period from shortly after their marriage up to the expulsion of the Jews and the return of the adventurer Cristobol Colon.
Castile is a hotbed of activity and the young couple find that they have their hands full holding onto their throne as dissatisfied nobles enlist the aid of the king of Portugal to push forward the claim of La Beltraneja (the daughter of the former queen and many believe her lover). Ferdinand continues to sulk over Isabella’s refusal to give him equal power but the death of his father makes Ferdinand a king in his own right and the couple’s relationship improves somewhat as they eventually turn their focus to creating a united, Christian Spain.
During these years, Isabella gives birth to her five children (four daughters and a son) and rather reluctantly installs the Spanish Inquisition to rid the country of the heretic Jews, many of whom claim to have converted but rumor has it that they still practice their own religious beliefs secretly.
A couple of chapters are devoted to the man whose dream would literally change the world. Cristobol Colon believed there was a new world to be found across the Atlantic or at the very least, a new trade route to the east. After striking out with the king of Portugal, Cristobol decides to try his luck with Castile’s queen. Isabella is intrigued and interested, but between a depleted treasury and a war with the Moors, she asks him to be patient until they have the money to help him. Seeing at least some hope, he agrees to stay in Spain. But as the war drags on, Cristobol grows impatient and threatens to take his idea to France. This gets their attention as the last thing they want to see happen is for France to get the land and riches Cristobol is sure exists.
Written in 1960, Spain for the Sovereigns suffers from the dated and stilted dialogue that sometimes plagues Plaidy’s books and it is often repetitive. Throughout the story, Isabella maintains the hard veneer of a woman who knows and understands her duty all too well and who puts it above everything and everyone else. It is unfortunate that Plaidy did not crack that hard shell and show us more of the woman beneath.
Where would we be without dreams: “Many of us are [dreamers], and those who are not should be. All that is accomplished on earth must begin as a dream”. Cristobol Colon to a monk he is trying to persuade to help gain an audience with Isabella.
Sand Daughter by Sarah Bryant. US release October 6, 2009. Released in the UK last year. “An epic filled with emotion and rich with atmosphere” ( Historical Novel Society) from the author of The Other Eden.Khalidah faces an arranged marriage at the behest of her father, a Bedouin Clan chief. But when a mysterious stranger named Sulayman reveals the machinations behind her pending union, she suddenly finds herself a pawn in a deadly plot involving her own feuding tribe and the powerful Templar Knights. Faced with certain death, Khalidah runs away with Sulayman, a man she barely knows. Their journey, and the desire that grows between them, will thrust Khalidah toward unimaginable adventure, and the echoes of a past that somehow connect her to the JinnÂ—the mysterious Afghan warriors who may hold the key to the coming battle for the Holy Land.
England in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years, and marry Anne Boleyn. The pope and most of Europe opposes him. The quest for the king’s freedom destroys his adviser, the brilliant Cardinal Wolsey, and leaves a power vacuum.
Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell. Cromwell is a wholly original man, a charmer and a bully, both idealist and opportunist, astute in reading people and a demon of energy: he is also a consummate politician, hardened by his personal losses, implacable in his ambition. But Henry is volatile: one day tender, one day murderous. Cromwell helps him break the opposition, but what will be the price of his triumph?
In inimitable style, Hilary Mantel presents a picture of a half-made society on the cusp of change, where individuals fight or embrace their fate with passion and courage. With a vast array of characters, overflowing with incident, the novel re-creates an era when the personal and political are separated by a hairbreadth, where success brings unlimited power but a single failure means death.
The Elizabethan World by Susan Doran. Non-fiction. UK release December 1, 2009; US release February 1, 2009. This one is pricey -$250/150 GBP. The Elizabethan world is of immense social, cultural and economic significance, and the events and people of the time are some of the most colourful and best-known in British history. Elizabeth I is one of British history’s most famous monarchs, and her reign saw the defeat of the Spanish Armada, the foundations of the early British Empire and the emergence of Britain as a major maritime power. Literature and the arts flourished, with Shakespeare in full creative bloom and the growth of commercial theatre. Major religious changes took place at this time, including the 1559 Church Settlement from which the Church of England traces its roots.
This lavishly illustrated, multi-disciplinary volume approaches the Elizabethan World thematically. Topics covered include the royal court; political ideas; censorship and propaganda; Protestantism and national identity; the Catholic community; social hierarchies; women; the family and household; commerce and consumption; urban and rural economies; theatre; art; architecture; education; exploration and imperialism; and Elizabethan wars. The book conveys a vivid picture of how politics, religion, science, popular culture, the world of work and social practices fit together in an exciting world of change.
In the fifth book of Susan Carroll’s Faire Isle series, Catherine de Medici (the “ Dark Queen”) is getting old and losing her power, both over the political situation in France and her abilities as a daughter of the earth. She is not happy about any of it. With her son, King Henry, preferring to spend his time with his minions and the duc de Guise increasing his influence, Catherine is more desperate than ever to find the elusive Book of Shadows in order to restore her youth and to end the threat de Guise poses to her family.
Convinced that the book still exists, Catherine seeks answers from a new seer and, convinced of his abilities hires him to go to Faire Isle and bring back the one person she is sure either has the book or knows where it is – Megaera (Meg). Only the seer is not who or what he seems to be and the last place he wants to go is to Faire Isle.
But fate has other plans for the Xavier the seer and he ends up there anyway. His reasons for wanting to avoid the place tie up some loose plotlines from the early books in the series and he finds a welcome diversion in the young English exile Jane Danvers (from the fourth book, The Huntress). A romance develops between the two and as Xavier reconsiders his mission he must also find a way to make peace with the Cheney sisters. Otherwise, they are all in danger – especially young Meg who will make her own sacrifice in an effort to save those she cares about.
Carroll’s The Dark Queen, was the first book that I read when I started reading again in 2006 and I consider it my introduction to historical fiction, so I have a soft spot for the series. Twilight of a Queen is less about Catherine de Medici and the Cheney sisters than the previous books and it doesn’t have quite the same “historical” feel to it. It is nonetheless, a fast-paced story full of intrigue, deception and a little bit of romance. Early in the book Carroll did manage to fall into one trap that annoyed the heck out of me. In an effort to make those who had not read the previous books understand who the characters were and their relationship to each other, dialogue included information that the other person would already know (example, Jane saying to Meg “Ariane’s brother-in-law Simon Aristide” when “Simon” would have been sufficient as Meg would already know he was Ariane’s brother in law and what his last name was). Since the book is written in third person, I didn’t see the need in doing it this way, but it was pretty much confined to the first few chapters.
I also thought the ending seemed rather rushed – after more than 2,000 pages (in five books) of Catherine’s scheming to get her hands on the one thing she thinks will save her family, in literally an instant it was all over. I was like, that’s it – am I missing some pages or something? It was all rather anti-climatic.
I’m not sure if this will be the last book in the series. I hope not - I would like to find out more about what happens to Meg as she grows into an adult and learns how to cope with the knowledge she has acquired.
A child’s way of thinking: “…she said you are a half uncle…so which half of you is missing?” One of Gabrielle’s young daughters as she tries to figure out complicated relationships.
Maria of Aragon was the third daughter of Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain. Born in 1482, she became the second wife of Manuel I of Portugal (his first wife had been her sister Isabella). She died in 1517.
For July my "books-in-the-mailbox-to-books-read" ratio came out almost even (9 new books to 7 books read)! There might be hope for me yet...
From Amazon (Gift Certificate I won from Lynne - thanks Lynne!):
Treason by Meredith Whitford (Wars of the Roses)
Twilight of a Queen by Susan Carroll (Catherine de Medici - 5th in the Faire Isle series)
From PaperBack Swap:
Pharaoh by Karen Essex (Cleopatra)
Bond of Blood by Roberta Gellis (set during the reign of King Stephen)
American Creation by Joseph Ellis (non-fiction)
From Book Depository:
A Time of Singing by Elizabeth Chadwick
Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran
The Hammer and the Sword by Philippa Wiat (Richard II)
Five Gold Rings by Phlippa Wiat (Katherine Grey)