Monday, January 31, 2011

Monday Mosaic

Well, it looks like it may be a Borgia week around the castle.  I'm finishing up a non-fiction book about Lucrezia (reviews for this book and one for Madonna of the Seven Hills by Jean Plaidy should both be posted this week) and decided on Cesare for this week's Mosaic.  There seems to be some uncertainty about his date of birth - either 1475 or 1476 - and from an early age his future belonged to the church.  After his father became Pope (Alexander VI), Cesare was made a cardinal around the age of 18 (having been made a bishop a few years earlier).  His jealousy of his brother Juan led many to suspect that he was involved in his brother's murder and his close relationship with his sister Lucrezia led to rumors that they were closer than they should have been.  Following Juan's death, Cesare resigned his position as a cardinal in order to take up a military career.  He was killed during a siege in 1507. 

This is an alleged portrait of Cesare.  While looking for portraits of the Borgia family members, I was surprised at how few there are. 

The Borgias - Recent Trailer

This trailer is well over 4 minutes long and includes some interview snippets with the cast.  I know where I will be on April 3!!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

New This week - January 30, 2011

Every Sunday Tanzanite highlights books that will be released during the upcoming week.  She hopes you will find something you will enjoy!

The Tudor Secret by Christopher Gortner.  US release February 1, 2011 (previously released as The Secret Lion).  
The era of the Tudors was one of danger, intrigue, conspiracy, and, above all, spies.
Summer 1553: A time of danger and deceit. Brendan Prescott, an orphan, is reared in the household of the powerful Dudley family. Brought to court, Prescott finds himself sent on an illicit mission to the king’s brilliant but enigmatic sister, Princess Elizabeth. But Brendan is soon compelled to work as a double agent by Elizabeth’s protector, William Cecil, who promises in exchange to help him unravel the secret of his own mysterious past.
A dark plot swirls around Elizabeth’s quest to unravel the truth about the ominous disappearance of her seriously ill brother, King Edward VI. With only a bold stable boy and an audacious lady-in-waiting at his side, Brendan plunges into a ruthless gambit of half-truths, lies, and murder. Filled with the intrigue and pageantry of Tudor England, The Tudor Secret is the first book in The Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles.

The Irish Princess by Karen Harper.  US and UK release February 1, 2011.
A grand-scale historical novel from the national bestselling author of Mistress Shakespeare.
Born into a first family of Ireland, with royal ties on both sides, Elizabeth Fitzgerald-known as Gera-finds her world overturned when Henry VIII imprisons her father, the Earl of Kildare, and brutally destroys her family. Torn from the home she loves, her remaining family scattered, Gera dares not deny the refuge offered her in England's glittering royal court. There she must navigate ever-shifting alliances even as she nurtures her secret desire for revenge. From County Kildare's lush green fields to London's rough-and-tumble streets and the royal court's luxurious pageantry, The Irish Princess follows the journey of a daring woman whose will cannot be tamed, and who won't be satisfied until she restores her family to its rightful place in Ireland.

Richard III and the Bosworth Campaign by Peter Hammond.  Non-fiction.  This originally had a February 1, 2011 (US) release date but it's now showing a January 2011 date - but it still says "pre-order";  released in the UK in 2010.  I thought I would go ahead and include it in this week's list - just in case.
On 22 August 1485 the forces of the Yorkist king Richard III and his Lancastrian opponent Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond clashed at Bosworth Field in Leicestershire in one of the decisive battles of English history. Richard was defeated and killed. Henry took the crown as Henry VII, established the Tudor dynasty and set English history on a new course. For the last 500 years this, the most famous battle of the Wars of the Roses, has excited passionate interest and continuing controversy.

Peter Hammond, in a vivid and perceptive account of the battle, retells the story of the tangled dynastic and personal rivalries that provoked the conflict, describes the preparations of the two converging armies and offers a gripping analysis of the contest itself. The latest documentary and archaeological evidence is considered, and the author weighs up the merits of conflicting interpretations of the battle and the battlefield. He also pays particular attention to the contrasting characters of Richard III and Henry Tudor, the villain and the victor of the drama, who are reconsidered as individuals and as commanders.
This lucid, authoritative and readable new history will be essential reading for anyone who is intrigued by the short, unhappy reign of Richard III and the trial of strength that destroyed him.

Boudica's Last Stand:  Britain's Revolt Against Rome AD 60-61  by John Waite.  Non-fiction.  UK release February 1, 2011 (will be released in the US in July 2011).
It is Britain, AD 60. Three Roman towns are in ashes and thousands lie dead. With her new allies, the Trinovantes and the Catuvellauni, Boudica and the Iceni march defiantly towards their enemy. They seek one last pivotal victory to drive the Romans from their land forever. Not far away the Roman governor, Gaius Suetonius Paulinus awaits them. His ground chosen, his strategy decided, his small force awaits the great native army. If his strategy is sound they will prevail, if not they will be massacred, losing the province forever. Is it really revenge Boudica wants for the vile humiliations the Romans heaped on her? Or is she playing for much higher stakes? And Paulinus, can he defeat the odds to win the day? To answer these questions, this book will re examine events from a fresh, tactical perspective and produce a clearer picture of a revolt crushed on a newly suggested battle site, offering a new interpretation of a battle that decided 2000 years of Britain's cultural heritage.

Pale Rose of England by Sandra Worth.  US and UK release February 1, 2011.
From the award-winning author of The King's Daughter comes a story of love and defiance during the War of the Roses.
It is 1497. The news of the survival of Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, has set royal houses ablaze with intrigue and rocked the fledgling Tudor dynasty. With the support of Scotland's King James IV, Richard-known to most of England as Perkin Warbeck-has come to reclaim his rightful crown from Henry Tudor. Stepping finally onto English soil, Lady Catherine Gordon has no doubt that her husband will succeed in his quest.
But rather than assuming the throne, Catherine would soon be prisoner of King Henry VII, and her beloved husband would be stamped as an imposter. With Richard facing execution for treason, Catherine, alone in the glittering but deadly Tudor Court, must find the courage to spurn a cruel monarch, shape her own destiny, and win the admiration of a nation.

Our Tempestuous Day by Carolly Erickson.  US reissue February 1, 2011.
From 1810 to 1820, while his father, King George III, declined into madness at Windsor, besieged by nightmares of England sinking into the sea, George, the Prince of Wales, served as Regent, creating an epoch in England now known as the Regency Period.
This was the age of the opulent interiors of the prince’s palace, Carlton House, the grand scenic architecture of his Brighton Pavilion, outlandish fashion, extravagant balls, the age of Austen, Shelley and Lord Byron. Yet as Carolly Erickson’s portrait of this quicksilver age shows, beneath the veneer of the chinoiserie and the grand facades, it was also a time of explosive popular unrest, political radicalism, and the European struggle against Napoleon. Aristocratic ennui and decadence contrasted with economic upheavals in the Midlands. While Caroline, Princess of Wales and wife of the Regent, had flagrant affairs and made outrageous scenes at court, the Luddites made midnight raids on textile machinery and murdered mill owners. The fascinating personalities both at court and in society—the Royals, Napoleon, the Duke of Wellington, Hannah Moore and others—provide the dramatic intrigue of this excellent social history, tempered by the larger, dynamic forces of English society in flux. It is history told through the people who made it happen.

Exit the Actress by Priya Parmar.  US release February 1, 2011; UK release February 8, 2011.
While selling oranges in the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, sweet and sprightly Ellen "Nell" Gwyn impresses the theater’s proprietors with a wit and sparkle that belie her youth and poverty. She quickly earns a place in the company, narrowly avoiding the life of prostitution to which her sister has already succumbed. As her roles evolve from supporting to starring, the scope of her life broadens as well. Soon Ellen is dressed in the finest fashions, charming the theatrical, literary, and royal luminaries of Restoration England. Ellen grows up on the stage, experiencing first love and heartbreak and eventually becoming the mistress of Charles II. Despite his reputation as a libertine, Ellen wholly captures his heart—and he hers—but even the most powerful love isn’t enough to stave off the gossip and bitter court politics that accompany a royal romance. Telling the story through a collection of vibrant seventeenth-century voices ranging from Ellen’s diary to playbills, letters, gossip columns, and home remedies, Priya Parmar brings to life the story of an endearing and delightful heroine.

Rebellion by James McGee.  US and UK release February 3, 2011.
Rebellion is brewing in Napoleonic Paris, in the new action-packed novel from the author of the bestselling Ratcatcher October 1812: Britain and France are still at war. France is engaged on two battle fronts - Spain and Russia - and her civilians are growing weary of the fight. Rebellion is brewing. Since Napoleon Bonaparte appointed himself as First Consul, there have been several attempts to either kill or overthrow him. All have failed, so far! Meanwhile in London, Bow Street Runner Matthew Hawkwood has been seconded to the foreign arm of the Secret Service. There, he meets the urbane Henry Brooke, who tells him he's to join a colleague in Paris on a special mission. Brooke's agent has come up with a daring plan and he needs Hawkwood's help to put it into action. If the plan is successful it could lead to a negotiated peace treaty between France and the allies. Failure would mean prison, torture and a meeting with the guillotine!

The Ground is Burning by Samuel Black.  UK release February 3, 2011.
Seduction, betrayal and murder: the true art of the renaissance. Cesare Borgia, Niccolo Machiavelli and Leonardo da Vinci - three of the most famous, or notorious, names in European history. In the autumn of 1502, their lives intersect in a castle in Italy's Romagna. In this hugely intelligent and entertaining novel, Samuel Black tells the true story of these men who, with different tools - ruthless ambition, unstoppable genius and subtle political manipulation - each follow an obsession to attain greatness and leave a lasting mark on the world. And at the centre of this court of intrigue and deception is Dorotea Caracciolo, a young noblewoman abducted by Borgia who has become his lover - and his secret agent. Their story begins in hope and fear and ends in bloodshed, deceit and triumph. Along the way, there are battles and romances, lavish parties and furtive stranglings. And out of this maelstrom will emerge the Mona Lisa and The Prince.

The Queen's Lady by Eve Edwards.  Young Adult.  UK release February 3, 2011.
1584 – Surrey, England When Lady Jane Rievaulx begins service to the Queen at Richmond Palace, she is thrilled at the court’s newest arrival . . . Master James Lacey. Despite her previous courtship with his older brother, James is the man she truly loves. And for his part, he cannot deny his fascination with her. However, James is setting sail on a treacherous journey to the Americas, seeking absolution for what he sees as past sins. But when Lady Jane is forced into a terrible situation by her own family, there is only one man to save her. Will Master James return to his lady ­- before it’s too late?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Weekly Wishlist - January 26, 2011

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!

Behind the Palace Doors:  Five Centuries of Sex, Adventure, Vice, Treachery, and Folly from Royal Britain by Michael Farquhar.  Non-fiction.  US and UK release March 1, 2011.  
Spanning 500 years of British history, a revealing look at the secret lives of some great (and not-so-great) Britons, courtesy of one of the world’s most engaging royal historians.
 Beleaguered by scandal, betrayed by faithless spouses, bedeviled by ambitious children, the kings and queens of Great Britain have been many things, but they have never been dull. Some sacrificed everything for love, while others met a cruel fate at the edge of an axman’s blade. From the truth behind the supposed madness of King George to Queen Victoria’s surprisingly daring taste in sculpture, Behind the Palace Doors ventures beyond the rumors to tell the unvarnished history of Britain’s monarchs, highlighting the unique mix of tragedy, comedy, romance, heroism, and incompetence that has made the British throne a seat of such unparalleled fascination.

• stories covering every monarch, from randy Henry VIII to reserved Elizabeth II
• historical myths debunked and surprising “Did you know . . . ?” anecdotes
• four family trees spanning every royal house, from the Tudors to the Windsors

Anne Boleyn:  In Her Own Words & the Words of Those That Knew Her by Elizabeth Norton.  UK release April 1, 2011.  
The complete letters, dispatches and chronicles that tell the real story of Anne Boleyn. Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII, caused comment wherever she went. Through the chronicles, letters and dispatches written by both Anne and her contemporaries, it is possible to see her life and thoughts as she struggled to become queen of England, ultimately ending her life on the scaffold. Only through the original sources is it truly possible to evaluate the real Anne. George Wyatt's Life of Queen Anne provided the first detailed account of the queen, based on the testimony of those that knew her. The poems of Anne's supposed lover, Thomas Wyatt, as well as accounts such as Cavendish's Life of Wolsey also give details of her life, as do the hostile dispatches of the Imperial Ambassador, Eustace Chapuys and the later works of the slanderous Nicholas Slander and Nicholas Harpsfield. Henry VIII's love letters and many of Anne's own letters survive, providing an insight into the love affair that changed England forever. The reports on Anne's conduct in the Tower of London show the queen's shock and despair when she realised that she was to die. Collected together for the first time, these and other sources make it possible to view the real Anne Boleyn through her own words and those of her contemporaries.

The Seer and the Scribe:  Spear of Destiny by G.M Dyrek.  US release May 1, 2011.  
In medieval Germany, Hildegard of Bingen was born with a gift--the ability to see beyond this earthly realm. But a gift can also be a burden, especially when Hildegard's vision helps her witness the vicious murder of a monk at the monastery of Disibodenberg.
When the peace of the monastery is shattered by a second gruesome murder, Hildegard seeks the help of Volmar, her trusted scribe. He discovers a treacherous plot to seize the Spear of Destiny--a holy relic rumored to bear a curse that haunts anyone who tries to wield its power for their own purposes.
Volmar and Hildegard are cast into a web of violence and intrigue spawned by the greed of power-hungry noblemen, deceitful clerics, and the ambitions of a secret society sworn to protect the warriors of the Crusades?
Book One of The Seer and the Scribe series begins where recorded history is silent, introducing you to the extraordinary lives of Hildegard and Volmar, as they challenge the darkness of this fearful time. 

Doc by Mary Doria Russell.  US and UK release May 3, 2011.
The year is 1878, peak of the Texas cattle trade. The place is Dodge City, Kansas, a saloon-filled cow town jammed with liquored-up adolescent cowboys and young Irish hookers. Violence is random and routine, but when the burned body of a mixed-blood boy named Johnnie Sanders is discovered, his death shocks a part-time policeman named Wyatt Earp. And it is a matter of strangely personal importance to Doc Holliday, the frail twenty-six-year-old dentist who has just opened an office at No. 24, Dodge House.

Beautifully educated, born to the life of a Southern gentleman, Dr. John Henry Holliday is given an awful choice at the age of twenty-two: die within months in
Atlanta or leave everyone and everything he loves in the hope that the dry air and sunshine of the West will restore him to health. Young, scared, lonely, and sick, he arrives on the rawest edge of the Texas frontier just as an economic crash wrecks the dreams of a nation. Soon, with few alternatives open to him, Doc Holliday is gambling professionally; he is also living with M├íria Katarina Harony, a high-strung Hungarian whore with dazzling turquoise eyes, who can quote Latin classics right back at him. Kate makes it her business to find Doc the high-stakes poker games that will support them both in high style. It is Kate who insists that the couple travel to Dodge City, because “that’s where the money is.”

And that is where the unlikely friendship of Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp really begins—before Wyatt Earp is the prototype of the square-jawed, fearless lawman; before Doc Holliday is the quintessential frontier gambler; before the gunfight at the O.K. Corral links their names forever in American frontier mythology—when neither man wanted fame or deserved notoriety.

Authentic, moving, and witty, Mary Doria Russell’s fifth novel redefines these two towering figures of the American West and brings to life an extraordinary cast of historical characters, including Holliday’s unforgettable companion, Kate. First and last, however, Doc is John Henry Holliday’s story, written with compassion, humor, and respect by one of our greatest contemporary storytellers. 

The Iron Hand of Mars by Lindsey Davis.  US reissue May 21, 2011. (I believe this is the fourth in the series) 
AD 71: Germania Libera: dark dripping forests, inhabited by bloodthirsty barbarians and legendary wild beasts, a furious prophetess who terrorises Rome, and the ghostly spirits of slaughtered Roman legionaries.

Enter Marcus Didius Falco, an Impreisal agent on a special mission: to find the absconding commander of a legion whose loyalty is suspect. Easier said than done, thinks Marcus, as he makes his uneasy way down the Rhenus, trying to forget that back in sunny Rome his girlfriend Helena Justina is being hotly pursued by Titus Caesar. His mood is not improved when he discovers his only allies are a woefully inadequate bunch of recruits, their embittered centurion, a rogue dog, and its innocent young master; just the right kind of support for an agent unwillingly trying to tame the Celtic hordes.

The Stuarts in Italy 1719-1766:  A Royal Court in Permanent Exile by Edward Corp.  Non-fiction.  UK release August 31, 2011.  
For nearly half of the eighteenth century, the exiled Stuart Court provided an important British presence in Rome. It acted as a surrogate embassy for the many Grand Tourists passing through the city – Hanoverian Whigs as well as Tories and Jacobites – and as a significant social and cultural centre. This book presents the first complete study of the Court of the exiled Stuart King James III, offering a significant reassessment of its importance and of the lives of the Stuarts and their courtiers, and their relations with the Popes, cardinals and princely families of Rome. Edward Corp's interdisciplinary approach also reveals the Stuarts' patronage of leading portrait painters, their influence on the development of Italian opera, and the impact of their Court buildings on relations with their supporters. This book will be essential reading for everyone with an interest in Jacobitism, Italian culture and the eighteenth-century Grand Tour.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

By Fire, By Water by Mitchell James Kaplan

Luis de Santangel is a high ranking official in the court of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain.  He is also a third generation converso or a “new Christian” and as such, subjected to increased suspicion and scrutiny.  He finds himself curious about the faith his family left behind and when he begins to meet secretly to learn, a series of events gets set into motion that will cause him to question everything he knows – or thinks he knows.

In addition to Santangel’s story, is that of a Jewish silversmith – Judith.  After a chance meeting, Luis is quite taken with the young woman and he devises ways to see her.  Through Judith and her interaction with Luis, Kaplan is able to relate some of the history of an oppressed people, the differences between Judaism and Christianity, and some of the misconceptions and prejudices held by both sides. 

What little I knew about the Spanish Inquisition mainly came from reading a few books about Queen Isabella.  It is not a pleasant subject to read about – often more political than religious it’s an example of humanity at its worst and of the depths of evil that people will go to in the name of their god and religion. 

Although a little slow in the beginning, By Fire, By Water was very thought provoking and seemed well researched.  I liked Kaplan’s writing style and was glad to see that the rather short, choppy sentences used in the opening chapter were not carried throughout the rest of the book.  He manages to convey religious themes and issues without coming off preachy or arrogant and since I'm really not that knowledgeable about religion, I appreciated the information he manages to weave into the story.  Subplots involve the adventurer Cristobel Colon (Christopher Columbus) and his attempts to get financing to find a new route to the Indies, an ancient and forbidden Jewish text, and an interesting explanation for the madness of Ferdinand and Isabella’s daughter, Juana.

It is easy to empathize with Luis as he struggles with which path he should take and watches those he loves suffer.  Should he leave behind the protection of his position for love?  Can he become someone else while still remaining true to who he is?  Action packed this is not.  Rather it is the journey of one man and of a people trying to find a path through a changing and increasingly hostile world - and to survive.

Where is paradise?  “If I knew where paradise was, do you think I would be sitting here with you?”  A Hebrew scribe talking with Luis.

If everybody says it, it must be true:  “And how would they know, this “everybody”  that has no name and no face but whose authority is absolute?”  Luis to his brother in response to his statement that “everybody” is talking.

In case the FTC asks:  I was sent a copy by the author to review.

Cover Slut - In Color and In the UK

Here's the color version of Sara Poole's upcoming book, The Borgia Betrayal.  Release date June 7, 2011.

In the summer of 1493, Rodrigo Borgia, Alexander VI, has been pope for almost a year. Having played a crucial role in helping him ascend the throne of Saint Peter, Francesca, haunted by the shadows of her own past, is now charged with keeping him there. As court poisoner to the most notorious and dangerous family in Italy, this mistress of death faces a web of danger, intrigue, and deceit that threatens to extinguish the light of the Renaissance.
From the hidden crypts of 15th century Rome to its teeming streets alive with sensuality, obsession, and treachery, Francesca must battle the demons of her own dark nature to unravel a plot to destroy the Borgias, seize control of Christendom, and plunge the world into eternal darkness.

UK cover for Kate Quinn's Daughter of Rome.  Release date August 2011.

This sweeping, powerful epic tells the story of one of the bloodiest years in Rome's history through the eyes of two remarkable women fighting for survival

A.D. 69. The Roman Empire is up for the taking. The Year of the Four Emperors will change everything - especially the lives of two sisters with a very personal stake in the outcome. Elegant and ambitious, Cornelia embodies the essence of the perfect Roman wife. She lives to one day see her loyal husband as Emperor. Her sister Marcella is more aloof, content to witness history rather than make it. But when a bloody coup turns their world upside down, both women must manoeuvre carefully just to stay alive. As Cornelia tries to pick up the pieces of her shattered dreams, Marcella discovers a hidden talent for influencing the most powerful men in Rome. In the end, though, there can only be one Emperor...and one Empress.

UK cover for Marina Fiorato's Daughter of Siena.  May 2011.

The Palio.  Siena’s famously dangerous and hard-fought horse race. A year of planning, ten riders, three circuits of the piazza - and all over in a single moment.   But for two women watching far more than the coveted prize is at stake.  For beautiful Pia of the Tolomei the Palio is her last hope of escaping a violent marriage.  For Violante de Medici, isolated in her palace, it marks the start of what her enemies intend to be her last month as Siena’s ruler.

 The trumpets sound. And into the piazza rides an unknown horseman. What he does during the race will not only change the lives of Pia and Violante, but alter the course of the Medici dynasty itself...  Alive with all the colour and rich historical detail that marks Marina Fiorato’s work, Daughter of Siena is a dramatic and compelling story of treachery, courage and the power of love. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Miniature Historical Dolls

Despite the fact that I"m old enough to have a daughter in college, my father and my grandparents continue to insist on giving me money for Christmas and this year was no exception.  I"m not complaining - in fact, it's the one time of year I feel OK buying myself something completely unnecessary and with no justification required.  I thought about buying some clothes, but those are a necessity and I would buy those anyway.  I thought about buying books, but really?  C'mon - I have more than 400 unread books so I decided against it this year.

Needing something to help fill in the spaces of the bookcase my husband made for me, I decided to get some historical dolls.  I decided I didn't want ones that were representations of historical people - you know, dress it up in a Tudor style dress and call it Anne Boleyn even if it looks nothing like her - but ones that were based on actual portraits.  In my search I came across an Etsy site that sells miniature dolls of all kinds - historical, characters from books, celebrities etc.  So I picked three:

Elizabeth I coronation portrait

Lady Jane Grey

Eleanor of Aquitaine.  Now for this one I made an exception to my "representation vs. actual portrait" rule since there aren't any actual portraits of Eleanor.  This one reminded me of Katherine Hepburn from The Lion in Winter, so I went ahead and bought it.

Interested in getting some of your own??  Here is a link to the site - there are some really good ones there - and the owner will do custom orders.  The dolls are about 4 and a half inches high and they are extremely detailed for their small size and so cute!!  I'll definitely be buying more!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

New This Week - January 23, 2011

Every Sunday Tanzanite highlights books that will be released during the upcoming week.  She hopes you will find something you will enjoy!

To Serve a King by Donna Russo Morin.  US and UK release January 25, 2011. From her earliest days, Genevieve Gravois has known one fact above all: Francis I, king of France, is her enemy. Raised by her embittered aunt after her parents' deaths, Genevieve has been schooled in things no woman should know: how to decipher codes, how to use a dagger and a bow, and how to kill. For Henry VIII has a destiny in mind for the young girl--as his most powerful and dangerous spy.
When the time is ripe, Genevieve enters the magnificent world of the French court. With grace to match her ambition, she becomes maid of honor to Anne de Pisseleau, King Francis's mistress. Yet neither the court--which teems with artistry and enlightenment as well as intrigue--nor Francis himself are at all what Genevieve expected. And with her mission, her life, and the fate of two kingdoms at stake, she will be forced to make deadly decisions about where her heart and her ultimate loyalties lie.

 True Soldier Gentlemen by Adrian Goldsworthy.  US and UK release January 27, 2011. The year is 1808, and Hamish Williams is a 'gentlemen volunteer' in the 106th regiment of foot, a man serving with the ranks but living with the officers, and uncomfortable in both worlds: looked down on by those with the money or influence to buy their rank, and distrusted by the common soldiers who know he is not one of them. But Williams is determined to prove by deeds alone that he is a man worthy of advancement, and when the 106th embarks for Portugal to begin what will become known as the Peninsula War against Napoleon, he knows his chance of glory is at hand. Soon he is receiving a sharp lesson in the realities of war, as the 106th undergoes a bloody baptism at the hands of the French - and he realises that his single-minded devotion to honour may not, after all, be the quickest route to promotion. Combining the vivid detail of a master historian with the engaging characters and pulsating action of a natural storyteller, TRUE SOLDIER GENTLEMAN is the first volume in what promises to be a classic series.

Kings and Queens Fact Cards by Stuan Reid.  UK release January 28, 2011.  I know, this isn't a book, but they look like fun! This is a pack of 50 cards crammed with information of some of Britain's most prominent and important sovereigns throughout history, from the time of the Anglo-Saxons to the present day. Each card focuses on a King or Queen with a photograph or portrait on one side and lots of information on the other, including the dates of their reign, some of the main events of their life and a few 'did-you-know' facts. It is presented with illustrations by Ian McNee.

Friday, January 21, 2011

To Twitter or not to Twitter

I"ve been thinking about this for some time and since I don't do Facebook (I swear I would never get anything done if I did) I decided to give it a try.  I"m not exactly sure what I'm going to do with it but we'll see!!


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Weekly Wishlist- January 19, 2011

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!

Hereward by James Wilde.  UK release June 23, 2011.  1062: While the ailing King Edward, known as the Confessor, wastes his final days building monuments to God, across the Channel the brutal William the Bastard of Normandy plots to swamp all England in a tide of blood. The war drums are beating, the ravens are gathering. But with the king's closest advisors scheming and squabbling, any hope of resistance to the Norman duke lies with just one man. Hereward is the King of Terror. Hereward is a warrior, trained in the lethal art of spear, axe and sword, a master tactician, a mercenary, and, to both ally and enemy, the devil in human form - as adept at slaughter as the foes gathering to claim Edward's throne. Yet the men who need him most have made him outlaw, and Hereward must carve a bloody swathe from the frozen hills of Northumbria to the war-torn fields of Flanders just to stay alive. Here, during the darkest age in history, are the early days of the man who would be forged into one of England's greatest heroes. It is the story of two mismatched allies, Hereward the Warrior and Alric the Monk, one fighting to save the land he loves, the other to save his friend's soul. This is the story of the last Englishman, the first terrorist...the forgotten hero.

Giocanda by Lucille Turner.  UK release July 7, 2011. We know him as Renaissance genius: inventor, scientist, artist. Visionary painter of the Mona Lisa, the smiling, enigmatic Gioconda. They knew him as Leonardo from Vinci, Leonardo the Florentine: heretic, butcher, lunatic. It is dawn in the barn. On a wooden plinth lies a terrifying creature, part lizard, part dog, part cockerel, pieced together from several slaughtered animals. Sitting in front of it, a boy draws an image of a monster. His first thought: men need saving from each other. His second: men need saving from themselves. A solitary child, Leonardo's only intimate is Lisa Gherardini, the girl who spies on him in his workshop. Spurned by his tutor, he is sent by his despairing father to Florence as an apprentice. Under the guiding hand of Verrocchio, the master sculptor, he begins to make his name. But success requires sacrifice; Florence demands a level of conformity impossible for him. Forced to leave, Leonardo places himself at the service of the charismatic, power-thirsty Duke of Milan. His journey leads him back to Lisa and the portrait he has waited so long to paint, the culmination of his life's work. From the glittering court of the Medici to the mortuaries of Milan and the battlefields of the Po valley, Lucille Turner's powerful debut novel vividly imagines Leonardo's lonely struggle to convince others of his vision of the world.

Caterina’s Sword by Elizabeth Lev and Cathy Hemmings.  Non-fiction.  UK release September 23, 2011;  US release (as The Tigress of Forli) October 20, 2011.  
Wife, mother, leader, warrior: Caterina Riario Sforza was one of the most prominent women in Renaissance Italy--and one of the most vilified. In this glittering biography, Elizabeth Lev re-examines her extraordinary life and accomplishments.
Raised in the court of Milan and wed at age ten to the Pope's corrupt nephew, Caterina was ensnared in
Italy's political intrigues early in life. After turbulent years in Rome's papal court, she moved to the Romagnol province of Forli. Following her husband's assassination, she ruled Italy's crossroads with iron will, martial strength, political savvy--and an icon's fashion sense. In finally losing her lands to the Borgia family, she put up a resistance that inspired all of Europe and set the stage for her progeny--including Cosimo de Medici--to follow her example to greatness.
A rich evocation of Renaissance life, The Tigress of Forli reveals Caterina Riario Sforza as a brilliant and fearless ruler, and a tragic but unbowed figure.

Inquisition by Alfredo Colitto.  UK release October 13, 2011.  
A brilliant thriller to rival CJ SANSOM and RORY CLEMENTS In 14th-century Italy, Mondino is a university anatomist - a man of science in a land governed by the brutal Inquisition. But the corpse brought to Mondino's laboratory one stormy night defies natural law: The victim is a Templar knight, and his heart has been transformed into a block of iron. Is it alchemy? Or the diabolical work of an ingenious killer? Aided by his headstrong student Gerardo - a young man concealing a deadly secret identity - Mondino must outwit both ruthless Inquisitors and vengeful Templars if he's to stop a murderer who threatens to shake the very foundations of Christendom. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

India Black by Carol Carr

“My name is India Black.  I’m a whore.” 

So begins Carol Carr’s debut novel about a London Madame who finds herself in the middle of a compromising situation and coerced into helping the government retrieve some damaging documents.   Set in 1876, it combines a little bit of history and a little bit of romance with spy-type action and intrigue.  But the story really belongs to India herself who steals the show.

India’s life of running Lotus House and looking after her “tarts” is disrupted when a high ranking government official dies in her establishment.  Afraid that the death will be bad for business, she decides the best thing to do is to dispose of the body (but in a place where it can be easily found out of consideration for his family; she’s not heartless after all…) and enlists the aid of a local street urchin named Vincent to help her (it won’t be the last time Vincent’s street smarts will come in handy).  But someone has been watching Lotus House and India and Vincent are caught in the act.  That someone is an English spy named French. 

It seems the deceased was carrying around some important government documents that could damage their efforts to control a power struggle in Europe involving the Russians and the Turks.  I didn’t totally understand all of the politics involved but the details aren’t really that important to the story.  Suffice it to say that the government decides that India has certain talents that might be useful in getting the documents back from the Russian agent who they believe currently has them in his possession. 

When India’s “talents” prove less than successful she goes off with French on a wild chase across the countryside in the middle of winter to catch the Russians before they can leave the country.  Through a series of near misses and close escapes the pair manage to thwart the enemy and all ends well with India indicating this is not the last time the government will seek her assistance.

Although the plot is a little thin and predictable at times, I found India so likeable that it didn’t really matter.  She is smart, witty and resourceful and her bold, blunt honesty has its own charm.  She’s definitely got a mouth on her and she calls them like she sees them.  French remains somewhat of an enigma and I’m hoping that as the series progresses we will learn more about him and his past.  The same could be said for India as well as Carr focuses on the “here and now” and neither French nor India is given much of a background. 

Carr never allows India to take herself (or her situation) too seriously and India’s first person narration works well here.  I thought India Black was a lot of fun (I found myself laughing out loud several times) and am looking forward to her future adventures.

In case the FTC asks:  I received an ARC from the author.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

New This Week - January 16, 2011

Every Sunday Tanzanite highlights books that will be released during the upcoming week.  She hopes you will find something you will enjoy!

Madonna of the Seven Hills by Jean Plaidy.  US reissue January 18, 2011. The most beautiful woman in Rome, Lucrezia Borgia, was born into a family—and a destiny—she could not hope to escape . . .
Fifteenth-century Rome: The Borgia family is on the rise. Lucrezia’s father, Pope Alexander VI, places his illegitimate daughter and her only brothers, Cesare, Giovanni, and Goffredo, in the jeweled splendor—and scandal—of his court. From the Pope’s affairs with adolescent girls to Cesare’s dangerous jealousy of anyone who inspires Lucrezia’s affections to the ominous birth of a child conceived in secret, no Borgia can elude infamy.
Young Lucrezia gradually accepts her fate as she comes to terms with the delicate nature of her relationships with her father and brothers. The unbreakable bond she shares with them both exhilarates and terrifies her as her innocence begins to fade. Soon she will understand that her family’s love pales next to their quest for power and that she herself is the greatest tool in their political arsenal.  From the inimitable pen of Jean Plaidy, this family’s epic legend is replete with passion, intrigue, and murder—and it’s only the beginning.

Light on Lucrezia by Jean Plaidy.  US reissue January 18, 2011. Some said she was an elegant seductress. Others swore she was an incestuous murderess. It didn’t matter what they called her. She was the most dangerous and sought-after woman in all of Rome. She was Lucrezia Borgia.
 Born into Rome’s notorious Borgia family, young Lucrezia led a life colored by violence and betrayal. Now, married for the second time at just eighteen, she hopes for happiness with her handsome husband, Alfonso. But faced with brutal murder, she’s soon torn between her love for her husband and her devotion to her brother Cesare . . . And in the days when the Borgias ruled Italy, no one was safe from the long arm of their power. Even Lucrezia.
 In this compelling story of a beautiful woman caught up in a tortuous web of fear and love, Jean Plaidy sheds light on the much maligned Lucrezia and vividly brings her to life.

Death and the Virgin Queen by Chris Skidmore.  US reissue January 18, 2011. On the morning of September 8, 1560, at the isolated manor of Cunmor place, the body of a young woman was found at the bottom of a staircase, her neck broken. But this was no ordinary death. Amy Robsart was the wife of Elizabeth I’s great favorite, Robert Dudley, the man who many believed she would marry, were he free. Immediately people suspected foul play and Elizabeth’s own reputation was in danger of serious damage. Many felt she might even lose her throne. An inquest was begun, witnesses called, and ultimately a verdict of death by accident was reached. But the mystery refused to die and cast a long shadow over Elizabeth’s reign.

Using recently discovered forensic evidence from the original investigation, Skidmore is able to put an end to centuries of speculation as to the true causes of Robsart’s death. This is the story of a treacherous period in Elizabeth’s life: a tale of love, death, and tragedy, exploring the dramatic early life of England’s Virgin Queen.

The Orchid Affair by Lauren Willig.  US and UK release January 20, 2011. "Pride and Prejudice lives on" (USA Today) in Lauren Willig's Pink Carnation series, which has been hailed for its addictive blend of history, romance, and adventure. In The Orchid Affair, Willig introduces her strongest heroine yet. Laura Grey, a veteran governess, joins the Selwick Spy School expecting to find elaborate disguises and thrilling exploits in service to the spy known as the Pink Carnation. She hardly expects her first assignment to be serving as governess for the children of Andre Jaouen, right-hand man to Bonaparte's minister of police. Jaouen and his arch rival, Gaston Delaroche, are investigating a suspected Royalist plot to unseat Bonaparte, and Laura's mission is to report any suspicious findings. 
At first the job is as lively as Latin textbooks and knitting, but Laura begins to notice strange behavior from Jaouen-secret meetings and odd comings and goings. As Laura edges herself closer to her employer, she makes a shocking discovery and is surprised to learn that she has far more in common with Jaouen than she originally thought...
As their plots begin to unravel, Laura and Jaouen are forced on the run with the children, and with the help of the Pink Carnation they escape to the countryside, traveling as husband and wife. But Delaroche will stop at nothing to take down his nemesis. With his men hot on their trail, can Laura and Jaouen seal the fate of Europe before it's too late?

Heartstone by C.J. Sansom.  US release January 20, 2011; previously released in the UK. Summer, 1545. England is at war, and Matthew Shardlake is about to encounter the most politically dangerous case of his career. While a massive French fleet prepares to attack, every able-bodied man is being pressed into military service. Meanwhile, an old servant of Queen Catherine Parr asks Shardlake to investigate claims of "monstrous wrongs" committed against a young ward of the court. Shardlake's inquiries take him and his loyal assistant, Jack Barak, to Hoyland Priory and Portsmouth, where the English fleet is gathering. There they uncover a startling link between the ward and a woman incarcerated in Bedlam. With a fantastic backdrop of wartime intrigue and a dramatic finale onboard one of Henry VIII's great warships, Heartstone is certain to catapult this internationally bestselling series to greater prominence.

Master of Rome by John Stack.  UK release January 20, 2011 (will be released in the US in April). A stirring adventure novel set amid the tumultuous clashes between the Roman and Carthaginian empires, battling for control of the Mediterranean, north Africa and Rome itself.
Atticus, the young Greek captain, is now a commander of the growing Roman navy, blockading a port near Tunis, when the Roman legions suffer terrible defeat by the triumphant Carthaginian army, spearheaded by the elephant charges. He and his ships escape together with the main body of the Roman fleet out manoevred by the more skillful Carthaginians and then caught and almost completely annhilated by a terrible storm.
Atticus and his crew are among the handful of survivors and being the messenger of this news to the Senta in Rome brings Atticus into political troubles, almost as stormy as the sea. He begins to feel not onlt that a greek will never be accepted by the Romans but also that the behaviour of many, noth politicians and soldiers, is such that he is not sure that he wants to be a Roman.
Full of dramatic battles by land and sea, led by tremendous characters on both sides, MASTER OF ROME is a powerful novel, the third in this bestselling series by a born storyteller.

Prophecy:  Clash of Kings by M.K. Hume.  UK release January 20, 2011. Amid the bloody battlefields of Britain, Merlin is marked for greatness...
In the town of Segontium, a fugitive is washed ashore.  He brutally rapes the granddaughter of the king of the Deceangli tribe, leaving her to bear his son, Myrddion.  Spurned as a demon seed, the boy is raised by his grandmother and he is apprenticed to a skilled healer who hones his remarkable gift.  Meanwhile, the High King of the Celts, Vortigern, is rebuilding the ancient fortress at Dinas Emrys.  According to a prophecy, he must use the blood of a demon seed to make the towers stand firm.  Myrddion’s life is in jeopardy.  But the boy has a prophecy of his own and a richer destiny to fulfil.  Soon Vortigern shall be known as the harbinger of chaos, and Myrddion must use his gifts for good in a kingdom besieged by evil.  So begins the healer’s journey to greatness...

Secrets of the Tudor Court by Darcey Bonnette.  UK release January 20, 2011.  (Based on the description, this appears to be another edition of D.L. Bogdan's book of the same name that was released last year.  I don't 100% that it's the same book, but consider yourself warned...).
When young Mary Howard receives the news that she will be leaving her home for the grand court of King Henry VIII, to attend his mistress Anne Boleyn, she is ecstatic. Everything Anne touches seems to turn to gold, and Mary is certain Anne will one day become Queen. But Mary has also seen the King s fickle nature and how easily he discards those who were once close to him…
Discovering that she is a pawn in a carefully orchestrated plot devised by her father, the duke of Norfolk, Mary dare not disobey him. Yet despite all of her efforts to please him, she too falls prey to his cold wrath. Not until she becomes betrothed to Harry Fitzroy, the Duke of Richmond and son to King Henry VIII, does Mary finds the love and approval she s been seeking.
But just when Mary believes she is finally free of her father, the tides turn. Now Mary must learn to play her part well in a dangerous chess game that could change her life and the course of history.  An unforgettable drama of betrayal, ambition, lost innocence and perseverance, perfect for fans of Phillipa Gregory's novels and TV series such as The Tudors.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Cover Slut - Updates and Paperbacks

Color version of the cover.  Release Date:  July 26, 2011.
Superbly atmospheric and brimming with romance, thrilling historical adventure, and mystical elements, Darci Hannah's remarkably textured new novel will appeal to fans of Diana Gabaldon's An Echo in the Bone.
In the year 1492, young Scottish noblewoman Isabeau Blythe is at last returning to her ancestral home on the Borders. Now heir to Blythe Hall, Isabeau is determined to leave behind her family's extraordinary past. Their peculiar relations with the fantastical creatures commonly known as angels was the ruin of both her father and her brother. Isabeau is confident she can assume control of Blythe Hall and its people, stave off marriage until the moment it suits her, and bring the turbulent clans of the Borders under control. Yet fate thwarts her even as she enters the imposing gates of Blythe Hall. Incensed upon learning that Sir George Douglas, the knight seeking to be the next Lord Blythe, has been tracking her movements, Isabeau is further disturbed at the appearance of her magnificently beguiling brother. Worse, Julius reveals he's on the hunt for an angel. Isabeau begins to experience wild visions of a strange man whom her heart inexplicably longs for. With Sir George's army outside her gates, she summons help from the illusive man of her visions: Gabriel, who holds the secret of Blythe Hall.

Updated cover (you can see the previous one here.  UK release February 3, 2011.

Young Adult.  1584 – Surrey, England When Lady Jane Rievaulx begins service to the Queen at Richmond Palace, she is thrilled at the court’s newest arrival . . . Master James Lacey. Despite her previous courtship with his older brother, James is the man she truly loves. And for his part, he cannot deny his fascination with her. However, James is setting sail on a treacherous journey to the Americas, seeking absolution for what he sees as past sins. But when Lady Jane is forced into a terrible situation by her own family, there is only one man to save her. Will Master James return to his lady ­- before it’s too late?

UK paperback cover.  UK release June 2, 2011.

Zarita, only daughter of the town magistrate, lives a life of wealth and privilege. Indulged by her parents, she is free to spend her days as she pleases, enjoying herself in the company of an eligible young nobleman, horse riding, or leisurely studying the arts.
Saulo, son of a family reduced by circumstances to begging, witnesses his father wrongfully arrested and dealt with in the most horrifying way. Hauled off to be a slave at sea and pursued by pirates he encounters the ambitious mariner explorer, Christopher Columbus. Throughout his hardships Saulo is determined to survive - for he has sworn vengeance on the magistrate and his family.
As Zarita's life also undergoes harsh changes the formidable and frightening Inquisition arrives in the area, bringing menacing shadows of suspicion with acts of cruel brutality - and ultimately, amid the intrigues of the court of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand in the splendid Moorish city of Grenada, betrayal and revenge...

Covers for all three of Rory Clements Elizabethan thriller books:

US paperback.  Release date May 24, 2011.
In this ingenious debut, Rory Clements introduces John Shakespeare, Elizabethan England’s most remarkable investigator, and delivers a tale of murder and conspiracy that succeeds brilliantly as both historical fiction and a crime thriller.
In a burnt-out house, one of Queen Elizabeth’s aristocratic cousins is found murdered, her young flesh marked with profane symbols. At the same time, a plot to assassinate Sir Francis Drake, England’s most famous sea warrior, is discovered—a plot which, if successful, could leave the country utterly defenseless against a Spanish invasion. It’s 1587, the Queen’s reign is in jeopardy, and one man is charged with the desperate task of solving both cases: John Shakespeare. With the Spanish Armada poised to strike, Mary Queen of Scots awaiting execution, and the pikes above London Bridge decorated with the grim evidence of treachery, the country is in peril of being overwhelmed by fear and chaos. Following a trail of illicit passions and family secrets, Shakespeare travels through an underworld of spies, sorcerers, whores, and theater people, among whom is his own younger brother, the struggling playwright, Will. Shadowed by his rival, the Queen’s chief torturer, who employs his own methods of terror, Shakespeare begins to piece together a complex and breathtaking conspiracy whose implications are almost too horrific to contemplate. For a zealous and cunning killer is stalking England’s streets. And as Shakespeare threatens to reveal a madman’s shocking identity, he and the beautiful woman he desires come ever closer to becoming the next martyrs to a passion for murder and conspiracy whose terrifying consequences might still be felt today...

US hardcover.  Release June 21, 2011.

1592. England and Spain are at war, yet there is peril at home, too. The death of her trusted spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham has left Queen Elizabeth vulnerable. Conspiracies multiply. The quiet life of John Shakespeare is shattered by a summons from Robert Cecil, the cold but deadly young statesman who dominated the last years of the Queen's long reign, insisting Shakespeare re-enter government service. His mission: to find vital papers, now in the possession of the Earl of Essex. Essex is the brightest star in the firmament, a man of ambition. He woos the Queen, thirty-three years his senior, as if she were a girl his age. She is flattered by him -- despite her loathing for his mother, the beautiful, dangerous Lettice Knollys who presides over her own glittering court -- a dazzling array of the mad, bad, dangerous and disaffected. When John Shakespeare infiltrates this dissolute world he discovers not only that the Queen herself is in danger -- but that he and his family is also a target. With only his loyal footsoldier Boltfoot Cooper at his side, Shakespeare must face implacable forces who believe themselves above the law: men and women who kill without compunction. And in a world of shifting allegiances, just how far he can trust Robert Cecil, his devious new master?

UK release May 12, 2011.
Spring 1593. England is a powder keg of rumour and fear. Plague rages, famine is rife, the ageing Queen's couriers scheme: Elizabeth's Golden Age is truly tarnished. Meanwhile Spain watches and waits - and plots.
Into this turmoil a small cart clatters through the streets of London, carrying a deadly load. It is the first in a wave of horrific bombing attacks on the Dutch immigrant community that will change John Shakespeare's life for ever.
Driven on by cold rage, Shakespeare's investigations will take him from magnificent royal horseraces to the opulent chambers of Black Luce's brothel, from the theatrical underworld of Marlowe and Kyd to the pain-wracked torture cells of priest-hunter Richard Topcliffe, and from the elegant offices of master tactician Robert Cecil to the splintering timbers of an explosive encounter at sea.
As Shakespeare delves ever deeper, he uncovers intricate layers of mystery and deception that threaten the heart not only of the realm, but of all that he holds dear.