Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Weekly Wishlist - March 30, 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!

Cavalier Queen by Fiona Mountain.  UK release Septebmer 8, 2011.  (re-posted with summary).


Sold into marriage to a man she has never met, whose language she does not speak, whose country she has never visited – Princess Henrietta Maria of France marries Charles I and becomes Queen of England. But it is an England on the brink of cataclysm, a country about to plunge into civil war.


Against all odds, the marriage of Charles and Henrietta Maria becomes one of the greatest love matches in history. But in the wings is another man who will lay siege to her heart. Harry Jermyn will shake the royal marriage to its foundations as England itself is torn apart.


An epic on the grand scale, set against one of the great turning points in our history.

The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory.  UK release September 15, 2011;  US release October 11, 2011.

Jacquetta, daughter of the Count of Luxembourg and kinswoman to half the royalty of Europe, was married to the great Englishman John, Duke of Bedford, uncle to Henry VI. Widowed at the age of nineteen she took the extraordinary risk of marrying a gentleman of her house-hold for love, and then carved out a life for herself as Queen Margaret of Anjou's close friend and a Lancaster supporter - until the day that her daughter Elizabeth Woodville fell in love and married the rival king Edward IV. Of all the little-known but important women of the period, her dramatic story is the most neglected. With her links to Melusina, and to the founder of the house of Luxembourg, together with her reputation for making magic, she is the most haunting of heroines.

The Seventh Wife:  Katherine Willoughby – The Woman Who Nearly Became Henry VIII’s Last Queen by Kelly Hart.  Non-fiction.  This one was originally supposed to be released in 2010, but it has a new UK release date of October 2011.

Katherine Willoughby, Duchess of Suffolk, was a close friend to and lady in waiting to Katherine Parr.  In 1546, rumors abounded that Henry VIII wanted to annul his sixth marriage to Katherine Parr.  Young, intelligen and devout, Katherine Willoughby would have made an ideal queen.

A Crimson Warning by Tasha Alexander.  US and UK release October 25, 2011.  (re-posted with cover)

Secrets prove deadly in this new novel from Tasha Alexander featuring Lady Emily Hargreaves. Some very prominent people in London are waking up to find their doorsteps smeared with red paint, the precursor to the revelation of a dark secret – and worse – by someone who enjoys destroying lives

Newly returned to her home in Mayfair, Lady Emily Hargreaves is looking forward to enjoying the delights of the season. The delights, that is, as defined by her own eccentricities—reading The Aeneid, waltzing with her dashing husband, and joining the Women’s Liberal Federation in the early stages of its campaign to win the vote for women. But an audacious vandal disturbs the peace in the capital city, splashing red paint on the neat edifices of the homes of London’s elite. This mark, impossible to hide, presages the revelation of scandalous secrets, driving the hapless victims into disgrace, despair and even death. Soon, all of London high society is living in fear of learning who will be the next target, and Lady Emily and her husband, Colin, favorite agent of the crown, must uncover the identity and reveal the motives of the twisted mind behind it all before another innocent life is lost.

The Winding Road by Cynthia Herrod-Eagles.  UK release November 3, 2011.

1925. England is prosperous; the nation has put the war behind it, and hope is in the air. The Jazz Age is in full swing in New York, where Polly Morland is the most feted beauty of the day. But a proposal of marriage from the powerful, enigmatic Ren Alexander takes her by surprise. Her cousin Lennie, expanding his interests from radio to television and talkies, worries that no one knows much about Ren; but his attempts to find out more threaten disaster. In London, the General Strike gives the country another chance to show its stiff upper lip, as everyone turns to and helps out. Emma drives an ambulance again, while Molly runs a canteen, and each unexpectedly finds love, and a new career. But the whirligig is slowing, shadows are gathering over Europe, and the good times are almost over. Morland Place is threatened by the worst disaster of its history, and the Old World reaches out a hand to pluck Polly from the New. The Wall Street Crash brings the fabulous decade to a shattering close, and nothing will ever be quite the same again; but new shoots emerge from the ruins, hope is reborn, and the Morlands prove again that family is everything, and will endure.

Season of Light by Katherine McMahon.  UK release November 10, 2011.  (re-posted with cover).

Season of Light begins in 1788, in the heady days just before the French revolution, when Paris is fizzing with new ideas about liberty and equality. Asa Ardleigh, the impressionable 19-year-old daughter of a country squire, has traveled to the city with her older sister, Philippa, and Philippa's new husband. In Paris, they are introduced to the literary salon of Madame de Genlis. It is in this salon that Asa meets, and falls in love with, a dashing intellectual and idealist, Didier Paulin. Their affair is curtailed when Asa is forced to return to England, but they continue to write as the storm clouds gather over France and war with England seems imminent. Meanwhile back at home, no one knows of Asa's liaison. Asa's middle sister, Georgina, has met Harry Shackleford, the most eligible man in London that season, and to whom the Ardleigh estate is entailed. After the death of their mother, the Ardleigh girls' father began to drink heavily and now the estate is nearly bankrupt. In Shackleford, Georgina sees not only a fortuitous marriage for her sister, but also the solution to their financial woes. However Asa's accomplishments need some polishing. Georgina therefore employs Madame de Rusigneux, a French Marquise. Asa soon discovers there is more to this woman than meets the eye...

Lord John and the Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon.  UK release November 11, 2011. (re-posted with cover)

In this highly-anticipated new novel, Diana Gabaldon brings back one of her most compelling characters: the unforgettable Lord John Grey - soldier, gentleman, and no mean hand with a blade. Set in the heart of the eighteenth century, Lord John's world is one of mystery and menace. Diana Gabaldon brilliantly weaves together the strands of Lord John's secret and public lives. Capturing the lonely, tormented, and courageous career of a man who fights for his crown, his honor, and his own secrets, Diana Gabaldon delivers breathtaking human drama, proving once again that she can bring history to life in a way few novelists ever have.

The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak.  UK release March 27, 2012.

Behind every great ruler lies a betrayal. Eva Stachniak's novel sweeps readers into the passionate, intimate, and treacherous world of Catherine the Great, revealing Russia's greatest monarch from her earliest days in court, where the most valuable currency was the secrets of nobility and the most dangerous weapon to wield was ambition.

Two young women, caught in the landscape of shifting allegiances, navigate the treacherous waters of palace intrigue. Barbara, the narrator, is a servant who will become one of Russia's most cunning royal spies. Sophie is a naive German duchess who will become Catherine the Great. For readers of superb historical fiction, Eva Stachniak captures in glorious detail the opulence of royalty and the perilous loyalties of the Russian court.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Virgin Widow by Anne O'Brien

Of the many personalities involved in the Wars of the Roses, Anne Neville is frequently a secondary (or less) character who exists in order to be manipulated and used by others. Although that is the life of a woman of her time, Anne O”Brien tries to give her a voice in telling her own story – or at least most of it.

The youngest daughter of the powerful Earl of Warwick, from an early age Anne knows her obligation is to marry well and for the benefit of her family. When the king’s younger brother Richard becomes part of her father’s household, Anne develops an attachment to him and she is thrilled when a few years later their families see the advantage of the pair’s betrothal. But unfortunately for Anne, her life is not to be that of fairytales as the fight for the English crown lands in the middle of her family.

Between her scheming father and her selfish brother in law who have their own designs on the throne, Anne often doubts if the life she gets will be the one that she wants. As the conflict heats up and alternating victories spread confusion and dead bodies across England, Anne becomes her father’s ultimate bargaining chip and finds herself married not to Richard of Gloucester, but to Edward of Lancaster, heir of the “white rose” of Lancaster (and son of Henry VI).

Even though it was not her first choice, Anne decides to try and make the best of it. But even that is not to be as her mother in law storms in on the couple’s wedding night and puts a stop to the marriage’s consummation (not really a spoiler if you think about the book’s title). From there, Anne and Edward’s relationship goes disastrously downhill and eventually Anne finds her way back to Richard. But not without some difficulties and complications. The book ends shortly after the birth of the couple’s son (and so before their time as King and Queen of England).

The first person narration works fairly well in the context of the story. Instead of recounting some of the major events that make up the “War of the Roses” through letters or conversations with others, Anne mostly summarily relates them as they impact her or those around her at the time. This makes the book a good introduction to the time period as it isn’t overly weighed down with too many details. The story is well paced, moves quickly and overall, I enjoyed it.

I liked the characterizations of Anne and Richard. Anne is usually portrayed as a mealy-mouthed-wall-flower-of-a-girl so it was nice to see her with a little more character and emotion as well as some backbone at times. Most of the time Richard is either the devil or a saint, but here he is neither. Instead, O’Brien gives us a man who, although he cares for and loves Anne, isn’t above admiring the wealth, land and power she could bring him and also looks out for his own interests and position when it comes to marrying her. He’s not quite willing to throw it all away for love.

But on the opposite side are Margaret of Anjou and her son Edward of Lancaster. With the recent exception of Susan Higginbotham’s The Queen of Last Hopes, every fictional book I’ve read about this time period makes these two out as the worst humans being possible – evil in every way with no redeeming qualities at all. Although an early scene between Edward and Anne (where he gives her a thoughtful little gift) gave me some hope for a more balanced approach, unfortunately, it never materialized and we are given the same old nasty Margaret and Edward.

Although as mentioned by the author this was written more as a romance than straight historical fiction, there was one aspect of O’Brien’s story that really disappointed me – the insinuation of an incestuous relationship between Margaret and Edward. As far as I know there is no historical basis for this at all, and its inclusion in and of itself isn’t what bothered me - it’s more that it served absolutely no purpose in the story. If you are going to make something like this up, at least make it count for something!  It frankly was enough to make rate the book lower than I would have without it.

Two sides of alcohol:  “We use them; we supply them with ale until their courage will carry them against death and mutilation. We can’t damn them for the consequences.” King Edward to Richard in discussing the pillaging and raping men do after battle.

In case the FTC asks: I won a copy through the Library Thing Early Reviewers Program

Sunday, March 27, 2011

New This Week - March 27, 2011 (Part 2)

More great releases for this week!

A Race to Splendour by Ciji Ware.  US release April 1, 2011; UK release April 30, 2011.
Inspired by female architect Julia Morgan, this is the riveting tale of a race against time to rebuild two luxury hotels after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed 400 city blocks and left 250,000 homeless. Morgan's fictional protegee Amelia Bradshaw and client J.D. Thayer will sacrifice anything to see the city they love rise from the ashes; in the process, they can't help but lose their hearts.

Mary of Carisbrooke by Margaret Campbell Barnes.  US reissue April 1, 2011; UK reissue April 30, 2011.

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

Kings and Queens of England and Scotland by Plantagenet Somerset Fry.  Non-fiction.  US and UK release April 1. 2011.

This is a new edition of the drama and history of Britain's royal lineage from the Saxons to the Windsors. Don't know your Albert from your Ethelred? Which Henry had six wives, and which was crowned at eight years old? "Kings & Queens of England and Scotland" is the essential guide that will help you sort your Tudors from your Stuarts, and discover how each monarch helped to shape the country we live in today. Easy to read biographies of each sovereign highlight key dates and achievements and family trees illustrate relations and ancestors - new edition includes noteworthy recent events in the Royal Family including the engagement of Prince William to Kate Middleton. "Kings & Queens of England and Scotland" is suitable for those just beginning their journey into royal history or for those who simply want to check their facts.

Lady on the Loch by Betty McInnes.  US release April 1. 2011; released in the UK December 2010.
A compelling historical novel from a much-loved author - 1567. A young man – Lachlan Gilmore – rescues a lady whose cart has become stuck in a ditch, but unbeknownst to him, Lady Annabel Erskine has a secret mission: to keep Mary, Queen of Scots, imprisoned on Castle Island in Lochleven, supplied with garments fit for her high estate. Soon, Lachlan’s sister, talented seamstress Christina, is assisting Lady Annabel in her work. But as their friendship grows, she is unwittingly drawn deeper into the doomed Queen’s affairs . . .

The Tudors by Jane Bingham.  Non-fiction.  US and UK release April 1. 2011.

The book is a highly readable account of a fascinating era - an era that witnessed barbaric public executions and courtly conspiracies, the Great Fire of London and the plague, as well as being the age of Shakespeare, Bacon and Raleigh, the Reformation, exploration and victory over the Spanish Armada. Full of colourful detail and intrigue, the book explores the shocking contrasts of the Tudor age, where the splendour of court life contrasted with the squalor of the overcrowded, rat-infested cities and the harsh treatment meted out to heretics and traitors, real and imagined.

Elizabeth and the Prince of Spain by Margaret Irwin.  US and UK reissue April 1, 2011.  
First published in 1946, Elizabeth and the Prince of Spain continues the "vivid, psychologically brilliant" (Times Literary Supplement) journey begun in Young Bess and Elizabeth, Captive Princess. Philip, Prince of Spain, the unwilling bridegroom of Queen Mary, has been warned about the young Elizabeth. According to all reports, she is a heretic, a rebel, and a potential enemy-but she's also alluring. Accused of treachery by Mary, Elizabeth finds herself teetering between Mary's vengeance and Philip's uneasy ardor, with her life in the balance. "Striking and unforgettable."-Blog Critics

Katherine Parr:  Complete Works and Correspondence by Katherine Parr.  Non-fiction.  UK release April 1. 2011; US release June 15, 2011.
To the extent that she is popularly known, Katherine Parr (1512-48) is the woman who survived King Henry VIII as his sixth and last wife. She merits far greater recognition, however, on several other fronts. Fluent in French, Italian, and Latin, Parr also began, out of necessity, to learn Spanish when she ascended to the throne in 1543. As Henry's wife and queen of England, she was a noted patron of the arts and music and took a personal interest in the education of her stepchildren, Princesses Mary and Elizabeth and Prince Edward. Above all, Parr commands interest for her literary labors: she was the first woman in England to publish under her own name in English.
For this new edition of Parr's writing, Janel Mueller has assembled the four publications attributed to her - "Psalms or Prayers", "Prayers or Meditations", "The Lamentation of a Sinner", and a compilation of prayers and Biblical excerpts written in her hand - as well as her extensive correspondence, which is collected here for the first time. Mueller brings to this volume a wealth of knowledge of sixteenth-century English culture. She marshals the impeccable skills of a textual scholar in rendering Parr's sixteenth-century English for modern readers and provides useful background on the circumstances of and references in Parr's letters and compositions. Given its scope and ambition, "Katherine Parr: Complete Works and Correspondence" will be an event for the English publishing world and will make an immediate contribution to the fields of sixteenth-century literature, Reformation studies, women's writing, and Tudor politics.
Wolves Among Us by Ginger Garrett.  US and UK release April 1, 2011.

This richly imagined tale takes readers to a tiny German town in the time of “the burnings,” when pious and heretic alike became victims of witch-hunting zealots. When a double murder stirs up festering fears, the village priest sends for help. But the charismatic Inquisitor who answers the call brings a deadly mix of spiritual fervor and self-deceptive evil. Under his influence, village fear, guilt, and suspicion of women take a deadly turn. In the midst of this nightmare, a doubting priest and an unloved wife—a secret friend of the recently martyred William Tyndale—somehow manage to hear another Voice…and discover the power of love over fear.

Dinfoil, Germany, 1538. In a little town on the edge of the Black Forest, a double murder stirs up festering fears. A lonely woman despairs of pleasing her husband and wonders why other women shun her. An overworked sheriff struggles to hold the town—and himself—together. A priest begins to doubt the power of the words he shares daily with his flock. And the charismatic Inquisitor who arrives to help—with a filthy witch in a cage as an object lesson—brings his own mix of lofty ideals and treacherous evil. Under his influence, ordinary village fears and resentments take a deadly turn. Terror mounts. Dark deeds come to light. And men and women alike discover not only what they are capable of, but who they are…and what it means to grapple for grace.

Anne Boleyn:  In Her Own Words and the Words of Those Who Knew Her by Elizabeth Norton.  This originally had a release date of April 1, 2011 but it looks like it was released last week.  It is also unclear to me if this is the same book released by Norton in 2009.

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.

New This Week - March 27, 2011

It's another huge release week, so I"m going to break this week's list into two posts.  Look for part two later today.

The Land of the Painted Caves by Jean Auel.  US and UK release March 29, 2011.

THE LAND OF PAINTED CAVES concludes the story of Ayla, her mate Jondalar, and their little daughter, Jonayla, taking readers on a journey of discovery and adventure as Ayla struggles to find a balance between her duties as a new mother and her training to become a Zelandoni – one of the Ninth Cave community's spiritual leaders and healers. Once again, Jean Auel combines her brilliant narrative skills and appealing characters with a remarkable re-creation of the way life was lived thousands of years ago, rendering the terrain, dwelling places, longings, beliefs, creativity and daily lives of Ice Age Europeans as real to the reader as today's news.

The Road to Rome by Ben Kane.  US release March 29, 2011;  released in the UK in 2010. 

In 48 B.C., having survived a disastrous campaign in Pythia as part of the Forgotten Legion and spent years fighting their way back to Rome, Romulus and Tarquinius have finally made it as far as Alexandria. On arrival, though, they find themselves in the midst of the Roman Civil War, are press-ganged into Caesar’s thinning legions and greatly outnumbered and fighting for their lives against the Egyptian army. Meanwhile in Rome, Romulus’ twin sister Fabiola, having caught only a glimpse of her long-missing twin before being forced to flee Egypt for Rome, lives in fear for her life, loved by Brutus, but wooed by Marcus Antonius, his deadly enemy.

From the battlefields of Asia Minor and North Africa, to the lawless streets of Rome and the gladiator arena, they all face death and danger daily, until 44 B.C. when their individual roads all lead them to
Rome where the future of the republic lies unexpectedly in their hand.

The Beloved Dead by Tony Hays.  US release (new publisher) March 29, 2011.  Released in the UK in 2010.

Malgwyn ap Cuneglas was one of King Arthur's earliest companions and now is his most trusted counsellor. Despite the malice of his enemies, and the machinations of the still powerful druids who mightily resist him, Malgwyn knows that Arthur will stop at nothing in his efforts to lead his people to Christ and help to bring civil law and justice to a people who have known little such. To consolidate his power, Arthur decides that it is time to take a noble wife.

But in this Malgwyn knows his lord's sorrow, for Arthur must set aside his love, Guinevere, because he believes that the scandal surrounding their affair has tainted her for the crown. Malgwyn is sent north to fetch the young woman who is to be Arthur's bride. The way is fraught with tension for there are forces who would not see the king wed. Malgwyn discovers a string of killings of young virginal women who are slaughtered in a horrific manner - not unlike a ritual sacrifice - and is left with a question that he must answer quickly. Are these murders portents of the gods taking vengeance on the intrusion of a new faith? Or are mortal men plotting to unseat the king?

The Family by Mario Puzo.  US reissue March 29, 2011.

"We are a family. And the loyalty of the family must come before everything and everyone else. For if we honor that commitment, we will never be vanquished—but if we falter in that loyalty, we will all be condemned."

The crowning achievement of a truly phenomenal career, Mario Puzo's final novel is a remarkable epic of greed, treachery, sin, and power beyond mortal imagination. It is a journey to a different time and place—when the Church held the ultimate authority and ambition was cloaked in robes of the richest velvet. But most of all, it is the spellbinding story of a father and his children, bonded by blood, devotion, and dark purpose, who would descend into hell to rise to challenge the heavens; a family whose name is forever emblazoned in the annals of infamy . . . Borgia!

The Last Crusaders:  The Hundred Year Battle for the Center of the World by Barnaby Rogerson.  Non-fiction.  US paperback release March 29, 2011.

The Crusades were the bridge between medieval and modern history, between feudalism and colonialism. In many ways, the little explored later Crusades were the most significant of them all, for they made the crisis truly global. The Last Crusaders is about the period¹s last great conflict between East and West, and the titanic contest between Habsburg-led Christendom and the Ottoman Empire in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. From the great naval campaigns and the ferocious struggle to dominate the North African shore, the conflict spread out along trade routes, consuming nations and cultures, destroying dynasties, and spawning the first colonial empires in South America and the Indian Ocean.

Acclaimed scholar of Islamic history and author Barnaby Rogerson illuminates the Last Crusades in an accessible and skillful manner. He shows how, to this day, the disputed borders of the Crusades era stand as defining frontiers and dividing lines between languages, nations, and religions. From Constantinople to Fez, from Rhodes to Granada, The Last Crusaders is narrative history at its richest and most compelling.

Broken Promises by Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman.  US and UK release March 29, 2011.  Previously released as In the Lion's Den.

1861: The war that’s been brewing for a decade has exploded, pitting North against South. Fearing that England will support the Confederate cause, President Lincoln sends Charles Francis Adams, son of John Quincy Adams, to London. But when Charles arrives, accompanied by his son Henry, he discovers that the English are already building warships for the South. As Charles embarks on a high-stakes game of espionage and diplomacy, Henry reconnects with his college friend Baxter Sams, a Southerner who has fallen in love with Englishwoman Julia Birch. Julia’s family reviles Americans, leaving Baxter torn between his love for Julia, his friendship with Henry, and his obligations to his own family, who entreat him to run medical supplies across the blockade to help the Confederacy. As tensions mount, irrevocable choices are made—igniting a moment when history could have changed forever.

The Lion Wakes by Robert Low.  UK release March 31, 2011; will be released in the US in July 2011.
A nation will fight for its freedom.

The first novel in a major new series as Robert Low moves from the Vikings to the making of Scotland.

In the dying days of the 13th century, Scotland is in turmoil. The death of Alexander III has plunged the country into war, both with itself and with Edward I of England. Determined to bring the north under his control, Edward instead unleashes a Scottish rebellion which unites the many warring factions against him - though the old hatreds are not easily put aside.

Sir Hal Sientcler of Herdmanston, a minor noble of Lothian, finds himself caught up in the chivalry and honour, as well as the betrayal and murder that form these desperate days. As the rebellion gathers pace, Sir Hal is thrust into the maelstrom of plot and counterplot which shapes the lives of the great and good in both realms - including rebel leaders William Wallace and Robert the Bruce - as well as neighbours who now find themselves on opposite sides of the battlefield.

Hal makes a powerful enemy out of the Earl of Buchan, arch-rival of the Bruces, and swears revenge. But first he must survive battles at Stirling Brig and Falkirk; the treachery of rival factions; and guard a secret that Robert the Bruce would protect from the outside world at any cost.

When the lion wakes, everyone must fear its fangs…

Macbeth by Fiona Watson.  Non-fiction.  US and UK paperback release March 31, 2011.
Thanks to Shakespeare, the name Macbeth has become a byword for political ambition realised by bloody violence. Fiona Watson has uncovered, buried beneath the layers of myth, a history that is entirely different from, but just as extraordinary as, that recounted by Shakespeare. As ruler of Alba (Scotland) Macbeth sat on one of the longest-established thrones in Western Europe. It is true that he killed Duncan, the previous king, but this was the normal, if brutal, method of regime change in Dark Age Scotland. The reality is that Macbeth quickly established himself as an effective and popular ruler. As a Celtic warrior-king, he was responsible for the maintenance of his people's dominance of northern Britain. A friend to the Church and valiant protector of his people, the real Macbeth epitomised the contemporary model of vigorous medieval kingship. His fascinating story, long overdue in the telling, is done full justice in Fiona Watson's authoritative and compelling narrative.
The Ring and the Crown by Alison Weir, Kate Williams, Sarah Gristwood and Tracy Borman.  Non-fiction.  UK release March 31, 2011.

The excitement surrounding the marriage of Prince William to Kate Middleton has prompted four of Britain’s top historical biographers to look closely at Royal Weddings from 1066 to the present day.

Professionally, Alison Weir, Kate Williams, Sarah Gristwood and Tracy Borman do events and television together, and are known affectionately, as the ‘History Girls’. They bring an elan, and a passion for detail and dramatic narrative to all their subjects.

Each writer focuses on different areas of interest. Alison Weir deals with the medieval, Tudor and Stuart periods. Kate Williams scrutinises the Georgians and Victorians. Sarah Gristwood takes up the story in 1919, when Princess Patricia of Connaught revived the tradition of royal brides marrying in Westminster Abbey, and goes on to examine the weddings of the Queen Mother (1923), the Queen (1947), and Princess Margaret in 1960. Lastly, Tracy Borman brings the book right up to date, with accounts of the wedding of Prince Charles and Diana Spencer through to the fanfare that will celebrate the nuptials of Kate and William.

Every kind of wedding features – from those attended by great public celebrations, to the many that took place in private chapels, parish churches and even in secret.

Fascinating anecdotal details are revealed in the course of this most informative and entertaining overview of royal weddings through history, some amusing, some poignant, some bawdy. The Ring and the Crown places the royal wedding of the heir to the throne in historical perspective, and it does so with carefully selected illustrations that help make the authors’ insights come even more vividly alive.

A King Condemned by C.V. Wedgwood.  Non-fiction.  UK release March 30, 2011; will be released in the US in June 2011.

The reign of Charles I, defined by religious conflict, a titanic power struggle with Parliament - culminating in the English Civil Wars, the execution of the king and the brief abolition of the monarchy - was one of the most turbulent in English history. Six years after the First Civil War began, and following Charles' support for the failed Royalist uprising of the Second Civil War, an Act of Parliament was passed which produced something unprecedented in the history of England: the trial of an English king on a capital charge. There followed ten extraordinary weeks which finally drew to a dark end on 30 January 1649, when Charles was beheaded in Whitehall. In this acclaimed account, C.V. Wedgwood recreates the dramatic events of the trial and Charles' final days, bringing vividly to life the main actors in this tragic and compelling story.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Cover Slut - Upcoming Releases

These were included in a Weekly Wishlist post over the last few weeks, but now there's a cover!

Becoming Marie Antoinette by Juliet Grey.  US and UK release August 9, 2011

Summary:  Here is the first in an exciting new trilogy that follows the transformation of ten-year-old Maria Antonia, a spoiled archduchess in the Austrian court, into the reckless, powerful, beautiful Queen Marie Antoinette, who left an indelible mark on history.

Much has been written about Marie Antoinette, whose ascent to power—and steep downfall—during the French Revolution is legendary. But Juliet Grey is the first to look beyond the crown, starting on the spring day in 1766 when the young archduchess learns that she will one day marry the dauphin of France. Raised alongside her many brothers and sisters at the hands of the powerful Empress Maria Teresa of Austria, the coddled heiress must undergo a startling transformation before making the journey to marry the man who will soon become King Louis XVI. A fascinating window into the gilded splendor and treacherous intrigue of history, as well as a remarkable coming-of-age story, this dynamic portrait of a complex, often misunderstood figure will resonate soundly with lovers of history and fiction alike.

 Troubled Bones by Jeri Westerson.  US release October 11, 2011.

Summary:  Disgraced knight Crispin Guest gets himself into some serious trouble in London and as a result is forced to accept an assignment far out of town.  The Archbishop of Canterbury has specifically requested Guest to investigate a threat against the bones of saint and martyr Thomas a Beckett, which are on display in the cathedral in Canterbury.  The archbishop has received letters threatening the safety of the artifacts, and he wants Guest to protect them and uncover whoever is after them.

When he arrives at Canterbury, Guest is accosted by an old acquaintance from court – one Geoffrey Chaucer – and is surrounded by a group in town on a pilgrimage. Trapped amongst the pilgrims (who were, quite possibly, the model for Chaucer’s famous story cycle), looking for a murderer, a hidden heretic and a solution to the riddle that will allow him to go back home, Crispin Guest finds his considerable wit and intellect taxed to its very limit.

Photo Friday

As I have slowly (unfortunately too slowly...) been posting pictures of our UK trip last fall to my travel blog, I realized how many great pictures I have that won't be included.  So, I decided that every Friday, I'll post a couple of them here.  Between the two trips (in 2009 and 2010), we visited more than 20 places and have over 5,000 pictures so I should have a lot of variety! 

Canterbury Cathedral

Ceiling of one of the "intersections" inside the cathedral

*(pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them).

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Catherine of Aragon: The Spanish Queen of Henry VIII by Giles Tremlett

I'll admit it – I love the Tudors. And as much as I am fascinated by Anne Boleyn and her story, I have to also admit to being as equally fascinated with the woman she sought to replace – Catherine of Aragon. How could a woman with no family, very few friends and no support system to speak of stand up to the enormous pressures that were put on her over a number of years and keep her sanity and dignity? How could she bear being parted from her only child even as she fought for Mary’s rightful place as her father’s heir? I have always admired Catherine’s spirit and determination and wondered if put in the same position, how would I deal with it.

Released late last year, this biography by Giles Tremlett is the first major biography of Catherine in more 40 years. Having read both Garrett Mattingly and Mary Luke’s biographies on Catherine, Tremlett’s book doesn’t offer a whole lot of new information about Catherine, but it is for the most part very readable. The chapters are short with enough detail to understand what is going on but not so much as to be overwhelming. As for the question of “did she” or “didn’t she” with her first husband, Prince Arthur, Tremlett utilizes some supposedly previously unknown (or ignored) documents from Spain which contain testimony from some of Catherine’s Spanish attendants. Only I’m not going to tell you what he found.

I enjoyed the early chapters covering Catherine’s childhood in Spain and the powerful figure and influence her mother must have cast over her life. I also found the cat and mouse game she played with Henry during his attempts to divorce her a lot of fun to read and I found myself smirking at some of her efforts. At times I could also imagine the fear and anxiety she must have felt and this rather sympathetic portrayal of Catherine only increased my respect for her and the way she handled herself in a situation that was not of her doing.

The book includes a map of the Spanish kingdoms, family trees, an extensive bibliography, endnotes and an index (which I always appreciate in case I want to look up a particular fact or issue at a later time).

In case the FTC asks: The publisher sent me a copy to review.

Weekly Wishlist - Part 2

The Queen's Gamble by Barbara Kyle.  US release August 30, 2011.  Fourth in the Thornleigh series.

Isabel, the Thornleighs’ daughter, returns to London from the New World with her Spanish husband Carlos Valverde and their young son, and is swept up in the first international crisis of the young Queen Elizabeth’s reign: the French, who control Scotland, have landed troops along England’s border, threatening an invasion. The Queen
recruits Isabel to take money secretly to aid the Scottish rebel
faction who are trying to drive out the French. But when Carlos is sent to Scotland as a Spanish military advisor to the French troops, he and Isabel find they are on opposite sides in this deadly “cold” war – and the Queen has made their little boy her hostage.

Matilda:  Queen of the Conqueror by Tracy Borman.  Non-fiction.  UK release September 1, 2011. 

No summary yet.

Cavalier Queen by Fiona Mountain.  UK release September 8, 2011.

No summary yet but it is about Marie Henrietta and Charles I.

Dark of the Moon by Tracy Barrett.  Young Adult.  US release September 19, 2011. (re-post to include cover)

Ariadne is destined to become a goddess of the moon. She leads a lonely life, finding companionship only with her beloved, misshapen brother Asterion, who must be held captive below the palace for his own safety.

Then a ship arrives bearing a tribute of slaves from Athens, and Ariadne meets Theseus, the son of the king of Athens. Ariadne finds herself drawn to the newcomer, and soon they form a friendship—one that could perhaps become something more.

But Theseus is doomed to die as an offering to the minotaur, that monster beneath the palace—unless he can kill the beast first. And that "monster" is Ariadne’s brother . . .

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Tapestry Project Update

Well, it's been five months since I started my Lady and the Unicorn project and boy, do I still have a long way to go! 

At this rate, I might be done by 2013!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Weekly Wishlist - March 22, 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!

Defender of Rome by Douglas Jackson.  UK release August 18, 2011.

Gaius Valerius Verrens returns to Rome from the successful campaign against Boudicca in Britain. Now hailed a ‘Hero of Rome’, Valerius is not the man he once was – scarred both physically and emotionally by the battles he has fought, his sister is mortally ill, his father in self-imposed exile. And neither is Rome the same city as the one he left.

The Emperor Nero grows increasingly paranoid. Those who seek power for themselves whisper darkly in the emperor’s ears. They speak of a new threat, one found within the walls of Rome itself. A new religious sect, the followers of Christus, deny Nero’s divinity and are rumoured to be spreading sedition.

Nero calls on his ‘Hero of Rome’ to become a ‘Defender of Rome’, to seek out this rebel sect, to capture their leader, a man known as Petrus. Failure would be to forfeit his life, and the lives of twenty thousands Judaeans living in Rome. But as Valerius begins his search, a quest which will take him to the edge of the empire, he will discover that success may cost him nearly as much as failure.

Columbus:  The Four Voyages by Laurence Bergreen.  Non-fiction.  US release September 20, 2011.  
Christopher Columbus’s 1492 voyage across the Atlantic Ocean in search of a trading route to China, and his unexpected landfall in the Americas, is a watershed event in world history. Yet Columbus made three more voyages within the span of only a decade, each designed to demonstrate that he could sail to China within a matter of weeks and convert those he found there to Christianity. These later voyages were even more adventurous, violent, and ambiguous, but they revealed Columbus’s uncanny sense of the sea, his mingled brilliance and delusion, and his superb navigational skills.

In all these exploits he almost never lost a sailor. By their conclusion, however, Columbus was broken in body and spirit. If the first voyage illustrates the rewards of exploration, the latter voyages illustrate the tragic costs—political, moral, and economic.

In rich detail Laurence Bergreen re-creates each of these adventures as well as the historical background of Columbus’s celebrated, controversial career. Written from the participants’ vivid perspectives, this breathtakingly dramatic account will be embraced by readers of Bergreen’s previous biographies of Marco Polo and Magellan and by fans of Nathaniel Philbrick, Simon Winchester, and Tony Horwitz.

A Noble Assassin by Christie Dickason.  UK release September 29, 2011.  I posted about this one a week or so ago, but it now has a new title (previous title was A Dangerous Woman) and a cover!

A thrilling account of one of English history’s missing women set against the backdrop of the sumptuous Jacobean court in the dark days leading up to the Civil War. An old man’s darling, a court beauty, the muse of poets, and chief lady-in-waiting to the queen of England, Lucy Russell (née Harrington) has it all. So why would she risk everything to save her friend, the princess, Elizabeth Stuart?

Lucy finds herself caught in a world of rough men and fatal plots, including a plan to assassinate Elizabeth’s brother, the heir to the throne, and crossing paths with the darkly handsome Duke of Buckingham, thought by many to be the true ruler of England. Was Lucy Russell merely a bored young wife, desperate for a litt le excitement? Or did deep belief drive her to choose a dangerous double life.

The Tigress of Forli:  Renaissance Italy's Most Courageous and Notorious Countess, Caterina Riario Sforza de Medici by Elizabeth Lev.  Non-fiction.  US and UK release October 20, 2011.

The astonishing life of a long-misunderstood Renaissance virago

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 reexamines 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 Forlì. 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 the Renaissance, The Tigress of Forlì reveals Caterina Riario Sforza as a brilliant and fearless ruler, and a tragic but unbowed figure.

Conqueror by Conn Iggulden.  UK release November 10, 2011.  Cover subject to change.
It should have been a golden age, an empire to dwarf the lands won by Genghis. Instead, the Mongol nation is slowly losing ground, swallowed whole by their most ancient enemy. A new generation has arisen, yet the shadow of the Great Khan hangs over them all. Only one of four brothers has the vision to stand astride the plains and the cities of jade – and make them both his own. Kublai dreams of a city named Xanadu, the first stone of an empire from sea to sea. To see it built, he must first learn the art of war.

He must take his nation’s warriors to the ends of the known world. When he is weary, when he is wounded, he must face his own brothers in civil war. For the first time in their history, Mongol warriors will face each other on the sea of grass.

The Age of Chivalry:  The History of Medieval Europe by Hywel Williams.  Non-fiction.  UK release December 1, 2011.

The five hundred years that separate the mid-tenth century from the mid-15th century constitute a critical and formative period in the history of Europe. This was the age of the system of legal and military obligation known as 'feudalism', and of the birth and consolidation of powerful kingdoms in England, France and Spain; it was an era of urbanization and the expansion of trade, of the building of the great Romanesque and Gothic cathedrals, of courtly romance and the art of the troubadour, and of the founding of celebrated seats of learning in Paris, Oxford and Bologna.

But it was also an epoch characterised by brutal military adventure in the launching of armed pilgrimages to liberate Jerusalem from Muslim control, of the brutal dynastic conflict of the Hundred Years' War and of the devastating pandemic of the Black Death. In a sequence of scholarly but accessible articles - accompanied by an array of beautiful and authentic images of the era, plus timelines, maps, boxed features and display quotes - distinguished historian Hywel Williams sheds revelatory light on every aspect of a rich and complex period of European history.

Accidents of Providence by Stacia Brown.  UK release February 14, 2012. 

A new voice in historical fiction rescues a woman wronged by her time and forgotten by history, whose love affair leads to her trial for murder.

It is 1649. King Charles has been beheaded for treason. Amid civil war, Cromwell’s army is running the country. The Levellers, a small faction of agitators, are calling for rights to the people. And a new law targeting unwed mothers and lewd women presumes anyone who conceals the death of her illegitimate child is guilty of murder.

Rachel Lockyer, unmarried glove maker, and Leveller William Walwyn are locked in a child is found buried in the woods, Rachel is arrested. So comes an investigation, public trial, and unforgettable characters: gouty investigator Thomas Bartwain, fiery Elizabeth Lillburne and her revolution-chasing husband, Huguenot glover Mary Du Gard, and others. Spinning within are Rachel and William, their remarkable love story, and the miracles that come to even the commonest lives.

For fans of Fingersmith and The Dress Lodger, Accidents of Providence is absorbing historical fiction and Rachel Lockyer is a character history will never again forget.