Sunday, January 13, 2013
This week's list includes a few I missed earlier in the month.
The second book in the classic Catherine de’ Medici trilogy from Jean Plaidy, the grande dame of historical fiction
When Catherine de’ Medici was forced to marry Henry, Duke of Orleans, her heart was not the only one that was broken. Jeanne of Navarre once dreamed of marrying this same prince, but, like Catherine, she must comply with France’s political needs. And so both Catherine’s and Jeanne’s lives are set on unwanted paths, destined to cross in affairs of state, love, and faith, driving them to become deadly political rivals.
Years later Jeanne is happily married to the dashing but politically inept Antoine de Bourbon. But the widowed Catherine is now the ambitious mother of princes, and she will do anything to see her beloved second son, Henry, rule France. As civil war ravages the country and Jeanne fights for the Huguenot cause, Catherine advances along her unholy road, making enemies at every turn.
September 1356. All over France, towns are closing their gates. Crops are burning, and through-out the countryside people are on the alert for danger. The English army—led by the heir to the throne, the Black Prince—is set to invade, while the French, along with their Scottish allies, are ready to hunt them down.
But what if there was a weapon that could decide the outcome of the imminent war?
Thomas of Hookton, known as le Batard, has orders to uncover the lost sword of Saint Peter, a blade with mystical powers said to grant certain victory to whoever possesses her. The French seek the weapon, too, and so Thomas's quest will be thwarted at every turn by battle and betrayal, by promises made and oaths broken. As the outnumbered English army becomes trapped near Poitiers, Thomas, his troop of archers and men-at-arms, his enemies, and the fate of the sword converge in a maelstrom of violence, action, and heroism.
Rich with colorful characters, great adventure, and thrilling conflict, 1356 is a magnificent tale of how the quest for a holy relic with the power to change history may culminate in an epic struggle.
New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Chiaverini illuminates the extraordinary friendship between Mary Todd Lincoln and Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley, a former slave who won her freedom by the skill of her needle, and the friendship of the First Lady by her devotion.
In Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker, novelist Jennifer Chiaverini presents a stunning account of the friendship that blossomed between Mary Todd Lincoln and her seamstress, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Keckley, a former slave who gained her professional reputation in Washington, D.C. by outfitting the city’s elite. Keckley made history by sewing for First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln within the White House, a trusted witness to many private moments between the President and his wife, two of the most compelling figures in American history.
In March 1861, Mrs. Lincoln chose Keckley from among a number of applicants to be her personal “modiste,” responsible not only for creating the First Lady’s gowns, but also for dressing Mrs. Lincoln in the beautiful attire Keckley had fashioned. The relationship between the two women quickly evolved, as Keckley was drawn into the intimate life of the Lincoln family, supporting Mary Todd Lincoln in the loss of first her son, and then her husband to the assassination that stunned the nation and the world.
Keckley saved scraps from the dozens of gowns she made for Mrs. Lincoln, eventually piecing together a tribute known as the Mary Todd Lincoln Quilt. She also saved memories, which she fashioned into a book, Behind the Scenes: Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House. Upon its publication, Keckley’s memoir created a scandal that compelled Mary Todd Lincoln to sever all ties with her, but in the decades since, Keckley’s story has languished in the archives. In this impeccably researched, engrossing novel, Chiaverini brings history to life in rich, moving style.
Demetrius, son of Alexander's former comrade, Antigonus One-Eye, was perhaps the most dashing and charismatic of the Successors, the Macedonian generals who fought a bitter war for the spoils of Alexander's short-lived empire. Still smarting from his epic defeat at the hands of Ptolemy, Demetrius has his eye on one of the richest prizes in the ancient world - the naval superpower of Rhodes. But the Rhodians know that defeat will mean annihilation, and Demetrius's campaign will entail five separate naval battles over several years before he can begin to breach the city walls - leading him to employ an array of fantastic war machines: ancient super-weapons like his gigantic lens of polished bronze used to focus on the city's wooden ramparts and set them ablaze. If she is to survive against such a merciless assault, Rhodes will need the help of every ally she can muster - including the newly crowned King of the Bosporus, Satyrus, and his fiery twin, Melitta...
Taking a similar approach to his successful If Rome Hadn't Fallen, Timothy Venning explores the various decision points in a fascinating period of British history and the alternative paths that it might have taken. Dr Timothy Venning starts within an outline of the process by which much of Britain came to be settled by Germanic tribes after the end of Roman rule, so far as it can be determined from the sparse and fragmentary sources. He then moves on to discuss a series of scenarios which might have altered the course of subsequent history dramatically. For example, was a reconquest by the native British ever a possibility (under 'Arthur' or someone else)? Which of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms might have united England sooner and would this have kept the Danes out? And, of course, what if Harold Godwinson had won at Hastings? While necessarily speculative, all the scenarios are discussed within the framework of a deep understanding of the major driving forces, tensions and trends that shaped British history and help to shed light upon them. In so doing they help the reader to understand why things panned out as they did, as well as what might have been.