December 18, 2010

Guest Post--Consuelo Saah Baehr, author of Daughters

I would like to welcome Consuelo Baehr to the blog today.  Please enjoy her informative post on researching historical fiction.

When I began my historical saga, Daughters, I could just as easily been about to perform brain surgery. That is how inexperienced I was at research, never mind integrating world events and data into a smooth flowing narrative. My major qualification was that my paternal grandparents had grown up in a small village near Jerusalem (where my novel is set) and many relatives were still around to remember how things were done in the old days. I began with an oral history from both men and women. If there are people who still remember their own stories or stories they heard growing up an oral history helps you get the minutiae of daily life down in an unselfconscious way. Oral history told me the terrain of the village, the crops the farmers grew, the growing season, when the harvests took place and how the villagers participated. I found out the kind of food they ate, the rhythm of the seasons and the way they spent their days and how they courted and married.

Jerusalem has always been a cosmopolitan city because of the pilgrims who flock to the Holy Places for all religions and inevitably there were many travel books and memoirs written about it. Two of the most helpful books were Jerusalem Walks and the diaries of the Society of Friends. Jerusalem Walks pinpoints the Street and house number of stores, banks, publications, monasteries, churches etc. When you can name a Street or a specific spot, the reader feels comfortable.

In this passage, the father in Book One inherits a plot of land and grows some vegetables that he brings on a cart to sell in Jerusalem:

“By May he was able to bring his early crop to the Jaffa Gate and sell it alongside those of the other village farmers. The plaza outside Jaffa Gate was the busiest spot in all Jerusalem for here ended the well-traveled road from the ancient port city of Jaffa. Here, diligences, carriages bringing imported necessities and luxuries, discharged their passengers and goods. Mustafa fashioned a two-tiered cart with long handles to hold his produce and he and Miriam pushed it the ten miles from Tamleh every Wednesday. The spot they chose was at the foot of Suleiman Street in front of the French Hospital of St. Louis.

It was the thriving hub of the city. Jaffa Road, though still unpaved, had sidewalks. In just one small stretch, across from the Russian Compound, there was a branch of Barclay’s Bank, the Hughes Hotel, a specialty cobbler and several elegant shops and cafes. The Greek Consulate occupied spacious offices stop one building that housed a branch of the Russian Post Office below.”

Also invaluable were the diaries of the Society of Friends who began building schools in my fictional village in the 1850’s. With the help of the diaries, I knew precisely what day, the British Protectorate ended and the area was left without a government because the teachers heard the armies marching out at midnight and I could say that with certainty to my readers.

Toward the end of the First World War, when my fictional family has to leave the village to escape a famine and cholera, they walk across the Jordan to a monastery in En Salt.  I was completely comfortable describing the terrain because I had read descriptions in several memoirs.

“It was so hot. The dust on the road attacked their throats and gagged them and they stopped speaking to conserve their saliva. Only Esa had energy and he skipped ahead sometimes running back to apprise them of some horny-headed lizard or chameleon he spotted on a rock. Toward afternoon of the next day, after stopping to rest at dawn, they reached the great depression of the Ghor that provided a bed for the Jordan. They passed many gorges into which the debris from the hillsides had tumbled creating a desolate wasteland. Most frightening of all were the narrow defiles with perpendicular sheets of striated cliffs on each side allowing no place to turn should they be attacked. Nadia crooned softly to herself and stuck her thumb in her mouth, lethargic from the heat and dehydration. The older boys and Nadeem took turns leading the donkey. Miriam kept her eye on Esa but her mind wandered and from time to time she became disoriented.

On first view, the Jordan appeared as a meandering ribbon of grass. There were muleteers who warned them of the muddy bottom but when their donkey began to slip and flounder and was in danger of drowning, the men made no move to help. Nadeem cut the animal loose from the packages and Miriam saw all of their belongings sink to the bottom. He saved only the food and although he submerged himself several times searching for the water skin, the men called out that it was useless. The strong current had already taken their cargo several miles. Nadeem led the donkey back and forth with each of them atop the animal. When they were all safely on the other side, he sat by himself, his wet clothes plastered around his thin body and wept into his hands.”

If you can use the name of the boat, the name of the street, the name of anything, it becomes much more authentic and valuable.

“Samir sailed from the port of Jaffa with twelve other passengers on a coal-burning cargo ship of the Khedevieh Line that was under British control. He left on September 11, allowing himself three weeks to make the trip and arrive in time for the fall term at the London School of Economics, which had become recognized as part of London University for the BSc degree in Economics. The ship dropped cargo at Naples and Lisbon and that was the last comfortable climate he was to know. The school was located in Aldwych just off The Strand and about a mile from Bloomsbury, the central University site. He was assigned a cold and drafty room on Fitzroy Street but it might as well have been off the face of the earth as he knew it.”

I felt very comfortable depicting the first meeting of an arranged marriage because I had heard it straight from my aunt’s mouth. In this scene the rebellious daughter is alone with the boy her parents have decided would be a good match. He has just asked a fatal question.

“Why do you want to go to such a rigorous school? My sister goes to Mar Yusef. It’s a good enough place.”

She looked at the boy as if he had spoken an obscenity. What made him an authority on what was good enough for her? It’s the best school in Palestine, “ she said firmly. “The American Consul says so and the British Consul agrees. Every visiting scholar makes it his business to stop by and lecture to us. Anyone who graduates can pass the London University Exam or the National Matriculation Exam. How can you ask such a question? If you had a choice between having something that was just so-so and having the best, which would you choose?”

The boy was frowning. He wasn’t expecting such aggression and it confused him. She could see he was deciding whether to be aggressive in return or to be polite. He sighed and shifted so that instead of sitting squarely on the couch, he was angled toward her. “How do you like to pass your time? Or perhaps you don’t have any free time in this fancy school.” He said “fancy” in a sarcastic way so she knew his feelings were hurt.

From out of nowhere she had this sense of freedom to say anything she pleased. It was wonderful not to care how someone reacted. “I pass my free time playing tennis. I’m mad for tennis.” She was trying for an off-hand brittleness precisely because it would annoy him.

“Tennis? Where you hit the ball back and forth?”

“Well . . . that’s not all of it.” To explain the finer points of the game would be useless. He would scoff. “How do you pass your free time?”

“I don’t have much of it,” he said proudly. “My father and I have the franchise for the Singer machines. Do you own a Singer? Do you sew?”

For any major event, I always researched at least two sources, especially for the passages of Bedouin life in the desert. I had to know it well enough to put one of my characters in the thick of it for an entire chapter. One of the main characters in Book Two is sent to become “a man” in the desert. By making Samir naive, the reader and I can ask a lot of questions:

“Why do you choose to live like this? Samir asked. It had occurred to him that Marwan’s father was wealthier than many of the villagers, yet this life held relentless hardship. They slept on the stony ground, chilled to the bone by night and suffocated during the day. Water was precious and rare for these were the driest days of the year and it would be two months before the rains began to replenish the water holes. Food was monotonous. The frothy salty camel milk fresh from the udder was repulsive but there was nothing else and he reluctantly began to tolerate it. The occasional meat was cooked so rare he couldn’t touch it yet the young men fought for the raw heart of any animal that was slaughtered. They guzzled the blood believing it gave them strength and virility. “Don’t you yearn for a different life?”

“Where else would I live? I was born here as was my father and his father before him.”

“But it’s so difficult. There’s a much easier way.” As he said this, anxiety rose in him. Would his father come back to claim him? And when?

Marwan laughed. “Easier for whom? We welcome the hardships of the desert. We love them.”

“But why?”

He answered with an innocence that made Samir ashamed for questioning. “We love the desert life because it is ours.”

But it is not mine, thought Samir with sadness.

One early morning, after the moon had set but while it was still dark, Marwan shook him. “We must ride into the wilderness,” he said and handed Samir a waterskin and some dried dates. Each rode a dromedary while two riderless mares cantered at their side and held by lines to the camel girths. A few miles out of the camp, Marwan, rifle in hand, flung himself from the camel onto the back of his mare, unslipped the line and raced off in a cloud yelling wildly. Samir made three attempts to do the same but fell twice. He couldn’t ride bareback and found himself gripping with his thighs for dear life. He reached Marwan who was casually pitching stones at a pile of bleached animal bones.

“I thought you were in danger,”’ shouted Samir.

“You were supposed to ride as if danger were near,” said Marwan coolly.

“I almost broke my back. Who ever heard of riding a blasted horse without a saddle! And jumping on him at that!”

“It’s the way it is done.”

“It’s a good way to kill yourself.”

“It’s the way we ride for the gazu, the raid,” he said stubbornly. “It is the way we move our camps. It is the way we protect our grazing areas and our flocks. In order to survive in the desert you must be ready to move swiftly from the camel to the war mare. It is the only way to be a man. We must try it again until it is as easy as walking.”

Samir rubbed his back. He thought: I’m never going to be in a raid. I’m not going to move a camp. One day I will return to my home. Yet Marwan was already retying his line to try again. They worked all day on the maneuver and Samir was enticed by the spectacular look of the transfer when it was accomplished properly. Using the left wrist to launch himself, Marwan lifted both legs up and to the right then swung gracefully between the two animals and landed squarely on the back of the mare, unhitching the line at the same instant he spurred the horse. Then came the wild yell of freedom. The thrill of speed atop the most splendid horses in the world, the “drinkers of the wind.”

In the end, after two years of exhausting research and re-writing, I was proud of the book that resulted. Daughters was translated into fifteen languages and received excellent reviews.

Thank you, Consuelo, for sharing your research experience with us.  Those of us who love historical fiction really enjoy learning about the ins and outs of writing the genre.

About Daughters:
From the one room dwellings of a tiny village near Jerusalem to the elegant town houses of Georgetown; from a world steeped in ancient traditions to a world of independent women comes this multi-layered novel of the lives, loves, secrets and strivings of three generations of Palestinian Christian women.

Miriam Mishwe is born into a world that hasn't changed for centuries, rural Palestine in the last years of the 19th century. She marries a man chosen by her family but the world she sees as unchangeable is on the verge of upheaval.

Nadia is Miriam's daughter. Sent to a local British school, she adopts many modern ideas but is not ready to renounce her heritage. It is Nadia's child, Nijmeh, who looks to the west and calls herself by her English name, Star, when she goes to live in America. There she faces problems unknown in her childhood world of brooding hills and desert and brilliant skies.

Daughters is an unforgettable novel about courage, love and hope; and about two worlds, one ancient, one modern, and the extraordinary women who bridge them.

About Consuelo Baehr:
I am a repurposed writer who got off the couch several months ago, formatted my out-of-print backlist books published them on Amazon and now sell them in the Kindle store. The idea of publishing another book with a traditional publisher was so daunting, I remained silent for several years. E-publishing has set me free. My mind used to only work for a couple of hours in the morning. Now it works all the time. . I don't know if I will sell enough books to make a difference in my life but the "psychic" income of having control to publish my writing and control what happens to it is thrilling. Yes, thrilling. The first day, I pulled the trigger and uploaded my historical epic novel, Daughters, onto the publishing platform on Amazon, I was beyond happy. As Truman Capote said when he sold two short stories in one day, "Dizzy with happiness is no mere phrase. It used to be that I would clean the oven to avoid writing. Now I write avidly because I know I can publish what I write. I have satisfied my two passions - writing and commerce. I'd love to share the ride with you and also two or three other things.

Visit Consuelo at her website HERE
Daughters can be purchased on AMAZON

December 14, 2010

A Humble Proposal to Standardize Historical Fiction Citations By Stephanie Dray

A Humble Proposal to Standardize Historical Fiction Citations

Historical fiction exists in the sometimes murky world between literature and scholarship. As authors, we rely upon sources both in the public domain and out of it, both contemporary and ancient. Yet, no uniform procedures or system for recording and giving credit to sources have yet been adopted.

While footnotes are called for in academia, they distract fiction readers. Consequently, historical fiction sources are most often cited in the acknowledgements page or at the end of the book in an author's note. Unfortunately, due to the cost of printing paper, this solution is often discouraged by the publisher. Even when a publisher is amenable to this solution an author may only have a certain number of pages he or she can dedicate to the enterprise, and any information that crops up after the publication of the book cannot be added to the list.

Jan. 4, 2011

Given the rise of the electronic book, this may soon prove to be no problem at all. However, we currently exist in limbo between a world of electronic books and a world that is still dominated by print. While this is still the case, I would like to humbly suggest an alternative solution. Given the ubiquitous nature of websites, authors should adopt a uniform system by which we record our sources on bibliographic pages on our own author websites as I have done here.

Some might argue that this is not an ideal solution, because readers often fail to visit such websites at the end of the reading. This may be true, but can be alleviated by a standardized system of reader expectation. If all historical fiction authors adopt this mechanism by which credit can be given to the writers who have come before us, those whose words or ideas have inspired our own work, readers will seek out this information. They’ll come to expect it. Best of all, such efforts might lead readers to learn more about the history than they might otherwise learn from our narrative fiction.

Stephanie Dray is the author of a forthcoming trilogy of historical fiction novels set in the Augustan Age, starting with Lily of the Nile: A Novel of Cleopatra's Daughter. Before she wrote novels, Stephanie was a lawyer, a game designer, and a teacher. Now she uses the transformative power of magic realism to illuminate the stories of women in history and inspire the young women of today. She remains fascinated by all things Roman or Egyptian and has–to the consternation of her devoted husband–collected a house full of cats and ancient artifacts.

She is currently sponsoring the Cleopatra Literary Contest for Young Women, the deadline for which is March 1, 2011, but join her newsletter now for updates and a chance to win a free copy of Lily of the Nile and additional prizes.

December 06, 2010

LONDON, OCTOBER 1660: A Guest Post by Gillian Bagwell, author of The Darling Strumpet (Jan. 2011)

Please welcome author Gillian Bagwell with the following article which is amongst a series of articles commemorating the 350th Anniversary of the Restoration of Charles II,  at which time coincided with the reopening of the playhouses and also brought the first actress to the stage. This article relays the regicide trials of those who sat in judgement against Charles I and signed his death warrant in 1649. The list of articles can be found at the author's website. Her newest historical fiction release, The Darling Strumpet, will be available January 2011.

 by Gillian Bagwell

By early October 1660, rumors were beginning to leak about the scandal roiling around the Duke of York and the pregnant Anne Hyde that had consumed the court for so much of September. On October 7, diarist Samuel Pepys wrote that he had dined with his patron the Earl of Sandwich, “he all dinner time talking French to me and telling me how the Duke of Yorke hath got my Lord Chancellors daughter with child, and that she doth lay it do him. Discoursing concerning what if the Duke should marry her, my Lord told me that among his father’s many old sayings that he had writ in a book of his, this is one: that he that doth get a wench with child and marries her afterward it is as if a man should shit in his hat and then clap it upon his head.”

The Duke himself was starting to act as if he thought the same. He stopped the secret visits he had been making to Anne and began to think of renouncing the marriage. This bad behavior was probably due to the Iago-like whispers of his friend Sir Charles Berkeley, who argued that the marriage wasn’t valid because the King Charles hadn’t approved it beforehand, and also claimed, without a hint of truth, that he and others had slept with Anne.

The King continued to be occupied by the business of disbanding the army and arriving at some kind of settlement of religious matters and the issue of tolerance for various faiths. He wanted to extend tolerance to Catholics, but couldn’t quite say so directly, and encountered stiff opposition. After much wrangling the promise he had made in the Declaration of Breda the previous spring was repeated, that no man “shall be disquieted or called in question for Differences in Opinion on Matters of Religion which do not disturb the Peace of the Kingdom,” but nothing more specific was promised than tolerance for Anglicans and Presbyterians.

Charles was still rising early to play tennis, and distracting himself from the cares of state by his ongoing work on St. James’s Park. On October 11, Pepys walked in the park with a friend “where we observed the several engines at work to draw up water, with which sight I was very much pleased.” Charles expressed a desire for two gondolas to the Venetian Resident, and gondoliers to go with them, and by the end of the month the Venetian Senate had ordered the boats built expressly for the new King. Pepys also recorded that he had gone to the Cockpit theatre in Drury Lane to see “The Moore of Venice, which was well done. Burt acted the Moore; by the same token a very pretty lady that sot by me cried to see Desdemona smothered.”

Edward Kynaston

This performance was part of an intriguing but temporary development in the reestablishment of professional theatre. Tom Killigrew and William D’Avenant, having secured an official monopoly on the right to present plays, brought their united companies together for daily performances at the Cockpit from about October 8 to October 16, performing Wit Without Money, an old favorite by Beaumont and Fletcher; The Tamer Tamed, otherwise known as The Woman’s Prize by John Fletcher, and undoubtedly other plays besides the Othello that Pepys saw. The roster of His Majesty’s Comedians dated October 6 lists Nicholas Burt, Charles Hart, Michael Mohun, Robert Shatterell, John Lacy, William Wintershall, Walter Clun, William Cartwright, Edward Shatterell, Richard Baxter, Thomas Loveday, Edward Kynaston, and Thomas Betterton. Many of these men (no women acting yet!) had been members of the old King’s Company at the Blackfriars Theatre, when the King was Charles I. Baxter and Cartwright, as well as Theophilus Bird, who was working with the company soon, were second generation professional actors, and Bird’s son, also Theophilus, followed in his father’s footsteps, now that acting was once more a possible career choice.

John Lacy

The actors’ residence at the Cockpit coincided with a much less pleasant series of ongoing entertainments – the trial and punishment of the men responsible for the execution of Charles I. On October 10, Pepys heard that the 29 regicides “were this day arraigned at the bar at the Sessions House, there being upon the bench the Lord Mayor, Gen. Monke, my Lord of Sandwich, &c; such a bench of noblemen as hath not been ever seen in England. They all seem to be dismayed and will all be condemned without question.” On October 11, diarist John Evelyn wrote, “this day were those barbarous Regicides, who sat on the life of our late King, brought to their trial in the old baily.”

Over the next two days, all but one pleaded not guilty, but Pepys was right. The first conviction was of Thomas Harrison, and the Lord Chief Baron pronounced the punishment for treason, “…that you be led to the place from whence you came, and from thence to be drawn upon an hurdle to the place of execution; and there you shall be hanged by the neck, and being alive shall be cut down, and your privy members to be cut off, your entrails to be taken out of your body, and you living, the same to be burnt before your eyes, and your head to be cut off, your body to be divided into four quarters, and head and quarters to be disposed of at the pleasure of the king’s majesty, and the lord have mercy upon your soul.” Five more of the accused were condemned the next day.

Harrison was the first to die. Pepys noted “I went out to Charing cross to see Maj.-Gen. Harrison hanged, drawn, and quartered – which was done there – he looking as cheerfully as any man could do in that condition.” Not so very cheerfully, one would imagine. “He was presently cut down,” Pepys continued, “and his head and his heart shown to the people, at which there were great shouts of joy.”

Over the next few days the trials and executions continued. By October 16 all the regicides had been condemned, and the rest of those who had already been condemned were executed. Evelyn wrote,“This day were executed those murderous Traytors at Charing Cross, in sight of the place where they put to death their natural Prince… I saw not their execution, but met their quarters mangld & cutt & reaking as they were brought from the Gallows on baskets on the hurdle, O miraculous providence of God.”
This must have been an incredibly strange time. Londoners were thronging to the Cockpit to see the King’s Comedians, and no doubt some of these same people were crowding around the scaffold to see the executions. The mood in the playhouse must have been peculiar, and it must have been hard work for the actors.

On October 11, after describing the butchering of Harrison, Pepys wrote “From thence to my Lord’s and took Capt. Cuttance and Mr. Sheply to the Sun tavern and did give them some oysters. After that I went by water home, where I was angry with my wife for her things lying about… Within all the afternoon, setting up shelfes in my study.” On October 19 he recorded, “This morning my Dining-room was finished with green Serge hanging and gilt leather, which is very handsome. This morning Hacker and Axtell were hanged and Quartered, as the rest are. This night I sat up late to make up my accounts ready against tomorrow.”

It was getting pretty bad in the neighborhood of Charing Cross. The residents complained that the air smelled of burnt bowels, and petitioned the King not to carry out further executions there. So the next two traitors were hanged at Tyburn instead.

The Parliamentary Intelligencer newspaper reported that “The friends of Mr. Carew and Mr. Hacker begg’d their respective bodies; Axtell’s Quarters are not yet boil’d; Harrison’s Quarters are not yet disposed of; Cook’s head and Harrison’s (a Councellor and Attorney) are set upon Poles on Westminster Hall; the heads of the rest upon London-bridge, and their Quarters at several Gates.”

On October 20, Pepys “dined with my Lord and Lady, where he was very merry and did talk very high how he would have a French Cooke and a Master of the Horse,” and later, “calling at Crowes the upholsterer in Saint Bartholomew – I saw the limbs of some of our new Traytors set upon Aldersgate, which was a sad sight to see; and a bloody week this and the last have been, there being ten hanged, drawn, and Quarterd.”

The King decided enough was enough, and the rest of the sentences were suspended for the time being. Charles now turned his attention back to the matter of Anne Hyde. During a bedside interrogation by a delegation of ladies and gentlemen, Anne affirmed that the child she was carrying was the Duke of York’s, that she had never been with another man, that she and the Duke were married, and that there were witnesses to prove it. Slipping in under the wire of respectability, she then gave birth to a son, the King declared her to be the Duchess of York, and James, the repentant Duke, came creeping back to her side and agreed that she was his wife after all.

On October 28 Charles consecrated five bishops. On October 29 the new Lord Mayor was installed, and the Right Worshipful Company of Merchant Taylors produced a lavish Lord Mayor’s show, with two pageants. Both Pepys and Evelyn saw the pageant at Cheapside, “with the royal Oake, & historie of his Majesties miraculous escape at Bosco-Bell &c.”

Queen Henrietta Maria
 The drama for the month was not quite over. The Duke of York set out to meet his mother Queen Henrietta Maria and his youngest sister Minette, who were arriving from Paris, and with the entire fleet, conducted them into Dover harbor. Charles followed a few days later, accompanied by his sister Mary of Orange and cousin Prince Rupert, and rendezvoused with the rest of the royal family on October 30. The Queen had arrived.

Sources and further reading:
Online: The Diary of Samuel Pepys -
1660: The Year of Restoration, Patrick Morrah (Beacon Press, 1960)
The Diary of John Evelyn, ed. Guy de la Bédoyère (Boydell Press, 1995; First Person Singular, 2004)
The London Stage, 1660-1800, A Calendar of Plays, Entertainments, and Afterpieces Together with Casts, Box-Receipts, and Contemporary Comment, Part I, 1660-1700, ed. William Van Lennep et al. (Southern Illinois University Press, 1963)

Pepys’s Diary, Volume I, selected and edited by Robert Latham (Folio Society, 1996)

Gillian Bagwell is the author of the upcoming novel The Darling Strumpet, based on the life of Nell Gwynn, who rose from the streets to become one of London’s most beloved actresses and the life-long mistress of King Charles II.

This is the sixth in a series of articles chronicling the events from May 1660 through January 1661, in commemoration of the 350th anniversary of the Restoration of the English monarchy, the reopening of the playhouses, which had been closed for eighteen years under Cromwell, and the first appearance of an actress on the English stage, in contrast to the old practice of boys playing women’s roles.

Gillian Bagwell

The Darling Strumpet
The tumultuous life of Nell Gwynn, beloved 17th century actress and royal mistress.
The September Queen
The unbelievable true escapade of the ordinary English girl who saved the King and the monarchy.
Both coming from Berkley Publishing Group in 2011.

For links to the other articles and information about Gillian’s books, please visit her website,

November 01, 2010

Abuse in the Tudor Court~ By D.L. Bogdan

Please welcome D.L. Bogdan as she imparts this important message:

Abuse in the Tudor Court

In my works SECRETS OF THE TUDOR COURT and RIVALS IN THE TUDOR COURT (Kensington Books, May, 2011), I chose to illustrate quite a detailed account of the abuses suffered by the Duchess Elizabeth Howard and the more speculated abuse of her daughter Mary Howard at the hands of the third Duke of Norfolk, Thomas Howard. Why did I choose to do this? Because I like gory descriptions of another's pain? On the contrary. As a survivor of domestic violence myself, I chose to tell the story in a way that would perhaps at times shock the reader into awareness of the hopelessness of women not only in the 16th century, but the hopeFULness of women of today. In the time period of Duchess Elizabeth and young Mary, there was no help available. Men could do as they pleased as fathers and husbands, and they took full advantage of that, as the Duke of Norfolk's actions illustrates quite well.

In Barbara Harris' intriguing article "Marriage: 16th Century Style" and George Frederick Nott's "Works of Henry Howard, earl of Surrey, and of Sir Thomas Wyatt the elder"in two volumes, we see firsthand letters the Duchess composed making attempts at seeking help in vain from the Lord Privy Seal Thomas Cromwell, and even appeals to King Henry VIII himself. Ahead of her time, Duchess Elizabeth spoke out when no one else would and though it is unfortunate she was not heard, it speaks of a courage seldom seen in documented early modern history on the part of these amazing women. Sadly, we also see the reaction of her husband the Duke, not unlike reactions of many modern abusers--denial and threats should the abuse be exposed coupled with accusations of her "slander".

Though most would call the story of Duchess Elizabeth tragic, I feel she made a difference with her outspoken cries for help and assistance, showing not only women of her time that women COULD have a voice, but illustrating even more to contemporary women that WE have a voice now.

Seeking help is hard. I know. Women (and men) in abusive relationships feel trapped and live in terror of their abusers. They don't know where to turn. Often isolated and controlled, help seems no where in sight. But there is hope and help. Take that first step. Call a friend, a trusted family member, or clergy person. We have resources today that the poor Duchess and her daughter could only dream of. It is up to us to use them and become survivors, not victims, of our abusers. There can be healing. I am proof of that hope realized.

Attached find some helpful links for study and sharing that may help others reach out for the help I so encourage them finding at: ... National Domestic Violence Hotline ... The Women's Institute for Incorporation Therapy

We live in a time where we have a voice. Use it loud and use it proud!

Reprinted with permission from the author's blog, Herstory vs. History

September 20, 2010

Guest Post--Robert Parry, Author of Virgin and the Crab (and review)

This is a cross post from The True Book Addict blog


With history there is something always to be kept in mind: that an absence of evidence does not necessarily always indicate evidence of absence. There is, for example, no evidence that in the middle of the 16th century a secret group of influential men and women, mostly Cambridge university scholars, would have helped the then princess Elizabeth withstand numerous attempts upon her life and to steer her safely through the most dangerous of her formative years to ultimately become Queen of England. But that does not mean that it could not have happened. And this is where the writer of fiction can step up and fill in the details. The writer of fiction, in other words can, provide some of that ‘absence of evidence’ in the form of a good yarn or two and get us all thinking of what might have been going on in-between all those dry facts and figures, all those dates and names of battles and so on that we learn in our history books. That is why we love it, of course.

My novel, ‘Virgin and the Crab,’ which Michelle has very kindly reviewed here, is just that kind of thing, an exercise in speculation. It’s not one of those ‘what-if’ stories, but rather one that fills in the gaps between real events. That’s how I like my historical fiction. And this is where we meet the hero of the story, a gentleman by the name of John Dee.

Recently, in 2009 there was a conference at Cambridge in England in which a number of eminent scholars and historians met over a period of two days to try to restore the somewhat tarnished reputation of one of England’s greatest minds, the 16th century astronomer, mathematician, geographer and antiquarian John Dee. Dee was born in 1527. He was at a very early age regarded as one of the leading intellectuals in Europe and even in his 20’s when lecturing at the Sorbonne, for example, it was said that people would clamber upon window sills outside the crowded lecture halls, to press their ears against the windows to hear what he had to say. He helped introduce Euclidean geometry to Europe; his library at his home in Mortlake became the most extensive in Europe, far greater than that of Oxford university, becoming a hub of excellence in all matters of learning, visited by everyone of note in England at the time; and he may even have had a hand in the invention of the telescope long before it first appeared in Holland and Italy and was subsequently adopted for use by Galileo in 1607. Dee advised on all of the great voyages of exploration undertaken by the Elizabethan seamen such as Drake, Raleigh, Gilbert and Frobisher. He advised on super novae, on comets, and he was an early advocate of the sun-centred view of the solar system as outlined by Copernicus.

More excitingly, however, Dee was also a secret agent - the original 007, in fact (he actually signed some of his more personal documents with a 007 symbol). During the turbulent decade following the death of Henry VIII – one of the most cruel and unsettling periods of English history when the nation managed to get through no less than five different monarchs (Henry VIII, Edward VI, Jane Grey, Mary I and finally Elizabeth), he was employed at Court and became tutor to the young King and also to Elizabeth’s life-long friend Robert Dudley. Dee was a close friend not only of Robert Dudley, but also a colleague of William Cecil, Elizabeth’s chief minister and closest of confidants. Those, at least, are the facts.

Now what about ‘Virgin and the Crab?’ Well, there is no hard evidence that John Dee knew Elizabeth during her childhood, or that he was her tutor. There is no evidence that he guided and protected her and kept her from harm’s way during her younger years - as my story suggests. There is no evidence that he was not devoted to the cause of the Reformation or to the English Renaissance with all the passion, romanticism and selfless dedication of a medieval knight - or that he put his own life on the line again and again to make it all happen. There is not a shred of evidence, in fact, that he ever believed for one minute that the brilliant young Elizabeth was destined in some magical sense to succeed to the throne or that she would ultimately take England forward into its most golden of all ages. But none of this is evidence of absence. It’s just where this article leaves off, and the story begins …

Thank you, Robert, for this excellent guest post!

About Robert:

Author of the novel 'VIRGIN AND THE CRAB' Robert Parry is a UK-based writer with special interests in Tudor and Elizabethan history, Victorian Gothic and Pre-Raphaelite art. Also keen on astrology, cooking, good wine and gardening (though not always undertaken in that order).

He is the author of several successful works of non-fiction - some of which have been translated into foreign language editions. 'VIRGIN AND THE CRAB' is his debut novel.

Connect with Robert:

novel site:
on Goodreads
on Facebook

Robert is hosting a "guess the title of his next novel" competition. Go to his blog (listed above) for details.


Virgin and the Crab: Sketches, Fables & Mysteries from the early life of John Dee and Elizabeth Tudor--Robert Parry

My thoughts:

When I finished reading 'Virgin', I told Robert that it should be recognized by a major publisher. He responded by saying that most publishers will not touch a debut novel of over 100,000 words. 'Virgin' is close to 200,000. It's a shame because this book is one of the best historical novels I have ever read. There's no fluff in the pages of this book. Just straight historical fiction that read almost like non-fiction, but nowhere near as boring. Not that I generally think that non-fiction is boring, but some can be real yawners, if you know what I mean. What I enjoyed most about the book was that I was able to follow what was transpiring with Elizabeth directly parallel to what occurred from before Mary's (Elizabeth's sister) reign and then from the beginning until the end of Mary's reign. I enjoyed the intrigue that was involved in this plot to protect Elizabeth and to ensure that she would someday take the throne. There was a lot of breath holding on my part, even though I already knew the outcome. I liked the way Lady Jane Grey was portrayed here...more as a pawn then a willing participant in seizing the crown. Which made her end all the more tragic. Mary was not portrayed in a favorable light. She comes across as pias, petty and prudish and so full of hatred and the need for revenge for what happened to her mother that she takes religious fanaticism to a new extreme and many people die as a consequence. I'm on the fence about Mary. The character of John Dee was very interesting. I do not know much about him outside of this book, but after reading 'Virgin', I'm compelled to find out more. Perhaps the best thing about this book is that it portrays my favorite historical figure in the best possible light. Elizabeth was an enigma...a skillful and powerful ruler who chose to be married to her country instead of a man. How much of what we know is true? And what do we not know? Here in this favorite quote of mine from the book, Elizabeth speaks about the mystique that surrounds her (and John Dee):

Men say he has his darker side. And many, I know, go in fear of him. Like Us, a mystique has surrounded our friend, John Dee. It is good that this has occurred, and We shall keep it so. But really, in truth, he is a darling of a man - and no more a Crab than I might be a Virgin - though we'll say no more of that!

I highly recommend 'Virgin and the Crab' to all historical fiction lovers and especially to all who adore Elizabeth Tudor. It's an exciting twist on Elizabeth's path to the throne. Historically compelling and deliciously suspenseful! I'm looking forward to Robert's next novel.

Book description from Goodreads:

The brilliant young mathematician and astronomer John Dee has one overwhelming obsession: liberty. Abandoned and humiliated, Elizabeth Tudor has one simple aim: survival. This is their story. Against the background of the English Reformation, and threatened by a vengeful and unforgiving Queen, the mysterious brotherhood of the Rose Lodge attempts to guide the nation towards enlightenment and stability. Here, the special alchemy of the Virgin and the Crab works its magic: growing from childhood friendship, through adolescent flirtation, to mutual respect and admiration as together they prepare to sacrifice everything for the world they wish to inherit.

August 25, 2010

The RAVEN and the WOLF: Chronicle I - Blood Oath By Christopher Spellman

The RAVEN and the WOLF: Chronicle I - Blood Oath By Christopher Spellman
ISBN-13: 9781609101855
Date: April 2010
Page Count: 460

The Raven & the Wolf is an epic saga-like tale of dark-age conflict, oaths, brotherhood and betrayal, set in the throes of a divided and tumultuous 10th century Britain.

Chapter One
Bitter was that smoke across the span of night, the screams
competent to curdle blood, the blade-song pealing and unmelodious.

Thatch burned and crackled in flicking tongues of flame, sweeping 
over narrowed lanes, one rooftop to the next and sending hot ash glowing and swirling into the night. Dogs barked, yowled and bayed. Women wailed and wept, cradling infants to their breasts surely as mothers must. The old cowered and shrunk back, dismayed. Men slow to their weapons died.
 Peace had ended in that town.
It is early in the 10th century. England has crowned a new king - Æthelstan the Faithful of Wessex - who has endeavored to unify all the realms of the isle under one rule.

But unity is not always won through bloodless means.

For Wulfric and Hereric, brothers of dubious descent who have fled their native kingdom of Northumbria under circumstances they shall not fully grasp for many years, the prospect of unity is as strained as that of England itself. Forced to endure a bloody, timeless pact, they are sworn as protectors of one another. But the gods and Norn-maidens of their pagan faith have another fate in store for the two kinsmen.
Their oath in jeopardy, the brothers embark upon diverging paths that by fate will force them to decide where their loyalties are strongest. As a coalition of discontented Scots, Britons and an opportunistic Viking kingdom in Ireland gather to challenge the authority of Wessex's overlordship, the paths they have chosen are destined to draw them into the upheaval that shall become England's greatest struggle.

The Norns are weaving the black threads of doom, ravens are circling low above fallowed fields and the gods are set to unchain the wolves from their dens.

The Raven & the Wolf is a tale of Dark Age betrayal, of kingdoms in conflict and the destiny that shall turn the fields of Britain into a sea of blood. This is the first book in a series of novels detailing the tumultuous relationship between kinsmen in Dark Age England.

Also spotlighted at

Available now for Purchase At Amazon or B & N

August 09, 2010

GIVEAWAY! Review: The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory

The Burton Review has reviewed Philippa Gregory's new release which has been duplicated here. There are two separate giveaways going on here and at The Burton Review. See the end of this post for more details.

The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster Ltd (August 3, 2010 in USA; August 19 in UK)
ISBN-13: 978-1416563723 & 978-1847374578
Review copy provided by Simon and Schuster, thank you!
The Burton Review Rating:
Heiress to the red rose of Lancaster, Margaret Beaufort never surrenders her belief that her house is the true ruler of England and that she has a great destiny before her. Her ambitions are disappointed when her sainted cousin Henry VI fails to recognize her as a kindred spirit, and she is even more dismayed when he sinks into madness. Her mother mocks her plans, revealing that Margaret will always be burdened with the reputation of her father, one of the most famously incompetent English commanders in France. But worst of all for Margaret is when she discovers that her mother is sending her to a loveless marriage in remote Wales.

Married to a man twice her age, quickly widowed, and a mother at only fourteen, Margaret is determined to turn her lonely life into a triumph. She sets her heart on putting her son on the throne of England regardless of the cost to herself, to England, and even to the little boy. Disregarding rival heirs and the overwhelming power of the York dynasty, she names him Henry, like the king; sends him into exile; and pledges him in marriage to her enemy Elizabeth of York’s daughter. As the political tides constantly move and shift, Margaret charts her own way through another loveless marriage, treacherous alliances, and secret plots. She feigns loyalty to the usurper Richard III and even carries his wife’s train at her coronation.

Widowed a second time, Margaret marries the ruthless, deceitful Thomas, Lord Stanley, and her fate stands on the knife edge of his will. Gambling her life that he will support her, she then masterminds one of the greatest rebellions of the time—all the while knowing that her son has grown to manhood, recruited an army, and now waits for his opportunity to win the greatest prize.

In a novel of conspiracy, passion, and coldhearted ambition, number one bestselling author Philippa Gregory has brought to life the story of a proud and determined woman who believes that she alone is destined, by her piety and lineage, to shape the course of history.
The Red Queen The Red Queen is the story of Margaret Beaufort who is the mother to Henry Tudor, who later becomes Henry VII, who begins the popular Tudor rule. The novel opens to a very pious and somewhat haughty nine year old Margaret who learns that even though she feels destined to be an abbess she is instead to be used as the Lancastrian pawn. She was cousin to the Lancastrian King Henry VI who offered her his half-brother Edmund Tudor to wed. It was at this point that I thought that I disliked Margaret. And unfortunately, when I dislike a main character, I tend to dislike the book, such as part of my issue with The Other Queen. Warning bells went off. Thankfully, I read further.

What I wanted from this book is entertainment value. Although I have read a few Wars of the Roses books, both fiction and non-fiction, I have not read anything focused on Margaret and I wanted to learn more about her. What made her promise her only son, the precious Lancastrian heir, to the enemy Yorkist Elizabeth Woodville's eldest daughter? What propelled Margaret to continually strive to get her son on the throne? In my Tudor novels, she is often portrayed as the elderly mother to Henry VII, and as being overbearing and obnoxious to Elizabeth of York. So, who really was Margaret of Beaufort? Gregory gives her a voice with this novel, and I was not disappointed.

Gregory portrays her as an annoying child who feels superior to everyone and wants to be noticed as such. Since this is stressed over much with the Joan of Arc theme, it gets a little tiresome. But, after awhile, Margaret grew up into her twenties and thirties and she in turn grew on me. Even though she continued to feel destined for greatness and never doubted herself or Joan of Arc, the story evolved in such a way that Margaret's destiny was something that I could not wait to see how she fulfilled it. If anything, Gregory makes the reader admire Margaret's tenacity. I hated her, liked her, hated her..Perhaps the most intriguing thing for me was that she was devious, yet still pious. Odd combo, eh? Twenty-eight years of waiting for her son to take their family's rightful crown, and the story followed Margaret as she helped to make it happen. And as I have been a Yorkist-in-training with my previous reads, I had always had the lingering impression that the Tudors were a grasping bunch, and that the Beaufort boy was pretty darn lucky to have wound up on the throne like he did all because of a single battle. What a different view this paints! I almost believe that the Yorkists never had a right to be up there at all! (ducks head swiftly..)

And oh, the dear prodigal son Henry.. I have always had him pictured as miserly and almost frail in comparison to his boisterous son, Henry VIII. Gregory shows his character as being a darling brown-headed child that Margaret misses very much during his childhood that he spent with Jasper. The fact that he understood his calling, and that the Lancastrians were so patient before they finally pounced on the Yorks... I was awed. Of course, in order for Lancaster to have a leg to stand on, they needed French backing, and Henry was always looking around for his protector Jasper during the fight.. but still.. very intriguing. I have read books that focused on the York view, from Richard of Gloucester to Elizabeth Woodville, that this Lancastrian view from Margaret Beaufort was really intriguing for me. And Lord Stanley, Margaret's third husband, I do believe he is the epitome of the term "turncoat". Another one of those characters you love to hate. Always an enticing topic, the mystery of the ill-fated princes in the tower was also well played in this telling. Even though it still saddens me when I think of it. How would history be different in they had lived?

I really enjoyed how Gregory wrote this story, and the fact that I am being pleasantly entertained is all that I need when I am settling in to read a novel such as this. Being a casual Wars of the Roses reader, historical inaccuracy was not something that leaped out at me with this read, although again there will be many things that are debatable for all time. I love this era, I love this point of view, and I am so glad that I had a chance to read this novel and get another facet to an important historical event. (ducks again..)

As mentioned in other reviews, the letters that were exchanged between Margaret and her husband or Jasper were so far fetched that their appearances brought the plausibility of the novel to a lower level. Another annoying nagging thought I had while reading this was regarding the title. Who exactly was the Red Queen? Margaret was not it, although perhaps she wanted to be, and supposedly the publishers wanted her to be. The book ends in 1485 with Henry's success and with Margaret once again saying she should be treated as royalty as the king's mother. I can only applaud Margaret's success as well (leaving the horrifying fact aside that she may have had something to do with the murder of innocent children...but we'll never know..). She was only a ruler during her brief regency after her son died in 1509 and a young Henry VIII came to the throne. I wish the publishers had attempted to market this series with titles that would intellectually work for each book. Just because The White Queen title was accurate with the last one doesn't mean the same is true for The Red Queen. The ending sequence with the shift away from Margaret and then a quick obligatory zoom in on her to finish it off was too much of a difference from the rest of the novel, making a good book end in a somewhat corny way which unfortunately takes away from the overall feel of the novel.

With that being said, I believe that anyone with the casual interest in the Wars of the Roses and how they had affected the chain of events that ultimately lead to a successful Tudor rule will find the newest Gregory novel to be an insightful read. And most of the current Philippa Gregory fans know ahead of time what they are getting with her novels, so I doubt they would be too disappointed with this one.

This review has been cross-posted at The Burton Review, where there is a giveaway for both of the current books in The Cousins' War series The Red Queen and the newly released paperback of The White Queen.

Other reviews of The Red Queen:
Medieval Woman
My Fluttering Heart
Historically Obsessed

Followers of HF Connection are welcome to enter for the two-book-giveaway at The Burton Review, as well as the giveaway for a brand new Hardcover of Philippa Gregory's The Red Queen offered here at HF Connection.

To enter:
Become a follower of HF Connection. Please comment on this post with your email address.

+3 entries Post the Giveaway on your sidebar, linking to this post.
+2 entries: Facebook, tweet; leave me a link to the post.
You must include your email address so that we can contact you if you win.

USA only! Contest ends August 20, 2010.

August 01, 2010

Austenprose celebrates Regency Author Georgette Heyer during August

August will feature a month-long event of ‘Celebrating Georgette Heyer’ at Austenprose – August 1st - 31st, 2010 which will focus on all things Heyer related as well as many book giveaways.
The Promo From Austenprose:
Stylish, witty and historically accurate, novelist Georgette Heyer has been delighting readers with her romantic comedies for eighty-nine years. In honor of her birthday on August 16th, will feature a month long event ‘Celebrating Georgette Heyer’ featuring thirty-four book reviews of her romance novels, guest blogs, interviews of Heyer enthusiast from the blog-o-sphere, academia and publishing and tons of great giveaways.
Our very special guests will be Heyer expert Vic Sanborn of Jane Austen’s World and Deb Werksman, acquiring editor of Sourcebook Casablanca and the catalyst in re-introducing Heyer to a new generation of readers.

The festivities start August first with a review of the newly re-issued Georgette Heyer’s Regency World, by Jennifer Kloester. Don’t be a wet goose. Chase away that fit of the blue-devils by attending this bon ton affair.
Georgette Heyer Event Schedule at Austenprose:
Sun Aug 01 Event intro

Werksman Interview

Review of Georgette Heyer’s Regency World

Mon Aug 02 The Black Moth, Aarti – Books Lust

Powder and Patch, Lucy – Enchanted by Josephine

Wed Aug 04 These Old Shades, Keira – Love Romance Passion

The Masqueraders, Helen – She Reads Novels

Fri Aug 06 Devil's Cub, Meredith – Austenesque Reviews

The Convenient Marriage, Laurel – Austenprose

Sun Aug 08 Regency Buck, Susan Scott – Historical fiction author

The Talisman Ring, Ana – An Evening at Almack’s

Mon Aug 09 An Infamous Army, Elaine Simpson Long – Random Jottings of a
Book and Opera Lover

The Spanish Bride, Kelly – Jane Austen Sequel Examiner

Wed Aug 11 The Corinthian, Danielle – A Work in Progress

Faro's Daughter, Joanna – Regency Romantic

Fri Aug 13 The Reluctant Widow, Jane Greensmith – Reading, Writing, Working, Playing

The Foundling, Claire – The Captive Reader

Sun Aug 15 Arabella, Kara Louise – Austenesque author
The Grand Sophy, Meg – Write Meg

Mon Aug 16 Interview with Vic – Jane Austen’s World

Friday's Child, Vic – Jane Austen’s World

Wed Aug 18 The Quiet Gentleman, Deb Barnum – Jane Austen in Vermont

Cotillion, Alexa Adams – First Impressions

Fri Aug 20 The Toll-Gate, Laura – Laura’s Reviews

Bath Tangle, Deb Barnum – Jane Austen in Vermont
Sun Aug 22 Sprig Muslin, Laura – Laura’s Reviews

April Lady, Becky Laney – Becky’s Book Reviews

Mon Aug 23 Sylvester, or the Wicked Uncle, Laurel Ann – Austenprose

Venetia, Laurel Ann – Austenprose

Wed Aug 25 The Unknown Ajax, Brooke – The Bluestocking Guide

A Civil Contract, Elaine Simpson Long – Random Jottings of a Book and Opera Lover

Fri Aug 27 The Nonesuch, Marie – The Burton Review

False Colours, Kristen – BookNAround

Sun Aug 29 Frederica, Nicole – Linus’ Blanket

Black Sheep, Katherine – November’s Autumn

Mon Aug 30 Cousin Kate, Chris – Book-A-Rama

Charity Girl, Dana Huff – Much Madness is Divinest Sense

Tues Aug 31 Lady of Quality, Elizabeth Hanbury – Regency romance author

Heyer Vintage Covers

Event wrap-up

Sat Sep 07 Giveaway winners announced.

Meanwhile, over at All Things Royal, Susie is also hosting a Heyer event coupled with another favorite author, Victoria Holt:
From Susie's blog:
The object is to read as much Victoria Holt and/or Georgette Heyer books as you can during the summer beginning July 1 – September 22. There will be monthly prizes awarded and a surprise grand prize for the overall winner at the end of the challenge.

See you at Austenprose and All Things Royal!!

July 23, 2010

Book Review: Madame de Stael the First Modern Woman by Francine du Plessix Gray, from Jennygirl

Please welcome another review from Jennygirl of Jenny Loves to Read. She writes that this book was a biography of Madame de Stael who was an important figure in society during the French Revolution.

Madame de Stael: The First Modern Woman
Author: Francine du Plessix Gray
Publisher: Atlas & Co. (October 9, 2008)
Genre: Biography
Jennygirl's Rating: 4/5

"A writer of scintillating style and resonant substance," (Publishers Weekly), bestselling author Francine du Plessix Gray chronicles the incandescent life of the most celebrated woman of letters of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic era.

The daughter of the second most important man in France, Louis XVI's Minister of Finances, Jacques Necker, Madame de Staël was born into a world of political and intellectual prominence. Later, she married Sweden's ambassador to the French court, and for a span of twenty years, she held the limelight as a political figure and prolific writer. Despite a plain appearance, she was notoriously seductive and enjoyed whirlwind affairs with some of the most influential men of her time. She always attracted controversy, and was demonized by Napoleon for her forthrightness, the sheer power of her intellect, and the progressiveness of her salon, which was a hotbed for the expression of liberal ideals. The emperor exiled her, on and off, for the last fifteen years of her life.

Madame de Staël—force of nature, exuberant idealist, and ultimate
enthusiast—waged a lifelong struggle against all that was tyrannical, cynical,or passionless in her time, and left a legacy of enlightened liberalism that radiated throughout Europe during the nineteenth century.

Truth be told I picked this book up based on it's cover. Yes, I do judge books by their covers...sometimes. It is a biography, and I have never had any luck with these. This one however, was well written and to the point.

The author doesn't relate the entire early childhood. Just the parts necessary to the story, and her development as one of the greatest conversationalists of France. Madame de Stael had the most prominent salon in France. She entertained many prominent and important persons involved with the future of France, such as Tallyrand. de Stael was friends with those persons one needed to be friends with in the days of the revolution and the Terror. She also counted many royals and aristocrats among her friends. I guess you can say she straddled the political fence. de Stael was very involved in the politics of France, throughout her entire life actually, which includes the French Revolution to Napoleon's empire.

Madame de Stael's musings regarding the reasons behind the Terror, why and how it became so out of control, are very insightful. In my opinion, her arguments are logical and on point. Later, she goes toe to toe with Napoleon in her writings, and it's quite comical to read what he has to say about her.

I guess I was really taken with this book, because I had never heard of Madame de Stael, and apparently her writings were very influential during her tumultuous times. Is it because history is written by men, thus this great woman was left out? I haven't extensively studied the French Revolution or French history for that matter, however from what I read in this book, I can not believe I have never heard of de Stael before. Regardless of whether you agree with her tactics or views, it seems to me that de Stael truly loved her adopted France, and just wanted the best for her country and its people.

It should be noted, that her personal life was a quite a mess. The time and effort she put into French politics, could have been better spent on her family. However, due to her upbringing and other factors, this probably never occurred to her.

Overall, this book was a quick and easy read; it didn't read like a biography to me. I found the book and it's subject matter very fascinating. I would highly recommend this book. Madame de Stael was a fascinating women before her time, and she deserves her place in history.

I think I see some historical research in my future, with respect to women in history and the French Revolution.

Reprinted with permission from Jennygirl of Jenny Loves to Read. If you would like to submit a review, please click this link for further information.

July 18, 2010

Book Review: Captivity by Deborah Noyes

Welcome Lisa from Lit and Life

"Captivity" by Deborah Noyes
352 pages
Published June 2010 by Unbridled Books
Source: the publisher--thanks, Caitlin!

Kim, of Sophisticated Dorkiness, recently coined the term "non-fiction fiction" in a guest post on The 3 R's Blog. "Captivity" fits squarely into that term. In the mid-19th century, the Fox sisters of rural New York created a sensation when they claimed to be able to communicate with the dead. Noyes has taken those facts and written them into a work of fiction.

The book opens in 1848 when teenaged Maggie Fox and her younger sister, Kate, claim that rapping sounds in their house are the communications of a peddler who was murdered and buried in the house. Word quickly spreads and soon men are madly digging for the body in the basement and the family has had to remove themselves to a brother's farm. There they were soon surrounded by people camped all over the property. The girls' sister, Leah, certain that all of the uproar is merely a hoax, convinces their mother that the girls should be brought to Rochester. The thing is, the rappings continue no matter where they girls are living--it seems there are spirits living every where and Leah quickly decides that there is much to be gained by promoting the girls' "ability" to communicate with the dead. All of which leads to the founding of the American Spiritualist movement and makes the girls both famous and infamous. Maggie quickly begins to have mixed feelings about what's happening, no longer sure of what's real or if she wants to be a part of it all.

"And what's the difference, after all, between real and unreal when people react precisely the same way to either? Doesn't the Bible say somewhere, Ask and you'll receive? Well, Maggie's asking, and since this spirit game started, no one's told her no. Her whole life before the peddler was one agonizing no."

Clara Gill and her father have come to the United States following a scandal in England. Clara has become a recluse, a situation her father has been more than happy to encourage.

"She's spent her lifetime reining herself in, not for society's sake but for her own: she has a knack and a preference for revealing next to nothing about herself."

"Sometimes she feels she is nothing now but consciousness, unmoving in her chair, tracking the ever-changing light, the astonishing clouds flying past, the fat fly that circled and circled inside the shade of her reading lamp, knocking like a drunken fool at her thoughts She forgets she has a body, and when she remembers, grief rests like lead on her chest, in which her heart still beats in its old frame, stubborn as rain."

But when a woman trying to woo Mr. Gill convinces him to hire a couple of girls to help around the house, Maggie Fox comes into Clara's life. Maggie is desperate for someone to connect with and is willing to do whatever it takes to break through Clara's substantial shell. And Clara, who is fully aware of Maggie's notoriety, has her own reasons for allowing Maggie in to her life. As the book progresses, Clara is drawn more and more into her past, a time when she was young, an artist and in love. Together, the two women explore skepticism in all things.

Noyes deftly blends the fiction and the non-fiction, the story of Maggie and the story of Clara, the present time of the novel and Clara's past. It is a work that explores love, grief and faith with a shadow overhanging all things.

"Lyrical" is a word that appears in many of the reviews for this book. For good reason; Noyes writing is often poetic in its descriptions.

"Real death is not a parlor game but a flat heaviness that weights the limbs, that makes every step a struggle, every breath reproach and volition. It is mold on the morning firewood and a chill that won't go even when the hearth is banked to roaring, even when the familiar quilt is wound full round weighted legs and feet on a stool like a winding sheet. It is the bitterness of herbs in an undertaker's parlor and damp shoes by a hole in the ground and the absence of sunlight and emptiness beyond reckoning."

Noyes drew me in immediately and made me care about the characters, particularly Clara. I was compelled to read on to find out what had happened to her in England and what might become of her once Maggie came into her life. I promised Caitlin, at Unbridled Books, I'd review this book a while ago. And I wanted to--I mean that cover alone screamed "read me now." But I also knew that I wanted to make sure I had time with this book and I'm so glad I held off on reading it. It is every bit as beautiful and mysterious as that cover.

Thanks to Lisa for allowing us to republish this review here. Visit Lisa and read more of her book reviews at her website Lit and Life

July 12, 2010

Q&A: For the King with Catherine Delors by Christy English

Still ongoing at this site is the Giveaway of For The King, enter here.
And now for an interview of the author of For the King, Catherine Delors, submitted by Christy English:

Years after our revolution, the French had one of their own…the lovely and knowledgeable Catherine Delors has written two novels that bring post-Revolutionary Paris to vivid life. First there was Mistress of the Revolution, and now we are lucky enough to have a chance to read Catherine's latest novel, For the King.

Catherine has been kind enough to answer some questions for us about her novel and her process in writing it…

1. Catherine, thank you so much for being here today. Your first novel, Mistress of the Revolution, was set a few years before the events of your latest book, For the King. Is there any one thing that draws you back to this period of time again and again?

 While researching writing Mistress of the Revolution, I realized how important and relevant for us the French Revolution has remained, how many of the issues raised then are still current. I became familiar with the political moods, the ways of thinking of the times… And now I don't want to leave the late 18th century!

2. Your fabulous new novel literally begins with a bang. Before the explosion meant to murder Napoleon rocks Paris, you spend the first chapter introducing us to the people who are soon to die. The portraits of these people, so beautifully yet unsentimentally drawn, captured my mind and touched my heart. What was it like to write about the deaths of so many innocents?

Thanks for saying this, Christy, because those deaths, in their random cruelty, touched my heart as well. In the novel, the names, the occupations of the victims, their circumstances, are taken from real people. I was moved in particular by the story of Captain Platel and his landlady. Ordinary people, returning home from a Christmas Eve celebration with friends. It was important for me to remember the victims. History is as much about regular Parisians as Napoléon.

3. Your protagonist, Roch Miquel, is the quintessential outsider. Did you choose to emphasize his place outside the Parisian power structure by making him a man from the Auvergne? Did you have other reasons also for choosing the Auvergne as his home province?

 Oh, yes, there is an excellent reason: my father's family is from Auvergne, and I have a very strong connection to that remote and hauntingly beautiful province. Also in the late 18th century, and still much later, many in the Paris underclass came from Auvergne. They were despised, foreign-looking and foreign-sounding, generally despised, much like migrant workers nowadays. I wanted to pay homage to them, to their struggles, and hard-won successes.

4. I was struck by the beautifully written historical detail in your narrative. Reading For the King was like being set down in the center of post-Revolutionary Paris. The sights, the sounds, even the smells were vivid for me. How many years did it take you to research this novel? What were your methods?

 Thank you! There is simply no substitute for 18th century sources. Louis-Sébastien Mercier's Le Tableau de Paris and Le Nouveau Paris are irreplaceable. Also, Nicolas-Edme Restif de la Bretonne provides a wealth of details in his 400 (yes, 400 or so!) novels. I also read and reread the works of a modern French historian, Arlette Farge, which are based on police reports. Those provide a candid, direct glimpse at the everyday lives of the poorest in Paris.
5. The title, For the King, comes to mean more and more to the reader as the story goes on. How did you come up with the title? At any point in your work, did you think to call this book by another name?

 Many other names! I probably forgot a few, but some I liked very much. I thought of Nivose, the month of the Revolutionary calendar during which the attack took place. To me the name, inspired by the snows of winter, is very evocative. Probably less so to many American readers, though… Also I liked Painters and Assassins. As I followed the records of the investigation, I was struck by how many painters cropped up in the real story. And finally I settled with my editor on For the King. I find that coming up with the title is always the hardest part of writing a novel.

6. Each character in your novel lives and breathes, even if they are only in sight for a page or two. These characters, so well drawn, add deeply to the richness of the setting of the city of Paris itself. Did these people live in your mind as vividly as they live on the page?

They do! Some, like Pépin the street urchin, are purely fictional. Others are directly inspired by their depositions, taken by the police after the attack, and preserved in the French archives. Police depositions may sound like dry, uninspiring material. Far from it, in fact. As I read on, I could listen to the witnesses' voices, watch their facial expressions. This is particularly true of the deposition of Short Francis, with its mix of cunning and naivete.

7. Your novel begins with this quote from Napoleon: "From triumph to downfall, there is but one step. I have noted that, in the most momentous occasions, mere nothings have always decided the outcome of the greatest events."
For the King is populated by the "mere nothings," from Napoleon's quote. More than anything besides Roch Miquel's brains and courage, these "mere nothings" determine the events of the novel. Am I right in assuming that these smaller characters fascinated you as much as Roch Miquel himself?

 Quite right. So-called secondary characters deserve no less of the writer's attention than the protagonists. They are the ones who give depth and complexity to a novel. And, from a purely selfish standpoint, often they are more fun to write too.

8. In your heart, are you a Royalist, a Jacobin, or a follower of Napoleon? Or perhaps some combination of all three?

 None of the above. A reader of Mistress of the Revolution wrote me that she liked the novel because I didn't demonize anyone. I hope I managed the same here. I can sympathize with the followers of Louis XVIII, Robespierre and Napoléon alike. To me even the assassins are human.

9. For the King transported me to another time and place. What are you working on now? What is your next novel about, and when can we get our hands on it?

I am writing a prequel to Mistress of the Revolution, which focuses on the character of Hélène de Montserrat, Gabrielle's elder sister. It is a thriller in the 18th century Gothic manner. The prequel is going slowly, though, because at the same time I am researching Jane Austen's French connections for a fourth novel. As you see, I remain firmly grounded in my beloved 18th century!

Thank you so much for taking the time to be here with us, Catherine. I look forward to your next novel. Please visit Catherine at her website home,
or her wonderful blog,

For everyone who still needs to get their hands on For the King, please hit the link below…
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 Reprinted with Permission from author Christy English. Visit Christy's site at

July 08, 2010

GIVEAWAY! Today's New Release: FOR THE KING by Catherine Delors

Most of you know of the Historical Fiction Bloggers Round Table site. They have already featured the author Catherine Delors with interviews and guest posts and reviews, and one of them is reprinted below.

To celebrate Catherine's release day, HF-Connection is hosting a giveaway of this beautiful hardcover book! Interested? Read the review and see for yourself, and see the rules for the giveaway at the end of the post.

For the King by Catherine Delors
July 8th 2010 by Dutton Books
Amazon USA
Hardcover, 352 pages
isbn 9780525951742
The Reign of Terror has ended six years earlier, and Napoléon Bonaparte has seized power, but shifting political loyalties still tear apart families and lovers.

On Christmas Eve 1800, a bomb explores along Bonaparte’s route, narrowly missing him but striking dozens of bystanders. Chief Inspector Roch Miquel, a young policeman with a bright future and a beautiful mistress, must arrest the assassins before they attack again. Complicating Miquel’s investigation are the maneuverings of his superior, the redoubtable Fouché, the indiscretions of his own father, a former Jacobin, and two intriguing women.

For The King takes readers through the dark alleys and glittering salons of post-revolutionary Paris. It is a romantic thriller, a tale of love, betrayal and redemption.

I am not as historically in tune to French politics as I am with Tudor politics. With Catherine Delors' newest novel that is focused on French politics, there is no preamble to the upheaval that France is facing after the pacification set in place by Bonaparte. The French Revolution had just ended and the novel begins in 1800 with a police officer called Roch Miguel who is investigating a bombing on the streets of  Paris that was a failed assassination attempt on Napoleon Bonaparte. There were several police agencies or ministries that were at odds with each other who were slightly hard to follow; along with who was Royalist, Jacobin or Chouan. If I had previously read a novel that dealt with the Republic and the aftermath of the French revolution I would probably have felt a bit less lost, but the writing of Catherine Delors pulled me through the story itself very quickly.

Written to be a historical mystery, the focus of the story is the investigation of the bombing in the Rue Nicaise. Roch, the investigator, is the main protagonist and is portrayed as a strong man with morals, and gets put in a bad situation when his father, affectionately known as Old Miguel, is suddenly arrested. Was he arrested to spur Roch's investigation in another direction? Between the several different factions of the police government it is hard to tell if Roch should trust anyone in the fearsome political times. And he has to move fast otherwise his father will meet a torturous fate meant for traitors.
Napoleon crossing the Alps (1800)~Jaques Louis David
One of the mentions in the novel is of a painter known as Jaques Louis David, who painted the famous portrait of Napoleon on the magnificent white horse. I loved how Delors included these small details of history into her novel which helped me experience France and their culture more than I ever have. And I took five years of French! Catherine Delors helped to reawaken in me the spirit of France for which I had fallen in love with long ago as a child. She surrounds the novel in historic details that really help shape the atmosphere and the turmoil of France at that time.

Catherine Delors' previous novel, Mistress of the Revolution (2008), was written in memoir fashion telling of a Frenchwoman exiled in England. This new novel departs from that point of view as it is told in third person allowing for multiple views to be presented. Using this narrative allows the reader to get an entire circumspective view from all parties involved which is very helpful in this thriller/mystery setting. It also helps to lend a greater understanding of a complicated period of time that could easily befuddle the unaware reader, like I was at first.

I found the story to be fast paced and I felt empathy for the character of the investigator Roch Miguel, and Delors was subtle with the added romantic undercurrents that we are treated to. Some of the other characters shifted over time, becoming more ominous as the story wore on and the mystery of who was behind the attack unfolded. Although the reader knows the names of the three who are responsible for the attack from the very beginning, the unfolding of the multiple aspects that lead to the attack and their hopeful apprehension was expertly presented. Lovers of France and those eager to immerse themselves in its historic setting following the revolution will definitely love this book. I love the fact that Delors is focusing her next novel on another mystery setting and I will definitely be reading that one as well.

Reprinted with permission from The Burton Review.

Catherine Delors blog: Versailles and More
Catherine's website.
Purchase Catherine's books.

Giveaway Rules:
One hardcover of FOR THE KING to USA or Canada residents only.
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