June 29, 2010

The Mystery of Vicente de Rocamora by Donald Michael Platt

We welcome Donald Michael Platt, author of Rocamora, with this article he wrote for HF-Connection:

The Mystery of Vicente de Rocamora

Donald Michael Platt
Little-known historical individuals who led interesting lives arouse my interest. The less documented about them the freer I am to create character motivation and an entertaining story line. That is why I selected Vicente de Rocamora, 1601-1684, to be the protagonist of my novel Rocamora. Several anomalies in his life piqued my curiosity, and the few available facts about him, especially in Spain, are unexplained.

Rocamora is mentioned in footnotes, sentences, and paragraphs in books about Judaizers and new-Christians who left Spain and Portugal in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, in others about the Sephardic community of Amsterdam, and in both the Jewish and Valencian Encyclopedias. Yet, according to my research and that of others on my behalf, no book, monograph, or article in any historical journal has been written about, to quote Cecil Roth, "this most extraordinary if not the most profound of Menasseh's (ben Israel) physician friends."

I first encountered Vicente de Rocamora when I read Roth's A History of the Marranos in the 1950s, and the idea for a novel gestated over the decades. In 1990, I began intensive research into his life and times and discovered little more about him than what had been repeated in the books and encyclopedias mentioned above. I have italicized the basic known facts about his life and added my comments.

Rocamora was born in Valencia into a marrano or new-Christian family. I found no documentation to confirm if he was born in the city or somewhere else in the kingdom, no evidence of his parents, and no proof that he or they Judaized in Spain.

Rocamora was educated for the Church. I discovered no documentation that explains why he entered the Dominican Order. Did he come from an impoverished family and sought food and shelter within the Church? Did he experience a calling to be a monk? Was he a segundone, a second son, forced into the clergy by his family?

Rocamora would have been sixteen when he matriculated at the College of Confessors of Santo Domingo in the cathedral town of Orihuela at the southern end of Valencia, now part of Alicante, about twenty-five miles from Murcia. Orihuela in 1617 was the home of Jerónimo de Rocamora y Roda García Lassa, Señor de Rafal, Señor de Benferri, Barón de la Puebla de Rocamora, Knight of Santiago and maestro de campo de infanteria. Nearby lived Francisco de Rocamora y Maza, another renowned solder and Señor
de la Granja de Rocamora, whose brother Tomás was a Dominican lector and polemicist. Other de Rocamoras of the caballero caste resided in Murcia. Were they and Vicente kin? I did discover a tenuous connection. Were any of them descended from conversos? It is possible. In 1391, all the Jews of Orihuela chose conversion over death.

Vicente would have graduated a Dominican confessor at age twenty in 1621. That year, sixteen year old Philip IV was crowned King of Spain, and his tutor, the Count soon to be Count-Duke de Olivares became his chief minister for the next twenty-two years.

Rocamora was the confessor and spiritual director for Infanta María, Philip's younger sister. I did not discover exactly when Vicente arrived in Madrid or who sponsored him at la Corte. To be a royal confessor, he would have needed a certificate of limpieza de sangre, purity of blood untainted by Jew, Moor, or recent converts. Was it real or a clever forgery?

Only five years of age separated Vicente and María, b. 1606. I discovered no direct explanation why so protected an Infanta of Spain was allowed to have that young a confessor. Except for her brothers, the Infanta had no personal contact with males close to her age. María's meninas slept at the foot of her bed, so her only private moments would have been when she prayed, retired to her privy, or confessed. A pawn to be used in a diplomatic marriage, the Infanta faced a convent-prison if she did not wed one of three eligible men: her nephew, a dauphin of France not yet born; the Prince of Wales provided he converted to the True Faith; and her cousin Ferdinand, son of Emperor Ferdinand II.

One clue suggests when and why Rocamora became the Infanta's confessor. Olivares removed María's reactionary confessors and replaced them with his "men" when the heretic Prince of Wales arrived in Madrid to woo her in 1623.

María honored Rocamora, showered him with gifts, confessed often, and remembered him fondly after she left Spain at age twenty-three to marry her first cousin Ferdinand, King of Hungary and future Holy Roman Emperor. Can we ever know the true relationship between María and Vicente? Perhaps the answer lies in the old Spanish saying, "No man is closer to a woman than her confessor, not her father, not her brother, not her husband."

A fashionable confessor, Rocamora was renowned for his piety and eloquence. I discovered nothing significant about Vicente's life at court after María left Spain in December 1629. Did he harangue victims of the Inquisition in the dungeons while they were tortured, at autos de fé where they were scourged and shamed, and at the quemadero before they were burned? Was he an Olivarista, a supporter of the Count-Duke's attempts to remove the limpieza statutes
and end inquisitorial investigations of new-Christians without proof of their Judaizing? Did he alert denounced new-Christians to flee Spain before they were about to be arrested?

While Vicente was at Court, Philip made Francisco de Rocamora hereditary First Conde de la Granja de Rocamora and Knight of Santiago in 1628, and Jerónimo de Rocamora hereditary First Marqués de Rafal in 1636. In 1642, Tomás de Rocamora was appointed Dominican Provincial of Aragon and in 1644 Bishop and Viceroy of Mallorca. Surely, they and Vicente would have interacted over the years, but that is still unproven speculation.

In 1643, Rocamora disappeared from court and went to Amsterdam where he declared himself a Jew and took the name Isaac Israel de Rocamora. Why did he leave Spain in 1643 and not before or later? My research confirmed that Rocamora was never denounced to the Inquisition, nor was his effigy paraded at an auto de fé and burned at the quemadero as commonly happened after others fled Spain and revealed themselves to be Jews. The most likely reason Rocamora left Spain in 1643 is that the Count-Duke de Olivares fell from power, and a reactionary bigot, Diego Arce y Reynoso, replaced the relatively benign António de Sotomayor as Inquisitor General.

The Holy Office and Rocamora's family may have destroyed evidence wherever possible of his existence in Spain because Church and Crown would have been embarrassed to lose so highly a placed friar to the Jews. His kin might have done the same for fear of scandal and denunciation to the Inquisition. One example of such a policy occurred when Olivares was painted over as if he never existed on Velázquez' Infante Baltazar Carlos at the Riding Academy.

The historical Rocamora did something unique upon his arrival in Amsterdam, which I cannot describe here because it is the dramatic conclusion of the novel and the greatest anomaly of his life. This is where I end the novel. I deal with the rest of his life in a completed sequel now undergoing scrutiny at my publisher.

Rocamora did not immediately join the Sephardic community in Amsterdam. His life from 1643 to 1645 is undocumented with the exception that Menasseh ben Israel became his good friend and introduced him to his Christian scholar acquaintances as a trophy.

In August 1645, Rocamora matriculated at the University of Leyden Medical School. There is no evidence he followed the Law of Moses during his two years in medical school.

Rocamora received his license to practice medicine 29 March 1647 and in July wed twenty-five year old Abigail Moses Toro (Toura).
He then joined the Sephardic community of Amsterdam, sired nine children over the next eleven years, and established a multi-generational dynasty of physicians. One may speculate to what degree he had been celibate in Spain.

A genealogist in the Netherlands found for me a transcript of a lecture about Rocamora by Jac Zwartz given in 1934. It had documentation from the Municipal Archives of Amsterdam that does not appear in any other sources I have seen where his name appears. That information altered the original course of my novel. In 1650 after the birth of his second child, Rocamora almost converted to the Dutch Reformed Church because he found the restrictions and prohibitions of the Sephardic community to be as intolerable as those of Spanish Catholicism. Zwartz describes Rocamora as a freethinker. To what degree did he interact with and influence Spinoza?

In 1660, Rocamora received full membership in the Amsterdam Collegium Medicum, and citizenship equal to Dutch Christians, one of only three Jewish physicians in the 17th century to be so honored. The Municipal Archives of Amsterdam have no documents showing that Rocamora owned taxable property or wealth accrued through imports and exports. Did they exist at one time, or is there another still unknown reason why he was so honored?

Known as an Ornament of his Community, Rocamora was a philanthropist and a gifted poet in Latin and Spanish, but none of his writing is extant. He appeared prominently in David Levi de Barrios' Aplauso Harmonico, published in 1683, which outlined his life and accomplishments. He died in 1684.

Through his second son, Solomon, Rocamora seeded a multi-generational line of physicians. Their descendants married among the following families: Méndez da Costa, da Costa Athias, Valhe del Saldanha, Santcroos, Gaon, Abarbanel, Brandón, dela Penha, Ricardo, Cassuto, Abendena Méndez, and Abendena Belmonte.

What follows is the tenuous connection I mentioned between Vicente and the de Rocamoras of Orihuela.

About 1265 CE, Pierre Román, a second son of the Sieur de Roquemaure who was a nephew of Louis VIII, joined the army of Jaime of Aragon, aka the Conqueror, that reclaimed southern Valencia and Murcia from the Moors. As a reward for his heroism, Pierre Román received from the king entails of land near Orihuela, and he "Castilianized" his name to Pedro Ramón de Rocamora. The de Rocamoras of Rafal, Benferri, Granja de Rocamora, and others in Murcia were his descendants.

Did consanguinity exist between Vicente and those aristocratic de Rocamoras mentioned above?

Vicente's descendants Rachael David de Rocamora married Judah Cassuto in 1828, and her brother, Isaac David de Rocamora, married Miriam Cassuto. In 1992, the Cassuto family donated documents to the Bibliotheka Rosenthal in the Netherlands. A genealogist researching on my behalf found two items of interest among them.

One was a legal decision in 1660 confirming Isabella de Rocamora's right to succeed as Condeza de la Granja de Rocamora against a plaintiff kin of "impure" blood.

A second legal document records a dispute over inherited property in Murcia dated 1737. The principal disputant was Joseph (not spelled José or Josip) Nicolás de Rocamora. I do not know how or when these documents left Spain or who brought them to Amsterdam or Hamburg.

Also, 12 July 1740, the Bourbon King Philip V signed a royal cedulo for another Francisco de Rocamora, Deán of the cathedral in Orihuela, asserting he was limpio contrary to calumnies.

The name Rocamora translates as Rock of the Moors, and mora is the Latin genus for the mulberry. Both a rock and mulberries appear on the noble de Rocamora heraldry below. Fleur de lys show the de Rocamoras origins in Roquemaure on the Rhone.

In Rocamora, I answered many of the questions posed above from my research, with my imagination, and, I like to believe, with some logic, all entertaining and informative for the reader. Perhaps my novel may encourage scholars to research further Vicente and the de Rocamoras contemporary with him. Until then, if, as Napoleon said, History is a myth men agree upon, let mine be the definitive myth.

Rocamora published in 2008 by Raven's Wing Books, is available on line at Amazon and B&N, or it can be ordered by your bookseller. ISBN: 0-9787318-8-3
For more information, please visit http://www.donaldmichaelplatt.com/
For questions, his email address is dplatt24@aol.com

Synopsis of Rocamora:

No man is closer to a woman than her confessor,

not her father, not her brother, not her husband.

-Spanish saying

Vicente de Rocamora, the epitome of a young renaissance man in 17th century Spain, questions the goals of the Inquisition and the brutal means used by King Philip IV and the Roman Church to achieve them. Spain vows to eliminate the heretical influences attributed to Jews, Moors, and others who would taint the limpieza de sangre, purity of Spanish blood.

At the insistence of his family, the handsome and charismatic Vicente enters the Dominican Order and is soon thrust into the scheming political hierarchy that rules Spain.

As confessor to the king's sister, the Infanta Doña María, and assistant to Philip's chief minister, Olivares, Vicente ascends through the ranks and before long finds himself poised to attain not only the ambitious dreams of the Rocamora family but also—if named Spain's Inquisitor General—to bring about an end to the atrocities committed in the name of the blood purity laws.

The resourceful young man must survive assassination attempts from a growing list of ruthless foes in both Church and court, solve a centuries-old riddle to quell rumors of his own impurity of blood, and above all, suppress his love for the seemingly unattainable Doña María.

June 26, 2010

'Christopher Columbus, Revised' by Mitchell James Kaplan, author

Please welcome Mitchell James Kaplan, author of By Fire, By Water which released May 18, 2010 to rave reviews.
Christopher Columbus, Revised

Every age needs its good guys and bad guys. In our day, the bad guys par excellence are the colonizers of times past who exploited indigenous peoples and extended empires. Who could fit the bill better than Christopher Columbus, who changed his name, upon moving to Spain, to "Colón" ("the colonizer") and proceeded to infect the virginal western hemisphere with European lust, aggression, and greed?

In recent decades, a spate of revisionist historians have attempted to knock the Genoese discoverer from his timeworn pedestal. In Christopher Columbus and the Conquest of Paradise, Kirkpatrick Sale portrayed him as deluded and morally flawed, suggesting he was partially to blame for the subsequent annhilation of Native American peoples. Howard Zinn, in his People's History of the United States, carried the demonization of Columbus further, misleadingly invoking Columbus's contemporary, the morally lucid Bartolomé de las Casas, in support of his re-evaluation.

Last Spring, the faculty of Brown University voted to stop honoring Columbus Day, renaming the federal holiday "Fall Weekend" for purposes related to university affairs. For similar reasons, in Berkeley, California, Columbus Day is now Indigenous Peoples Day.

I support honoring indigenous peoples, but I object to the effort to reduce as complex, fascinating, and in some ways inspiring a man as Christopher Columbus to a caricature. Columbus was ambitious, greedy, proud, and, as governor of Hispaniola, inept. He was also an insatiably curious autodidact, a man of deep and unshakeable convictions, and a brilliant navigator who utilized previously unknown wind patterns to make an extremely challenging voyage feasible with very limited resources. His routes from Europe to the West Indies are used by shipping enterprises to this day.

When Columbus first landed on the shores of the New World, he was impressed by the gentleness of the natives. "I recognized," he wrote in his diary, "that they would be better free and converted to our Holy Faith by love than by force." He instructed his sailors not to take anything from them without offering something in return. This is not to say that Columbus was a saint, or that he wanted to engage in fair exchange practices. But he saw the natives as human beings, and that was already quite an accomplishment for a man of his time.

It was not yet firmly established, in the Spanish mind, that pagans belonged to the same species as Christians, Jews, and Muslims. A theological debate fueled this confusion: How could a just God have created human beings who had never heard the name of Christ, and were thus born into a world where salvation was impossible and damnation, inevitable? As late as 1550, Juan de Sepulveda argued at Valladolid that the "Indians" Columbus had discovered were not rational beings. Native Americans, in this view, did not deserve to benefit from the protections of law or judeo-christian ethics. They did not deserve to be free. Their lives were of no value to God. In contrast to Sepulveda and later Spanish governors and explorers,Columbus showed admiration, if not respect, for the Taino Indians he initially met.

Using gestures and sounds, speaking through Columbus's "interpreter" (the Jew Luis de Torres) these gentle natives described for Columbus (or seemed to describe) other tribes in the vicinity, fearsome warriors who hunted and ate human beings. De Torres and Columbus concluded that the tribe they had discovered lived in mortal fear of their neighbors, the Caribs, from whose name our words "cannibal" and "Carribean" derive. Columbus and de Torres forged a personal bond with the Taino chieftain, Guacanagari.
In part to help protect Guacanagari and his tribe, Columbus left behind a colony of some forty European sailors, including de Torres. When he returned a year later, he found their fortress burned to the ground. Many of the Europeans had been murdered. Others had fled. Enraged by what he perceived as treachery, Columbus began to view the natives in a less favorable light.

On this second voyage, Columbus had brought a priest, Friar Buil, who advised him to execute Guacanagari in retribution for the destruction of the fortress and the murder of its European residents. Columbus refused to do so, but took Indian prisoners. Under the European rules of warfare of that day, unransomed prisoners were sold as slaves.

Columbus wanted to govern the lands he discovered, and to convert the natives to Christianity. According to his contract with the monarchs of Spain, he and his heirs were entitled to a tenth of all the goods produced in the lands he discovered. The king and queen, who had not imagined he would find an entire hemisphere, soon recognized that Columbus stood to become immensely wealthy and powerful. They could not tolerate a potential threat to their sovereignty. On trumped-up charges, they had Columbus arrested, deprived of his governorship and other contractual rights, and, for a time, jailed. They also did their best to sully his reputation. He was a bad governor, they maintained, who horded wealth, treated nobles like commoners, and abused his subjects. In his trial, Columbus was not permitted to utter a word of self-defense.

There was some basis to the monarchs' claims. However, it was not Columbus but his successors that imposed the brutal encomienda feudal system, under which the natives were worked to death. Those natives who survived the hard labor were decimated by diseases imported from Europe -- measles, mumps, diptheria, typhoid, and smallpox. The legacy of Spain in the New World is not Columbus's legacy.

We need not romanticize Columbus or try to transform him into a modern hero. He was as much a man of the middle ages as of the renaissance, motivated by religious zeal and divine inspiration as well as greed and thirst for knowledge. "God made me the messenger," he wrote in his Book of Prophecies, "of the new heaven and the new earth, of which he spoke in the Apocalypse of St John after having previously revealed it through the mouth of Isaiah. He showed me where to find this new heaven and new earth." To judge Columbus by the standards of our day, when the connotations and the very meaning of the word "colonizer" have changed, is simplistic and intellectually dishonest.

Reprinted with permission from Mitchell James Kaplan. His blog can be found here. By Fire, By Water is available for purchase here.

June 24, 2010

What? They didn't like it?" How to Handle Tough Critics by D.L Bogdan, author

What? They didn't like it?" How to Handle Tough Critics.
D.L. Bogdan, author of Secrets of The Tudor Courts

"There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein. ~Walter Wellesley "Red" Smith.

I can't think of a more appropriate quote to describe the ups and downs of this profession than that! As a newcomer I can't very well give the advice a seasoned veteran can but as I embark on this journey, I can say I'm learning more how to navigate through waters that (to me) feel uncharted. Taking criticism is something every person has to learn how to handle in every walk of life, but as a writer, you open yourself to the world in a way that sets all of your vulnerabilities on display. Opening a vein indeed.

Receiving critiques from reviewers who do it for a living are tough enough--but most professional reviewers, even when not giving you the glowing recommendation you hope for, have the grace to be fair. Customer reviews can give you a different vibe altogether, attacks and no-holds-barred insults that will give your confidence a serious run for its money if you're in the wrong mood. If, like me, you haven't been in the business long, this can give you quite the shock. When I received some harsh critiques from customers I cried, I carried on, all while some loyal family members and friends took charge by gallantly jumping to my defense. But then I realized that even the harshest reviewer has something to teach and any negative buzz out there are all things that can be applied to the next project. Answering these charges with negativity or defending your stance only breeds an endless cycle of negativity. Let the work speak for itself. Flaws may not be able to be fixed at that point in the game, but they can be learned from. And everyone is entitled to their opinion. When your soul is laid bare in such a public forum, you naturally wish their opinion would be favorable but when it's not, it has to be accepted with grace and dignity. Before I ever sought to get published I wrote for myself and, while no work is perfect and can always be improved, I like what I do and am proud of myself. Meantime, I rely on the support of my family, friends, fellow writers and positive literary bloggers and fans who have never failed to give me the encouragement and pep talks I need to get through! There's a time in life when no matter what anyone thinks, you have to look at yourself in the mirror and say, "I'm okay." And I am!

Thanks so much to D.L. for providing us with this post. You can follow D.L. Bogdan at her new blog, History vs. Herstory

Review: A Poisoned Season by Jennygirl

Another review from Jennygirl, the resident book reviewer here..


A Poisoned Season by Tasha Alexander
Pub. date: 2007
Genre: Mystery/suspense/historical fiction
From Harper Collins:

London's social season is in full swing, and Victorian aristocracy is atwitter over a certain gentleman who claims to be the direct descendant of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Adding to their fascination with all things French, an audacious cat burglar is systematically stealing valuable items that once belonged to the ill–fated queen.

But things take a dark turn. The owner of one of the pilfered treasures is found murdered after the theft is reported in the newspapers, and the mysterious thief develops a twisted obsession with Lady Emily Ashton. It takes all of Lady Emily's wit and perseverance to unmask her stalker and ferret out the murderer, while faced with a brewing scandal that threatens both her reputation and her romance with the dashing Colin Hargreaves.

JennyGirl's Thoughts:

This book was a fun and fabulous read. Emily is fortunately an "independent" woman who is ahead of her time. She furthers her intellectual pursuits, such as learning Greek, while trying to maintain balance with her position in society and its conventions. Victorian women were not supposed to be strong, intelligent women, who were interested in the goings on in the world. Gossip and fashion were a woman's domain. Emily is an independent thinker, and unfortunately this got her into trouble with society's matrons. Luckily for her, Emily was able to manage her troubles.

Tasha Alexander captures the conventions and formalities of Victorian society very well. Women were usually trapped with no real voice or opinion with respect to their futures, yet Emily is lucky enough to be able to try and control her fate by staving off another marriage, to a man she is in love with no less. The conversations between her and Colin Hargreaves are sweet, romantic and passionate. The conversations reminded me of a duel.

Keep in mind, Emily did all this while trying to solve a few mysteries along the way. The mysterious circumstances in the book were quite suspenseful. They seemed like multiple plot lines and yet connected. One mystery from many different angles.

Emily is a delightful a heroine who is quite capable of not only taking care of herself, but others who may find themselves in need of assistance as well. This book was truly a novel of suspense and kept me guessing until the very end, including the romantic aspects as well. I felt as though I was transported to Victorian times, and I look forward to reading the next in the series as well.

I would like to note, that this is the second book in the series. Events from the first book are described, but I liked this book so much that I will go back and read the first one too. Regardless of knowing the plot.

This was a very satisfying, enjoyable, fun, and easy read. I highly recommend it!

Thanks to Jennygirl for allowing us to republish this review here. Visit Jennygirl and read more of her book reviews at her website Jenny Loves To Read.

June 21, 2010

Why the Howards? by D.L. Bogdan, author of Secrets of The Tudor Court

Please welcome D.L. Bogdan, a debut author of Secrets of The Tudor Court which released May 1, 2010 from Kensington Books.

The Tudor era brings many images to mind. Most of the time, we think of the main cast: young Henry VIII, dashing and golden (or old Henry VIII--not so dashing and golden), vivacious Anne Boleyn, devout Catherine of Aragon, and the many figures that make the Tudor saga come to life. But what of the supporting cast? Those that turned the gears in the great medieval machine that has become as compellingly epic as the Arthurian legends? My goal in SECRETS OF THE TUDOR COURT (Kensington Books) was to bring some of these more peripheral personas to life. I chose Mary Howard as my subject; the daughter of the ambitious and cruel 3rd Duke of Norfolk Thomas Howard, and the wife of Henry Fitzroy, Henry VIII's illegitimate son. She proved to be a challenging and unique window into a familiar tale and was tough to research.

 Any information I could gather was included in the story to authenticate my work but my job as an entertainer came into play as I creatively filled in some gaps to make for a fast paced, character driven study of a father and daughter's love-hate struggle in a time where living beyond the shadow of the executioner's axe was quite an accomplishment. When writing SECRETS OF THE TUDOR COURT I became fascinated with the antagonist Thomas Howard and delved into researching him in more depth. This led me to writing a companion piece, tentatively titled RIVALS IN THE TUDOR COURT, which will be released in roughly 9 months to a year by Kensington Books.

RIVALS IN THE TUDOR COURT focuses on Thomas, his fiery wife Elizabeth Stafford, and vulnerable mistress Bess Holland. This book was derived from a wealth of research, as there was a great deal more information about the duke available to me than his young daughter Mary. Both books were a joy to write and I am thrilled to share them with The Historical Fiction Connection. SECRETS OF THE TUDOR COURT is available on amazon.com and at your local booksellers. If you'd like to know more about me and my upcoming works, please feel free to follow my new blog at http://www.dlbogdan.blogspot.com/

Thanks so much to D.L for providing us with this post. You can visit reviews of her first novel, Secrets of The Tudor Court here:

Pittsburgh Historical Fiction Examiner
Manic Readers
All Things Royal
The Burton Review
History Undressed (interview and review)

June 19, 2010

Book Review: A Cottage by The Sea by Ciji Ware: Jenny of Jenny Loves to Read

Publisher: Sourcebooks, Landmark

Genre: Fiction, Romance
Trade paperback, 544 pages
Book Source: ARC Sourcebooks
JennyGirl's Rating: 95/100

"All the romance of the beautiful Cornish coast and a wealth of local color add richness to a story that crosses the centuries…. When a Hollywood scandal leaves her life and her marriage in ruins, Blythe Stowe escapes to the wild coast of Cornwall and a cottage by the sea. There she finds herself both physically drawn to her handsome neighbor, Lucas Teague, and literally drawn into a haunting 200-year old love story as an elaborate family tree on his study wall sends her rushing back into the past. As Blythe struggles to make sense of what is happening and discovers family secrets that have been long concealed, she realizes Lucas holds the key to both her past and her future… "

Jennygirl's Thoughts:

Blythe decides to spend her summer, alone in Cornwall, in order to sift through her thoughts and emotions regarding her recent public divorce and humiliation at the hands of her now ex-husband (the cheeky bastard). Blythe picks Cornwall because her Grandmom always said she had roots there. Turns out to be true and apparently things did not go well with Blythe's ancestors either. They also had some trouble in the love department, to put it mildly. Without giving the story away, Blythe realizes you can learn from the past to correct present difficulties. It's all about forgiveness and acceptance.

Blythe embarks on a passionate relationship with Lucas Teague, and although he seems like a rebound guy, he is exactly what she needs and vice versa. Lucas has experienced tragedy in his past and needs to forgive and accept himself and past events. It's not worth it to stay angry at the past. No use crying over spilled milk, right? Lucas is a doll and a hot one to boot, so Blythe has it made. Ah romance!

With respect to the secondary characters they are fun and well placed. Ware's descriptions and dialogue enhanced their roles in the story, and I was able to picture them with ease, the ex-husband, Blythe's sister, and especially the godmother.

The time travel element is executed well in the story. I like the explanation that Ware employs when Blythe tries to seek some answers regarding her "experiences". I thought it was plausible considering the circumstances, and it's quite creative. As to the setting, Ware represents Cornwall in all it's splendor with descriptions of the coast, the surrounding foliage, and village life. Yes, Cornwall is now on my list of places I must visit some day.

This book was a good read, and I think it is unique as opposed to other time travel romances I have read. It's different. For those of you, who have read Island of the Swans, at the end of the story you will recognize some of the names and places that are mentioned. I thought that was a great touch, and pretty creative. Don't worry if you haven't read Swans, you'll still know what's going on. Ware just gave a nod to her other book, which I would highly recommend.

To read more about this book and the rest of Ware's work, please stop by her website: http://www.cijiware.com/

Thanks to Jennygirl for allowing us to republish this review here. Visit Jennygirl and read more of her book reviews at her website Jenny Loves To Read.

Compare prices of the book here.

Other book reviews of this title:
The Burton Review
Broken Teepee
Blog of the Irish
Pudgy Penguin Perusals

June 18, 2010

Richard III: What's HIS story? by Robin from The Lady Gwyn's Kingdom

And for more on the Wars of the Roses, and the always intriguing topic of Richard the Third, Duke of York... Murderer or Maligned King? Robin explores..

If you ask someone about Richard III and if they actually know who you are talking about, their response is probably going to include: evil, hunchback, killed his nephews in the Tower. We have the wonderful William Shakespeare to thank for this view of Richard. I never bought into the evil, hunchbacked Richard of Shakespeare. I realized he was writing to satisfy the current Tudor monarchy and it certainly wouldn't do to have a nice Richard (or to make Elizabeth I's grandfather look like a usurper, which would make her claim to the throne shaky, etc). Aside from that, I never thought much about him until about the last year, when I started reading a lot on the War of the Roses and have spent lots of time researching on the internet (and listening to the folks in various discussion groups and forums) and came up with my humble opinion on what could have happened.

First, as to if he wanted the crown or not, I think most people at the time probably would not have minded having the crown of England on their head. I doubt Richard was any different. However, I don't think he ever believed the opportunity would come his way, since he was first, the 4rd son of the Duke of York, and second, once Edward had sons they would naturally come after him. He also seemed quite content being Lord of the North and was very well liked in the northern part of England. So to that I don't think he lusted after the crown and power, but once the opportunity presented itself, he took it.

Now, as to how that opportunity came about. From what I've read about Richard, it seems that he was a fairly good and honest person (as much as human beings can be anyway) who wanted to do what was good and right for the people. It certainly doesn't seem like he wanted the crown upon his brother's death. Something had to have happened to make him believe that the Woodvilles were up to something. He might have been concerned with what the Woodvilles would do, not only to him and his family, but also to the country, as they do come across as rather grasping and power hungry (I am not for or against the Woodvilles, just want to make that clear). Making sure that he was there with Edward V before he got to London and in the clutches of his mother's family was, in his mind, probably the only way to make sure that Edward IV's command that R3 be Protector was carried out (it is documented, I believe, that Richard was already weary of the Woodvilles). It does seem that he had every intention of making sure his nephew was crowned King of England (having people swear fealty to Edward, planning for his coronation, etc). If he had started out with the intent on taking the crown, why did he not come down from York with a full complement of soldiers ready for battle? He only sent for them later on and that, to me, seems like the actions of someone worried for his safety. He knew his brother wanted his son to follow him and Richard usually followed Edward's orders. So something must have happened to alter Richard's plans for Edward V. When he was confronted with the evidence (I have to believe that Stillington had SOMETHING that proved a pre-contract since I don't think Richard would just take one person's word on something that important. Then again, he might have been that trusting.) that Edward V was illegitimate, he felt that the only right thing to do was to accept the crown. I don't believe he set out with the intention of cheating his nephews out of what was rightfully theirs (and after they were declared illegitimate, it wouldn't have been their right anyway, correct?). This many years distanced from the events it is hard to know what R3's true feelings and intentions were, of course.

On to probably the biggest mystery of R3's reign: the boys in the Tower. I honestly don't think Richard killed them or ordered their murder. Even if they WERE illegitimate, they were still his nephews and he seemed very loyal to his family. I have two theories on what happened to them.

1. Buckingham, on his own, took matters into his own hands and had the boys murdered, hoping that Richard would thank him for helping him out of a delicate situation. Then, Buckingham heads a rebellion against this same King he had been friends with. If this rebellion happened AFTER the boys disappeared and it was rumored that they were dead, Richard may have discovered that Buckingham had ordered it and become really angry at him, words may have been exchanged, Buckingham may have thought that he would loose the power he DID have and R3 would possibly arrest HIM, thus causing him to think that his best chance of survival (and retaining some power) would be to back Tudor. Now, why, if Buckingham did the boys in, didn't R3 make some public acknowledgment of what happened, thus possibly clearing his name? Leaving it in the dark certainly made him look worse. It could be that, seeing how public opinion was already turning against him, he knew that the public would probably never believe that he hadn't ordered it in the first place.

2. It seems fairly logical that the person with the most to gain or loose from the boys being dead/alive is Henry VII. If they are still alive, whether legitimate or not, they are going to be a rallying point for people still loyal to the Yorks and wanting to get rid of HIM. It seems that having them secretly murdered and letting the blame fall on Richard solves his problems. Smearing the reputation of the monarch you just defeated is always helpful. With them dead he can legitimize Edward IV's children so he can marry Elizabeth without the taint of bastardy and not have to worry about anyone trying to set Edward V or the little Duke of York on the throne. As to the evidence proving Edward IV's pre-contract, I think that if there was hard evidence proving this, Henry would have destroyed it as quickly as possible. He needed Elizabeth of York to be legitimate to help his claim. He did destroy all copies of Titulus Regius, which had declared all of Edward IV's children illegitimate.

His mother, Margaret Beaufort, also could have ordered them murdered, knowing that having them permanently out of the picture would make the way easier for her son (she was rather ambitious for him, wouldn't you say?). If this was the case, and he didn't know, it could explain why Henry VII was so cautious about Perkin Warbeck's claim to be Richard, Duke of York. She certainly was aware that Elizabeth of York was a key to holding the support of Yorkists and a marriage with her would help solidify his claim but she had to be a legitimate heir to the crown. However, once you legitimize her, you do the same for her brothers, so they had to be out of the way.

What about Shakespeare's version of Richard's story? Well, consider a few factors here. The biggest is of course, the fact that Shakespeare's monarch was Elizabeth I. It certainly wouldn't have done Will's career any good to write a play portraying the grandfather of England's favorite monarch as a usurper. Shakespeare also based some of his play from Thomas More's A History of Richard III which was considered "the" authority on Richard's life. Without going into a lot of detail here, More was just a small child when Richard was King and was defeated by Tudor so he would not have a reliable memory of what happened during Richard's life or reign. He seemed to have gotten a lot of HIS information from a man who had hated Richard. Also, as with Shakespeare, you need to look at who was the reigning monarchs when More was writing: Henry VII and Henry VIII. I see More's work as Tudor propaganda to further discredit R3. What better way to turn public feeling against a beaten King than turning that King into an evil, nephew murdering hunchback?

These are just my opinions. Now, Richard could have been lusting after the crown and made up the pre-contract and then had the boys murdered. It also has never been proven that they WERE murdered. It is entirely possible that R3 had them moved somewhere secretly for their own protection. Maybe Henry VII is totally blameless. Who knows for sure unless something concrete is discovered. Anything is possible. That's what makes it so interesting and fascinating.

Reprinted with permission. Thank you to Robin  from The Lady Gwyn's Kingdom for submitting this post and sharing her opinions.
What are your opinions on the famous Richard III?

June 17, 2010

Wars of the Roses on Facebook: Susan Higginbotham

The following post was submitted by Susan Higginbotham, author of historical fiction novels such as Hugh and Bess and The Stolen Crown. This is a popular post with Susan's blog followers, and is very funny if you know the characters of the Wars of the Roses AND Facebook jargon!

What if some of the figures from the Wars of the Roses joined Facebook (and some people from other centuries dropped in from time to time)? It might look something like this:
Margaret of Anjou joined the Frenchwomen Don't Get Fat and French Girls Make Better Brides groups.
Henry VI needs a marriage manual. Fast.
    William de la Pole, Marquis of Suffolk commented: Just lie back and think of England.
    Henry VI sent a private message to William de la Pole, Marquis of Suffolk: It's not working.
    William de la Pole, Marquis of Suffolk replied: Is the girl in the bed with you?
    Henry VI replied: Oh!!!!

Henry VI sent a gift of Maine to Charles VII.
    Margaret of Anjou, William de la Pole, Marquis of Suffolk, and Rene of Anjou like this

William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk joined the I'm a Duke Now, and Everything's Going to Be Just Great group

William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk joined the Don't Think of It as Exile, Think of It as a Holiday! group

William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk, fails to appreciate how having your head chopped off with a sword is any better than having it chopped off with an ax.
    Anne Boleyn likes this.

Richard, Duke of York thinks it's time to come back to England
    Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick likes this
    Edmund Beaufort, first Duke of Somerset commented: Oh, boy. I can hardly wait.
    Richard, Duke of York commented: Neither can I!

Margaret of Anjou joined the Preggers at Last! About Bloody Time! group.

Richard, Duke of York, wrote on Margaret of Anjou's wall: Hey, it's been a while since Henry VI posted! What's up there?
    Margaret of Anjou: He's just not into social networking anymore. That's all. Don't stress about it.

Margaret of Anjou joined the Let's Name Our Firstborn Son Edward Just to Bug the Hell out of Future Historical Novelists group

Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick took a quiz: Who Fathered Margaret of Anjou's baby? Would you like to take the quiz?

Richard, Duke of York is really excited about being named Protector of England while Henry VI "rests."
    Cecily, Duchess of York likes this.

Margaret joined the Just Because I'm Halfway Civil to a Man Doesn't Mean He Fathered My Child group

Henry VI is feeling much better now, thank you.
    Margaret of Anjou likes this
    Edward of Lancaster likes this

Richard, Duke of York, wrote on Edward of Lancaster's wall: Aren't you too young to have a Facebook account?
    Edward of Lancaster commented: Bug off, Ricky boy.

Richard, Duke of York joined the Don't Think of It as Exile, Think of It as a Holiday! group

Richard, Duke of York does not have a Facebook account listed. Would you like to start an account for Richard, Duke of York?

Margaret of Anjou is looking forward to conquering her enemies and then getting back to her nice, comfy bed at Greenwich.

Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick sent a gift of a shiny new crown to Edward, Earl of March.

Edward, Earl of March has updated his profile to read "Edward IV, King of England."

Margaret of Anjou [this post has been removed from Facebook due to inappropriate language]

Richard Woodville, Lord Rivers and Anthony Woodville, Lord Scales joined the I Love the House of York! No, Really! group

Margaret of Anjou and Edward, Prince of Wales joined the Don't Think of It as Exile, Think of It as a Holiday! group

Elizabeth Grey joined the I Don't Put Out! Not Even if You're a King! group

Elizabeth Grey is heading to Reading today and can hardly wait until her next status update.
    Jacquetta, Duchess of Bedford likes this.

Elizabeth Grey is married to THE KING!!!!! That's right, girlfriends, THE KING!!!!!!
    Richard Grey, Thomas Grey, Anthony Woodville, Anne Woodville, Mary Woodville, Edward Woodville, Richard Woodville, Lionel Woodville, Jacquetta     Woodville, Joan Woodville, Richard Woodville, Lord Rivers, and Jacquetta Woodville, Duchess of Bedford like this
    Eliza, Lady Scales: You rule, girl!
    Katherine Woodville: Oh, I want to marry a duke!
    John Woodville: Got an elderly duchess for me, sis?

Facebook was temporarily unavailable today. Our technical support staff has investigated and discovered that this was due to excessively heavy traffic on our site in the area of Grafton, England. We apologize for the inconvenience.

William Hastings wrote on Edward IV's wall. "Caught you, Ned, didn't she?"

Cecily, Duchess of York is having a very bad day.

Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, is having an even worse day.

Eleanor Talbot is trying to figure out how to get the royal monograms off her silverware.

Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick sent a friend request to Margaret of Anjou. Message: If you ever feel like working together, Meg, just PM me.

Margaret of Anjou, Queen of England and Don't You Forget It, Either! loves it when men do some serious groveling.

Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick has sore knees.

Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick joined the I Love the House of Lancaster! No, Really! group.

Edward IV, King of England joined the Don't Think of It as Exile, Think of It as a Holiday! group.

Elizabeth, Queen of England, No Matter What That Frenchwoman Says is going for a nice little rest at Westminster Abbey sanctuary.

Henry VI, King of England wishes someone would explain to him why he has to come out of the Tower and put on the king outfit again.
    Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick sent a message to Henry VI: Just sit tight. I'll explain it all to you when I get there.

Elizabeth, Queen of England, No Matter What That Frenchwoman Says joined the Let's Name Our Firstborn Son Edward and Bug the Hell out of Future Historical Novelists group.

Edward of Lancaster, Prince of Wales, is really looking forward to chopping off some Yorkist heads.

Edward IV is BACK!!!!!! PARTY!!!!!!

Margaret of Anjou joined the Decorating Your Prison Cell for Less group.
    Henry VI left this group.

Anne Neville is thinking of taking some cookery classes to cheer her up in her widowhood.
    George, Duke of Clarence likes this.

Richard, Duke of Gloucester thinks it's high time to get married.
    George, Duke of Clarence commented: Maybe there's a Woodville girl free?
    Richard, Duke of Gloucester commented: I was aiming a bit higher, brother dearest.

George, Duke of Clarence joined the Decorating Your Prison Cell for Less group.

George, Duke of Clarence said he'd like to drown his sorrows, but he didn't mean it lit--

Edward IV has an annoying head cold but should be just fine in a day or so.
    Richard, Duke of Gloucester commented: Hope you feel better soon, bro!

Richard, Duke of Gloucester is wondering how he would look in purple.

Edward, Prince of Wales changed his profile to read Edward V, King of England.
    Anthony Woodville, Earl Rivers likes this.

Edward V is going to London with Uncle Anthony. Hope to see Uncle Richard and Uncle Harry on the way!
    Richard, Duke of Gloucester and Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham like this.

Anthony Woodville, Earl Rivers is taking an unexpected trip to Pontefract.

Edward V, King of England would like certain people to remember that he's the King of England. Not them.
    Richard, Duke of York sent a message to Edward V: Uncle Dickon giving you trouble?
    Edward V, King of England, replied: He's a prick. I'll text you.

Richard, Duke of Gloucester is reading What Color is Your Parachute? A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers on Goodreads.

William, Lord Hastings is getting ready to go to a boring council meeting. Then supper with Mistress Shore. Sweet!

John Morton, Bishop of Ely hopes everyone likes the nice strawberries he's grown.

William, Lord Hastings fails to appreciate how wonderful it is to be the first person executed on Tower Green.
    Anne Boleyn likes this.

Edward V is really pissed that his Uncle Richard is making him close his Facebook account.
    Edward, Earl of Warwick: Bummer, dude. Text me.
    Richard, Duke of York: C U Soon, Ned!

Richard, Duke of Gloucester changed his profile to read Richard III, King of England.
    Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham likes this.

Anne, Queen of England is wondering if she'll have time to get to the hairdresser for her coronation.
    Elizabeth, Queen of England No Matter What that Stupid Dickon Says commented: Just put a bag over your head, dearie. No one will notice.
    Anne, Queen of England: Well, I never!
    Elizabeth, Queen of England No Matter What that Stupid Dickon Says: Yes, that's why you only have the one child, dearie.

Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham is feeling very important today.

Richard III, King of England is having a great time on his royal progress. They like me! They really, really like me!

Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham is feeling confused.
    John Morton, Bishop of Ely sent a message to Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham: What's wrong, your grace? Maybe I can help.

Henry Tudor is looking for "England" on Map Quest. Oh, there it is!
    Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham likes this.
    John Morton, Bishop of Ely likes this.
    Jasper Tudor likes this.
    Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond, likes this.
    Elizabeth Woodville, Queen of England No Matter What That Stupid Dickon Says likes this.

Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond, wrote on Henry Tudor's wall: You are my own sweet son and all my worldly joy. I will be so happy when you arrive in England.
    Henry Tudor sent a message to Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond: Er, Mum, next time could you send that to me privately instead of posting it on my wall?
    Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond replied: Sorry, my dearest. I haven't got the hang of the Internet yet. Did you pack a pair of warm slippers for the voyage over?

Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, should have checked The Weather Channel before leaving Wales.
    Richard III, King of England commented: God, you're pathetic, Harry. You know you couldn't organize an orgy in a brothel, much less a revolt.
    John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln likes this.

Henry Tudor sent a message to Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond: Don't worry, Mum, I'll get here sooner or later.
    Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond: Sigh.

Elizabeth of York is SO looking forward to getting out of sanctuary and staying at Uncle Richard's court.
    Richard III, King of England commented: Be sure to bring that dress I mentioned that time when I visited you and your mother in sanctuary.
    Elizabeth of York: But isn't that the one you said was tight, Uncle?
    Richard III, King of England: That's the one!

Eleanor de Clare, Lady Despenser invited Elizabeth of York to join the My Uncle the King Is One Swell Guy group.
    Elizabeth of York accepted the invitation.

Anne, Queen of England joined the It's Not Consumption, It's Just a Nagging Cough group.

Richard III, King of England just wishes people would mind their own business for a change. Can't a lonely widower be friendly to an extremely good-looking, buxom young lady who happens to be his niece without everyone posting on Facebook and Twitter about it?

Elizabeth of York: Stupid Sheriff Hutton. Where's the sheriff, anyway?

Henry Tudor sent a message to Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond: This time, Mum, I'm coming. I promise.
    Margaret Beaufort: Don't forget your warm cloak.

Richard III, King of England, is headed out to show that Welsh upstart who's the boss around here, once and for all.
    William Stanley and Thomas Stanley like this.
    William Stanley and Thomas Stanley unliked this.

You have an invitation from Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond to become a fan of Henry VII, King of England.
    Elizabeth of York became a fan of Henry VII, King of England.

Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond started the My Son is King of England, and What Does Your Son Do for a Living? group.

Henry VII, King of England is pleased to announce the birth of his second son, Henry, today.
    Catherine of Aragon likes this.
    Anne Boleyn likes this.
    Jane Seymour likes this.
    Anne of Cleves likes this.
    Katherine Howard likes this.
    Katherine Parr likes this.
    Elizabeth I likes this.
    The Church of England likes this.
    William Shakespeare likes this.
    The British tourism industry likes this.
    Hollywood likes this.
    The English-language publishing industry likes this.

Arthur, Prince of Wales is wondering what all the fuss is about. Stupid baby brother.   

Reprinted with permission. Susan Higginbotham's blog can be found at Medieval Woman: Blogging with Historical Fiction Writer Susan Higginbotham

June 02, 2010


There is a blog site at http://www.onlineclasses.org/blog/ that has recently published a list of their choices of 100 All-Time Best Historical Fiction Titles.

Some favorites mentioned are:
Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor
Katherine by Anya Seton
The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman
The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough
World Without End by Ken Follett

Check out their full list here. What would you add to the list?