December 09, 2011

Guest Post and Giveaway: Harem by Colin Falconer

You are young and you are beautiful. You have been captured by the Turks after your Balkan city succumbed to a long siege. Your father and brothers are dead. You are terrified you will now be raped and murdered.

But you are not harmed by your captors, fearsome as they look. Instead you are taken back to the Ottoman capital and introduced into a gloomy wooden palace the Turks call the Eski Saraya. 

You are put into the care of the Mistress of the Robes, where your flair for needlework is put to good use. You are taught Arabic and the Koran. But it is made clear to you that you are now a slave. Whatever high position in life you had before, now you are nothing; the Sultan's plaything. 

You accept that will never see your own country again. This is your home now and there are only two ways out of this dreary place. If you do not attract the Sultan's eye he may one day give you away as a wife to one of his senior officers or ministers. But that's if you're lucky. You might just as easily be neglected and forgotten.

Or you can turn the tables.

You soon realize that these other women who share your predicament are your competition. One of them is going to be the mother of the next Sultan and attain a position of pre-eminent power in the country that enslaved her. If you are beautiful enough and clever enough and cunning enough that woman could be you.

The first step is to become gözde - 'in the eye'; that is, you must catch the attention of the Lord of Life, the Sultan himself. An ambitious girl like yourself might find a way. It depends how devious you are. 

Or you may rely on kismet, fate. One day you will wait with a hundred other girls in the court of the harem, pearls and jewels glittering in the sun. As the Sultan passes among you, he will take a handkerchief from the sleeve of his robe and drape it over your shoulder. You have been chosen! This is your golden chance. 

You may have one night and be forgotten; or this could be the road to absolute power. It is entirely up to you.

You are taken first to the Keeper of the Baths, your entire body is shaved by slave girls and you are bathed in water scented with jasmine and orange. Your hair is shampooed with henna. Afterwards another slave coats your body with a mixture of warm rice flour and oil. 

You are then prepared and coiffed and primped down to the last eyelash and the last drop of balm, dressed elaborately in clothes of incredible richness. Finally the Chief Black Eunuch escorts you to the Sultan's bedchamber. 

If you can please the Lord of Life then he might invite you back to his bed again. If the invitations become more frequent then you become iqbal, a favourite, and you won't have to sleep with the rest of these girls.

You are given your own apartments, your own eunuch slaves, even an allowance of your own. You are on your way. But it will all count for nothing unless you get pregnant and bear the Sultran a son. If you do, then you become a kadin, one of the Sultan's wives. You are now playing this deadly game in earnest because there are only ever four kadins. After that, the abortionist is called in. 

As one of the select four you are just a breath away from power now. You are also in deadly danger.

Only one of you can become the mother of the next Sultan, the Sultan Valide. If you do, your power will be unquestioned, you will rule the entire Harem and your son will reign supreme in the country that made you a slave. 

If you fail? You will probably end up at the bottom of the Bosphorus, drowned in a sack. So you cannot afford to fail. You must be clever and you must be charming and you must be attractive and you must be utterly ruthless.

These are your choices. This is the game. 

This is the harem.

Colin Falconer has been published widely in the UK, US and Europe and his books have been translated into seventeen languages. You can find him at his blog at or his web page at 

Leave a comment for a chance to win an eBook copy of HAREM.  Giveaway will end on December 26, 2011 at 11:59pm CST.  Open worldwide.

December 03, 2011

International Giveaway! Guest Post from Paul Clayton, author of White Seed

Giveaway details can be found at the end of the post and author info.  Giveaway extended until January 15, 2012!!!

Publishers Weekly: White Seed… hews closely to the record of Sir Walter Raleigh's second doomed attempt to plant the British flag in Virginia… The depiction of the colony's physical and moral disintegration between 1587 and 1590… evokes a harrowing sense of human fallibility. Readers… will find this saga, which… soon achieves page-turner velocity, to be both a dandy diversion and an entertaining education.

I can’t remember exactly what triggered my determination to write a historical about the lost colony. It may have been the fact that there were no ‘big’ books about it, the way From Here to Eternity was the first big book about WWII, or Gone With the Wind was the first big book about the Civil War. So I set out to write that big book.

The historical record by itself is a riveting read: 1587. The colonists’ ships were crewed by riff raff more intent on seizing Spanish ships then getting their charges to the New World. When they spotted a ‘prize’ moving up the coast, the colonists were put ashore in a ‘bad neighborhood’ (Roanoke, where the local natives had been brutalized by the last group of English to live there; the actual destination of the colonists was Chesapeake.) Then, Governor White was sent back to England (I get into the why in White Seed). When he arrived, the Armada was threatening and no ships could be spared. He wouldn’t return until three years later.

In July of 1590, three ships anchored off Hatarask, one of the barrier islands. Governor White tells us in his writings, “… we let fall our grapnell neere the shore and sounded with a trumpet a call, and afterwards many familiar English tunes of songs, and called them friendly; but we had no answer…”

In White Seed I dramatized the event thus:

Captain Cocke and the others were silent as they sat in the boats and listened. “I think we had better spend the night in the boats,” said Cocke. We will go ashore at daybreak when it is safer.”

“Aye,” said White, relieved that the captain had not ordered the boats back to Hatarask.

Cocke called his orders over to the other boat and White heard their anchor splash into the sound. The men behind him dropped anchor. The rope thrummed as it ran out. As the anchor took hold, the boat swung about and came to rest in the currents, its stern to the island. The men shifted about as they lay claim to their spaces to lie down for the night.

White listened to the quiet of the island. The familiar smells of chamomile and dandelion reached his nose. He stood and hailed again. “Ananias Dare! Parson Lambert! Captain Stafford!”

Silence hung heavy in the air as everyone waited for a response. None came.

The men again began talking quietly among themselves.

“Governor White,” said Captain Cocke, “perhaps a round of song will do the trick.”

White said nothing.

“Men,” said Cocke, “let us sing a few verses. That is how we shall rouse them.”

“You mean that is how we shall roust them,” said Chandler.

The men laughed. Cocke started the song in the dark, “’Twas a lover and his lass...”

The others joined in, “with a hey and a ho, and a hey nonnino...”

Cocke's voice rang out, “That o'er the green cornfield did pass...”

White listened wordlessly, hoping those on shore would hear. He pictured again his tiny little granddaughter, Virginia. She would be three years of age now. Why had they not come out, he wondered. What in God's name had happened?

Paul Clayton is the author of a three-book historical series on the Spanish Conquest of the Floridas ― Calling Crow, Flight of the Crow, and Calling Crow Nation (Putnam/Berkley).

One of his books, Carl Melcher Goes to Vietnam (St. Martin’s Press, 2004), was a finalist at the 2001 Frankfurt eBook Awards, along with works by David McCullough and Joyce Carol Oates.

Paul’s latest historical is White Seed: The Untold Story of the Lost Colony of Roanoke.

Visit Paul:  Website | Facebook

White Seed is available for purchase at Amazon

I'd like to thank Paul for sharing the inspiration behind White Seed.  The lost colony of Roanoke is a very interesting topic to me.  I'd also like to thank Paul for offering this HUGE giveaway...and it's INTERNATIONAL! 

(5) signed paperbacks for U.S./Canada entrants and (25) eBook copies for U.S./Canada and International entrants are up for grabs! 

Entrants will receive one extra entry for each Facebook and tweeted link to this giveaway (come back and share the link in the comments each time you share).  Also, please leave a way to contact you in the comments.  Since this is such a huge giveaway, it will end on December 31, 2011 January 15, 2012 at 11:59pm CST.  Good luck!

Addendum:  If you are in the U.S., please indicate if you prefer the paperback or eBook version.  That way I'll know who to award the paperbacks too.  Thank you! And thanks to cyn209 for helping me to realize the necessity for this stipulation.

December 02, 2011

Quickie Book Giveaway! 'Queen Hereafter' by Susan Fraser King..2 WINNERS!

Available in paperback December 6, 2011:

A Novel of Margaret of Scotland
Read an Excerpt

Visit Scotland today and you will undoubtedly hear about the highly revered and very much adored Queen Margaret. Scotland ’s only royal saint, Margaret’s reign ended in the eleventh century and yet, to this day, legends and links to Margaret still flourish throughout the country. A Saxon princess, she was a refugee seeking shelter in Scotland when she married the warrior-king, Malcolm Canmore of Scotland . At first despised for her foreign ways, Margaret’s incredible acts of charity and kindness changed minds and the Scots who once resented her quickly grew to adore her. Shortly after her death, a contemporary biography of Margaret’s life was written by her personal confessor, Bishop Turgot of England , adding to the mystique of the good and saintly queen. Turgot praised Margaret as a devout woman and devoted monarch, painting a portrait of pure perfection—but for author Susan Fraser King, something was very much missing. In doing her own research into Queen Margaret’s life, King discovered Margaret had a fierce temper, a taste for adventure, and even a reckless side. For all her good qualities, Margaret was a real woman with real flaws, and in QUEEN HEREAFTER: A Novel of Margaret of Scotland (Crown; December 7, 2010), King set out to portray the very real and complex woman behind the legend, offering readers a glimpse into the life of a medieval queen as it might have been.

In QUEEN HEREAFTER we meet Margaret, a young Saxon princess forced into exile upon the death of her uncle, the English king. While fleeing the country from Norman invaders, she is shipwrecked with her family on the coast of Scotland where the recently widowed King Malcolm Canmore offers them sanctuary. Malcolm’s kindness, however, is not without motive. In Margaret he sees a political prize and so he promises to help her brother, the outlawed rebel Edgar of England, in return for his sister’s hand in marriage.

Despite their less than ideal beginnings, Margaret and Malcolm come to love and care for one another. Their marriage, a challenge at first, evolves, while Margaret steps wholeheartedly into the role of queen, immediately setting out to improve the lives of her people. However, tensions with the northern Scottish kingdom, ruled by the conniving Lady Macbeth, escalate and put Malcolm on edge. To ensure Lady Macbeth’s good behavior, the king brings Eva, a female bard and Macbeth’s granddaughter, to court as a hostage. While Eva expects to dislike and resent Margaret, the two discover an unlikely bond as outcasts of a sort—Eva as a wild Celtic spirit captive among her enemies and Margaret suppressing her passions as she endures increasing pressure as a queen and a mother of princes. Eva must betray the king and the new queen, however, in order to honor her devotion to her kinswoman and former monarch. Torn between loyalties, will Eva betray the queen she has always known—or the queen she has come to love?

King combines elegant, lyrical prose with detailed research conducted alongside prominent Celtic and medieval scholars to create an imaginative retelling of Queen Margaret’s life. QUEEN HEREAFTER offers a fresh, unique perspective on the remarkable young queen who would become a saint.


November 21, 2011

Int'l Book Giveaway! Asenath by Anna Patricio

Two Destinies...One Journey of Love

In a humble fishing village on the shores of the Nile lives Asenath, a
fisherman's daughter who has everything she could want. Until her
perfect world is shattered.

When a warring jungle tribe ransacks the village and kidnaps her,
separating her from her parents, she is forced to live as a slave. And
she begins a journey that will culminate in the meeting of a handsome
and kind steward named Joseph.

Like her, Joseph was taken away from his home, and it is in him that
Asenath comes to find solace…and love. But just as they are beginning
to form a bond, Joseph is betrayed by his master’s wife and thrown
into prison.

Is Asenath doomed to a lifetime of losing everything and everyone she loves?

Please welcome the author of Asenath, Anna Patricio (See below for the International Book Giveaway details!):

On Asenath
by Anna Patricio

I have always been fascinated with the Biblical account of Joseph of the coat of many colours. It is an intriguing tale of strength and perseverance. Sometime ago, I realised that while much is known about him, hardly anything is known about the woman he married - Asenath. All we are told about her is that she was the daughter of a priest of On (also known as Heliopolis).  Curiosity drove me to research. The results were scant.
Possibly the most known story about her is the first century Greek text JOSEPH AND ASENATH, which is also in the Apocrypha (books that were left out of the Bible). Basically, this story centers on Asenath's conversion to Judaism. Asenath is a proud and beautiful woman who shuns all ideas of marriage and lives alone in a tower. One day though, she sees Joseph outside riding in his chariot, and immediately changes her mind about marriage. She asks her father to introduce them. Alas, Joseph refuses because she worships idols. She then locks herself in her room and weeps. An angel who looks like Joseph then appears to her and feeds her sacred honey. Asenath is then converted. When she meets Joseph again, he accepts her hand in marriage. Sometime after Joseph's brothers arrive in Egypt, Pharaoh's son notices Asenath and hatches a plan to get rid of Joseph. Benjamin, Joseph's youngest brother, comes to the defence of his noble relatives. The tale ends with the wayward royal son defeated and, if I am not mistaken, with Joseph as Pharaoh after the current king's death.

I might add, by the way, that my novel sort of pays homage to the Greek JOSEPH AND ASENATH. There is a scene with bees, inspired by the ancient tale.
Some tales have Asenath as Dinah's long-lost daughter. Dinah, as you may know, was Joseph's half-sister who was violated by the prince Shechem. Asenath was apparently born as a result of this, and the brothers got rid of her to hide Dinah's shame. In one Jewish folktale, the brothers abandon the baby in the desert.
An eagle gets the baby and deposits her at an altar in Heliopolis. There, the priest finds Asenath and adopts her as his own. Asenath, however, has evidence of her true lineage: a medallion bearing Hebrew inscriptions. Years later, after Joseph becomes vizier, he immediately recognises his niece because of the medallion. (I find it rather peculiar how Asenath becomes Joseph's niece, but this was still an interesting story.)

Yet other accounts have Asenath as the daughter of Potiphar, Joseph's master. The reasoning behind this is the striking similarity between  the names "Potiphar" and "Potiphera," the name given to Asenath's father in Genesis. There is one story in which the infant Asenath cries out Joseph's innocence after the latter is falsely accused by his master's wife. Asenath's reward later in life was marrying Joseph. Some contemporary fiction, by the way, makes use of this legend - Asenath being Potiphar's daughter. This didn't make it to my novel,
but I find it an interesting idea; it has a potential for a really riveting plotline.

Other than the abovementioned, I didn't find much on Asenath. Hence, I imagined what she might have been like: how she lived before she met Joseph, how she felt upon her marriage to him. I like to think that
just as Joseph was a strong person, so was Asenath. Hence, my novel ASENATH.

Anna Patricio is a lover of ancient history, with a particular interest in Egypt, Israel, Greece, and Rome. She is also intrigued by the Ancient Near East, though she has not delved too much into it but hopes to one day.

She undertook formal studies in Ancient History at Macquarie University. She focused mostly on Egyptology and Jewish-Christian Studies, alongside a couple of Greco-Roman units, and one on Archaeology. Though she knew there were very limited job openings for ancient history graduates, she pursued her degree anyway as it was something she had always been passionate about.
Then, about a year after her graduation, the idea to tackle historical fiction appeared in her head, and she began happily pounding away on her laptop. ASENATH is her first novel.
Recently, she traveled to Lower Egypt (specifically Cairo and the Sinai), Israel, and Jordan. She plans to return to Egypt soon, and see more of it. In the past, she has also been to Athens and Rome.

Anna is currently working on a second novel, which still takes place in Ancient Egypt, but hundreds of years after ASENATH.

If you would like to enter for your chance to win your own copy of Asenath, leave a comment on this post.
Open to all International followers of HF-Connection. Please leave your email address so we can contact the winner!

Plus one entry if you follow/like HF Connection on facebook
Plus one entry if you share a link to this post on facebook
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Good Luck!! Ends December 1, 2011

November 16, 2011

Historical Fiction is Double Talk by Killian McRae

Please welcome author Killian McRae to HF-Connection, who has kindly provided us food for thought regarding romance and historical accuracy.

History is written by the Victors Survivors Idealistic Revisionist – And why that suits romance

I’m about to say something radical. Ready?

The term “historical fiction” is double talk.

Most of history as you know it is fiction. Oh, there are the occasional truths and some particulars are more or less right. In the modern era, the dates we assign to key events are scarcely wrong. Names tend to be correct, though when transliterating spelling variations are par for the course. And there is one, underlying reason we can attribute for this mass deception: the human reliance on the linearity of time.

History is not a sequence events, nor is it as simply recalled and structured as a flowchart. The problem is, this is how we read: left to right, top to bottom, page after page. We’re sequential beasts. History, however, is messy. It’s a complex overlapping of time, judgments, cultures, weather conditions, climatic patterns, phases of the moon, the price of wheat... Some believe you can take the entire history of the Roman Republic and summarize into a few chapters of a book. But, take one specific day out of a typical Roman’s life and try to tell a modern reader, and you could write volumes about the why, how, and what of everything he does, tastes, sees, smells, touches, and thinks. The linearity of our existence deceives us into believing that our past is non-contextualized. Personally, mine has more nooks and crannies than that Palace of Versailles, and I bet yours does too.

When an author sets out to write a romance, romance that is also historical fiction may be at least fictioniest. (Yes, I know this is not a word, but it should very well be one.) It’s not the love story that’s unique. Most are of a “a boy and girl meet, fall in love, and come together” variety. What we get to explore, however, is the very real historical miasma through which their love had to battle. In writing A Love by Any Measure, I had to keep in mind the very ugly truth of the historical context. In 1860’s Ireland, the Irish were seen as uncivilized vermin that some British didn’t even recognize as human. How then could an Irish peasant catch the eye and win the heart of a British lord? Even if she is beautiful, there must be qualities of her environment in which she is set in opposition in order to make that connection possible. He, likewise, must be motivated by more than just his loins. Lust is fleeting, but love is forging. Thus, there are some very real, very ugly passages in the book that don’t tip-toe around the issues. Does this make the love story suffer? No, on the contrary, it makes the love that more precious.

Publication Date: November 8, 2011

An Irish lass. An English lord. A love that overcomes all boundaries.

August Grayson has secretly dreamt of the girl living on his family's Irish estate since childhoods spent together in Killarney. Now a proper Lord of the British Empire, he knows that Maeve could never be more than just a distant fantasy. Still, if only...

Maeve O'Connor owns nothing in this world but her good name, which proves just enough to win a proposal for a marriage of convenience to a good, Irish lad. Until the wedding, however, she's in dire straits. Rent on the cottage she and her father share is due, but there simply isn't the money to pay. Driven to desperation, Maeve hopes Lord Grayson, childhood chum turned dashing English rogue, will prove lenient when she comes seeking clemency.

The temptation presented proves too much, and August offers Maeve a compromise: should she permit him twice as long on each succeeding visit to do whatever he wishes in pursuit of his pleasure, he will consider her rent paid. Starting with a mere five seconds, pulses soon out race the ticking clock, as August's desires become Maeve's own. Passion blinds them to the challenges closing in on both the Irish and English fronts, threatening to destroy the love they've only just rediscovered.

Working to bridge that which divides them, tempting fate with each stolen kiss, and torn between desire and obligation, Maeve and August must strive to overcome all and find a love by any measure...

November 07, 2011

Thwarted Queen by Cynthia Haggard

We know her as Cecily Neville. Hard, cold, courageous and shrewd wife of Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, who Anne Easter Smith dramatized in her latest release, QUEEN BY RIGHT. Now, meet her as Cecylee, through author Cynthia Sally Haggard's vision of her in THWARTED QUEEN.

Please welcome Ms. Haggard!

First of all, I'd like to thank Marie for inviting me to do a guest post. It is an honor to be featured on this beautiful blog, and I'm really grateful to Marie for her efforts in helping me to promote my first novel.

When I made a private visit to Castle Raby in July of 2007, I was lucky enough to be taken around by the docent, Clifton Sutcliffe, who gave me a tour of everything connected with Cecylee Neville (1415-1495), the protagonist of THWARTED QUEEN.

Castle Raby

Mr. Sutcliffe told me a number of interesting things. If you go to Castle Raby nowadays (it is located near the village of Staindrop off of the A688 between Barnard Castle and Bishop Auckland), you see a grey edifice amongst a parklike cluster of ancient trees. Made up of several towers, Castle Raby looks serene, and it is, because of its location in a peaceful corner of England, not on a major road.

But in the early 1400s, when Cecylee was a girl, it was anything but peaceful.

First of all, there were thick, dark forests that came right up the castle that contained wild animals like wolves.

Secondly, the castle was an armed camp, teeming with soldiers due to frequent raids by the Scots and a continuing, simmering feud with the Percy Earls of Northumberland, who were upset that those upstart Nevilles had been given the wardenship over the Scottish Marches, when it had been the ancient prerogative of the Percies to take care of those heathenish Scots.

Thirdly, there used to be a huge Barbican tower in front of the main gateway, to ensure that enemies could not easily find their way into the castle. It is now gone.

And lastly, and most striking of all, there were wooden walkways that crisscrossed Castle Raby, going from one tower to another, some 60 feet above ground, because it was an easy and convenient way for the soldiers to get from one tower to another in the event of a raid.

Cecylee’s father, Ralph, Earl of Westmorland was a political operator with 24 children to marry off. He did so well at arranging illustrious marriages that he is probably ancestor to more aristocrats than any other person of his generation. Cecylee’s betrothal to Richard, Duke of York was his supreme achievement, because Richard was cousin to three-year-old King Henry, and if anything happened to that little boy, why, Richard would be King.

Indeed, Earl Ralph wanted this match to take place so badly that he locked his nine-year-old daughter up in the Castle Keep, to prevent any unseemly embraces between the duchess or queen-to-be and the rough soldiers who armed Raby’s defenses. I visited that barred room. It was at the top of an extremely steep, and winding staircase. There was only one way out, and that went by the guardroom where Earl Ralph’s most trusted men kept a round-the-clock watch on the movements of Cecylee and her visitors. The room itself was handsome, large and cold. There were not many windows, and it was hard to see much outside since the windows faced onto the interior courtyards. How a spirited, slightly spoiled young girl must have hated being shut up here in order to marry someone that she may have had mixed feelings about, I thought as I looked around.

And so I used all of this information to try and paint an accurate picture of how it felt to be that young girl, living in that wild part of the country, with a powerful warlord for a father who would not be gainsaid.

THWARTED QUEEN is a portrait of a woman trapped by power, a marriage undone by betrayal, and a King brought down by fear.

Cecylee is the apple of her mother’s eye. The seventh daughter, she is the only one left unmarried by 1424, the year she turns nine. In her father’s eyes, however, she is merely a valuable pawn in the game of marriage. The Earl of Westmorland plans to marry his youngest daughter to 13-year-old Richard, Duke of York, who is close to the throne. He wants this splendid match to take place so badly, he locks his daughter up.

The event that fuels the narrative is Cecylee’s encounter with Blaybourne, a handsome archer, when she is twenty-six years old. This love affair produces a child (the “One Seed” of Book II), who becomes King Edward IV. But how does a public figure like Cecylee, whose position depends upon the goodwill of her husband, carry off such an affair? The duke could have locked her up, or disposed of this illegitimate son.

But Richard does neither, keeping her firmly by his side as he tries to make his voice heard in the tumultuous years that encompass the end of the Hundred Years War - during which England loses all of her possessions in France - and the opening phase of the Wars of the Roses. He inherits the political mantle of his mentor Duke Humphrey of Gloucester, and become’s the people’s champion. The rambunctious Londoners are unhappy that their country has become mired in misrule due to the ineptitude of a King prone to fits of madness. Nor are they better pleased by the attempts of the King’s French wife to maneuver herself into power, especially as she was responsible for England’s losses in France. But can Richard and Cecylee prevail? Everywhere, their enemies lurk in the shadows.

This book is filled with many voices, not least those of the Londoners, who forged their political destiny by engaging in public debate with the powerful aristocrats of the time. By their courageous acts, these fifteenth-century Londoners set the stage for American Democracy.

Born and raised in Surrey, England, Cynthia Sally Haggard has lived in the United States for twenty-nine years. She has had four careers: violinist, cognitive scientist, medical writer and novelist. Yes, she is related to H. Rider Haggard, the author of SHE and KING SOLOMONS’S MINES. (H. Rider Haggard was a younger brother of the author’s great-grandfather.) Cynthia Sally Haggard is a member of the Historical Novel Society. You can visit her website at:

Find Thwarted Queen on Amazon Kindle

October 27, 2011

GIVEAWAY!! The Amazing Untold Real-Life Adventure of Jane Lane, article by Gillian Bagwell

Please welcome author Gillian Bagwell, who is stopping by HF-Connection during her blog tour for The September Queen (read to the end for giveaway details!):
The September Queen, available November 1, 2011

The Amazing Untold Real-Life Adventure of Jane Lane
By Gillian Bagwell

During the course of my research for The Darling Strumpet, my novel about Nell Gwynn, I read Derek Wilson’s book All the King’s Women, about the numerous women important to Charles II. As all of us who know anything about Charles II are aware, he liked women. His mistresses were many and famous, whether loved like Nell Gwynn was or hated like Louis De Keroualle.

So I was intrigued to read Wilson’s account of Jane Lane, an ordinary Staffordshire girl who played a starring role in an extraordinary part of Charles’s life – his six-week odyssey after the Battle of Worcester trying to escape to safety in France.

On September 3, 1651, Charles and his ragged and outnumbered army were defeated by Cromwell’s forces, ending the hopes of the Royalist cause. Charles barely escaped the battlefield and legendarily dashed out the back door of his lodgings as the enemy was entering at the front, slipping out the last unguarded city gate. From that disastrous night until he finally sailed from Shoreham near Brighton on October 15, he was on the run, sheltered and aided by dozens of people – mostly simple country folks and very minor gentry – who not only could have earned the enormous reward of £1000 offered for his capture, but risked their lives to help the fugitive king, who had been proclaimed a traitor.

One of Charles’s companions during his flight from Worcester on September 3 was the Earl of Derby, who had recently been sheltered at a house called Boscobel in Shropshire. He suggested that the king might hide there until he could find a way out of England.

Jane Lane, a young woman of about 25 years old, lived at Bentley Hall in Staffordshire, not far from Boscobel. She became involved in the king’s flight because she had a pass allowing her and a manservant to travel the hundred miles to visit a friend near Bristol – a major port where the king might board a ship. Her brother, Colonel John Lane, had served under Charles’s companion Lord Wilmot, who was with him and trying desperately to get him to safety.

In a story that sounds like something out of fiction, the 21-year-old king disguised himself as Jane’s servant, and Jane rode pillion (sitting sidesaddle behind him while he rode astride) along roads traveled by cavalry patrols searching for Charles, through villages where the proclamation describing him and offering a reward for his capture was posted, and among hundreds of people who, if they recognized him, had every reason to turn him in and none – but loyalty to the outlawed monarchy – to help him.

It was an improbable scheme. Charles was six feet two inches tall and very dark complexioned, not at all common looking for an Englishman of that time. And yet time after time he rode right under the noses of Roundhead soldiers without being recognized. He narrowly eluded discovery and capture so many times that the whole event eventually became known as the Royal Miracle.

I was enthralled when I read Derek Wilson’s account of Jane’s travels with Charles, and was convinced by the evidence he presented for his belief that they became lovers when they were in each other’s company, in close physical contact, and in perilous circumstances from September 9 to September 18, 1651. Without giving away the whole story, I’ll just say that Jane’s part in Charles’s escape was discovered, she had to flee for her life, she remained in contact with Charles until he was restored to the throne in 1660. Then Jane became famous, and Charles rewarded her richly. His escape was an enormously formative experience, he told the story for the rest of his life, and Jane was clearly someone who he regarded with respect and affection until his death.

I was surprised and delighted to learn that no one had previously told Jane’s story in fiction, and titled my book The September Queen because it is the passionate love story between the young king and the girl who risked her own life to save him – and might possibly have been his queen, had he been free to choose where his heart led him.

Gillian Bagwell, author

Gillian Bagwell’s novel The September Queen will be released on November 1, 2011. Please visit her website,, to read more about her books and read her blog Jane Lane and the Royal Miracle which recounts her research adventures and the daily episodes in Charles’s escape after Worcester.

Gillian's publisher at Berkeley was kind enough to offer one copy of her book for giveaway!
To enter for the book giveaway, please leave a comment with your email address, and be sure to remember to follow HF-Connection! Open to followers in US/Canada. Ends November 4, 2011.

Plus one entry if you follow/like HF Connection on facebook
Plus one entry if you share a link to this post on facebook
Plus one entry if you tweet this post on Twitter
Good Luck!

October 07, 2011

{GIVEAWAY!!}} MURDERESS! A Guest Post from Rebecca Johns, author of THE COUNTESS

Please see the end of this post for details on the book giveaway of THE COUNTESS!

Courtesy of Crown Publishing Group: In January 1611, one of the highest-born members of the Hungarian nobility, Countess Erzsébet Báthory, was walled inside her castle tower and imprisoned for the rest of her life. Her crime—the brutal torture and murder of at least thirty-five women and girls, mostly servants in the countess’s employ. Nicknamed the “Blood Countess,” Báthory is the first and one of the most prolific female serial killers in history. While her story is horrific, her legend has nevertheless persisted in the popular imagination—inspiring a well-established cult following intrigued by her strange gothic legacy. The real-life countess was one of Bram Stoker’s two inspirations for Dracula, and her character has appeared in film, video games, and classic and contemporary literature. She was even referenced on a recent episode of True Blood.

The Countess: A Novel (Broadway Paperbacks, September 27, 2011) by Rebecca Johns:

Please welcome the author, Rebecca Johns, as she tells us her following story:

The Female Perspective

I’d like to thank Marie for inviting me to write this guest post. Taking over someone’s blog, even for a single post, is a little like taking over someone’s life for a day—not unlike the ways in which historical fiction takes over someone’s life, usually in its entirety. You’d better get it right, or at least make it interesting.

In the dim, distant past, all the way back in the winter of 2008 when I first heard of the mass murderer named Elizabeth Báthory and decided to write her story in a new (dare I say “feminist”) perspective, I knew I was taking on perhaps the biggest challenge of my writing life. Even Edgar Allan Poe knew you couldn’t keep a reader in the mind of a psychopathic killer for 300 pages, which is why “The Tell-Tale Heart” is so short. And yet I couldn’t resist. Báthory’s story had everything I was hoping for in a first-person narrator: a cool, calculating mind; a sense of righteous indignation; a massive ego; an ability to lie, even to herself. The more research I did, the more I discovered that the elements of her story that are the most well-known to the public (the 600+ virgins she supposedly sacrificed to bathe in their blood to preserve her beauty) were myths perpetrated by Victorian-era men as a warning against female vanity. The story got better and better. Where was the real Báthory, I wondered, and could I breathe some life back into her story? Find the “psych” in “psychopath”?

Even when my editor urged me to turn the novel into a third-person book (which certainly would have been a lot easier on everyone, me especially) I just knew I had to let Báthory speak for herself. For the past hundred years men have been telling Báthory’s story from the outside looking in. How much more terrifying, for me and for the reader, perhaps, to be her for the duration of the book, to look into ourselves and ask what kind of a monster lives there, in each of us?

If you’re going to revisit a subject so familiar to the public, so reviled and yet so fascinating, you’d better have something new to say, or at least a new way of saying it. John Gardner knew it when he wrote Grendel. Jean Rhys knew it when she wrote Wide Sargasso Sea. Letting Báthory tell her own story, tell us what the world looks like from her tower, seemed to me (and still seems to me) the most dangerous way of approaching a familiar tale. What could be more interesting than that?

Thank you to Rebecca for visiting us! And now dear readers, do you think you could sympathize with the Countess? Do you want to read her story first?

Would you like to win a copy of THE COUNTESS? Please leave a comment with your email address, and you are entered!

Plus one entry for each facebook and tweeted link to this post! Good Luck! Giveaway ends 10/22/11, open to USA only.

September 09, 2011

Book Review: Eromenos by Melanie McDonald

Cross post--originally posted at The True Book Addict

My thoughts:
Eromenos is a perfect example of why historical fiction is important.  Having never heard of Antinous, even in my self-induced and dedicated study of all things historical, I learned of an intimate aspect of the reign of the Roman emperor Hadrian.  And so the crucial aspect of historical fiction is fulfilled.  Attracting lay persons (although I wouldn't consider myself a lay person by any means) to history and historical subjects.  Not only was the very fact of Antinous's existence in history brought to my attention, but also the ritual of the October Horse and the study of lycanthropy, the former of which I had heard in passing and the latter, of which I had no idea its study extended as far back as antiquity.  This, in my opinion, is the unique responsibility of historical fiction.  To interest the reader in the further investigation of a time, place, and persons in history.

Not only do we get the fulfillment mentioned above in Eromenos, but we also get an idea of the culture of ancient Rome.  Homosexuality was known and accepted, although it seemed tolerated among the patricians, yet frowned upon among the lower classes.  I refer to Antinous's passing encounter with a farm boy who seems to judge Antinous's lifestyle disdainfully with one knowing glance.  What I found most interesting in the story of Antinous was the fact that, despite his high status as Hadrian's 'favorite', he always had to keep in the back of his mind that one day he would be put aside for someone new, someone younger.  Quite sad was that, upon losing his inheritance, he knew he would have no options in society after his favored status was lost.  He did not believe truly that Hadrian loved him and, in truth had very ambiguous feelings toward Hadrian himself.  A sad realization for us to find out that Hadrian would mourn him so fervently after his death.  Perhaps Hadrian would not have put him aside, if we look at his grief as evidence of his true love for Antinous.

Eromenos gives us the tragic story of a boy who was not given much choice in life.  We see the fact that once the Emperor sets his favor upon a person, then he must obey, as this royal favor is considered an honor and the knowledge of this is taught early on.  A refusal would bring dishonor to the person's family and this was unacceptable in Roman society.  In the end, Antinous takes control of his destiny.  The result leaves a feeling of sadness and yet, elation for his triumph.  In this short book, Ms. McDonald has succeeded in telling us an engaging story while whetting the appetite for historical investigation.

Book Description:
Eros and Thanatos converge in the story of a glorious youth, an untimely death, and an imperial love affair that gives rise to the last pagan god of antiquity. In this coming-of-age novel set in the second century AD, Antinous of Bithynia, a Greek youth from Asia Minor, recounts his seven-year affair with Hadrian, fourteenth emperor of Rome. In a partnership more intimate than Hadrian's sanctioned political marriage to Sabina, Antinous captivates the most powerful ruler on earth both in life and after death.

This version of the affair between the emperor and his beloved ephebe vindicates the youth scorned by early Christian church fathers as a "shameless and scandalous boy" and "sordid and loathsome instrument of his master's lust." EROMENOS envisions the personal history of the young man who achieved apotheosis as a pagan god of antiquity, whose cult of worship lasted for hundreds of years—far longer than the cult of the emperor Hadrian.

In EROMENOS, the young man Antinous, whose beautiful image still may be found in works of art in museums around the world, finds a voice of his own at last. (from Goodreads)

Visit Melanie: Website | Facebook

September 07, 2011

Giveaway! Scimitar by Robin Raybould

The date is 1439 and Eduardo Ferrucci, a young Italian working in a bookshop in Florence, is unwittingly trapped in a conspiracy by agents of foreign powers. He is banished to Constantinople by the Florentine authorities and forced to spy on the Greeks. The Turkish forces have surrounded the city and are on the verge of invading Europe. SCIMITAR follows the life and loves of Ferrucci in the dangerous world during the last days of the Eastern Roman Empire, his eventual betrayal, his part in the great siege of the city by the Turks in 1453, his subsequent role as ambassador for the Turkish Sultan back in Florence and his final revenge on those who had betrayed him many years earlier. But Ferrucci’s first love was always books and during his exile in Constantinople he makes time to search for the remains of a secret text, part of which he had found in a Greek codex in Florence. Finally, after many years, he discovers and deciphers the whole text and is able to locate documents which have a decisive influence on the history of Renaissance culture. This edition includes an introduction by the translator describing the discovery of the original manuscript of this story as well as a transcription of one of the documents found by Ferrucci.


"Robin Raybould has a certain unmatched dedication to historical accuracy."Scimitar" is a fine addition to general fiction and is very highly recommended." (Midwest Book Reviews)

"Compelling...fascinating and awe-inspiring...I suspect this was Raybould's ultimate aim-to inspire his readers into reveling in antique literature and philosophy, and expanding their minds exponentially.  If so, he has achieved his aim." (The Compulsive Reader)

Release: Available on Amazon and Kindle April 1st 2011
Author: Robin Raybould
Category: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Tetrabiblion Books/CreateSpace
40 East 94th St., Suite 16B, New York, NY 10128
212 410 6154
Pages: 372; paperback; no illustrations
ISBN: 978-0-61-543316-5
Amazon Price: $18.95 Kindle Price: $6.99

For further information contact Robin Raybould at or at Camrax Inc: 212 410 6154.  Visit and jump on the carousel!

Robin was kind enough to offer one copy of his book for giveaway!

To enter for the book giveaway, please leave a comment with your email address, and be sure to remember to follow HF-Connection! Open to followers in US/Canada. Ends September 20, 2011.

Good luck!

August 28, 2011

Tudors & Boleyns, Oh my! Fall Non-Fiction releases

A certain buzz has already been created about the collaborative effort of the upcoming Philippa Gregory non-fiction work, The Women of the Cousin's War, featuring scholars David Baldwin and Michael Jones. This book will take a look at Jaquetta of Luxembourg, her daughter Queen Elizabeth Woodville (mother of the lost princes) and Margaret Beaufort (mother to Henry VII). The book features family trees and other illustrations.

Also upcoming is Bessie Blount: The Story of Henry VIII's Longtime Mistress, which features one of the main characters in Henry VIII's young life, as Bessie gave Henry a longed-for son, however illegitimate. Author Elizabeth Norton will try to shed some light on Bessie, who was rumored to have been quite beautiful and perhaps Henry's first love.

And not to be forgotten, those once powerful and always scheming Boleyns: The Boleyn’s: The Rise and Fall of a Tudor Family by David Loades will tell us some of the story of the trio of siblings George, Mary and Anne, the treachery and haters who helped bring them down.. while Mary Boleyn enjoys some more attention this fall with a new biography penned by Alison Weir.

I wouldn't mind reading each one of these titles, though one has to wonder how long can the allure of the Tudors and Boleyns last?

August 18, 2011

Giveaway! A Rather Remarkable Homecoming by C.A. Belmond

Written with her trademark wit, wisdom and verve, C.A. Belmond’s A RATHER REMARKABLE HOMECOMING (NAL Trade; September 6, 2011) is the fourth novel in a RATHER delightful series, featuring her beloved and thoroughly likeable characters, Penny and Jeremy, who often find themselves in hot water as they investigate historical mysteries that take them globe-trotting to Europe’s most glamorous locales.

In A RATHER REMARKABLE HOMECOMING, Penny and Jeremy return from their honeymoon to their London townhouse, only to be greeted by emissaries of Prince Charles, who has a special assignment for them. His Royal Highness would like them to solve an historical mystery in Cornwall, England, in the hopes of rescuing the charming village where Penny and Jeremy first met as kids. A property developer is bulldozing his way across the seacoast’s countryside. Now the only hope for rescuing the beautiful area is if Penny and Jeremy can solve an Elizabethan riddle, leading to a far greater quest than they bargained for.

Amid Celtic lore and tales of Shakespeare, smugglers and shipwrecks, Penny and Jeremy contend with an eccentric cast of Cornish locals: a posh restaurateur, a bird-watching earl, a vain actor, a New Age farmer, a rebel rock-and-roller and a band of determined “eco-warriors”. Their mission takes the intrepid pair to the lush island of Madeira and the legends of Tintagel, in a race against time to stop the wrecking ball from striking.

Are you interested in joining Penny and Jeremy for a voyage of travel, food, wine, love and life’s little pleasures? The publisher is offering one lucky follower of HF-Connection a copy of A RATHER REMARKABLE HOMECOMING.

To enter for the book giveaway, please leave a comment with your email address, and be sure to remember to follow HF-Connection! Open to followers in US/Canada. Ends September 2nd, 2011.

Visit the author's website here, and the book's Amazon page here.

August 07, 2011

Coveted Historical Fiction Releases for Early Fall!

If you visit the Historical Novel Society's website, you will find lists of titles that are due out for the upcoming months. We won't repeat them here verbatim because they might get mad, but we will definitely note a few of those novels that we are very eager to read for ourselves! There is going to be a flurry of happy historical fiction fans this fall!

Seymour Chawast's The Canterbury Tales  (August 30, 2011) Accompany a band of merry medieval pilgrims as they make their way -on motorcycles, of course- to Canterbury. Complete with illustrations and diagrams. The cover looks jovial, should be an interesting retelling.

Kimberly Cutter's The Maid: A Novel of Joan of Arc Already boasting 5 star reviews on Amazon and it's not due out till October 18, 2011. The author writes of Joan's teen years and humanizes the saint.

Carrolly Erickson's The Favored Queen: A Novel of Henry VIII's Third Wife (September 27, 2011) The third wife being Jane Seymour, the one who toppled Anne Boleyn and gave Henry his much wished-for male heir. This one may be a slightly different take on the downfall of Anne and the supplanting of Jane, as the product description states Jane was "deeply reluctant to embark on such a dangerous course".  One wonders, though.

Stella Duffy's Theodora: Actress, Empress, Whore (Sept 27, 2011) Previously released in the UK to good reviews, this novel is about Theodora of Constantinople, a very controversial but powerful woman from the 6th century. Something a little different for readers.

Anna Elliott's Sunrise of Avalon (September 13, 2011)  Final book in her Avalon trilogy about Trystan and Isolde. I read the previous two, so of course I must read the grand finale! Isolde is such an intriguing character.

Kate Emerson's Secrets of the Tudor Court: At the King's Pleasure  Another in her Tudor series, this one is based on the story of Lady Anne Stafford. The series all feature different courtiers and can be read as stand alones. Slated for September but has been rescheduled nearer to December, so put it on your Christmas list!

Kimberley Freeman's Wildflower Hill (August 23, 2011 according to Amazon) A story of a ballerina who returns to Australia after a career-ending injury and discovers she has inherited a sheep estate and is none too pleased; multigenerational saga. (You got me at multi-generational saga.)

Philippa Gregory's The Lady of the Rivers Latest in the Cousins’ War series tells the story of Jacquetta, mother of Elizabeth Woodville (with ties to Melusina, ya know!) You either love her or hate her. Does she need an introduction? I will be aching to read this one.. just because.

Maggie Holt's A Nurse At War   Features an attractive nurse during WWII, love found and lost and found again.. touted as a romantic saga.. there's that saga word does look like it is chunkster at around 500 pages.

Gotta ADORE this cover! So different than the typical royal covers..
Fiona Mountain's Cavalier Queen  "Epic historical novel about the lives and loves of Charles I's queen, Henrietta Maria. An English Gone With the Wind." It's never very fair to compare new novels to beloved classics, therefore my heart already goes out to the author. I do want to read it since it is so "epic" and see how she portrays Henrietta. And that cover!

Sharon Kay Penman's Lionheart (October 4, 2011) The much anticipated epic story of Richard the Lionheart, son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, and his not-so-merry adventure of the Third Crusade. Penman is a Queen of historical fiction and all its many details.

Click on over to the September list at HNS and tell us what caught your eye!

July 26, 2011

Giveaway! Madame Bovary's Daughter by Linda Urbach

Have you heard of the scandalous Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert? His first published novel in 1850, and it was a pioneering one at that. And the scandal! The criticism of social classes, the affairs..Flaubert himself was hit with an immorality charge when Madame Bovary was serialized in a literary magazine.

I asked the author of the upcoming Madame Bovary's Daughter (just released!) to elaborate on a few key topics for her potential readers. Please welcome author Linda Urbach with her introduction to her newest novel, and a book giveaway, too!

Why I wrote Madame Bovary’s Daughter.
When I encountered the novel Madame Bovary for the first time in my early twenties I thought: how sad, how tragic. Poor, poor Emma Bovary. Her husband was a bore, she was desperately in love with another man (make that two men), and she craved another life; one that she could never afford (I perhaps saw a parallel to my own life here). Finally, tragically, she committed suicide. It took her almost a week of agony to die from the arsenic she’d ingested.

But twenty- five years later and as the mother of a very cherished daughter, I reread Madame Bovary. And now I had a different take altogether: What was this woman thinking? What kind of wife would repeatedly cheat on her hardworking husband and spend all her family’s money on a lavish wardrobe for herself and gifts for her man of the moment; most important of all, what kind of mother was she?

It was almost as if she (Berthe Bovary) came to me in the middle of the night and said, “please tell my story.” Having adopted my beautiful daughter at age 2/12 days I had a big soft spot in my heart for the orphan Berthe Bovary. I totally sympathized with her lack of mother love. Also, I remembered how much I loved Paris when I lived there. I had a strong desire to return-- which I was able to do in my head as I wrote the novel.

The research and writing process of Madame Bovary’s Daughter.

This is the first historical fiction I’ve ever written, so research played a big part. My first two novels were all about me but my life had gotten very boring which is why I turned to historical fiction. I used the Internet almost extensively. I found sites where I could walk through Parisian mansions of the times. Sites that not only showed what women wore but also gave instructions on how to create the gowns that were popular. I bought this great book, Mrs. Beeton’s Household Management which gives you details of absolutely everything you need to know about the running of a house in the 1850’s. You want to serve a 12-course dinner, she’ll tell you how. She’ll also tell you how many servants you need and how many pounds of paté you need to order.

The thing about research is you have to be careful not to let research get in the way of the writing. I tended to get so interested and involved in reading about the Victorian times and France in the 1850’s I would find the whole day had gone by and I hadn’t written a word. So the important thing for me is making sure I’ve got the story going forward. That’s the work part. The fun part is then filling in the historic details. It’s like I have to finish my dinner before I’ve earned my dessert. The other thing about research is that I learned to keep room open for a character I hadn’t thought about before. For example, I suddenly came across the famous couturier Charles Frederick Worth, an Englishman who went to Paris and revolutionized the fashion business. He jumped off the page at me and insisted on being part of my novel. So my advice to writers is always keep a place at the table of your book for an unexpected guest.

Summary of Madame Bovary’s Daughter

What you may remember about Madame Bovary is that she was disappointed in her marriage, shopped a great deal, drove her family into bankruptcy, was abandoned by two lovers, and finally took her own life. With all that drama, who even remembers she had a daughter?

And what ever happened to the only, lonely daughter of the scandalous Madame Bovary? Poor Berthe Bovary. She was neglected, unloved, orphaned and sold into servitude before the age of 13. It seems even Flaubert didn’t have much time for her. She was the most insignificant and ignored character in that great classic novel.

But in Madame Bovary’s Daughter we see how Berthe used the lessons she learned from her faithless, feckless, materialistic mother to overcome extreme adversity and yes, triumph in the end. As a young girl, Berthe becomes a model for famed artist Jean Francois Millet, later a friend to a young German named Levi Strauss and finally a business associate of Charles Frederick Worth, the world’s first courtier.

This is a Sex and the Cité tale of a beautiful woman who goes from rags to riches, from sackcloth to satin, from bed to business. Busy as she is, she still has time to wreak revenge on the one man who broke her mother’s heart. And, of course to have her own heart broken as well.

From her grandmother’s farm, to the cotton mills to the rich society of Paris, it is a constant struggle to not repeat her mother’s mistakes. She is determined not to end up “like mother, like daughter”. And yet she is in a lifelong search for the “mother love” she never had.

Berthe Bovary is a Victorian forerunner of the modern self-made woman.

Thanks so much to Linda Urbach for introducing us to her new novel! If this novel intrigues you as much as it does me, then sign up for the giveaway! The author is offering one lucky follower their own copy of Madame Bovary's Daughter, open to the USA. Please leave your email address in the comments as well. Ends August 6th.

(This post was reprinted with permission via Burton Book Review)

July 13, 2011

Most Influential Monarchs in British History (up to 1603)

Please welcome Robin, of Lady Gwyn's Kingdom, who submits the following guest post:

Most Influential Monarchs in British History (up to 1603)

While awaiting the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton in April, many have wondered what kind of King and Queen these two will become and how their reign will impact Britain. I have thought the same thing but I have also thought back on the many monarchs who have already left their mark on the kingdom. Thus the idea for this post was born and below are the monarchs (up to 1603) who I feel made the biggest impact on England - for good or bad.

1. William the Conqueror

Obviously we need to start at the beginning (or close to it anyway!) and that means the Norman Conquest of 1066. One of the most well known of William's contributions is the Tower of London. He originally built it to show the native English that he was now in charge and he was there to stay. Another of William's contributions to history, and one that may be more important historically, is the Doomsday Book, which was a very complete survey of England at the time (names of towns, who lived there, what they owned, etc, etc). Many customs, especially in the royal court, were formed during William's reign. The Anglo-Saxon ways were slowly erased. The coming of the Normans changed much in England and many of those changes remained through the years.

2. John

This youngest son of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II is usually seen as one of the worst kings in English history but there is one legacy from his reign that made a huge impact on the country and its future - Magna Carta. Because of the lack of trust between John and his barons, Magna Carta was eventually forced on John as a way of controlling some of the monarch's powers. While bits and pieces of this were whittled away over the years, some of the laws set down in the 13th century remain to this day. Some view Magna Carta as a "great constitutional document," the beginnings of the freedoms so many enjoy today.

3. Edward I

This warrior king changed the boundaries of England as no king before him had done. He accomplished what no king before him had managed - the conquest of Wales and Scotland. Granted, England's control of Scotland turned out to be temporary, but Edward did manage to expand England's boundaries and much of that remains in "English" hands to this day. In order to hang on to England's new territory and fill the local populaces with awe, Edward went on a building spree of massive proportions, building many castles along the Welsh border, most of which can be visited today (Caernarfon Castle for example).

4. Henry V

Another of England's warrior kings set quite a bit in motion for England's future, though at the time most of it could not have been imagined. His victory in France gave Englishmen a strong sense of pride, not to mention the desire continue the country's military successes for several generations. After his victory over France and claiming of the French crown (which many English monarchs tried to actually wear), he married the French King's daughter, who in turn gave birth to the future Henry VI, whose reign would be the main battle ground of the Wars of the Roses.

5. Henry VII

While I am not overly fond of the man, I add Henry VII to this list mainly for the fact that had he not been victorious on Bosworth Field, the next two powerful monarchs on my list would not have existed. It is hard to image British history without the presence of this king's son and granddaughter, not to mention the huge changes that occurred during their reigns.

6. Henry VIII

When talking about changes in England we can't overlook Henry's break from the Catholic Church in his quest for a divorce. One could say that, aside from the Norman Conquest in 1066, the break with the Church during Henry's reign is the most significant change in England's history. It certainly was momentous and fueled tension in the country for many years to come. Henry VIII also began the building up of England's Navy, seeing it as a way to help build and secure the empire he so desperately wanted to create.

7. Elizabeth I

Henry VIII's daughter had an equally important impact on England and its future - politically and culturally. The big triumph of Elizabeth's reign is the triumph of the English over the Spanish Armada. There is no way of knowing what England would be like today if Elizabeth and her small navy had not over come the much more powerful Spanish forces. However, Elizabeth's reign is particularly known for the achievements of artists, poets, and playwrights (does the name William Shakespeare ring any bells?); so many achievements and advancements were made during her reign that this literary time period is called the Elizabethan era.

I am well aware that these are not the only monarchs who have made an impact on England throughout its long history. I am also aware that these are just short little bits of information and many of these monarchs did much more than I have mentioned above. I simply wanted to highlight some of the kings (and queen) whose influence can still be seen through the country to this day.

What are your thoughts on these monarchs? Who do you think is one of the most influential monarchs, and who's contributions do you most value?

July 05, 2011

What's on my iPod?- Henry VIII

The following is a bit of humor submitted by Robin of Lady Gwyn's Kingdom. What would you add for iPods of your favorite historical figure?

What's on My iPod? - Henry VIII

If some of our favorite historical figures could show us their Ipods, what would be on them?

First up is Henry VIII! What would this infamous English King have on his Ipod?
1. Ain't No Mountain High Enough - Diana Ross (could fit any wife he's after)
2. It's My Life - Jon Bon Jovi
3. I Got You Babe - Sonny and Cher (again...all wives fit)
4. I'll Make Love to You - Boys II Men (and again, except Anne of Cleves lol!)
5. Anymore - Travis Tritt (yet again, all of them)
6. Don't Take the Girl - Tim McGraw (fits with Jane Seymour)
7. You Can't Always Get What You Want - Rolling Stones
8. I'm Too Sexy - Right Said Fred (too obvious I think, hehe)
9. Heartbreak Hotel - Elvis Presley
10. The Bad Touch - Bloodhound Gang
11. You Give Love a Bad Name - Jon Bon Jovi
12. Greensleeves
13. You're the One that I Want - John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John
14. Bad - Michael Jackson
15. (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction - Rolling Stones (understatement...)
16. Another One Bites the Dust - Queen
17. Henry the Eight - Herman's Hermits

Something along the same lines hit the internet/blogwaves recently and I found it so clever I wanted to share. A Mixed Tape from a Bookseller. Jarek Steele laments over poor sales, the fact that his favorite customer hasn't come in the store recently.. and he has put together an interesting piece on what would be on his iPod, yet.. he's old fashioned so we'll still call it the mixed tape, just for his sanity. Read his article here.

July 01, 2011

Colin Falconer Guest Review of Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Please welcome back author Colin Falconer to Historical Fiction Connection.  He is the author of the upcoming novel Silk Road.



It’s rare these days to find an historical novelist who hasn’t written about the Tudors. The story of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I is rich with intrigue, heaving bosoms, treachery, huge codpieces, starched ruffs, and pale, ambitious, doomed women. Desperate Housewives meets the Rack. You would think that with the number of words - and furlongs of celluloid - dedicated to their story, even just over the last two decades, that the harvest was in, the cellar empty, the bottle dry.

So it was with no little reserve that I approached Hilary Mantels’ WOLF HALL. What else was there to say about the Tudors? Well, quite a lot, apparently.

The novel’s back drop is a defining moment in British history, when Henry wrested power away from the Catholic Church and allowed Britain to worship - and think – for itself. But Bluff King Hal was not motivated by great religious purpose; he was simply in love with a younger woman and wanted a son and heir. He was, as Mantel paints him, a man terrified for his immortal soul but not so concerned that he was going to let anyone – even God - stand in his way.

WOLF HALL follows the contest between Henry and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon; between the Pope and the King; between Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell. But this isn’t the story; this is just the plot. The world to which we are allowed entry is not that of Henry VIII, or the Boleyns, but the much maligned Thomas Cromwell.

We follow his rise from a Putney blacksmith’s son to the second most powerful man in England and if that was all the narrative, it would have made an adequate Jeffrey Archer novel. In Mantel’s hands it becomes something else.

I was prepared for a long and tedious beginning. After all, didn’t this win the Man Booker Prize in 2009? The cast list of the characters at the beginning reads like the telephone listing of a small town. When I picked it up, my heart sank.

I expected the opening paragraph to be a long description of a vase. Instead, on the first page, we meet Thomas Cromwell as a teenager, being kicked unconscious on the cobblestones by his father. Hard not to cheer for him; stay down, son, stay down. If you try and get up again, the next boot will kill you.

His married sister dresses his injuries and he escapes on a boat to France. The next time we encounter him he is chief counsel to the king’s chief counsellor, Cardinal Wolsey. It's a long way from the mud and blood of the Putney yard, but Cromwell isn’t done yet. He is the ultimate fixer, the man who gets things done. “He can draft a contract, train a falcon, draw a map, stop a street fight, furnish a house and fix a jury." He also knows the New Testament by heart. While Wolsey and More crumble under the press of the king’s tantrums and whimsies, Cromwell endures and prevails. When Cromwell falls gets sick the king pays a personal visit to his home to see him well again. Even his bitterest enemies come to rely on him.

Much of Cromwell's history is told in quicksilver flashbacks. They beg more questions than they answer and add to his allure, allowing the reader to recreate the man in their own mind. We expect a monster with a heart like an abacus; instead Mantel shows us an enforcer who champions tolerance, a free-thinker who still ensures that the king has his way. His affection for his family, his ward - even his enemies - disarms. In finding charity in one of history’s villains, she has found the unseen aspect of Henry’s story and rendered it utterly fresh.

In fact she relegates the king and all those wives as well as the religious future of England to an afterword; it’s Cromwell’s fate that captivates. We never do go to Wolf Hall though we sense that is where his fortunes will finally turn.

This is a beautiful and surprisingly tender book. The assumption is that there will be a sequel but I hope she will leave this work to stand alone. We all know that Cromwell came to a nasty end and this lends poignancy to the book’s enigmatic ending.

This is not so much a novel as a portrait, the artist capturing a great man in his moment of pre-eminent glory just before tragedy overtakes him. “Lock Cromwell in a deep dungeon, says Thomas More, and when you come back that night he’ll be sitting on a plush cushion eating larks’ tongues, and all the gaolers will owe him money.” It is the sense of doom unforeseen that lends brilliance to the artist’s precise brushwork.

If you are looking for a bodice ripper or a Ken Follett saga, this is not for you. Mantel’s overuse of the personal pronoun may also drive you to distraction. Who said what? But this time the Booker judges got it exactly right. Cromwell may well charm you in the same way he seduced Henry’s court. When the book ends it is like saying goodbye to an old friend.

Colin Falconer's When We Were Gods - the story of Cleopatra, has just been re-released on Kindle for $5.99. His new novel Silk Road, will be published by Corvus Atlantic on October 1. To find out more, see  and his blog: