I am no longer an Amazon Associate. I am currently working on updating my posts with links to various locations to buy books. One of the links I am including is to RJ Julia - this is my favorite local independent book store. You can shop their store online and have access to pretty much anything you are looking for. I do not have any affiliation with any of these sites - just looking to support my local indie book store.

Anyone looking for a new feed reader? My recommendation is Bloglovin'. I made the switch and love the layout, plus there is now an app for my phone. If you use Bloglovin' or have made the switch to another feed reader, please make sure you are following me on it so you miss none of the content here!

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Mailbox Monday #178


Mailbox Monday this week is entirely digital.  Netgalley...you are my lover and my greatest enemy!!!

legend of shebatheothergirl

Both of my books this week are from Netgalley and are for review:

  • The Legend of Sheba: Rise of a Queen by Tosca Lee - I really LOVED Lee's novel Isacariot and the way she treated the Biblical stories.  I have been interested in the story of Sheba - you always hear her referenced, but I don't know her story.  As soon as I saw another blogger posting about receiving this book, I jumped on it.  Can't wait!
  • The Other Girl by Pam Jenoff - this is a novella companion to Jenoff's novel The Winter Guest (which I also have for review).  I enjoyed the previous novel by Jenoff I read and picked this one up as the companion to The Winter Guest.


That's it for me right now, although I do have several things in the pipeline that will likely arrive this week.  Oh boy!!!

What did you get this week? Looking forward to any of these novels?


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Interview with D.M. Denton

Hi everyone! Today I have the privilege of introducing to you author D.M. Denton.  Denton released her novel A House Near Luccoli in 2012 and has a sequel in the works to be released.  I had the chance to ask her a few questions about her writings and have the answers for you today.  If you haven't heard of her yet (or the subject of her novel, Alessandra Stradella), hopefully after this interview you will want to go pick up her book!


The bio on your website indicates that the writing bug bit you in your childhood and then life happened.  What brought you back to writing in earnest?

About eight years ago a compelling real-life story and character came to my attention and became the novel idea I was looking for. Actually, I never stopped writing altogether, just kept most of it to myself. Closeted boxes and folders of yellowing, curling paper and hopeful half-filled journals can attest to that. And even when I wasn’t actually writing, I was thinking about how I should be doing so. For an artist, whether one finds expression through words, brush or chisel strokes, or musical notation, what goes on in life is for and even because of one’s art. It takes time—more for some than others—to mature personally and creatively. Initially, writing was an escape and a refuge for me, much like reading was. What ‘happened’ as life did, was that I began to value this ‘calling’ enough to commit to it, unfold and experiment with its potential, and, ultimately, believe it could reach out to others.

What is the writing process like for you?  Are you a planner or a spontaneous writer?

It’s an integration of instinct and curiosity, I think. To begin with, I feel the essence of a story rather than have a detailed plan for it. I don’t outline and rarely make notes about a storyline. Of course, there’s no getting round the research that goes into historical fiction, with plenty of note-taking involved. The result is much more information than can or should be used. The spirit of the story, the unveiling and evolving of its actual and fictional characters, and the flow and sensory qualities of the writing are as, if not more, important than its historical basis. Whether I’m writing about hundreds of years or a moment ago, I have to be wholly present to its possibilities. Too much planning can cause me to be pondering, over-protective, even fearful, and limited. Spontaneity causes vulnerability but, also, creates a vitality that heightens sensitivity and awareness, and allows for a chance of magic.

With the novels I’ve written so far I’ve had some idea of their progression as I went along. At least, I was fairly certain what I wanted to transpire a few chapters out. But I was often rewarded by being open to the unexpected. Even beyond the first draft, in edit after edit, I believe my writing has benefited as much from what was never planned on as what was.

In your novel, A House Near Luccoli, the composer Alessandro Stradella is your focal point.  I have never heard of this man before.  What can you tell us about him?  Why choose to write about him?

You are certainly not alone in being unfamiliar with the 17th century Italian composer, Alessandro Stradella. Most classically trained musicians know little about him and many academic studies barely mention him, despite the fact that his output was versatile and copious, included operas, oratorios, serenatas, madrigals, and incidental music, and encompassed both sacred and secular music. In his time, for the best and worst reasons, he was quite a celebrity. After his death, the emphasis of his renown was based more on the messes he had made than the masterpieces. Born of minor nobility in 1639 in Nepi near Rome, Stradella was cultivated but also something of a vagabond. He had excellent opportunities in Rome, Venice, Turin and Genoa, but his impetuous nature entangled him in scandals. Still, he was forgiven his trespasses again and again, and continued to be engaged by royals and other nobility for both grand and domestic occasions. Unusual in his time, he wasn’t tied to any one patron but was more of a freelance composer. His work was no less significant than that of his contemporaries. If anything, it was more passionate and pioneering, impressing other composers, like Handel, enough to freely borrow from him.

How I heard about Stradella was fortuitous, and why I wrote about him quite personal. I first became aware of him thanks to a CBC Radio 2 (Canadian) program called In the Shadows. The announcer played examples of Stradella’s music and related his story. Stradella’s paradoxical genius, charisma, and libertine attitude were very seductive—all the more so because he reminded me of someone I knew. It was a few years later that I decided to write a novel with Stradella as the focus. It wasn’t any easy undertaking as there was so little about him available—no portraits or descriptions of his physical appearance and very sketchy information on the events and relationships in his life. So, I always have to mention how much I’m indebted to musicologist, Carolyn Gianturco, who has dedicated decades to researching his life and his work. Her book, Alessandro Stradella, the Man and his Music, is now considered the definitive biography on him and was my chief source.

Is there a tidbit that didn’t make it into your novel that you would want to share with us?

Stradella almost wasn’t a bachelor when he arrived in Genoa, his status as one important to the premise of A House Near Luccoli. In Turin, three years before A House Near Luccoli is set, he was to marry Agnese Van Uffele, who had fled with him to Turin from Venice where she had been the mistress of Alvise Contarini, a powerful and wealthy Venetian. Contarini had asked Stradella to teach Agnese music and, as was perhaps inevitable with Stradella, they became lovers.

It all became very complicated in Turin, but it seems that eventually Stradella signed a contract to wed Agnese who claimed her old lover Contarini had promised to be generous to her if she ever married. It seemed as if Stradella had, once again, got himself out of a tricky situation, until one evening in October 1677 he was attacked and given a blow on the head that almost killed him. In letters he wrote to one of his patrons shortly afterwards, Agnese was not mentioned and never was again in any of his surviving correspondences.

Your novel is set in Genoa, Italy – have you ever had the chance to go to the area where your novel is set?

No, I haven’t been to Genoa, at least not bodily. Traveling there wasn’t an option when I decided to write A House Near Luccoli. However, I couldn’t let that stop me. Thanks to the internet and some wonderful books with excellent information and visuals, and after years of imaginatively ‘living there’, I feel as if I’ve actually seen its churches, caruggi (alleyways), palaces, plazas, and harbor, and have an inherent understanding of its culture, history, and overall sense of itself. I’m sure that if I ever do travel to this often overlooked Italian city, I will recognize it as I place I’m returning to and not visiting for the first time.

You are working on a sequel to A House Near Luccoli.  How is that process going?  Did you always intend for a sequel or was it something that developed organically?

I’m pleased to report that the sequel, To A Strange Somewhere Fled, is finished and in the queue for editing and publishing by All Things That Matter Press. It moves the female protagonist of A House Near Luccoli, Donatella, from Genoa to a small village in late Restoration England (a village called Wroxton in Oxfordshire where I actually lived for 16 years). She mingles with some very interesting historical and fictional characters, music and its masters not done with her yet, including the great English composer, Henry Purcell. The title is taken from a line in a 17thcentury poem, The Despair, by Abraham Cowley. I just finished a painting to be used for the cover design—I did the artwork for A House Near Luccoli, too—and love that my publisher allows me to be so involved in the presentation of the book.

Initially, I saw A House Near Luccoli as a stand-alone novel, and it certainly can be read as such. The seeds of a sequel were planted as I was writing A House Near Luccoli and it became as much about Donatella’s journey as Stradella’s. I began working on it even before I knew A House Near Luccoli would ever be published.

My full name is Diane M Denton (nee DiGiacomo), a native of Buffalo, New York. My writing life began as a child retreating into the stories and poems that came to me, always believing that writing was the love I would keep and that would keep me.  Early on, I developed an interest in history, especially European history, while my participation in and appreciation of music was encouraged through memories shared about my maternal grandmother, who was a concert pianist in Chicago in the 1920’s.  My early pursuits also included drawing and painting—and acting, which I eventually gave up, admitting that my inclination for drama was better written than acted out, my imagination more consistent than my courage.

You can learn more about the author and her works at the following locations: Website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Here are some choices for purchasing the book: Amazon, B&N, RJ Julia (my fav indie bookstore).

A House Near Luccoli Book Blurb:

Over three years since the charismatic composer, violinist, and singer Alessandro Stradella sought refuge in the palaces and twisted alleys of Genoa, royally welcomed despite the alleged scandals and even crimes that forced him to flee from Rome, Venice, and Turin, his professional and personal life have begun to unravel again. He is offered, by the very man he is rumored to have wronged, a respectable if slightly shabby apartment and yet another chance to redeem his character and career. He moves in to the curiosity and consternation of his caretakers, also tenants, three women whose reputations are of concern only to themselves.

Donatella, still unmarried in her mid-thirties, is plainly irrelevant. Yet, like the city she lives in, there are hidden longings in her, propriety the rule, not cure, for what ails her. She cares more for her bedridden grandmother and cats than overbearing aunt, keeping house and tending to a small terraced garden, painting flowers and waxing poetic in her journal.

At first, she is in awe of and certain she will have little to do with Stradella. Slowly, his ego, playfulness, need of a copyist and camouflage involve her in an inspired and insidious world, exciting and heartbreaking as she is enlarged by his magnanimity and reduced by his missteps, forging a friendship that challenges how far she will go.


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Caught on Tape: Pablo Picasso

caught on tape

Pablo Picasso is one of the great modern artists and one that we actually have on film. I think it makes it harder to make films of a historical figure who has actually been on film before. It requires a little more effort than portraying those who we only have descriptions and paintings of, or even those we only have passing reference. I thought I would start this edition of Caught on Tape off with a clip of the actual Picasso, to compare with. Here, Picasso is painting.

Surviving Picasso (1996)

“The passionate Merchant-Ivory drama tells the story of Francoise Gilot, the only lover of Pablo Picasso who was strong enough to withstand his ferocious cruelty and move on with her life.” (IMDB)

Surviving Picasso is about the last significant lover of Pablo Picasso - Francoise Gilot – and it is really her story that is being told her, how she survived a life with the famous artist. The relationship between the two is given center stage here. We also see depictions of the other women in Picasso’s life, Olga Khokhlova (1st wife and mother of his son Paulo), Dora Marr (one of his lovers), Marie-Therese Walter (one of his lovers and mother of his daughter Maya), and Jacqueline Rocque (Picasso’s 2nd wife). I think it would be interesting to see how all of these women interacted with him and each other. The great Anthony Hopkins plays Picasso here, he feels like a creepy old man to me here – also of note is Julianne Moore, as Dora Maar. The movie didn’t get all that great of reviews.

Modigliani (2004)

“The story of Amedeo Modigliani's bitter rivalry with Pablo Picasso, and his tragic romance with Jeanne Hebuterne.” (IMDB)

Modigliani is about the artist of the same name – and a central focus of the story is his relationship with and rivalry with Pablo Picasso. They are both competing for the same art prize. And there is also the relationship with his lover, Jeanne. I have never heard of Modigliani, especially in reference to Picasso – so I find this story rather interesting, his life was rather sad. Modigliani is portrayed by Andy Garcia, who looks somewhat like the artist. Picasso is portrayed by Omid Djalili.

Youtube has the entire film, if you watch the first 5 minutes you will see Picasso and Modigliani and how the contest begins. The film is described as not the best artist biography.

Midnight in Paris (2011)

“While on a trip to Paris with his fiancĂ©e's family, a nostalgic screenwriter finds himself mysteriously going back to the 1920s every day at midnight.” (IMDB)

Midnight in Paris – while a ridiculous conceptual movie, features Owen Wilson moving through the artistic world of the French Belle Epoch. One of the artists he meets along the way is Pablo Picasso. Picasso’s mistress of the moment in this film is Adriana – and she becomes the love interest of Owen Wilson’s character, Gil. This Picasso is in his earlier years and the scene that I have chosen for you below is when Picasso and Gertrude Stein are arguing about his new style – Adriana appears too.

La Banda Picasso [aka. Picasso’s Gang] (2012)

“Based on the real robbery of the Mona Lisa in 1911, when young Pablo Picasso and his friends were the prime suspects of the robbery. Could it be that the future master actually led a gang of international art thieves?” (IMDB)

La Banda Picasso is described as a comedy crime film and offers a telling of the theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in 1911. Picasso was questioned in connection with this theft as were several of his artistic circle. Those of Picasso’s gang featured in this film are: Guillaume Apollinaire, Max Jacob, Manolo Hugue, Fernande Olivier, Gery Pieret, Gertrude Stein, and Alice B. Toklas and more. If you watch the trailer below, it looks like a rollicking comedic adventure – however, it is actually a plodding look at the artistic group in Paris, with some attention to the theft (so the preview is a little decieiving). The story and times feel very true to life for the period.

Pablo Picasso is brought to life here by actor Ignacio Mateos. French film with English subtitles. The film is available via Amazon Instant Video (that’s how I watched it).

What do you think of these renditions of Picasso? Have you seen any of these films? I like that these films cover a wide range of Picasso’s life (and loves).  I don't know who I like the best as "Picasso", I don't think any of them represented him too well. 



Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Book Review: Madame Picasso by Anne Girard + Giveaway


Madame Picasso by Anne Girard
ARC, Kindle e-book 432 pages
Harlequin MIRA
August 26, 2014
★★★★ ½☆

goodreads button

Genre: Historical/Art Fiction

Source: Received for review as part of HFVBT tour

“The mesmerizing and untold story of Eva Gouel, the unforgettable woman who stole the heart of the greatest artist of our time.

When Eva Gouel moves to Paris from the countryside, she is full of ambition and dreams of stardom. Though young and inexperienced, she manages to find work as a costumer at the famous Moulin Rouge, and it is here that she first catches the attention of Pablo Picasso, a rising star in the art world.

A brilliant but eccentric artist, Picasso sets his sights on Eva, and Eva can't help but be drawn into his web. But what starts as a torrid affair soon evolves into what will become the first great love of Picasso's life.

With sparkling insight and passion, Madame Picasso introduces us to a dazzling heroine, taking us from the salon of Gertrude Stein to the glamorous Moulin Rouge and inside the studio and heart of one of the most enigmatic and iconic artists of the twentieth century.”

I love reading art fiction – whether it is about bringing a work of art to life or showing us the lives of artists in a novel setting. Anne Girard brings us the life of Pablo Picasso as seen through the eyes of one of his mistresses, Eva Gouel. At the same time, we are treated to learning about this little known woman in his life, Belle Epoch Paris, and the little group of artists that came together at that time.

This was not my first introduction to this group of artists – I have seen this little band in a couple of films – but I thought that Girard did an excellent job of representing these characters. The actresses at the Moulin Rouge were entertaining and enjoyable, while I found myself disliking pretty much all of the women moving within the art circle – maybe with exception of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. The rivalries and tensions between the different groups (artists and the actresses) were palpable and great fodder for fiction.

Anne Girard crafted characters that you could totally love and feel for. I can honestly say that I cried as the end of the novel arrived. It has been a little while since a novel has made me cry. It was a great way to end the novel, even if I found it to be a tear-jerker.

This is the first novel being published under the name of Anne Girard, however she has published many novels under the name Diane Haeger. You can visit Girard’s website for additional information about the book. If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book?

You can also watch the book trailer below.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Here are some choices for purchasing the book: Amazon, B&N, RJ Julia (my fav indie bookstore).

04_Madame Picasso_BlogTour Banner_FINAL

You can follow along with the rest of the tour by visiting the HFVBT site or on Twitter with the following hashtag: #MadamePicassoBlogTour.

I also have a giveaway that I can offer to my blog readers courtesy of the HFVBT tour!

It is open to those residing in the US and is for 1 paperback copy of Madame Picasso.  The last day to enter is September 20th.  Entries are made through the Rafflecopter widget below.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Mailbox Monday #177


Mailbox Monday on Wednesday!  This Mailbox on another day of the week thing is beginning to become a regular occurrence...anyway here is what I received this week!

city of glorygeneseeInglorious_Royal_Marriagesneverhomewarsoftheroses

5 books this week! 3 purchased for my Kindle and the other two are for review:

  • City of Glory by Beverly Swerling (purchased for my Kindle) is book 2 in a 4 book series about New York City.  I anticipate it is something like New York by Edward Rutherfurd, but I'm excited to check out the series - of which I now only own book 2. 
  • Genesee by Juliet Waldron (purchased for my Kindle) - I hosted this author for review a few months ago and at that time I added her books to my TBR.  This is the first one to come up in my purchase window.
  • The Wars of the Roses by Alison Weir (purchased for my Kindle) - I am slowly, ever so slowly, collecting Weir's books.
  • Inglorious Royal Marriages by Leslie Carroll (received from publisher for review as part of HFVBT tour).  I have LOVED Carroll's books and I can't wait to read this next one!
  • Neverhome by Laird Hunt (received via Netgalley for review).  I saw this book on a trend list last week and had to get it.  It is one of those novels about a woman disguising herself as a man to go to war.

What came in your mailbox (or inbox) this week?

Mailbox Monday has returned to its home base blog. You can visit the site to see what everyone received this week!



Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, September 1, 2014

Book Review: Shadow on the Highway by Deborah Swift

Shadow on the Highway

Shadow on the Highway by Deborah Swift
Book 1 in The Highway Trilogy
PDF, ARC, 192 pages
Endeavor Press
July 15, 2014
★★★★ ½☆

goodreads button

Genre: Historical fiction, YA

Source: Received from publisher for HFVBT tour

“May 1651.  England has been in the midst of a civil war for nearly ten years. The country has been torn in two, and the King is getting ready to make his last stand against Cromwell’s New Model Army.
Abigail Chaplin, a young deaf girl, has lost her father to the parliamentarian cause.  But with her family now in reduced circumstances, she is forced to work as a servant at a royalist household - the estate of Lady Katherine Fanshawe.

Abi is soon caught up in a web of sinister secrets which surround the Fanshawe estate. The most curious of which is the disappearance of Lady Katherine late at night.  Why are her husband’s clothes worn and muddy even though he hasn’t been home for weeks?  How is she stealing out of the house late at night when her room is being guarded?  And what is her involvement with the robberies being committed by the mysterious Silent Highwayman?

‘Shadow On The Highway’ is based on the life and legend of Lady Katherine Fanshawe, the highwaywoman, sometimes known as ‘The Wicked Lady’. It is the first book in ‘The Highway Trilogy’.”

I have been a fan of Deborah Swift’s books and have read all but The Lady’s Slipper so far. Her book tend to be lengthy, full of atmospheric detail, and full of wonderfully developed characters and plots. Seeing that this book is only 192 pages, I wondered if it would be possible to have that same level of writing in these few pages. I assure you, my concerns turned out to be unfounded and Shadow on the Highway is a wonderful short novel and beginning to a trilogy that I look forward to reading more of.

I was amazed by the depth of character that was able to be forged within these few pages. Even the more periphery characters were fleshed out. The character’s motivations were present and compelling. I felt for Abi, as well as Lady Katherine Fanshawe (you may not at the beginning, but she will grow on you!). There is a little sense of mystery that compels you forward through the pages to learn what happens next.

I was surprised to learn that this book is somewhat directed at younger readers, but would also be appropriate for adults too. I guess that this would be because the main character is a young girl, but I never once felt like I was reading anything directed particularly at a younger audience. It felt simply like a shorter version of Swifts other novels. Actually, it didn’t really feel shorter at all – which is amazing considering it is at least 50% shorter than her other novels, but that just attests to how well written this book is, that it can evoke the same feel as reading a full length novel.

Here is a little something that the author had to say about this book and the trilogy: “This is a shorter, more lightweight novel than my other books, which sometimes run to more than 400 pages. The story itself naturally fell into three parts and so it made sense to divide the narrative into three books of about 200 pages each, and form a trilogy. Each book is a stand-alone story with a different main character, but each book features Abi, Katherine and Ralph. I hope the subject matter will appeal to younger readers of historical fiction - but that is not to say adults won't enjoy it too!”

Author Deborah Swift also has written: The Lady’s Slipper, The Gilded Lily, and A Divided Inheritance. You can visit Deborah’s website or blog for additional information about the book.

My reviews of other books by this author:

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Here are some choices for purchasing the book: Amazon, B&N, RJ Julia (my fav indie bookstore).

03_Shadow on the Highway_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

You can follow along with the rest of the tour by visiting the HFVBT site or on Twitter with the following hashtag: #ShadowontheHighwayBlogTour

There is also a tour wide giveaway opportunity - it is not being run by The Maiden's Court.

To win a Paperback or eBook of Shadow on the Highway please complete the Rafflecopter giveaway form below. Five copies of each are up for grabs. Giveaway is open internationally.

  • Giveaway ends at 11:59pm on September 15th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
  • Winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter on September 16th and notified via email.
  • Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Weekend Cooking: Lobster Bisque

Weekend Cooking

This week’s Weekend Cooking is a continuation of the post from last weekend. Using the lobster stock we created last weekend (in theory) we use it to make lobster bisque!  The recipe is again from the Mystic Seafood cookbook.  I changed mine up a little from the recipe, but I will go into that a little later.

mystic seafood

Here are a few more historical lobster tidbits…that you always wanted to know:

  • Did you know…in the 1700’s, lobsters were so inexpensive they were frequently fed to servants, and some servants tired of eating lobster stipulated in their contracts that they would be fed the crustaceans only a certain number of days a week?
  • Did you know…in WWII lobster was not among the foods rationed because it was considered a delicacy – leading to an increase in lobster consumption by the wealthy?
  • Did you know…native peoples of the United States used lobsters as fertilizer and bait for fishing?

Lobster Bisque
Serves 6

½ cup butter
1 medium onion, finely diced
½ cup celery, finely diced
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
Pinch of thyme
¼ teaspoon paprika
¼ cup flour
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons sherry, divided
½ cup tomato juice
1 tablespoon lobster base plus 3 cups water or 3 cups lobster stock
Hot sauce, sea salt, and pepper to taste
1 cup heavy cream
1 bay leaf


1) Melt butter in a large stock pot over low heat. Saute the onion, celery, and garlic until soft. Add the thyme and paprika and cook 1-2 minutes longer.
2) Stir in the flour a little at a time until you have a roux or thin paste. Cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently. Whisk in ½ cup of sherry and cook another minute.
3) Whisk in the tomato juice along with the lobster base and water or lobster stock. Add bay leaf and simmer until the mixture begins to thicken, stirring constantly.
4) Season with hot sauce, sea salt, and pepper if desired. Simmer another 5 minutes.
5) Stir in the heavy cream and remaining 2 tablespoons of sherry. Reduce the heat to less than a simmer and stir until the soup is piping hot.


Here are the changes that I made from the original recipe: I used store bought seafood stock in place of lobster stock (I couldn’t find lobster base and wasn’t making stock) and I added in minced lobster meat during the last 5 minutes of simmering to make a heartier soup. And boy did this come out good. It was slightly spicy (from the hot sauce) while being smooth and creamy. It was also very easy to make and not much prep time.

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads. Any post remotely related to cooking can participate.


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court