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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Giveaway of The Deathly Portent by Elizabeth Bailey

I noticed this evening that I forgot to post the giveaway for The Deathly Portent by Elizabeth Bailey when her guest post ran earlier this week.  Ooops!  So, better late than never!

I have one copy of The Deathly Portent by Elizabeth Bailey - book 2 in the Lady Fan mystery series!  Open to the USA and Canada.  Last day to enter is May 19, 2012.  Enter below by filling out the form.  Notice that there is +1 entry for visiting and commenting on her guest post.  If you already left a comment please just indicate that in the form.






Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Winners of Empress of the Seven Hills

Good morning everyone!  Hope you are having a great weekend.  Just wanted to take a quick minute to announce the 2 winners of the giveaway for Empress of the Seven Hills by Kate Quinn – I know it is what you all are waiting for!  So here they are…your winners….

Angela Holland and Valerie N!  Congrats!

I am sending out emails now to the winners.  Please respond back to me within 7 days with you information or I will have to pick new winners. 

Thanks to all who entered!

 

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Friday, April 27, 2012

Guest Post by M.G. Scarsbrook

Today I have the chance to bring you another wonderful guest post this week, this time from author M.G. Scarsbook.  He has written the historical novels Poison in the Blood: The Memoirs of Lucrezia Borgia and The Marlowe Conspiracy and has written an intriguing post for us today on Lucrezia Borgia. 

Lucrezia Borgia: The Most Evil Woman in History…or the Most Wronged?

Guest Post by M.G. Scarsbrook, Author of
Poison in the Blood

Book Cover of Poison in the Blood by M.G. Scarsbrook

Once described as the 'greatest whore there ever was in Rome', the legend of Lucrezia Borgia has captivated people for centuries with wild accounts of her crimes. Some have called her a poisoner, an evil seductress, a femme fatale, and many artists have portrayed her negatively in books, plays, and operas.

But who was Lucrezia exactly? Did she really deserve her poor reputation?

In 1492, when Lucrezia Borgia was still a young noblewoman, her father became Pope Alexander VI and raised her family into one of the most powerful forces in Renaissance Italy. Known for his ruthless ambition, Alexander VI immediately started eliminating all political enemies, while also elevating his children to prestigious positions within the church and state. Lucrezia's eldest brother Cesare became a shrewd and merciless Captain-General of the Papal army, even serving as the inspiration for Machiavelli's 'The Prince'. And Lucrezia herself, despite being less than 20 years of age, was given the governorship of several cities within papal control.

The reign of the Borgias swiftly became the most scandalous era in papal history, marked by constant wars, assassinations, murder, unbridled extravagance, debauchery and allegations of incest. Many political rivals to the Borgias were stabbed, strangled, or poisoned, including cardinals, ambassadors, and the barons of prominent roman families. It was claimed the Borgias dispatched many of their enemies with a custom-made poison called 'Cantarella' – a white, slow-acting powder, sweet to the taste and perfect for use at banquets. Lucrezia was even rumored to possess a ring with a tiny poison capsule which she used to secretly empty venom into someone’s drink.

An interesting legend... but is it true?

It should be noted that almost no one in her own time accused Lucrezia of the plots and killings attributed to her family. There is also no historical evidence to suggest Lucrezia ever participated in the crimes of Cesare and Alexander. Her contemporaries in Rome merely felt her reputation was tarnished by tales of incest and promiscuity – unlikely allegations made by enemies of the Borgias.

In reality, during her tumultuous life, Lucrezia managed to overcome the damaged reputation she suffered from the actions of her family. After her father died in 1503, and Cesare was swiftly imprisoned, Lucrezia was no longer used as a pawn to increase the power of the House of Borgia. Instead, she left Rome and married a Duke in the distant lands of Ferrara, quickly settling into her new role as a Duchess. Over time, she reinvented herself as a generous patron of the arts, a loving mother of seven children, and a kind benefactor of many charities. By her death in 1519, many people mourned her loss and she was buried with great honor in the highest church in Ferrara, the disgraceful allegations from her past now long forgotten.

This is the story I explore in my latest novel, Poison In The Blood: The Memoirs of Lucrezia Borgia. Set in Renaissance Rome, during the height of Borgia power, my novel follows Lucrezia's struggle to escape her dangerous family before they destroy her life forever. After discovering that her new husband is next to die, Lucrezia must help him flee the city before the assassins strike. But as tragedy looms ever closer, and her plans gradually, fail, she finds herself confronting an enemy far more sinister than she ever imagined...

Thanks for taking the time to read this today!

MG Scarsbrook

Thank you for writing this wonderfully informative guest post for us today!  You can find out more about his books on his website or Goodreads.

 

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Movie Review: Amistad

Amistad Movie Poster

Amistad
DreamWorks SKG
155 mins.
December 10, 1997
Rated: R

Amistad is the telling of the slave revolt on the ship Amistad and the subsequent United States court cases regarding whose property they were and what was to be done with them. I think that overall this film does a decent job at providing the viewer with the essential plot points although there was some confusion in my house regarding just what the court cases were about.

Let’s first consider the actors in this film. First, there is an obvious lack of any female actresses; the most notable being the small role of Queen Isabella of Spain (played by a young Anna Paquin). This is a male dominated film for sure. Matthew McConaughey performs in one of his most serious roles of his acting career and carries it quite well. He is the lead attorney, Roger Sherman Baldwin, for the Africans from the Amistad in the Connecticut court case. Anthony Hopkins, who I have found wonderful in any role, plays former President John Quincy Adams to perfection. He is one of the attorneys for the Africans when the case is taken before the Supreme Court. He has a great mix of a serious, dour demeanor, with a little humor thrown in. Morgan Freeman plays Theodore Joadson, a free black man who is somehow involved; his character was one that I never quite pinned down the importance of except to act as a foil to the enslaved men. But the most probable scene stealer is Djimon Hounsou, who plays Cinque, one of the African men. Although he speaks mostly in an African language and only says a few English words, the performance he puts on is spectacular. I have loved him in every movie – he is quite a great actor who is often overlooked.

One of the things that I found most interesting and poignant was when they showed the flashback scenes of the Africans at home, being captured, and on the Amistad. It was great to see some of their back story and really helped make them characters who you cared about rather than cut and paste characters. The scenes of Cinque at home with his wife and child were beautiful.

Overall this was an interesting film that pretty much stuck with the facts of the trial; however it did seem to emphasize slavery as one of the main issues, when that wasn’t really the case. The issue of the trial was over property rights and the international slave trade.

Be advised that there are some scenes of nudity and brutality. These scenes were necessary to portray just what the Africans were subject to while on board the Amistad and were well done.

Check out this trailer:

 

 

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Guest Post by Elizabeth Bailey

Today I have the opportunity to host Elizabeth Bailey who wrote a very interesting guest post for us on tobacco use in Georgian times.  Elizabeth writes a historical mystery series, the Lady Fan Mysteries.  Without further ado, please read on !

Pipes, Snuff, and Poison

Guest Post by Elizabeth Bailey, Author of
The Deathly Portent

Book cover of The Deathly Portent by Elizabeth Bailey

Looking at images of Georgian life, one gets the impression that the use of tobacco was neither general nor widespread. Caricatures tend to depict an exaggerated truth, and only in a few does one find a pipe smoker, and in none a man taking snuff.

Rowlandson shows one soldier smoking in a group of five, and similarly one working man among seven in a pub. A few men are depicted taking a pipe at their own hearth. Ackermann’s Fleet Prison yard, with groups enough to form a crowd, has one lone fellow with smoke issuing from his long clay pipe. Only Hogarth has half the males smoking pipes in a single group, and that is in a scene of drunken debauch!

Hogarth

It seems fair to assume, then, that although smoking was prevalent not everyone indulged in the habit; those who did confined their pipes to the pub, the coffee house or home. One can also be confident that far fewer women than men took tobacco at all, although an image of an elderly working class dame with a pipe pops up occasionally.

Clearly many did use snuff, because it was a high production trade and is mentioned in contemporary accounts. But although tobacco had a place, it seems unlikely that its use was anything like as widespread as it was during the earlier years of the twentieth century. Yet those Georgians who disapproved of the use of tobacco appear convinced that it was highly prevalent in their own time.

I have not yet killed off a character with tobacco, but I well might. The dangers were known. Tobacco is listed in a late 18th Century treatise on poisons. According to the writer, there was evidence to suggest it was an active poison, “yet everyone knows that under the influence of habit it is used in immense quantities over the whole world as an article of luxury, without any bad effect having ever been clearly traced to it.”

Much was made of the effects of snuff on workmen who manufactured it, some sources claiming it gave them bronchitis and dysentery among other ailments, but others managed to prove that workmen became used to it and didn’t suffer any ill effects. As ever, those with a vested interest will find a way to prove their point!

Such symptoms as were noted are known to us now: speeded up heart rate, giddiness, shortness of breath, spasms, fainting, sickness, weak pulse and sleepiness. One doctor suspected apoplexy (heart attack) “is one of the evils in train of that disgusting practice”, referring to taking snuff. Two young men actually died from tobacco poisoning, having smoked about “seventeen pipes at a sitting”. One wonders how that compares with 20 or 40 a day now?

We are indebted to a French chemist of the era, Vauquelin, for naming the killer substance in tobacco as nicotine. Later chemists argued about which precise part of tobacco caused the problems, but it was generally agreed that tobacco contained an “acrid, alkaline principle and an essential oil to which the alkaloid adheres with great obstinacy”, which was bad news.

As early as King James, who wrote “The Counter-Blaste to Tobacco” within a few years of its introduction into Europe by Sir Walter Raleigh, it was believed that the smoking habit would result in “evil consequences” because of its poisonous qualities. Some governments tried to stop its introduction, although their methods were harsher than our current bans on smoking in public places. Popes excommunicated those who smoked in St Peters; in Russia it was punished with amputation of the nose; and in the Canton of Bern it ranked next to adultery.

Did that make any difference? Not according to the treatise writer: “Like every other persecuted novelty, however, smoking and snuff-taking passed from place to place with rapidity; and now there appear to be only two luxuries which yield to it in prevalence, spirituous liquors and tea.”

Plus ça change, plus c’est la meme chôse!

I suspect the anti-tobacco sentiment we now live with had its effect on my writing without conscious decision, because Francis does not indulge in this habit, although Ottilia is addicted to coffee. But one could not faithfully write of the Georgian world without including tobacco, and Jeremiah Wagstaff fills the bill in The Deathly Portent, smoking his clay pipe in his corner of the Cock and Bottle.

Elizabeth Bailey, author

Thanks Elizabeth for this wonderful post!  It has been great to have you here!  The Deathly Portent is available in the US in April and the UK in June.  You can visit Elizabeth at her website for more information about her books.

 

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Weekend Cooking: Review of Entertaining Newport Style

Weekend Cooking

This week for Weekend Cooking I thought I would do something a little different – review one of my historical cookbooks!  Mostly, I didn’t have any time this week to do any historical cooking.  Several of the recipes that I have made for this feature have come from Entertaining Newport Style and I have made many others from it over the years, so I feel most qualified to review this one. 

entertaining newport style

               
        Entertaining Newport Style
        The Preservation Society of Newport County
         Favorite Recipes Press
         2005
         142 pages
         93 recipes

 

This is so much more than just a cookbook. 

The pictures included inside of the Newport mansions are absolutely stunning.  A visual experience as well as a tasting experience.  

The recipes are broken down by mansions and theme.  So for example there is a tea party menu at Marble House.  The themed menus include: Lunch Inside the Great Hall; Cocktails and Canapés on the Loggia; French-Inspired Formal Dinner Party; Tea Party; Wicker Basket Picnic on a Boat; Holiday Open House; Wine Tasting in the Garden; White Ball: Dinner and Dancing; Garden Party Under the Tent; Casual Outdoor Barbecue; Housewarming; Weekend Brunch Breakfast; and Children’s Birthday Party.  As you can see, this book includes recipes you could pretty much use for all occasions you will encounter.  You have the option of making an entire menu with all of the planning work done for you or just selecting the items you want to make.  The recipes also cover appetizers, drinks, main dishes, side dishes, and deserts.

This book would be for your average experienced cook.  Some of the recipes can be quite complex, such as Pan-Seared Georges Bank Sea Scallops with White Truffle Aioli, or quite easy, such as Cherry Tomatoes Stuffed with Egg Salad (one of my favorites!).  But there is a nice mix and more fall toward the easy to average side. 

Aside from the recipes, themed menus, and gorgeous pictures, this book provides sidebars with tidbits of information.  As you encounter each of the mansions (and gardens) you are provided with historical information about the mansions and usually information related to that mansion and the themed menu or event included in that section.  There are also other helpful sidebars such as: Fleur de Lis napkin folding instructions; How to make easy holiday potpourri; Choosing stemware; International rules of croquet; and Buffet fold napkin folding instructions. 

As you can see, this cookbook provides an incredible experience of food, travel, and tips of all kinds.  I would highly recommend this cookbook, almost everything I have made from it has been exquisite (I would however not recommend the Smoked Salmon Mousse on Toast Points!  See my Weekend Cooking post for that experience.)

You can purchase the book at the Newport Mansions website.

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

 

 

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Giveaway Winners and Updates

Good morning all!

I have a couple of winners to announce today and wanted to give some updates of other giveaways going on.

First, the winners of The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory – of which there are 2.
the lady of the rivers

These winners are…Faith Hough! and Cyn209!  Congrats!

Now for the winner of The King’s Agent by Donna Russo Morin…
TheKingsAgentTourButton

The winner is…Linda B!  Congrats!

To all of the winners: I have sent out an email to you requesting your mailing information.  Please send it to me within 7 days and I will pass it on to the publisher.  If I don’t hear from you I will select a replacement winner.  If for some reason you don’t get my email please contact me!


Now for a giveaway update:

There are still 2 active giveaways happening.  You can always find giveaways posted in the right sidebar.  Currently we have Empress of the Seven Hills by Kate Quinn (2 copies – USA and Canada) and The Sumerton Woman by D.L. Bogdan (1 copy – International). 

 

 

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Preview of Upcoming Movie–Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter

I wanted to share a preview of an upcoming movie with you all.  I first saw this preview while waiting for The Hunger Games to begin.  The theatre cracked up laughing when they saw the title – however, I’m sure they are not familiar with the trend of late to merge classic stories or historical events/characters with a supernatural element.

Seth Grahame-Smith is the writer of Pride & Prejudice & Zombies as well as Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter – the later of which is coming out in theatres in June 2012 and the former is currently in production stages.

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter is based on the premise that Lincoln had a secret mission to rid the US of vampires – and all of this is outlined in his secret diaries.  I have not read the book, although it is on my TBR pile, however my boyfriend has and enjoyed it.  Here is his review, at Lions and Men, if you would like to get a feel for the book.  

Anyway – as laughable as the premise may be, what you see on the screen looks quite stunning – and we will likely be going to see it. 

After watching the preview, what do you think?

 

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Interview with D.L. Bogdan

Good morning everyone.  It is my pleasure to host author, D.L. Bogdan today as part of her tour for her newest release The Sumerton Woman.  She has graciously taken the time to answer a few questions for us and stay tuned at the end for a great giveaway.  Without further ado…Book Cover of The Sumerton Woman by D.L. Bogdan

Your books thus far have primarily focused on characters that are on the periphery of history, rather than about the historical stars themselves. Why choose these characters for your novels?

I was hoping to utilize a more original angle on a familiar story and shed light on some of the historical figures who are, at least to me, as fascinating as their much-covered counterparts. I feel the main cast has had more than enough wonderful works covering their lives and loves, and wasn’t sure what more I could lend to them. My hope was by introducing some new cast members I could keep interest in the Tudor story generated and show readers how other lives were affected by the tumultuous happenings of the time.

Is it more difficult to write about these less famous characters or is it more liberating because you have more freedom to create? Is it difficult to find information during your researching?

It was definitely a process I learned more about as I plodded along. In some ways I felt it was more liberating because as an entertainer I could find creative ways to fill in the gaps in their lives, which especially in the case of Mary Howard, the subject of my first novel, were not as well documented. Learning how to ferret out research, cross reference, and determine what sources were credible and would fit with my vision for the work posed quite a challenge. Sometimes the research process alternated between joyous discovery and frustrating dead ends with conflicting information, or no information at all! There are advantages and disadvantages to the device as there are with any other, but in all it was a great experiment for me and helped me learn more about writing historical fiction and how to express myself artistically while being as true to my characters as possible.

What is it for you that pulls you, as a writer, to the Tudor period? Are there any other periods or places that you think you might want to write about some day?

I enjoyed the Tudor period because of the powerful, dynamic characters/historical figures, each struggling with timeless issues so relevant to the human condition regardless of the era. But of course, I do love the fashions, along with the scope and magnitude of the settings (the vistas, castles, and palaces) so many fascinating stories took place. However, many eras have their own pull and I am very interested in exploring different periods, especially the 19th century. I enjoy the history of the British Empire and feel it lends itself well to many different eras, characters, and situations waiting to have novels crafted about them!

The covers of your books are gorgeous and I love that the one cover of The Sumerton Women you can see their faces. Have you had any contributions to cover selection?

Honestly, no I didn’t, but thank you so much for the compliment! I gave my editor the general idea of what my characters looked like along with pictures of the fashions from the era, and the art team at Kensington took it from there. I must say the cover for THE SUMERTON WOMEN is my personal favorite thus far, and I love that we can see their faces as well!

Are you currently working on anything new at this time? Is there anything that you want to share with us about it?

I have another Tudor era novel coming out in 2013, however, unfortunately, I cannot yet reveal what it is about, though I am quite excited about it. I am currently working on something completely different and am eager to take my work in a new direction!

Random question – if you could go back in time, where would you want to go and why?

I’d have to time travel hop! I’d make stops in 30’s-40’s Hollywood, Victorian England, Calcutta at the height of the British Raj, visit the Tudors and Plantagenets (and be perfectly behaved so as to leave with my head), and ancient Rome. There are too many amazing time periods and historical figures to confine myself to just one stop!

Author D.L. Bogdan

D.L. Bogdan is an ongoing student of history, musician, and avid reader who enjoys travel, the outdoors, and time with her family and friends. She is a proud wife and mother who makes her home in central Wisconsin. She is the author of Secrets of the Tudor Court, Rivals in the Tudor Court and The Sumerton Women.

For more information on D.L. Bogdan and her novels, please visit her WEBSITE.  You can also find her on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.

The Sumerton Women Tour Button

You can follow the rest of the tour at the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour website or on Twitter using #SumertonWomenVirtualTour


Now for the giveaway…I have one copy of The Sumerton Woman up for grabs.  The giveaway is open internationally.  To enter, simply fill out the form below.  Giveaway closes May 5th, 2012.  Good luck!

 

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Ranking John Quincy Adams

JWA

Ranking the President’s of the United States can be a very complex endeavor – however the Siena Research Institute does it every few years or so. Their most recent results came out in 2010. They typically survey a large number of historians and politicos and ask them to rate the presidents on 20 different categories on a scale of 1 to 5. They then weigh these categories to come up with the overall result and compare.

For 2010 he is overall ranked #19, but let’s take a look at where he fell in each category:

Background (family, education, experience): 2nd
Party Leadership: 34th
Communication Ability (speaking, writing): 20th
Relationship with Congress: 35th
Court Appointments: 16th
Handling of US Economy: 14th
Luck: 30th
Ability to Compromise: 29th
Willing to Take Risks: 23rd
Executive Appointments: 13th
Overall Ability: 15th
Imagination: 11th
Domestic Accomplishments: 18th
Integrity: 4th
Executive Ability: 21st
Foreign Policy Accomplishments: 16th
Leadership Ability: 26th
Intelligence: 5th
Avoid Crucial Mistakes: 20th
Your Present Overall View: 21st

Overall Ranking: 19th

Every time there is a discussion about John Quincy Adams he is referred to as un unsuccessful president, yet he ranked 19th with many others falling behind him.  If he ranks 19th, why is he perceived as being such an unsuccessful president? 

I think the results were spot on with regards to Background, Integrity, Relationship with Congress, Ability to Compromise, and Intelligence.  What better background to have than having a father who was president (although also not an effective one) and he had extensive experience as a foreign diplomat.  I think he should have been more highly rated in terms of Communication Ability.  He was a professor of rhetoric at Harvard! 

What do you think of these rankings – agree/disagree?

Data obtained from the 2010 Siena Research Institute's 5th Presidential Expert Poll. 2010.

 

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, April 16, 2012

Mailbox Monday #105

MM

This was a small mailbox for me this week – only half of it actually came through a delivery service. 

From the publisher, Random House, I received an ARC of Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow by Juliet Grey.  This is book number 2 in the Marie Antoinette trilogy.  My copy has a boring ARC cover, but I love the actual cover, check it out:

dosdos

The second book I picked up was a treat for myself.  I was browsing around Barnes and Nobel with no intention of buying anything, just killing time before a movie, and what do I run into…

firstladiesfactbook

The First Ladies Fact Book by Bill Harris.  Now this is quite the chunkster, but I picked this one up especially because it includes all of the First Ladies – even those who died before their husbands took office and those who served in the role of First Lady but were not the spouse of the President.  It also includes a lot of information, tidbits, visiting information, etc.  A great reference and I am excited to be able to share some of the info with you in later postings.

That’s all for me, how did you fare this week?

Mailbox Monday is on a monthly blog tour and for the month of April it is being hosted by Cindy’s Love of Books.

 

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Winners of The Sister Queens

Good morning and happy Sunday to everyone!  I hope the weather is great where you are – it is absolutely beautiful here today.

Just a quick note this morning to announce the winners of The Sister Queens by Sophie Perinot. 

And that winners are….Colleen Turner!!!! and holdenj!!!

Congratulations!  I will be sending out an email for your mailing information and will pass it on to the publisher or mail it out as appropriate.  Please respond to the email within 7 days or I will pick new winners.

 

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Weekend Cooking: Shepherd’s Pie

Weekend Cooking

I have made a couple of recipes from Tatiana’s Table by Paullina Simons and have enjoyed them so far.  Also, one of my favorite dishes growing up was Shepherd’s Pie – however not a favorite of my boyfriend.  As I looked through the recipe included in this collection it seemed a little better put together than some of the others I have tried and couldn’t wait to make it.  The recipes in this book are inspired by The Bronze Horseman Trilogy and the little vignettes and snippets included in this “cookbook” add to the trilogy.  While I have only read book 1 in the series, I believe that the Shepherd’s Pie recipe would have been chronologically from Tatiana and Alexander, book 2.  Let me know if this is wrong!tatiana's Table

Shepherd’s Pie
4 hearty servings

Ingredients
1/8 cup butter
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 lb. ground beef sirloin
1/8 cup tomato paste
3 Tbsp. all purpose flour
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 1/2 cups beef stock
1/2 cup red wine (we used merlot)
Salt & pepper to taste
2-4 carrots, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels
2 lbs. prepared mashed potatoes
4 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
4 oz. shredded Monterey Jack (or other hard mild cheese)
1/8 cup breadcrumbs

Directions
1) In a large skillet heat butter on medium high and brown onion, then add garlic for 30 seconds.  Add ground beef and brown. 
2) Turn down heat slightly and add tomato paste and flour.  Stir until fully absorbed in the meat.  Add Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, beef stock and red wine, mix, and simmer uncovered.  Add carrots and simmer on low 10 minutes.
3) Add corn, stir, and continue cooking.  Add a small amount of water if need more liquid.  Mixture should be thick and not runny.
4) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spoon mixture into a casserole dish (we used a 8x8 with deep sides).  Arrange mashed potatoes on top.  Sprinkle with cheeses and breadcrumbs.  Bake for 30 minutes or until bubbly.

IMG_2417
The recipe above has been cut in half from the original.  If you need to serve a larger crowd just double every ingredient.  As you can see from the photo (one hearty serving) the above recipe could easily feed 4-6 people, depending on your portioning. 

Another variation that I took was I used red wine where you could have alternatively used beer.  We happen to have wine in the house and I have always like the flavor of merlot with beef.  I frequently use it in gravy and it gave this recipe a great taste.

This really was probably the best Shepherd’s Pie I have had yet.  A nice thick layer of mashed potatoes and a wonderful gravy.  My boyfriend even approved and we left not a scrap on our plates.  I would highly recommend this recipe!

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

 

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Titanic in Music

I have previously featured posts about Titanic here but wanted to do something to celebrate the sinking of the Titanic and the loss of lives.  I found some interesting songs about Titanic to share with you all.

First up – from the Carter Family a folk song about the sinking of the Titanic.

The Great Titanic by the Carter Family

There is an album that has been released with original songs composed in celebration of Titanic and Southampton where she set sail from.  It is called Look Out! Southampton’s Titanic Story in Song performed by the White Star Line Up.  I can’t enclose any clips, but if you visit the website they have some song clips you can preview or purchase the album.

There is also a scouting song about the Titanic.

Boy scouts sing the Titanic Song

Then of course, there is the soundtrack to the movie, Titanic.  The score is absolutely beautiful and I love listening to it. 

Titanic Soundtrack by dolleygurl on Grooveshark

Any other Titanic songs that you know? Which are your favorites?

 

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Giveaway of The Lady of the Rivers

Today I have the opportunity to offer you a great giveaway.  I have two paperback copies of The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory.  I haven’t had the chance to read this one yet, but I have the hardcover on my shelf.
the lady of the rivers

Here is the cover blurb:

“Philippa Gregory masterfully weaves passion, adventure, and witchcraft into the story of Jacquetta, Duchess of Bedford, who would survive two reigns and two wars to become the first lady at the rival courts of both Lancaster and York.

When Jacquetta is married to the Duke of Bedford, English regent of France, he introduces her to a mysterious world of learning and alchemy. Her only friend in the great household is the duke’s squire Richard Woodville, who is at her side when the duke’s death leaves her a wealthy young widow. The two become lovers and marry in secret, returning to England to serve at the court of the young King Henry VI, where Jacquetta becomes a close and loyal friend to his new queen.

The Woodvilles soon achieve a place at the very heart of the Lancaster court, though Jacquetta can sense the growing threat from the people of England and the danger of their royal York rivals. As Jacquetta fights for her king and her queen, she can see an extraordinary and unexpected future for her daughter Elizabeth: a change of fortune, the throne of England, and the white rose of York. . . .”

The giveaway is open to residents of the US and Canada only.  The last day to enter is April 21, 2012.  Both books will be mailed out by the publisher to the winners.  Fill out the form below to enter.




Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson–The Musical

So while I was surfing the web looking up information on the upcoming movie release of Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter (more on this next week) I found a little gem of trivia.
Benjamin Walker (who play the venerable president) also previously played another president in a musical – Andrew Jackson in the musical Bloody, Bloody, Andrew Jackson.  So, of course, I had to find out more about this musical I had never heard of.
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson
Bloody, Bloody, Andrew Jackson was performed on Broadway from October 13, 2010 through January 2, 2011.  Despite positive reviews from the critics, it didn’t draw the fans that it needed to prolong it’s Broadway run. 
The show is a rock musical focusing on the career of Andrew Jackson (who is portrayed as an emo rockstar of course) including all of the notable events such as the Indian Removal Act, The Battle of New Orleans, the drama of his marriage to Rachel and much more.  Many other notable personages such as Henry Clay, John Quincy Adams, and Martin Van Buren have roles in this play as well.  And of course there are songs!
I don’t know if it looks like a great show that I would have paid Broadway prices to see, but I would probably go see it in an off-Broadway production just to see it.  Below I have included a video clip of a preview of the show – clips of several of the songs as well as a playlist of the songs from the musical.  Please be advised, there is some foul language in both the video and song clips.

Show clips from Bloody, Bloody, Andrew Jackson


The songs aren’t all that bad in terms of the historical information – they are at least interesting.  I just think that it is awesome that a Broadway musical about a president was made.


What do you think of the show based off the songs and video clips?  Would you see it?  Have you seen it? 





Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court


Monday, April 9, 2012

Guest Post by Kate Quinn and Giveaway

Today I have the wonderful opportunity of hosting author Kate Quinn and her new release Empress of the Seven Hills (or alternatively titled Empress of Rome).  She has taken the time to write us a wonderful post about women in Ancient Rome.  Stay tuned at the end for an awesome giveaway.

Women in Ancient Rome: Perception vs. Reality

Guest post by Kate Quinn, author of
Empress of the Seven Hills (also Empress of Rome)

Kate Quinn Books

When it comes to looking at the role of women in history, it's better not to take anything at face value. Don't just look at the laws on the books, the rules about divorce and adultery and female behavior – look at the people who lived under those laws and rules. The rules and the reality are usually two vastly different things. My latest novel, Empress of the Seven Hills, is my third foray into the world of Imperial Rome, and its heroine Sabina leads what might be considered an astoundingly independent life. Unrealistic for a woman of her time? Not really. Let's take a look at Perception vs. Reality for the women of ancient Rome, at least in the three major arenas of a woman's life: her childhood, her marriage, and her code of behavior. For middle and upper-class women, anyway – because lower class women of almost any historical era, Roman or not, are governed not so much by the laws of their time, but by the uniform shackles of hard work and perpetual childbirth.

CHILDHOOD

Perception: Roman girls were 100% subject to the will of their fathers, and Roman fathers were iron-handed types who married their daughters off as soon as they hit puberty.

Reality: Legally speaking, yes – Roman girls had to do whatever Daddy said. But even if the Roman ideal was a stern paterfamilias who ruled his family with a will of iron, there were plenty of indulgent, loving dads. Cicero doted notoriously on his daughter, and there were lots of others like him. And if a dad was too fond (or too absent-minded, or too busy) to rein in a headstrong daughter, no one else legally had the right to do it – a smart Roman girl like my heroine Sabina could manage to have some carefree teenage years, since she has a father who is too busy to bother reining in her adventurous tendencies, and too indulgent to punish her much even when she gets caught. Such a father might also give his daughter considerable freedom in the matter of her marriage. As long as she limited herself to respectable men of her own class, many girls like Sabina had a say in their choice of husband. They didn't marry at twelve, either: Roman girls were far more likely to get hitched between the ages of fifteen to twenty.

MARRIAGE

Perception: a Roman woman was ruled absolutely by her husband, expected to fit the mold of subservient, devoted wife and mother.

Reality: Whenever any society harps a lot on a particular standard of behavior, you can be sure that standard isn't being met. Roman wives were supposed to fit the ideal of demure helpmate, but in reality they had considerable independence. A Roman woman could still maintain some control over her property even after she married, and upon divorce she would be entitled to have at least part of her dowry back. Her marriage vows were also far more flexible: if a 19th century woman wanted to escape a bad marriage to a cheating husband, she was out of luck unless she could prove her husband had not only cheated on her but compounded his offense by beating her, abandoning her, or going insane. All a 1st century Roman wife had to do to get rid of the jerk she married was move out of his house. And when so many upper-class marriages were contracted more for alliance than affection, husband and wife often led separate lives. My heroine Sabina, who values her freedom, is careful to choose an ambitious senatorial buddy who doesn't love her, but can use her family name for his budding career. She and her husband talk amicably about books whenever they happen to meet up at breakfast, but otherwise they stay out of each other's lives. Not uncommon at all by Roman standards.

BEHAVIOR

Perception: Roman women were supposed to be virtuous, silent, and well-behaved. Their husbands or fathers could legally kill them for drinking wine in public, or committing adultery.

Reality: True, those two laws were on the books. But they were honored more in the breach than in reality. For every silent Roman wife trailing after her husband like a shadow, never indulging in a drop of wine or a whisper of flirtation, there were ten more Roman wives living it up – like Mark Antony's spitfire third wife Fulvia who raised armies, dabbled in politics, and took on both Cicero and the future Emperor Augustus. Roman wives mixed freely in society – at the theatre, at the chariot races, at the gladiatorial games, and in public. They could be patrons of the arts like Roman-bohemian poet Julia Balbilla; they could be world travelers like Augustus's granddaughter Agrippina who followed her husband around the battlefronts of his various wars and even once led a cavalry charge. Roman women had their own religious festivals where men were forbidden to take part; a sort of nationally-mandated Girls Night Out a few times a year. And considering the fact that divorce was easy and marriage among the powerful classes often based on politics rather than emotion, adultery was a fairly insignificant sin despite all the laws about it. My heroine Sabina finds herself in a sexless marriage, but her husband makes it clear she can take lovers as she pleases, as long as she is discreet and doesn't embarrass him. Not at all unusual for the time; and hence all the senatorial bitching about how women should conduct themselves with decorum and silence, and be threatened with death just for drinking wine.

In the end, it's dangerous to look at the laws of the past and assume that they stand for real behavior. Laws try to hold people to a certain standard, but that does not mean people meet it. Rules, after all, are made to be broken. Empress of the Seven Hills took shape because I wanted a historical heroine who didn't wail about the status quo, but subverted it; a girl who didn't complain that the system was unfair, but worked that same system ruthlessly for every advantage she could get. The historical Vibia Sabina was an extraordinary woman who traveled the Empire, saw more of the world than most people today ever manage to see even on the Discovery Channel, and kept company with some of the most gifted and extraordinary men in history. And in addition, she appears to have led a quietly rebellious life under all the rules that were supposed to govern a woman of her stature.

I suspect history held many unnamed women who did exactly the same thing.

kate quinn

Thanks so much Kate for taking the time to write this great post. It has been great having you here.  You can visit Kate at her website for more information about her and her works.


Now for the giveaway! I have two copies of Empress of the Seven Hills to giveaway.  One copy will be mailed out by me and the other by the publisher.  The giveaway is open to the US and Canada.  Last day to enter is April 28, 2012.  Fill out the form below to enter.

 



Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Winner of Fragrance Sample

Good morning and happy Easter to everyone!

Just a quick note this morning to announce the winner of the Ames Soeurs fragrance inspired by The Book of Lost Fragrances by M.J. Rose.

And that winner is….CYN209!!!!

Congratulations!  I will be sending out an email for your mailing information and will pass it on to the publisher.  Please respond to the email within 7 days or I will pick another winner.

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Giveaway of The King’s Agent

Today up for grabs I have one copy of The King’s Agent by Donna Russo Morin for you all! 

The giveaway is open to US residents only. 

Please fill out the form below to enter.  Last day to enter is April 21, 2012.
TheKingsAgentTourButton
If you haven’t had the chance to learn about this book (or for other chances to win!), check out the blog tour happening right now at Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours!


Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Book Review: The King’s Agent by Donna Russo Morin

the kings agent

The King’s Agent by Donna Russo Morin
ARC, Paperback, 384 pages
Kensington
February 28, 2012
★★★★☆

Genre: Historical fiction

Source: Received from author as part of the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

“To the casual observer, Battista della Palla is an avid art collector, or perhaps a nimble thief. In reality, the cunning Italian is an agent for François, the King of France, for whom he procures the greatest masterpieces of the day by any means necessary. Embroiled in a power struggle with Charles V, the King of Spain, François resolves to rule Europe’s burgeoning cultural world. When he sets his sights on a mysterious sculpture, Battista’s search for the elusive objet d’art leads him to a captivating woman on a mission of her own…

Having spent her life under the controlling eye of her protector, the Marquess of Mantua, Aurelia longs for freedom. And she finds it in Battista. Together, they embark on a journey to find the clues that will lead him to the sculpture—a venture so perilous it might have spilled from the pen of Dante himself. From the smoldering depths of Rome to a castle in the sky, the harrowing quest draws them inextricably together. But Aurelia guards a dark secret that could tear them apart—and chance the course of history…”

What starts out as a seemingly standard historical fiction novel quickly turns into more of an adventure novel in a historical setting. This was a new sort of twist in the HF genre and certainly for Morin’s novels in general – and it was an amazingly fun ride! Our hero and heroine set out on an epic adventure to find a relic of some extraordinary power for the king of France. To ultimately get to this relic they will have to face tests of strength, speed, power, stamina, emotions and many more challenges along the way.

The author points out that two of the inspirations behind this novel are Dante’s The Divine Comedy, which is explicitly known while reading, and the video game series, Zelda. If you are not a video game aficionado you will not recognize any references to the video game, so don’t be concerned that it will cause to you miss out on something or won’t be to your interest. But, for those of us, me included, who are quite familiar with the game series you will notice that the format of the plot very much feels like a video game. There were times while I was reading where I remember thinking, “I remember doing that!” It was quite the multilayered experience and I can certainly understand why this was an inspiration. If you are not familiar with this video game series, I would compare the plot in some ways with The Da Vinci Code in the regard that you are looking for clues that are hidden in plain sight which will lead you to the next item of importance. In regard to The Divine Comedy I do not have much experience, except knowing the general concept of his work, but the novel actually helped me to have a new experience with the work. I have a lifetime goal to eventually read Dante’s work.

There is a requirement at some points where you have to suspend reality in this novel. This is especially true for those of us who read a lot of historical fiction when it tends to follow a set sort of path anchored in historical detail. The novel is certainly historical fiction, as the events that take place are set within the historical events, people, and setting, however there are some elements that sort of defy the historical formula. Again, a good thing, but just a heads up.

Morin chooses to set this novel in various prominent cities in Italy – Florence, Mantua, Rome – however for some reason I expected it to be set in France. I guess with the back cover text referring to King Francois I of France and not specifically stating Italy I got that stuck in my head. That being said, I loved the world created by the author. Everything stood out in vivid detail – and this is especially true of the artworks, which play a prominent role in this novel. If the art was not given a depth of definition I do not think the plot would have come off as well.

Another great outing from Donna Russo Morin – I can’t wait to read more of her work.

Donna Russo Morin also has written The Courtier’s Secret, The Secret of the Glass, and To Serve A King. You can visit Donna’s website for additional information about the books. If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book?

My other reviews of books by this author:

TheKingsAgentTourButton
You can follow the rest of Donna’s blog tour by visiting the Historical Fiction Virtual Blog Tours website.  You can also follow the tour on Twitter with #KingsAgentVirtualBookTour

Other reviews of this book by other bloggers:

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

 


Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Book Review: To Serve a King by Donna Russo Morin

Book Cover To Serve A King by Donna Russo Morin

To Serve a King by Donna Russo Morin
ARC, Paperback, 384 pages
Kensington
January 25, 2011
★★★★½☆
Genre: Historical fiction

Source: Received from the publisher for review
“From her earliest days, Genevieve Gravois has known one fact above all: Francois I, king of France, is her enemy. Raised by her embittered aunt after her parents' deaths, Genevieve has been schooled in things no woman should know: how to decipher codes, how to use a dagger and a bow, and how to kill. For Henry VIII has a destiny in mind for the young girl--as his most powerful and dangerous spy. 

When the time is ripe, Genevieve enters the magnificent world of the French court. With grace to match her ambition, she becomes maid of honor to Anne de Pisseleau, King Francois's mistress. Yet neither the court--which teems with artistry and enlightenment as well as intrigue--nor Francois himself are at all what Genevieve expected. And with her mission, her life, and the fate of two kingdoms at stake, she will be forced to make deadly decisions about where her heart and her ultimate loyalties lie.”
I have read one other book by this author so far and this was an improvement over the last, you can certainly see this author’s growth over time. I loved this book - it was fast paced and carried your right along with the story. I enjoyed the fact that our heroine, Genevieve, is not a real historical character because I didn’t know what her story would be; every turn of the page was a surprise. To that end, the resolution of the novel was even more surprising and I certainly never would have guessed it! It was a wonderful closure to the story. Both of these elements that I point out above – the pacing and ending – were aspects that were greatly improved over the previous novel, The Secret of the Glass.

I loved getting to know the French court of Francois and the Duchesse de Etampes. I had previously met these characters before in novels about Catherine de Medici, but never had they been major characters for me. The characters were so well constructed, even all of the ladies who were a part of the Duchesse’s retinue. It was nice to see attention paid to the details here. I also enjoyed seeing the factions that occurred in court: the Duchesse and Francois vs. Henri and Diane de Poitiers vs. Catherine de Medici and Queen Eleanor. Morin writes some beautiful characters to be sure.

One of my favorite aspects was the spy/intrigue storyline. I hadn’t put too much thought into this happening as a daily aspect of life in the courts. I knew that everyone had the eyes and ears everywhere, but that was the extent of it for me. From all of my reading set in the courts of Henry VIII, Francois I, and Charles V, I could sincerely believe that these events would have occurred, based on their personalities.

I can’t wait to read more by this author.

Donna Russo Morin also has written The Courtier’s Secret, The Secret of the Glass, and The King’s Agent. You can visit Donna’s website for additional information about the books. If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book?

My other reviews of books by this author:
Other reviews of this book by other bloggers:

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

 



Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court