*UPDATE*

I have updated my review and giveaway policies page (now just titled Policies above). If you are entering a giveaway, please read and abide by the applicable policy.

Attention Authors! If you arrived here looking for information on the Two Sides to Every Story guest post series, see the tab at the top of the page for more info!


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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Book Review: The Secret History by Stephanie Thornton & Giveaway

the secret history

The Secret History by Stephanie Thornton
Paperback, 448 pages
NAL Trade
July 2, 2013
★★★★★+

Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Received from the author for review with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour

Where Theodora went, trouble followed…

In sixth century Constantinople, one woman, Theodora, defied every convention and all the odds, and rose from being a common theater tart to become empress of a great kingdom, the most powerful woman the Roman Empire would ever know. But the woman whose image was later immortalized in glittering mosaic was, in fact, a scrappy, clever, conniving, flesh-and-blood woman full of sensuality and spirit whose real story is as surprising as any ever told…

When her father dies suddenly, Theodora and her sisters face starvation on the streets. Determined to survive, Theodora makes a living any way she can—first on her back with every man who will have her, then on the stage of the city’s infamous amphitheater in a scandalous dramatization of her own invention. When her daring performance grants her a back-door entry into the halls of power, she seizes the chance to win a wealthy protector—only to face heartbreak and betrayal.

Ever resilient, Theodora rises above such trials and by a twist of fate, meets her most passionate admirer yet: the Emperor’s nephew. She will thrive as his confidant and courtesan, but many challenges lie ahead. For one day, this man will hand her a crown. And all the empire will wonder—is she bold enough, shrewd enough, and strong enough to keep it?

In terms of novels and books about the Roman Empire, the Eastern Empire often gets the short end of the stick. I can confess to knowing nothing more about Emperor Justinian and Empress Theodora than the fact that they were memorialized in mosaic (learned about in my high school art history class). However, Theodora seems to be the new “IT” girl lately and I was excited to read something more about this portion of the Roman Empire. Plus, isn’t the cover just absolutely gorgeous?! I don’t even mind that we don’t see her face because it is beautiful and different that the seemingly cut and paste style covers lately.

What is there not to love about Theodora? I dare anyone of you who reads this to not fall in love with her. She is tough, smart, politically minded, and demanding. She makes something of herself to rise up from the gutter. She is sassy and fun. A heroine that we have been lacking in HF lately, in my opinion. The other characters were awesome as well. They all had so many different qualities to them and were very real characters. Even more, I loved the dynamics between the characters. Theodora and Justinian had some great sparring matches, each trying to outwit the other. Whether dealing with other women from the lower class or engaging with the courtiers, she always came out verbally on top.

The setting of the novel was so atmospheric I could sense the world around me – the sights, smells, and sounds. I can truly say that I have a solid concept of the Eastern Empire now and can tell the marked differences between it and the old Western Empire.

The only thing that I could conceivably complain about was the jump between the last two sections of time – I obviously wanted more of it and would have liked to know a little more about the later aspects of her life. Even at 448 pages I wanted more! I would recommend this novel to any historical fiction fan. If you have liked the works of Kate Quinn and Michelle Moran (both of which were set in the Ancient World) you will love this novel!

This is author Stephanie Thornton’s debut novel. You can visit the author’s website and blog 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?

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

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

The Secret History Tour Banner

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

Thanks to the HFVBT tour, I have a paperback copy of The Secret History to offer to an international entrant.  Giveaway will be open until July 14th.  Entries are made through the Rafflecopter below.  Good luck!

**Update** The giveaway also includes a Byzantine coin along with the copy of the book!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, June 24, 2013

Mailbox Monday #143

MM

Well don’t I have quite the mailbox this week!  Mostly thanks to my trip to the Historical Novel Society Conference this past weekend (more on that later).

MM143

Before I left on Friday, I acquired the following:

City of Hope by Kate Kerrigan – received from the publisher for my tour stop on TLC Book Tours.  This is the sequel to Ellis Island which I enjoyed last year.  Stay tuned for review on July 25th.

The Loyalist’s Wife by Elaine Cougler – received via e-book from author for review in July.  I hosted an guest post with this author earlier this month.

The Tudor Conspiracy by C.W. Gortner received from publisher for HFVBT tour.  This is the sequel to The Tudor Secret and I am SOOOO excited to read this as the first book was my favorite read last year.  Stay tuned for review on July 17th.

The Outlaw Knight by Elizabeth Chadwick – received via Netgalley from publisher.  Companion piece to Shadows and Strongholds which I reviewed last month.  Review coming in September.

Then at HNS I picked up 6 books – 3 through the swag bag, and 3 that I purchased.

The Queen’s Gambit by Elizabeth Freemantle – received via swag bag.  I have been excited to read this one for awhile as I haven’t really read about Catherine Parr.

Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole – received via swag bag.  I hadn’t heard of this book before the swag bag, but the cover reminds me of Next to Love.  Excited to read it and the author was so sweet.

The Sanctity of Hate by Priscilla Royal – this is a book deep in a medieval mystery series, however it appears it can be read as a stand alone. 

The Purple Shroud by Stella Duffy – this is the 2nd book in Duffy’s two book series focusing on Empress Theodora of Constantinople.  I had been interested in this one before HNS, but after hearing the author speak about the subject I had to pick it up.  Unfortunately book one, Theodora was sold out, so I’m reading them backward.  I got the book signed by the author and was told it is totally ok to read them out of order.  These are “the power years and the first book just explains how she got there”.  I have become fascinated with this character and can’t wait to read more about her.

Lily of the Nile by Stephanie Dray – I know, I am way behind on this one!  This is the first book in a trilogy in which the final book will be released late this year.  I had the opportunity to get the book signed and chat with the author. 

Mistress of the Sea by Jenny Barden – This was a spur of the moment selection at the HNS bookstore – I think it was the cover that called out to me. 

So, that is all for me (certainly enough!).  What did you get this week?

Mailbox Monday is on a monthly blog tour and for the month of June it is being hosted by Docle Bellezza.

 

Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

Friday, June 21, 2013

HNS Bound

Good morning everyone!  Hope you have a lovely weekend coming up!  I’m relieved to finally be done with my research paper on Roman Roads and moving on to the fun stuff.  Today I set off for the Historical Novel Society conference in St. Petersburg, Florida!!

I had an awesome time as an attendee of the 2011 conference in San Diego, but this year I am speaking on a panel about blogging within the Historical Fiction genre.  I am specifically speaking about how to evaluate success on your blog as well as blogging etiquette.  Looking forward to that tomorrow afternoon.  Hope to get a little prepping in on the plane. 

I’m looking forward to meeting a bunch of you there as well.  I know that Amy from Passages to the Past and Audra from Unabridged Chick will be there – any others?  Please let me know if you are attending as well because I would love to meet up with you! 

I will be sure to post pictures and a discussion of the conference when I return.

Have a great weekend all!

 

Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Saratoga Battlefield–A Virtual Tour

national-park-entrance

One of the most pivotal battles of the American Revolution was the Battle of Saratoga. Not only was the outcome of this battle the deciding factor for France’s entry into the war on the side of the Americans, but it was a battle that wouldn’t have been won without the creative ingenuity of General Benedict Arnold. It was during the storming of the redoubts that Arnold suffered a leg injury that would keep him out of commission for a while before he switched sides.

Saratoga is one of those places that are so close by, yet I haven’t had the chance to get there – I am hoping to rectify that soon. In the meantime, I wanted to take you on a little virtual tour of Saratoga, should you decide to go, or if you don’t you can at least get a taste of it.

Saratoga encompasses four separate places to visit – the Battlefield and Visitor Center, Schuyler House, Saratoga Monument, and Victory Woods. The Battlefield, Visitor Center, and Victory Woods are open year round, while the Monument and Schuyler House are open regularly from Memorial to Labor Day and then a little more sporadically after that. You can check out hours of operations here and directions to the park here.

You will first stop at the Visitor Center to get some introductory information, pay your entrance fee, and visit the gift shop. The Battlefield offers a self-guided tour with optional audio tie in. A full tour with time to stop at each monument takes about 1.5-2 hours. One of the stops on the tour (#7) not to be missed is the “boot monument” which is an unlabeled memorial to Benedict Arnold’s accomplishments at the Battle of Saratoga. However the monument’s inscription could allude to no-one else “In memory of the most brilliant soldier of the Continental army, who was desperately wounded on this spot, winning for his countrymen the decisive battle of the American Revolution, and for himself the rank of Major General”.

boot monument
Benedict Arnold’s Boot Monument

You can take a Virtual Tour of the Battlefield here.

The second stop of the four is Schuyler House. Schuyler House is the home of American General Philip Schuyler. There is a free guided tour provided here which is about 45 minutes in length.

schuyler-house
The Home of General Schuyler

The Saratoga Monument commemorates the generals of the American side of the Battle. There are 4 niches on the monument, one for General Gates, General Schuyler, General Morgan, and an empty niche that would have been for General Arnold. There is a guided ranger tour provided at the Monument. Plan to spend about 30 minutes at the monument.

saratoga monument
Saratoga Monument

You can take a Virtual Tour of the Monument here.

From the Monument you should head off to the Victory Woods. Victory Woods is the site of the last encampment of General John Burgoyne before he surrendered to the Americans. You can reach the Woods with a 15 minute walk from the Monument. There is a ½ mile interpretive trail through the woods detailing what happened there.

Now you are totally prepared for your trip to one of the foremost sites of the American Revolution! Hope you enjoyed this brief introduction.

A couple last notes:

  • Pack a lunch in you plan on being there all day – there don’t appear to be any food stands from what I have read.
  • Entrance fee is $5.00 per car
  • You can access the park map here
  • There are different events held here throughout the year – check out this handy calendar of events

 

Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Guest Post by Elaine Cougler

Today I have the great pleasure to introduce author Elaine Cougler to you.  She is penning a new series set in the United States during the American Revolution (my favorite time period to read about!).  She has taken a few minutes today to tell us about where he ideas for the series came from.  Enjoy!

My Writer’s Idea Well

Guest Post by Elaine Cougler, author of
The Loyalist’s Wife

the loyalists wife

Is there some inner force which sends us to the right place to find our destiny? Are writers made from birth or do we ‘make’ ourselves? Readers sometimes ask where we get our ideas as though writers just need to send the right email to the right place and wait to holler “Eureka!”

From my earliest years I knew that I was descended from someone in Butler’s Rangers, a force created to fight alongside the British in the American Revolutionary War. In the days before computer searches and online documents, my cousin took a lot of time and considerable trouble to establish that we were indeed descended from a member of Butler’s Rangers.

A few years ago my son brought me a gift. It was Cruickshank’s book about Butler’s Rangers, and listed in the back were two soldiers with my very own maiden name. This book is one long rambling account of the amazing Butler’s Rangers, but it is very hard to read because of the lack of chapters or separations of any kind. I took to underlining, writing dates and notes in the margins--two practices I generally abhor-- and using sticky notes to organize the exciting accounts detailed there.

But I persevered. And fell in love with the idea forming in my brain.

A young Loyalist couple, John and Lucinda Garner, farming in the wilds of New York State in 1778, face a bitter separation when he joins Butler’s Rangers to fight for the King and leaves her all alone to care for their isolated farm.

The Loyalist’s Wife came from that idea. And more ideas for books two and three in the series came from research with family members and another unique book which not only tells the details of what is known to be true about the real John Garner but also adds anecdotal tales of from elderly family members of what might have happened during the times mentioned. These last have taken my imagination on a number of fanciful flights as I write the sequels to The Loyalist’s Wife.

That’s not to say that my books are autobiographical or ‘true’ in any way. Knowing a little of my own history, however, has provided the jumping off point for my imagination and perhaps has given an added dimension to my writing. You may be sure I am very glad of that gift long ago.

elaine cougler

Photo by Paula Tizzard

The Loyalist’s Wife:

When American colonists resort to war against Britain and her colonial attitudes, a young couple caught in the crossfire must find a way to survive. Pioneers in the wilds of New York State, John and Lucy face a bitter separation and the fear of losing everything, even their lives, when he joins Butler’s Rangers to fight for the King and leaves her to care for their isolated farm. As the war in the Americas ramps up, ruffians roam the colonies looking to snap up Loyalist land. Alone, pregnant, and fearing John is dead, Lucy must fight with every weapon she has.

With vivid scenes of desperation, heroism, and personal angst, Elaine Cougler takes us back to the beginnings of one great country and the planting of Loyalist seeds for another. The Loyalist’s Wife transcends the fighting between nations to show us the individual cost of such battles.

Elaine may be found at the following sites: Website; Twitter; and Facebook.

Here are some choices for purchasing the book: Amazon and Kobo.

Thanks Elaine for stopping by!  I can’t wait to read the book – stay tuned for a review in July!

 

Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Book Review: The Notorious Benedict Arnold by Steve Sheinkin

the notorious benedict arnold

The Notorious Benedict Arnold by Steve Sheinkin
Unabridged, 6 hr. 51 min.
Listening Library
Mark Bramhall (Narrator)
July 12, 2012
★★★★☆

Genre: Non-Fiction, Biography, YA

Source: Downloaded the audio from my local library

“Most people know that Benedict Arnold was America’s first, most notorious traitor. Few know that he was also one of its greatest war heroes. This accessible biography introduces young readers to the real Arnold: reckless, heroic, and driven. Packed with first-person accounts, astonishing battle scenes, and surprising twists, this is a gripping and true adventure tale.”

Like most people, I grew up knowing pretty much only one thing about Benedict Arnold – that he was a traitor to the Americans during the Revolution. I didn’t even know that he was from Connecticut (about 2 towns away from where I grew up)! However, in most cases, there is typically a deeper story there – and that is what Sheinkin gives us in The Notorious Benedict Arnold. By the time I reached the end of the book I had an entirely new viewpoint on the man. Yes, he is still a traitor, but he was an amazing soldier for the Americans before his turn and a confluence of events led him to change sides. I can admire the man for the things that he did before become a traitor (and although I knew it was coming, I was disappointed when he switched alliegances).

This was one of those non-fictions that really felt more like a novel. The pages carried you from event to event and it felt like you were right there within the action while still giving you enough background information. Sheinkin turns the paper cut-out traitor into a real man of flesh and blood. I also learned quite a bit about British spy-master, John Andre. I always knew that he was ultimately executed by the Americans for spying, but I couldn’t believe how dumb he was about it – he violated all of the basic tenants of espionage at war and that cost him his life.

I didn’t know until putting this review together that this book is a non-fiction book for young adults. I wouldn’t have been able to tell you that by just reading the book. I imagine that the fast-paced, storytelling nature of the book would really entice a young reader who picked it up, but it is quite a valuable book for adults as well. I would recommend this to any student who is taking a US history class, high school or adult, as it really gives you a side of the story you don’t hear about elsewhere.

There was a strong afterword/author’s note at the end of the book which I very much appreciated. I also found his theory for the boot monument intriguing – more about that later.

audiobookimpressions

★★★★☆

The narrator did an excellent job of keeping the story moving and was quite entertaining to listen to.

Steve Sheinkin also has written several other books including:
Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World's Most Dangerous Weapon and Lincoln’s Grave Robbers which would appeal to adults as well as Two Miserable Presidents: Everything Your Schoolbooks Didn't Tell You About the Civil War, King George: What Was His Problem?: Everything Your Schoolbooks Didn't Tell You About the American Revolution, and Which Way to the Wild West?: Everything Your Schoolbooks Didn't Tell You About Westward Expansion which would appeal to children (illustrated). You can visit the author’s website for additional information about the book. If you would like to preview the story before reading it, try listening to the author reading an excerpt of the book?

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 © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, June 13, 2013

New Book Alert: Somerset by Leila Meacham

somerset

Somerset
by Leila Meacham
Hardcover, 624 pages
Grand Central Publishing
ISBN-13: 9781455547388
November 5, 2013

Book Blurb:

One hundred fifty years of Roses' Tolivers, Warwicks, and DuMonts! We begin in the antebellum South on Plantation Alley in South Carolina, where Silas Toliver, deprived of his inheritance, joins up with his best friend Jeremy Warwick to plan a wagon train expedition to the "black waxy" promise of a new territory called Texas. Slavery, westward expansion, abolition, the Civil War, love, marriage, friendship, tragedy and triumph-all the ingredients (and much more) that made so many love Roses so much-are here in abundance.

If you enjoyed reading Roses by Leila Meacham, I’m sure you will be excited to hear that she has a book coming out this November that will bring us back to their stories…sort of.  In Somerset, Meacham takes us on the journey with the original family founders of the Tolivers, Warwicks, and DuMonts en route to Howbutker, Texas.  So we will get more of the backstory that was hinted at in Roses!

You can pre-order the book in various places, here are some links: Amazon, B&N, and R.J. Julia (my favorite indie bookstore). 

If you use Netgalley, they have it there too!  I already put in my request for it this morning. 

Are you looking forward to this book?  Isn’t the cover GORGEOUS?!

 

Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Giveaway: Roses by Leila Meacham

Have you read Roses yet by Leila Meacham?  If you haven’t, here is your chance to get your hands on a copy! 

roses

I have one gently used paperback copy that I obtained from the library book sale up for grabs to a resident of the USA or Canada.  The prize will be mailed out by me.  All you have to do to be entered if fill out the Rafflecopter below. 

Don’t know if you would be interested in reading Roses or not?  Check out my review that posted yesterday!  Leave a comment on the review for extra entries.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Good luck!

 

Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Book Review: Roses by Leila Meacham

roses

Roses by Leila Meacham
Unabridged, 18 hr. 1 min.
Random House Audio
Coleen Marlo (Narrator)
December 18, 2009
★★★★★

Genre: Historical Fiction, Family Saga

Source: Downloaded audio from my local library

“Spanning the 20th century, the story of Roses takes place in a small East Texas town against the backdrop of the powerful timber and cotton industries, industries controlled by the scions of the town's founding families. Cotton tycoon Mary Toliver and timber magnate Percy Warwick should have married but unwisely did not, and now must deal with the deceit, secrets, and tragedies of their choice and the loss of what might have been--not just for themselves but for their children, and children's children. With expert, unabashed, big-canvas storytelling, Roses covers a hundred years, three generations of Texans and the explosive combination of passion for work and longing for love..”

I had put off reading this book for a long time, despite all the glowing reviews I had seen from friends and the personal recommendations made to me. This was purely because of the length of the book – which is over 600 pages – and it sat on my shelf for probably a good year or so. When I found that my library had it on audio book, I decided that was the way to go and set off on this grand adventure. Let me tell you now – I loved every minute of it – even when I had tears in my eyes!

This is one of those multi-generational family saga novels – so there are a bunch of characters and a lot of time to cover. This novel runs from the very early days of the 1900’s – I want to say 1907? – up through the 1980’s. A lot happens during that time, both externally and internally within the family. While the story focuses primarily on what happens to these families – Warwicks, Tolivers, and DuMonts – we also see the bigger picture movements of the USA in terms of how it affects the families (Prohibition, WWI, WWI, Korean War etc). I can comfortably say that A LOT happens in these pages – and there are so many twists and turns!

This was an emotional read for me in so many ways. I am not typically an emotional reader, but you almost cannot avoid it in this book – something will hit you. There were times I was brought to tears (several in fact), times when I was so mad at what one of the character’s did, and other times (less so) where I was very happy. Because of the emotionality of this book, I put it down several times. Mary and Percy’s relationship really got to me. When there was something good that happened to them, I would put the book down for a day or two in order to savor the happy times, because I knew something would happen to them to tear it down (I mean, the back cover blurb tells right off that they don’t end up married). When something tragic happened (and a lot was tragic), I would again put the book down because it was just too much. It took me over a month to listen to 18 hours of this book because of all the times I put it down.

The characters were so well written and each was very distinct and different. I was in love with Percy Warwick throughout the entire novel. Even though he made mistakes like the rest of the cast (and like everyone else in life) he was a very good man – and handsome to boot! Mary at times frustrated me – often – but I can understand the desire to remain connected to your familial roots when they run as deep as the Tolivers.

Most of the first half of the novel is told through flashbacks primarily through the eyes of Mary and Percy, but you occasionally get treated to another viewpoint. The latter half of the book focuses on how the decisions made in the past (seen through the flashbacks) will affect the later generations – particularly Mary’s grand-niece, Rachel, and Percy’s grandson, Matthew. It was so atmospheric and there was some great dialogue. I also loved how the use of roses was tied through the story and was important to the history of these families. While the use of the roses might appear a little ridiculous, I thought that it was cool and would love it if my family used roses this way – although I would then have to stop liking pink roses!

The cover is GORGOUS (as are the other covers of her books).

audiobookimpressions

★★★★★

The audio production was fantastic. The narrator had a great southern style manner of speaking and it really helped placing you square in the middle of plantation life. She brought the characters to life and gave each a distinct voice.

Author Leila Meacham also has written Tumbleweeds and the to-be-released prequel to Roses titled Somerset.

My other reviews of 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).

 

Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, June 10, 2013

Mailbox Monday # 143

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Happy Monday – hope your mailboxes have been blessedly full this week (or empty if you are trying to cut back on the addiction!).  It has been pretty light around here, but for me that is a good thing as I am pretty backed up.

This week I received one book – although UPS had me waiting all week while it changed around the date of delivery for a second book, which now won’t arrive for another day.

However, the book I did receive looks pretty cool and I have heard good things about this author’s prior books:

The Time Traveler’s Guide to Elizabethan England by Ian Mortimer

While those of you who have read this blog for a long time know that the Elizabethan period is not my favorite time period, I really am interested in the premise and learning about the day to day life, rather than the antics for queen and court.  I received this book for review consideration by the publisher.

So what did you receive this week?

 

Mailbox Monday is on a monthly blog tour and for the month of June it is being hosted by Dolce Belleza.

 

Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Book Review: Shadows and Strongholds by Elizabeth Chadwick

Shadows-and-Strongholds

Shadows and Strongholds by Elizabeth Chadwick
ARC, E-book (Kindle), 544 pages
Sourcebooks Landmark
March 5, 2013
★★★★½☆

Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Received for review consideration from publisher

“A medieval tale of pride and strife, of coming-of-age in a world where chivalry is a luxury seldom afforded, especially by men of power.

England, 1148---ten-year-old Brunin FitzWarin is an awkward misfit in his own family. A quiet child, he is tormented by his brothers and loathed by his powerful and autocratic grandmother. In an attempt to encourage Brunin’s development, his father sends him to be fostered in the household of Joscelin de Dinan, Lord of Ludlow. Here Brunin will learn knightly arts, but before he can succeed, he must overcome the deep-seated doubts that hold him back.

Hawise, the youngest daughter of Lord Joscelin, soon forms a strong friendship with Brunin. Family loyalties mean that her father, with the young Brunin as his squire, must aid Prince Henry of Anjou in his battle with King Stephen for the English crown. Meanwhile, Ludlow itself comes under threat from Joscelin’s rival, Gilbert de Lacy. As the war for the crown rages, and de Lacy becomes more assertive in his claims for Ludlow, Brunin and Hawise are drawn into each other’s arms.

Now Brunin must defeat the shadows of his childhood and put to use all that he has learned. As the pressure on Ludlow intensifies and a new Welsh threat emerges against his own family’s lands, Brunin must confront the future head on, or fail on all counts....”

This was my first real foray into Chadwick’s back list – I previously read, A Place Beyond Courage and For the King’s Favor however they were a part of the William Marshall saga and thus felt like one coherent series. While the story is set amongst the civil war between Matilda and Stephen and then the early years of Henry I, the story is much more about the family life with the de Dinans and FitzWarins. There is something of three generational stories within the narrative – you have Brunin’s grandmother, Jocelin and Sybilla (de Dinan) and Fulk and Eve (FitzWarin), and then Brunin and Hawise. Each has its own set of challenges and personalities.

One strength of this novel is the growth and development of characters. At the start of the story Brunin is a sort of wimpy boy who has been constantly put down by his grandmother, father and brothers. By the end of the novel he has had to face many dramatic upheavals in his life and truly becomes a man who will fight for his family and their cause. The same can really be said for Hawise. She starts off as a little “tomboy” – not really interested in sewing with the women but would rather ride her horse and climb and be where she shouldn’t. While she is faced with the responsibilities of the family and her home, she grows into a strong woman of her time. These changes just don’t happen suddenly and unexpectedly, but you see the characters encounter forks in the road and make decisions that will affect their futures.

I am interested in seeing how Lords of the White Castle or (The Outlaw Knight as it will be re-released in the USA in September) will play out as it was originally written first, but is the continuation of the story from Shadows and Strongholds. On a random side note – I think it is interesting that the British covers of both of these books had females on the covers, but the USA releases have men on the covers.

Author Elizabeth Chadwick also has written many books, the other book that is connected to this one although also stands alone is Lords of the White Castle (aka The Outlaw Knight). You can visit Chadwick’s website or blog 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 (click the link and then scroll down a little bit)?

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).

 

Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Book Review: Jack Absolute by C.C. Humphreys

jackabsolute

Jack Absolute by C. C. Humphreys
Book 1 in the Jack Absolute series
ARC, E-book (kindle), 288 pages
Sourcebooks Landmark
May 7, 2013
★★★★☆

Genre: Historical Fiction, Adventure

Source: Received via Netgalley from publisher for review

“In 1777 Jack Absolute, the charming lover in Sheridan's comedy The Rivals, is famous throughout London. However, this notoriety comes as something of a shock to the real Jack Absolute when he arrives in England after four months at sea. But there's barely time for outrage before he finds himself dueling for his life. Even worse, as soon as he's won the duel he's forced to flee London by the quickest means possible, becoming a spy in America's war of Independence.

Thus we meet Jack Absolute - rogue, duelist, charmer and Captain in the Light Dragoons. From the field of honor in London through the pivotal battle of Saratoga to a hunt for a double agent in wintry Philadelphia, this novel marks the impressive debut of this new series.”

Many of you know that I love reading a good novel (or non-fiction for that matter) set during the times of the American Revolution. I think that this is such a pinnacle moment for the country and so many of the heroes of America were created during this time that it is fascinating to read about. I have read many novels set during this time period and all have been from a colonial viewpoint – until now. Jack Absolute takes the reader on an adventure through the rebellion with the titular character at the helm – the thing is…he’s a spy in the British army.

Now, being an American, I was a little nervous about reading a book on such a pivotal moment in our history, from the perspective of the other side of the battle lines. However, Humphreys makes is easier to identify with Jack in that (like many of the time) he agrees with the colonists in many ways, however he still holds for the Crown. There are moments when Jack has to make up his mind about events transpiring and how committed he is to the cause he is fighting for. I felt that the events were given fairly level handling considering the perspective that we are living it through.

There was never a dull moment here, right from the first pages. It is certainly an adventure novel and the pages just keep turning. Whereas sometimes attention paid to action decreases the attention paid to the character development, this does not happen here. I found myself vacillating again with my regards for General Benedict Arnold and Major John Andre. I also have to admit that the author kept me guessing as to the identity of the spies in question. I had no idea until almost the end. There is defiantly the feel of “when we next meet our heroes” as this book closes – almost as you would the end of a television serial – which was a fun moment. It sort of leaves you hanging on without feeling like a cliff hanger. I can’t wait to meet Jack again.

Author C.C. Humphreys also has written two other books in the Jack Absolute series (that I hope are going to be re-released by Sourcebooks like this one was) The Blooding of Jack Absolute (#2) and Absolute Honor (#3). He also has written several other historical fictions including: Vlad: The Last Confession, A Place Called Armageddon, The French Executioner, and Blood Ties. You can visit the author’s website or blog for additional information about the book.

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 © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Upcoming: Bonnie & Clyde Mini-Series

So…have you heard that the History Channel will be debuting a new mini-series sometime this year about the notorious Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow?  I was pretty excited upon hearing this news.  As many are, I am fascinated by outlaws and, even more so, women who are involved. 

bonnie_and_clyde_car_a_l

I have heard great things about the series brought by The History Channel over the last year such as The Hatfields and The McCoys, The Vikings, and The Bible – however I haven’t yet had the chance to watch any of them.  I have great hopes that this series will run in the same vein.  This will be a 4 hour mini-series which will air across Lifetime, History, and A&E. 

In this series, Emile Hirsch and Holliday Grainger will play the titular roles.  I think that they will make great visual comparisons with the real figures. 

bonnie_and_clyde_portrait Bonnieclyde_f
Left: Hirsch and Grainger as Barrow and Parker (credit)
Right: The real Bonnie and Clyde (credit)

So what do you think?  Will you be watching?  Have you watched any of the other recent offerings from History?  What fascinates you about this dynamic duo?

 

Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Suddenly Sunday–6/2/13

Suddenly Sunday

Happy Sunday everyone – hope you are being treated well so far this summer.  We have been in 90+ degree weather for the last 4 days, actually turned on the AC last night in order to be able to sleep. 

I have finally had the chance to start watching this current season of Game of Thrones.  I had finished reading the book the week before the show started, but my fiancĂ© had not finished it until last night – so of course we haven’t been able to watch it with the rest of the world.  We are now however up through Episode 3…

I’ve sort of been in a reading slump lately – probably for the last 2-3 weeks.  I have barely been reading at all – or even listening to audiobooks for that matter.  I think it is because all this stressful stuff is converging right now.  I need to get moving on my research for my class and I haven’t had any motivation even to do the regular homework.  And it’s not for lack of good books – I’m reading Roses by Leila Meacham right now and loving it, but man I have to keep putting it down because I can only handle so much emotions!  Hopefully this will end soon – it has too, paper is due in 3 weeks (eek!) and HNS conference is coming up soon too (the same day the paper is due!).

Speaking of the conference – anyone out there going to the conference?  If so, I would love to meet up with you.  I will be there and also be speaking on a panel about the historical fiction blog within the HF community as a whole.  You can read the descriptions of all of the panels here.

I also have 3 winners to announce today-

The 2 winners of The Raven’s Seal are Colleen T and Gina D!!!  Congrats ladies!!  Please send me your mailing addresses and I will pass them on to the publicist to mail out. 

The winner of Murder as a Fine Art is Meghan S!  Congrats!  Please send me your mailing address and I will pass it on to tour coordinator.

Emails have already been sent!

Hope you al have a great rest of your weekend!

Suddenly Sunday is hosted by Muse in the Fog.

 

Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court