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Friday, January 31, 2014

Interview with Jeannie Ruesch

Today I have the opportunity to welcome Jeannie Ruesch, author of Cloaked in Danger, to The Maiden’s Court!  Jeannie is on tour with HFVBT and has stopped by to answer a few questions, talk about her new book, and give us a peek into her version of the life of a writer.

Cloaked in Danger

You have published two books so far, Something About Her and Cloaked in Danger.  Both books are historical romance.  What is it that pulls you to write in this genre?

Thanks for having me today!! I'm thrilled to be here.  I love history and for me, it's a natural fit to delve into different times, different eras and really build.  There's something so compelling about other times and their differences, but also their similarities.  We can get so caught up in the strict definitions of what we think an era is about, but just like now, I think there are always lines to be blurred.  Cloaked in Danger is a historical romantic suspense, which brings a strong element of suspense into the story as well and blurs that line even more.  I like to find ways to showcase that life wasn't always exactly as we read about.  While society has its own norms, not everyone fit into those molds.  My heroine is not typical — she doesn't want to be.  She steps outside of the conventional times often.  Of course, that also comes with consequences. A woman in the Regency era couldn't wander around alone without damage to her reputation.  The difference for Aria is that she just doesn't care.

How has the experience of writing and publishing Cloaked in Danger been different than the writing and publishing of your prior novel?

Well, I wrote Cloaked in Danger a lot faster.  lol  It took me five years to finish Something About Her, in large part due to the fact that I had jumped on that "learn as much as I can" bandwagon.  So every time I had an epiphany about writing, or took a workshop or read a book that really gave me new tools to work with, I went back and applied them to that story.  So it went through a lot of rewrites, including an entire overhaul twice.  But it was my first, it was my baby, and I loved the characters. I wanted to make that book shine.  I'm still learning, every day, about ways to improve my craft but I've also learned a lot about the process that helps me as a writer move forward.   I don't think it gets "easier" so much as it's about developing a process that works for you. 

You say on your website that you have wanted to be a writer from a very young age.  How has the writing experience changed for you overtime?  Do you approach writing differently having been published than you did prior to being published?

Yes, I wrote my first story when I was six and I can see the moment that I wrote "The End" in my memory, as clear as a picture.  And I remember how I felt — the joy that made me skip down the hallway to share it with my parents.  That joy, right there, is what feeds me as a writer.   As for how I write, when I was younger, I wrote what came into my head.   But I also never finished a book.  So I sat down to outline my story, get the beginning, middle and end ideas in place and then wrote.  It made a difference, it worked better for me.  So now, I'm a true blue plotter -- and with the time constraints of being under deadline, that helps me tremendously.   I also find that leaves room for the scenes to surprise me when I write them, and they do. Often. 

How do you approach the research process for your novels?  How do you balance the amount of research with the feel of the romance novel?

I love researching. I love reading articles, blog posts, and mostly non-fiction books to get my fill of an era.  But I also really enjoy finding the letters, journals and whatever else makes it more human.  Research can be a tough nut.  I do a lot of reading before I write, but there are always moments when I'm writing and I don't know the right aspect of something.  So I'll make a note, and research it later.  Sometimes it changes the story, sometimes it doesn't.   As for the blend, Cloaked In Danger is a historical romantic suspense, so there are three elements to balance in there -- it has to feel set in the right time period, it has to have a romantic happy ending and it needs to (hopefully) keep a reader wondering what happens next.   And I'm a believer that the historical details should be natural, not forced and not put in just for the sake of showing off research.  The story has to shine above all.

Do you have a new project in the pipeline?  If so, is there anything you can tell us?

Yes, I'm working on the next two books for the Willoughby family.  Adam's sisters, Lily and Cordelia each have their own tale to tell and they are coming next.  Lily's book is first and it picks up three years after the end of Cloaked In Danger, and suffice it to say her life has not gone as planned.  I'm particularly excited about Cordelia's story, because she's such a prickly character and well, not overly likable in the first two books, in my opinion so it should be fun to write for her.  After that, I have plans to head out into other eras to tell other stories and I can't wait to dive into that research -- World War II America, Victorian England, lots of great stuff ahead I hope readers will love!  

When you are not writing, what do you do with your time?

I've also been in marketing and design for twenty years, and my day job is as a Marketing Manager for a great company with incredibly nice people. I'm blessed, I think, to enjoy both of my jobs.  In addition, I design book cover designs for publishers and authors.   The best parts of my day, though, are the ones I spend with my family.   They will always come first. 

Who would you say has inspired your writing?

At different parts of my life, different authors have inspired my writing.  When I was young, I was enthralled with Francine Pascal's Sweet Valley High.  In fact, my first book (150 pages handwritten) was not-so-loosely based off of that series. ;)  When I was a teen, I loved Danielle Steel's sweeping tales of family and love.  Kristin Hannah is another who tells amazing stories about the relationships in our lives.   Judith McNaught has inspired my love of historical romance.   Lisa Gardner is a goddess of suspense, and I so admire her ability to dig so deep into the grit of things.  Brenda Novak is another author I greatly admire.  Besides being a wonderful friend, she has this way about building emotion in her characters, no matter than genre or topic.  It's incredible.

Jeannie Ruesch

Jeannie Ruesch wrote her first story at the age of the six, prompting her to give up an illustrious, hours-long ambition of becoming a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader and declare that writing was her destiny. That journey to destiny took a few detours along the way, including a career in marketing and design.

Her first novel, a fairy-tale like historical romance, was published in 2009, but the darker side of life had always captivated her. So after a dinner conversation with friends about the best way to hide a dead body, she knew she had to find a way to incorporate suspense into her writing. (The legal outlet for her fascination.) Today, she continues writing what she loves to read – stories of history, romance and suspense. She lives in Northern California with her husband, their son and an 80 pound lapdog lab named Cooper.

She is also the creator of the WIP Notebook, a writer’s tool to help stay organized while you write, which you can find at her website. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and Pinterest.

Cloaked in Danger_Tour Banner2

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

Here are some choices for purchasing the book: Amazon, B&N.


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Fort Adams Virtual Tour

fort adams sign

During our vacation to Newport, Rhode Island, while driving around the scenic drive, we stumbled across Fort Adams – a National Historic Site and Rhode Island State Park. We could have taken an hour tour inside, outside, and within the fort, however it was SO cold and windy that we just took some photos from the outside and moved on. But I explored the Fort online and wanted to share it with you, because it is pretty cool. Located right along Narragansett Bay it is quite a beautiful site.

First, I just want to give you a brief history of the fort – but you can explore an in-depth history more on their site.. Around the 1700’s the first fortification was built on Goat Island to deal with the War of Spanish Succession. It wasn’t used extensively. Following the War of 1812, the fort was overhauled and built into what was then the most complex fortifications in the Western Hemisphere. From the 1840’s to 1950’s it functioned as an active fort. While it was active during five wars, it never fired a shot. For a short period in the 1860’s it served as the United States Naval Academy. During the World Wars it served as a training site for American troops. In 1976 the fort was declared a National Historic Landmark and in 1994 the fort began restoration and tours of the site.

This video montage shows images of Fort Adams through photos from the past as well as the present.

There are many different ways you can explore Fort Adams during a visit. If you want a self-guided scenic excursion you can take a casual walk around the outside of the fort. This allows for you to see the walls and fortifications. It is a 2.25 mile circuit which is open year round.

fort adams

Guided tours take off multiple times throughout the day (the number of tours depends on the season) and they take you to the parade grounds, on top of the walls, and below to the tunnels. These tours last for approximately one hour. During the summer there are two specialty tours which feature an in depth look at the fortifications (Storm the Fort) as well as the people who lived there (Life of the Fort Tour). You want more of an adventure – how about zip-lining from the fort walls, digging for geo-caches, etc?

This video – which is approximately 1 hour long – takes you on a tour of Fort Adams.

We are planning to visit the site and actually take a tour the next time we make it back to Newport during a warmer season.  Have you ever been to Fort Adams?


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, January 27, 2014

Mailbox Monday #163


I have a couple weeks worth of books today because it has been a slow trickle.  All for review, with the exception of one book.


The following books were received for review:

This is the only book that I purchased this week – for my Kindle -

What did you receive 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

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Cloaked in Danger Launch Party!

Hey everyone!  I wanted to alert you to a cool event that will be happening on Facebook tomorrow.  Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours is coordinating a launch party on Facebook for the book release of Cloaked in Danger by Jeannie Ruesch!  There will be things from giveaways, guest author drop-bys and much, much more.  Be sure to check it out!

cloaked in danger launch party

What: Jeannie Ruesch's Facebook Launch Party for Cloaked in Danger

Where: https://www.facebook.com/events/479465215499279

When:  Monday, January 27, 2014  3:00 - 7:00 pm PST (6:00 – 10:00 pm EST).

About Cloaked in Danger
Publication Date: January 27, 2014
Publisher: Carina Press
Format: eBook

Book Blurb: Aria Whitney has little in common with the delicate ladies of London society. Her famous father made his fortune hunting archaeological treasures, and her rustic upbringing has left her ill prepared for a life of parties and frippery. But when Gideon Whitney goes missing in Egypt, Aria must embrace the unknown. Armed with only the short list of highborn men who’d backed her father’s venture, she poses as a woman looking for a husband. She doesn’t intend to find one.

Adam Willoughby, Earl of Merewood, finds London’s strangest new debutante fascinating, but when he catches her investigating his family’s secrets, he threatens to ruin her reputation. He doesn’t intend to enjoy it so much.

When their lustful indiscretion is discovered, Adam finds that he regrets nothing. But now, as Aria’s father’s enemy draws near, Adam must convince his betrothed that she can trust him with her own secrets…before it’s too late.

About Jeannie Ruesch

Jeannie Ruesch wrote her first story at the age of the six, prompting her to give up an illustrious, hours-long ambition of becoming a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader and declare that writing was her destiny. That journey to destiny took a few detours along the way, including a career in marketing and

Her first novel, a fairy-tale like historical romance, was published in 2009, but the darker side of life had always captivated her. So after a dinner conversation with friends about the best way to hide a dead body, she knew she had to find a way to incorporate suspense into her writing. (The legal outlet for her fascination.) Today, she continues writing what she loves to read – stories of history, romance and suspense. She lives in Northern California with her husband, their son and an 80 pound lapdog lab named Cooper.

She is also the creator of the WIP Notebook, a writer’s tool to help stay organized while you write, which you can find at her website. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and Pinterest.

Hope to see you all there!  I will probably be checking in toward the later end of the event.


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Friday, January 24, 2014

Historical Fiction Bingo #1

Hey all!  I thought I would come up with a little game to change up the pace around here.  It’s HF BINGO!!! I hope you all enjoy the game.  The game board is below, and the directions below that. 

HF Bingo 1

Rules: Each box in the game board contains an element that may appear in a historical fiction novel. You can mark off a box by reading a book that contains the element in that box. Enter the title of the book in the box (you can elaborate how it meets the element if you wish). The book must be read during the playing period, preferably shown through a Goodreads account or posted in some way on your blog, Twitter, Facebook etc. As in standard BINGO – you win by completing 5 boxes in a row – vertical, horizontal, or diagonal. Send me your completed game board at my email: dolleygurl[at]hotmail[dot]com. I will take all of the completed game boards received within the playing period and randomly select a winner from among them – they will win their choice of a historical fiction book from the available options I will provide. Please play fairly and honestly – this is just for fun! Playing period is January 24th-February 24th 2014.

If you have any different suggestions for future editions of the game I would LOVE to hear from you! I have thought about changing up the different ways to win BINGO – like the postage stamp format etc. Other ideas for categories? I’m all ears. 

Let the games begin!!!


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Caught on Tape: Martha Washington

caught on tapeMartha Washington is a historical personage that I have seen re-enacted in person at various events at Colonial Williamsburg, but haven’t seen on television or the big screen. So I thought I would take the opportunity to explore the possibilities here on the blog – however there are not all that many and I had a TERRIBLE time finding clips.

George Washington (1984)

“The early life and career of the American General and President through his participation in the Revolutionary War.”

Wow, I must say, that is a stellar description right there! This was a TV mini-series that revolves around the life of George Washington, so of course Martha was included. We see her not only as the wife of George, but earlier as the wife of Daniel Custis as well as the Custis widow. There were some relatively big names in this mini-series: Barry Bostwick as George Washington, Patty Duke as Martha Washington, Jaclyn Smith as Sally Fairfax, and Hal Holbrook as John Adams. While I haven’t watched the whole series (it is approximately 6 hours in length) I have watched significant portions. They certainly got the height factor between Martha and George down! I thought much of the acting was very boring, even the “exciting” scenes. I think my problem is with Bostwick’s George – while he may have been stolid in real life, you have to keep the viewer engaged! Patty Duke made a convincing, bubbly Martha and Smith embodied my impression of Sally Fairfax, that minx! It was nominated for several Primetime Emmy Awards, including a nomination for Patty Duke for Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Special.

There is a cute proposal scene here, around the 9:32 mark you can queue up below. However, if you should want to watch the entire mini-series, I made a playlist.

The Courtship of George Washington and Martha Custiss (1955)

“The courtship of George Washington and Martha Custis, a widowed mother of two.”

Another made for TV movie that was part of the Hallmark Hall of Fame series – however I cannot, no matter how hard I try, find a video clip (or images, etc!). This movie starred Marshall Thompson as George Washington and Karen Sharpe as Martha. 


That’s it, truly.  Well, according to Wikipedia there was also an erotic film made about the Founding Fathers that apparently also includes Martha Washington – but I’m not going there. Thanks Wikipedia for that piece of info.

Have you seen Martha Washington personified in any films?


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Book Review: Washington’s Lady by Nancy Moser

washington's lady

Washington’s Lady by Nancy Moser
Ladies of History Series
Unabridged, 14 hr. 36 min.
Recorded Books
Linda Stevens (Narrator)
October 28, 2008

Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Personal Collection

“She dreams of a quiet life with her beloved George, but war looms... Though still a young woman, Martha Custis is a widow. But she is not without means and has no desire to remarry. Not, that is, until a striking war hero steps into her life and she realizes she is ready to love again. Yet she wonders whether this man, accustomed to courageous military exploits, can settle down to a simple life of farming and being a father to her children. Even as she longs for domestic bliss, Martha soon realizes she will have to risk everything dear to her and find the courage to get behind a dream much larger than her own. Known for moving first-person novels of Nannerl Mozart and Jane Austen, Nancy Moser now brings to life the loves and trials of the First First Lady of the United States.”

Martha is one of those Revolutionary women that has always intrigued me, but is one that I don’t know much about (I am much more well versed with Abigail Adams and Dolley Madison). The part of her life that I knew the most about was the Presidential years, so I was most interested in reading about her earlier life, especially her first husband, Daniel Custis. Interestingly, last summer while in Williamsburg, Virginia I accidentally happened upon the graves of Daniel Custis and two of their children, which intrigued me to know more.

A decent amount of time was spent on her marriage to Daniel Custis – comparable to the seven years in which they were married. While I didn’t get to know Daniel as well George Washington, I felt that Moser gave us enough to understand Martha’s relationship with him. On the other hand, Martha was portrayed well. She was given her own voice, in her own age. It is obvious that she was a strong and passionate woman – she held a lot of things together following Daniel’s death prior to her marriage to George. I was thrilled to see the family side of George Washington. He is typically portrayed as more reserved and stoic. Here we see him actually get mad as well as be very loving with his family.

The novel doesn’t spend much time on the actual Presidential years. The majority of the time spent on the Washington marriage is dedicated to the Revolutionary War years and then the retirement years following the presidency. I would have liked a little more about how Martha handled the years in the capital city. It almost glazed over this period, just barely touching upon certain aspects. As this is the aspect most people already know about, I can understand the desire to skip over it, but when the rest of her life was treated relatively chronologically, it stood out as an omission.

Overall Martha was done justice by Moser novel treatment. I felt that she really came alive within the pages. While there are some areas that I think could have been improved, it was overall an enjoyable novel.



The audio production was just OK. I didn’t love the narrator’s voice and there wasn’t great definition of characters.

Author Nancy Moser also has written the following biographical novels: Just Jane, An Unlikely Suitor, Mozart’s Sister, and How Do I Love Thee?. You can visit Moser’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?

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 © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Weekend Cooking: Creamy Apple n’ Squash Soup

Weekend Cooking

My parents know me pretty well (and pick up on the things I mention) – and they got me a new historical cookbook for Christmas! So I made my first dish from it this past weekend. Old Fashioned Soups, Stews, & Chowders is the second book I own (and third I have worked out of) from publisher, Bear Wallow Books. They publish historical recipes pamphlet books each based on different themes.

Featured in this booklet is a section about “kettle foods”. Did you know that the followings soups were popular in these areas of the country?:

  • New England: Seafood chowders; bean soup; squash and pumpkin cream soups
  • The South: Soups with a rice or peanut base; Creole and catfish stew; and bouillabaisse
  • The Midwest: Corn chowder; pumpkin porridge; soups made with fruit and berries; beef stew
  • The Frontier: Rabbit stew and other stews made from small game
  • West & Southwest: Stews made from beans, peppers, and tomato with Spanish and Native influences

The soup that I made is a quintessentially New England autumn soup.


Creamy Apple n’ Squash Soup
Makes approximately 8 servings

3 cups tart green apples, chopped (Granny Smith)
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded, chopped
1 cup onions, chopped
1 quart chicken stock (homemade or store bought)
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon marjoram
¼ teaspoon white pepper
½ cup thick cream

1) Combine apples, squash, onions, and chicken stock with seasonings in a large saucepan and cook uncovered for 30-40 minutes.

2) Add cream just before serving and garnish each bowl with a dash of nutmeg.


I have to say I was a little hesitant trying this soup, and convincing my fiancé was an even greater stretch. I had only had butternut squash in a hearty mac & cheese so I wasn’t sure how it would be in soup. Also, the idea of putting apples in a soup was a little weird to me. However, the soup was very good – and interesting. The apples made it sweet and married nicely with the earthiness of the squash.

If you prepare it the way the way it is directed you will have decent sized chunks of squash. We wanted it a little more textured similar to the apples, which had melted down in the cooking process – so we did a very light mash to the squash with a hand masher. It was a lot more pleasing, texturally, to the palate.

I did learn a lot from this first attempt at cleaning and prepping a butternut squash. I will be paying the extra to buy it pre-cut and cleaned. It took WAY too much time and energy! I did however learn how to make roasted butternut squash seeds along the way.

I think that if you like butternut squash you will like the soup. I don’t know that I would make it again, but it was good none-the-less.

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


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Book Review: Becoming Josephine by Heather Webb

becoming josephine

Becoming Josephine by Heather Webb
ARC, eBook, 320 pages
December 31, 2013

Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Received from publisher for review as part of HFVBT tour

“A sweeping historical debut about the Creole socialite who transformed herself into an empress.

Readers are fascinated with the wives of famous men. In Becoming Josephine, debut novelist Heather Webb follows Rose Tascher as she sails from her Martinique plantation to Paris, eager to enjoy an elegant life at the royal court. Once there, however, Rose’s aristocratic soldier-husband dashes her dreams by abandoning her amid the tumult of the French Revolution. After narrowly escaping death, Rose reinvents herself as Josephine, a beautiful socialite wooed by an awkward suitor—Napoleon Bonaparte.”

I have heard a lot about Josephine in my time reading historical fiction, but I have not read a book about her – despite owning the trilogy by Sandra Gulland for several years now. My fascination has never been with fiction set in France nor Napoleon in general. However, I did find Josephine fascinating in Webb’s novel.

First of all, this woman was pretty amazing. She survived the French Revolution (just barely!), was successful as a businesswoman, was married twice, and was beloved by most of France. She had to reinvent herself so many times and continued to make her way in the world. I appreciated that she was a woman of substance and not entirely superficial. By contrast, I still very much dislike Napoleon – and I’m sure that is not because of the author’s portrayal of him, as she was fairly even handed with his characterization. Webb did an excellent job of getting into Josephine’s head.

Webb also did an excellent job creating a truly atmospheric France. In every scene I could clearly picture what has happening and what it looked like – from the beauty of pastoral Malmaison to the desecrated and vandalized Tulieries. You also can feel what the characters are experiencing as if you were there; one scene where they are hiding in the basement during The Terror and their fear stands out vividly in my mind.

One area that I thought could be stronger was the pacing of the novel. Toward the beginning of the novel it felt uneven. Very, very quickly we were introduced to the characters and events in Martinique and then moved on. I didn’t make the connections here with Josephine’s family and homeland/culture that I think was intended. Thus, I didn’t care much when tragedies struck

there. It was still a little awkward through her first marriage. The novel really found its stride around the Revolution. From that point it seemed smoother sailing.

Overall, I appreciated this perspective of Josephine as Webb really gets at her soul and character where I think many other authors gloss over her, especially her early life, choosing instead to focus on her time as wife of Napoleon. I would certainly recommend this book to fans of French history and those who want to know more about this woman.

This is the debut novel for author Heather Webb. You can visit Heather’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).

Becoming Josephine_Tour Banner_FINAL

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

I also have a giveaway for US and Canada residents courtesy of the HFVBT tour.  Make entries through the Rafflecopter below.  Last day to enter is February 2nd, 2014.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Ranking Wilson


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.

Despite my lack of knowledge about President Wilson, he appears to fall near the top of the pack in every incarnation of this survey – for 2010 he is overall ranked #8 (2 positions lower than where he sat for the prior 28 years!). I guess those 14 points really made an impact! Let’s take a look at where he fell in each category:

Background (family, education, experience): 8th
Party Leadership: 8th
Communication Ability (speaking, writing): 9th
Relationship with Congress: 16th
Court Appointments: 8th
Handling of US Economy: 8th
Luck: 15th
Ability to Compromise: 37th
Willing to Take Risks: 9th
Executive Appointments: 10th
Overall Ability: 8th
Imagination: 5th
Domestic Accomplishments: 9th
Integrity: 11th
Executive Ability: 10th
Foreign Policy Accomplishments: 10th
Leadership Ability: 12th
Intelligence: 4th
Avoid Crucial Mistakes: 29th
Your Present Overall View: 10th

Overall Ranking: 8th

In so many of these categories Wilson ranked 8th, 9th, or 10th – at least it is consistent! There are 4 categories that really stand out to me from the above that warrant some discussion. First, Intelligence. While you can’t really complain about being ranked 4th overall, I find it hard to believe that he is 4th, behind Jefferson, Madison, and Lincoln in that order. Wilson was the most educated President up through his time for sure – he was the only president to have held a doctorate degree! While I can’t disagree that Jefferson and crew were smart, I would have truly expected Wilson to rank first. Second and Third, Communication Ability and Relationship with Congress. Again, while these aren’t bad, I think they could have been better. Wilson was known for his speeches – he was one of the few presidents to regularly use the special room at the Capitol to meet with Congressmen and was the first in QUITE some time to actually give his State of the Union in person to Congress. Finally, Foreign Policy Accomplishments. There was such uproar when Wilson went to Europe to work on the peace accord following the end of WWI – because he was to leave the country for such a lengthy period of time. While the USA did not end up ratifying his League of Nations, much of the peace stipulations that Wilson instigated were signed and implemented.

What do you think of these rankings – agree/disagree? Do you think Wilson should be in the top 10?


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


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Interview with Patricia Bracewell

Today I have the honor to host author Patricia Bracewell, author of Shadow on the Crown.  Her novel focuses on the period in English history just prior to the Norman invasion and conquest – and I’m super excited to read it.  Here I have an interview with her to give you a taste of what you can expect.


I love the period of English history prior to the Norman Conquest, so I was thrilled to see another author taking on this oft-overlooked time period. What is it for you that draws you to write about this period?

I think, in a way, I’m drawn to it because of all the things that we don’t know about the period and about the people. We know just enough to tantalize. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle can be maddeningly cryptic a lot of the time; the 12th century historians were drawing on earlier chronicles and ballads that have not survived. So we know names, dates and events that occurred in Anglo-Saxon England, but we don’t know the why or the how. Trying to fill in those gaps is endlessly intriguing.

I know first-hand that this period can be difficult to research because much was destroyed and rewritten following the Saxon defeat at Hastings. What difficulties (if any) have you had in your research?  What have you found to be the best sources of information?

I live near the University of California at Berkeley, so the library was my main resource. There are wonderful academics who are writing about this period, and their books provide a wealth of information: Gale Owen-Crocker on clothing, Ian Howard on the Viking invasions, Pauline Stafford on queenship, Nicholas Higham on late Anglo-Saxon history and many more. There are two very helpful journals: Anglo Norman Studies and Anglo Saxon England. The most difficult thing to research was the architecture. As you say, the Normans destroyed so much! We don’t even know for certain where the late Anglo-Saxon palace was in London, for example, much less what it looked like! I had to read whatever I could find, then draw my own conclusions.

I have read varying interpretations of Emma, everything from a weak, quiet young woman to a strong willed queen. Where does your Emma fall on this spectrum?

In Shadow on the Crown I’ve written about the first few years of Emma’s marriage to Æthelred II, so she is quite young and in many ways powerless under her husband’s rule. But although she is forced to act from a position of weakness, she is not weak. I’ve given her all the character traits that I believe she must have had in order to become that future, strong-willed queen. I hope that readers will see Emma change over the course of, not just this book, but the entire trilogy. Her priorities and her understanding of her role as queen will change. Her determination and her courage will not.

I saw on your website that Shadow on the Crown is the first in a planned trilogy. Can you foreshadow anything for us as to what we can expect in the rest of the series?

Ah. One of the characters in the first book has already done it for me. She is a seeress, consulted by Æthelred’s eldest son. She tells him “A bitter road lies before the sons of Æthelred, all but one,” and she also says that whoever “would hold the scepter of England must first hold the hand of England’s queen.” In the two books to follow Shadow, we’ll see how that all plays out.

When you are not working on your writing, what do you like to do with your time?

I read a lot, but not as much as I would like. I have very little free time these days, so I love to listen to audio books while I’m working out or doing chores. I play tennis whenever I can – doubles only! And I live in a terrific neighborhood, so I like to go for walks.

Patricia bracewell

Patricia Bracewell grew up in California where she taught literature and composition before embarking upon her writing career. She has always been fascinated by English history and holds an MA in English literature.  Her historical research has taken her to Britain, France and Denmark. She has two grown sons and lives with her husband in Oakland, California.

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

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

I also have the opportunity (thanks to the publisher) to offer one paperback copy of The Shadow of the Crown to one resident of the USA.  Entries through the Rafflecopter below.  Giveaway will end February 1st.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, January 13, 2014

Book Review: The Gods of Heavenly Punishment by Jennifer Cody Epstein

The Gods of Heavenly Punishment PB Cover

The Gods of Heavenly Punishment by Jennifer Cody Epstein
Paperback, 400 pages
W. W. Norton & Company
January 13, 2014

Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Received from publisher for review as part of HFBRT blog tour

“In this evocative and thrilling epic novel, fifteen-year-old Yoshi Kobayashi, child of Japan's New Empire, daughter of an ardent expansionist and a mother with a haunting past, is on her way home on a March night when American bombers shower her city with napalm--an attack that leaves one hundred thousand dead within hours and half the city in ashen ruins. In the days that follow, Yoshi's old life will blur beyond recognition, leading her to a new world marked by destruction and shaped by those considered the enemy: Cam, a downed bomber pilot taken prisoner by the Imperial Japanese Army; Anton, a gifted architect who helped modernize Tokyo's prewar skyline but is now charged with destroying it; and Billy, an Occupation soldier who arrives in the blackened city with a dark secret of his own. Directly or indirectly, each will shape Yoshi's journey as she seeks safety, love, and redemption.”

I love reading about WWII and I have always, for some reason, been most intrigued by the stories set in the Pacific theatre. I think this partially stems from the fact that it wasn’t taught as much as the German front while I was in school. Not only does Gods of Heavenly Punishment cover one event in the Pacific theatre, but the way in which it does that is so different and unique, that I LOVED every minute of the reading experience.

In this novel we follow the events proceeding, during, and following the firebombing of Tokyo – and we see it from many different angles, both Japanese and American. You get a taste of the home-front in both Japan and the United States, as well as the war-zone. I think that Epstein really captured very well what I envision “the old boys club” of WWII would have been like as well as the fears and anxiety that would have existed leading up to these events. I was captivated by all of the characters, their stories, and how they all came together and tied up the various narrative strings. As I read, I kept wondering how different strings were going to come together, as they seemingly wound around each other but didn’t have an obvious connection at all times.

Modern Japan is a very new setting for me; Japan in general is a very new setting for me. Epstein’s experience living in Japan helped evoke the essence of the locale and made it very accessible to me as a reader. The actual scene of the fire-bombing was intense, terrifying, and tear inducing.

The book jumps across various locations with several years passing by in between each chapter. There were huge breaks in the knowledge we have of each of the main character’s experiences. While there were times that I felt that I would like to know some more about what happened since the last time we were with that character, it didn’t really matter in the end. There was always enough given to keep you connected with their story thread and to prevent the reader from being confused by what was transpiring.

I can’t say enough about how much I enjoyed this book. The prose was beautiful and read very quickly. For once the title and cover made great sense with the book (although I truthfully liked the hardcover version better). Pick this book up!

Author Jennifer Cody Epstein also has written The Painter From Shanghai. You can visit Jennifer’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 these excerpts from 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).


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


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Weekend Cooking: Edith Bolling Wilson’s Tea Cakes

Weekend Cooking

This weekend’s cooking was designed to enhance my feature this past week of President Woodrow Wilson – with a recipe from his wife, Edith’s, collection. I happened across the recipe entirely on accident. While I was looking for some information about the last house that Wilson lived in I came across their newsletter, which happened to include this little recipe along the side. Mrs. Wilson is noted for frequently serving these tea cakes at White House events until WWI and rationing came around.


Edith Bolling Wilson’s Tea Cakes
Makes approximately 5-6 dozen (depending on size & thickness)

¼ cup butter (½ stick)
2 cups brown sugar
5 eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
8 cups (un-sifted flour)
Sugar for dusting

1) In a large bowl, cream butter with brown sugar.

2) Beat in eggs, baking soda, nutmeg, and salt.

3) Stir in flour until dough is smooth; chill for 4 hours.

4) Preheat oven to 375°F.

5) Place dough on a floured surface and roll out thin (¼ to ½ inch thickness); cut out shapes with cookie cutters.

6) Dust cookies with sugar.

7) Bake on a greased cookie sheet for about 6 to 10 minutes.

*Serve with fruit or a flavorful ice cream.


I have never had a tea cake before, and after much time online searching for “tea cakes” I found a vast variety as to what a tea cake could be. So quite frankly, I have no idea if these came out right or not! I found one other person who indicated their tea cakes were Edith Wilsons, but they look very different – and they didn’t post their recipe.

In my uneducated opinion on tea cakes, these were ok. I think they would probably be good served as described with a “flavorful ice cream”. I would probably place the ice cream on top and it would provide moisture to the cake. They came out sort of like a gingerbread cookie consistency, but the dough was much drier and that made it very difficult to roll out. It has a very mild spice taste. Also, I could have entirely ruined the recipe by cutting the ingredients amounts in half (since I didn’t have 8 cups of flour).

I would love to hear if any of you have experience with a tea cake and could tell me what they are supposed to come out like. Maybe mine weren’t so bad after all! Also, if anyone tries out this recipe, I would love to hear how yours come out.

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


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Giveaway Winners


Good morning everyone! This is hopefully the first of two posts today – we’ll see how that goes.  Hopefully a Weekend Cooking post is to come later.

Right now I just want to announce the winners of the giveaways that went on this past week.

The Winter Sea Giveaway

From those respondents who provided their favorite Kearsley book or most anticipated Kearsley book – it looks like Marianna and The Winter Sea are the top vote getters.  I haven’t read any Kearsley myself, so I will have to trust them. 

The winner who was selected was…Shannon!!

When You Give A Duke A Diamond Giveaway

I don’t read a lot of historical romance, but the comments seem to agree that one reason we read historical romance is because we are looking for a somewhat lighter read typically with a happy ending.  I have typically found that too.

Anyway, the winner of When You Give A Duke A Diamond is…
Meg W!

Congrats to you both!  Emails have already been sent out for mailing information.  If it is not received within 5 days I will select a new winner.

Also, I need to point out something regarding giveaways.  Make sure you are following directions when you are entering the giveaway.  You should always click on the Rafflecopter entry button and READ what it says to do.  In this case I asked for entrants to leave a comment responding to a specific question – if you don’t answer the question, your entry doesn’t count.



Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Woodrow Wilson House–Virtual Tour

wilson house
L. Contemporary Image of Wilson on Porch. R. Current Image of Wilson House (Photo Credit: Todd A. Smith)

The Woodrow Wilson House is the home that the President and his second wife, Edith, moved into following the end of his presidential career. The house, located on S Street, was the home of the former president from 1921 to his death in 1924; his wife continued to reside there until her death in 1961. Upon Mrs. Wilson’s death, the house was given over to the National Trust for Historic Preservation and has been maintained in the manner it was when the President lived there in the 1920’s. Wilson was the only president who continued to live in Washington D.C. following his presidential retirement, so it is certainly a site you could visit while checking out the other D.C. sites.

ww house garden
The Garden of the Woodrow Wilson House – Photo Credit: Mr. T in DC Flicker

The Woodrow Wilson House maintains a blog where they periodically discuss pieces that are within their collection. They also host regular events (some of which are free) – such as the upcoming Vintage Game Night and they recently hosted author A. Scott Berg, author of the new book, Wilson.

drawing room
Wilson Drawing Room – Photo Credit: Todd A. Smith

There is a great collection of images and description of a tour at the following blogs: The World is Our District and Turn-of-the-Centuries.  There are also some images from Tim Evanson’s Flicker of many detailed images of the Wilson House.

You can also watch these short video tours from American Artifacts of the home and learn more about the Wilsons post-presidency:

American Artifacts Episode–General House Tour


American Artifacts Episode–Featuring Artifacts from Wilson’s Closet


American Artifacts Episode–The Wine Cellar

You can also keep up on the happenings at The Woodrow Wilson House on Facebook and Twitter.

The house is currently opened for tours Tuesday through Sunday at $10 for adults and $5 for students/children.  Located at 2340 S St NW, Washington, D.C.

Looking Toward Dining Room – Photo Credit: Todd A Smith


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Wilson Boyhood Home Virtual Tour

boyhood home
Wilson Boyhood Home, Augusta GA –
Photo Credit: Historic Augusta, Inc

Following their time in Virginia, the Wilson family, including 2 year old Tommy Woodrow Wilson (he was going by Tommy at that point) moved to Augusta, Georgia. This house was also known as The Manse and was the home of the Presbyterian pastors on the local parish. The Wilsons remained here for approximately 11 years before again relocating to Columbia, South Carolina. The Manse in Augusta stands as the home that Woodrow Wilson lived in the longest.

Wilson’s Parlor – Photo Credit: Historic Augusta, Inc

The Manse was acquired by Historic Augusta, INC in 1991 and restoration was undertaken to restore the home to its state in the 1860’s when the Wilson’s lived there.

best room
Best Room – Photo Credit: Historic Augusta, Inc

When you visit The Manse your admission includes a 45 minute guided tour of the house. Tickets are $5 for adults and Free-$3 for children depending on age. You can also view the house gardens which are kept up with seasonal selections that would have been used in gardens during the time the Wilsons lived in the house.

Gardens at Boyhood Home – Photo Credit: Historic Augusta, Inc

You can watch a mini video tour of the home below:

You can check out more about the Wilson Boyhood Home at their website.


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court