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Friday, January 29, 2016

Caught on Tape: Marie Antoinette

As you might well imagine, Marie Antoinette is one of the favorite subjects of historical films because the story is both dramatic and tragic (similar to how there is a plethora of Tudor films). Oh, and don’t forget those glittering beautiful gowns!! Today’s segment of Caught on Tape looks at the portrayal of Marie Antoinette in film from 1938 to the present. Who portrayed her best? Let’s find out!

Farewell, My Queen (2012)
“In July 1789, the French Revolution is rumbling. Far from the turmoil, at the Château de Versailles, King Louis XVI, Queen Marie-Antoinette and their courtiers keep on living their usual carefree lives. But when the news of the storming of the Bastille reaches them, panic sets in and most of the aristocrats and their servants desert the sinking ship, leaving the Royal Family practically alone. Which is not the case of Sidonie Laborde, the Queen's reader, a young woman, entirely devoted to her mistress; she will not give her up under any circumstances. What Sidonie does not know yet is that these are the last three days she will spend in the company of her beloved Queen...” 
Farewell, My Queen focuses on a few short days during the French Revolution as things start looking bad for the royals. The story is told through the eyes of one of the Queen’s servants, so you get an insider, but outsider view of the drama unfolding. A lesbian storyline was included in the relationship between the Queen and the Duchess de Polignac, which probably didn’t happen but was added based on scandal sheets of the time. Farewell, My Queen has received many prestigious recognitions. Diane Kruger plays Queen Marie Antoinette. It is a French film and is based on the award winning novel, Les Adieux à la reine, by Chantal Thomas and is absolutely visually stunning. It is available for streaming on Amazon Prime. This scene below is an excellent representation of the relationship between the two women as portrayed in this film.

Here is my full review.

Marie Antoinette (2006)
“The retelling of France's iconic but ill-fated queen, Marie Antoinette. From her betrothal and marriage to Louis XVI at 15 to her reign as queen at 19 and to the end of her reign as queen and ultimately the fall of Versailles.”
Portrayed by Kristin Dunst, this is the Marie Antoinette film I feel that the majority know (notably for its semi-recent release and star stature (both in the acting and the director, Sofia Coppola). It won an Academy Award for Best Costume Design which I whole-heartedly agree with, they are gorgeous costumes. I watched this film a while ago as part of a college women’s art class (as well as the rest of Coppola’s films) and wasn’t really impressed with any of this director’s works. I felt that the film lacked depth and was very surface and frilly. I also didn’t really like the integration of very modern, punk type music, with the historical drama – very jarring. It has been criticized by historians for hardly featuring any information on the political situation of the time and a far from accurate portrayal of the Queen. Not a favorite of mine and not my favorite portrayal of Marie Antoinette. The clip below fairly represents my thoughts on the whole film.

Here is my review of the whole film (note, my thoughts might have changed a little bit from the above).

The Affair of the Necklace (2001)
“In pre-Revolutionary France, a young aristocratic woman left penniless by the political unrest in the country, must avenge her family's fall from grace by scheming to steal a priceless necklace.”
The Affair of the Diamond Necklace was one of the elements that contributed to the downfall of the Queen. Although everything that had happened had transpired without her knowledge, the spin was that the Queen was spending precious money on frippery while the populace was going hungry. A great concept for a film. The film primarily focuses on the story of Jeanne de Saint-Remy de Valois (played by Hilary Swank) who is party of the rouse to steal the necklace. The Queen is but a secondary character here, played by Joely Richardson. Inspired by the events the film does take many historical liberties and the negative reviews of the film are mostly focused on the performance of Swank. I quite like the scene I chose below because it entirely focuses on the Queen and the arrival of the necklace (I’m not a fan of Swank either).

My review of the film can be found here.

L'Autrichienne (1990)
“A French film focusing on the last days of Marie Antoinette, primarily his imprisonment, trial, and its aftermath.”
This film was produced as part of the celebrations of the French Revolution’s bicentenary and based primarily on the transcripts of the trial of the Queen. Marie is not beautiful here as in the 3 previous films, but rather dressed down in the simpler gowns for prison. It has a sad feel to it, none of the breaks of gaiety. I found the entire film available on Youtube, but I haven’t yet found English subtitles. The scene below shows Marie in prison.

Marie Antoinette (1938)
“The tragic life of Marie Antoinette, who became queen of France in her late teens.”
The 1930’s loved to make historical dramas. The film was based on the non-fiction book, Marie Antoinette: The Portrait of an Average Woman, which was published in 1932. It was one of the most expensive films of the year, but did quite well for itself. Norma Shearer plays Marie Antoinette and Tyrone Power plays Count Axel Fersen (both big Hollywood names of the time).  Norma Shearer was pretty excellent as Marie - maybe too old for some of the early scenes, but was able to walk the delicate line between frivolous/dramatic/lonely.  The costumes are said to be very accurate, and should be since they are said to have the highest cost for a films costumes ever! While it might not be the most accurate in its storytelling, I love these old films! The scene below is Marie’s arrival at Versailles.

Here is my entire review of this film.

Have you seen any of these films? Or any others I didn’t mention? There are MANY more films and television representations than I chose to highlight here. I like the look of Farewell, My Queen the best, but enjoy the story from Marie Antoinette (1938) the most. The trend seems to be to make a film on her whole life, the last couple of days of her life, or The Affair of the Necklace. I would love to hear what you think!

Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Book Review: 12 Brides of Summer Novella Collection 2 by Mary Connealy, Amanda Cabot, and Maureen Lang

A Bride Rides Herd by Mary Connealy
The Fourth of July Bride by Amanda Cabot
The Summer Harvest Bride by Maureen Lang
In Novella Collection 2 of the 12 Brides of Summer series

ARC, E-Book, 149 pages
Shiloh Run Studios
July 1, 2015
★★★★ ½☆

Heat Rating:

Genre: Christian Historical Romance, Western, Short Stories

Source: Received for review via Netgalley request
Love Is Buzzing in the Good Old Summertime!  Spend the sunny days of summer relaxing with an ice cold glass of lemonade and revel in the dreams of twelve brides who are a bit surprised by how the men of their dreams come into their lives.  Journey to the Old West, stay on the prairie, and visit quaint small towns. . .without leaving the comfort of your own front porch! 
Fireworks start to fly as love finds its way into open hearts in Novella Collection #2:
A Bride Rides Herd by Mary Connealy
Matt Reeves arrives at his brother’s ranch to find Betsy Harden alone with the little girls during a cattle drive. Will the ladies be too much to handle when Matt steps in for the missing ranch hand?
The Fourth of July Bride by Amanda Cabot
Cattle baron Gideon Carlisle offers to pay for surgery that Naomi Towson’s mother needs, if Naomi will enter a faux courtship with him while his mother is visiting over the fourth of July. It’s a business arrangement, nothing more.
The Summer Harvest Bride by Maureen Lang
Sally Hobson is practically engaged to the mayor’s son when Lukas Daughton and his family come to town to build a gristmill. She can’t deny an unusual feeling growing for Lukas, but is he trustworthy?
These novella/short story collections are prefect for me when I’m not ready for a long-term commitment with a new book. We all have those days, for me, it especially after finishing a lengthy book. Here you get three complete little romances, about a 3 hour commitment of your time for the whole book, and they are complete with great characters, simple love, and some fun plot twists.

A Bride Rides Herd by Mary Connealy was the perfect way to kick off this collection. From the first lines there is non-stop action until the very end. It grabs you and sucks you in. The male lead, Matt, stumbles upon Betsey who is caring for his brother’s children. Neither of them know too much about taking care of kids and quite the adventure unfolds. The way it is written it would be the perfect western rom-com movie! Mary Connealy is known for her incorporation of humor in her works and that is on display here to great effect. I loved all the characters and it was well paced – I didn’t want this one to end!

The Fourth of July Bride by Amanda Cabot is your classic tale of two people who need each other to solve a problem that they have; their relationship is a business deal and nothing more. Until they start to fall for each other. It felt something like an old school She’s All That, which I loved (minus the bet). Something always gets in the way and in this novel that is religion. It is a tried and true trope but I found the religious angle to be believable for the time period. It was fun to read that a few of the secondary characters in this story were featured in their own works, The Christmas Star Bride (from the 12 Brides of Christmas novella series) and Waiting for Spring.

The Summer Harvest Bride by Maureen Lang is a tale of unexpected love. Sally is comfortable with her life and there is an expectation from everyone in town that she will be marrying the mayor’s son, it’s just a matter of when. When these new visitors show up with a startling plan to build a mill in the town, which throws a wall up between Sally and her intended as they end up on opposite sides of this debate. And that leave some room for Lukas to try to wiggle his way into Sally’s heart. But what does she want, the life that is expected or something that she can’t see yet what the future will bring? I thought all of the characters were very full for a short story and I appreciated that they received the same treatment as those in a novel. The choices the characters made felt true to their core. I also enjoyed the details included about the building and operations of a grist mill. I have had some experience with these during my MANY trips to Old Sturbridge Village so I can attest to it simulating the real experience. This novella included the least of the inspirational/Christian elements.

Overall, this was another wonderful collection; none of the stories were a letdown at all. I have one collection left in this series and I can’t wait to have the chance to read it!

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Also Part of the 12 Brides of Summer Series:

12 Brides of Summer Novella Collection #1
[My Review]
12 Brides of Summer Novella Collection #3

12 Brides of Summer Novella Collection #4
[My Review]


Find the 12 Brides Series (Including the Christmas Series): Website | Facebook

Find Mary Connealy: Website | Blog

Find Amanda Cabot: Website | Facebook | Blog | Twitter

Find Maureen Lang: Website | Facebook | Pinterest | Blog


Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

TV Historical Dramas Preview - Part 4

The final segment of the Historical Dramas Preview sort of is a catch-all category covering all the remaining standard cable channels. Mostly I have focused on shows that come of various specialty cable channels, but they come on others too!

On History Channel

Vikings – Premiered March 2013 – 3 seasons with a 4th starting in February 2016
Vikings is inspired by the sagas of Viking Ragnar Lothbrok, one of the best-known legendary Norse heroes and notorious as the scourge of England and France. The show portrays Ragnar as a former farmer who rises to fame by successful raids into England, and eventually becomes king of Denmark, with the support of his family and fellow warriors: his brother Rollo, his son Bjorn Ironside, and his wives—the shieldmaiden Lagertha and the princess Aslaug.
Somehow I haven’t had the chance to watch this one yet! I guess there is only so much time in the day. I love that they took a chance with an era of history that hadn’t been over exposed and that it has been such a hit with fans and critics alike. It’s such an intriguing and different culture from many of the other historical dramas we have discussed over the last few weeks. The showrunner has indicated that some liberties were taken with the show based on elements that are unknown and to appeal to a wider audience.

War and Peace – Premiered January 2016 (current) - 6 episode mini-series
A television presentation of the classic Leo Tolstoy novel. A story that revolves around five aristocratic families, set during the reign of Alexander I, and centered on the love triangle between Natasha Rostova, Pierre Bezukhov, and Andrei Bolkonsky.
I have never tackled War and Peace because it is just too long for me, so a tv version might just be perfect! It does appeal to me the setting of Russia which you don’t see all that often in historical novels or dramas. I have been told that it is a don’t miss show!


Of Kings and Prophets – Premiering in March 2016
An upcoming American television drama based on the Biblical Books of Samuel. The series follows an ensemble of characters including Saul and David, the successive Kings of Israel, their families, and their political rivals. Of Kings and Prophets is set in the Kingdom of Israel.
This has been described as the world’s first soap opera and they intend to push the envelope with regard to violence and sex on broadcast television – which might turn off some, but appeal to others who have appreciated that in some of the cable channels. Again, not a subject that has been done that I can even remember so I am intrigued as to how this one goes.


The Bastard Executioner – Premiered September 2015 - 1 season (ended)
The Bastard Executioner tells the story of Wilkin Brattle, a 14th century warrior, whose life is forever changed when a divine messenger beseeches him to lay down his sword and lead the life of another man: a journeyman executioner. Set in northern Wales during a time rife with rebellion and political upheaval, Wilkin must walk a tight rope between protecting his true identity while also serving a mysterious destiny. Guided by Annora, a mystical healer whose seeming omniscience keeps Wilkin under her sway; manipulated by Milus Corbett, a devious Chamberlain with grand political aspirations; and driven by a deepening connection with the Baroness Lady Love, Wilkin struggles to navigate political, emotional and supernal pitfalls in his quest to understand his greater purpose.
I had heard a lot about this show in its lead up. I was intrigued by the concept of an executioner being the main character because it is a very interesting historical role to consider. Apparently it focuses on blood and gore over storyline and has primarily negative reviews. I would love to hear from anyone who might have watched this!

On ITV (Britain)/Esquire (USA)

Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands – Premiered January 2016
Epic fantasy drama that is a re-imagining of themes and characters from the Old English poem Beowulf, but with new characters and storylines added.
I struggled to comprehend Beowulf in high school (probably because I had to read it), but I love the action drama idea behind it. This only just premiered in the USA yesterday, so obviously I haven’t watched it yet.

Alright, with this being the final installment, are there any historical dramas that I left out that you loved? I would love to hear!

Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, January 25, 2016

Book Review: The Settling Earth by Rebecca Burns

The Settling Earth by Rebecca Burns
ARC, E-book, 128 pages
Odyssey Books
December 16, 2014

Genre: Historical Fiction, Short Story Collection

Source: Received from the author via Netgalley for review
Marriage transplants Sarah thousands of miles from home; a failed love affair forces Phoebe to make drastic choices in a new environment; a sudden, shocking discovery brings Mrs Ellis to reconsider her life as an emigrant — The Settling Earth is a collection of ten, interlinked stories, focusing on the British settler experience in colonial New Zealand, and the settlers’ attempts to make sense of life in a strange new land. 
Sacrifices, conflict, a growing love for the landscape, a recognition of the succour offered by New Zealand to Maori and settler communities — these are themes explored in the book. The final story in the collection, written by Shelly Davies of the Ngātiwai tribe, adds a Maori perspective to the experience of British settlement in their land.
I have read several historical fiction short story collections and they tend to fall into two different styles; those that are all loosely based around a central theme, but not interrelated and then those that all contribute to telling a unified story. The Settling Earth falls into that later category, but at the same time, it is still different. These stories were more like character sketches. Each of the subjects has a unique experience in the burgeoning land of New Zealand that contributes to the larger British colonial story, which is the overarching theme. However, there is not all that much of a plot in each of these stories. For the majority of each story, the reader is in that character’s head while they think back over what has transpired since they arrived in New Zealand to bring them to the current point. It took me through the first two stories to get that it wasn’t going to be the type of collection where a lot happened; once I got into that mindset I enjoyed the stories for what they were. I’m telling you, don’t stop after the first two stories, the best is yet to come, and the story called Dottie blew me away. I was shocked at the realization of what was actually transpiring here and I had to go back and restart that story again to get it all.

I really got into the characters presented here. You learn about them not only through their own stories, but through the interconnected stories of others. Each character is associated with the story of at least one other character. I would have loved to have had more from any of these stories.

Now, I know absolutely nothing about New Zealand – neither historically nor contemporary. Burns does a fantastic job of vividly bringing the land and time to life. I could see and feel the world around these characters. I have a brilliant visual idea in my head now of what life would have looked like to an immigrant coming to New Zealand looking for a promised new life.

I encourage you to pick up this short collection, you won’t be disappointed with the experience that you walk away with.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | RJ Julia

Also by Rebecca Burns:

Catching the Barramundi

Find Rebecca Burns: Website | Facebook | Twitter


Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Friday, January 22, 2016

Book Review: Down to the Bonny Glen by Melissa Wiley

Down to the Bonny Glen by Melissa Wiley
Little House: The Martha Years Book 3
Paperback, 321 pages, Unabridged
May 8, 2001

Genre: Historical Fiction, YA

Source: Personal collection
Martha is frustrated because Mum has said she's too old to be playing on the moors now, and she must have a governess. First there's Miss Norrie. All she must to do is teach Martha sewing and etiquette. But Martha's high spirits are too much for her, and she leaves in a hurry. Martha thinks that's the end of that, but then another governess shows up. Her name is Miss Crow, and Martha is sure she's going to be even worse!
Down To The Bonny Glen is the third book in The Martha Years, an ongoing series about another spirited girl from America's most beloved pioneer family.
In this third book of what is a four book series, we see Martha hitting that age where she is starting to grow up. She still loves to be outside and have fun instead of doing her lessons (like any child), but she starts to become aware of the world around her. She begins to see that her sister, Grisie, is of an age where she might be leaving home soon and what responsibilities growing up and becoming a woman entail. You can see a real difference between the reckless child of the beginning of the novel (or from the first two books) and the young girl who is taking her actions into account and starting to consider the future beyond five minutes away. This is certainly the theme of this novel and one that most of the age-appropriate readers will understand. Despite this growing up phase, there is still one rollicking adventure in the last quarter of the book!

We also see some set up in this novel for obviously book 4, but also for what will take us into the Charlotte years (Martha’s daughter). We first meet Lew Tucker, who will end up becoming Martha’s husband down the road and there is a lot of discussion regarding what lies beyond the glen that they live in – the big cities and America, where Martha will eventually travel.

There are still some Scottish traditions, dialogue, and stories here that we have grown to expect and enjoy from the earlier novels.

I look forward to seeing how this series concludes and how it will link into the next – the Charlotte Years. I have read widely from within the various parts of these series, but never completely through each to see how they connect.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Please be aware that this series is currently out of print but can often be found on Ebay or Half.com - but you have to look often because they can be exorbitantly priced.  There was also an abridged version of many of these books released.  I would advise trying to check your local libraries for these books.  There was apparently some discussion at some point about bringing them back as e-books, so let the publisher know you are interested! Email, tweet, Facebook, etc!

Also by Melissa Wiley:

Melissa Wiley wrote both the Martha and Charlotte Years of the Little House series, the other books in the Martha Years are:

Little House in the Highlands (Book 1)
[My Review]

On the Far Side of the Loch (Book 2)

Beyond the Heather Hills (Book 4)

Find Melissa Wiley: Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter


Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Wish List 5: Colonial/Revolutionary America

Once a month I am planning on sharing with you all 5 of my biggest wish list books broken up by theme. I know that you all need more on your TBR!!! This month I’m featuring those set in colonial or revolutionary America.

Martha Peake by Patrick McGrath

Master storyteller Patrick McGrath -- author of the critically acclaimed novel Asylum and a finalist for England's prestigious Whitbread Prize for fiction -- once again spins a hypnotic tale of psychological suspense and haunting beauty. Set among the teeming streets and desolate wharves of Hogarth's London, then shifting to the powder-keg colony of Massachusetts Bay, Martha Peake envelops the reader in a world on the brink of revolution, and introduces us to a flame-haired heroine who will live in the imagination long after the last page is turned.

Settled with our narrator beside a crackling fire, we hear of the poet and smuggler Harry Peake -- how Harry lost his wife, Grace, in a tragic fire that left him horribly disfigured; how he made a living displaying his deformed spine in the alehouses of eighteenth-century London; and how his only solace was his devoted daughter, Martha, who inherited all of his fire but none of his passion for cheap gin. As the drink eats away at Harry's soul, it opens ancient wounds; when he commits one final act of unspeakable brutality, Martha, fearing for her life, must flee for the American colonies. Once safely on America's shores, Martha immerses herself in the passions of smoldering rebellion. But even in this land of new beginnings, she is unable to escape the past. Caught up in a web of betrayals, she redeems herself with one final, unforgettable act of courage.

Superbly plotted and wholly absorbing, Martha Peake is an edge-of-your-seat shocker that is crafted with the psychological precision Patrick McGrath's fans have come to expect. Martha Peake is the poignant, often disturbing tale of a child fighting free of a father's twisted love, and of the colonists' struggle to free themselves from a smothering homeland. It is Patrick McGrath's finest novel yet.

Flight of the Sparrow by Anne Belding Brown

She suspects that she has changed too much to ever fit easily into English society again. The wilderness has now become her home. She can interpret the cries of birds. She has seen vistas that have stolen away her breath. She has learned to live in a new, free way.... 

Massachusetts Bay Colony, 1676. Even before Mary Rowlandson is captured by Indians on a winter day of violence and terror, she sometimes found herself in conflict with her rigid Puritan community. Now, her home destroyed, her children lost to her, she has been sold into the service of a powerful woman tribal leader, made a pawn in the on-going bloody struggle between English settlers and native people. Battling cold, hunger, and exhaustion, Mary witnesses harrowing brutality but also unexpected kindness. To her confused surprise, she is drawn to her captors’ open and straightforward way of life, a feeling further complicated by her attraction to a generous, protective English-speaking native known as James Printer. All her life, Mary has been taught to fear God, submit to her husband, and abhor Indians. Now, having lived on the other side of the forest, she begins to question the edicts that have guided her, torn between the life she knew and the wisdom the natives have shown her.

Based on the compelling true narrative of Mary Rowlandson,Flight of the Sparrow is an evocative tale that transports the reader to a little-known time in early America and explores the real meaning of freedom, faith, and acceptance.

Benjamin Franklin’s Bastard by Sally Cabot

Benjamin Franklin's Bastard by Sally Cabot is an absorbing and compelling work of literary historical fiction that brings to life a little-known chapter of the American Revolution -- the story of Benjamin Franklin and his bastard son, and the women who loved them both.

William Franklin, the son of Benjamin and his favorite mistress, Anne, is raised by Deborah, Benjamin's wife. A steadfast loyalist, he and his father cannot reconcile their wildly disparate views, causing a rift in the bond both thought unbreakable.

Fascinating and heartbreaking, Benjamin Franklin's Bastard is a gripping tale of family, love, and war, set against one of America's most fascinating periods of history.

Redcoat by Bernard Cornwell

It is autumn 1777, and the cradle of liberty, Philadelphia, has fallen to the British. Yet the true battle has only just begun.

On both sides, loyalties are tested and families torn asunder. The young Redcoat Sam Gilpin has seen his brother die. Now he must choose between duty to a distant king and the call of his own conscience. And for the men and women of the prosperous Becket family, the Revolution brings bitter conflict between those loyal to the crown and those with dreams of liberty.

Soon, across the fields of ice and blood in a place called Valley Forge, history will be rewritten, changing the lives and fortunes of these men and women forever.

My Name is Resolute by Nancy E. Turner

The year is 1729, and Resolute Talbot and her siblings are captured by pirates, taken from their family in Jamaica, and brought to the New World. Resolute and her sister are sold into slavery in colonial New England and taught the trade of spinning and weaving. When Resolute finds herself alone in Lexington, Massachusetts, she struggles to find her way in a society that is quick to judge a young woman without a family. As the seeds of rebellion against England grow, Resolute is torn between following the rules and breaking free. Resolute’s talent at the loom places her at the center of an incredible web of secrecy that helped drive the American Revolution.

Have you read any of these? Any other colonial/revolutionary novels you would add to this list?

Looking for some Colonial/Revolutionary America books I have read and reviewed?  Give these a try!

   The Turning of Anne Merrick          The Turncoat                    The Traitor's Wife         
★★★★½☆                  ★★★★½☆                  ★★★★☆   

Here are some of the wishlists from a few of my friends this month:

Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

TV Historical Dramas Preview - Part 3

One of the untapped channel line-ups for me is BBC America. I have watched the occasional show when I happen to come across something, but it is not one that I regularly remember that I have (too many channels I guess…). But there are some fantastic historical drama shows on this channel too!

On BBC America

The Last Kingdom – Premiered October 2015 and 2nd season has been ordered
The Last Kingdom is a British television series, an eight-part adaptation of Bernard Cornwell’s historical novels series The Saxon Stories. Set in the late ninth century AD, when what is known as England today was several separate kingdoms. The Anglo-Saxon lands are attacked and, in many instances, ruled by Danes. The Kingdom of Wessex has been left standing alone.
The protagonist Uhtred, the orphaned son of a Saxon nobleman, is captured by Viking Danes and reared as one of them. Forced to choose between a kingdom that shares his ancestry and the people of his upbringing, his loyalties are constantly tested.
The first series' storyline roughly covers the plot of the original two novels, The Last Kingdom and The Pale Horseman although condensed for the purposes of television.
I’m excited to watch this one as I have loved all the Bernard Cornwell books that I have read and I have read the first two books in this series, so I’m all set for the first season. It would be interesting to see how this plays out against The History Channel’s The Vikings. Anyone watched both?

Ripper Street – Premiered January 2013 and 4th season started in January 2016
Ripper Street is a British TV series set in Whitechapel in the East End of London. It begins in 1889, six months after the infamous Jack the Ripper murders. The streets of Whitechapel are the haunt of Detective Inspector Edmund Reid and his team of officers, who aim to maintain law and order in a place once terrorized by Jack the Ripper.
I have always found the Jack the Ripper story to be fascinating and historical novelists seem to love this too – most likely because the murders have never been “solved” so there is a lot of room to play. This show seems to have had a slippery slope in terms of viewership and success, I would love to hear from those of you that have watched this.

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell – Premiered June 2015 – 1 season (ended)
Set in England during the Napoleonic wars at the beginning of the 19th century, the series presents an alternative history where magic is widely acknowledged, but rarely practiced. Living in the rural north, Mr Norrell of Hurtfew Abbey is able to make the statues of York Minster talk and move. His manservant John Childermass persuades him to travel to London to help in the war against France. While there, Mr Norrell encounters a leading member of the government and makes magic respectable in the realm when he conjures a fairy, called the Gentleman, to bring the minister's fiancée back to life. Meanwhile, Jonathan Strange meets Vinculus, a street magician, while attempting to find a respectable profession, as demanded by his love Arabella. Strange is told by Vinculus that he is destined to be a great magician and so he begins to study magic.
An alternate history/historical fantasy style series – something my husband could get in to (he read most of the book, but it sits unfinished on the bookshelf currently). While the genre and description don’t necessarily sound like my style, it came out to rave reviews.

The Musketeers – Premiered January 2014 and has been renewed for a 3rd season
The Musketeers is a BBC historical-action drama program based on the characters from Alexandre Dumas's novel The Three Musketeers. In 1630 Paris, Athos, Aramis and Porthos are a group of highly trained musketeers commanded by Captain Treville who meet d'Artagnan, a skillful farm boy with hopes of becoming a musketeer. The series follows them as they fight to protect King and country.
While I haven’t read the book, I have read many books based on the original story of the Three Musketeers or seen movie/tv varieties. This is something I could get into!

Any other great shows on BBC America that I am missing out on? Please let me know!!

Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Book Review: The Lady's Command by Stephanie Laurens

The Lady’s Command by Stephanie Laurens
Book 1 of The Adventurers Quartet
E-Book, 384 pages
December 29, 2015

Heat Rating:

Genre: Historical Romance, Adventure, Regency

Source: Received from publisher for review as part of TLC Book Tour
“The instant Captain Declan Frobisher laid eyes on Lady Edwina Delbraith, he knew she was the lady he wanted as his wife. The scion of a seafaring dynasty accustomed to success, he discovered that wooing Edwina was surprisingly straightforward—not least because she made it plain that she wanted him as much as he wanted her.

Declan’s vision of marriage was of a gently-reared wife to grace his arm, to manage his household, and to bear his children. He assumed that household, children, and wife would remain safely in England while he continued his life as an explorer sailing the high seas.

Declan got his wish—up to a point. He and Edwina were wed. As for the rest—his vision of marriage…

Aunt of the young Duke of Ridgware and sister of the mysterious man known as Neville Roscoe, London’s gambling king, even before the knot was tied Edwina shattered the illusion that her character is as delicate, ethereal, and fragile as her appearance suggests. Far from adhering to orthodox mores, she and her ducal family are even more unconventional than the Frobishers.

Beneath her fairy-princess exterior, Edwina possesses a spine of steel—one that might bend, but will never break. Born to the purple—born to rule—she’s determined to rule her life. With Declan’s ring on her finger, that means forging a marriage that meets her needs as well as his.

But bare weeks into their honeymoon, Declan is required to sail to West Africa. Edwina decides she must accompany him.

A secret mission with unknown villains flings unexpected dangers into their path as Declan and Edwina discover that meeting the challenge of making an unconventional marriage work requires something they both possess—bold and adventurous hearts.”
The Adventurers Quartet is a set of 4 novels each focusing on a different Frobisher brother – starting with Declan in The Lady’s Command. Immediately from the start I had a slightly nagging feeling that I was supposed to know something about these people already, despite this being the first book in a series – and I wasn’t wrong! Some of the characters in this series were secondary characters in Laurens’ prior novel The Lady Risks All, as well as two of her prior series The Bastion Club and The Black Cobra Quartet. I don’t feel that having not read these in any way impacted my experience with this book – there were just little references from time to time that I registered as probably have some significance; for example, there were frequent references to the mess of the Black Cobra cult and campaigns.

I don’t typically read a ton of historical romances, but what drew me to accept this for review was the bent toward the adventure – and I have to say, that was the enjoyable part of this novel for me, romance and history aside. I am going to do this review a little different and take each of those elements at hand here.

- Romance -

It was so refreshing to have a romance novel start with two characters that are already married at the start of the novel – and not even the kind of married that happened because they were forced together by circumstances. They actually are in love with each other from the beginning! What was interesting was seeing how this grew and changed over the course of the novel and made their relationship stronger. I would say that the romance was a secondary element to the novel. While there was certainly an acceptable helping of romantic scenes, they actually served to develop the characters rather than just be thrown in for the sake of sex. They were rather tasteful and alluding, but gave you just enough without being too graphic.

- History -

The historical part was mostly just the backdrop setting. This is a regency set novel taking place in England, on the high seas, and in colonial Africa. You get a sense of the drawing room and the dangers of the port. You hear mention of slave traders. That’s about the extent of it.

- Adventure -

People have gone missing – Declan is sent on a mission to figure out why. It’s part mystery, part adventure on the high seas and the borderline wilderness of Africa. I typically don’t enjoy historical mysteries because they tend to be so transparent and flimsy. But I did not see the twists coming in this one. And while we do not know how this mystery wraps up (that will happen in future installments of this series) I found it to be an adequate place to pause the story.

The segments that take place in England were honestly the most absolutely boring parts of the novel. I almost put the book down at the 25% mark because it was frustratingly slow. She loves him, he loves her – they stare at each other with longing – and that is it. Until they set foot on the boat, it is not interesting at all. As soon as they return to England the story ground to a halt – I was hopeful that style had lost its way in Africa, but no go.

Overall, I enjoyed the story and I might feel compelled to read the next book when it comes out. It was one of the more enjoyable historical romance novels I have read.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | RJ Julia

Also by Stephanie Laurens:

Stephanie Laurens has written many novels, those in the Adventure Quartet include:

A Buccaneer at Heart (Book 2)
[My Review]

A Daredevil Snared (Book 3)
[My Review]

Lord of the Privateers (Book 4)
Coming December 2016

Find Stephanie Laurens: Website | Newsletter

Follow the Tour!

Tour Stops:
Monday, January 4th: Romancing the Book

Tuesday, January 5th: Bewitched Bookworms

Wednesday, January 6th: The Sassy Bookster

Thursday, January 7th: Thoughts from an Evil Overlord

Friday, January 8th: A Chick Who Reads

Monday, January 11th: The Romance Dish

Tuesday, January 12th: BookNAround

Wednesday, January 13th: From the TBR Pile

Thursday, January 14th: Worth Getting in Bed For

Friday, January 15th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Monday, January 18th: Reading Reality

Tuesday, January 19th: The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, January 20th: Black ‘n Gold Girl’s Book Spot

Thursday, January 21st: FictionZeal

Friday, January 22nd: View from the Birdhouse

Monday, January 25th: Bibliotica

Tuesday, January 26th: A Night’s Dream of Books

Wednesday, January 27th: One Curvy Blogger

Thursday, January 28th: It’s a Mad Mad World

Friday, January 29th: Stranded in Chaos

Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Weekend Wrap-Up

Hey everyone! I hope you are having a great weekend and hope many of you will get to extend it through tomorrow with the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. I wanted to take today to just share some interesting articles that I read over the last week related to blogging, reading, and the publishing world. If you follow me on Facebook, you may have seem some of these already, but I felt they were important enough to be shared again here.

If you are an author, or an aspiring author, this article by Brooke Warner about cover design could be very helpful! She has worked in publishing for many years and her advice might just result in your book looking great on the shelf in a store near you!

Do you blog? Then this is an important read! How to avoid a lawsuit over a picture you innocently grab from a Google search and use on your site. Good tip, get your images from a free stock images site – such as All The Free Stock, Pixabay, or Pexels. I explored them and actually found a decent number of images for what I was looking for. I still always cite where an image was from if it was a photograph and if using someone else’s photo it is good practice to ask permission – in my experience they will usually say yes.

Have books you want to get rid of? Have you thought about donating them to a prison? I certainly hadn’t, but it is a viable option. Here is a pretty solid post about how to do that.

Emma Watson (of Harry Potter fame) started a feminist book club on Goodreads called Our Shared Shelf – I checked it out, have you?

And before I forget

What have you found influential this week?


Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Book Review: Cataclysm by David Stevenson

Cataclysm: The First World War as Political Tragedy by David Stevenson
Paperback, 624 pages
Basic Books
May 11, 2005

Genre: Non-Fiction, History

Source: Personal purchase for my Masters class

David Stevenson’s widely acclaimed history of World War I changes forever our understanding of that pivotal conflict. Countering the commonplace assumption that politicians lost control of events, and that the war, once it began, quickly became an unstoppable machine, Stevenson contends that politicians deliberately took risks that led to war in July 1914. Far from being overwhelmed by the unprecedented scale and brutality of the bloodshed, political leaders on both sides remained very much in control of events throughout. According to Stevenson, the disturbing reality is that the course of the war was the result of conscious choices—including the continued acceptance of astronomical casualties. In fluid prose, Stevenson has written a definitive history of the man-made catastrophe that left lasting scars on the twentieth century. Cataclysm is a truly international history, incorporating new research on previously undisclosed records from governments in Europe and across the world. From the complex network of secret treaties and alliances that eventually drew all of Europe into the war, through the bloodbaths of Gallipoli and the Somme, to the arrival of American forces, and the massive political, economic, and cultural shifts the conflict left in its wake, Cataclysm is a major revision of World War I history.
It is easy to understand why Cataclysm is used as the primary textbook for many classes on the First World War. In its one volume, it is absolutely jam packed with an immense amount of information covering all the angles that someone would want to look at the war from. There are viewpoints for each of the countries involved, what led up to the war, and how the war played out (year by year), and the resulting repercussions. It can certainly be used throughout an entire semester (I know from experience!).

I found the book to be an extremely dense read – after just a few pages I felt tired from reading it and had to put it down; because of that it took me a lot longer to read. There was a lot of facts and numbers, to include armament counts, death tolls, etc. Honestly, I think every statistic that could possibly be given was included in this work. That is excellent if you have a detail driven interest in the war, but for an everyday reader if was intense.

In terms of layout, it is fairly well done. Part 1 is the prelude to war, Part 2 looks at the various aspects of the war, Part 3 looks at the actual progression of the war to its conclusion, and Part 4 is the legacy of the war. Part 2 is the drier of the parts and is primarily where the extensive detail mine is. It is broken up into chapters such as “War Aims and Peace Negotiations”, “Technology, Logistics, and Tactics”, “Manpower and Morale” Part 3 is broken up by years and the general themes of who had the advantage. There are several maps located in the introduction of the book that I think would have been better placed within the appropriate chapters as quite frankly I forgot about referring back to them throughout the reading. When it comes to a discussion of war I find maps to be highly important and should be embraced with the discussion. I’m fine with the photographs being included in one section toward the middle of the book as they add more of a well-rounded overall experience, but are not absolutely necessary.

Overall, this is an excellent presentation on the First World War, but it is not light reading by any means.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | RJ Julia

Also by David Stevenson:

1914-1918: The History of the First World War

With Our Backs to the Wall: Victory and Defeat in 1918

Highland Warrior

Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Scotland, 1644-1651

Find David Stevenson: Website

Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court