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Friday, June 29, 2012

Audiobook Review: Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

bring up the bodies

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
Unabridged, 14 hr. 35 min.
Macmillan Audio
Simon Vance (Narrator)
May 8, 2012
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Genre: Historical fiction (literary)

Source: Received from publisher for review as part of Audiobook Jukebox Solid Gold Reviewer Program

“The sequel to Hilary Mantel's 2009 Man Booker Prize winner and New York Times bestseller, Wolf Hall delves into the heart of Tudor history with the downfall of Anne Boleyn

Though he battled for seven years to marry her, Henry is disenchanted with Anne Boleyn. She has failed to give him a son and her sharp intelligence and audacious will alienate his old friends and the noble families of England. When the discarded Katherine dies in exile from the court, Anne stands starkly exposed, the focus of gossip and malice.

At a word from Henry, Thomas Cromwell is ready to bring her down. Over three terrifying weeks, Anne is ensnared in a web of conspiracy, while the demure Jane Seymour stands waiting her turn for the poisoned wedding ring. But Anne and her powerful family will not yield without a ferocious struggle. Hilary Mantel's Bring Up the Bodies follows the dramatic trial of the queen and her suitors for adultery and treason. To defeat the Boleyns, Cromwell must ally with his natural enemies, the papist aristocracy. What price will he pay for Anne's head?”

While I didn’t love the predecessor, Wolf Hall, I still wanted to give this book a try and chose the audio format because it was the only reason I was able to actually get through Wolf Hall. I actually liked this book more than the first, but it still is not a favorite and there are still problems that I had with this novel.

I was able to get into the events of the story more in this novel because there was action and intrigue happening at every turn. This story focuses primarily on the short period of time where Anne Boleyn gets caught up in the events that eventually bring about her downfall and ends shortly following the executions of Anne and her associates. These were familiar events that were easy to follow and I already knew the characters.

I found myself disliking Thomas Cromwell more and more as the book progressed. He just became a more despicable character to me as he gets more involved in Anne’s downfall. I am actually quite interested in seeing how she deals with the fall of Thomas Cromwell.

The nagging problem with pronouns was still prominent in this novel. I have read reviews that state that Mantel solves the issue some readers had (as I did) with the “he, he, he”. I found the solution to be just as aggravating as the problem. There is still a lot of “he, he, he”, however periodically there is now a “he, Cromwell” or “he, Henry”. I would prefer if they just went with “Cromwell” or “Henry” – just get rid of the “he”! It became just as frustrating with all of the “he, Cromwell” as it did with “he”.

Also, as with its predecessor, the ending was quite abrupt. It felt just like it ended in the middle of the thought. I would have appreciated a little more closure.

Overall, for me, this was a better read than Wolf Hall. This book can be read as a stand alone and I would recommend this over Wolf Hall any day.



The narrator did a fabulous job of portraying different characters, accents, female characters, etc. He was very easy to listen to and his characters fit with the personalities I had crafted in my head.

If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book?

You can also check out the audiobook sample below:

You can also watch a discussion with the author about Bring Up the Bodies.

Reviews of this book by others: 

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

Also by Hilary Mantel:

wolf hall
Wolf Hall
[My Review]

the assassination of margaret thatcher
The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher

Find Hilary Mantel: Website | Facebook

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Book Review: Her Highness, the Traitor by Susan Higginbotham

her highness the traitor

Her Highness, the Traitor by Susan Higginbotham
ARC, Paperback, 336 pages
Sourcebooks Landmark
June 1, 2012
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Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Received from Publisher for review

“As Henry VIII draws his last breath, two very different women, Jane Dudley, Viscountess Lisle, and Frances Grey, Marchioness of Dorset, face the prospect of a boy king, Edward VI.

For Jane Dudley, basking in the affection of her large family, the coming of a new king means another step upward for her ambitious, able husband, John. For Frances Grey, increasingly alienated from her husband and her brilliant but arrogant daughter Lady Jane, it means that she—and the Lady Jane—are one step closer to the throne of England.

Then the young king falls deathly ill. Determined to keep England under Protestant rule, he concocts an audacious scheme that subverts his own father’s will. Suddenly, Jane Dudley and Frances Grey are reluctantly bound together in a common cause—one that will test their loyalties, their strength, and their faith, and that will change their lives beyond measure.”

Throughout my reading of this book, I felt like the title could be changed slightly to fit almost every main character. At one time or another they were all found to be traitors to the crown and a vast many paid for it with their lives. With that said, THE traitor of the title is not one of our narrators, but her story is told through the viewpoints of Jane Dudley (Jane Grey’s mother-in-law) and Frances Grey (Jane Grey’s mother). I really appreciated this story being told from their perspectives. With the alternating chapters you could see events from both sides of the fence – and usually they were on opposing sides. With these narrators you are right within the crush of events, however they escape with their lives. I feel that the author did a very good job of making these women their own and really getting the reader to care about them.

Regarding THE traitor, Jane Grey – I found it hard to connect with her in this novel. She isn’t one of the narrators, so we have to see her through the eyes of others, and you would think with two opposing narrators we would get a well-rounded view of her. She appears stand-offish and mostly one dimensional. When she meets her ultimate end, I did not feel too much for her. This is diametrically different from my outpouring of tears at the end of Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir. I would have liked to have been given the chance to get to know her better in this novel.

This book casts a much more sympathetic light on the Dudley’s and the Grey’s than many other novels do. The relationship between Frances Grey and her daughter Jane is typically characterized as harsh with Frances coming out as an advancement grabbing woman. The Dudley’s, particularly John Dudley, the patriarch, are crafted as villains who are creating treasonous plots. As described in the author’s note, Higginbotham has tried to craft characters that are more likely closer to their historical counterparts as recent research has been lifting that veil of villainy that has long since shrouded both families.

I have to appreciate the cast of characters presented on the outset of the book because titles changed so often during this time period that I would have had trouble keeping them all straight.

While this book did not grab me from the first pages, it slowly began to grow on me. If you encounter this while reading, give it the chance to grow on you and you will appreciate the results.

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: 

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

Also by Susan Higginbotham:

the stolen crown
The Stolen Crown

the traitors wife
The Traitor’s Wife

the queen of last hopes
The Queen of Last Hopes
[My Review]

hugh and bess
Hugh and Bess

hanging mary
Hanging Mary

the woodvilles
The Woodvilles

margaret pole
Margaret Pole

Find Susan Higginbotham: Website | Facebook | Twitter

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Visiting Montpelier–A Virtual Tour

I know I have said this many times before, but one of my most desired historical places to visit is Montpelier, the home of President James and First Lady Dolley Madison. I finally had the opportunity to visit on an absolutely gorgeous Virginia day in May. I couldn’t have asked for better weather and my boyfriend was a great sport through the whole thing. Below I will attempt to give you a little bit of a tour of our trip. I’m going to warn you up front that this post may take on the tendency to ramble because I’m still having trouble composing coherent thoughts about this trip even after a month of being home.
Driving up the driveway I was so excited because this is the place I had always wanted to go and the home is so beautiful and set on an amazing landscape. The views from this place can really take you breath away as you look out toward the mountains. As you enter the property you drive past a horse racetrack which I was very confused by. But apparently the Dupont’s, particularly daughter, Marion DuPont Scott, who later owned the house after the Madison family sold it, used to own racehorses. That was a kind of cool piece of trivia. Each year the Montpelier Hunt Race is held there at the property. I also found that there is a small, secluded cemetery for 3 of the DuPont’s favorite racehorses (Battleship, Annapolis, and Accra) – that you won’t find on the Montpelier map anywhere! You can learn more about the DuPont/Montpelier horse connection here.
When you arrive you first go to the Visitor Center where you can view the Madison Exhibit and the DuPont Exhibit. You can also take in a short introductory film about the Madison’s and their estate. As you exit the theatre you begin the short walk up to the home. Guided tours of the main floor of the home are scheduled to coincide with the departure of each group from the theatre. I was a little surprised by the state of the home – however I didn’t realize how much renovation it is still going through.
When the DuPont’s made their home at Montpelier they added 50 (that’s right, 50!) additional rooms on to this house. Once the historical society was granted the property they decided that they would be able to pull down all of these additional rooms and restore the home to its original state as it would be when the Madison’s lived there around the time of his presidency. Amazingly so much of the original structure was preserved and features that had been taken down had been put into storage on the property and were able to be salvaged. So while the physical construction work is complete, they are now currently undergoing a major search for the furniture and decorations that would have graced these rooms. You can read more about the exterior restoration here and the ongoing interior restoration here.
So, the inside leaves a little bit to be desired in some places. Dolley’s entertaining room is beautifully refurbished just as it would have been, even down to the placing of the paintings. It was a little weird to see cardboard cutouts of Dolley, James, Thomas Jefferson, et al at the dining table; it felt a little out of place. As you move upstairs there is still much unfurnished. They are primarily using this space for special exhibitions right now. We went at just the wrong time as there wasn’t currently an exhibition. The day before they had taken down the Dolley Madison fashion exhibit (I was SO disappointed when they said that – by one day!) and were working on setting up the bicentennial exhibition for the War of 1812.
Beyond the house there are many other fascinating stops if you have the time. Right out the back is a bronze statue of James and Dolley. You can also take a walk through the DuPont’s garden – they redesigned the original Madison gardens. Right near the entry to the garden is the Cedar of Lebanon tree that was one of the seedlings that Lafayette gave to Madison upon his return trip to the US. This tree is absolutely massive; my photos do not do it justice. You can also walk down to Madison’s Temple. Apparently beneath this temple is the icehouse. It overlooks a beautiful pond, the front grounds of Montpelier and off to the side is the aforementioned horse cemetery.
After we got our fill of the house and the immediate grounds we headed off on a walk toward the front of the property. First we encountered an active archeological dig site. There is the archaeology lab toward the rear of the property where you can look at some of the million or so artifacts that have been found on the property that belonged to the Madison’s. Most of the artifacts have come from the slave quarters or an area known as “Dolley’s Midden” or trash heap. There are five archaeological sites on the property: the mansion and yard, Mount Pleasant site (more on that in a minute), work complex, Gilmore Cabin Freedman’s Farm, and Confederate winter camp sites. They were currently working on the field slave quarters when we were there. You can keep up with the archaeological progress at their blog.
After passing the active site you come to the Mount Pleasant site. This is where the original Madison family home had been built by James’ grandfather, Ambrose. There are not any buildings above the ground, they buried over them to protect the site while they are waiting to have more of a chance for excavation. It is just nicely mown grass with a few signs right now. You can check out this aerial photograph of what the site looked like when some of it was excavated and the locations of the buildings.
The most poignant moment of the visit for me was the time we spent at the Madison cemetery. Beyond James and Dolley, his siblings and their descendants, his parents, and grandparents are buried here – although many are in unmarked graves. We were the only ones visiting the cemetery at the time at it was quiet and respectful. James’ gravestone you cannot miss – it is a giant obelisk, however it is very reserved. There is just the word, Madison, on it. Dolley’s grave, also marked by an obelisk but smaller, is directly behind James’. After we left the Madison cemetery we walked over to the slave cemetery. Located at the edge of the woods it is non-descript. The graves are only marked by infrequent head and foot field stones and the grave depressions.
That essentially rounded out our trip. It was so beautiful and enjoyable. I recommend you drop by it if you ever get the chance. You won’t be disappointed. I have linked to many of the interesting resource pages from the Montpelier website but certainly feel free to check it out yourself as there is SO much information to explore.

All the photos on this page were taken by me during our visit.

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, June 25, 2012

Winner of The Last Romanov

Just a quick note to announce the winner of The Last Romanov.  And the winner is...

Lara Frame!!

I am sending an email out now for the mailing information.  Please respond within 5 days or I may have to pick a new winner.

How did rafflecopter work for you guys?

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Mailbox Monday #111


This mailbox represents the last two weeks, which have been very slow, but I am not complaining…I have a lot to read already!  I’m sure your very surprised by that!

Anyway, I received one item through Netgalley which I can’t wait to read: Jane: The Woman Who Loved Tarzan by Robin Maxwell.  This comes out in September, so I won’t be posting my review until then, but I’m quite excited to read it.  I have enjoyed the previous books that I have read by Robin Maxwell.  Here is the book blurb:

JANE by Robin Maxwell is the first reimagining of the legendary Tarzan story from Jane’s point of view, and the first version by a female writer that’s fully authorized and endorsed by the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate. Set in the early 1900s, JANE is both a page-turning adventure novel (complete with lush jungle settings, a devious villain, and turn-of-the-century science) and an unlikely yet intimate love story.

Sounds good, right?

So what came in your mailboxes this week?


Mailbox Monday is on a monthly blog tour and for the month of June it is being hosted by Burton Book Review.


Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Guest Post by Peter Lefcourt + Excerpt

Today I have the pleasure of introducing author Peter Lefcourt to you all.  He is currently on tour for the release of his book, An American Family and has taken the time to stop by and tell us about how his personal experiences influenced his book.  Also, stay tuned at the end for the next excerpt in the series.

How My Personal Experience as a Jewish American Influenced the Book

Guest Post by Peter Lefcourt, author of
An American Family

My experience growing up as a first-generation Polish American Jew in New York was the genesis of this book. I wanted to capture the emotional and psychological effects of the clash of the immigrant Jewish culture with the adopted American one. I was not interested so much in telling my story personally – this book is not an autobiographical novel – but the story of all immigrant cultures, Italian, Irish, African-American, Vietnamese, as well as Jewish. My father came to New York from a shtetl village in Poland in 1922 not knowing a word of English and became a lawyer; I grew up playing stickball on the streets of Queens and became a writer; my son grew up in Los Angeles, went to Yale and became a humanitarian worker who at the moment is in Kyrgyzstan. This evolution, over merely three generations, fascinates me. Our life experiences have been so different, and yet there is an identity linking us together.

I wanted to set this story against the enormous social changes that took place in the second half of the twentieth century: the cultural rift created by the Vietnam War, the rise of feminism, gay identity, the pervasive influence of music. And to show how my characters navigated these changes. I created the fictitious family, the Perls, and decided to tell the story through the shifting point of view of five siblings, all, like me, born in the 1940’s. I chose the two iconic dates of this period – November 22, 1963 and September 11, 2001 – as a parenthesis to enclose the era.

I was interested in the evolution of the family through all these changes – how it adapts to the most dramatic and sweeping changes and still survives as the emotional focus of our lives. I disagree with Tolstoy: all happy families are not alike.

Excerpt: If you haven't read any of the other excerpts and would like to (I'm stop #9 on the tour) please visit the tour site.

“He’s got these big ears, and big hands. I bet you he’s a groper…”

“Who knows with men? Joey come home the other night smelling from ten dollar Shalimar…”

And that was the last thing Lillian heard Vicky Boni say before the shriek came from Karen D’Abbruzzi, the cashier and Joey’s cousin, who had picked up the phone and listened as someone told her the news from Dallas.

“They shot him! They shot Kennedy!” The chubby, overly made-up girl screamed.

Lillian felt Vicky’s hand close around her own in a death grip, and heard the woman whisper, “Holy mother of God…”

Jacob “Jackie” Perl was running late. These days he was always running late. His life was complicated enough without having to take an unscheduled trip back to Brooklyn to see someone he didn’t want to see. But there was no talking down Carmine, who said that he had to see at least two hundred of what Jackie owed him before three that afternoon.

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Interview with author Laura Navarre + Giveaway

I am excited to welcome historical romance author, Laura Navarre, here to The Maiden's Court today.  Although I don't typically read a lot of historical romance but her newest novel, By Royal Command, sounds very interesting - set in Anglo-Saxon England (some of you may know that I recently wrote one of my Masters papers on this time period).  Stay tuned after the interview for a giveaway.  I'm trying out rafflecopter, please let me know if something isn't working right!

Your novel, By Royal Command is set during the Anglo-Saxon period just prior to the Norman Conquest of England. This is not a common period to be featured in a novel. What lead you to select this setting for your novel? (I am particularly partial to this period myself.)

Yes, I noticed that from the review index on your website! I think we have similar tastes. J  The turbulent period of Anglo-Saxon England before the Norman Conquest has always been magical for me. England was struggling to rise from the long night of the Dark Ages, staggering beneath the onslaught of successive waves of Vikings who sought not only to plunder England, but to occupy and settle the entire island. The situation I describe in By Royal Command was a national calamity. More than half of England (the so-called Danelaw) was already ruled by the Danes, and Sweyn Forkbeard would go on to conquer the rest of the island in 1013. And then, of course, would come the Normans. My heroine’s uncle, King Ethelred of Wessex (called “the Unready” by historians) began paying the Danegeld—an annual tribute to buy off the raiding Vikings—in 991. His dilemma was immortalized by Rudyard Kipling, who famously warned “that if once you have paid him the Danegeld, you never get rid of the Dane.” In short, this period is so rich in conflict and so transformational in English history that I find it irresistibly romantic and exciting to write about. I hope readers find it the same!

Was writing something that you always aspired to do or was it something that snuck up on you? Why did you choose to write historical romance as opposed to another genre?

I’ve been a scribbler of stories since childhood, but I’m a pragmatic soul and never thought I could support myself doing it, so I didn’t start writing seriously with the intent to publish until years later. The first novel I wrote was the third one I sold. It became By Royal Command (Harlequin/Carina, July 2012), an epic medieval romance about two brothers, one daughter of royalty, and three hearts at war. You can peek at an excerpt here on www.LauraNavarre.com As for why I chose historical romance, I grew up reading fat, dog-eared, classic historical romances by authors like Bertrice Small and Virginia Henley, as well as straight historicals like Gone With the Wind, The Mists of Avalon, and North and South. So there was never any doubt that historicals were what I’d want to write! I love weaving that rich tapestry of historical detail into my plots and characters. My work tends to appeal to historical fiction readers of both genders as well as romance readers—so it’s a bit more cross-genre than straight romance.

When you set out to write a novel, where do you start – with a historical storyline or event that intrigued you or with a romantic storyline that you want to pursue?

For me, that first spark of inspiration is struck by the hero. I’m a character-driven writer, so rather than starting with plot, I start by developing characters. For By Royal Command, the character who sprang to mind during a sleepless night in a foreign hotel was a Viking sword-theyn of rough manners but incorruptible integrity, tarred with the brush of Viking notoriety but fired by a shining sense of honor. He became Eomond, the first of my two heroes in the story. Then I placed him at a point in Anglo-Saxon history that was rife with conflict and transition. I do choose my historical settings very deliberately, down to the year and even the month, because political intrigue and seething tensions between nations tend to figure prominently in my plots. Finding exactly the right moment in history to start my story is a critical choice for me as an author.

Then I needed a heroine to match my hero, so I developed exiled royal Katrin of Courtenay, who believes she murdered her brutal husband when she prayed for his death, and that a vengeful God will punish her for it. Struggling alone to defend her lands, she believes manipulation and deceit are a woman’s only true weapons. But they won’t be enough to save her from making the Devil’s bargain. Katrin’s remarriage becomes the cornerstone of King Ethelred’s scheme to defeat the Danish invasion and save the English throne.

What do you find to be the most difficult or challenging aspect of writing?

Beyond a doubt, it’s rejection. I wrote four novels and soldiered through 67 rejections before I made my first sale, a dark Tudor romance called The Devil’s Mistress about a reluctant lady assassin who’s blackmailed to poison Anne Boleyn, to Samhain in 2009. Since that time, I’ve been “orphaned” twice when my acquiring editors left the publishers I wrote for, and my first mass-market sale was hamstrung when the publisher went bankrupt. Consequently, that book came out with a whimper instead of a roar. And I didn’t sell By Royal Command until years later.

To be successful in the publishing world, a writer has to be endlessly patient, brave as a tiger, faithful to his or her artistic vision yet always savvy to the ever-changing market, discerning, open to criticism but with a finely honed ability to sense whether a particular piece of feedback should be treated as Gospel or shunned like smallpox. Given today’s difficult economy, traditional publishing is a harder nut to crack than ever before. As a writer, I’ve wept tears of despair and rage on so many occasions. Finding the inner fortitude to push the “I believe” button again and again has been one of my most difficult challenges. I’m incredibly grateful for the unfaltering support of my agent JD DeWitt at The View Literary Agency, my fiancé Steven (who’s also a writer) and the mentors who kept me going through those dark days between sales.

Are you working on anything currently and if so, can you tell us anything about it?

I’m extremely excited because I just sold my first historical paranormal trilogy! It’s a trio of dark Tudor romances with elements of Arthurian legend and fallen angel heroes. Release dates and titles are still being worked, but I hope you’ll see these Laura Navarre titles on sale in 2013. As a sideline, taking advantage of my unusual background as a former diplomat, I’m also writing a trilogy of Russian-set romantic suspense, with lots of international intrigue and glamour, under the pen name Nikki Navarre. Think spies, champagne and seduction. State secrets have never been this sexy! The first book is The Russian Seduction (October 2012). You can check out Nikki’s first chapter and other goodies here.

In her other life, Laura Navarre is a diplomat who’s lived in Russia and works on weapons of mass destruction issues. In the line of duty, she’s been trapped in an elevator in a nuclear power plant and has stalked the corridors of facilities churning out nerve agent and other apocalyptic weapons. In this capacity, she meets many of the world’s most dangerous men.

Inspired by the sinister realities of her real life, Laura writes dark medieval and Renaissance romance with a dash of political intrigue. A member of Romance Writers of America’s Published Author Network (PAN) and a 2009 Golden Heart finalist, she has won the Emily Award for Excellence, the First Coast Romance Writers Beacon Award, the Georgia Romance Writers Maggie Award, the Golden Pen, the Duel on the Delta, Hearts through History’s Romance through the Ages, and other awards. 

Previously published with Samhain and Dorchester, Laura’s newest releases are her epic medieval romance By Royal Command (Harlequin/Carina, July 2012) and her sexy romantic intrigue The Russian Seduction (Affluent Press, August 2012, as Nikki Navarre).  She teaches writing workshops on “Sympathy for the Devil: Dark Heroes in Popular Fiction.”

Laura holds an M.F.A. in Writing Popular Fiction from the University of Southern Maine.  Living in Seattle with her screenwriter fiance and two Siberian cats, she divides her time between her writing career and other adventures for U.S. government clients.

You can find Laura at her website, Facebook, and on Twitter.

Now for the giveaway!  Laura is offering to one entrant chosen from the entire tour an eGift Card to either Amazon or Barnes and Noble.  The winner of the giveaway hosted here will be entered into that grand prize giveaway.  To clarify - the winner of this giveaway is not guaranteed to win anything - you will move up a level to the grand prize entry.  The contest will remain open until July 2nd.  You can gather more chances to win by visiting other tour stops and entering the giveaways on their sites too.  Here is the link to the tour site.

You can also take part in the Twitter party being hosted on June 25th from 12 - 1 PM EST.  Twitter Hashtag: LauraNavarre.  Two lucky winners from the Twitter party will receive a digital copy of By Royal Command.  You can pre-register for the chance to win a paper copy of her other novel, The Devil's Temptress.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Interview with David LeRoy

Today I want to take the opportunity to introduce you all to author David LeRoy.  His new book, The Siren of Paris, was recently released and is an interesting take on a WWII story.  Please read on to find out more about his works.


World War II is a period that fascinates so many different people for a myriad of different reasons. What is it about this period that fascinates you as a writer? 

What interest me the most are the people, specifically the civilians who had to endure the war, navigate all of the various dangers, and make split decisions that were often the difference between life and death. For instance, I was reading an eyewitness account of a solider retreating from Reims. There was an old woman dressed in black just waiting at the fountain with some packages. He asked her if she needed a lift, and she said that her daughter was coming to get her. They got lost then, and ended up returning to the same road an hour later but she was dead from gunshot. Robert Widerman, who later became our Robert Clary of Hogan’s Hero’s, also had just such a moment. He got back up inside the rail car when he was not selected among the men for a work camp. The guard called out to him, and asked him his age. The guard did not believe he was just 16 and told him to get down out of the train and over with all the other men. Even though he went on to survive many close calls, this small moment was a turning point because the rest of his family died at Auschwitz within just days. Then, there is the case of Etta Shiber in Paris. This is a retired grandmother living with her friend, along with three dogs. Hardly the type of people you would think that would draw the eye of the Gestapo. But, they had smuggled 150 airmen through their little apartment by the time of arrest. Etta was traded back to American for a female German spy. Her British friend Kitty said at her trial that she was satisfied to die, because she had given 150 lives back to Britain. Her wish was granted and she was later shot. They were not trained spies, or in connection with the British intelligence. Etta and Kitty were two women in their 60’s, with three dogs, a black Renault, and reckless courage. I find all of these people highly fascinating.

What sort of research did you do for this novel? Do you have any personal connections to WWII that made their way into your novel? 

The Siren of Paris became something of a research vortex. All told, I read about 45 various books on this time period to get the details that were used for this story. One of the more important books dealt with the religious, and political ideas of the French during Vichy France. The story also required that I really understood the transpiration challenges of the phony war period. I reached out to the Steamship Historical Society and worked with their library. I spent about two and half days at the Museum of Tolerance in L.A. listening to various survivors of the holocaust. I do have personal connections, and they appear in the book at various points. For instance, in one scene I reference some teenage boys who escape to the woods outside of Buchenwald from being shot. I know one of those boys. My parents are older, and I grew up around a high number of veterans of this war, and survivors. One day, on EBay, I found a huge stash of French newspapers from the war and ended up purchasing them. Among the papers I found both resistance and collaborator newspapers. A very high percentage of the historical facts in the book are taken from everyday observations of people who lived through that period. For instance, the Horse stampede in Orleans on June 13th, 1940 was a small footnote in passing in one of the books. I later tried to confirm this event through the French Historical Society in Orleans. They had no record of it officially, but I decided to work with it, because the time period was so chaotic and crazy, a lot of these minor events don’t make it to official history records years later, but do appear in books published just after the war.

Did you come up with the title of your novel? How did you come up with it?

The original title of this book was Francais Seulement, which means French Only. This was also a slogan on a French paper of the day called Action Francaise, which was one of the most right wing, xenophobic, anti-british and pro-collaboration papers you could read. Action Francais is a toxic paper that appealed to the anti-Semitic scapegoating element of the French public. The title The Siren of Paris came about as I was working through a rough draft. A siren of sorts calls Marc, and he does seem to be drawn to destructive forces. The title just stuck from that point forward.

Your novel is self-published though Amazon. We are seeing more and more authors go this route recently. What decisions went into that choice?

When I started writing The Siren of Paris, it was not clear to me that a self-published author could do as well as a traditionally published author in sales. By the end of 2011, that question was resolved by multiple best selling self-published authors. Keep in mind; I don’t think we have ever seen so many self-published authors do this well before in America.

It boils down to two elements: Time and Money. Traditional publishing takes a huge amount of time, and pays less money per unit sold in E-books, which is the growth segment of book sales today. This is due to multiple layers of overhead that traditional publishing seems attached to and unable to reform. Self-publishing takes far less time and promises to pay better price per unit sold. In the world of business this is know as Average Revenue Per Unit, or ARPU. The ARPU of self-publishing is so much higher than traditional, that the pay off appears to justify the risk. But, self-publishing is not easy by a long shot. There is a huge amount of work involved and everything rests upon the author. Neither path entitles the author to success, but at least one does promise a better chance now than the other.

Unless something changes in traditional publishing to improve their ARPU problem, the trend of self-publishing can only increases with time, most likely exponentially.

Do you have any future writing plans? If so, is there anything you can share with us? 

I am done with war for a bit. The next book is nowhere near as epic in scale as The Siren of Paris. The topic is overcoming complex trauma and unworthiness. The story is set in the Chiapas Mountains of Mexico in the towns of San Cristobal de la Casas, and San Juan Chamula in the mid 1990’s after the Zapatista revolution. This book will not be released until 2013 unless of course the Mayans were right.

You can follow David on Twitter @studioleroy, on Facebook, or on his website.

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Visit to Historic Jamestowne

Part One of my Virginia Vacation Historical Adventure narrative begins today with our trip to Historic Jamestowne.

Most people who think of visits to Jamestown are thinking about visits to the Jamestown Settlement, which is a recreation of the historic fort and settlement.  While I did stop at this site, it is not one of my favorites.  I did however LOVE Historic Jamestowne – the actual site where the fort and town stood.  There is a much more heavy feeling of history around you here than at the other site – although that one is also worthy as a living history teaching tool. 

The Historic Jamestown site is a joint operation between the National Park Service (who operates the New Town side of the park) and Preservation Virginia (who operates the Fort side of the park).  There is also a small museum and gift shop at the entrance to the park. 

The day that we went it was lightly raining, of course because it is all outside!  The first thing you encounter when walking out into the park is the Tercentennial Monument.  This is a huge obelisk commemorating 300 years after the settling of Jamestown.  This sort of is a dividing point between the two sides of the park.  If you head over to the left you encounter New Town.  The Monument is also where many of the guided walking tours start out, hosted by a Park Ranger.  We took one of these tours and learned a lot about Pocahontas.

New Town is the site where the town was settled in the years following settlement at the Fort.  There were 3 main streets, various houses, shops, and farms.  All that you will now see are foundations, and these are recreations built atop the original excavated foundations.  To help visualize what the site may have looked like, there is an interactive feature where you can look out with binoculars at the New Town field and it will show you what they looked like and tell you about life there.  This was a pretty cool addition to a pretty barren field.

The area that interested me the most is the actual Fort site.  Thanks to extensive archaeological excavation they have uncovered the remains of the fort wall, church, storehouses, living quarters, wells, cemeteries, etc.  We had the honor of having a great tour by one of the head archaeologists on the site.  It was so enlightening to learn how they managed to find all of these amazing artifacts, especially when they were telling them that the fort had been washed into the river!  They couldn’t open the active dig sites for us because of the rain, which was somewhat disappointing.  As at New Town, almost all of the structures seen above ground in the Fort are recreations exactly above where the original foundations are.  This is done to protect the artifacts.  The only above ground foundation is the tower of the church, which is indeed from the 1600’s. 

If you want to know more about the dig, you can visit the dig website where they periodically post new videos of their progress.  They also have a historical index of their updates since 2003.

You can watch the below video which is a combination of the photos I took on this trip.   

There is also a great book that I would recommend that talks about the dig written by the head archaeologist – Jamestown: The BuriedTruth by William M. Kelso.  

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, June 18, 2012

Giveaway of The Last Romanov

Did you know that today would be the 111th birthday of Anastasia Romanov? I didn't! In memory of the birthday of this intriguing woman, Sourcebooks is offering a copy of the book for giveaway to a winner from the USA or Canada.  Enter the giveaway using the Rafflecopter below.  Giveaway is open through June 24th.


She was an orphan, ushered into the royal palace on the prayers of her majestry. Yet, decades later, her time spent in the embrace of the Romanovs haunts her still. Is she responsible for those murderous events that changed everything?

If only she can find the heir, maybe she can put together the broken pieces of her own past-maybe she can hold on to the love she found. Bursting to life with the rich and glorious marvels of Imperial Russia, The Last Romanov is a magical tale of second chances and royal blood.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Queen's Pleasure Giveaway Winner Redux

Hello everyone!

If you feel like you have already seen this post, you have.  I previously announced that Carol had been selected as the winner of the giveaway of The Queen's Pleasure by Brady Purdy.  Carole has already received a copy of the book so accordingly I am selecting another winner.  And that winner is...


Congrats!  Please send me your information in the next 3 days so that I can pass it along to the author.  Thanks everyone!

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Friday, June 15, 2012

Guest Post by C.W. Gortner

I am excited today to welcome C.W. Gortner to The Maiden's Court today!  His newest book, The Queen's Vow, released just a couple of days ago and I have to tell you - it's an awesome read.  Check out my review here.  Stay tuned at the end for a giveaway of the book and embroidered purse.  Read on, my friends!

Isabella of Castile: An Embattled Princess 

Guest Post by C. W. Gortner, author of
The Queen's Vow

When most of us think of Isabella of Castile, we tend to see the staid image of her later years—the somber, driven queen characterized by extreme piety. This image is partly true and partly the result of subsequent praise and criticism heaped on her by historians.

It cannot be denied that religion had a defining role in Isabella’s life. Like most of her fellow sovereigns in Europe, she was Catholic and believed Catholicism was the only true faith. And in her later years, as she endured personal tragedy, she turned increasingly for solace in her faith. But she had once been young and vibrant; and while doing intensive research into her tumultuous rise to the throne for my new novel, The Queen’s Vow, to my delight I discovered an Isabella we rarely see— a passionate princess, who overcame significant odds to be queen.

Though it may seem impossible in hindsight, at the time no one believed Isabella was destined for greatness. Her father King Juan died when she was a child; as the daughter of a royal widow, she and her younger brother were sent from court to reside in the stony isolation of Arévalo, a castle set in a rural area that was also impoverished. Isabella was educated, but it was rudimentary, designed to prepare her for marriage. She did not benefit from the breadth of opportunities that other Renaissance princesses would enjoy; indeed, she was not even taught Latin, the language of international diplomacy, and it was a handicap that she so regretted later as queen, she determined to remedy it.

Yet she possessed something innate that could not be taught: intelligence and a keen sense of her own self. These qualities served her in the stead of a broad education, as she discovered when she was thrust into danger while still in her teens, after being summoned to her half brother King Enrique’s licentious court. At court, depravity was a way of life. Enrique’s vivacious queen, Juana of Portugal, was almost certainly adulterous and set on corrupting young Isabella, who posed a threat to her own daughter. Isabella withstood numerous assaults on her honor with admirable stoicism; even when accused of treason, she did not waver in defense of her stance. We tend to forget she was only sixteen when she confronted that maelstrom of intrigue that might have cost her her life. It is undeniable testament to her integrity that she managed to overcome a situation that would have undone a lesser princess.

Isabella truly displayed her strength of character when she became heiress of Castile. Surrounded by opportunists, each seeking an advantage, she stood alone at a treacherous crossroads, where she could have taken a step in any direction but the right one, leading to her downfall. No queen had successfully ruled Castile for long; no one at the time, save perhaps Isabella herself, believed a queen could. She had few trusted friends to turn to for advice, and none had political standing. Without formal training as a future ruler, at eighteen years of age, Isabella might have done any number of things to put herself in jeopardy; instead, she alone devised a solution that displayed astonishing maturity, one that would maintain her prestige and attempt to resolve the civil war that had devastated Castile. Her decision would cost her later, but she never regretted it. For Isabella, the right way was almost always more important than the easy one.

The story of this embattled princess who was unexpectedly propelled to the throne is fraught with peril, intrigue, and twists of fate that no writer could make up; it is a story of resiliency and indomitable pride, of a woman who was determined to rule with greatness and ended up transforming the world. It is also a story that has rarely been told.

I sincerely hope you enjoy The Queen’s Vow.

Thank you for spending this time with me. To find out more about me and my books, please visit me at: www.cwgortner.com

You can follow the rest of the blog tour at Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours or on twitter with the following hashtag: #QueensVowVirtualTour

Now for the giveaway.  I have one copy of The Queen's Vow by C.W. Gortner up for grabs along with a beautiful embroidered purse.  It is open to residents of the USA and Canada.  The last day to enter the giveaway is June 30th.

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Book Review: The Queen’s Vow by C.W. Gortner

the queen's vow

The Queen’s Vow by C.W. Gortner
ARC, Hardcover, 400 pages
Ballatine Books
June 12, 2012
goodreads button

Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Received from the publisher for review as part of Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours
“No one believed she was destined for greatness—until she became one of history’s most powerful and controversial queens. 
Young Isabella is barely a teenager when she is thrust into danger. Suspected of treason and held captive, she treads a perilous path, until, at age seventeen, she finds herself heiress of Castile, the largest kingdom in Spain. Plunged into a deadly conflict to secure her crown, she is determined to wed the one man whom she has vowed to love yet is forbidden to her—Fernando, prince of Aragón. 
As together they unite their two realms under "one crown, one country, one faith," Isabella and Fernando face an impoverished Spain beset by enemies. With the future of her throne at stake, Isabella resists the zealous demands of the inquisitor, Torquemada, even as she is seduced by the dreams of an enigmatic navigator named Columbus. But when a violent, treacherous battle against an ancient adversary erupts, it will test Isabella’s resolve, her courage, and her tenacious belief in her destiny . . . . 
From the glorious palaces of Segovia to the battlefields of Granada and intrigue-laden gardens of Seville, The Queen’s Vow sweeps us into the tumultuous forging of a nation and the complex, fascinating heart of the woman who overcame all odds to become Isabella of Castile.”
I have been a fan of Gortner’s work since I picked up my first read of his, The Confessions of Catherine de Medici. He has a talent of taking maligned or misunderstood women and making them approachable characters whom readers can identify with and attempt to understand their choices. His novel of Isabella of Castile is no different. Isabella is remembered by history as the Spanish queen who re-incited the Inquisition, the mother of Catherine of Aragon and Juana la Loca, and the queen who financed Christopher Columbus’ American expedition. In The Queen’s Vow we are treated to an Isabella who does all of these things, but whom we also see grow up and who struggles with her decisions.

Right from the first pages we meet a young Isabella that we can identify with and grow up with. We feel what it is like to grow up maligned from the court that you belong to and see your livelihood stripped away. We can identify with the heat of a first love. As time goes on we get to know her husband, Fernando of Aragon, and even later her brood – Isabel, Juan, Juana, Maria, and Catalina. I most enjoyed getting to know her family who I didn’t know too much about. In all the novels I have read I have always found Fernando distasteful, however here I found myself enamored by him – despite his flaws. We get to really know her oldest two children the best, Isabel and Juan, whom you don’t read much about.

While we don’t know the thoughts that went through Isabella’s head while making some of her most important decisions as queen, I find Gortner’s take on it fully plausible. Most people have some qualms about major decisions they make and I can absolutely believe that Isabella might have had doubts about some of her most definitive decisions. If nothing else, his choices fit in well with the characters he created. You really feel that Isabella is a real person who has flaws.

While I enjoyed all the aspects of this story of Isabella’s life, I most enjoyed reading about the Reconquista and especially how she wanted to be out at the battlefield. She was truly a strong Queen, regardless of how we may feel about her decisions regarding the Inquisitions. I cannot wait to have the chance to read The Last Queen, about her daughter, Juana, as a continuation of this storyline.

Gorter is an author whose work I know I will always enjoy.

If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book?

You can also watch the book trailer below.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

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

Also by C.W. Gortner:

the last queen
The Last Queen

the confessions of catherine de medici
The Confessions of Catherine de Medici
[My Review]

the vatican princess
The Vatican Princess
[My Review]

mademoiselle chanel
Mademoiselle Chanel
[My Review]


the tudor secret
The Tudor Secret (Spymaster #1)
[My Review]

the tudor conspiracy
The Tudor Conspiracy (Spymaster #2)
[My Review]

the tudor vendetta
The Tudor Vendetta (Spymaster #3)
[My Review]

Find C.W. Gortner: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

You can follow the rest of the blog tour at HFVBT or on Twitter with the hashtag #QueensVowVirtualTour.

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court