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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Author Event with Robert McMaster and Book Alert

I had the chance this past Thursday to go to an author event hosted by my local library for an author who grew up in my town.  Robert McMaster released his debut novel of historical fiction in June 2012 called Trolley Days.  I was excited to go because not only was it a local author, but it was an HF author! 

Of course I was the youngest in the audience by at least 30 years – most of the people there had went to school with the author or were the parents of those who went to school with him.  What was really cool about this experience was getting to see the old pictures of my town.  A lot of the events that occur in the book actually happened in Southbridge or are based on locations/people from Southbridge.  I have been interested in seeing what the town used to look like when it was a booming mill/manufacturing town, so that was a lot of fun.  It was also cool because some of the places in Holyoke that are featured in the novel I know about too because my boyfriend grew up just 2 towns over from there.  While I wasn’t as interested in the book when the talk began, by the end I had to read it.  I of course bought a copy of the book – not only because it is set in my local community, but because the proceeds were going to the library! 

The author of this book teaches biology at Holyoke Community College – and one of the interesting tidbits he told us was that he always takes his bio students out on this walking path behind the school as part of the class, and it wasn’t until just recently that he learned that the path used to be part of the local trolley lines – how cool.

trolley days

Trolley Days by Robert McMaster
Unquomonk Press, 316 Pages
ISBN: 0985694408
June 15, 2012

Here’s the book blurb:

Holyoke, Massachusetts, in the nineteen-teens. It was the Silicon Valley of its time, a breeding ground of new ideas, a cauldron of hope, ambition, greed. Powered by the waters of a mighty river, its mills roared night and day, drawing workers from nearly every farm in New England, from Canada, and from Europe. They came to forge new lives for themselves and their families; many were rewarded, some bitterly disappointed.

Trolley Days is the story of an unlikely friendship between two boys growing up in Holyoke in its industrial heyday. Jack Bernard is the son of a mill worker who emigrated from Canada, Tom Wellington the son of the mill owner. Jack is shy and socially a bit awkward, Tom self-assured and smooth-talking. But for all their differences, the two boys have much in common. They love fishing, sports, and all manner of youthful tomfoolery. Each has suffered the loss of a sibling, tragedies that have affected both families deeply.

In the opening chapter a blizzard is approaching as Jack boards a train for the long trip to Boston. He has received a cryptic letter informing him that Tom is in a Boston jail. Despite a recent falling-out between the two, Jack still considers Tom his best friend, and he refuses to allow a snowstorm to prevent him from going to Tom’s aid. Soon Jack will be plunged into a mystery that calls on all his courage and determination to solve, even as Tom’s freedom, perhaps his very life, hangs in the balance. To save his friend, Jack will need the assistance of Tom’s sister, Anne, but that will require Jack and Anne to reconcile their fractured relationship.

Does friendship have its limits? Can bonds of trust, once broken, be repaired? Can we learn from life’s tragedies and move on, or must we carry them like lead weights on our hearts forever? In Trolley Days, it seems it is the young who bear the heaviest of life’s burdens and must marshal the strength to free themselves and their parents.

If you would like to read a section from the novel – check out this excerpt.  You can also check out some of the old pictures that he showed at the event.  Visit the author’s website for much more.  Hope you can check out the book!



Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Mailbox Monday #123


Welcome to another edition of Mailbox Monday – I don’t know if I would want to be a mailman today (or over the next few) with Hurricane Sandy spreading her messy weather around here.

I received a couple of things over the last week – one was actually a surprise to me.

For review from the publisher I received an unsolicited copy of The Last Summer by Judith Kinghorn.  It actually sounds quite interesting – more of a historical romance than what I typically read.  Here is the blurb:

Clarissa is almost seventeen when the spell of her childhood is broken. It is 1914, the beginning of a blissful, golden summer - and the end of an era. Deyning Park is in its heyday, the large country house filled with the laughter and excitement of privileged youth preparing for a weekend party. When Clarissa meets Tom Cuthbert, home from university and staying with his mother, the housekeeper, she is dazzled. Tom is handsome and enigmatic; he is also an outsider. Ambitious, clever, his sights set on a career in law, Tom is an acute observer, and a man who knows what he wants. For now, that is Clarissa.

As Tom and Clarissa's friendship deepens, the wider landscape of political life around them is changing, and another story unfolds: they are not the only people in love. Soon the world - and all that they know - is rocked by a war that changes their lives for ever.

I also received by giveaway prize of The Shadow Queen by Rebecca Dean – a novel about Wallis Simpson that I have been dying to read!

Then finally, I went to an author talk at my library this week (more on that experience later this week) and I purchased a copy of Trolley Days by Robert McMaster.  It’s a HF set in the 19teens in Holyoke Massachusetts, but a lot of the stories are based on events set in my own town of Southbridge.  Very excited to read this one – and of course it features the trolleys prominently.

That’s all for me, what did you get this past week?

Mailbox Monday is on a monthly blog tour and for the month of October it is being hosted by the home site – Mailbox Monday.


Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, October 29, 2012

Book Review: Days of Splendor Days of Sorrow by Juliet Grey & Giveaway

days of splendor

Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow by Juliet Grey
Book 2 in the Marie Antoinette trilogy
ARC, Paperback, 448 pages
Ballantine Books
May 15, 2012
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Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Received from publisher for review – also participating in HF Virtual Book Tour

“Paris, 1774. At the tender age of eighteen, Marie Antoinette ascends to the French throne alongside her husband, Louis XVI. But behind the extravagance of the young queen’s elaborate silk gowns and dizzyingly high coiffures, she harbors deeper fears for her future and that of the Bourbon dynasty. 
From the early growing pains of marriage to the joy of conceiving a child, from her passion for Swedish military attaché Axel von Fersen to the devastating Affair of the Diamond Necklace, Marie Antoinette tries to rise above the gossip and rivalries that encircle her. But as revolution blossoms in America, a much larger threat looms beyond the gilded gates of Versailles-one that could sweep away the French monarchy forever.”

I have never been a huge fan of Marie Antoinette, or the French Revolution for that matter, but author Juliet Grey has a way of making this period new and exciting for me. In her first book, Becoming Marie Antoinette the author made me feel for the young girl who was leaving her home and being forced to become someone else entirely in a world vastly different than the court she left behind. In this installment, Grey shows us a Marie Antoinette who is coming into her own as queen and dealing with some MAJOR life changing incidents. Grey makes a Marie Antoinette who is humanized and someone that the regular person can relate to with all of her fears, wants, and concerns for her family and friends. Not only does she flesh out Marie Antoinette but we really get to know other members of the French royal circle – from the King and Queen’s families to their friends and hangers-on.

She does not miss out on including the important events, such as the Diamond Necklace affair, the meetings with the revolutionary forces in France, and the American Revolution – but she makes these events feel fresh and new. I liked reading about the courts perception of Benjamin Franklin – what a hoot! It was also interesting to see how the Diamond Necklace Affair actually played out.

The one thing that annoyed me throughout this book was the almost constant references to vulgar nickname given to Marie Antoinette – l’Autrichienne. The first time it was mentioned and explained I appreciated it and the character’s rumination about it. However by the 6th or 7th time (and yes it was at least that many) I was like, “I get it already, let’s move on!”.

Overall this was a very interesting read. The ending leave you on a slightly happy note in amongst all of the turmoil that happened in the end of the book – however knowing what is to come in book three, you can’t enjoy it too much.

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 Juliet Grey:

becoming marie antoinette
Becoming Marie Antoinette (Book #1)
[My Review]

confessions of marie antoinette
Confessions of Marie Antoinette (Book #3)
[My Review]

Find Juliet Grey: Website

Follow the Tour

On the HF Virtual Book Tour website or onTwitter with the following hashtag: #DaysOfSplendorVirtualTour.


I have a giveaway of 1 copy of Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow to offer for a reader in the USA or Canada. Please fill out the Rafflecopter below for entry. Last day to enter is November 10th. Good luck.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sunday Morning Updates

Well I don’t know about you, but this morning I’m getting prepared to hunker down and ride out miss Hurricane Sandy which will be hitting us sometime tomorrow (probably afternoon).  We are supposed to get some pretty bad wind here.  Friday and Saturday did all the preparations – hardest part is figuring out what food to have on hand if the power goes out, since we can’t have a grill and we have electric everything, ugh.  Today I’m meeting up with a friend for a quick lunch and some shopping before it is back home to wait it out.  I’m not expecting to go to work tomorrow – they are predicting at least 70% of Connecticut to be without power, so we will see.  If I’m not around this week, you will know why!  If any of you are also in the path of the storm I hope you are all prepared and stay safe!

In book news, I do have a couple of winners to announce from 2 giveaways:

The winner of the Sacred Treason giveaway is…Carolyn!!!

The winner of the Apple and Pumpkin Old Fashioned Cookbooks is…Beth Fish!!!

Congrats to you both.  I have sent emails to the winners for mailing info and if I don’t receive it within 5 days new winners will be selected.  Thanks to everyone that entered – I will have 2 more giveaways coming up this week so stay tuned!

Coming up this week I have two blog tour stops.  Tomorrow is the Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow review and giveaway

Days of Splendor Tour Button

and Friday is the stop for The Lincoln Conspiracy review and giveaway. 

The Lincoln Conspiracy Tour Button

I need to get finished reading the Lincoln book, I’m over halfway there, and if I’m home tomorrow…

Hope to see you all this week!  Have a great (and safe) rest of your weekend!


Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Book Review: Jane by Robin Maxwell

Jane: The Woman Who Loved Tarzan by Robin Maxwell
ARC, e-book, 321 pages
Tor Books
September 18, 2012
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Genre: Historical Fiction/Adaptation of Classic

Source: Received from publisher for review

“Cambridge, England: 1905. Jane Porter is hardly a typical woman of her time. The only female student in Cambridge University’s medical program, she is far more comfortable in a lab coat, dissecting corpses, than she is in a corset and gown, sipping afternoon tea. A budding paleoanthropologist, Jane dreams of travelling the globe in search of fossils that will prove the evolutionary theories of her scientific hero, Charles Darwin. 
 When dashing American explorer Ral Conrath invites Jane and her father on an expedition deep into West Africa, she can hardly believe her luck. Rising to the challenge, Jane finds an Africa that is every bit exotic and fascinating as she has always imagined. But she quickly learns that the lush jungle is full of secrets—and so is Ral Conrath. When danger strikes, Jane finds her hero, the key to humanity’s past, and an all-consuming love in one extraordinary man: Tarzan of the Apes. 
Jane is the first version of the Tarzan story written by a woman and authorized by the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate. Its 2012 publication will mark the centennial of the publication of the original Tarzan of the Apes.”

I had been really looking forward to this book from the moment I heard about it as I have very much enjoyed the two Maxwell books I have had the chance to read thus far. I also am attracted to books that tell the other side of the story from the traditional tale, and the story of Tarzan from Jane’s perspective offers so much for an author to work with. Maxwell did not let me down!

This novel allowed the reader into Jane’s world. The story is framed out as a story within a story - that is, Jane is telling aspiring novelist Edgar Rice Burroughs the tale of how she came to have these “missing link” bones and why she believes so highly that they are real. It is in this tale that we come to learn about Tarzan, his ape-like family, and the crazy adventure that Jane was a part of. I always wondered what a woman from that period in time would be doing traveling to Africa with an expeditionary party – it always seemed a little out of place to me, but Maxwell’s Jane as a very forward thinking woman and her reasons for going with her father, to find the missing link, made sense. I LOVED how she didn’t become just the damsel in distress that she is portrayed as in so many of the movies – but grew and evolved just as Tarzan did. She was admirable for her doubts, fears, courage, strength, and commitment.

The Tarzan that Maxwell creates in reminiscent of what we would all want Tarzan to be: the peak performer in his environment, caring, a fast learner, and of course handsome in that rugged way. He was very much human but still quite wild too – a perfect mix. He may have learned a little too quickly for me at times for it to be believable, but I can let that pass.

I like all of the little details that Maxwell added into tie Burroughs’ tale together with hers. We learn of Jane’s upbringing and her university education where she was admitted into an all-male class. I loved how Jane’s father and team were paleoanthropologists searching for the missing link – a very good reason for them to have been going to Africa. I liked how she was telling her tale to Burroughs who then had her permission to do with the story what he wanted – which resulted in his book, Tarzan of the Apes. These little touches really helped solidify the story for me.

While the first half of the novel was a little slower as the character of Jane is built, the second half of the novel zips right along. From the time we start learning about Tarzan’s family and how they ended up on the lone shore I was sucked in and couldn’t put it down. I just had to know what happened next! While the bulk of the story was an exercise in character building and understanding between Tarzan and Jane, the ending felt like it was straight out of an Indiana Jones type movie – a little bit of a shift for me, but apparently some of the movie versions have an action-adventure type take on them.

I haven’t read the original work of Burroughs, but I do still plan to get to it one day and see how the two books mesh. While this might not have been the absolutely perfect novel, it was a breath of fresh air that I absorbed with every pore – un-put-downable!

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 Robin Maxwell:

mademoiselle boleyn
Mademoiselle Boleyn

secret diary of anne boleyn
The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn
[My Review]

signora da vinci
Signora Da Vinci

the queen's bastard
The Queen’s Bastard

to the tower born
To the Tower Born

Virgin: Prelude to the Throne

the wild irish
The Wild Irish

o juliet
O, Juliet
[My Review]

Find Robin Maxwell: Website | Facebook | Twitter 

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Caught on Tape: Jane Porter

caught on tape

The recent release and my reading of Robin Maxwell’s Jane got the wheels turning in my head about Tarzan movies and Jane’s role in them. I know I have seen a bunch of bits and pieces of the old school Tarzan films on TV, where Jane stands in a bird’s nest (or something like it) stranded while Tarzan fights some foe on the ground to save her. Obviously the damsel in distress angle. But I wanted to see if the way Jane has been portrayed over time has changed. Take in these Tarzan films and let me know what you think. Have you seen them? What about your perspective on their Jane?

Tarzan of the Apes (1918)

I love silent movies because they are a fun, vastly different, change of pace from today’s movies. This was the first Tarzan film, starring Elmo Lincoln as Tarzan and Enid Markey as Jane. This film which tells the first part of Burroughs’ Tarzan of the Apes, and its sequel, The Romance of Tarzan, which tells the second, are remarkably true to the novel. If you want to see true damsel in distress angle for Jane, this is the place. Certainly worth the watch for classic movie sake and to see how a film can stay true to a novel.

Tarzan the Ape Man (1932)

This was part of that series that I mentioned above. Tarzan the Ape Man was the first in a series of films starring Johnny Weissmuller as Tarzan and Maureen O’Sullivan as Jane – there would be 5 sequels starring the two through the 1940’s. While watching any movie from this period now can look cheesy, in terms of special effects, this series is a fan favorite - I can’t get past the cheesiness myself. While I think that O’Sullivan looked like a modern woman stuck in the jungle (not really period authentic), and Weissmuller was gorgeous, he didn’t look like Tarzan to me. Despite all the remakes of this film, this will be the film/series that will be remembered for generations because it is from the golden period of film.

Tarzan, the Ape Man (1981)

This is probably the first Tarzan movie that I heard of or saw – although this one came out before I was born. This incarnation of Tarzan was loosely based on the first Tarzan novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan of the Apes. Bo Derek plays Jane and this movie was one of the first to be from the Jane perspective. I don’t remember the film being particularly all that great, and Derek won a Golden Raspberry award for her performance, so her Jane must not have been that wonderful. Nudity present as expected in a Tarzan film but some of the scenes were a little…weird. While considered a box office success, this movie was grossly panned by critics. While a great concept, as Robin Maxwell carried off a Tarzan from Jane’s perspective well, the film failed in its execution.

Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan (1984)

This film takes of the idea of Tarzan returning to England to take on his role as Lord Greystoke and the problems that you can imagine ensue. Much of this film is based on the Burroughs novels, however they do incorporate angles of more modern science into the film. This Tarzan (Christopher Lambert) and Jane (Andie MacDowell/voice by Glenn Close) look much more like what I would envision for the time period. I have not seen this film but reviewers seem to say that it is a pretty good Tarzan adaptation and character study. Jane has the role of teacher in this movie, helping Tarzan (who is not called by that name in the movie) to adapt to European life – she never appears in Africa which sort of breaks with the tradition and leaves us unable to really compare this Jane with other incarnations.

Disney’s Tarzan (1999)

This film is the first animated version of Tarzan and was a commercial smash hit for Disney. Growing up during this time period I of course saw, and loved, this movie. The music is fantastic and there is a great voice cast – including Tony Goldwyn as Tarzan and Minnie Driver as Jane. Much of the story is based on the Tarzan novel by Burroughs, however as with any Disney film there is a romanticized and much more PG version of the story. Jane is feisty (which I liked), a teacher to Tarzan and enjoyable. This film launched several direct to video sequels, a tv show, a Broadway musical and much more. I recommend this film for any Disney fan.

What do you think? Have you seen any other versions of Tarzan not mentioned above? Who is your favorite Jane and why?


Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, October 22, 2012

Mailbox Monday #122


Hello everyone – it’s Monday again.  This is two weeks+ worth of mailbox surprises.

First I will mention the books that I received for my next upcoming class – it begins November 5th (thank God I have two weeks off between classes, I’m starting to burn out!).  My next class is the Ancient Greeks!  All were purchased by me from Half.com.  Have you read any of them?

  • Egypt, Greece and Rome: Civilizations of the Ancient Mediterranean by Charles Freeman
  • The Peloponnesian War by Donald Kagan – I read a little of this one for my research paper this semester on the above mentioned war. 
  • The Greeks by H.D.F Kitto
  • The Histories by Herodotus – probably the one that I am least looking forward too
  • Ancient Greece: From Prehistoric to Hellenistic Times by Thomas R. Martin

Next up are the two books that I received fro review:

  • Royal Romances by Leslie Carroll (received from publisher) – I’m super excited to see who made it into this edition of her non-fiction series
  • Cascade by Maryanne O’Hara – (received audio download from the publisher as part of Solid Gold Reviewer Program) – listening to this right now – liking the story, not loving the narration.

One of my giveaway wins was received this week – The Mirrored World by Deborah Deen – won from Unabridged Chick and received from the publisher.

Finally, a book I purchased myself because I have been wanting to try out something from the series – The Best American Short Stories 2010 – purchased from ebay.  My school bookstore always had these but I never bought one.  This was $0.99 on ebay with free shipping, I figured what was there to lose!?

What did you receive this week?  Have you read any that I received?

Mailbox Monday is on a monthly blog tour and for the month of October it is being hosted by the home site, Mailbox Monday!


Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Weekend Cooking: Pumpkin Bread & Giveaway!!

Wow it has been quite awhile since I participated in Weekend Cooking – although I have sure been doing a lot of it! This weekend is special because besides a wonderful recipe I have a giveaway too – stay tuned to the end of the post!

One of the things I love about living near Old Sturbridge Village is that there is a large section of historical cooking recipe books. One of my favorite publishers is Bear Wallow Books. They are a publisher of old fashioned recipe books and the recipes that I have tried from them have been very good. Apparently they got their start when a University historian was doing research and collecting historical recipes. You can visit their website to see all that they offer – however they don’t sell their books directly online – you usually can find them in museum gift shops or through this gift shop online: Abel’s Apple Acres. I think I’m going to be starting a collection of all of them and will share some of the recipes here. I also really love that they are inexpensive – usually between $3-$5.

Each book either focuses on a specific ingredient, such as pumpkin, or style of cooking, such as Native American or woodstove. The introduction section gives tips and tricks to working with the ingredient and some historical background. The Pumpkin book I am using gives information about the first pumpkin pie and how to make your own pumpkin pulp.

As we speak I have a loaf of pumpkin bread in the oven. The smell is so inviting and totally embraces the season. Such a simple recipe I can imagine it being made by farmers during the fall.

Pumpkin Bread
Makes 1 loaf

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 ½ cups sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup cooked pumpkin, or canned pumpkin
¼ cup water

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2) Sift first 4 ingredients together in a medium sized bowl.
3) In a separate bowl blend sugar, oil, eggs, pumpkin, and water.
4) Add to the flour mixture and mix well.
5) Pour into a greased, floured 9x5 inch loaf pan and back for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool on a wire rack

I’m not a fan of pumpkin typically – I definitely cannot stand pumpkin pie – but I really liked this bread. It was so simple to make. The bread came out moist and tender, with a slight crisp to the crust. There was just enough pumpkin taste to flavor it but not be over-powering and strong. It reminds me of a really good banana or zucchini bread. I would HIGHLY recommend this bread. And even better topped with a little bit of cream cheese!

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and any post remotely related to cooking can partake!


Ok now on to the giveaway – I have a set of two recipe books from the Bear Wallow Books collection to offer as a giveaway – Old Fashioned Pumpkin Recipes and Old Fashioned Apple Recipes. I picked these up at Old Sturbridge Village and thought they would be perfect for the season and you will still have the whole month of November to make some of these wonderful recipes. Open to the USA and Canada. Ends October 27th. Just enter the Rafflecopter below to register your chance to win.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Interview with Derek Birks

Interview #2 this week is with debut author Derek Birks.  His novel, Feud, the first in a planned series about a family living through the Wars of the Roses, was released September 30th.  Please help me welcome Derek to The Maiden’s Court!


Your novel, Feud, is set during the Wars of the Roses.  What attracted you to set your stories in this time period? 

It’s a period that’s always appealed to me long before I considered writing historical fiction. I’ve researched it in depth over many years and I feel very comfortable with it, like an old jacket. They always say write about what you know and this is the period I know best.

As for what attracts me to it, it’s a time when politics and warfare are two sides of the same coin and larger than life personalities unashamedly strut their stuff. Law and order is cast aside and local rivalries spawn violent reactions. There is bloodshed and cruelty, discord and misrule but there is also faith, loyalty and courage in bucket loads. The personalities still seize the imagination today – and not just the men, there are some seriously powerful and influential women too. Tudors, eat your heart out!

From what I understand, the main family in your novel, the Elders, is an entirely fictional family.  What led you to choose to create a fictional family over a real family?  Were there any historical characters that you modeled yours after?

From the start I envisaged a series of books which would potentially span the whole period – in short I needed a dynasty, not just a family! In order to be able to create a succession of storylines I had to be able to plan what my characters would do beyond this first story. By using a fictional family I gave myself a free hand to shape all of their destinies. This meant that, though I was still bound by the events and conventions of the period, the story remained completely within my control.

So, they had to be fictional but, having said that, the Elders and their opponents, the Radcliffes, are typical of many landed families at the time. Family, land ownership and marriages were vital to the long term success, even survival, of such families. When law and order broke down in the 1450s and 1460s some families resorted to force to get what they wanted and in particular to settle old disputes over land. Feud tells the story of a bitter dispute of this kind but it also meshes into the actions of real people.

So many stories have been told about the York’s, Lancaster’s, and the Wars of the Roses – how do you make your story fresh and stand out from others that are out there?

Well, of course one way was by writing about a fictional family because many novels set in the period use actual personalities as their central characters. In my story the “kings and queens” can’t be ignored but they are supporting members of the cast and they don’t drive the action.

Feud is essentially about those caught up in the Wars of the Roses and I’ve tried to create a group of characters on different steps of the social ladder. So, although you have Ned Elder who is a young knight, you also have a good look at those who serve him, for better or worse. Several characters from what you might call the ‘serving’ classes play pivotal roles in the story and the ways in which they interact with the Elders try to give some depth and realism to the narrative.

Feud is not simply the tale of a brutal struggle, it’s also a love story – in fact several love stories. There are many more female characters than you might find in a fifteenth century story with so much action in it. I was keen to demonstrate that some women in the late fifteenth century did have opportunities for independence and I think this plays well with modern readers as quite a number who have read the book have told me how pleasantly surprised they were about the variety of female roles.

I read on your website that you like to read medieval historical fiction and are drawn to Bernard Cornwell.  He is a favorite author of mine too.  What is it about medieval fiction that you enjoy reading about?

Reading for me is often escapism, so I suppose at a basic level the medieval period is far enough away from modern times to seem like a different world. It’s still shrouded in a little mystery: beliefs, social conventions and institutions are very different from today. It’s a more brutal, elemental society but you can still find the virtues of industry, loyalty and bravery.

It’s a time that interests me but I don’t admire it or envy the people who lived through it because the lives of ordinary folk didn’t amount to much. For everyone except the very wealthy surviving each year was worthy of a big celebration in itself for the means of life and death were always close at hand.

Medieval stories I like are those where survival balances on a knife’s edge – sometimes literally. I like stories about people carrying on despite the terrible burdens placed upon them by those that wield power in church and state. So I want to read about people in the Middle Ages who fight back - everyone loves a rebel!

When you are not writing or reading, what do you enjoy doing for fun?

Well, I’m a sucker for films and will watch virtually anything! But sometimes you’ve got to get up out of the armchair, so I also do a lot of walking and swimming. I like to travel, especially to visit historical sites – almost any site! In the past year I’ve taken up archaeology and spent a lot of time digging at a Roman villa. Despite being on my knees all the time, I’ve really enjoyed this and as a complete amateur I’ve been shown much tolerance by the old hands:

Me: “Hey, this looks like a highly polished decorative stone - part of some jewelry?”

Old hand: “No, that just your average bit of rock…”

But I’ve learned a lot in a short time, so I intend to keep going with that.

You indicated that Feud is only the first of a series of books.  Can you tell us anything about what you have planned?

The next book, a sequel to Feud, is already well under way. Feud ends in 1461 and the second book misses out a few years to move the story on to 1464. It’s set in the far north of England where the deposed Lancastrian King, Henry VI, is trying to muster support to regain his throne. Again it’s rooted in the events of the Wars of the Roses and it follows the fortunes – or misfortunes - of the Elders who are in trouble again!

Beyond that I have already roughed out several more books in the series, but we’ll see how it goes. I find the characters have lives of their own and sometimes even I don’t know what they’ll do next!

Photo Credit

Derek was born in Hampshire, England but his family emigrated to New Zealand and he spent his teenage years in Auckland. Having returned to England he studied History at Reading University and then taught history at a secondary school for many years before taking early retirement to concentrate on his writing.  He now lives in Berkshire with his family.

You can find Derek at the following sites:



Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Book Review: The Ruins of Lace by Iris Anthony

ruins of lace

The Ruins of Lace by Iris Anthony
ARC, E-book, 336 pages
Sourcebooks Landmark
October 2, 2012
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Genre: Historical fiction

Source: Received from publisher for review through Netgalley

“Lace is a thing like hope.
It is beauty; it is grace.
It was never meant to destroy so many lives.

The mad passion for forbidden lace has infiltrated France,
pulling soldier and courtier alike into its web. For those who want the best, Flemish lace is the only choice, an exquisite perfection of thread and air. For those who want something they don’t have, Flemish lace can buy almost anything––or anyone.

For Lisette, lace begins her downfall, and the only way to atone for her sins is to outwit the noble who now demands the impossible. To fail means certain destruction. But for Katharina, lace is her salvation. It is who she is; it is what she does. If she cannot make this stunning tempest of threads, a dreaded fate awaits.

The most lucrative contraband in Europe, with its intricate patterns and ephemeral hope, threatens to cost them everything. Lace may be the deliverance for which they all pray...or it may bring the ruin and imprisonment they all fear.”

This novel was a very refreshing piece of historical fiction. The topic, the black market for lace in 17th century France, is one that I have not seen around before and was eager to read about. Anthony did not let me down and I was treated to quite the entertaining read.

As you move through this book we alternate narrators – we have: a lace maker, a family whose life is ruined by a careless mistake made to a piece of lace, a dog who is used to smuggle lace, a guard of the boarder who is supposed to prevent lace smuggling, and a man who is desperate for lace (I think I hit them all…). Each of these characters lives show you a different part of the lace industry from the crafting, to the smuggling, to the purchasing. There also is enough history of why all the smuggling was happening to give the reader enough background to feel fully knowledgeable of what is happening.

The story is fast paced with action of every page right from beginning to end. It reminded me of an American Prohibition time period novel the way everything was black market, dangerous, smuggled, and very lucrative or disastrous depending on which side you ended up on. The characters were captivating, both the good and the bad, and all had flaws – which was rather refreshing. I kept wondering how she would write a chapter from the dog’s perspective, and I thought it was pulled off rather well. She keeps it within the limited scope of what a dog might actually understand, not having the dog think like a human. He was probably my favorite character and must have been a challenge to write!

My opinion of the ending has changed a little. When I first finished the book I thought that it was a little open ended and reminiscent of a “pick-your-own ending”. This frustrated me a little, but then I made up my own idea and was happy with my version of the ending. However, I just read a post on the author’s website where she tries to help clear up the ending with a clever scavenger hunt of pages from the book. Here is the link to that post so if you have finished the book and want to figure out what she intended you can. It helped me out. She will also be guest posting at Mod Podge Books on the 22nd discussing more about the ending.

The authors note and extended discussion with the author about the history behind the book was phenomenal and I really appreciated learning more about it – it really brings the chapters from the dog perspective home.

This is the first book to be written under the pseudonym Iris Anthony. 

You can also watch this video where the author talks about the book.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

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

Also by Iris Anthony:

the miracle thief
The Miracle Thief

Find Iris Anthony: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest 

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Interview with Jennifer Niven

Today I have the opportunity to welcome author Jennifer Niven to The Maiden’s Court.  She has written several books and the most recent, Becoming Clementine, the third book in the Velva Jean series, was released September 25th.  Read on for a look at the Velva Jean series, a little backstory on her earlier books, and more!

becoming clementine

Your newest release, Becoming Clementine, in the third book in your Velva Jean series.  When you starting writing the first book, Velva Jean Learns to Drive did you know it was going to be a series or was it originally intended as a stand-alone novel?

I wanted it to be a series, and I pitched it as such to Penguin. My editor said we would need to see how the first book did before they could commit to additional books, so it’s probably more accurate for me to say that I hoped it would turn into a series. I originally wrote the first Velva Jean book because I’d carried her around with me, in my heart and head, since film school. I wrote the first book and the second book because I wanted to read them. I also wanted to pay homage to the daring girls who appeared in their own adventure stories of the 1920s and 1930s, inspiring girls like Constance Kurridge and Flyin’ Jenny, who were comic book heroes. These were young women who spied and flew and acted and sang and fought crime and bad guys and fell in love and did exactly what they wanted to do and were well ahead of their time. I thought it was time for another series along those lines, one that women and girls of all ages (and men and boys too) could enjoy and, hopefully, feel inspired by.

I did not know that there were female pilots in World War II.  How did you come across this subject and what about it called out to you to write this story?

I first heard of the WASP when I was at Camp Toccoa, Georgia, for a reunion of the 101st Airborne. I had watched and loved Band of Brothers and was fascinated by the real-life heroes. While there, I met a lovely, lively woman who told me she had been a pilot in World War II, and I was immediately intrigued. My heart literally started pounding the way it always does when I come across an idea I love. I asked her question after question, and then I went home and started to dig until I discovered the WASP, or Women’s Airforce Service Pilots. I was riveted by these brave women who had left their homes and, in many cases, their families, to fly planes for the military as their war contribution. They flew the largest bombers and endured prejudice, harassment, and often sabotage at the hands of the men who didn’t think they should be flying. I thought they were some of the most courageous women I’d ever heard of and I knew I wanted to write something about them...

Were there a lot of resources available to you about female pilots and spies from the World War II era?  How did you conduct your research?

I was lucky enough to interview members of the WASP while writing Velva Jean Learns to Fly. Two particular women did much to inspire and inform Velva Jean’s story in the newest book—Hélène Deschamps, a member of the French Resistance who was later recruited by the OSS, and Virginia D’Albert-Lake, an American in Paris who worked for the Resistance while also helping to free Allied airmen on the Freedom Line. I was also fortunate to get to know Dr. Margaret Emanuelson, a former agent of the OSS, who was generous in sharing her vast knowledge and the memories of her experiences.

Although this is a novel, I examined numerous resources and conducted extensive research in an effort to make the events, the setting, and the period as authentic as possible. Perhaps the greatest resources were the members of the OSS Society and its president, Charles Pinck, and Roy Tebbutt and the Carpetbagger Aviation Museum (a.k.a. the Harrington Aviation Museum), in Harrington, England. Espionage expert Linda McCarthy, founding curator of the CIA Museum, was a terrific resource as well. I also owe much to the comprehensive (and recently declassified) National Archives and Records Administration OSS Collection, and the Churchill Archives Centre.

Do you have intentions of writing more Velva Jean novels or are you planning on moving onto new subjects?  Are you working on anything new at the moment?

I recently handed in the manuscript to the next Velva Jean novel, in which she goes to Hollywood in 1945, just as the war is ending. I’m also working on some TV projects with my producing/writing partners. And I’m beginning to think of what book might come next… As my literary agent would tell you, I am always, always writing.

To change gears for a moment – your two earlier books, The Ice Master and Ada Blackjack are based on two disastrous expeditions on Wrangel Island in the Arctic – a very different subject that those of the Velva Jean novels.  How did you decide to write about this subject?

It all started with The Ice Master. Because I had recently graduated from the American Film Institute, my mind was in movies. I was actually searching for ideas for a screenplay and I was glancing through the TV schedule and read about a documentary described as "Deadly Arctic Expedition." Immediately, I was intrigued. I love that kind of story—filled with drama, adventure, edge-of-your-seat action! So I taped the show, promptly forgot about it, and stumbled across the tape again a month or two later. I watched it and immediately fell in love with the idea.

Then I did as I always do with stories or topics I am interested in—I tried to find out everything I could about the subject. I read an account by Vilhjalmur Stefansson, in which he mentioned the ship Karluk only as a footnote to his discovery of the three last uncharted islands of Canada. But what about that ship? I wondered. What happened to those men he left behind? And the woman? And her two little girls?

And so I began to research, and I couldn't believe it when I discovered that there were only two accounts written about the expedition—both first-person narratives, and both then out of print. Someone must write this story, which was all I could think at the time. But how to write it? As a screenplay or as a book? I'd never written a book before, but somehow the story seemed to demand it.

The idea for Ada Blackjack came out of The Ice Master because two of the men involved in that first expedition were involved in the second one. The story was a kind of sequel, which made it a natural next book to do.

On your website you describe some of the various roles women in your family have had, from spies in the Revolutionary war to piloting airplanes.  Have any of these women shaped your life or the stories that you write?

The women in my family have spied in the Revolutionary War, run plantations and defied various enemies during and after the Civil War, raised ten or twelve or fourteen children on their own, flown planes, taught school, run organizations large and small, written books, and been crowned beauty queens. So I hail from a long line of strong Southern women who believe nothing is insurmountable, that you should always dream as big as possible, and that you can be or do anything you want to be or do. They also believe you can and should be a good, kind, gracious person while surmounting and dreaming and doing and being. Because of that influence, Velva Jean is the person she is.

But the main person who has shaped my life is my mother, Penelope Niven, who is an author as well. From a very early age, she told me I could be or do anything. She taught me not to limit myself. She taught me to be kind and loving to others. She passed along the research gene to me. She taught me the importance of being silly. She is a positive, gracious person, and imparted that to me. In addition, she shared her love of reading and writing. Ever since she instilled “writing time” into my childhood routine, I have loved a good story. While she sat at her grown-up desk, I sat at my little one, crayons in hand, composing fanciful tales about ordinary people who did extraordinary things. From her, I learned to find the story in everything, to appreciate wonderful characters, and to discover that I could actually realize my dreams of being a detective, an astronaut, an archaeologist, and an actress because a writer is adventurer, explorer, researcher, scholar, and chameleon in one.

When you are not writing or engaged in some aspect thereof, what do you like to do for fun?  I noticed on your website there are many recipes – do you like to cook?

It seems these days as if I’m always writing or researching something I’m planning to write. That, for me, is fun. It’s hard work, of course, but I absolutely love what I do. That said, I try to stay a balanced person, as much as I can while under intense deadlines. This means time with my boyfriend and cats, time with my friends and family, talking on the phone with my mom (who lives across the country from me), traveling, exploring, adventuring, exercising, dancing, going to movies, watching something fun on television, reading. I do like to cook, though I don’t do it often. My dad was a terrific chef, and many of the recipes on my website are his or are contributed by family, friends, and, most of all, my assistant Phoebe, who truly is an amazing and talented cook!

Photo Credit: Louis Kapeleris

Jennifer Niven lives in Los Angeles (where her film Velva Jean Learns to Drive won an Emmy Award and she once played the part of Shania Twain in a music video). Even though she's always wanted to be a Charlie's Angel, her true passion is writing, and her first book, The Ice Master, was released in November 2000 and named one of the top ten nonfiction books of the year by Entertainment Weekly

With her mother, author Penelope Niven, Jennifer has conducted numerous seminars in writing and addressed audiences around the world.

When she isn't writing, Jennifer studies belly dancing, yoga, and electric guitar; explores her inner bombshell; hikes the great outdoors; immerses herself in the movies and culture of Hollywood's golden age; rabidly follows her favorite TV shows; comes to the rescue of homeless animals; reads three to four books a week when her cats aren't lying on them; and sees as much of the world as she can.

You can visit Jennifer at the following locations:



Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, October 15, 2012

Giveaway: Sacred Treason by James Forrester

Have you heard of the new novel, Sacred Treason by James Forrester yet?  Well if you haven't, read on and then decide if you want to enter the giveaway for a copy of the book.

London, December 1563. England is a troubled nation. Catholic plots against the young Queen Elizabeth spring up all over the country. At his house in the parish of St Bride, the herald William Harvey – known to everyone as Clarenceux - receives a book from his friend and fellow Catholic, Henry Machyn. But Machyn is in fear of his life, claiming that the book is deadly... What secret can it hold? And then Clarenceux is visited by the State in the form of Francis Walsingham and his ruthless enforcers, who will stop at nothing to gain possession of it. If Clarenceux and his family are to survive the terror of Walsingham, and to plead with the queen’s Secretary of State Sir William Cecil for their lives, Clarenceux must solve the clues contained in the book to unlock its dangerous secrets before it’s too late. And when he does, he realizes that it's not only his life and the lives of those most dear to him that are at stake...

James Forrester is the penname for historian Dr. Ian Mortimer who has written such books as The Time Traveler's Guide to Elizabethan England and The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England.  This novel, A Sacred Treason was released October 1st by Sourcebooks.

Want to enter the giveaway?  Fill out the Rafflecopter below to enter.  Last day to enter is October 27th.  Giveaway is open to those residing in the USA and Canada.  

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The other stops on this blog tour are as listed below:

10/15: Maiden’s Court - Here!!!
10/16: Book Journey
10/22: Broken Teepee
10/24: Radiant Light

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court