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Monday, March 31, 2014

Lindbergh in Song

Many events in history inspire songs – and Charles Lindbergh’s historic flight across the Atlantic Ocean is no exception.  Within 2 days of his landing in Paris several songs were already on the market – the first being “Lucky Lindy” by L. Wolfe Gilbert and Abel Baer.  Within a short period of time, over 300 songs came out of Tin Pan Alley commemorating Lindbergh’s flight. 

Other events in Lindbergh’s life inspired songs too – such as his marriage to Anne Morrow in 1929.  Among these were: “Anne and Lindy” and “We Know You’ll Take Good Care of Lindy”.  The kidnapping and loss of his child, Charles Lindbergh Jr. also inspired the songs “Charles A. Lindbergh, Jr” and “There’s A New Star Up in Heaven (Baby Lindy is Up There” by Bob Miller – recorded just one day following the discovery of the deceased baby.

Below I have included a playlist with a few of the songs I could find in their early recording. 

Have you heard any of these, or others about Lindbergh?  What do you think?


Other posts as part of Charles Lindbergh Week:


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Announcing this Week: Charles Lindbergh Week

I haven’t had a theme week in a very long time and upon reading Lindbergh by A. Scott Berg I had so many avenues that I wanted to explore that I knew this was the perfect time for another theme week.  So I give you, the Charles Lindbergh week!

This week, I will have a series of posts about a variety of subjects – written works, music, speeches, etc – and, of course, rounding out the week with a review of Berg’s book.

You will know it is a Lindbergh week post when you see this banner (custom made by my fiancé):


I hope you stop by and check out some of the posts and learn a little something more about the Lindberghs. 


Here are the links to the posts from this week:

Other posts as part of Charles Lindbergh Week:


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Friday, March 28, 2014

Virtual Tour of Marble House–Newport, Rhode Island

marble house
Marble House front façade
Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Our next Newport mansion virtual tour will take us to Marble House, the home (briefly) of William and Alva Vanderbilt. Now, if Vanderbilt sounds familiar, William’s brother, Cornelius, was the owner of The Breakers, which we took a look at earlier. Marble House is among my favorites – the interior is just absolutely breath-taking – it’s all in…you guessed it – marble!

Left: William Vanderbilt                         Right: Alva Vanderbilt
Photo Credits: Wikipedia

Marble House is located at 596 Bellevue Avenue, just down the street from Rosecliff. Here’s a little social history first. Like the other mansions in Newport, this was used only as a summer cottage by the couple for 3 years from its completion in 1892 and 1895. The Vanderbilt’s divorced in 1895 and it pretty much sat relatively empty (as Alva had ownership of the home and she moved in with her new husband), except to be used as a glorified closet for the Belcourt Castle. Around 1908, when Alva’s new husband, Oliver Hazard Perry Belmont, passed away. Alva then began to use the home to host rallies for women’s suffrage. If you tour the home today you can see many of the “Votes for Women” memorabilia and even buy replicas of the china pattern.

Votes for Women China Pattern – You can buy your own!
Photo Credit: Newport Style

Like many of the other great “cottages”, Marble House was inspired by one of the great European architectural beauties – the Petit Trianon at Versailles. The house was designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt, who became the architect for The Breakers subsequently. In contemporary dollars, the house cost approximately $11 million – in today’s money that would be approximately $260 million!!! And as you might expect, over three quarters of the budget went to the purchase of marble.

Marble House is comprised of 50 rooms, making it certainly a very large mansion. These rooms are spread out over four stories; however the building gives the appearance of only two. The kitchen and service areas are in the basement and the servant’s quarters are on the top level. On the first floor is the reception rooms (entrance, grand staircase, grand salon-ballroom-reception room, the Gothic Room, library, and dining room. The second floor was for the bedrooms and guest rooms. As you may imagine, many of these rooms reflect a French flavor – my favorite is probably the bedroom of Alva Vanderbilt – it is a gorgeous lilac color!

lilac room
Alva Vanderbilt’s Bedroom
Photo Credit: Newport Preservation Society

You can’t visit Marble House without noticing the one object that clashes with all of that Gilded Age splendor – the Chinese Tea House located toward the back of the property along the cliff. The Tea House is designed to reflect a 12th century traditional Chinese tea house and was when Alva hosted many of her suffrage rallies.

The Chinese Tea House at Marble House
Photo Credit:

In 1919, when Alva moved to the European continent, the house was closed and stood vacant until 1932 when it was sold to the Frederick H. Prince family. They maintained ownership of the house until 1963 when it was given over to the Newport Preservation Society and subsequently opened for tours. Interestingly, the Society was able to purchase the house thanks to funding from Harold Stirling Vanderbilt, the youngest child of William and Alva Vanderbilt.

If you visit Marble House today you can purchase a one house ticket or as part of the 5 property Gilded Age package. You can tour the grounds by yourself and the house via a self-guided audio tour. If you would like refreshment, you can grab lunch at the Tea House on the property. Marble House is one of the three properties that is open through the winter season and is beautifully dressed up.

Again, for some reason, I cannot find the photos I have taken of Marble House, but how about a look at this video? It was filmed during the holiday season but you can get a good idea of how the mansion would have looked in general (since Christmas would never have been held there as they didn’t live in Newport in the winter).

You can find out more about Marble House by visiting the Newport Preservation Society.

Have you ever visited Marble House? What do you think of it?  How about the lilac room?


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Mailbox Monday #168


It’s mailbox time!! It’s mailbox time!! I almost forgot that I received a couple things this week.

I picked up two books this week…and…as I am writing this I realize that I actually received four books. Man it has been a long week! I got two books for review and two books for personal reading.


For review:

  • Louisa Catherine: The Other Mrs. Adams by Margery M. Heffron (received through Netgalley) – First, I have to thank Amy, from Passages to the Past, for alerting me to this one!  I love how we get to know each other’s reading preferences around the blogosphere!  Can’t wait to read this as part of my President & First Lady challenge.
  • Ember Island by Kimberley Freeman (received for review from publisher) – I have enjoyed books that I have read of this style – where something happened in the past and someone in the present is being affected by the their quest to learn what happened in the past. 


  • One Thousand Porches by Julie Dewey (free on Amazon Kindle) – I picked this one up last week based on seeing it around the blogs and because it was free on Amazon.  And I like that it is set in the Adirondacks, an unusual setting for sure.
  • Sarum by Edward Rutherfurd (purchased through Audible) – I have been working on collecting the unabridged audiobooks of Rutherfurd.  I have listened to New York, and now own Paris and Sarum and Russka.

What did you receive this week?

Mailbox Monday has returned to its home base blog. You can visit the site to see what everyone received this week!


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, March 24, 2014

Interview with Carol Strickland and Giveaway

Today Carol Strickland, author of The Eagle and the Swan, stops by The Maiden’s Court while on virtual tour.  I had the opportunity to ask her a few questions about her writing (both in fiction and non-fiction) and hope you enjoy the interview.  There is a giveaway at the end too.


You have written several art history books (I’m a huge art history fan) – what led to the jump into fiction?

In my art history book, I wrote about the brilliant mosaics of Emperor Justinian and Empress Theodora, masterpieces of Byzantine art, but I had no idea of the story behind the images. When writing a book on the history of architecture, I encountered the pair again, since Justinian was instrumental in designing the stunning Hagia Sophia church. Its dome was the largest and most daring in the ancient world. When its architects despaired that it would hold up, Justinian had faith in the engineering, which he was convinced was divinely inspired. The more I read about this couple, the more I realized their story needed to be told. They both came from nowhere: Justinian from a pig farm and Theodora from the circus. But where they went is what makes them extraordinary--to the pinnacle of power during the Golden Age of Byzantium. And what they did once at the top seemed to have all the elements of a crackling-good story. Their reign was fraught not only with scandal, intrigue, political and personal payback, but also crusading for social justice, motivated by their own humble backgrounds.

You have now written both fiction and non-fiction.  Which is easier?  Which has been more fun?

Non-fiction involves research and then boiling down the main points and framing the information in a style that's accessible and entertaining. I really enjoy learning about a complex subject and then presenting a summary of the need-to-know essentials. But there's not much room for literary flair in art history. Style shouldn't distract from the content. I have a Ph.D. in American literature and culture, and I'm a big fan of novels that employ symbolism and literary devices like figurative language, foreshadowing, and subtext. I got to play around much more writing the novel--to let myself imagine what these historical characters were thinking, feeling, and saying. Inventing is more fun than synthesizing already-known facts in non-fiction.

I only very recently learned about Theodora, how were you introduced to her and her fascinating life?

When I was researching the background of the Hagia Sophia basilica in Istanbul (built in an astounding five years in 532-537 AD), I read how involved Justinian was in its planning and how the  capitals of the columns are carved with his and his wife Theodora's initials. The more I read from their court historian Procopius, the more intrigued I was with this couple. When I read that Theodora came "from the brothel," that piqued my curiosity. Procopius's Secret History (not published until centuries later) is full of malicious gossip about the pair, painting them as demons and degenerates. (Yet Theodora is considered a saint in the Greek Orthodox church!)  Basically, I didn't want this mean-spirited back-biter to have the last word in defining the couple for the ages. I wanted to let Theodora speak for herself, to tell her side of the story and reveal herself as neither exclusively a saint nor a sinner, but a bit of both.

Do you have any more plans to write fiction?  Anything you can tell us about your future writing?

I'd love to do another historical novel and I have some subjects percolating in my head. But my immediate project is to get back to art history--this time in the enhanced eBook format rather than print. With a print book, you can only show so many images that are often small or in black-and-white (because of budget limitations). With an eBook, you can have high-resolution digital images in full-color, and they can be enlarged to show details. You can have "hot spots" and links to click on for more information so readers can drill down to get as much detail as they'd like on art works, movements, or artists. My publisher, Erudition Digital, is planning a series of books called Masterpieces of Art. We'll start with one of the most popular movements, Impressionism. The trick is to make it come alive for the reader: to show the artists as human beings and as original thinkers and creators.

Oh that sounds very cool!  I certainly agree that the enhanced book might make the subject much more accessible.  I will keep my eye out for these books!

When you are not writing, what do you like to do in your spare time?

I just returned from a two-week trip to Florence and Rome, where I immersed myself in Renaissance and Baroque art. It was a busman's holiday in a sense, since I'm an active cultural journalist, but the chance to just look and not have to record my thoughts was liberating. Travel, museums, photography, reading, gardening, and cooking are my passions.

There are some beautiful works of art depicting Theodora.  Do you have a favorite?  Have you seen the mosaics of Theodora and Justinian in person?

I regret to say I haven't yet been to Ravenna to see the mosaics. I did go to Istanbul and Roman ruins in Turkey and Italy to get a sense of what life was like in the late-Roman Empire in which Theodora lived. A church in Rome (San Clemente) has an ancient fresco purported to be of Theodora, which I sought out. It's faded and faint, but her imperial headdress is unmistakable. And what searing eye contact! I felt Theodora was staring sternly at me across the millennia, sending out vibes that order me to get her tale right. I touched the stone wall--it was cold and damp--to let her know how she has touched me.


Carol Strickland is an art and architecture critic, prize-winning screenwriter, and journalist who’s contributed to The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, and Art in America magazine. A Ph.D. in literature and former writing professor, she’s author of The Annotated Mona Lisa: A Crash Course in the History of Art from Prehistoric to Post-Modern (which has sold more than 400,000 copies in multiple editions and translations), The Annotated Arch: A Crash Course in the History of Architecture, The Illustrated Timeline of Art History, The Illustrated Timeline of Western Literature, and monographs on individual artists.

While writing on masterpieces of Byzantine art (glorious mosaics in Ravenna, Italy featuring Theodora and Justinian and the monumental Hagia Sophia basilica in Istanbul built by Justinian), Strickland became fascinated by the woman who began life as a swan dancer and her husband, an ex-swineherd.

Knowing how maligned they were by the official historian of their era Procopius, who wrote a slanderous “Secret History” vilifying them, Strickland decided to let the audacious Theodora tell her story. She emerges not just as the bear-keeper’s daughter and a former prostitute who ensnared the man who became emperor, but as a courageous crusader against the abuse of women, children, and free-thinkers.

You can find Carol at the following locations: Author Website, Book Website, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.


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

I also have a giveaway for you all.  It is open internationally and I have 2 eBook copies.  Entries are made through the Rafflecopter below.  Giveaway ends April 6th.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Sunday, March 23, 2014

It’s Sunday!

Suddenly Sunday

Hi all – happy Sunday!  Hope you had a good weekend.  Mine was somewhat blah.  I spent Saturday getting over a disappointment from work on Friday (but did enjoy getting outside in the beautiful sunshine) and today I’m down with a cold.  The tissues are my best friend today.  It seems like I have have at least 4 significant colds this year which is WAY more than usual.  Spring can’t come fast enough.

I wanted to acknowledge that you may notice the pace around here has been inconsistent at best.  I have hit the 3 month window until the wedding and things are beginning to get busy!  So I hate to say it, but it will likely be more of the same for a few more months – although I am planning an ambitious week-long event soon to come.

I have a winner of one giveaway to announce today – and that is the winner of Stillwater by Nicole Helget.  And that winner is Meghan S!  Congrats Meghan!  I have sent an email to the winner and she has 5 days to get back to me with the mailing information or a new winner will be selected.

Speaking of giveaways – I currently have 2 running and another to come tomorrow.  Get your entries in my friends!

Hope to see you all around the blogs this week!


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Friday, March 21, 2014

New Book Alert Book Blast: The Chalice by Nancy Bilyeau

The-Chalice PB

The Chalice by Nancy Bilyeau
Paperback, 496 pages
Touchstone Publishing
ISBN-10: 1476708665
US Paperback Publication Date: March 18, 2014
Series: Joanna Stafford, Book Two
Genre: Historical Mystery

Book Blurb:

Between the crown and the cross stands one woman…

IN 1538, ENGLAND is in the midst of bloody power struggles that threaten to tear the country apart. Aristocrat-turned-novice Joanna Stafford knows what lies inside the king’s torture rooms and risks imprisonment when she is caught up in an international plot targeting the king. As the power plays turn vicious, Joanna understands she may have to assume her role in a prophecy foretold by three different seers.

Joanna realizes the life of Henry VIII, as well as the future of Christendom, are in her hands—hands that must someday hold the chalice that lies at the center of these deadly prophecies…

About the Author


Nancy Bilyeau has worked on the staffs of InStyle, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, and Ladies Home Journal. She is currently the executive editor of DuJour magazine. Her screenplays have placed in several prominent industry competitions. Two scripts reached the semi-finalist round of the Nicholl Fellowships of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. Her screenplay “Zenobia” placed with the American Zoetrope competition, and “Loving Marys” reached the finalist stage of Scriptapalooza. A native of the Midwest, she earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan. THE CROWN, her first novel, was published in 2012; the sequel, THE CHALICE, followed in 2013.

Some earlier milestones: In 1661, Nancy’s ancestor, Pierre Billiou, emigrated from France to what was then New Amsterdam when he and his family sailed on the St. Jean de Baptiste to escape persecution for their Protestant beliefs. Pierre built the first stone house on Staten Island and is considered the borough’s founder. His little white house is on the national register of historic homes and is still standing to this day.

Nancy lives in New York City with her husband and two children.

You can find Nancy at the following sites: Website, Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.  You can also sign up for Nancy Bilyeau’s Newsletter

Check out the book trailer:

Or, how about an inside look at the book with the author?

Here are some options for purchasing the book: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book-a-Million, IndieBound, and Simon & Schuster.

Praise for The Chalice

“A brilliant and gripping page-turner…A fascinating blend of politics, religion, mysticism and personal turmoil. Well-researched and filled with sumptuous detail, it follows Joanna’s early life from Bilyeau’s début novel, The Crown, but this book easily stands on its own. Bilyeau fills in the blanks from her earlier work while leaving the reader both wanting to read the first book and eagerly awaiting the next. This is a must-read for lovers of historical fiction.” – Free Lance-Star

“English history buffs and mystery fans alike will revel in Nancy Bilyeau’s richly detailed sequel to The Crown.” – Parade

“The novel is riveting, and provides fascinating insight into the lives of displaced nuns and priests during the tumultuous Tudor period. Bilyeau creates fully realized characters, with complex actions and emotions, driving the machinations of these historic personages.” – RT Book Reviews, (Top Pick)

“The human and political battles of Henry VIII’s reformation are brought to exhilarating life in The Chalice by Nancy Bilyeau.” – Good Housekeeping UK, April 2014

“Bilyeau sends her plucky former novice back into the intrigue-laden court of Henry VIII.” – Entertainment Weekly

“Bilyeau continues from her first novel the subtle, complex development of Joanna’s character and combines that with a fast-paced, unexpected plot to hold the reader’s interest on every page . . . history and supernatural mysticism combine in this compelling thriller.” – Historical Novel Society

“Joanna Stafford is a young novice caught up in power struggles familiar to readers of Hilary Mantel and C.J. Sansom, but with elements of magic that echo the historical thrillers of Kate Mosse.” – S.J. Parris, author of ‘Heresy,’ ‘Prophecy’ and ‘Sacrilege’

“[A] layered book of historical suspense.” – Kirkus Reviews

“The Chalice is an engrossing mix of the complicated politics of the Reformation with the magical elements of the Dominican order, and Joanna–fiery, passionate, determined to honor what she thinks God wants her to do–is a fascinating character. Fans of historical mysteries, Tudor politics and supernatural fiction will all be pleased by the broad scope, quick-moving plot and historical integrity of Bilyeau’s second novel.” – Shelf Awareness

chalice book blast


To enter to win one of 10 copies of The Chalice please complete the Rafflecopter giveaway form below. Giveaway is open to US residents only.

Giveaway will run from March 17-21. You must be 18 or older to enter.
Winners will be chosen via Rafflecopter on March 22 and notifiied via email.

Winners have 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Blast Schedule

Monday, March 17
Bibliophilia, Please
Book-alicious Mama
HF Book Muse-News
Flashlight Commentary
Confessions of an Avid Reader
So Many Books, So Little Time

Tuesday, March 18
A Book Geek
Kinx’s Book Nook
Passages to the Past
Book Lovers Paradise
To Read or Not to Read
Oh, for the Hook of a Book

Wednesday, March 19
Closed the Cover
A Chick Who Reads
The True Book Addict
Caroline Wilson Writes
A Dream within a Dream
Historical Fiction Obsession

Thursday, March 20
CelticLady’s Reviews
Ageless Pages Reviews
She is Too Fond of Books
Peeking Between the Pages

Friday, March 21
A Bookish Affair
The Maiden’s Court
Let Them Read Books
Historical Fiction Connection


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Interview with Marina Neary & Giveaway

Today I have the pleasure of introducing author Marina Neary to you all.  Her book, Never Be At Peace hit the stores 2 days ago and she is currently touring to promote its release.  Below is an interview I conducted with her just before the book’s actual publication.  Hope you enjoy getting to know her and stay tuned at the end for a giveaway!


You are an artist of many talents: poet, author, actress, and then some.  Is there one medium that you prefer over another?  In what area did you get your start?

I stumbled into acting on a whim.  Connecticut has this indie film scene, and I just happen to have this combination of ugly good looks (think Sarah Silverman), abrasive personality, Eurotrash accent and offensive sense of humor that quickly got me pigeonholed as a "character actress".  I can play an angry psycho like nobody's business, because to me it's second nature.  I'll take my clothes off if necessary (and I have).  I also dragged several members of my family into acting, including my husband and stepfather.  They are both traditionally handsome and mainstream.  I must say, once the novelty of "Wow, I'm in the movies!" wears off, you realize that there are many amateurs in the industry.  Many people flirt with film making without realizing that there is a technical and business component to their "vision".  As an actor, you can pour your heart and sole into a role, but then your best parts get cut in the editing process, and you don't even get those clips for your reel.  Also, you can have a terrific script but a poor technical crew, and the movie will come out looking grainy.  Or you have a top notch cinematographer, but a really poor script and unconvincing actors.  In the end, it doesn't matter if you've done your job right.  It only counts if everything else goes right, and the final product can be shown at festivals. I'm sorry to say, I've been in too many movies that went absolutely nowhere. They are still sitting on the director's hard drive.  I don't mention any names.  That's the risk you take when you are working with "indie" directors.  They promise you the world just to get you on board, waste your time, and then stop responding to your calls and e-mails when you contact them 6 months later and ask them how the movie is going.  In a nutshell, I am very selective about which acting projects I take.  I don't commit to a project unless I am presented with some sort of business plan.  I can't afford to waste any more of my time on films that fizzled half-way due to the directors' incompetence and lack of resources.  So for now I am focusing on writing.  As a writer you have so much more control over the finished product. The only people you are dealing with are your agent, publisher, editor and cover artist.  You don't have to worry about other actors not showing up on the set, or the lighting being imperfect, or the funds running out.  That being said, I have not closed the door on acting altogether.  Over the years I've been blessed with some rather stimulating experiences.  I played Molly Bloom in an adaptation of James Joyce's "Ulysses" and an Irish female terrorist in a steampunk play "The Sun Never Sets".  As you can see, the Irish theme keeps recurring.  One film director actually allowed me to write my own role, so I got to combine my passion for acting with my passion for writing.  My character was the wife of a petty Russian mafioso in post-apocalyptic New York.  That short film actually was shown at several festivals.  After a while you learn to spot posers and wannabes.  When people promise you a trip to Cannes but don't mention anything about their distribution plan, it's a huge red flag.

I noticed on your website that you have worked on an interesting memoir that involved dozens of senior citizens.  Can you tell us more about this work? I’m sure this was a fascinating experience!

I used to volunteer at an elite retirement community, entertaining the residents with performances and lectures.  The activities coordinator pitched the idea of conducting a series of interviews with willing residents and assembling their memoirs.  Most of them were in their 90s, so they would have been young adults during the Great Depression. I was particularly interested in their professional lives.  I was surprised to discover that among my female interviewees there was not a single homemaker. They were all professional women, entrepreneurs, educators, scholars.  So much for the Donna Reed stereotype.  Then again, it explains why those women ended up spending their final years at a place like Brighton Gardens.  It is one of the most expensive retirement communities, and these women apparently had made enough money to afford such a comfortable end of life care.  It was fascinating to hear about the economic climate in the 1930s and how it affected professional women.  Incidentally, I myself come from a long line of professional women. My mother is a musician, my grandmother is an engineer, and my great-grandmother was a teacher and a translator.  When I came to America, I was shocked at how many women of my mother's and grandmother's age were homemakers.  In some respects, Eastern European women were ahead of their American contemporaries.  In my country, "housewife" was a dirty word.  If an able-bodied woman chose not to work, she earned disapproval from the community.  People would say, "Look, she's trying to be like one of those decadent Western women."  When I became a mother at the age of 23, I got a lot of flack for going back to work right away.  The amount of negativity and judgment I got from other moms was just shocking.  I was excluded from play groups.  So you can imagine, I got a little defensive, to say the least.  Now I am an ardent advocate for all working moms.  Whenever I hear a story about a woman who was able to balance motherhood and career successfully, I get very warm and jubilant deep inside.  That's what my female ancestor did.  Interestingly enough, I explore the subject of working women in my novel Never Be at Peace.  In a nutshell, under Eamon De Valera's regime, married women were automatically banned from the workforce.  Irish constitution of 1937 made it legal to eject married women from waged labor.  The rationale was that if a woman got married, she would be too busy popping out kids, so she would not be able to focus on her job anyway.  You can imagine my reaction to that discovery.

Can you share with us what inspired you to write about this period of Irish history in Never Be At Peace

Never Be at Peace is actually a companion piece to another novel in the Irish series Martyrs & Traitors: a Tale of 1916.  I was already in the process of writing a series of books about the Easter Rising in Dublin in 1916.  The main character in Martyrs & Traitors is Bulmer Hobson, a controversial antihero who had tried to prevent the Easter Rising.  Never Be at Peace focuses on the misadventures of his first love, Helena Molony.  The two novels are meant to complement each other, because they are told from two different points of view.  Both Hobson and Molony started off as Irish revolutionaries, and both were willing to make great sacrifices for their cause, but at some point their paths split.  Each of them had a slightly different idea of what was best for the country they both loved. Hobson's background was not typical for an Irish revolutionary.  He was an Ulsterman, Protestant, upper middle class, of predominantly English stock. Molony was a quintessential Dublin girl, Catholic, from lower middle class, with frizzy dirty-blonde hair, freckles and an explosive temper.  In a sense, Helena Molony had all the ingredients of Cinderella.  She had a wicked stepmother, a fairy godmother (Maud Gonne) who put her on a path to theatrical stardom and even Prince Charming (Bulmer Hobson).  Alas, this Cinderella story does not have a happy ending.

I’m very unfamiliar with this time/place in history and would love to know more.  What would be one thing that you would want to be sure all readers know going in to reading your novel?

It's always a challenge for a historical novelist to assess how much background information your readers already possess. You do not want to sound like you are speaking a foreign language, but at the same time you do not want to insult your readers' intelligence by over-explaining the obvious.  I try to make my characters human, tangible, complex, so my readers could relate to them on a human level.  My goal was not to write an Irish novel.  It's a universal novel that just happens to be set in Ireland.  One of my goals is to de-Blarnefy Ireland.  You know what I'm referring to - green beer for St. Patrick's day and leprechauns wearing IRA t-shirts.  There are so many sticky ethnic stereotypes that need busting.  With the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising approaching, there will be a great deal of reevaluation and revision in the academic and literary circles.    

What project are you currently working on?

Right now I am writing a novel Saved by the Bang: a Nuclear Romance. I decided to take a short break from Irish history and actually write something rooted in my own experience as a Chernobyl survivor.  I was a young child growing up in the picturesque swamps of Central Europe when the greatest nuclear disaster in history occurred.  The female protagonist of the novel, Antonia Olenski, is a catty pianist torn between her flamboyant composer husband and a tormented young tenor at the music academy.  Antonia is based on my highly esteemed mother, the queen of cats, whose talent, elegance and sarcasm continue to transform and motivate those around her.

marina neary

A Chernobyl survivor adopted into the world of Anglo-Irish politics, Marina Julia Neary has dedicated her literary career to depicting military and social disasters, from the Charge of the Light Brigade to the Easter Rising in Dublin. Her mission is to tell untold stories, find hidden gems and illuminate the prematurely extinguished stars in history. She explore human suffering through the prism of dark humor, believing that tragedy and comedy go hand in hand.  Her debut novel Wynfield's Kingdom: a Tale of London Slums appeared on the cover of the First Edition Magazine in the UK and earned the praise of the Neo-Victorian Studies Journal. With the centennial of the Easter Rising approaching, she has written a series of novels exploring the hidden conflicts within the revolutionary ranks.  Never Be at Peace: a Novel of Irish Rebels is a companion piece to Martyrs & Traitors: a Tale of 1916.    

You can find Marina at the following sites: Goodreads and her Website.


You can access the entire tour schedule at the Fireship Press blog.

I also have a giveaway for all my readers – one copy of Never Be At Peace by M. J. Neary (either e-book or paperback).  The giveaway is open internationally and will end March 30th.  Enter the giveaway through the Rafflecopter below.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Friday, March 14, 2014

Book Review: The Rebel Pirate by Donna Thorland

rebel pirate

The Rebel Pirate by Donna Thorland
Book 2 in the Renegades of the Revolution series
Paperback, 417 pages
March 4, 2014

Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Received from publisher for review and tour

“1775, Boston Harbor. James Sparhawk, Master and Commander in the British Navy, knows trouble when he sees it. The ship he’s boarded is carrying ammunition and gold…into a country on the knife’s edge of war. Sparhawk’s duty is clear: confiscate the cargo, impound the vessel and seize the crew. But when one of the ship’s boys turns out to be a lovely girl, with a loaded pistol and dead-shot aim, Sparhawk finds himself held hostage aboard a Rebel privateer.

Sarah Ward never set out to break the law. Before Boston became a powder keg, she was poised to escape the stigma of being a notorious pirate’s daughter by wedding Micah Wild, one of Salem’s most successful merchants. Then a Patriot mob destroyed her fortune and Wild played her false by marrying her best friend and smuggling a chest of Rebel gold aboard her family’s ship.

Now branded a pirate herself, Sarah will do what she must to secure her family’s safety and her own future. Even if that means taking part in the cat and mouse game unfolding in Boston Harbor, the desperate naval fight between British and Rebel forces for the materiel of war—and pitting herself against James Sparhawk, the one man she cannot resist.”

The Rebel Pirate can be read as a stand-alone book as 99% of the characters are new, it takes place in a different city, and during a slightly earlier time period than The Turncoat. The thing that ties these two books together is that their characters are real ‘renegades’ – spies, pirates, etc.- and they entangle themselves in fascinating experiences. And while you don’t have to read The Turncoat to enjoy The Rebel Pirate, you definitely should read it, it is an awesome book!

The Rebel Pirate grabbed me from the first sentence, “The gold was Spanish, the chest was French, the ship was American, and the captain was dead.” From there, I just had to keep reading and couldn’t put the book down. Thorland knows how to keep a plot moving forward and to keep the reader just off balance enough to not see the twists and turns coming. There were a couple moments where I put the book down and exclaimed “No Way!” or “What!?” actually out loud. It is a great feeling when you can get that into the story being told.

I have never really thought about pirates when thinking about American history, and beyond that, I have never thought of pirates being involved in the Revolution. The impact of ships during the Revolution is not a subject that has been much explored in fiction, but Thorland certainly did some research here and represents it well. I found that there were some very new angles to the Revolution that I had not previously considered.

I loved the characters – they are multi-layered and standout, while still fitting into the historical expectations of the time period. I loved Sparhawk and Sarah. I really appreciated the sort of confusion amongst the populace of Boston about what was happening and who was on what side – people seemed to blend across the lines of rebel and loyalists at this point. I can really imagine this being a time of great confusion.

Overall this was another great book by Thorland and I can’t wait to see what she comes out with in book 3! I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading about the American Revolution.

Author Donna Thorland also has written The Turncoat, the first book in the Renegades of the Revolution series. You can visit Donna’s website for additional information about the book.

My reviews of other books by this author:

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

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

I also have the treat of offering some intriguing author interview questions for you all about The Rebel Pirate and about the upcoming book!  And a giveaway!

Does a lot of research go into writing a book like The Rebel Pirate? Please explain your process. How difficult or easy is it to make sure that you get the details right?

I have a head start on the research because I worked at a museum with a fabulous 18th century American collection for seven years, so I know how to dig all the way down to primary sources. But the process is still labor intensive and time consuming.

I have a basic understanding of how Americans dressed in the period, what they ate, the rhythms of their day, how they decorated their homes, but if I want to set a scene in a tavern in Charlestown, I need to find out what taverns existed, then dig down and figure out what kinds of people frequented which establishments.

Once I have a real location, I have to make it real for readers. If there’s an estate inventory, I can use that to reconstruct what kinds of chairs the patrons sat in and what kinds of glasses they drank from. If I’m setting a meal there, I want to look at what time of year it is and what foods were available in the market and how the blockade might effect what was reaching the city…sometimes I fall down the research rabbit hole and have to be rescued, but I think it makes for the kind of vivid experience readers appreciate—where you feel like you were really there.

It’s never easy though. I think I’m probably overly fastidious—a bit of a purist, if willing to compromise a point to craft a gripping story—but it’s the nature of the beast that there’s always someone more immersed, or well-versed, in some particular field of interest who wishes I’d handled something slightly differently!

What will the third novel in the Renegades of the Revolution series be about? What elements will be the same as the other two? What will be different?

The third book is called Mistress Firebrand, and the heroine is an actress who gets herself on a British hanging list for writing seditious plays. It takes place in New York in the world of the 18th century theater and the action encompasses the Battle of Saratoga.

I certainly hope my readers can count on another strong heroine, and another complicated, conflicted hero. Anything else is fair game!

Do you want to enter to win a copy of The Rebel Pirate (that’s a dumb question, of course you do!!!)?  I have one copy of the book up for grabs for a lucky US resident.  Enter through the Rafflecopter below and good luck.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you visit any of the other blogs on this tour you can find additional giveaways on their blogs as well.  Here is the rest of the tour schedule:


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Virtual Tour of Rosecliff–Newport, RI

Rosecliff from the front lawn
Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Rosecliff is the third of the Newport Gilded Age mansions for us to explore here. It is probably my least favorite – I can’t quite put my finger on why, but it might be because it just doesn’t feel quite as grand when compared to the others. However, it is still absolutely beautiful. Rosecliff is located at 548 Bellevue Ave and was built between 1899 and 1902. The home cost $2.5 million at that time (approximately $68 million today). Theresa Fair Oelrichs and her husband Hermann Oelrichs were the first family to live there with their one son – that is a huge house for 3 family members! Mrs. Oelrichs came into her money through her father, who made his fortune in the Comstock Lode silver find. Mr. Oelrichs was a business man and shipping magnate.

Left: Hermann Oelrichs, Right: Theresa Fair Oelrichs

Rosecliff’s design is inspired by the Grand Trianon, but on a smaller scale, by architect Samuel White. Its footprint is in the shape of an H with three floors. There are three main bedrooms and several guest rooms on the second floor, with over 20 servant bedrooms on the third floor. Other rooms of note are the billiard and dining rooms; however, the most impressive of its rooms is the ballroom.

The ballroom in Rosecliff is the largest of the ballrooms in Newport and accordingly it was put to good use in entertaining. Mrs. Oelrichs was one of the top hostesses in Newport, actually among the top three. One of the most notable parties hosted at Rosecliff was the “Bal Blanc” party in celebration of the Astor Cup Races in 1904 which decorated everything in silver and white. I can just imagine how beautiful that would have been!

Rosecliff has been featured as a setting in several movies including:

  • The Great Gatsby (1974) – Many scenes of Jay Gatsby’s house


  • True Lies – The Ballroom and Grand Staircase


  • And Amistad and 27 Dresses.

The Newport Preservation Society was given Rosecliff in 1971 by the Monroe family (who eventually acquired the home after it changed hands many times after being sold by the Oelrichs’. It was then opened to the public. The house is currently open for tours seasonally (not in the winter) and tickets can be purchased for a combination tour with the other mansions in the Gilded Age package. Rosecliff also hosts these special events: The Newport Flower Show, Newport Wine and Food Festival, Mother’s Day Brunch, the Easter Egg Hunt & Brunch, various Fashion Shows, and can be rented for spectacular weddings! Who doesn’t want to celebrate in a beautiful setting – the wedding might be a little steep, but the other events are fairly reasonable to attend. I’m actually thinking of doing Mother’s Day brunch with my mom and mother-in-law-to-be next year.

This video below gives you a nice tour of the grounds of Rosecliff:

You can find out more about Rosecliff through the Newport Preservation Society.

I have been to Newport several times, however of course I can’t find my photos of Rosecliff (every other house, yes, but not Rosecliff).

Have you ever visited Rosecliff or been to any of the special functions in Newport?


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, March 10, 2014

Mailbox Monday #167


A nice, quiet, slow week around here.  One small purchase this week – trying out a Kindle Single!


Intuition by Kathy Leonard Czepiel (purchased from Amazon for Kindle). 

This is a Kindle Single – according to Amazon a Kindle Single is “here to offer a vast spectrum of reporting, essays, memoirs, narratives, and short stories presented to educate, entertain, excite, and inform. Our writers take you places you can't get to any other way, on journeys of fact and fiction that share these common threads: they're the highest-quality work we can find, and at a length best suited to the ideas they present”.

Czepiel, author of A Violet Season, is working on her new book and released a new short story – Intuition is 51 pages in length.   

Book Blurb:

“The year is 1889—a boom time for American industry, fortunes and scientific discovery. Yet in New York City, thousands of babies are dying from the simplest of causes: spoiled milk. It’s a tragedy that Hattie Paige cannot abide. An overeducated young woman with a Vassar degree and a position teaching chemistry at an elite school for girls, Hattie determines to solve the “milk problem” herself. But book knowledge alone won’t ensure her success. She will have to enter into a new world far from the sheltered mansions of her youth, where testing her hunches requires risks she has never taken before, and the consequences of being wrong are greater than she can imagine.”

What did you get this week?

Mailbox Monday has returned to its home base blog. You can visit the site to see what everyone received this week!


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Weekend Cooking: Easy Applesauce

Weekend Cooking

I believe in the last Weekend Cooking I did, I featured a recipe from the Bear Wallow Books series. The recipe that I am featuring today I actually made well over a month ago (I’m just now getting around to writing about it) and it is also from that series. Old Fashioned Apple Recipes features apples used in all types of cooking, from the typical breads, pies, and deserts to the casserole, salad, and soup. It also gives some great tips and tricks from what apples to use for certain types of cooking (read on for more on that issue) to how to dry apples or utilize them in various other ways.

I wanted to share with you this extremely useful guide for reference regarding which variety of apples to use in your various types of recipes.



Some of these apples I haven’t even heard of before!

Easy Applesauce
Makes approximately 8-10 servings

6-8 tart red apples, peeled, cored, and quartered
½ cup water
1 cinnamon stick
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
½ cup sugar
1 Tablespoon butter

1) In heavy saucepan combine apples, water, cinnamon stick, and lemon juice. Bring ingredients to a boil, then cover, reduce heat and simmer about 20 minutes.

2) Remove cinnamon stick and mash apples. Stir in sugar and butter. Mix well.


This was an awesome applesauce! I didn’t have any cinnamon sticks, so I just used ground cinnamon (roughly a tablespoon) and mixed it in during step one. I used just McIntosh apples for my applesauce, but I have used a mix of McIntosh and Cortland apples before to great effect. You can mash the apples as much or as little as you like to make the sauce coarser or fine as you like. It was the perfect amount of sweet and tart.

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


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Friday, March 7, 2014

Book Review: The Debt of Tamar by Nicole Dwyck

debt of tamar

The Debt of Tamar by Nicole Dweck
Kindle eBook, 332 pages
Devon House Press
January 23, 2014

Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Received for review as part of Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour

“During the second half of the 16th century, a wealthy widow by the name of Doña Antonia Nissim is arrested and charged with being a secret Jew. The punishment? Death by burning. Enter Suleiman the Magnificent, an Ottoman "Schindler," and the most celebrated sultan in all of Turkish history. With the help of the Sultan, the widow and her children manage their escape to Istanbul. Life is seemingly idyllic for the family in their new home, that is, until the Sultan's son meets and falls in love with Tamar, Doña Antonia's beautiful and free-spirited granddaughter. A quiet love affair ensues until one day, the girl vanishes.

Over four centuries later, thirty-two year old Selim Osman, a playboy prince with a thriving real estate empire, is suddenly diagnosed with a life-theatening condition. Abandoning the mother of his unborn child, he vanishes from Istanbul without an explanation. In a Manhattan hospital, he meets Hannah, a talented artist and the daughter of a French Holocaust survivor. As their story intertwines with that of their ancestors, readers are taken back to Nazi-occupied Paris, and to a seaside village in the Holy Land where a world of secrets is illuminated.

Theirs is a love that has been dormant for centuries, spanning continents, generations, oceans, and religions. Bound by a debt that has lingered through time, they must right the wrongs of the past if they're ever to break the shackles of their future.”

The Debt of Tamar is difficult for me to categorize. There are really three different stories being told within these pages and they are all connected in ways, but I struggled to enjoy them as a cohesive selection. The story that I was most committed to comes at the start of the novel – that of 16th century Spain and Ottoman Empire. I thought the historical details here were interesting and presented well. I haven’t read much set in this place and time and I was hoping for so much more of it. I was interested in the characters presented here. As Tamar is the titular character I was hoping to actually know more about her, but she is really just a passing shadow here and I don’t really get what her “debt” was – I wasn’t convinced.

However it abruptly shifts gear when it moves into the 1940’s France and then into modern day Istanbul/United States. Each of these subsequent sections are supposed to build on the earlier 16th century story ultimately bringing us back around to this titular debt. But it just didn’t work for me. I found it harder to connect to these new sets of characters and their stories. I didn’t get enough to really care about them.

The way it ended felt unresolved to me and I was hoping for a little more concrete connection to the “debt”. The 16th century story and the modern day story needed more resolution. The Paris and modern stories also needed to be fleshed out more. The experience of reading it felt like it had been cut down for a page length and hoped it would resolve itself.

This was in no way a bad or boring book – I just didn’t quite love its presentation. It had the potential to be a great time shift/hist-fic but just missed the mark.

This is author Nicole Dweck’s debut novel. You can visit Nicole’s website for additional information about the book.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

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

The Debt of Tamar_Tour Banner_FINAL

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


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Book Review: Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen

mrs. poe

Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen
Unabridged, 12 hr. 1 min.
Simon & Schuster Audio
Eliza Foss (Narrator)
October 1, 2013

Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Received from the publisher for review

“New York, 1845. Mr. Poe’s “The Raven” is all the literary rage-the success of which a struggling poet like Frances Osgood can only dream. As a mother trying to support two children after her husband’s betrayal, Frances jumps at the opportunity to meet the mysterious Poe, if only to help her career. Although not a fan of his writing, Frances is overwhelmed by his magnetic presence-and the surprising revelation that he admires her work. What follows is a flirtation, then a seduction, then an illicit love affair. But when Edgar’s frail wife Virginia-a cousin half his age-insists on befriending Frances as well, the relationship becomes as dark and deceiving, as full of twists and turns, as one of Poe’s tales…and maybe, as Frances fears, every bit as deadly.

Closely based on Poe’s life and writings, and rich with authentic historical detail, Mrs. Poe is a novel of romantic obsession as passionate and enduring as its brilliant subject.”

What I expected and what I ultimately got from this novel were two very different experiences. Honestly, I must not have read the book blurb because I was expecting to hear a story of life with the writer/poet from the perspective of Mrs. Virginia Poe – such being the new plot devise in historical fiction of late. However, while we do get some of the home life of Edgar and Virginia Poe, that is not the sole focus – the narrative primarily focuses on Frances Osgood, a burgeoning poet and sometime lover of Mr. Poe.

Through this novel I felt that I came to know Edgar Allan Poe (at least Cullen’s version of him), whereas he has always been a shadowy unknown figure to me. While all of the characters were well written, I was most impressed with the feel of the time period that Cullen evoked here; from the daily average life to craziness that oftentimes surrounded Mr. Poe and company. The only character that I actually became frustrated with, at times, was our narrator Mrs. Osgood; primarily because I found her to be whiny and repetitive at times. The novel was very well plotted and paced. The climax scene was not only intense and terrifying (very Poe-esque), but came complete with a surprise twist that I had not seen coming. Looking back over the story after reading it once through you can see some foreshadowing that could give clues to the surprise twist, but they are things that go completely overlooked when not looking for them.

At the start of the novel there is a whole text reproduction of The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe. When first listening to this novel I found this to be distracting from the novel. However, as I continued through the novel I found it quite helpful to my understanding. The Raven had such an impact on the times and on the life of Poe, and was referenced amply during the narrative, that it became a boon rather than a burden.



The audio production was top-notch in my opinion. The narrator provided very different, and appropriate, voices for each of the characters: a sort of brooding Poe, sickly Virginia, middle-of-the-road Frances, and a creaky old lady in Virginia’s mother. It was always easy to tell who was doing the talking. The pace of the reading picked up slightly as the plot escalated – which did much to suck me into the narrative. I noticeably appreciated the narration of this novel, whereas that can frequently go unremarked in my listening.

Author Lynn Cullen also has written Reign of Madness, The Creation of Eve, and I Am Rembrandt’s Daughter. You can visit her website for additional information about the book. If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book?

You can also hear an excerpt from the audio book.

My reviews of other books by this author:

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

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


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court