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Friday, June 27, 2014

Tempesta’s Dream Book Excerpt


Tempesta’s Dream by Vincent B, LoCoco
Paperback, e-Book, 286 pages
Cefalutana Press
Publication Date: September 26, 2013
ISBN-10: 0972882413
Genre: Historical Fiction

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Book Blurb:

“Giovanni Tempesta always dreamed of becoming an opera tenor and one day singing from the stage of the La Scala Opera House in his hometown of Milan, Italy. But with no real training, his dream has little chance for fulfillment . . . One day, he meets and immediately falls in love with Isabella Monterone, a dark-haired beauty, whose father, a very rich and powerful Milanese Judge, refuses to allow his daughter to date a penniless musician . . . At the lowest part of his life, Giovanni comes upon the Casa di Riposo, a rest home for musicians established by the great opera composer, Giuseppe Verdi . . . It is at the Casa Verdi that Giovanni meets Alfredo del Monte, a blind, retired opera singer with a secretive past who gradually becomes his mentor . . . Could Alfredo be the one person to assist Giovanni in finding the break he needs? Or is Giovanni destined to be on the cusp of reaching his life long dream, only to find failure? . . . Tempesta’s Dream is an Italian opera love story. The author tells the story simply and swiftly with an ending that is both an emotional and poignant moment of both “amicizia e amore”. (friendship and love).”

Excerpt from Prologo:

As the church bell from the nearby Duomo, the Cathedral in Milan, tolled midnight, Franco Tempesta stopped reading. Tears were running down his cheeks as he placed the libretto of Giacomo Puccini’s opera, Madama Butterfly, on the nightstand next to his eight-year-old son’s bed. Wiping the tears away, he said, “This is a good stopping point tonight, Giovanni.”

Giovanni Tempesta loved how every night his father would take an opera libretto and make it into a bedtime story. Unlike other kids, Giovanni’s father did not read nursery rhymes to his son at bedtime, but instead read opera librettos to him, relating to his young son the great stories and legends of operas written centuries ago. Young Giovanni quickly became fascinated with the stories his father told him. When his father reached a part in the libretto where an aria would be sung, Franco gently hummed the aria to his son.

Franco did not have a talent for music, but what he did have was a love of music and a passion for opera that he passed to his son.

“Oh, Papa, finish telling me the story. I love the part when Madama Butterfly waits all night for Lieutenant Pinkerton to walk up the hill to her to the Japanese house, only to become sad when he does return but with his American wife.”

Franco replied, “Butterfly had given her entire life to Pinkerton. She had put all of her trust and love in him, but he threw it all away, without even a care of what it would do to her. When you fall in love, Giovanni, always respect that trust the girl places in you. You would only expect the same from her. For it is from that trust, that true love finds its roots. And love is what gives our life poetry. But Giovanni, it is late. Your mama is waiting for me. Domani. We will finish the story tomorrow. Perhaps we will even listen to the Di Stefano/De Los Angeles recording. The heartbreak in Di Stefano’s voice is remarkable as Pinkerton finally realizes the pain he has caused.” Franco then began to sing the opening lines of the aria, Addio, fiorito asil, where Pinkerton admits that he is a coward and cannot face Butterfly and runs from the home.

When he finished, Franco said, “Puccini’s music is so emotional and wonderful. A singer who sings this music with passion can really touch your heart. So much so, that when a gifted soprano sings the line, ‘Ei torna e m’ama!’(He has returned and he loves me!), the crowd always breaks into a rousing round of applause. Giovanni, why do you think that is?”

“Because she hit the note,” replied Giovanni, quizzically.

Franco answered, “No. It’s much more than that. Puccini has magically weaved his music during the course of the opera into the very soul of every audience member. They feel for the character; they are living and dying with Butterfly. That is why they erupt in applause when her sailor returns. Their very own soul leaps with joy for her and, most importantly, with her.

Watch the Trailer:

You can follow along with the rest of the blog tour by visiting the HFVBT website or on Twitter.

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


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

New Book Alert Book Blast: Successio by Alison Morton


Successio by Alison Morton
Paperback & e-Book, 294 pages
SilverWood Books
ISBN-10: 178132218X
Publication Date: June 4, 2014
Series: Roma Nova, Book 3
Genre: Alternative Historical Thriller
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Other books in the Roma Nova Series:

  • Inceptio  Book 1
  • Perfiditias – Book 2

Book Blurb:

“Roma Nova – the last remnant of the Roman Empire that has survived into the 21st century – is at peace. Carina Mitela, the heir of a leading family, but choosing the life of an officer in the Praetorian Guard Special Forces, is not so sure.

She senses danger crawling towards her when she encounters a strangely self-possessed member of the unit hosting their exchange exercise in Britain. When a blackmailing letter arrives from a woman claiming to be her husband Conrad’s lost daughter and Conrad tries to shut Carina out, she knows the threat is real.

Trying to resolve a young man’s indiscretion twenty-five years before turns into a nightmare that not only threatens to destroy all the Mitelae but also attacks the core of the imperial family itself. With her enemy holding a gun at the head of the heir to the imperial throne, Carina has to make the hardest decision of her life…”

About the Author:


Alison Morton writes Roman-themed alternate history thrillers with strong heroines. She holds a bachelor’s degree in French, German and Economics, a masters’ in history and lives in France with her husband.

A ‘Roman nut’ since age 11, she has visited sites throughout Europe including the alma mater, Rome. But it was the mosaics at Ampurias (Spain) that started her wondering what a modern Roman society would be like if run by women…

INCEPTIO, the first in the Roma Nova series, was shortlisted for the 2013 International Rubery Book Award and awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion® in September 2013. The next in series, PERFIDITAS, published October 2013, has also just been honoured with the B.R.A.G. Medallion®. Alison is currently working on the fourth book.

You can find Alison at the following sites: Author Website, Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, US Amazon Author Page, UK Amazon Author Page, INCEPTIO Facebook Page, and the PERFIDITAS Facebook Page.

Check out the book trailer:

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

Praise for Successio:

“If there is a world where fiction becomes more believable than reality, then Alison Morton’s ingenious thrillers must be the portal through which to travel. Following in Caesar’s footsteps, she came with INCEPTIO, saw with PERFIDITAS – and has well and truly conquered with SUCCESSIO!” – Helen Hollick, author and Managing Editor Historical Novel Society Indie Reviews

“Alison Morton has done it again. SUCCESSIO is the latest in her series of powerful tales of family betrayals and shifting allegiances in Roma Nova. Once again, I was gripped from start to finish.” – Sue Cook, writer and broadcaster

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You can follow along with the rest of the book blast by visiting the sites below:

June 16: Flashlight Commentary & Princess of Eboli
June 17: Kincavel Korner, Mina’s Bookshelf, & Literary Chanteuse
June 18: Kinx’s Book Nook
June 19: So Many Books, So Little Time, The Lit Bitch, & West Metro Mommy
June 20: Historical Fiction Obsession
June 21: A Bookish Affair & Broken Teepee
June 22: Just One More Chapter
June 23: The Little Reader Library, Svetlana’s Reads and Views, & The True Book Addict
June 24: A Bibliotaph’s Reviews & Historical Fiction Connection
June 25: Historical Tapestry & The Maiden’s Court
June 26: Book Nerd & Passages to the Past
June 27: CelticLady’s Reviews

You can also enter the giveaway to win an autographed copy of Successio and a bookmark.  Go to the HFVBT site for additional details about entering.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

New Book Alert & Extract: When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed by Bradley Greenburg


When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed by Bradley Greenburg
Paperback, e-Book, 450 pages
Sandstone Press, Ltd
ISBN-10: 1908737875
UK Publication Date: June 19, 2014
US Publication Date: August 28, 2014
Genre: Historical Fiction
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Book Blurb:

“The end of slavery is no guarantee of freedom. When Clayton McGhee journeys north with his parents and grandparents in search of a new life, they must build a homestead with their own labor and defend their right to own land from powerful vested interests and deep rooted prejudice. Thirty years later, Clayton is still forced to defend his livelihood and his family’s safety from racism and greed. But life is more complex now, as the men of influence in this increasingly mixed community find to their cost. When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed is a riveting adventure story about fathers and sons and the difficult moral choices which resound down the generations as America moves slowly towards freedom and equality.”

I was drawn to this book because the title sounded familiar to me and the cover design was interesting and different from what we typically see in historical fiction.  There is a famous poem by Walt Whitman of essentially the same name, When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d, which was written as an elegy to the recently fallen President Lincoln and alludes to the Civil War.  The book by Greenburg is also set just following the Civil War during Reconstruction.  I can’t help but imagine there must be a connection between this poem and Greenburg’s book, although I can’t confirm anything about that at this point.  Anyone who has read more of this book than I have, can you say anything about this point?

Book Excerpt:

From Chapter 4 (of the PDF copy sent to me by the Publicist)

James McGhee had ridden a long way and was tired. He had slept in the open on hard ground, eaten stale food, been cursed at, lied to, chased by dogs and children, and even saved a woman from harm who did not bother to thank or even acknowledge him.

Now he was angry.

He was brought up to be submissive to white people. There hadn’t been any choice in that. He knew how to repress his wants and shunt his thoughts to survival. Live for a better day, his mama had told him. Turn the other cheek. He felt just about out of cheeks to turn. His fury rose up in him and he watched it rush past its usual mark without cease.

He let it.

When his fists slammed down on the counter his expression of rage shocked the fat clerk who jumped back is if he had been struck. In a panic he turned toward his desk, intending perhaps to arm himself with something there or put some furniture between his person and this crazed black intruder. In doing so got his feet tangled. He stumbled and reached out to grasp the edge of the desk but he misjudged the distance and his forehead struck it with a dull crack.

James held still, waiting to see if the man would stir. When there was no movement he dropped his hat on the counter and let himself through the low swinging door that separated it from the wall.

“Mister?” he said in a quiet voice.

There was no response. He advanced cautiously, afraid the man would come to and just as scared that he would not.

James bent down and shook him gently, then leaned over and put his ear to the man’s back. He was breathing. As carefully as he could he rolled him over to see how grievously he’d hit his head. He folded his handkerchief into a square to dab at the blood. There was a darkening bruise and swelling but he wasn’t bleeding badly.

He had to think. If the man died and he was found alone with him they would never believe it was an accident. His horse was close by. With a little luck he could be miles from town before the man was discovered. But if he died when he could have been saved by the timely fetching of a doctor . . . well, that was a kind of murder too. The sheriff seemed a good man. If he had to trust someone to believe him there was no better option. Having a plan made him feel calmer.

When he heard the door open his heart hammered in his chest.

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When Lilacs last in the Dooryard Bloomed by Bradley Greenburg is published on 19 June 2014 and is available at all good bookstores and online, price $19.00.

Here are some choices for purchasing the book: Amazon UK and Book Depository.


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Friday, June 20, 2014

New Book Alert: Whip Smart Series by Kit Brennan

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Whip Smart: Lola Montez Conquers the Spaniards by Kit Brennan
Paperback, e-Book, and Audiobook, 274 pages
Astor + Blue Editions
ISBN-10: 1938231473
Publication Date: January 1, 2013
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Whip Smart Series, Book 1
Purchase: Amazon, B&N, RJ Julia

Book Blurb:

“A wild and sexy romp through history based on the real-life adventures of the audacious, Lola Montez.It is 1842, London, and the gorgeous, ever-capricious twenty-two year old Eliza Gilbert, (aka Lola Montez) is in deep trouble and seeks escape from a divorce trial. Desperate to be free, Lola accepts an alluring offer of a paid trip to Spain, if she will only fulfill a few tasks for Juan de Grimaldi—a Spanish theatre impresario who is also a government agent and spy for the exiled Spanish queen, Maria Cristina.Lola soon finds herself in Madrid, undercover as a performer in a musical play. But when she falls dangerously in love with the target, General Diego de Léon—the “perfect Spanish soldier, lover and horseman”—Lola becomes a double agent and the two hatch a plot of their own. Disaster strikes when the plot is exposed, Diego is captured, and Lola is forced to flee on horseback to France, with a dangerous group of Loyalists in hot pursuit. Will Lola’s reckless daring, feminine whiles, and signature whip be enough to save her life and preserve her cause? She will have to be more whip smart than ever.Written with zest and a passionate, fiery fervor by debut author Kit Brennan, Whip Smart irresistibly whisks readers into a vivid journey through 19th Century, France, England and Spain, riding sidesaddle with Eliza Gilbert, the hot-headed Irish girl, as she transforms into Dona Maria Dolores de Porris y Montez—aka Lola Montez, the sensation of Europe!”

whip smart

Whip Smart: Lola Montez and the Poisoned Nom de Plume by Kit Brennan
Paperback, e-Book, and Audiobook, 258 pages
Astor + Blue Editions
ISBN-10: 1938231724
Publication Date: October 1, 2013
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Whip Smart Series, Book 2
Purchase: Amazon, B&N

Book Blurb:

“Kit Brennan's frothy, sexy second in the Whip Smart series opens with the gorgeous, ever-headstrong Lola Montez careening around Europe, on the run from the haunting memories of Spain and the wild adventure that nearly cost her life. It is 1844. Lola encounters celebrated pianist and composer Franz Liszt, who encourages her to set her sights on Paris to establish her dancing career. The night that Lola performs her racy Spider Dance at the Paris Opéra, she meets quite possibly the man of her dreams: Henri Dujarier, co-owner of La Presse newspaper. Lola seems on the verge of breaking Victorian tradition and actually having it all, but forces are at work to keep Lola and Henri apart. Deadly threats and rumors turn into reality, as shadowy figures stop at nothing to sabotage Lola's new endeavor (unheard of for a woman): to pen an adventure novel, using a nom de plume, about a feisty female character.”

Excerpt from Lola Montez and the Poisoned Nom de Plume:

““Why don’t the two of you have a contest?” one of the wags said, proud of himself for such an audacious suggestion, and looking around at his chums like a large water spaniel that’s just dropped a duck at its master’s feet.

Oh, my, this wasn’t what I’d expected — I’d simply wanted to come, be alone, and blast several dozen bullets at something inert that, in my mind’s eye, had acquired an unnecessary monocle and a high, giggly laugh. The other sportsmen, however, were very excited by this new idea and clapped Beauvallon (whose dark face began looking decidedly stormy) on the back several times.

“I will not fight a woman,” he said finally, “and that’s an end to it.”

“I will fight you, if you like,” I rejoined, before I even knew that the words were forming. The others hurrahed, and one of them dashed off to find a fresh target.

“This is absurd, gentlemen,” growled Beauvallon, before turning to me. “Forgive them their crassness, mademoiselle. I am the best shot in Paris, everyone knows this. They are simply setting you up for laughter later.”

“Is that so?” I wondered whether this might be true — and perhaps they’d all been there the night before, at the Opéra? Perhaps, too, they’d all read and snickered at the reviews that cut me to ribbons, that insulted my very soul. I tossed my hair away from my shoulders, then straightened them. “Let us put it to the test.”

“I can’t advise it,” said another man, stepping up. “Do you remember me, Mademoiselle Lola? At the Jockey Club that night? We spoke for a little bit — you were with Eugène Sue.”

“Of course,” I said, recalling that the red lips and the mustache belonged to the Italian, Pier-Angelo.

“Fiorentino,” he nodded, with a shy smile. “I enjoyed your performance last night. Never mind what they say, it’s just to sell papers.”

My brain fizzed suddenly. He meant well, I’m sure, but I could feel it coming, that rising surge that occasionally overtakes me. I never know when it will happen. It’s been the same ever since I was a little girl. A surfeit of restlessness? — a lack of familial care or reprimand when young? I have no idea. I fight against it, but most often to no avail. It is an uncontrollable phenomenon borne out of a concatenation of conflicting emotions: a volcanic eruption of molten fire, and I must follow where it leads me or I will burst. I bent my head and reloaded, swiftly. To my left, I could feel Beauvallon’s indignation mounting. Bueno.

Ready, I raised my head and my arm. “I like a challenge. Do you?” 

And I fired into the target, just as the weedy sportsman who’d retrieved the new one was setting it in place. The bullet went true, straight to a bull’s-eye; the man leaped to safety, tumbling as he went.

“Parbleu,” Beauvallon muttered under his breath. I looked over in time to see him reload at speed, aim and fire again. The weedy fellow stood up, dusting off his knees, and raised his hands in the air.

“Shall I check, Beauvallon? For God’s sake, don’t either of you shoot me.” He loped across to the target, peered at the centre, then turned and cried, “Yours followed hers! No second hole!”

Incredulous whistles and murmurs from all the others, who raced over to examine the thing for themselves. Beauvallon gave me a smile from his very brown face; his teeth sparkled white, his tongue very red, where I could see the tip of it sticking out between those teeth. “Satisfied?”

“Not quite,” I answered, then called, “A fresh one, if you please.” The weedy chap and another dashed around, searching. I could see someone else joining us at this point; it was Grisier, the master marksman and instructor, the one who’d given the nod to my membership.

“What’s this then, Beauvallon? Is the lady giving you a run for the money?” And then there were new hoots and hollers, as everyone else realized they could be betting on this, and the wagers began flying around the room at top speed.

“A change of pistols, I think,” Beauvallon said.

“Do you agree?” Grisier asked me.

“Very well.”

“I shall bring two,” Grisier promised, “and they shall be fine ones. Duelling pistols.”

This gave me pause. I hadn’t often handled large ones such as those the duellists used, and didn’t think this fresh test was terribly fair. I hadn’t counted on the gentlemanly nature of Master Grisier, however. He did indeed bring duelling pistols, but they were smaller and lighter than I’d expected. “Choose the one you want, Mademoiselle Montez,” as he held them out for me, in their case. I indicated the one on the left. “I shall load the two, and you shall see me do so,” Grisier told us. “Of course,” he added with a twinkle in his eye and a glance at us both, “you are firing at the target, not at each other.”

During the loading, Beauvallon and I regarded one another. Beneath the dark colour of his skin, I could sense that he was blushing — with anger, I assumed. No matter. I squared my shoulders again; everyone was watching me with great attention, and I drank that in. They didn’t believe I could do this and were wishing me well — but I believed I could, and then they’d see. Grisier handed me the pistol I’d chosen, and gave the second one to my opponent. 

Then I said, “Monsieur Beauvallon goes first, if you please.”

Absolute silence, absolute shock!

Fast as a striking snake, his arm shot out and the target was despoiled.

“Bull’s-eye!” the weedy one chirped with glee.

I raised my arm, took aim. Beside me, Beauvallon cleared his throat loudly. I dropped my arm, glared at him coldly. “Do you mind?”

“Yes, I do.” Very softly, under his breath.

I took aim swiftly then, and shot. Weedy one dashed forth and peered, searching in and around the centre, then — unbelievably! The cheek of him! — his head dipped and darted, checking the outer rings, and finally the sawdust-covered floor and paneled walls. Some of the others began to titter and mutter behind their hands. Fiorentino called, “What are you doing, man?”

“I’m just making absolutely certain,” El Weedo reported, then turned to face us with face ablaze. “That shot followed Beauvallon’s, as well. The lady aced Beauvallon’s bull’s-eye, if you can credit it!”

Men rushed in from all directions, and I found myself lifted into the air and galloped around the shooting gallery upon their shoulders, Fiorentino following and yelling at me, “Never fear, all of Paris shall soon hear of this! I’ll sell the story to the highest bidder, and make us all happy!”

By the time the jolly sportsmen had set me down, apologizing and patting my crumpled skirts, my chestnut-haired opponent had vanished.”


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Game Review: The Castles of Burgundy

I have another historical themed (albeit only slightly) game review to share with you today.  Our collection at home is growing!


    Title:  The Castles of Burgundy
    # of players:  2-4
    Play time:  30-90 minutes
    Age range:  12+





In 15th century medieval France, players take on the role of wealthy aristocrats trying to improve their lands and holdings.  By clever use of dice rolls and workers, players accrue mines, castles, pastures, cities, and establish shipping routes.

The Castles of Burgundy is a "Euro" style board game, which means that players start on equal ground and only minimally interact with one another.  Each player rolls two dice during his or her turn, and use those dice to either buy or build:

1) Castles, which give additional actions
2) City buildings, which allow for efficient use of future actions
3) Pastures, which allow players to collect many points depending on the animals they choose to care for
4) Silver mines, which provide money each round
5) Ships, which allow players to buy and sell goods
6) "New Rules", which open up additional ways to score points

The large central board serves as a market place and a score tracker.

Literally everything you do in the game gives you victory points, and the player that obtains the most points by the end of the game wins.  There are multiple strategies that you can employ (some better than others), and there is always something to do.  As I said earlier, there is very little interaction between players.  As such, it feels more like a single player game that all players play at once, and then they compare their scores at the end.  There is a lot of strategy to consider, but there is also a lot of luck.  Because the actions you can take are at least partially dependent on the dice results you roll, there may be times when you simply can't do what you want, and your momentum slows down.

The theme of the game, though potentially interesting, just doesn't show through the poor quality of the components of the game.  The cardboard pieces feel very cheap (akin to puzzle pieces) and the art on the game board is terribly boring.  The concept only vaguely represents the workings of a duchy.

The smaller player boards provide rule summaries, as well as a map that the player places their buildings and ships.

Even with it's flaws, The Castles of Burgundy is a lot of fun.  There is a perfect mix of strategy and chance which allows anyone to quickly learn the rules and play.  Heather loves this one, and for good reason.  She beats me nearly every time we play!

If you're looking for a game that evokes the feel of 15th century France, you won't be pleased with The Castles of Burgundy.  However, if you want a great family game, give it a try!


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Excerpt/Giveaway of The Queen’s Exiles by Barbara Kyle

The Queen's Exiles

The Queen’s Exiles by Barbara Kyle
Paperback, e-Book, 352 pages
Kensington Publishing
Publication Date: May 27, 2014
Series: Thornleigh Saga
Genre: Historical Fiction

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Book Blurb:

“Europe is in turmoil. A vengeful faction of exiled English Catholics is plotting to overthrow Queen Elizabeth and install her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots on the throne. And in the Netherlands the streets are red with the blood of those who dare to oppose the brutal Spanish occupation. But amid the unrest, one resourceful young woman has made a lucrative enterprise. Scottish-born Fenella Doorn salvages crippled vessels. It is on one of these ships that she meets wealthy Baron Adam Thornleigh. Secretly drawn to him, Fenella can’t refuse when Adam enlists her to join him in war-torn Brussels to help find his traitorous wife, Frances—and the children she’s taken from him. But Adam and Fenella will put their lives in peril as they attempt to rescue his young ones, defend the Crown, and restore a peace that few can remember. With eloquent and enthralling finesse, Barbara Kyle illuminates one of history’s grimmest chapters. The Queen’s Exiles breathes new life into an extraordinary age when love and freedom could only be won with unmitigated courage.”

Excerpt from Chapter 1:

The Prisoner

Fenella Doorn watched the unfamiliar wreck of a ship ghosting into her bay. Crippled by cannon fire, she thought. What else could do such damage? The foremast was blown away, as well as half the mainmast where a jury rig clung to the jagged stump, and shot holes tattered the sails on the mizzen. And yet, to Fenella’s experienced eye the vessel had an air of defiance. Demi-cannons hulked in the shadowed gun ports. This ship was a fighter, battered but not beaten. With fight still in her, was she friend or foe?

Or faux friend. Fenella kept her anxious gaze fixed on the vessel as she started down the footpath from the cliff overlooking La Coupée Bay. Old Johan followed her, scuffling to keep up. The English Isle of Sark was the smallest of the four Channel Islands, just a mile long and scarcely a mile and a half wide, so from the cliff top Fenella could see much of the surrounding sea. The few hundred farmers and fishermen who called the island home were never far from the sound of waves smacking the forty miles of rocky coast. Fenella, born a Scot and bred from generations of fishermen, was as familiar with the pulse of the sea as with her own heartbeat.

“She flies no colors,” Johan said, suspicion in his voice. Sheep grazing on the cliff top behind them bleated as though voicing the old Dutchman’s unease.

“She likely struck her colors in the skirmish,” Fenella said.

“Surrendered? Then why wasn’t she taken as a prize?”

“Maybe she was, and the prize crew boarded her.” Whoever was in command had done a fine piece of seamanship, Fenella thought. The skirmish must have happened far out in the Channel, since no report of it had reached Sark, yet this captain had brought in his ship with one mast shot away and a single latten sail on the jury-rigged mainmast. Crew now labored at lowering the sails on main and mizzen, the figures too small at this distance to make out features.

“Or maybe she’s Spanish,” Johan warned. “Spaniards are cunning. Have a care, Nella.”

“That’s no Spaniard. Her beak’s too long. English, maybe.” She had decided the ship was not a danger, at least not to the people of Sark. On the contrary, the crew might need victualing, and Sark’s crofters would be glad to sell them mutton and the first spring lambs. Fenella saw silver for herself, too. The monotonous clanging aboard, faint at this distance, told her that crew were working the pumps non-stop, which meant there was at least one hole below the waterline. That promised employment for Fenella’s shore crew to careen the hull on the beach to make repairs.

Still, something about the crippled vessel unnerved her, as though it had come hunting her personally. She gave a thought to the flintlock pistol that lay in her petticoat pocket beneath her skirt. A foolish fear, she told herself, especially on such a peaceful, sunny day. Her skirt brushed the flowering gorse, releasing its faint perfume into the warm air. The cliff paths all around were brocaded with primroses, dog violets, and yellow celandines. Springtime always lifted Fenella’s heart. Yet she had seen death strike often enough amid sunshine and flowers.

She and Johan were almost at the beach, and the cliff path through the gorse was now wide enough for them to walk abreast. Knowing they could be seen from the ship, Fenella took comfort in having the old man at her side. Absurd, she knew, since he was sixty, twice her age, and had just one arm. The other had been hacked off above the elbow when they'd fled the Spanish troops' onslaught of the Netherlands, troops who had butchered their village and made Fenella a widow at twenty-five. Johan, her father-in-law, was as stubborn as her late husband, and she knew he would fight for her to the death. She loved the old man for that, but his devotion was also troubling, disabled and frail as he was. She worried about him, for he was getting frailer every day, the cough that had infected his lungs at Christmas persisting despite the spring warmth. Still, she did not slacken her brisk pace on the path as it wound down to the beach. Johan would not want her to.

“More likely she’s Dutch,” she said to reassure herself and him, “crawling in from a scrape with a Spanish galleon or two.” The Dutch hated the brutal Spanish occupation of their country and many had taken to the sea to attack Spanish shipping in the Channel. They had organized themselves into a ragged fleet of a few dozen vessels, and with rebel pride called themselves the Sea Beggars. Fenella had refitted several of their vessels shot up by Spanish guns. “The fools never learn,” she muttered. She belittled the rebels to mask her admiration for them. But realism outweighed her admiration. Imperial Spain, the most powerful nation on earth, was invincible. The Sea Beggars were minnows attacking sharks.

“That’s not Dutch rigging,” Johan said. They were crossing the beach, heading for their rowboat, and he raised a hand to shade his rheumy eyes as he studied the ship. “Now that I see her abeam, I think your first guess was right, Nella. She’s English.”

Nothing unusual about English shipping around Sark. The island lay eighty miles off England’s south coast, closer to France, and English trade with France, the Netherlands, Spain and Portugal was constant. But this ship had been maimed in a battle and England wasn’t at war. “An English privateer?” Fenella wondered aloud.

She heard a clank at the bow and saw a dull metallic gleam as the vessel's anchor plunged with a splash. Cable roared through the hawsehole. Fenella knew the anchor would hold well on Le Coupée’s sandy bottom. This ship was here to stay.

Read the rest of Chapter 1.

The Queen's Exiles_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: #QueensExilesTour.


I have one paperback copy of The Queen’s Exiles by Barbara Kyle up for grabs today for US and Canadian residents only.  Giveaway will end July 6th.  Entries are made through the Rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway



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


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, June 16, 2014

Mailbox Monday #172


I won’t have a mailbox next week (or possibly the week after) – so this will have to hold you over for awhile. 


Two books I received for review and one was purchased from Audible.

  • The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough – downloaded from Audible.  I have picked up this book several times when I have been in the bookstore, but put it down as many times.  This was the time I purchased it.
  • Madame Picasso by Anne Girard – received through Netgalley for review for HFVBT.  I always enjoy reading art fiction and I don’t know all that much about Picasso – so I am looking forward to it.
  • Queen Anne: Patroness of Arts by James Anderson Winn – received from Netgalley.  I know very little about Queen Anne (except for the styles of furniture).  This book looks at her reign from a cultural perspective.

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

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Book Review: Queen of Bedlam by Laura Purcell


Queen of Bedlam by Laura Purcell
PDF ARC, 432 pages
Myrmidon Books Ltd
June 10, 2014 (UK Release)

Genre: Historical fiction

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

“London 1788. The calm order of Queen Charlotte’s court is shattered by screams. The King of England is going mad. Left alone with thirteen children and with the country at war, Charlotte has to fight to hold her husband’s throne. It is a time of unrest and revolutions but most of all Charlotte fears the King himself, someone she can no longer love or trust. She has lost her marriage to madness and there is nothing she can do except continue to do her royal duty.
Her six daughters are desperate to escape their palace asylum. Their only chance lies in a good marriage, but no prince wants the daughter of a madman. They are forced to take love wherever they can find it, with devastating consequences.

The moving true story of George III’s madness and the women whose lives it destroyed.”

The period of English history that I am least with is the Regency period and all of the King Georges. I think part of my aversion is that the majority of books that I see set during this period are light, fluffy romances – of which I have fairly little use. I will admit it was primarily the title that drew me in to this novel. I have always had some amount of intrigue about the “madness of King George” and also find stories about those who tend to be on the periphery fascinating. While George III and George IV are the primary male figures in this novel, the daughters/sisters/wives receive quite the novel treatment. This is certainly not a light, fluffy romance (although there are a few romantic scenes).

Despite the rather large cast of characters, the author does a fantastic job of creating each person in their own right. In a short span of pages I could easily tell Amelia apart from Sophia and Royal (and the same goes for the men as well, although they are featured on fewer pages). It is very easy for an author to focus on just one or two characters while the rest are introduced for a few sentences and then disappear to just show up in cursory scenes – not so here. I feel that I truly got to know each of them. I think that Sophia was my favorite character – my heart just broke for her.

Another strength in this novel was how the author sets the events in England within the context of events that are occurring in other parts of the world (particularly America, France, and some of the states and duchies that would become Germany). The American Revolution, the French Revolution, and the conquest of Napoleon all occurred during the reign of George III and are all events I was familiar with and helped me to place the events within the context of the greater world. That is always an element that I look for in novels.

Early on in my reading, the constant use of the name, Royal, for Princess Charlotte, daughter of George III, grated on my nerves. I didn’t realize at that time that her title was Princess Royal as the oldest daughter to the King. I just found it to be quite annoying to have to hear “Royal” all the time when the sound just didn’t fit in the sentence. I understand that this was done to avoid confusion with her mother, Queen Charlotte. It was refreshing that upon leaving England Royal actually expressed disdain over not being called by her given name because of her mother being of the same name. I thought this might have been a breakthrough moment and that we would then see her being called Charlotte because they were no longer in the same scenes – but alas that was but a dream.

Of note – the cover is beautiful! It is one of my recent favorites. I have no idea how accurate it is to the time period (I’m never very good at determining those things), but it is certainly eye catching!

I look forward to more novels by this author and really enjoyed her writing.

This is author Laura Purcell’s debut novel (expect to see more novels of the Hanoverian women in the future). You can visit Laura’s website for additional information about the book.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Queen of Bedlam_Tour Banner_FINAL 2

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

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


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Open Road Media “First in a Series” Summer Ebook Sale

Hi All,

I wanted to share with you an awesome summer sale/deal for e-books that you might want to check out. 

Open Road Media is offering a discount on many books (e-book version only) that are the first in a series.  Most of the books are as low as $1.99-$3.99!  Currently not all of the books are listed, but all of the 136 titles that will be offered will be posted by June 12. 

Here is what I found (so far, as of June 8th) that might interest you in the histfic genre:

  • Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree by Tariq Ali
  • From Here to Eternity (Restored Edition) by James Jones
  • The Physician by Noah Gordon
  • Song of the River by Sue Harrison
  • Guns of Liberty by Kerry Newcomb
  • Mother Earth Father Sky by Sue Harrison
  • North and South by John Jakes
  • The Bastard by John Jakes
  • Deep Summer by Gwen Bristow
  • The Fatal Crown by Ellen Jones
  • The Miracle at St. Bruno’s by Philippa Carr
  • Highland Fling by Amanda Scott
  • They also feature other books outside of histfic including general literature, sci-fi/fantasy, and romance.  I encourage you to check them out and maybe fill up your e-reader with summer reads. 


    Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

    Monday, June 9, 2014

    Mailbox Monday #172


    It’s Mailbox time again!!! What arrived in your mailbox? I picked up just one, unexpected book this week.


    • The Wild Dark Flowers by Elizabeth Cooke (received from publisher unsolicited) -  I believe this is the second book in the Rutherford Park series; the third book has been commissioned as well.  The first book (which I do not own/haven’t read) is titled Rutherford Park and the series is Downton Abbey-esque.

    That’s it for me – nice and slow 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, June 8, 2014

    Winner Winner!

    Happy Sunday everyone! We have a winner of the giveaway for Daughter of the Gods by Stephanie Thornton – and that winner is…

    Carl S!!!


    Congrats Carl!  I have emailed the winner already. If no response is received within 5 days a new winner will be selected.

    I wish I had a copy of this book for everyone that entered – it was that good!

    **Update** Carl already won a copy of the book, so a re-draw was necessary (thanks Carl for the honesty!!).  So the re-drawn winner is…

    Rhonda L!!!


    Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

    Wednesday, June 4, 2014

    Book Review: Mr. President by Harlow Giles Unger

    Mr President
    Mr. President: George Washington and the Making of the Nation’s Highest Office
    by Harlow Giles Unger
    Unabridged, 6 hr. 57 min.
    Blackstone Audio, Inc
    Dean Robertson (Narrator)
    October 29, 2013

    Genre: Non-Fiction, Presidential Biography

    Source: Received for Review from Audiobook Jukebox Solid Gold Reviewer Program

    “Although the framers gave the president little authority, Washington knew whatever he did would set precedents for generations of his successors. To ensure their ability to defend the nation, he simply ignored the Constitution when he thought it necessary and reshaped the presidency into what James Madison called a "monarchical presidency." Modern scholars call it the "imperial presidency." A revealing look at the birth of American government, "Mr. President" describes George Washington's assumption of office in a time of continual crisis, as riots, rebellion, internecine warfare, and attacks by foreign enemies threatened to destroy the new nation.”

    Unlike the prior books I have read on President George Washington, this book focuses primarily on the issues of the presidency, rather than on his personal life – almost to the point of ignoring his personal life entirely. While it was nice to focus on the intricacies of the developing role of the presidency, it left something to be desired because it was much more difficult to connect with the person being presented; a little cold and distant if you will.

    The development of the presidency was presented in terms of the “pillars of power” – war, finance, law enforcement, and foreign affairs – that Washington assumed for the President. These “pillars” guided the progression of the book and kept it narrative rather organized. The book was rather short – just under 7 hours of narration (equivalent of approximately 288 pages). Despite the short format, I feel like the author presented enough information about the evolution of the role of the president to make a cohesive narration. If the book was any longer, I actually think it might have felt too dense to read because of how much information was packed within those few pages.

    This book is a tightly focused history where Washington the man is less of a focal point and the politics of the day are highlighted.



    The audiobook narration was nothing spectacular. It didn’t make the material any less dry or any more exciting. Rather standard.

    Author Harlow Giles Unger also has written The Last Founding Father: James Monroe and a Nation's Call to Greatness, John Quincy Adams, Lafayette, Lion of Liberty: The Life and Times of Patrick Henry, American Tempest: How the Boston Tea Party Sparked a Revolution, John Hancock: Merchant King and American Patriot, Noah Webster: The Life and Times of an American Patriot, and Improbable Patriot: The Secret History of Monsieur de Beaumarchais, the French Playwright Who Saved the American Revolution. You can visit Unger’s website for additional information about the book. If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book?

    You can watch a video of Harlow Unger speaking at a Book TV segment about Mr. President at the following link.

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


    Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

    Tuesday, June 3, 2014

    Mailbox Monday #171


    After a couple week hiatus – I’m back with another collection of some awesome books – almost all purchased for a low price for my Kindle.


    The only book received for review this week is:

    • Queen of Bedlam by Laura Purcell – received for HFVBT review/tour (next week).  The cover of this one is gorgeous – just gorgeous.  And the novel’s concept is interesting to me – I haven’t really read anything focused on the Regency from within the royal family.

    The rest of the books received this week were purchased by me for my Kindle:

    Have you read any of these yet?  I have read some good reviews of Gist’s books, but haven’t ready any of them yet.  I have only read Weir’s fiction, adding this non-fiction to my collection.

    What came in your mailbox 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