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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Mailbox Monday #179


Mailbox Monday, Mailbox Monday!! Too many books this week?! Is that even possible?

a history of america in 36 postage stampsa light in the wildernessa love surrenduredadragonflyinambera-good-marriageanamericanduchessastormofwitchcraftrebelyellthe awakeningthe culinary lives of john and abigail adamsthekingmustdieTheTudorVendettathewarsoftherosesvictorywithnonamea day of fire


Yes, it is A LOT of books this week.  Some were really reasonably priced on Amazon, some are review copies coming in from Netgalley, some are on audiobook.

To start with the purchases from Amazon for my Kindle:

  • A Love Surrendered by Julie Lessman - Book 3 in the Winds of Change series (free from Kindle).  I haven't read any of these yet, but I have been collecting the books in the multiple series so far.  Winds of Change is the 2nd of 3 series by Lessman.
  • The Awakening by Kate Chopin (free from Kindle) - I read this classic in high school and thoroughly enjoyed the reading experience.  I figured, since it was free, I would add it to my bookshelf for future reference.
  • The King Must Die by Mary Renault (purchased from Kindle) - A retelling of the story of Theseus!  I love my Greek history.  Apparently there is also a second book, The Bull From the Sea.
  • Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon (purchased from Audible) - umm, as soon as my credits came into my account, I knew which book I was getting!!

And now for my collection from Netgalley - I was bad and went of a request rampage:

  • The History of America in Thirty-Six Postage Stamps by Chris West - an interesting premise, I love these non-fiction books that look at history from a very unique angle, and when I was younger I was an avid stamp collector.  My curiosity as to whether I have any of these stamps is another reason why I wanted this one.
  • A Light in the Wilderness by Jane Kirkpatrick - I saw the words "Oregon Trail" and "American West" and was on to this one immediately. 
  • An American Duchess by Sharon Page - The cover caught me on this one, and the title.  And I thought a romance might be a nice change of pace for once.
  • A Storm of Witchcraft by Emerson W. Baker - I am fascinated by the Salem Witch Trials because it is local history and it is fascinating in how cruel people can be to one another due fear and manipulation.
  • The Culinary Lives of John and Abigail Adams: A Cookbook by Rosana Y. Wan - I LOVE cookbooks and also books about the presidents - so this, being a combination of the two, excited me!
  • The Wars of the Roses by Dan Jones - alright, I'm a sucker for Pantagenets and quite frankly, I'm still trying to nail down what happened during the Wars of the Roses.
  • The Victory with No Name by Colin G. Calloway - another aspect of American history that fascinates me is the history of the Native Americans and the westward movement. 

And then there are those to review that were from the traditional process through tours/publishers and the like:

  • A Good Marriage by Stephen King - OK, so this one is totally not my style, and actually not what I requested.  Simon and Schuster sent me this audiobook accidentally.  My husband likes King, so at least someone will take a listen to it.
  • Rebel Yell by S.C. Gwynne (received on audiobook from Simon and Schuster) - I haven't read much about the Confederacy during the Civil War, but there are some quite fascinating personages, Stonewall Jackson being one of those. 
  • The Tudor Vendetta by C.W. Gortner (received from publisher via Netgalley for HFVBT tour) - love Gortner and his Spymaster series, can't wait for the 3rd book!  Can't wait for more of the hunky Brandon!
  • A Day of Fire by Stephanie Dray, Ben Kane, E. Knight, Sophie Perinot, Kate Quinn, and Vicky Alvear Shecter - this is a collection of short stories that when read together tell a greater story of the end of Pompeii.  The best thing is that each story is written by a favorite HF author!

Whew! That is the end of my list! How about you?


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Weekend Cooking: Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Cider Sauce with Neeps & Tatties

Weekend Cooking


I found this great blog that focuses on recipes for foods mentioned in the Outlander novels and TV series – it is called Outlander Kitchen.  I encourage you to check out her website for many other great recipes, I know I will. 

outlander kitchen
Title from Outlander Kitchen blog


The recipe I chose to start with this week is inspired by the TV show, 4th episode where everyone is coming to swear allegiance to Colm as laird.  Pork tenderloin, roasted in an oven, is certainly something that could have been made in the 18th century. And neeps, or rutabaga, would have been a regular part of any meal. Tatties, or potatoes, are certainly Scottish fare, however they may or may not have been available to the Mackenzie clan at that time as potatoes were newly come to Scotland. You can find more history of neeps and tatties on the Outlander Kitchen site.


Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Cider Sauce and Neeps & Tatties
Serves 3-4

As I don’t want to steal the thunder from Outlander Kitchen, you can find the ingredient list and directions for these 3 recipes at their website.


However I will discuss my experience with these recipes. The pork tenderloin and the companion sauce were AMAZING!!! We chose to use regular apple cider, because that is what we had on hand, but I think that the slightly thicker nature of regular cider contributed to the texture of the sauce, more so than a hard cider would. The spice mixture that was rubbed into the pork was so fragrant and tasted great on the pork. We would make this pork recipe again and again.

The tatties (the more yellow lump in the photo above) – I just made my standard mashed potatoes because we love how they come out and my recipe is fairly similar to the one from Outlander Kitchen. I always add paprika to my mashed potatoes as well as salt and pepper and use a hefty amount of butter (we only eat them occasionally, so it is fine.

The neeps, (the more white lump in the photo above) I made according to the recipe – well, none of us liked them. I tried, I really did. But just couldn’t get past 2 bites. The taste of the rutabaga was SO strong and we associate the taste with dirt. I like regular yellow turnips, have them every year at Thanksgiving, but these rutabagas will likely not see a return to my table.

Well, 2 out of 3 isn’t bad, right?


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


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Book Review: Inglorious Royal Marriages by Leslie Carroll


Inglorious Royal Marriages by Leslie Carroll
Paperback, 398 pages
September 2, 2014

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Genre: Non-Fiction

Source: Received from review in collaboration with HFVBT tour

“It’s no secret that the marriages of monarchs are often made in hell. Here are some of the most spectacular mismatches in five hundred years of royal history....

In a world where many kings, queens, and princes lacked nothing but true love, marital mismatches could bring out the baddest, boldest behavior in the bluest of bloodlines. Margaret Tudor, her niece Mary I, and Catherine of Braganza were desperately in love with chronically unfaithful husbands, but at least they weren’t murdered by them, as were two of the Medici princesses were. King Charles II’s beautiful, high-spirited sister “Minette” wed Louis XIV’s younger brother, who wore more makeup and perfume than she did. Forced to wed her boring, jug-eared cousin Ferdinand, Marie of Roumania—a granddaughter of Queen Victoria—proved herself one of the heroines of World War I by using her prodigious personal charm to regain massive amounts of land during the peace talks at Versailles.

Brimming with outrageous real-life stories of royal marriages gone wrong, this is an entertaining, unforgettable book of dubious matches doomed from the start.”

For me, Leslie Carroll’s non-fiction works have always been an entertaining romp that I look forward to reading. This installment in the series, Inglorious Royal Marriages, is no different. I was excited to pick it up and dig right in. The pages whirl by in a blur as we move from one mismatched couple to the next dancing across Europe. The stories range from the spouses who don’t get along because of differences in sexual appetites, to those who were serial philanderers, to those who were just plain cruel to each other. What the stories have in common is the wonder that these things actually happened!

Leslie writes with a wit and sharp tongue which is very apparent in her books, which makes them fun and refreshing reads. You certainly can’t call this dull! She also has a thesaurus style vocabulary, so expect to be looking up a good many words. While this is great in improving your language skills, it can start to wear on you after the 20th time referring to the dictionary.

My only real issue with this book is that 90% of the stories felt extremely familiar to me. Of the twelve stories related in this tome, there were only three that I didn’t have some level of knowledge of; the bulk of the selections were on the heavy hitters – Margaret Tudor, Henry VI, Charles II, Lady Jane Grey, Mary I. While I know that to some extent it is those very names that will sell this book, I would have liked to have seen a few more less common entries – more along the lines of the varied selection in Royal Romances. Additionally, the flow of the book wasn’t optimal for me. To some extent it felt like stories were being partially retold in subsequent chapters as in some cases they were family relations. This could be in effort to tie disparate chapters together, but for me it felt repetitious.

Of those notable figures chronicled in this volume, I would have to say that my favorite has been the combined chapter on Isabella Romola de Medici and Eleonora di Garzia di Toledo. A little intrigue, murder, and new faces spiced this chapter up!

Author Leslie Carroll also has written several other non-fiction titles including: Royal Affairs, Notorious Royal Marriages, Royal Pains, Royal Romances, and The Royals. You can visit Leslie’s website or blog 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?

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).

04_Inglorious Royal Marriages_BlogTour Banner_FINAL

You can follow along with the rest of the tour by visiting the HFVBT site or on Twitter with the following hashtag: #IngloriousRoyalMarriagesBlogTour

As an added bonus I also have the privilege of hosting a giveaway courtesy of the HFVBT for one paperback copy of Inglorious Royal Marriages by Leslie Carroll for one lucky US resident.  Giveaway will end October 12, 2014.  Entries can be made through the Rafflecopter below.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Friday, September 19, 2014

Book Review: Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth

Bitter Greens (249x377)

Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth
ARC, Kindle, 496 pages
Thomas Dunne Books
September 23, 2014

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Genre: Historical Fiction, Fairytale Retold

Source: Received from publisher for review with HFVBT Tour

“An utterly captivating reinvention of the Rapunzel fairytale weaved together with the scandalous life of one of the tale's first tellers, Charlotte-Rose de la Force.
Charlotte-Rose de la Force has been banished from the court of Versailles by the Sun King, Louis XIV, after a series of scandalous love affairs. She is comforted by an old nun, Sœur Seraphina, who tells her the tale of a young girl who, a hundred years earlier, is sold by her parents for a handful of bitter greens...

Selena is the famous red-haired muse of the artist Tiziano, first painted by him in 1512 and still inspiring him at the time of his death, sixty-four years later. Called La Strega Bella, Selena is at the centre of Renaissance life in Venice, a world of beauty and danger, seduction and betrayal, love and superstition, retaining her youth and beauty by the blood of young red-haired girls.

After Margherita's father steals a handful of parsley, wintercress and rapunzel from the walled garden of the courtesan Selena Leonelli, he is threatened with having both hands cut off unless he and his wife give away their little red-haired girl. And so, when she turns seven, Margherita is locked away in a tower, her hair woven together with the locks of all the girls before her, growing to womanhood under the shadow of La Strega Bella, and dreaming of being rescued...

Three women, three lives, three stories, braided together to create a compelling story of desire, obsession, black magic and the redemptive power of love.”

I remembered hearing about Bitter Greens when it first came out in Australia a year or so ago. I was super excited to read this book when it came out to US release merely for the fact of the retelling of Rapunzel within a real historical setting. I honestly had not read the book blurb so I didn’t realize until I was well into the book, that Charlotte-Rose de La Force was the writer of one of the Rapunzel versions – leave it to me to completely miss the obvious! The pieces did appear to come together though, so even if you had no idea, you would end up getting the idea. In some ways I got what I was expecting of this novel, and in other ways I didn’t.

I consider the story as three threads composing two stories – that of Rapunzel (to include the back story behind the witch) and the story of Charlotte-Rose (the writer). I liked each of these stories separately, but didn’t love them told together – although I did like the idea of intertwining them together to show how the fairytale writer may have arrived at the concept for the story.

I loved Charlotte-Rose’s story – her saga among the court of the Sun King and even her life at the convent (and longtime readers of this blog know that I haven’t historically been a huge fan of novels set in convents). It was compelling and absolutely oozed the French court.

At the same time, I thought Forsyth did a FANTASTIC job retelling Rapunzel in a realistic historical setting (whether her name is Rapunzel, Margherita, Persinette or Petrosinella). The characters were fully fleshed out – especially Rapunzel’s savior/lover who you never quite know much about in the fairytale. I truly felt her desolation and loneliness being shut away in the tower. I acutally even felt bad for La Strega (the witch) upon being given a compelling backstory.

The stretch for me was in the way the revelation of the story of Rapunzel came to Charlotte-Rose. Even though I arrived at the conclusion before the character did (and remember, I didn’t know she was the writer of the tale), it didn’t feel satisfying or natural to me. It was a little too much of a stretch of make the story of Rapunzel fit into her life experiences.

My only other critique was how dense the novel felt while reading it. No matter how long I read, I never seemed to make any forward progress. This almost 500 page novel took me a hell of a lot longer to read than it should have. I learned a lot about the time, experienced a lot of story, but could only read a few pages at a time without feeling overwhelmed and ready to put the book down. While the atmospheric nature was one of the things I loved about this book, I think its extent made it one of the more difficult aspects as well.

Kate Forsyth has written many other novels, including The Wild Girl. You can visit Forsyth’s website or blog 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 watch the book trailer below.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

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

Bitter Greens_Blog Tour Banner_FINALv2

You can follow along with the rest of the tour by visiting the HFVBT site or on Twitter with the following hashtag: #BitterGreensBlogTour


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Interview with Sophie Schiller

Good morning everyone!  And good morning Sophie Schiller!  I want to introduce you all to the author Sophie Schiller and her new book, Spy Island.  Sophie has taken the time to answer some questions for us today to get to know her and her book better.  Take it away!

02_Spy Island


I love novels set during or surrounding WWI, however I have never seen one set in the West Indies before.  Why set your novel here?

Hi Heather, that's a great question. I wanted to write a novel that would bring to life the Danish colonial period in St. Thomas. As a child growing up in Charlotte Amalie, I marveled at the Danish architecture, the Danish street names, the fascinating history and beauty of the islands, and I longed to read a novel set in this unique location, but there was nothing available. That was the genesis of this novel. I wrote Spy Island to honor the upcoming Centennial Anniversary of the transfer of the Danish West Indies to the US, which took place in 1917 at the height of the Great War. This was a tumultuous time in history for the islanders. They went from being Danish subjects to being American subjects overnight. Down came the Dannebrog and up went the Stars and Stripes. Throw in a runaway German U-boat deserter, a mad Voodoo Queen, a ruthless German spy, Old World Danish characters, colorful West Indian characters and a resourceful and brave island girl and you've set the stage for some serious drama!

Your bio says that you grew up in the West Indies, did that have an influence on your writing?  Did it give you any unique opportunities for researching your novel?

Without a doubt, growing up in the West Indies gave me a unique insight into the people of the West Indies, their thought patterns and behavior, their beliefs, their social structure, their quirks, the beauty of their traditions and culture. I tried to infuse some of that into my novel.

What has the publishing process been like for you?  Have you found anything particularly challenging or surprisingly easy?

The publishing process is not for the faint at heart. It's a discipline that requires extraordinary dedication, perseverance, and love. I don't think there's anything easy about it. It's hard work. But when the job is done, you end up with what you hope is a beautiful product.

Is there any interesting tidbit that you learned while researching Spy Island that didn’t make it into the novel that you could share with us here?

During WWI, a large number of Jamaicans signed up to fight for Great Britain in the British West Indies Regiment (BWIR). In the original manuscript, I showed a group of these young men boarding Abby's steamship, but ended up taking it out. In one particularly sad case that occurred in 1915, a troopship bound for Nova Scotia hit a freak storm that sent temperatures plummeting. Dressed only in tropical weight uniforms, hundreds of these young West Indian men came down with frostbite, requiring hundreds of amputations that resulted in the deaths of five soldiers.

You are currently working on a new novel, Race to Tibet, what can you tell us about this upcoming novel?

Race to Tibet is set in 1889 at the height of Europe's obsession with the Buddhist kingdom on the Roof of the World. At that time, no living European had stepped foot in the Forbidden City of Lhasa, and no man had ever met the Dalai Lama. My novel is about a group of intrepid explorers who set out to reach Lhasa and encounter some hair-raising adventures (and a beguiling Buddhist princess) along the way. Stay tuned for more information!

If you could travel anywhere to research a novel idea (whether it is to access a library or absorb ambiance of the locale) where would you go and why?

My first choice would be Tibet for obvious reasons. Over the years I developed a fascination with the Himalayas which stands in direct contradiction to my tropical upbringing! My second choice would be the French Antilles for a project I have slated for 2016.

Thank you Heather for inviting me to the Maiden's Court. I enjoyed sharing tea and crumpets with you and your readers.

03_Sophie Schiller

Sophie Schiller was born in Paterson, NJ and grew up in the West Indies amid aging pirates and retired German spies. She was educated at American University, Washington, DC and now lives in Brooklyn, NY.

You can find more information on Sophie Schiller and her novels at website. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

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

Book Blurb:

A forbidden friendship that blossoms into love is at the heart of this colorful historical novel.

Abigail Maduro arrives in the Danish West Indies on 1916 to live with her Aunt Esther, a bad tempered spinster, and her houseful of eccentric servants. Despite the island’s veneer of tranquility, St. Thomas is a hotbed of German spies who use their Hamburg-America steamers to aid the Kaiser’s war effort.

When a mysterious stranger suddenly appears in town, Abigail is drawn into the conflict. In the scholarly Erich Seibold, she finds the friendship and love she has been craving, even after she learns that Erich is really a deserter from a German U-boat. But their idyllic interlude comes to a crashing halt when the island’s German consul also discovers Erich’s identity, and blackmails him into committing sabotage. After a melee involving the Danish governor, Erich is thrown into prison, forcing Abigail to risk everything to save him. Action and adventure abound in this colorful historical novel that brings to life a fading West Indian sugar colony in the last days of Danish rule.

04_Spy Island_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

You can follow along with the rest of the tour by visiting the HFVBT site or on Twitter with the following hashtag: #SpyIslandBlogTour


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

New Book Alert Book Blast: Color Song by Victoria Strauss

02_Color Song

Color Song by Victoria Strauss
Paperback, Hardcover, e-book, 341 pages
Skyscape (Amazon Children's Publishing)
ISBN-10: 1477825045
Publication Date: September 16, 2014
Genre: Historical Fiction, Young Adult

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Book Blurb:

By the author of the acclaimed Passion Blue, a Kirkus Reviews Best Teen Book of 2012 and “a rare, rewarding, sumptuous exploration of artistic passion,” comes a fascinating companion novel.

Artistically brilliant, Giulia is blessed – or cursed – with a spirit’s gift: she can hear the mysterious singing of the colors she creates in the convent workshop of Maestra Humilità. It’s here that Giulia, forced into the convent against her will, has found unexpected happiness, and rekindled her passion to become a painter – an impossible dream for any woman in 15th century Italy.

But when a dying Humilità bequeaths Giulia her most prized possession – the secret formula for the luminously beautiful paint called Passion blue – Giulia realizes she’s in danger from those who have long coveted the famous color for themselves. Faced with the prospect of lifelong imprisonment in the convent, forever barred from painting as a punishment for keeping Humilita’s secret, Giulia is struck by a desperate idea: What if she disguises herself as a boy? Could she make her way to Venice and find work as an artist’s apprentice?

Along with the truth of who she is, Giulia carries more dangerous secrets: the exquisite voices of her paint colors and the formula for Humilità’s precious blue. And Venice, with its graceful gondolas and twisting canals, its gilded palazzi and masked balls, has secrets of its own. Trapped in her false identity in this dream-like place where reality and reflection are easily confused, where art and ambition, love and deception hover like dense fog, can Giulia find her way?

This compelling novel explores timeless themes of love and illusion, gender and identity as it asks the question: what does it mean to risk everything to follow your true passion?

Intrigued? Want more? Check out this excerpt.

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

About the Author:

03_Victoria Strauss

Victoria Strauss is the author of nine novels for adults and young adults, including the STONE duology (THE ARM OF THE STONE and THE GARDEN OF THE STONE), and a historical novel for teens, PASSION BLUE. She has written hundreds of book reviews for magazines and ezines, including SF Site, and her articles on writing have appeared in Writer’s Digest and elsewhere. In 2006, she served as a judge for the World Fantasy Awards.

An active member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), she’s co-founder, with Ann Crispin, of Writer Beware, a publishing industry watchdog group that tracks and warns about literary fraud. She maintains the popular Writer Beware website, Facebook page, and blog, for which she was a 2012 winner of an Independent Book Blogger Award. She was honored with the SFWA Service Award in 2009.

She lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.

For more information please visit Victoria’s Strauss’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Goodreads.

Praise for Color Song:

“Fantasy elements and a historical setting rich with sensuous detail are satisfying, but it’s Giulia’s achingly real search for her heart’s desire that resonates most today, when millions of girls still have limited choices. A rare, rewarding, sumptuous exploration of artistic passion.” – Kirkus Reviews on PASSION BLUE (Starred Review, a Best Teen Book of 2012)

“Compelling…absorbing…An intriguing historical novel inspired by accounts of women artists in the Italian Renaissance.” – Booklist on PASSION BLUE

“Mysterious dreams, suspense-filled legends, the terror that unfolds as the dig ensues, and the fine characterizations weave together beautifully to make this adventure fantasy a winner.” – Booklist on GUARDIAN OF THE HILLS (Starred Review)

“A rich story about human nature, this fantasy is a thought-provoking page-turner. The characters are deeply etched, and the plot turns are credible yet arresting…A thoroughly enjoyable read.” – Kliatt on THE ARM OF THE STONE

“The plot is complex yet convincing, and the abundant, well-chosen details of the settings–as well as the carefully developed characters–make this high fantasy a superior and original novel.” – Publishers Weekly on THE GARDEN OF THE STONE (Starred Review)

04_Color Song_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

Color Song Book Tour and Book Blast Schedule:

Monday, September 16
Book Blast at Passages to the Past
Book Blast at The True Book Addict

Tuesday, September 17
Review at Oh the Books
Book Blast at The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, September 18
Review at Casual Readers
Review at Leeanna.com (Passion Blue)

Thursday, September 19
Review at Leeanna.com

Monday, September 22
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews
Feature at Oh the Books

Tuesday, September 23
Book Blast at Flashlight Commentary

Wednesday, September 24
Review at History from a Woman’s Perspective
Interview at Bibliophilia, Please
Book Blast at Reading Lark

Thursday, September 25
Book Blast at A Book Geek

Friday, September 26
Review at Reading Room Book Reviews
Book Blast at Just One More Chapter

Monday, September 29
Review at Tribute Books Mama
Interview at Math, Science & Social Studies…Oh My!

Tuesday, September 30
Review at Book Babe
Book Blast at Historical Fiction Connection

Wednesday, October 1
Review & Interview at Bookish
Book Blast at Historical Tapestry

Thursday, October 2
Review at Brooke Blogs
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book

Friday, October 3
Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews
Book Blast at The Lit Bitch

Saturday, October 4
Book Blast at Susan Heim on Writing

Monday, October 6
Review at WTF Are You Reading?
Book Blast at Let Them Read Books

Tuesday, October 7
Review at A Leisure Moment

Wednesday, October 8
Review at Peeking Between the Pages

Friday, October 10
Review at A Bookish Affair

You can also follow along with the tour on Twitter with the following hashtags: #ColorSongBlogTour or #ColorSongBookBlast.


There is a tour wide giveaway that I have to share with you - it is not hosted by this blog.  Here is what you can win:

  • 2 Grand Prizes Winners: One Kindle Paperwhite with custom Color Song cover with Color Song and Passion Blue ebooks pre-loaded, plus swag (postcards, bookmarks), and signed paperback editions of Strauss’s Stone duology (The Arm of the Stone and The Garden of the Stone) (US only)
  • 2 winners: Signed hardcovers of Color Song and Passion Blue, plus swag (postcards, bookmarks) (US and Canada)
  • 5 winners: Signed paperbacks of Color Song and Passion Blue, plus swag (postcards, bookmarks) (US and Canada)

And now the rules:

  • Giveaway ends at 11:59pm on October 10th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
  • Winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter on October 11th and notified via email.
  • Winner have 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

To enter to win any of the prizes, fill out the Rafflecopter below.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, September 15, 2014

Mailbox Monday #178


Mailbox Monday this week is entirely digital.  Netgalley...you are my lover and my greatest enemy!!!

legend of shebatheothergirl

Both of my books this week are from Netgalley and are for review:

  • The Legend of Sheba: Rise of a Queen by Tosca Lee - I really LOVED Lee's novel Isacariot and the way she treated the Biblical stories.  I have been interested in the story of Sheba - you always hear her referenced, but I don't know her story.  As soon as I saw another blogger posting about receiving this book, I jumped on it.  Can't wait!
  • The Other Girl by Pam Jenoff - this is a novella companion to Jenoff's novel The Winter Guest (which I also have for review).  I enjoyed the previous novel by Jenoff I read and picked this one up as the companion to The Winter Guest.


That's it for me right now, although I do have several things in the pipeline that will likely arrive this week.  Oh boy!!!

What did you get this week? Looking forward to any of these novels?


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Interview with D.M. Denton

Hi everyone! Today I have the privilege of introducing to you author D.M. Denton.  Denton released her novel A House Near Luccoli in 2012 and has a sequel in the works to be released.  I had the chance to ask her a few questions about her writings and have the answers for you today.  If you haven't heard of her yet (or the subject of her novel, Alessandra Stradella), hopefully after this interview you will want to go pick up her book!


The bio on your website indicates that the writing bug bit you in your childhood and then life happened.  What brought you back to writing in earnest?

About eight years ago a compelling real-life story and character came to my attention and became the novel idea I was looking for. Actually, I never stopped writing altogether, just kept most of it to myself. Closeted boxes and folders of yellowing, curling paper and hopeful half-filled journals can attest to that. And even when I wasn’t actually writing, I was thinking about how I should be doing so. For an artist, whether one finds expression through words, brush or chisel strokes, or musical notation, what goes on in life is for and even because of one’s art. It takes time—more for some than others—to mature personally and creatively. Initially, writing was an escape and a refuge for me, much like reading was. What ‘happened’ as life did, was that I began to value this ‘calling’ enough to commit to it, unfold and experiment with its potential, and, ultimately, believe it could reach out to others.

What is the writing process like for you?  Are you a planner or a spontaneous writer?

It’s an integration of instinct and curiosity, I think. To begin with, I feel the essence of a story rather than have a detailed plan for it. I don’t outline and rarely make notes about a storyline. Of course, there’s no getting round the research that goes into historical fiction, with plenty of note-taking involved. The result is much more information than can or should be used. The spirit of the story, the unveiling and evolving of its actual and fictional characters, and the flow and sensory qualities of the writing are as, if not more, important than its historical basis. Whether I’m writing about hundreds of years or a moment ago, I have to be wholly present to its possibilities. Too much planning can cause me to be pondering, over-protective, even fearful, and limited. Spontaneity causes vulnerability but, also, creates a vitality that heightens sensitivity and awareness, and allows for a chance of magic.

With the novels I’ve written so far I’ve had some idea of their progression as I went along. At least, I was fairly certain what I wanted to transpire a few chapters out. But I was often rewarded by being open to the unexpected. Even beyond the first draft, in edit after edit, I believe my writing has benefited as much from what was never planned on as what was.

In your novel, A House Near Luccoli, the composer Alessandro Stradella is your focal point.  I have never heard of this man before.  What can you tell us about him?  Why choose to write about him?

You are certainly not alone in being unfamiliar with the 17th century Italian composer, Alessandro Stradella. Most classically trained musicians know little about him and many academic studies barely mention him, despite the fact that his output was versatile and copious, included operas, oratorios, serenatas, madrigals, and incidental music, and encompassed both sacred and secular music. In his time, for the best and worst reasons, he was quite a celebrity. After his death, the emphasis of his renown was based more on the messes he had made than the masterpieces. Born of minor nobility in 1639 in Nepi near Rome, Stradella was cultivated but also something of a vagabond. He had excellent opportunities in Rome, Venice, Turin and Genoa, but his impetuous nature entangled him in scandals. Still, he was forgiven his trespasses again and again, and continued to be engaged by royals and other nobility for both grand and domestic occasions. Unusual in his time, he wasn’t tied to any one patron but was more of a freelance composer. His work was no less significant than that of his contemporaries. If anything, it was more passionate and pioneering, impressing other composers, like Handel, enough to freely borrow from him.

How I heard about Stradella was fortuitous, and why I wrote about him quite personal. I first became aware of him thanks to a CBC Radio 2 (Canadian) program called In the Shadows. The announcer played examples of Stradella’s music and related his story. Stradella’s paradoxical genius, charisma, and libertine attitude were very seductive—all the more so because he reminded me of someone I knew. It was a few years later that I decided to write a novel with Stradella as the focus. It wasn’t any easy undertaking as there was so little about him available—no portraits or descriptions of his physical appearance and very sketchy information on the events and relationships in his life. So, I always have to mention how much I’m indebted to musicologist, Carolyn Gianturco, who has dedicated decades to researching his life and his work. Her book, Alessandro Stradella, the Man and his Music, is now considered the definitive biography on him and was my chief source.

Is there a tidbit that didn’t make it into your novel that you would want to share with us?

Stradella almost wasn’t a bachelor when he arrived in Genoa, his status as one important to the premise of A House Near Luccoli. In Turin, three years before A House Near Luccoli is set, he was to marry Agnese Van Uffele, who had fled with him to Turin from Venice where she had been the mistress of Alvise Contarini, a powerful and wealthy Venetian. Contarini had asked Stradella to teach Agnese music and, as was perhaps inevitable with Stradella, they became lovers.

It all became very complicated in Turin, but it seems that eventually Stradella signed a contract to wed Agnese who claimed her old lover Contarini had promised to be generous to her if she ever married. It seemed as if Stradella had, once again, got himself out of a tricky situation, until one evening in October 1677 he was attacked and given a blow on the head that almost killed him. In letters he wrote to one of his patrons shortly afterwards, Agnese was not mentioned and never was again in any of his surviving correspondences.

Your novel is set in Genoa, Italy – have you ever had the chance to go to the area where your novel is set?

No, I haven’t been to Genoa, at least not bodily. Traveling there wasn’t an option when I decided to write A House Near Luccoli. However, I couldn’t let that stop me. Thanks to the internet and some wonderful books with excellent information and visuals, and after years of imaginatively ‘living there’, I feel as if I’ve actually seen its churches, caruggi (alleyways), palaces, plazas, and harbor, and have an inherent understanding of its culture, history, and overall sense of itself. I’m sure that if I ever do travel to this often overlooked Italian city, I will recognize it as I place I’m returning to and not visiting for the first time.

You are working on a sequel to A House Near Luccoli.  How is that process going?  Did you always intend for a sequel or was it something that developed organically?

I’m pleased to report that the sequel, To A Strange Somewhere Fled, is finished and in the queue for editing and publishing by All Things That Matter Press. It moves the female protagonist of A House Near Luccoli, Donatella, from Genoa to a small village in late Restoration England (a village called Wroxton in Oxfordshire where I actually lived for 16 years). She mingles with some very interesting historical and fictional characters, music and its masters not done with her yet, including the great English composer, Henry Purcell. The title is taken from a line in a 17thcentury poem, The Despair, by Abraham Cowley. I just finished a painting to be used for the cover design—I did the artwork for A House Near Luccoli, too—and love that my publisher allows me to be so involved in the presentation of the book.

Initially, I saw A House Near Luccoli as a stand-alone novel, and it certainly can be read as such. The seeds of a sequel were planted as I was writing A House Near Luccoli and it became as much about Donatella’s journey as Stradella’s. I began working on it even before I knew A House Near Luccoli would ever be published.

My full name is Diane M Denton (nee DiGiacomo), a native of Buffalo, New York. My writing life began as a child retreating into the stories and poems that came to me, always believing that writing was the love I would keep and that would keep me.  Early on, I developed an interest in history, especially European history, while my participation in and appreciation of music was encouraged through memories shared about my maternal grandmother, who was a concert pianist in Chicago in the 1920’s.  My early pursuits also included drawing and painting—and acting, which I eventually gave up, admitting that my inclination for drama was better written than acted out, my imagination more consistent than my courage.

You can learn more about the author and her works at the following locations: Website, Facebook, and Twitter.

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

A House Near Luccoli Book Blurb:

Over three years since the charismatic composer, violinist, and singer Alessandro Stradella sought refuge in the palaces and twisted alleys of Genoa, royally welcomed despite the alleged scandals and even crimes that forced him to flee from Rome, Venice, and Turin, his professional and personal life have begun to unravel again. He is offered, by the very man he is rumored to have wronged, a respectable if slightly shabby apartment and yet another chance to redeem his character and career. He moves in to the curiosity and consternation of his caretakers, also tenants, three women whose reputations are of concern only to themselves.

Donatella, still unmarried in her mid-thirties, is plainly irrelevant. Yet, like the city she lives in, there are hidden longings in her, propriety the rule, not cure, for what ails her. She cares more for her bedridden grandmother and cats than overbearing aunt, keeping house and tending to a small terraced garden, painting flowers and waxing poetic in her journal.

At first, she is in awe of and certain she will have little to do with Stradella. Slowly, his ego, playfulness, need of a copyist and camouflage involve her in an inspired and insidious world, exciting and heartbreaking as she is enlarged by his magnanimity and reduced by his missteps, forging a friendship that challenges how far she will go.


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Caught on Tape: Pablo Picasso

caught on tape

Pablo Picasso is one of the great modern artists and one that we actually have on film. I think it makes it harder to make films of a historical figure who has actually been on film before. It requires a little more effort than portraying those who we only have descriptions and paintings of, or even those we only have passing reference. I thought I would start this edition of Caught on Tape off with a clip of the actual Picasso, to compare with. Here, Picasso is painting.

Surviving Picasso (1996)

“The passionate Merchant-Ivory drama tells the story of Francoise Gilot, the only lover of Pablo Picasso who was strong enough to withstand his ferocious cruelty and move on with her life.” (IMDB)

Surviving Picasso is about the last significant lover of Pablo Picasso - Francoise Gilot – and it is really her story that is being told her, how she survived a life with the famous artist. The relationship between the two is given center stage here. We also see depictions of the other women in Picasso’s life, Olga Khokhlova (1st wife and mother of his son Paulo), Dora Marr (one of his lovers), Marie-Therese Walter (one of his lovers and mother of his daughter Maya), and Jacqueline Rocque (Picasso’s 2nd wife). I think it would be interesting to see how all of these women interacted with him and each other. The great Anthony Hopkins plays Picasso here, he feels like a creepy old man to me here – also of note is Julianne Moore, as Dora Maar. The movie didn’t get all that great of reviews.

Modigliani (2004)

“The story of Amedeo Modigliani's bitter rivalry with Pablo Picasso, and his tragic romance with Jeanne Hebuterne.” (IMDB)

Modigliani is about the artist of the same name – and a central focus of the story is his relationship with and rivalry with Pablo Picasso. They are both competing for the same art prize. And there is also the relationship with his lover, Jeanne. I have never heard of Modigliani, especially in reference to Picasso – so I find this story rather interesting, his life was rather sad. Modigliani is portrayed by Andy Garcia, who looks somewhat like the artist. Picasso is portrayed by Omid Djalili.

Youtube has the entire film, if you watch the first 5 minutes you will see Picasso and Modigliani and how the contest begins. The film is described as not the best artist biography.

Midnight in Paris (2011)

“While on a trip to Paris with his fiancée's family, a nostalgic screenwriter finds himself mysteriously going back to the 1920s every day at midnight.” (IMDB)

Midnight in Paris – while a ridiculous conceptual movie, features Owen Wilson moving through the artistic world of the French Belle Epoch. One of the artists he meets along the way is Pablo Picasso. Picasso’s mistress of the moment in this film is Adriana – and she becomes the love interest of Owen Wilson’s character, Gil. This Picasso is in his earlier years and the scene that I have chosen for you below is when Picasso and Gertrude Stein are arguing about his new style – Adriana appears too.

La Banda Picasso [aka. Picasso’s Gang] (2012)

“Based on the real robbery of the Mona Lisa in 1911, when young Pablo Picasso and his friends were the prime suspects of the robbery. Could it be that the future master actually led a gang of international art thieves?” (IMDB)

La Banda Picasso is described as a comedy crime film and offers a telling of the theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in 1911. Picasso was questioned in connection with this theft as were several of his artistic circle. Those of Picasso’s gang featured in this film are: Guillaume Apollinaire, Max Jacob, Manolo Hugue, Fernande Olivier, Gery Pieret, Gertrude Stein, and Alice B. Toklas and more. If you watch the trailer below, it looks like a rollicking comedic adventure – however, it is actually a plodding look at the artistic group in Paris, with some attention to the theft (so the preview is a little decieiving). The story and times feel very true to life for the period.

Pablo Picasso is brought to life here by actor Ignacio Mateos. French film with English subtitles. The film is available via Amazon Instant Video (that’s how I watched it).

What do you think of these renditions of Picasso? Have you seen any of these films? I like that these films cover a wide range of Picasso’s life (and loves).  I don't know who I like the best as "Picasso", I don't think any of them represented him too well. 



Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Book Review: Madame Picasso by Anne Girard + Giveaway


Madame Picasso by Anne Girard
ARC, Kindle e-book 432 pages
Harlequin MIRA
August 26, 2014
★★★★ ½☆

goodreads button

Genre: Historical/Art Fiction

Source: Received for review as part of HFVBT tour

“The mesmerizing and untold story of Eva Gouel, the unforgettable woman who stole the heart of the greatest artist of our time.

When Eva Gouel moves to Paris from the countryside, she is full of ambition and dreams of stardom. Though young and inexperienced, she manages to find work as a costumer at the famous Moulin Rouge, and it is here that she first catches the attention of Pablo Picasso, a rising star in the art world.

A brilliant but eccentric artist, Picasso sets his sights on Eva, and Eva can't help but be drawn into his web. But what starts as a torrid affair soon evolves into what will become the first great love of Picasso's life.

With sparkling insight and passion, Madame Picasso introduces us to a dazzling heroine, taking us from the salon of Gertrude Stein to the glamorous Moulin Rouge and inside the studio and heart of one of the most enigmatic and iconic artists of the twentieth century.”

I love reading art fiction – whether it is about bringing a work of art to life or showing us the lives of artists in a novel setting. Anne Girard brings us the life of Pablo Picasso as seen through the eyes of one of his mistresses, Eva Gouel. At the same time, we are treated to learning about this little known woman in his life, Belle Epoch Paris, and the little group of artists that came together at that time.

This was not my first introduction to this group of artists – I have seen this little band in a couple of films – but I thought that Girard did an excellent job of representing these characters. The actresses at the Moulin Rouge were entertaining and enjoyable, while I found myself disliking pretty much all of the women moving within the art circle – maybe with exception of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. The rivalries and tensions between the different groups (artists and the actresses) were palpable and great fodder for fiction.

Anne Girard crafted characters that you could totally love and feel for. I can honestly say that I cried as the end of the novel arrived. It has been a little while since a novel has made me cry. It was a great way to end the novel, even if I found it to be a tear-jerker.

This is the first novel being published under the name of Anne Girard, however she has published many novels under the name Diane Haeger. You can visit Girard’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 also watch the book trailer below.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

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

04_Madame Picasso_BlogTour Banner_FINAL

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

I also have a giveaway that I can offer to my blog readers courtesy of the HFVBT tour!

It is open to those residing in the US and is for 1 paperback copy of Madame Picasso.  The last day to enter is September 20th.  Entries are made through the Rafflecopter widget below.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court