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Monday, February 29, 2016

Winners! Winners!!

Good evening all!

Just a quick drop in tonight to announce a couple of giveaway winners! I have been crazy busy the last week, so my apologies for few posts last week and my possibly not responding to your emails! I'm getting back in there this week though, and that starts with giveaway winners - of which I have 2!
Photo credit: Creativity+ Timothy K Hamilton via VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND

First up, the winner of a copy of The Edge of Sunrise by Cynthia Ripley Miller. And that winner is...ANNE!!!

The second winner will be the recipient of a set of historical recipe cards - and that winner is TERRY!!! I can't wait to see what you do with these!

Both winners have been notified by emails this evening and if I don't hear from them within 5 days I will select new winners. Congrats to the winners and thank you to all who entered! I might have another giveaway coming up later this week or next, so stay tuned!

Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Caught on Tape: Richard I, The Lionheart

I noticed recently that the majority of my Caught on Tape posts have featured women; so I

decided that this installment would have to be a man. I really liked looking at Richard I of England, the Lionheart, because I can divide his film life into three distinct categories: those focusing on the family battle with his father, Henry II; those focusing on the Crusade; and those that include Richard in the Robin Hood story. Instead of organizing this post around the chronology of film production, I’m actually going to arrange it more with an eye toward these themes.

The Battle for the Heir

This is an element of Richard’s history that I am less familiar with than his Crusading history. This is where we really see conflict between Henry II and his wife Eleanor.

The Lion in Winter (1968)
Based on the Broadway play: 1183 AD: King Henry II's three sons all want to inherit the throne, but he won't commit to a choice. They and his wife variously plot to force him.
This film features the great Anthony Hopkins as Richard in his first film role. So there is reason to watch this film for that reason alone. It also stars Katherine Hepburn as Eleanor and Peter O’Toole as Henry II – two other film greats as part of this cast. This is one of those films that I have had many people recommend or ask me about and I haven’t seen it! It is in my movie queue though. This film was remade in the 1980’s I believe in a television format, but I have heard that this is the version to watch. In the film clip below, Richard is having a conversation with Phillip II of France. I have always found Hopkins to have stilted performances and he is not a personal favorite of mine.

Richard the Lionheart (2013), and sequel, Richard the Lionheart: Rebellion (2015)

Richard the Lionheart:
King Henry II tests the loyalty and honor of his son Richard sending him to a hellish prison. In prison Richard must fight against adversaries representing the virtues of a knight.

The year is 1173. England and France are at war. The destiny of the two great powers has never been so intertwined. As King Henry's wife, Queen Eleanor, is captured and imprisoned by the king himself, Richard and his brothers lead the fight against their father in a heartless war. Allegiances shift with each victory or defeat as the destinies of England and France keep swaying in a delicate balance.

I’m lumping these two films together because I can’t get a really good read on them. The first film description doesn’t feel at all based on history (please someone correct me if I’m wrong), but instead feels like a fantasy adaptation that is just loosely based on history. The second film sounds much more historically based. But I did find it interesting that they released a sequel. I had never heard of either of these and they are very recently released. In both films, Richard is portrayed by Greg Chandler Maness – another unknown to me. I’m including both clips below – let me know what kind of read you get on these – I’m truly curious!

The Crusading Years

These are the times that I always find most interesting. It can occasionally overlap with the Robin Hood stories, entirely dependent on which direction they drive Robin Hood. The Crusades took up a significant portion of Richard’s kingship and lead to his death, so there are some great potential cinematic moments.

The Crusades (1935)
Mostly taking elements from the Third Crusade, King Richard the Lionheart is enlisted in a crusade to bring Jerusalem back into Christian hands in order to get out of a betrothal with Princess Alice of France. En route, Richard meets Berengaria, Princess of Navarre and marries her in exchange for food for his men. During the Crusaders' attempts to get past the walls of Acre, Berengaria is captured by the Muslim Sultan Saladin and he brings her back to Jerusalem and attempts to woo her. Eventually, the Crusaders make their way to Jerusalem and after many battles Saladin declares a truce and Richard agrees. Berengaria and Richard fall in love and all the gates of Jerusalem are opened.
The films of the 1930s and 1940s are well known for their expansive battle and war stories and their focus more on the story being told than necessarily on the historical accuracy. This film is directed by the great Cecile B deMille and stars Henry Wilcoxson as Richard. This appears to be one of those epic war and love stories, but everything I have ever read doesn’t suggest that Richard and Berengaria’s marriage was a love match. This is certainly one of those I am planning on watching. The scene I chose below is from one of the great climatic moments, it doesn’t include Berengaria, but is instead the siege of Acre. I felt that would have been more important to Richard’s character.

Robin Hood

Robin Hood is an interesting tale that tends to be centered historically during the rule of Richard I and Prince John. Some films focus on this element more than others.

Robin Hood (2010)
In 12th century England, Robin and his band of marauders confront corruption in a local village and lead an uprising against the crown that will forever alter the balance of world power.
Now this is a film that I have seen! Directed by Ridley Scott and starring Russell Crowe as Robin Hood and King Richard as Danny Huston, this film received a wide release in 2010. This is one of those Robin Hood films that doesn’t fall into the typical story of stealing from the rich to give to the poor; it focuses on Robin Hood before he became that hero. It follows his years as a part of Richard’s army on Crusade. I felt that Crowes portrayal here was strong.

My full review can be found here.

Robin Hood (2006) – BBC TV Series (particularly Season 2 - 2007)
The BBC series based on the traditional retellings of the Robin Hood tale.
This one is a little difficult to get into here, as it is more of a specific episode that features King Richard rather than him being a regularly recurring character throughout the series – although he is much discussed throughout. During the majority of the show Richard is on Crusade and we do finally see him in the finale episode of Season 2 titled, We Are Robin Hood!. During this episode the majority of the cast somehow ends up in Acre and treachery ensues. Richard is played by Steven Waddington and I didn’t find his portrayal especially compelling.

Overall I really enjoyed the show and some of the liberties they took. While I haven’t seen Season 3, the final season, I have reviewed both Season 1 and Season 2.

Now I’m going to give a spoiler warning before you watch this clip. The only clip I could find of this episode is the entire second half of the episode AND it is the season finale episode – so if you are watching the series or hope to watch it, maybe don’t watch the whole episode. You can watch the 11 minute to 13 minute mark which doesn’t give much away.

So what films have you seen and which part of Richard’s life do you like to see on the screen? I’m particularly partial to the Robin Hood films.

Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, February 22, 2016

New Book Alert & Cover Reveal: The Gilded Cage by Judy Alter

I often bring new and upcoming books to your attention, but I rarely get to be part of bringing a cover unveiling to you all and that is what I get to do today!  I get to help unveil the cover of The Gilded Cage by Judy Alter.  But let's build up the suspense a little bit by learning about this upcoming book first.  I'm excited about the fact that this is a Gilded Age book not set in New York or Newport like the majority are, but instead Chicago!

Book Blurb:
Born to a society and a life of privilege, Bertha Honoré married Potter Palmer, a wealthy entrepreneur who called her Cissy. Neither dreamed the direction the other’s life would take. He built the Palmer House Hotel, still famed today, and become one of the major robber barons of the city, giving generously to causes of which he approved. She put philanthropy into deeds, going into shanty neighborhoods, inviting factory girls to her home, working at Jane Addams’ settlement Hull House, supporting women’s causes. 
It was a time of tremendous change and conflict in Chicago as the city struggled to put its swamp-water beginnings behind it and become a leading urban center. A time of the Great Fire of 1871, the Haymarket Riots, and the triumph of the Columbian Exposition. Potter and Cissy handled these events in diverse ways. Fascinating characters people these pages along with Potter and Cissy—Carter Harrison, frequent mayor of the city; Harry Collins, determined to be a loser; Henry Honoré, torn between loyalties to the South and North; Daniel Burnham, architect of the new Chicago—and many others. 
The Gilded Cage is a fictional exploration of the lives of these people and of the Gilded Age in Chicago history.

Advanced Praise for The Gilded Cage:

The Gilded Cage is a wonderful recreation of early Chicago and the people who made it what it is. Central character Cissy Palmer is a three-dimensional, real, vibrant person. The Gilded Cage is fiction, but firmly based on fact—the Chicago Fire, the prisoners from the War Between the States interred in Chicago, the newcomer Potter Palmer, the explosive growth of wealth in a prairie town, deep poverty adjacent to great riches—the American experience laid bare. You don’t have to be a Chicagoan to love this book.” -Barbara D’Amato, author of Other Eyes


The Gilded Cage by Judy Alter
Publication Date: April 2016
eBook & Paperback
Genre: Historical Fiction

About Judy Alter:
Judy Alter is the award winning author of fiction for adults and young adults. Other historical fiction includes Libbie, the story of Elizabeth Bacon (Mrs. George Armstrong) Custer; Jessie, the story of Jessie Benton Frémont and her explorer / miner / entrepreneur / soldier / politician husband; Cherokee Rose, a novel loosely based on the life of the first cowgirl roper to ride in Wild West shows; and Sundance, Butch and Me, the adventures of Etta Place and the Hole in the Wall Gang.

Find Judy Alter: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest | Goodreads

Follow the Tour!

On Twitter: #TheGildedCageCoverReveal

Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Weekend Cooking: Dinner in A Country Village, Butter Biscuits, and Giveaway!

Last weekend, the coldest weekend we have had yet this winter with wind-chill temperatures in the negative double digits, my husband and I attended an event that we were really excited for at Old Sturbridge Village. If you don’t know about Old Sturbridge Village it is an excellent mostly outdoor living history museum that recreates a New England village from the 1830s. It is located in Sturbridge, Massachusetts and it is a favorite location of mine – I even got married there almost 2 years ago! You can check out more about OSV here.

We have attended pretty much every event that OSV has put on over the last 5 years. The event that we attended last weekend was one of their after-hours events called Dinner in a Country Village. What is so special about this event is that you actually get to cook an entire dinner and eat it family style in the ways of the 1800s in one of their exhibit homes! That is something we have observed before, but never able to actually take part in. I wanted to share our experience with you today and encourage you, if you ever have the opportunity, to not only visit Old Sturbridge Village, but their evening events as well.

So my husband and I arrive around 5 PM, it’s already FREEZING COLD! We met up with one of the costumed interpreters and the other 9 participants. They usually have groups of adults (age 18+) of up to 14 people – but a few had cancelled because of the cold temperatures. We made our way over to Parsonage building where we would be cooking that evening. Everyone broke up into 4 groups – appetizers, baking, vegetables, and meat; my husband and I took on vegetables. Everyone had their tasks and a dish that they were responsible for making. Everything prepared in the old ways and cooked over the open fireplace, hot coals, and in the brick bake ovens. At the vegetable station we made roasted carrots, gourd soup, stewed red cabbage, and fricassee of parsnips. When all the food was done, we set the table, learned traditional table manners, and sat down to enjoy the results of our labors family style. The food was delightfully simple and delicious and everyone glowed with their successes. The complete evening included the following all made by our own hands: potted cheese on common crackers, mulled cider, gourd soup, stewed red cabbage, fricassee of parsnips, roasted carrots, scots collops, roasted stuffed chicken, cranberry sauce, butter biscuits, apple pie with cheddar cheese, floating island, and hot chocolate. After dinner we moved into the parlor for hot chocolate and a dessert which we sat and ate by the fire before heading back out around 10 PM.

Here are a few things I learned from this experience:
  • I really appreciate my immersion blender. While making the gourd soup we had to essentially puree the squash and onions by pressing the simmered vegetable through a colander with a mallet. Oh my word did my arms hurt the next day! It took us a good 20 minutes of trading turns to push all the vegetable through the colander.
  • Being one who is used to following recipes very specifically I had a hard time working from authentic recipes (or receipts as they were called) because they are so vague with their measurements.
  • Cooking over an open fire is hard and hot work. We frequently had to pull out to metal bar suspended over the fire to add or remove the metal cooking pots or to adjust how close to the fire they were. We pulled hot coals out onto the front of the fireplace to place a clay cooking vessel directly onto them and cook via that heat. We baked in the bake oven where you determine the appropriateness of the temperature by sticking your arm into it and counting to a predetermined number.
  • Despite the temperatures outside and lack of modern heating, the kitchen was HOT from the fireplace and oven.
  • Doing anything from fire/candle light is difficult! You have to make sure to not catch you hair on fire and look really closely to see. And we had more candles going than the average household would have on a normal night.
  • Apple pie would have been eaten as part of the meal, which I struggled with. I kept finding myself leaving it for later until I remembered. Adding the cheddar cheese to each bite was AMAZING!
  • The biscuits were the best any of us had ever had and were very easy to make.

We appreciated how difficult it was to cook in these times but also how the food was still very good, not just boring as we had anticipated. It was a great time had by the couples that attended. Here are a few of the photos from the event – we didn’t manage to get photos of all of the food.

L. My husband cooking over the fire.  C. Me chopping veggies.  R. The bake table
Hearth side cooking
L. The dinner table being set.   R. My husband, myself, and mulled cider
OSV also has cooking events that can involve families, called Families Cook, or if you would rather have someone else cook it all for you and you just sit back and enjoy, they have an event called Hearthside Bounty.  You can find out more about their hearth cooking events here.

I would like to share one of the recipes we made with you today, that of the butter biscuits, the favorite of everyone present.

Butter Biscuits
Makes about 8-12 depending on size

Recipe from American Cookery, 1796:

One pint of milk and emptins, laid into flour, in sponge; next morning add one pound butter melted, not hot, and knead into as much flour as will, with another pint of warm milk, to be of sufficient consistence to make soft. Some melt butter in the milk.

Modern Translation from Food Through the Pages:


1 pint milk (2 cups)
1 pint emptins (you can just use a yeast mix)
1 lb. butter
1 pint of milk (2 cups)
Additional flour


1. Mix the half cup milk with the half cup emptins, along with a ½ cup flour to make a sponge. Cover loosely with a dish towel and let sit out overnight. In the morning, your sponge will be larger, bubbly, and, well… spongy.

2. Melt 1 stick of butter into another half cup of milk, and let cool until it’s just warm; if too hot, it will kill the yeast in the sponge. Add to the sponge, and gradually mix in 2 cups flour. At this point, you should have a thick batter. Gently knead in additional flour until the whole mixture comes together into one cohesive mass that is soft but not sticky.

3. Tear off 8-12 pieces of equal size, and gently form into small rounds. You may either place these directly onto a baking sheet, or into the cups of a muffin pan.

4. Bake at 350° F for 25-30 minutes, until the tops are just slightly golden, and the biscuits feel firm to the touch.
Two trays of biscuits and the roasted chickens
These biscuits were absolutely amazing! They are fluffy and more like dinner rolls than biscuits. You could use them as dinner rolls with butter, at breakfast with jam, or even with a fruit compote for a pseudo shortcake. SO good!!

I received 2 complete sets of the receipt cards for the meal we made at the Dinner in a Country Village event – and we really only need one. So I’m going to offer the second set for a giveaway! Make your entries through the Rafflecopter below. Giveaway is open to the USA and Canada only and ends February 27th.


Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and anything even remotely cooking related can participate in this event.

Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Friday, February 19, 2016

Book Review: Isabel the Queen by Peggy K. Liss

Isabel the Queen: Life and Times by Peggy K. Liss
e-Book, 496 pages
University of Pennsylvania Press
December 1, 2004

Genre: Non-Fiction, Biography

Source: Personal purchase for my Masters class
Queen Isabel of Castile is perhaps best known for her patronage of Christopher Columbus and for the religious zeal that led to the Spanish Inquisition, the waging of holy war, and the expulsion of Jews and Muslims across the Iberian peninsula. In this sweeping biography, newly revised and annotated to coincide with the five-hundredth anniversary of Isabel's death, Peggy K. Liss draws upon a rich array of sources to untangle the facts, legends, and fiercely held opinions about this influential queen and her decisive role in the tumultuous politics of early modern Spain.

"Isabel the Queen" reveals a monarch who was a woman of ruthless determination and strong religious beliefs, a devoted wife and mother, and a formidable leader. As Liss shows, Isabel's piety and political ambition motivated her throughout her life, from her earliest struggles to claim her crown to her secret marriage to King Fernando of Aragon, a union that brought success in civil war, consolidated Christian hegemony over the Iberian peninsula, and set the stage for Spain to become a world empire."
My knowledge of Isabel, Queen of Castile, has been limited to what you learn about her involvement in the “discovery” of the Americas and the Inquisition and the fictional interpretation of her life in The Queen’s Vow by C.W. Gortner. I endeavored to read this book as an assignment from class and selected it from the class syllabus, but I was very pleased to find out that this book was referenced as one of Gortner’s sources in his novel.

Isabel the Queen brings the reader into the world of Isabel by introducing the rule and times of her father, Juan, and half-brother, Enrique. The author includes this information as a means of establishing what Isabel had as her professional examples and to show the differences when Isabel became the Queen. I think that this worked well, but I did get a little tired reading statements like, “and it proved a costly mistake whose lessons would not be lost on Isabel” (Kindle loc. 757). The author makes it VERY clear with these kinds of statements to draw the divisions between Isabel and her brother especially.

This book was chock full of information on not just Isabel as a person, but also the world of Spain and Europe around her. It was very dense and not a book that you finish in a short period of time, believe me, it will take you awhile to read it all; this is certainly more of a research book than a fun reading book. However, you will come away from it with a new knowledge and appreciation of the time.

Any discussion of Isabel inevitably wades in the water of controversy with the portrayal of the Columbus expedition as well as the handling of the Spanish Inquisition and persecution of the Jews and Muslims. Liss doesn’t shy away from these controversial subject and does lay out the information, both positive and negative, but she doesn’t take a firm stance in either direction. As the book was originally published around the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ expedition and then was republished around the 500th anniversary of the death of Isabel it makes sense that she treads carefully around these subjects in order to take advantage of these dates.

I came away from this book with a much more concrete sense of who Isabel was as a person and as a Queen. I would recommend this book, but just know it might be a little denser than you are looking for.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

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

**Read an Excerpt**

Also by Peggy Liss:
Atlantic Empires

Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Wish List 5: Ancient Lands

Once a month I am planning on sharing with you all 5 of my biggest wish list books broken up by theme. I know that you all need more on your TBR!!! This month I’m featuring those set in ancient lands!

Healer of Carthage by Lynne Gentry

A twenty-first-century doctor. A third-century plague. A love out of time.

First-year resident Dr. Lisbeth Hastings is too busy to take her father’s bizarre summons seriously. But when a tragic mistake puts her career in jeopardy, answering her father’s call seems her only hope of redeeming the devastating failure that her life has become.

While exploring the haunting cave at her father’s archaeological dig, Lisbeth falls through a hidden hole, awakening to find herself the object of a slave auction and the ruins of Roman Carthage inexplicably restored to a thriving metropolis. Is it possible that she’s traveled back in time, and, if so, how can she find her way back home?

Cyprian Thascius believes God called him to rescue the mysterious woman from the slave trader’s cell. What he doesn’t understand is why saving the church of his newfound faith requires him to love a woman whose peculiar ways could get him killed. But who is he to question God?

As their different worlds collide, it sparks an intense attraction that unites Lisbeth and Cyprian in a battle against a deadly epidemic. Even as they confront persecution, uncover buried secrets, and ignite the beginnings of a medical revolution, Roman wrath threatens to separate them forever. Can they find their way to each other through all these obstacles? Or are the eighteen hundred years between them too far of a leap?

The Queen of Sparta by T.S. Chaudhry

Xerxes, the Great King of Persia invades Greece in 480 B.C. at the head of over a million barbarians. 300 Spartan’s led by King Leonidas die heroically blocking the Persian advance at the pass of Thermopylae. The Persians are poised to conquer all of Greece.

The only one standing in their way is a woman – Gorgo, Queen of Sparta. Though history has relegated her role to an interested bystander, what if she played a central part at the heart of the Greek resistance to the Persian invasion. What if she kept her true role a secret in order to play it more effectively? What if she was hiding other secrets too – dark secrets of murder and vengeance? What if the only person who truly appreciated her genius was an enemy prisoner? What if after their victory, the Greeks start to turn on each other? What if, eventually, Gorgo has to choose between the security of Sparta and safety of her son? And what if the only one who could find a way out is the same prisoner whom she has vowed to kill?

The Wedding Shroud by Elizabeth Storrs

In 406 BC, to seal a tenuous truce, the young Roman Caecilia is wedded to Vel Mastarna, an Etruscan nobleman from Veii. Leaving her militaristic homeland, Caecilia is determined to remain true to Roman virtues while living among the sinful Etruscans. But, despite her best intentions, she is seduced by a culture that offers women education, independence, sexual freedom, and an empowering religion.

Enchanted by Veii but terrified of losing ties to Rome, Caecilia performs rites to delay becoming a mother, thereby postponing true entanglement. Yet as she develops an unexpected love for Mastarna, she’s torn between her birthplace and the city in which she now lives. As war looms, Caecilia discovers Fate is not so easy to control, and she must choose where her allegiance lies.

The Wedding Shroud is the first book in the series A Tale of Ancient Rome. Subsequent books in the series include The Golden Dice and Call to Juno.

I Am Livia by Phillis T. Smith

Her life would be marked by scandal and suspicion, worship and adoration…

At the tender age of fourteen, Livia Drusilla overhears her father and fellow aristocrats plotting the assassination of Julius Caesar. Proving herself an astute confidante, she becomes her father’s chief political asset—and reluctantly enters into an advantageous marriage to a prominent military officer. Her mother tells her, “It is possible for a woman to influence public affairs,” reminding Livia that—while she possesses a keen sense for the machinations of the Roman senate—she must also remain patient and practical.

But patience and practicality disappear from Livia’s mind when she meets Caesar’s heir, Octavianus. At only eighteen, he displays both power and modesty. A young wife by that point, Livia finds herself drawn to the golden-haired boy. In time, his fortunes will rise as Livia’s family faces terrible danger. But her sharp intellect—and her heart—will lead Livia to make an unbelievable choice: one that will give her greater sway over Rome than she could have ever foreseen.

So Shines the Night by Tracy L. Higley

Daria's new home in Ephesus with Lucas both beguiles and confounds her, until she meets followers of The Way.

Her past has taught her that evil is real, that it can consume a person. She saw it happen with her husband, before he took his own life. Widowed, with no family, Daria becomes a tutor to Lucas, a rich traveling merchant from Ephesus. There she discovers evil has a strong foothold and that Lucas himself seems drawn to evil and sorcery.

As her relationship with her employer grows, she fears that she will be unable to pull him from demonic influence. Tension in the city is about to erupt, as a new sect called The Way continues to draw followers. A man called Paul leads the movement against the economic and political strength of the city, found in its goddess cult.

When she learns more of the ways of the Christians and their ability to defeat evil, she begins to have hope. But then Lucas is arrested and jailed for a brutal crime, and it seems not even the Christians can help.

Tensions escalate in the city until thousands are pouring into the arena to protest the influence of the Christians, and a plot to kill Paul is underway. When Lucas's execution is scheduled, Daria must find a way to prove his innocence, save his life, and help her new friends before everyone she loves is destroyed.

Have you read any of these? Any other novels set in ancient lands you would add to this list?

Looking for some books set in ancient lands I have read and reviewed?  Give these a try!

Daughters of Rome              Penelope's Daughter            Written in the Ashes
★★★★★                   ★★★★☆                   ★★★★½☆
Here are some of the wishlists from a few of my friends this month:

Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Movie Review: The Affair of the Necklace

The Affair of the NecklaceAlcon Entertainment
118 mins.
December 7, 2001
Rated: R

The Affair of the Necklace was a critical event toward the downfall of Marie Antoinette and it was a pretty deceitful and full-bodied scandal, so I was very excited to see how it played out on the screen. I’m not the biggest fan of Hilary Swank, which put this not quite on the top of my watch list, but I pushed past that and enjoyed this film for what it was.

The film gives a basis for why Jeanne de Valois sought out Marie Antoinette and how she happened to become involved in the great scheme. It was nice to have a backstory as I had not heard of one before and it fleshed out the character of Jeanne, although I’m not sure if it is historically accurate or not. I have always found myself on the side of the Queen in this scandal, but this at least made me feel for the character and why she was doing what she was (again, I don’t think her reasons here are historically accurate). I think the way that the film put together the whole Affair was very well done. All of the intrigues felt compelling and interesting; I really enjoyed it. This film is focused primarily on this one event and does not much go into the events transpiring outside the castle walls – so the inclusion of the scene beheading Marie Antoinette felt out of place here as there was no historical context provided.

Hilary Swank was successful in the role of Jeanne mostly because not too much was expected of her here. She basically walked around in a pretty dress and schemed – nothing too difficult. Oh there is one tasteful sex scene – but that was actually pretty comical!  I wasn't a huge fan of the portrayal of Marie Antoinette here - she felt very stoic and distant.

Overall, the film was a fun presentation of a very intriguing event – without being too heavy and not expecting too much.  Not really sure why this is rated R though... 

Check out this trailer:


Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Vatican Princess Blog Tour Kick Off!!

Hey all, my review that was scheduled to go live today to kick off this tour has had to be delayed because my review copy was literally lost in the mail.  So while we await my copy to arrive, here is what is in store from this book!  I'm super excited to get my hands on it and the review will be forthcoming.

The Vatican Princess by C.W. Gortner
Hardcover, audiobook, & e-Book, 400 pages
Published February 9, 2016 by Ballantine Books
ISBN: 0345533976
Genre: Historical Fiction

Book Blurb:
For fans of Philippa Gregory and Alison Weir, a gripping novel that follows the extraordinary life of young Lucrezia Borgia, the legendary Renaissance Pope Alexander’s beautiful daughter. Was she the heartless seductress of legend? Or merely an unsuspecting pawn in a familial web, forced to choose between loyalty and her own survival?
Glamorous and predatory, the Borgias became Italy’s most ruthless and powerful family, electrifying and terrorizing their 15th-century Renaissance world.
To this day, Lucrezia Borgia is known as one of history’s most notorious villainesses, accused of incest and luring men to doom with her arsenal of poison. 
International bestselling author C.W. Gortner’s new novel delves beyond the myth to depict Lucrezia in her own voice, from her pampered childhood in the palaces of Rome to her ill-fated, scandalous arranged marriages and complex relationship with her adored father and her rival brothers—brutal Juan and enigmatic Cesare. 
This is the dramatic, untold story of a papal princess who came of age in an era of savage intrigue and unparalleled splendor, and whose courage led her to overcome the fate imposed on her by her Borgia blood.
Read an Excerpt (about half way down the linked page)

Listen to a Sample from the Audiobook

Praise for The Vatican Princess:

“A tale of passion, political intrigue, and poisonous power. Assiduously researched and expertly crafted, this novel takes readers inside the treacherous world of the Borgias—one of history’s most dysfunctional ruling families—and brings to life the sympathetic and freshly imagined character of their leading lady, Lucrezia. This unholy plunge into Rome’s darkest dynasty is wholly engrossing.” (Allison Pataki, New York Times bestselling author)

“A spiderweb of Renaissance intrigue with a cast of legendary characters, The Vatican Princess tells Lucrezia Borgia’s story in her own words. Impressive research, a lush background, and deft characterization of these turbulent times make for a fascinating read.” (Margaret George, New York Times bestselling author)

“Elegantly written and deeply researched, with a pacy style and a fine eye for contemporary detail . . . The world of Renaissance Italy is vividly brought to life—I’m captivated by this knowledgeable author’s take on the controversial Borgias.” (Alison Weir, NYT bestselling author)

“Here is a marvelously evocative portrait of a young woman caught in a bewildering web of jealousy, family rivalry, vengeance, and papal politics. This is historical fiction at its best, written by a master of the genre.” (Patricia Bracewell, author of Shadow on the Crown)

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

About C.W. Gortner

C.W. GORTNER holds an MFA in Writing with an emphasis in Renaissance Studies from the New College of California, as well as an AA from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in San Francisco.

After an eleven year-long career in fashion, during which he worked as a vintage retail buyer, freelance publicist, and fashion show coordinator, C.W. devoted the next twelve years to the public health sector. In 2012, he became a full-time writer following the international success of his novels.

In his extensive travels to research his books, he has danced a galliard at Hampton Court, learned about organic gardening at Chenoceaux, and spent a chilly night in a ruined Spanish castle. His books have garnered widespread acclaim and been translated into twenty-one languages to date, with over 400,000 copies sold. A sought-after public speaker. C.W. has given keynote addresses at writer conferences in the US and abroad. He is also a dedicated advocate for animal rights, in particular companion animal rescue to reduce shelter overcrowding.

Half-Spanish by birth and raised in southern Spain, C.W. now lives in Northern California with his partner and two very spoiled rescue cats.
Find C.W. Gortner: Blog | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Pinterest | Youtube | Newsletter

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On Twitter: #TheVaticanPrincessBlogTour  #HistoricalFiction  #LucreziaBorgia  #Italy 

My Reviews of Other C.W. Gortner Books:
     The Tudor Secret             The Tudor Conspiracy           The Tudor Vendetta
★★★                         ★★★★½☆                     ★★★★ ½☆ 
   The Confessions of                The Queen's Vow                 Mademoiselle Chanel 
Catherine de Medici              ★★★★½☆                    ★★★★☆        


Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Interview with Eva Flynn

Good morning everyone!  Today I have the opportunity to introduce you to Eva Flynn, the author of The Renegade Queen.  I was originally caught by the cover, which is gorgeous and different than the majority of those I have seen, but the description of the time and the people that I know virtually nothing about makes me committed to reading this book.

Heather: Hi Eva! Welcome to The Maiden’s Court. I am excited to introduce you today to my readers and learn more about you and your work. I have to say, I love the cover of The Renegade Queen!

Eva Flynn: Thank you, I’m glad to be here Heather. I really enjoy your blog.

H: Your novel The Renegade Queen focuses on a woman who pushed against social norms for women in 19th century America.  Can you give us background information to set the scene; I have only heard the name Victoria Woodhull in passing?

EF: Victoria Woodhull was born into poverty and through sheer willpower became the first female presidential candidate, the first female stockbroker, publisher of a newspaper, the first women to testify in front of Congress, and the first American to publish The Communist Manifesto. And yet when Susan B. Anthony wrote the History of Woman’s Suffrage, which was four volumes and 5700 pages, Victoria is not mentioned once. This novel explores those times and the rivalry between Victoria and Susan.

I have all the sympathy in the world for Susan B. Anthony. She gave her life for the cause and then at the age of 50 a younger, richer, more beautiful woman comes onto the scene with an appalling background and becomes more popular, and wins more support from politicians and the newspapers in a few short months than Anthony did after years of campaigning. Anthony felt that her place in the world was displaced and that she was losing control of the movement.

Victoria was more radical and wanted immediate action to alleviate the inequities for women, the poor, and the immigrants. Victoria knew in her heart that she was right and did not understand why a social revolution could not occur immediately. Anthony, being older, wiser, and perhaps more cynical felt that small, incremental gains were the only way to get to a state of equality. Anthony was focused on the right to vote, thinking women could become a powerful voting group and make these other reforms happen over time. Victoria wanted everything immediately, for she knew that there would be male politicians that women would not cross the street to vote for.

And while she was the first woman to run for President, she was also the first presidential candidate to spend election night in jail. Her enemies had her arrested on a contrived charge and tried to destroy her.

H: It’s truly incredible what is put in the history books and what doesn’t make the cut!

You have written about a period of social change, is it the time period or the upheaval that drew you to the topic (or both)?

EF: What intrigues me about Reconstruction is that it is analogous to the end of the War of Independence in that our country is in tatters, 600,000 men are lost, the South is destroyed, and the elite have to figure out what America stands for, who we are. We have immigrants coming to our shores, we have the former slaves demanding their rights, and we have women who are dumbfounded that they had to hold society together while their men were at war, but they are not considered worthy of the vote. It is a time of second renewal for this country. And yet historians often refer to Reconstruction as a period of “failure” or a time when nothing noteworthy happens. I could not disagree more, Congress passed important amendments during Reconstruction that still affect our lives. Robber barons such as Commodore Vanderbilt were remaking this country with new industries and great wealth. And minorities, women, African-Americans, and immigrants were finding their voice and beginning the discussion of equal rights that we are still having today.

H: I feel that Reconstruction is frequently overshadowed by all of the post war negativity – that’s what I was always taught in school. The end of war times are always fascinating because you are looking at what resulted from that war, the winners and the losers.

The Renegade Queen features a love story between Victoria Woodhull and James Blood.  Would you describe this book as a historical romance with the emphasis on the love story or more of a historical novel that includes romance elements?

EF: The love and support of James is integral to Victoria’s life, she simply could not have fought the battles she did without him taking care of her children and other business interests while she was away. In terms of the novel, I would say that I see the romance as being the secondary storyline that is woven throughout the story with Victoria’s struggles for equality being the primary storyline.

H: I’m more and more intrigued by this story! A great story that isn’t told and some excellent characters.

Is The Renegade Queen intended to be part of a forthcoming series or will it be a standalone book?  If a series, what can we expect?

EF: Yes, this is a series. The next one will be about Victoria’s life in England where she is still active and fighting for her causes, but she also struggles with who she is. Is she who she thinks she is or what other people say? And what matters in terms of identity? In England, as you can imagine, people were very concerned about her family and lineage and she has to find a way to fit into society despite the fact that her lineage is nothing but horse thieves.

The series will focus on characters during the Reconstruction. I plan to also write more about Susan B. Anthony as well as Benjamin Butler and George Francis Train who are all in this book.

H: I look forward to learning more about this time period from the rest of this series.

Why the title The Renegade Queen

EF: Victoria led the charge against the status quo and was often referred to as a “queen” in the newspapers. She also compared herself often (and somewhat hilariously) to Queen Victoria who was ruling England. I shied away from using the word “rebel” because of its Civil War connotations.

H: Oh, man, I’m trying to picture her comparing herself to Queen Victoria!

Did you do a lot of research before writing this book?  What type of research?

Yes, I spent an extraordinary time researching the personalities and the time period, and I loved it. I was so moved by every character’s story that I want to write a novel on each of them!

In addition to the excellent biographies of Victoria Woodhull, Commodore Vanderbilt, Karl Marx, Susan B. Anthony, Benjamin Butler, and Henry Ward Beecher that I read, I also read primary sources; newspapers from the time period, Victoria’s speeches, Victoria’s newspaper articles that she wrote, and Tennessee’s speeches. I also consulted court transcripts of various proceedings that involved Victoria. In addition, I read interviews with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and other contemporaries of Victoria.

H: It’s awesome to have access to first-hand accounts and her speeches and court documents. That adds such a “real” layer to the novel.

For those who have not read your work, how would you describe your writing style?

EF: For this novel I chose a first-person conversational style for a few reasons. I chose first person because I wanted the readers to experience Victoria’s life as she did and from her point of view. She was vilified during her lifetime and some biographers are less than kind, and I wanted to give her a voice. I made the novel conversational because the time and cadence of speech is so removed from our own that I wanted the historically accurate language to flow well and be easy to grasp.

Elmore Leonard once said that a writer must leave out the boring parts, and one of my biggest challenges with this book was what to leave out. Through my research I found so many fascinating stories that I was tempted to cram them all in, but I held myself back. I tried to keep the pace up-tempo so people would finish the book!

H: I love that you wanted to keep the reader truly into the feel of the period through the language and style. It helps to immerse the reader in the whole experience.

When you are not reading for research, what type of books or what authors do you enjoy reading?

EF: I read a wide variety of books. I enjoy biographies and non-fiction. In fiction, Barbara Kingsolver is one of my favorite authors. Elmore Leonard is incredible in terms of his pace and dialogue. I also read older authors/classic authors. I enjoy C.S. Lewis and Jane Austen. If I need something to lift my spirits then I look to Anne Lamott or David Sedaris.

H: I have enjoyed the style of Elmore Leonard too, his books are excellent.

Have you had any struggles in the writing/publishing process?  How have you worked through these?  Any words of wisdom for aspiring authors?

EF: My biggest struggle is finding the time to write. I own my own business and have two young boys so my days are very full. I find myself getting up at 4 am to find the time to write, but this quiet time before anyone is asking for anything is the best time of the day. Without the quiet writing time, I’m sure I would be insane! I would just tell readers to persevere even in the face of rejection or struggles. I would also say not to feel pressured to publish on anyone else’s timetable. Your art cannot be rushed and your voice deserves to be heard.

H: I can’t even imagine the struggle to find time to write! I think those are some excellent recommendations. Thank you Eva for stopping by today, I have learned so much about something I knew absolutely nothing about!

Eva was raised on bedtime stories of feminists (the tooth fairy even brought Susan B. Anthony dollars) and daytime lessons on American politics. On one fateful day years ago when knowledge was found on bound paper, she discovered two paragraphs about Victoria Woodhull in the WXYZ volume of the World Book Encyclopedia. When she realized that neither of her brilliant parents (a conservative political science professor and a liberal feminist) had never heard of her, it was the beginning of a lifelong fascination not only with Victoria Woodhull but in discovering the stories that the history books do not tell. Brave battles fought, new worlds sought, loves lost all in the name of some future glory have led her to spend years researching the period of Reconstruction. Her first book, The Renegade Queen , explores the forgotten trailblazer Victoria Woodhull and her rivalry with Susan B. Anthony.

Eva was born and raised in Tennessee, earned her B.A. in Political Science from DePauw in Greencastle, Indiana and still lives in Indiana. Eva enjoys reading, classic movies, and travelling. She loves to hear from readers, you may reach her at eva[at]rebellioustimes[dot]com

Find Eva Flynn: Goodreads | Twitter | Website

Book Blurb:
Two Renegades So Controversial, They Were Erased From History

Discarded by society, she led a social revolution. Disgusted by war, he sought a new world.

She was the first women to run for President, campaigning before women could vote.

He was the Hero of Vicksburg, disillusioned with the government after witnessing the devastating carnage of the Civil War.

Their social revolution attracted the unwanted who were left out of the new wealth: the freed slaves, the new immigrants, and women.

Who were they?

This is the true story of Victoria Woodhull and the love of her life, James Blood.

Adored by the poor, hated by the powerful, forced into hiding during their lifetimes and erased from history after death, the legend of their love lives on.

It’s 1869 and Victoria has a choice to make. She can stay in an abusive marriage and continue to work as a psychic, or she can take the offer of support from handsome Civil War general James Blood and set about to turn society upside down. Victoria chooses revolution.

But revolutions are expensive, and Victoria needs money. James introduces Victoria to one of the wealthiest man in America—Commodore Vanderbilt. Along with her loose and scandalous sister, Tennessee, Victoria manipulates Vanderbilt and together they conspire to crash the stock market—and profit from it. Victoria then parlays her fortune into the first female-owned brokerage firm.

When her idol Susan B. Anthony publishes scandalous rumors about Victoria’s past, Victoria enters into a fierce rivalry with Susan to control the women’s movement. James supports Victoria’s efforts despite his deep fears that she may lose more than the battle. She might lose part of herself.

Victoria starts her own newspaper, testifies to Congress, and even announces her candidacy for President. But when Victoria adopts James’s radical ideas and free love beliefs, she ignites new, bruising, battles with Susan B. Anthony and the powerful Reverend Henry Beecher. These skirmishes turn into an all-out war, with Victoria facing prejudice, prosecution, and imprisonment. Ultimately, Victoria and James face the hardest choice of all: the choice between their country and their love.

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

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Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court