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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Book Review: The Vatican Princess by C.W. Gortner

The Vatican Princess by C.W. Gortner
Hardcover, 400 Pages
Ballantine Books
February 9, 2016
★★★★ ½☆

Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Received from the publisher for review with HFVBT blog tours
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.
I can never say enough about the novels that C.W. Gortner writes, I have absolutely LOVED each and every one of them I have read so far, and that includes The Vatican Princess. I do not have as much experience with the Borgias as I do with say, the Tudors, but Gortner does such a fabulous job of creating characters that I did not feel like I was missing anything by coming into this book with relatively little knowledge.

Gortner brings the intrigue of the Borgia world to life as seen through the eyes of a young Lucrezia. Throughout the novel she matures through her teen years into her young 20s and grows in her understanding of the intrigue that is Borgia. She starts off naïve, but learns a lot over time. As has become his signature, Gortner presents a more sympathetic Lucrezia; she is certainly not the scheming, poisoning, woman that is frequently portrayed in novels and television. There were times that I was angry with her, sad for her, and loved with her.

I think it was a smart choice to tell the Borgia story through her eyes; you can definitely find sympathy for her and grow with her throughout the story. While some have taken issue with the choice to only showcase less than a decade of Lucrezia’s life, I think it shows the most compelling period of her life. If it had continued through her later life it probably would have suffered from a loss of excitement during the later years. I think that sometimes authors feel compelled to tell the complete story of their focal characters and it was a refreshing choice here.

While Lucrezia is Gortner’s main character, her brother, Cesare, and father, Roderigo (AKA Pope Alexander VI) get their fair share of page time. Cesare is a man that I grew to love and hate – he was passionate and driven and did everything for his family and mission, even when those choices were reprehensible. For Lucrezia, Roderigo is her father regardless that he is the Holy Father and she finds that he is not quite the man she thought he was. Whereas she early on truly sees what Cesare is capable of and chooses how to deal with that, she constantly gives her father benefit of the doubt and is more blind to his faults which creates interesting decision making for her.

The world crafting that Gortner does in this novel is absolutely palpable. There are colors, sounds, textures, and sensations that leap off the page and embed you in Renaissance Rome or wherever else the travels take you.

As always, I highly recommend this novel and would read anything this author releases be it the Renaissance or twentieth century! Give me more!

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

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

Also by CW Gortner:
The Last Queen

The Confessions of Catherine de Medici
My Review

The Queen’s Vow
My Review

Mademoiselle Chanel
My Review

The Tudor Secret (Book 1)
My Review

The Tudor Conspiracy (Book 2)
My Review

The Tudor Vendetta (Book 3)
My Review

Find C.W. Gortner: Blog | Website | Facebook | Twitter |Goodreads | Pinterest | Youtube | Newsletter

Follow the Tour:

The tour might be over, but you can still check out the posts that were hosted during it.

HFVBT Website
On Twitter: #TheVaticanPrincessBlogTour  #HistoricalFiction  #LucreziaBorgia  #Italy

Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Interview with Janet Oakley

Good morning everyone!  Today I have the opportunity to introduce you to Janet Oakley (J. L. Oakley), author of Timber Rose, a recipient of the BRAG Medallion.  Her book is on such an interesting subject, I hope you will love it too!

Heather: Hi Janet! Welcome to The Maiden’s Court.  I’m happy to have you stop by today and share with us more about your book, Timber Rose.   Can you first tell me how you discovered indieBRAG and what being awarded the B.R.A.G. Medallion has meant to you?  

Janet Oakley: I first heard of IndieBRAG through social media. At this point, I don't remember which group or friend who knew about it, but I'm always looking for ways to get my novels known. And I wanted Timber Rose to get known. I decided to submit and was very pleased that Timber Rose was accepted. 

Having the  B.R.A.G. Medallion means a lot to me. In this crazy world of publishing, with so many books out there, having the seal on the book at my local bookstore or at book fairs shows that it has been vetted as a good read. I can also point to the URL where Timer Rose is listed as an IndieBRAG Medallion recipient in any social media or on my webpage.

H: Could you tell our readers a little bit about your book, Timber Rose, to whet their appetite?

JO: Timber Rose is set in the Pacific Northwest at the turn of the 20th century. This was a time of the progressive movement, the move to protect the forests through the new Forest Service, women going for the vote (WA state women got that in 1910) and pressure from large logging companies to take it all. 

Here's part of the back copy:

1907. Women climbing mountains in skirts. Loggers fighting for the eight hour day. The forests and mountains of the North Cascades are alive with  progress, but not everyone is on board.

Caroline Symington comes from a prominent family in Portland, Oregon. Much to her family’s dismay, she’s more interested in hiking outdoors and exploring the freedoms of a 1907’s New Woman than fancy parties and money. She plans to marry on her own terms, not her parent's. When she falls in love with Bob Alford, an enterprising working-class man who loves the outdoors as much as she, little does she know how sorely her theories will be tested. Betrayed by her jealous sister, Caroline elopes, a decision that causes her father to disown her.

The young couple moves to a rugged village in the North Cascade Mountains where Caroline begins a new life as the wife of a forest ranger. Though she loves her life in the mountains as a wife and mother, her isolation and the loss of her family is a challenge. As she searches for meaning among nature, she’s ushered along by a group of like-minded women and a mysterious, mountain man with a tragic past.

When her uncle and her sister's ruthless ex-husband muscle their way into the national forest, threatening the nature she loves, and more importantly, the man she loves, knows she must take a stand.  

H: Timber Rose, focuses on subjects such as the timber industry, the fledgling forest ranger program, and the Gilded Age – not subjects that we see together all that often.  How did you come up with this subject and idea?

JO: It actually came about in a interesting way. A friend of mine in museum work shared a book she got as a gag for her wedding: What Every Young Wife Ought to Know. Published in 1906, it had the most useless information. Nothing about the wedding night. Then she showed the companion book published in 1908, What Every Young Husband Ought to Know. Chapters included the wedding night and the warning not to rape your wife. There was also a chapter on abortion. And the book was written by a minister. Incredible. This contrast made me wonder what it was like to a be a married couple in this time period. I had already written about my little mountain community in Tree Soldier. I chose some characters from that and told their story.

But, of course, historical fiction always leads to interesting places. Reading the newspapers, I saw that  union activities in the logging camps were hot topics, as well as the creation of the Forest Service in 1905. I was surprised at the influence of mountaineering clubs on the creation of national parks in Washington State and the middle class women who embraced the challenge of hiking and climbing in skirts. As Caroline's story as wife, mountaineer, and member of her new world was fleshed out, so did the research shape the times. One character I'm especially fond of his Micha Thompson, who represents the pioneering past: his father was a Scots geologist, his mother Metis and Hawaiian.

H: Oh wow!  What a different experience newly married men and women must have had at the turn of the 20th century!!!  I love learning little tidbits like that.

The main character of Timber Rose is Caroline Symington.  Do you see yourself in this character at all?  Are any of your characters inspired by people you know? (I know this can sometimes be a tricky question!! Haha).

JO: Caroline Symington is from my imagination, but there are some elements in the story that come from my life experiences as I did hike mountains when I was younger and have tent camped from a very young age to now (albeit an 1860 tent at a national park). Bob Alford is certainly closer to my late husband, Rolf. His father was a Swedish immigrant from the 1920s. Rolf loved the outdoors, especially steelhead fishing. He was jealous when I interviewed Ralph Wahl, a storied fisherman who invented winter fishing in the cold Skagit River. The two of us with our three sons fished, hiked and camped all over Washington State, some in wild places on the Olympic Coast. 

H: While the North Cascade Mountains may not be as glamorous a location as Paris or some other far flung location, have you had the opportunity to enjoy/explore the setting of your novel?  Do you enjoy hiking or communing with nature?

JO: I have been camping in a tent since I was very young. Both of my parents were Northwesterners and I knew their stories too of camping in the wilderness. I have explored the area around the real setting of Frazier in Timber Rose. It was the jumping off point for mountaineers going up to climb the white headed, 10,781 foot Mount Baker (Kulshan in the novel, but that is actually its original Indian name). It's a very rugged area filled with rushing creeks and thick forests as it stretches up the mountain's flanks. Known more for mining and logging, the arrival of the mountaineering clubs in 1905 changed the way people viewed the area.

H:  I'm going to have to find out more about these mountaineering clubs, they sound interesting.

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

JO: Well, I hope it is a storytelling style that moves quickly where needed, but also sets the historical scene where my characters live and breathe.

H: What drew you towards independent publishing as opposed to seeking out a traditional publisher?  Has there been anything that was more or less challenging that you expected?  Would you do it again?

JO: After many years of pitching and querying agents, making the finals in lit contests and getting full reads, I finally decided to find out what indie publishing was all about. Tree Soldier was the test and after it went to win some national awards and get picked up as an Everybody Reads library event, I decided to do it again with Timber Rose. In additional to the IndieBRAG medallion, it was 2015 WILA award finalist, a very prestigious award, so I think my instincts were right. Don't sit around. Do what is best for your book. I have had memoir essays traditionally published and I did continue to pitch and get full reads as recently as last summer for my next novel, The Jossing Affair

Indie publishing is hard work, but for me very rewarding. You do have to do your own marketing, but traditionally pubbed writers now have to do that too. And there are technical issues in formatting and getting edited. I do have professionals do that for me now, though I have always had my books edited. Indie authors are a lively and informed group. I've enjoyed the company of some amazing writers this past week who were indie and traditionally pubbed. Very stimulating. For my novels, it's the way to go.

H: I love hearing those success stories of authors who have been able to find what they are looking for through indie publishing.  For our readers, any words of wisdom for aspiring authors?

JO: Write every day, even if for 15-20 minutes. Write a scene. I wrote my first novel while standing in line at the bank on the back of an envelope.  Join a critique group, but look for one that gives back positive feedback. If your local bookstore has visiting authors, go to their readings. Submit to contests that provide feedback. I appreciate the Pacific Northwest Writers for doing that. I entered many times, became a finalist a couple of times, but always got back two critiques that were very helpful. Most of all, never give up. Writing is a passion. In today's environment, it's a business too, so pay attention to that. (Get professional editing) But never give up.

H: Excellent suggestions!  Thank you for coming by today Janet! 

Janet Oakley is an award winning author of memoir essays and novels. Her work appears in various magazines, anthologies, and other media including the Cup of Comfort series and Historylink, the on-line encyclopedia of Washington State history.  She writes social studies curricula for schools and historical organizations, demonstrates 19th century folkways, and was for many years the curator of education at a small county museum in La Conner, WA.  Her historical novels, The Tree Soldier set in 1930s Pacific NW and The Jossing Affair set in WW II Norway were PNWA Literary Contest finalists.  Tree Soldier went on to win the 2013 EPIC ebook award for historical fiction and grand prize for Chanticleer Book Reviews Lit Contest.

She writes both non-fiction and fiction, applying her research skills to both types of writing.  In 2006 she was the manager of a History Channel grant, researching old court cases in early Washington Territory.

She especially enjoys the hunt in old newspapers, court cases, and other delights in archives around the country.  The history of the Pacific Northwest is rich and not as well known in the rest of the country beyond Lewis and Clark’s passage through, yet crucial happenings took place here that influenced the formation of United State of America.  In December 2012, an article on a  19th century bark that was a part of the coastal trade between Puget’s Sound and San Francisco was published the prestigious Sea Chest.

Find Janet Oakley: Website | Blog | Facebook

Book Blurb:
1907. Women climbing mountains in skirts. Loggers fighting for the eight hour day. The forests and mountains of the North Cascades are alive with progress, but not everyone is on board. Caroline Symington comes from a prominent family in Portland, Oregon. Much to her family's dismay, she's more interested in hiking outdoors and exploring the freedoms of a 1907's New Woman than fancy parties and money. She plans to marry on her own terms, not her parents. When she falls in love with Bob Alford, an enterprising working-class man who loves the outdoors as much as she, little does she know how sorely her theories will be tested. Betrayed by her jealous sister, Caroline elopes, a decision that causes her father to disown her. The young couple moves to a rugged village in the North Cascade Mountains where Caroline begins a new life as the wife of a forest ranger. Though she loves her life in the mountains as a wife and mother, her isolation and the loss of her family is a challenge. As she searches for meaning among nature, she's ushered along by a group of like-minded women and a mysterious, mountain man with a tragic past.
Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | RJ Julia

A Message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Heather has chosen to interview Janet Oakley who is the author of, Timber Rose, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. MedallionTM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Timber Rose, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.


Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, March 28, 2016

Book Review: Auschwitz by Laurence Rees

Auschwitz: A New History by Laurence Rees
AKA: Auschwitz: The Nazis and the “Final Solution”
E-Book, Kindle, 368 pages
January 2, 2005

Genre: Non-Fiction

Source: Purchased for Masters Class
Auschwitz-Birkenau is the site of the largest mass murder in human history. Yet its story is not fully known. In Auschwitz, Laurence Rees reveals new insights from more than 100 original interviews with Auschwitz survivors and Nazi perpetrators who speak on the record for the first time. Their testimonies provide a portrait of the inner workings of the camp in unrivalled detail—from the techniques of mass murder, to the politics and gossip mill that turned between guards and prisoners, to the on-camp brothel in which the lines between those guards and prisoners became surprisingly blurred.
Rees examines the strategic decisions that led the Nazi leadership to prescribe Auschwitz as its primary site for the extinction of Europe's Jews—their "Final Solution." He concludes that many of the horrors that were perpetrated in Auschwitz were driven not just by ideological inevitability but as a "practical" response to a war in the East that had begun to go wrong for Germany. A terrible immoral pragmatism characterizes many of the decisions that determined what happened at Auschwitz. Thus the story of the camp becomes a morality tale, too, in which evil is shown to proceed in a series of deft, almost noiseless incremental steps until it produces the overwhelming horror of the industrial scale slaughter that was inflicted in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.
This is a very different take on the oft written account of the Holocaust and Nazi movement. The events that transpired over the course of the war are viewed from the perspective of the camp at Auschwitz and how it grew, transformed, and evolved based on the plans and needs of the party. It was a reflection of the greater movement. One of the things that I appreciated about this book was that so much of it is based on interviews that the author personally conducted with people who lived through the Holocaust. There are quotes and narrative segments interspersed with the discussion from the author that lend an “on the ground” feel to the text. While it isn’t a narrative text, it certainly flows differently than your standard non-fiction. This book would not serve well as a standalone text if the reader did not already have at least a basic understanding of these events of World War II, however I think that it serves as a great supplemental text for those looking to expand their experience and understanding.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

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

A well-made, 6-part BBC documentary was made based on this book, and is a fascinating film, if you would rather watch than read:

Also by Laurence Rees:

Hitler’s Charisma: Leading Millions into the Abyss

Horror in the East: Japan and the Atrocities of World War 2

World War II Behind Closed Doors: Stalin, the Nazis and the West

Find Laurence Rees: Website


Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Friday, March 18, 2016

Wish List 5: Gilded Age Non-Fiction

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 non-fiction books about the Gilded Age.

Gilded: How Newport Became America's Richest Resort by Deborah Davis

A beautifully written history of high society in Newport, Rhode Island, from the acclaimed author of Party of the Century.

Newport is the legendary and beautiful home of American aristocracy and the sheltered super-rich. Many of the country's most famous blueblood families, the closest thing we have to royalty, have lived and summered in Newport since the nineteenth century. The Astors, the Vanderbilts, Edith Wharton, JFK and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Doris Duke, and Claus and Sunny von Bulow are just a few of the many names who have called the city home. Gilded takes you along as you explore the fascinating heritage of the Newport elite, from its first colonists to the newest of its new millennium millionaires, showing the evolution of a town intent on living in its own world. Through a narrative filled with engrossing characters and lively tales of untold extravagance, Davis brings the resort to life and uncovers the difference between rich and Newport rich along the way.

An engrossing multigenerational saga that tells the real story of the rich and famous in Newport.  34 evocative black-and-white photographs.
Written with insight and dramatic flair, Gilded gives you a rare peek into the cloistered coastal playground of America's moneyed elite.

Consuelo and Alva Vanderbilt: The Story of a Mother and Daughter in the “Gilded Age” by Amanda Mackenzie Stuart

When Consuelo Vanderbilt's grandfather died, he was the richest man in America. Her father soon started to spend the family fortune, enthusiastically supported by Consuelo's mother, Alva, who was determined to take the family to the top of New York society—forcing a heartbroken Consuelo into a marriage she did not want with the underfunded Duke of Marlborough. But the story of Consuelo and Alva is more than a tale of enterprising social ambition, Gilded Age glamour, and the emptiness of wealth. It is a fascinating account of two extraordinary women who struggled to break free from the world into which they were born—a world of materialistic concerns and shallow elitism in which females were voiceless and powerless—and of their lifelong dedication to noble and dangerous causes and the battle for women's rights.

Rogues and Heroes of Newport's Gilded Age by Ed Morris

Newport, Rhode Island, was the summer playground of the Gilded Age for the Astors, Belmonts and Vanderbilts. They built lavish villas designed by the best Beaux Arts-style architects of the time, including Richard Morris Hunt, Charles McKim and Robert Swain Peabody. America's elite delighted in referring to these grand retreats as "summer cottages," where they would play tennis and polo and sail their yachts along the shores of the Ocean State. The coachman had an important role as the discreet outdoor butler for Gilded Age gentlemen--not only was he in charge of the horses, but he also acted as a travel advisor and connoisseur of entertainment venues. From the driver's seat, author and guide Edward Morris provides a diverse collection of biographical sketches that reveal the outrageous and opulent lives of some of America's leading entrepreneurs.

Rose: My Life in Service to Lady Astor by Rosina Harrison

In 1928, Rosina Harrison arrived at the illustrious household of the Astor family to take up her new position as personal maid to the infamously temperamental Lady Nancy Astor, who sat in Parliament, entertained royalty, and traveled the world. "She's not a lady as you would understand a lady" was the butler's ominous warning. But what no one expected was that the iron-willed Lady Astor was about to meet her match in the no-nonsense, whip-smart girl from the country.

For 35 years, from the parties thrown for royalty and trips across the globe, to the air raids during WWII, Rose was by Lady Astor's side and behind the scenes, keeping everything running smoothly. In charge of everything from the clothes and furs to the baggage to the priceless diamond "sparklers," Rose was closer to Lady Astor than anyone else. In her decades of service she received one 5 raise, but she traveled the world in style and retired with a lifetime's worth of stories. Like Gosford Park and Downton Abbey, Rose is a captivating insight into the great wealth 'upstairs' and the endless work 'downstairs', but it is also the story of an unlikely decades-long friendship that grew between Her Ladyship and her spirited Yorkshire maid.

When the Astors Owned New York: Blue Bloods & Grand Hotels in a Gilded Age by Justin Kaplan

This newest book by Pulitzer Prize winner Justin Kaplan is a sparkling combination of biography, social history, architectural appreciation, and pure pleasure.

Endowed with the largest private fortunes of their day, two heirs of arch-capitalist John Jacob Astor battled with each other for social primacy. William Waldorf Astor (born 1848) and his cousin John Jacob Astor IV (born 1864) led incomparably privileged lives in the blaze of public attention. Novelist, sportsman, and inventor, John Jacob went down with the Titanic, after turbulent marital adventures and service in the Spanish-American War. Collector of art, antiquities, and stately homes, William Waldorf became a British subject and acquired the title of Viscount Astor.

In New York during the 1890s and after, the two feuding Astors built monumental grand hotels, chief among them the original Waldorf-Astoria on lower Fifth Avenue. The Astor hotels transformed social behavior. Home of the chafing dish and the velvet rope, the Waldorf-Astoria drew the rich, famous, and fashionable. It was the setting for the most notorious society event of the era—a costume extravaganza put on by its hosts during a time of widespread need and unemployment. The celebrity-packed lobbies, public rooms, lavish suites, and exclusive restaurants of the grand hotels became distinctive theaters of modern life.


Have you read any of these? Any other books you would add to this list?

Here are some of the wishlists from a few of my friends this month:

Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Two Sides to Every Story: Church Reformers Supporting Edward vs. Mercians, featuring Earl Aelfhere, Supporting Aethelred

Today I have the first post in my renewed Two Sides to Every Story series and it kicks off with a guest post that has been written by author Annie Whitehead.  I'm excited to share this with you all as Annie has presented this topic in such a creative way!

Church Reformers Supporting Edward vs. Mercians, featuring Earl Aelfhere, Supporting Aethelred

Here is a bit to set the scene for you: In the middle of the 10th century, there was a lull in the Viking attacks which had vexed Alfred the Great and were later to plague Aethelred the Unready. Aethelred's father, Edgar, ruled in a time of peace and stability, which had the unfortunate side-effect of allowing court politics and scheming to come to the fore. When Edgar died, both his sons were boys, and the court factions divided over who should rule. A state of near civil war broke out, with the Church reformers championing the elder of the boys, Edward, whilst the Mercians, led by Earl Aelfhere, who'd seen their land destroyed by those reformers, supported Aethelred. Edward's reign was marred not only by this in-fighting, but by famine. And his short reign came to an abrupt end on March 18th, AD978, at the home of his step-mother. Here we imagine the court-room scene which might have followed:

“You stand accused of regicide and destroying monasteries. How do you plead?”

“Not guilty. And you, Archbishop, have no right to try us.”

“Members of the 21st Century jury, here are the facts: Queen Aelfthryth, widow of the late king, conspired to kill her stepson, King Edward, on 18th March, in the year of our Lord, 978. The charge is that she lured the king to her residence at Corfe, where she instructed her retainer to deliver the mortal blow to the king’s person, and arranged for the body to be hidden, claiming the crown for her own son, Aethelred. In this she was aided by the earl of Mercia, Aelfhere, who will come to be known to future historians as ‘The mad blast from the western territories.’ Members of the jury should also know that I, Dunstan of Canterbury, and my fellow monastic reformers, Athelwold and Oswald, will be so revered that we will be declared Saints.
The Life of Dunstan
Photo Credit: The British Library Board
I present exhibit A, a letter from Archbishop Oswald:
My Lords,
Hear my testimony. I was a poor monk from the continent when I came to help with the reform of the monasteries, which were left in a sorry  state after the Vikings had been and gone. It was ever my intention to rebuild, and reform, and for this I needed land. The late King Edgar granted me such, and Earl Aelfhere was envious. He ransacked the monasteries, he put the monks out on the street, he is irreligious. The Queen wished only to see her own son upon the throne, and will be known to history as a murderess. You must convict them.
‘Just as I, Dunstan, will have a book written about me, so will a monk at Ramsey write the Life of St Oswald, praising him. It is the clerks of the Church who write the histories. So you have no documentary evidence to help your case, do you, Earl Aelfhere?”

“But I do. And I, Queen Aelfthryth, present exhibit B, the Regularis Concordia. Written by your fellow reformer, it is a document which pronounces me Lady and Defender of all nuns. Would such a woman countenance murder? I will go on to be regent during the early years of Aethelred’s reign. My grandson will cite me as having brought him up and will mention me in his will.”
Regularis Concordia
Photo Credit: The British Library Board
“And I will have my say, now, Archbishop. Yes, I am the ‘Mad Blast' from Mercia. And many Mercians rallied behind me when the Church evicted the secular clerks and tried to turn all the cathedrals into monasteries. But I am not irreligious. It is documented that I was a generous benefactor to Glastonbury Abbey, and when I die, I will be buried there with all due ceremony. The only monasteries I attacked were the ones which Oswald built on my land. Oswald holds both an archbishopric and a bishopric which is not legal. Future historians will discover how, at Ramsey Abbey, during a time of famine, he feasted royally, while outside, people were starving. King Edward was an angry, callow young man who had no right to the throne. The queen’s son, Aethelred, is the rightful heir, born of both a king and a consecrated queen. The retainer thought that his lady was in danger and sought only to defend the queen. If murder was done, why did we delay Aethelred’s coronation? If I am irreligious, why did I move the bones of Edward, now known as The Martyr, and rebury him with all honours? The monk who will go on to write the Life of St Oswald,  the same monk who named me the ‘Mad Blast’, will also tell of my part in Edward’s reburial and call me ‘That Glorious Earl.’ And you have already admitted his evidence.

‘So, Members of the 21st Century jury, it’s up to you to decide. Are we guilty?” 

Annie Whitehead is a history graduate who now works as an Early Years music teacher. Her first novel, To Be A Queen, is the story of Aethelflaed, daughter of Alfred the Great, who came to be known as the Lady of the Mercians. It was long-listed for the Historical Novel Society’s Indie Book of the Year 2016. Her new release, Alvar the Kingmaker, which tells the story of Aelfhere of Mercia, available now. She is currently working on the novel which was a prize-winning entry in the Mail on Sunday Novel Writing competition and which she was encouraged by judge Fay Weldon to complete.  You can find Annie Whitehead on Facebook, her  Blog, author Amazon UK Page, and author Amazon US Page.

Buy the Books on Amazon: To Be A Queen | Alvar the Kingmaker

Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

New Book Alert: America's First Daughter, Excerpt, & Tour Giveaway!

Good morning everyone!  What was supposed to be a review today has turned into a spotlight and excerpt due to some unexpected family illness - review will come later, but so far I have read a fabulous 10 pages!  So, if you haven't already, check out America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie!

We are absolutely thrilled to bring you the Blog Tour for Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie’s America's First Daughter, a historical fiction novel is published by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins, and releasing March 1, 2016! AMERICA’S FIRST DAUGHTER is a compelling, richly researched novel by bestselling authors Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie. Drawing from thousands of letters and original sources, the authors reveal the fascinating, untold story of Martha “Patsy” Jefferson Randolph, Thomas Jefferson’s eldest daughter. Patsy was one of the most influential women in American history: not only the progeny of a founding father – and the woman who held his secrets close to her heart – but a key player in the shaping of our nation’s legacy. And her story is one seldom told, until now. Make sure you grab your copy today!

America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie
Paperback & Ebook, 624 pages
William Morrow Paperbacks
Published: March 1, 2016
ISBN: 0062347268
Genre: Historical Fiction

Book Blurb:
In a compelling, richly researched novel that draws from thousands of letters and original sources, bestselling authors Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie tell the fascinating, untold story of Thomas Jefferson’s eldest daughter, Martha “Patsy” Jefferson Randolph—a woman who kept the secrets of our most enigmatic founding father and shaped an American legacy. 
From her earliest days, Patsy Jefferson knows that though her father loves his family dearly, his devotion to his country runs deeper still. As Thomas Jefferson’s oldest daughter, she becomes his helpmate, protector, and constant companion in the wake of her mother’s death, traveling with him when he becomes American minister to France. 
It is in Paris, at the glittering court and among the first tumultuous days of revolution, that fifteen-year-old Patsy learns about her father’s troubling liaison with Sally Hemings, a slave girl her own age. Meanwhile, Patsy has fallen in love—with her father’s protégé William Short, a staunch abolitionist and ambitious diplomat. Torn between love, principles, and the bonds of family, Patsy questions whether she can choose a life as William’s wife and still be a devoted daughter. 
Her choice will follow her in the years to come, to Virginia farmland, Monticello, and even the White House. And as scandal, tragedy, and poverty threaten her family, Patsy must decide how much she will sacrifice to protect her father's reputation, in the process defining not just his political legacy, but that of the nation he founded.
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Praise for America's First Daughter:

Meet the Authors:

STEPHANIE DRAY is an award-winning, bestselling and two-time RITA award nominated author of historical women’s fiction. Her critically acclaimed series about Cleopatra’s daughter has been translated into eight different languages and won NJRW's Golden Leaf. As Stephanie Draven, she is a national bestselling author of genre fiction and American-set historical women's fiction. She is a frequent panelist and presenter at national writing conventions and lives near the nation's capital. Before she became a novelist, she was a lawyer, a game designer, and a teacher. Now she uses the stories of women in history to inspire the young women of today.

Find Stephanie Dray: Website | Newsletter | Facebook | Twitter | America's First Daughter Website

LAURA KAMOIE has always been fascinated by the people, stories, and physical presence of the past, which led her to a lifetime of historical and archaeological study and training. She holds a doctoral degree in early American history from The College of William and Mary, published two non-fiction books on early America, and most recently held the position of Associate Professor of History at the U.S. Naval Academy before transitioning to a full-time career writing genre fiction as the New York Times bestselling author of over twenty books, Laura Kaye. Her debut historical novel, America's First Daughter, co-authored with Stephanie Dray, allowed her the exciting opportunity to combine her love of history with her passion for storytelling. Laura lives among the colonial charm of Annapolis, Maryland with her husband and two daughters.

Find Laura Kamoie: Website | Newsletter | Facebook | Twitter | America's First Daughter Website

Get to know, Patsy Jefferson a bit more with this excerpt from the novel!

Have to Marry Well
Papa’s debts were such that he had to sell our mother’s favorite plantation—Elk Hill. He’d been forced to sell land. Land, which meant everything to a Virginia planter. Everything to him. And I understood that in his perilous financial situation, the only asset I had to contribute was myself.

I’d have to marry, and I’d have to marry well.

Given that my heart was already shattered to pieces, love need be of no consideration in my decision to marry. Sally’s words from that day in the foyer at the Hotel de Langeac played back to me. Women have to give hard thought to the men we’ll wind up with. . . . Her words held a relevance now that I couldn’t have known then, and it made me all the more regretful for the way

I’d treated her.

So, yes, let my choice of husband be a wealthy man, but also a kind one. A country neighbor and friend. Someone with whom my family shared a history.

If I was to marry, why not Tom Randolph?

I could never hope for a man to see me the way William had, but Tom wanted me. And that would have to be enough. I saw no reason to delay.

William and I had parted in September. It was now January of a new year, and he’d still not written to my father or me. William had waited two years before declaring that he’d wait no more. I doubted the young Mr. Randolph would wait that long. And if we didn’t marry soon, my father wouldn’t be there for the wedding, because William’s predictions had proved to be true—President Washington had, indeed, named my father secretary of state. And Papa’s friends, like Mr. Madison, convinced him that it was an honor he couldn’t refuse.

None of us would return to France. Instead, my father would ride off to the new capital to serve in the president’s cabinet before springtime and would send me and Polly to live at Eppington, where we’d learn housewifery from Aunt Elizabeth.

Or . . . I could marry now and be my own mistress. So, I accepted Tom’s proposal, and the wedding was planned a few weeks hence.

Tom never smiled at my answer. Instead, standing beneath the pillars of my father’s neglected house, he took my hands and crushed them to his chest so I might feel the throbbing pulse beneath my fingers to prove his happiness. “My heart is yours, Patsy. It’s racing for you. Galloping with eagerness to make you mine.”

I might’ve hesitated, in that moment, if my own heartbeat hadn’t answered in kind. “I’d like to know your plans for our future,” I said.

Tom nodded, his gaze serious. “My father is settling on me a plantation near Tuckahoe called Varina, with forty Negroes. Your father is settling on you his best plantation in Bedford and twenty-five Negroes, little and big.”

Slaves. My father was giving me slaves.

They wouldn’t be mine, of course, not truly. Everything would belong to my husband the moment we wed. Tom would be the slaveholder—not me. And I knew it was considered only right and proper for every genrty bride to be given not only a settlement like this, but also a maid. Usually the girl that had attended her during her youth and courtship. By all the traditions of our country, this was no more than Papa ought to have given me, plus Sally Hemings besides. But there was no question that he’d keep her for himself, just as he’d promised.

And I didn’t know how I should feel about any of it.

The idealism of France was an ocean away. I’d chosen Virginia and a way of life that William had said was stained with evil. I couldn’t pretend I didn’t know what I was returning to. But faced now with it, I found myself more troubled than I ever thought I might be.

Tom must’ve seen the shadow of my conflicted emotions in my expression, but he mistook its cause. “Colonel Randolph intends for us to live at Varina, near Tuckahoe. But you’ve a right to know that isn’t my intention. I hope to buy my father’s holding at Edgehill and settle closer to Monticello. I’d like a small farm that I can manage myself while pursuing an honorable life of public service. I’ve no ambition to gobble up lands that can’t be farmed without an army of slaves. Such a life would weigh on my conscience more heavily than I could bear. Unlike my new brother-in-law, I don’t make wedding toasts to embarrass my hosts about the evils of the institution, but I cannot abide slavery, Miss Jefferson.” He frowned, the ferocity in those dark eyes softening until he seemed shamed. “I should’ve told you this before now. Though I’m violently smitten with you, I should never agree to start a life on a lie. So I consider it entirely pardonable if this revelation changes your mind about marrying me.”

For the first time, I kissed Tom Randolph with something more in my heart than carnal desire. I brought my lips to his with an exquisite tenderness and replied, “With all my heart, Tom, you’ve only made me more certain in my decision.”
Like what you have seen? Enter the giveaway!  As part of the blog tour, there is a tour-wide giveaway for 7 winners who will receive a $10 gift card to Amazon or Barnes & Noble that you can use toward your purchase of America's First Daughter (or anything else)!  Entries will be made through the Rafflecopter below - please follow the rules as put forward in that widget - and Good Luck!!

Follow the Tour!

Follow along with Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie’s AMERICA’S FIRST DAUGHTER Blog Tour with the schedule below or on Twitter @InkSlingerPR, @StephanieHDray or @LauraKayeAuthor

February 29th

What Is That Book About – Guest Post

Only One More Page – Review

A Fortress of Books – Excerpt

For the Love of Books & Alcohol – Review

March 1st

My Girlfriends Nook Korner – Review

Talking Books Blog – Excerpt

Smexy & Fabulous – Excerpt

Ramblings From This Chick – Excerpt

March 2nd

Maari Loves Her Indies – Excerpt

This Wacky Momma Reads – Review

Roxy's Reviews – Excerpt

Brooke Blogs – Excerpt

March 3rd

A Diary of a Book Addict – Review

E-Reading After Midnight – Guest Post

Small Review – Guest Post

March 4th

Sassy Moms Say Read Romance – 2 Reviews

Leeanna.me – Review

Creative Madness Mama – Excerpt

March 5th

A Dream Within A Dream – Guest Post

Chick with Books – Review

Vagabonda Reads – Review

March 6th

Mama Reads Hazel Sleeps – Review

Movies, Shows & Books – Excerpt

Eclectic Ramblings of Author Heather Osborne – Review

I Read Indie – Excerpt

March 7th

No BS Book Reviews – Interview

My fictional escape – Review

Words with Sarah – Review

March 8th

The Maiden's Court – Spotlight & Excerpt

Unabridged Chick – Review

The Book Cellar – Interview

Becky on Books – Review

March 9th

Sofia Loves Books – Review

A Soccer Mom's Book Blog – Review

One Book At A Time – Review

Curling Up by the Fire – Review

March 10th

A Bookish Affair - Interview

Curled Up and Cozy – Review

Into the Hall of Books – Review

Margie's Must Reads – Review

March 11th

Book Talk – Review

JB's Book Obsession – Excerpt

Genre Queen – Review

Leigh Anderson Romance - Interview

Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Friday, March 4, 2016

Romance When You Need It!

Here is something pretty special today - a cute promotion by Harlequin!  Many of you know I don't read a whole lot of romance books (and when I do, they are historical romances!), but there are certainly times when I just feel the need to read a little romance!!  And I have found that I tend to pick up a Harlequin (or one of their imprints) when I'm looking for a romance novel.  So I thought this was a really cool promotion that they have going on.
Whether a reader needs an escape from her hectic day, or has some unexpected time to herself—she can count on Harlequin for romance when she needs it, wherever she is! 
This March, Harlequin kicks off the Romance When You Need It campaign, with the launch of this awesome video:

AND if you sign up for their newsletter, you can get access to download up to 17 free e-book from a selection of their collection!  A great deal if maybe you are looking to try out a romance novel - there are a few historicals, westerns, contemporaries, inspireds.   Here is the link to their newsletter page.  
A few of my favorite (or most anticipated) Harlequin releases:

Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Movie Review: Marie Antoinette (2006)

Marie Antoinette
Columbia Pictures Corporation
123 mins.
October 20, 2006
Rated: PG-13

This was my second time watching this film and the experience was much different this time than the first. The first time I watched it I was viewing it for a women’s art class focusing on the direction choices of Sofia Coppola. I remember being very unhappy with the film and if I wasn’t picking it up again to watch as a part of my Caught on Tape series for Marie Antoinette it would have been a one-time only viewing. However, I am kind of glad that I watched it a second time, I have a new appreciation for it, even if I still don’t love it.

There were some elements that I liked. I was happy to see that they actually included the crossing of the border scene from Austria to France. It was an important scene, but I thought that it was a little underwhelming. I did love the scenes (especially the first one) where Marie is being dressed by her ladies – it showed just how ridiculous some of the French customs were. There were also some great artistic elements that were included in this film such as the presentation of the baby being painted out to allude to its loss, the Madame Deficit series of paintings, and the last shot of the damaged palace. I thought these were well utilized to represent some greater elements that were more or less left out of the film.

And that brings me into what I mostly dislike about the film. I felt that this film left out a lot of references to the greater goings on in France at that time. There is very little indication of the revolts and unrest for the populace of France. This was possibly to show the insulated nature of the court of Versailles, but it lost something for the audience – the impact of the ending, it just felt out of place. I also was not a huge fan of the modern music selections chosen for this film.

With regard to the representations of the characters, I thought that this was an okay representation of Marie Antoinette. She was a little bored, a little frivolous, and a little bit of a woman who stood her ground; however, I didn’t feel that Kristin Dunst was up to the challenge of this complex woman. I was satisfied with Jason Schwartzman’s portrayal of King Louis XVI – this was my favorite representation across the 3 films I have seen. He was equal mix of a little bit awkward, but still a somewhat commanding presence.

Overall, the film was a little boring, but it wasn’t nearly as painful as the first time I watched it.

Check out this trailer:


Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court