I need to bring to light that in 2009 I did not review all of the books I read but I decided that I needed to list my favorites. I have broken it down into two categories older and newer. I needed to do this because some of the older books I have read are like the classics of historical fiction and some of the newer ones are destined to become historical fiction must haves. This year I am proud to say that I completed and enjoyed reading 37 books which averages out to be almost a book a week for the whole year.
Here we go.... and defiantly not in any particular order.
Pope Joan By Donna Woolfolk Cross
"As its title reveals, the novel is based on the life of one of the most fascinating, extraordinary women in Western history--Pope Joan, a controversial figure of historical record who, disguised as a man, rose to rule Christianity in the 9Th century as the first and only woman to sit on the throne of St. Peter."
Mistress of the Sun by Sandra Gulland
"A novel of Louise de la Vallière, mistress of the Sun King. As a girl, she won the trust of the wildest of horses; as a woman, she would win the love of the most charismatic of kings."
The Queen's Dollmaker by Christine Trent
"On the brink of revolution, with a tide of hate turned against the decadent royal court, France is in turmoil - as is the life of one young woman forced to leave her beloved Paris. After a fire destroys her home and family, Claudette Laurent is struggling to survive in London. But one precious gift remains: her talent for creating exquisite dolls that Marie Antoinette, the Queen of France herself, cherishes. When the Queen requests a meeting, Claudette seizes the opportunity to promote her business, and to return home...Amid the violence and unrest, Claudette befriends the Queen, who bears no resemblance to the figurehead rapidly becoming the scapegoat of the Revolution. But when Claudette herself is lured into a web of deadly political intrigue, it becomes clear that friendship with France's most despised woman has grim consequences. Now, overshadowed by the spectre of Madame Guillotine, the Queen's dollmaker will face the ultimate test."
The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner
Review, Guest post
"Juana of Castile, the last queen of Spanish blood to inherit her country’s throne, is an enigmatic figure, shrouded in lurid myth. Was she the bereft widow of legend who was driven mad by her loss, or has history misjudged a woman who was ahead of her time?"
Signora da Vinci by Robin Maxwell
"I was fifteen years old in 1452 when I bore a bastard child in the tiny village of Vinci. His name was Leonardo, and he was destined to change the world forever.
I suffered much cruelty as an unmarried mother, and had no recourse when they took my boy away from me. I had no rights, no prospects, no future. Everyone believed I was ruined. But no one knew the secrets of my own childhood, nor could they ever have imagined the dangerous and heretical scheme I would devise to protect and watch over my remarkable son as he grew into manhood. Some might call me a liar, since all I describe would be impossible for a woman of my station. But that is where my design unfolds, and I am finally ready to reveal it.
They call me Caterina. And this is my story."The Triumph of Deborah by Eva Etzioni-Halevy
"The Triumph of Deborah describes a prominent woman leader who led her people to war but also to peace. Hence it should be of special relevance in an American presidential election year in which a female candidate is a front runner. It should also be of relevance on the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of Israel, where women's leadership is becoming increasingly prominent, a year in which the topic of female leadership in time of war and peace will be most prominent on both countries' agenda. "
The Perfect Royal Mistress by Diane Haeger
"Welcome to Nell Gwynne's world and the deliciously complicated triangle in which she learned to live and thrive! From the poverty stricken depths of Coal Yark Alley to the licentious and glittering court of England, Nell was the ultimate survivor. With her beauty and bawdy sense of humor, she not only became the most celebrated actress of her time but the one true love of the powerful King of England and The Perfect Royal Mistress!"
The Queens Fool by Philippa Gregory
"A young woman caught in the rivalry between Queen Mary and her half sister, Elizabeth, must find her true destiny amid treason, poisonous rivalries, loss of faith, and unrequited love.
It is winter, 1553. Pursued by the Inquisition, Hannah Green, a fourteen-year-old Jewish girl, is forced to flee Spain with her father. But Hannah is no ordinary refugee. Her gift of "Sight," the ability to foresee the future, is priceless in the troubled times of the Tudor court. Hannah is adopted by the glamorous Robert Dudley, the charismatic son of King Edward's protector, who brings her to court as a "holy fool" for Queen Mary and, ultimately, Queen Elizabeth. Hired as a fool but working as a spy; promised in wedlock but in love with her master; endangered by the laws against heresy, treason, and witchcraft, Hannah must choose between the safe life of a commoner and the dangerous intrigues of the royal family that are inextricably bound up in her own yearnings and desires.Teeming with vibrant period detail and peopled by characters seamlessly woven into the sweeping tapestry of history, The Queen's Fool is another rich and emotionally resonant gem from this wonderful storyteller."
Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir
"Alison Weir, our pre-eminent popular historian, has now fulfilled a life's ambition to write historical fiction. She has chosen as her subject the bravest, most sympathetic and most wronged women of Tudor England, Lady Jane Grey. Lady Jane Grey was born into the most dangerous of times. Child of a scheming father and a ruthless mother for whom she is a pawn in a dynastic game with the highest stakes, she lived a life in thrall to political machinations and lethal religious fervour. Growing up with the future Queen Elizabeth and her reluctant nemesis, Mary, she soon learns the truth of the values imparted to her by Henry VIII's last Queen, Katherine Parr. Her honesty, intelligence and strength of character carries the enthralled reader through all the vicious twists of Tudor power politics, to her nine-day reign and its unbearably poignant conclusion. Alison Weir states: 'Lady Jane Grey's story is compelling and shocking. She was a young girl of royal blood who was used by greedy and unscrupulous men to satisfy their own ambitions. Having been the victim of abuse in childhood, she was sold into an unhappy marriage and forced to accept a crown she did not want, then tragically paid the price of her so-called treason. 'After publishing nine history books, writing this novel filled me with a heady sense of freedom. No longer was I tied to sources and to the strict discipline of historical interpretation, but I could give my imagination free reign. Thus, it was wonderful to be creative, and even provocative, at the same time as being historically accurate to a degree."
The Queen's Secret by Jean Plaidy
"Katherine of Valois was born a princess, the daughter of King Charles VI of France. But by the time Katherine was old enough to know him, her father had come to be called “Charles the Mad,” given to unpredictable fits of insanity. The young princess lived a secluded life, awaiting her father’s sane moments and suffering through the mad ones, as her mother took up with her uncle and their futures became more and more uncertain. Katherine’s fortunes appeared to be changing when, at nineteen, she was married to King Henry V of England. Within two years, she gave birth to an heir—but her happiness was fleeting. Soon after the birth of her son, she lost her husband to an illness.
With Joan of Arc inciting the French to overthrow English rule, Katherine’s loyalty to her adopted homeland of England became a matter of intense suspicion. Katherine had brought her dowry and borne her heir; what use was she to England? It was decreed that she would live out her remaining years alone, far from the seat of power. But no one, not even Katherine herself, could have anticipated that she would fall in love with and secretly marry one of her guardians, Owen Tudor—or that a generation later, their grandson would become the first king of the great Tudor dynasty."
The Rose Without a Thorn by Jean Plaidy
"Born into an impoverished branch of the noble Howard family, young Katherine is plucked from her home to live with her grandmother, the Duchess of Norfolk. The innocent girl quickly learns that her grandmother’s puritanism is not shared by Katherine’s free-spirited cousins, with whom she lives. Beautiful and impressionable, Katherine becomes involved in two ill-fated love affairs before her sixteenth birthday. Like her cousin Anne Boleyn, she leaves her grandmother’s home to become a lady-in-waiting at the court of Henry VIII. The royal palaces are exciting to a young girl from the country, and Katherine 2nds that her duties there allow her to be near her handsome cousin, Thomas Culpepper, whom she has loved since childhood.
But when Katherine catches the eye of the aging and unhappily married king, she is forced to abandon her plans for a life with Thomas and marry King Henry. Overwhelmed by the change in her fortunes, bewildered and flattered by the adoration of her husband, Katherine is dazzled by the royal life. But her bliss is short-lived as rumors of her wayward past come back to haunt her, and Katherine’s destiny takes another, deadly, turn."
The First Princess of Wales by Karen Harper
"The daughter of a disgraced earl, she matched wits with a prince. It is the fourteenth century, the height of the Medieval Age, and at the court of King Edward III of England, chivalry is loudly praised while treachery runs rampant. When the lovely and high-spirited Joan of Kent is sent to this politically charged court, she is woefully unprepared for the underhanded maneuverings of her peers.
Determined to increase the breadth of his rule, the king will use any means necessary to gain control of France—including manipulating his own son, Edward, Prince of Wales. Joan plots to become involved with the prince to scandalize the royal family, for she has learned they engineered her father’s downfall and death. But what begins as a calculated strategy soon—to Joan’s surprise—grows into love. When Joan learns that Edward returns her feelings, she is soon fighting her own, for how can she love the man that ruined her family? And, if she does, what will be the cost?
Filled with scandal, court intrigue, and prominent figures of the Medieval Age, The First Princess of Wales has at its center a wonderful love story, which is all the more remarkable because it is true. Karen Harper’s compelling, fast-paced novel tells the riveting tale of an innocent girl who marries a prince and gives birth to a king".