Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Best of 2010

It is time to name my tops picks for 2010. I know I am a little bit late on this year but this past year has shaped up to be a very eventful year in historical fiction.

~Most beloved~
This book is very near and dear to my heart. I have to admit it is my most recommended novel. I love this book with all my heart and NEVER could I ever forget it's powerful story ever again. I highly recommend that if you had not had the chance to read this one yet that you do so as soon as possible. It is a must read for 2010.

"Behind every great artist stands a woman driving him to inspiration, aspiration, and desperation, according to Cowell (Marrying Mozart), who bases her latest novel about an artist and his muse on the life of Claude Monet. Beautiful bourgeoise Camille Doncieux leaves her family and fiancé for Monet, whom Cowell depicts early on as a rebellious young man trying to capture in his paintings fleeting moments of color and light before he matures into the troubled genius whose talent exceeds his income. In an art world resistant to change, Camille remains Monet's great love as he and fellow unknowns Renoir, Pissarro, and Bazille struggle to make ends meet, but, eventually, parenthood, financial pressure, long separations, career frustrations, and romantic distractions take their toll, and even after Monet finally achieves commercial success, the couple still faces considerable difficulty. While glimpses of great men at work make absorbing reading, it's Camille who gives this story its heart. A convincing narrative about how masterpieces are created and a detailed portrait of a complex couple, Cowell's novel suggests that a fabulous, if flawed, love is the source of both the beauty and sadness of Monet's art".

~Most Beautiful Book~

"London, 1838. Sixteen-year-old Liza's dreams of her society debut are dashed when her parents are killed in an accident. Penniless, she accepts the position of lady's maid to young Princess Victoria and steps unwittingly into the gossipy intrigue of the servant's world below-stairs as well as the trickery above. Is it possible that her changing circumstances may offer Liza the chance to determine her own fate, find true love, and secure the throne for her future queen? Meticulously based on newly discovered information, this riveting novel is as rich in historical detail as Catherine, Called Birdy, and as sizzling with intrigue as The Luxe".

~Most compelling~

"Catherine de Medici uses her natural and supernatural gifts to protect the French throne in Gortner's (The Last Queen) portrait of a queen willing to sacrifice happiness and reputation to fulfill her family's royal destiny. Orphan Catherine has her first vision at age 10, and three years later is betrothed to Henri d'Orleans, brother of the sickly heir to the French throne. She heads to France with a vial of poison hidden among her possessions, and after negotiating an uneasy truce with her husband's mistress, she matures into a powerful court presence, though power, she learns, comes at a price. Three of her sons become king in succession as the widow Catherine wields ever-increasing influence to keep the ambitious de Guise clan at bay and religious adversaries from murdering each other. Gortner's is not the first fictional reinterpretation of a historical villainess—Catherine's role in the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, for instance, is recounted in a way sympathetic to her—but hers is remarkably thoughtful in its insight into an unapologetically ruthless queen".

~My top pick new releases of 2010~
O, Juliet by Robin Maxwell

"One of the queens of historical fiction" offers a new take on the mesmerizing young woman and poetess who inspired Shakespeare's most famous female character".

"Before Juliet Capelletti lie two futures: a traditionally loveless marriage to her father's business partner, or the fulfillment of her poetic dreams, inspired by the great Dante. Unlike her beloved friend Lucrezia, who looks forward to her arranged marriage, Juliet has a wild, romantic imagination that knows not the bounds of her great family's stalwart keep.

The latter path is hers for the taking when Juliet meets Romeo Monticecco, a soulful young man seeking peace between their warring families. A dreamer himself, Romeo is unstoppable, once he determines to capture the heart of the remarkable woman foretold in his stars. The breathless intrigue that ensues is the stuff of beloved legend. But those familiar with Shakespeare's muse know only half the story..."

"The daughter of a papermaker in a small French village in the year 1320—mute from birth and forced to shun normal society—young Auda finds solace and escape in the wonder of the written word. Believed to be cursed by those who embrace ignorance and superstition, Auda's very survival is a testament to the strength of her spirit. But this is an age of Inquisition and intolerance, when difference and defiance are punishable "sins" and new ideas are considered damnable heresy. When darkness descends upon her world, Auda—newly grown to womanhood—is forced to flee, setting off on a remarkable quest to discover love and a new sense of self . . . and to reclaim her heritage and the small glory of her father's art".

"A Tale of ARMS, of DEATH, of LOVE, and of HONOR

Set against the turbulent backdrop of the Hundred Years' War, I Serve chronicles the story of Sir John Potenhale. A young Englishman of lowly birth, Potenhale wins his way to knighthood on the fields of France. He enters the service of Edward, the Black Prince of Wales, and immerses himself in a stormy world of war, politics, and romantic intrigue.

While campaigning in France, Potenhale develops an interest in Margery, a spirited lady-in-waiting with a close-kept secret. He soon learns that Sir Thomas Holland, a crass and calculating baron, holds the key to unlock Margery's mystery and possesses the power to overturn all of his hopes.

When the Black Death strikes Europe, however, Potenhale realizes that the fiercest enemy does not always appear in human form. Seeing the pestilence as a punishment for the sins of his generation, he questions his calling as a knight and considers entering the cloister. Margery or the monastery? Torn between losing his soul and losing the love of his life, he finds friendship with a French knight who might-just possibly-help him save both".

 Lady of the Butterflies by Fiona Mountain

"They say I'm mad and perhaps it's true.
It is well known that lust brings madness and desperation and ruin. But upon my oath, I never meant any harm. All I wanted was to be happy, to love and to be loved in return, and for my life to count for something.
That is not madness, is it?

So begins the story of Eleanor Glanville, the beautiful daughter of a seventeenth-century Puritan nobleman whose unconventional passions scandalized society. When butterflies were believed to be the souls of the dead, Eleanor's scientific study of them made her little better than a witch. But her life-set against a backdrop of war, betrayal, and sexual obsession-was that of a woman far ahead of her time".

Dracula in Love by Karen Essex

"Karen Essex turns on the heat in this transporting and darkly haunting new tale of love and possession that puts forth the question: What if everything you knew about Dracula . . . was wrong?

From the shadowy banks of the River Thames to the wild and windswept coast of Yorkshire, the quintessential Victorian virgin Mina Murray vividly recounts in the pages of her private diary the intimate details of what transpired between her and Count Dracula—the joys and terrors of a pas­sionate affair and her rebellion against a force of evil that has pursued her through time.

Mina’s version of this timeless gothic vampire tale is a visceral journey into the dimly lit bedrooms, mist-filled cemeteries, and locked asylum chambers where she led a secret life, far from the chaste and polite lifestyle the defenders of her purity, and even her fiancé, Jonathan Harker, expected of her.

Bram Stoker’s classic novel was only one side of the story. Now, for the first time, Dracula’s eternal muse reveals all. What she has to say is more sensual, more devious, and more enthralling than ever imagined. The result is a scintillating gothic novel that reinvents the tragic heroine Mina as a modern woman tor­tured by desire".

For the King's Favor by Elizabeth Chadwick

"The best writer of medieval fiction currently around.- -Richard Lee , Historical Novel SocietyA Bittersweet Tale of Love, Loss, and the Power of RoyaltyWhen Roger Bigod arrives at King Henry II-s court to settle a bitter inheritance dispute, he becomes enchanted with Ida de Tosney, young mistress to the powerful king. A victim of Henry-s seduction and the mother of his son, Ida sees in Roger a chance to begin a new life. But Ida pays an agonizing price when she leaves the king, and as Roger-s importance grows and he gains an earldom, their marriage comes under increasing strain. Based on the true story of a royal mistress and the young lord she chose to marry, For the King-s Favor is Elizabeth Chadwick at her best.-An author who makes historical fiction come gloriously alive.- -Times of London-Everyone who has raved about Elizabeth Chadwick as an author of historical novels is right.- -Devourer of Books Blog-I rank Elizabeth Chadwick with such historical novelist stars as Dorothy Dunnett and Anya Seton.- -Sharon Kay Penman, New York Times bestselling author of Devil-s Brood".  
The Jewel of St. Petersburg by Kate Furnivall 

"Russia, 1910. Valentina Ivanova is the darling of St. Petersburg's elite aristocracy-until her romance with a Danish engineer creates a terrible scandal and her parents push her into a loveless engagement with a Russian count.

Meanwhile, Russia itself is bound for rebellion. With the Tsar and the Duma at each other's throats, and the Bolsheviks drawing their battle lines, the elegance and opulence of Tsarist rule are in their last days. And Valentina will be forced to make a choice that will change not only her own life, but the lives of those around her forever..."
Penelope's Daughter by Laurel Corona

"The award-winning author of The Four Seasons retells The Odyssey from the point of view of Odysseus and Penelope's daughter. With her father Odysseus gone for twenty years, Xanthe barricades herself in her royal chambers to escape the rapacious suitors who would abduct her to gain the throne. Xanthe turns to her loom to weave the adventures of her life, from her upbringing among servants and slaves, to the years spent in hiding with her mother's cousin, Helen of Troy, to the passion of her sexual awakening in the arms of the man she loves.
And when a stranger dressed as a beggar appears at the palace, Xanthe wonders who will be the one to decide her future-a suitor she loathes, a brother she cannot respect, or a father who doesn't know she exists..."

~My top picks of older releases read in 2010~

"From princesses to country girls to actresses…the loves of Charles II come to life.

"Ten years after Charles I was deposed and executed, his son, Charles II, regains the throne after many years in exile. Charles is determined not only to restore the monarchy but also to revive a society that has suffered under many years of Puritan rule, when everything from theater to Christmas festivals was illegal. As king, Charles II throws himself into the gaiety of court life, becoming a patron of the arts and a consummate lover of women. He first secures a strong dynastic alliance by marrying Catherine of Braganza, a shy, plain Portuguese princess who falls in love with her handsome husband and brings him great wealth, but can never give him the son he longs for. For many years, his “untitled queen” is a bold and sensual older woman—Barbara, Countess of Castlemaine—whose husband is routinely paid to look the other way. But when the politically ambitious Lady Castlemaine becomes too powerful, she is replaced by Louise de Kéroualle, a baby-faced French noblewoman who may have been sent to Charles’s court as a spy. His other great love, and Louise’s rival, is Nell Gwyn, a stage actress who rises from the streets of London to become the king’s favorite and a hero of the working class.

Court intrigue and affairs of the heart weave together in this unforgettable page-turner".

"A penniless young knight with few prospects, William Marshal is plucked from obscurity when he saves the life of Henry II's formidable queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine. In gratitude, she appoints him tutor to the heir to the throne. However, being a royal favourite brings its share of conflict and envy as well as fame and reward. William's influence over the volatile, fickle Prince Henry and his young wife is resented by less favoured courtiers who set about engineering his downfall.

In a captivating blend of fact and fiction, Elizabeth Chadwick resurrects one of England's greatest forgotten heroes, restoring him to his rightful place at the apex of the Middle Ages, reflecting through him the tumults, triumphs, scandals and power struggles that haven't changed in eight hundred years".

Rochester: The mad Earl by Kathleen Kellow aka Jean Plaidy

"This is the story of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester-Restoration poet, wit and rake. As a boy he was eager to take his place among the immortals. Two passions prevented him; women and wine. He was the lover of many women, but there were two who had his life-long devotion.
He sought an heiress in marriage and, when she refused, abducted her under her grandfather's eyes. He realized the genius of a serving girl and made her a great actress.
He set up as a quack doctor, roamed London in disguise, and mocked the King to his face. Nothing was too daring or too fantastic for 'The Mad Earl '; and madly he squandered his life and his gifts, until, with life scarcely begun, he found that it was over.
This is the story of the most brilliant, the most gay, and the most tragic of men".

The Lovely Bones by Alice Seabold

"When we first meet 14-year-old Susie Salmon, she is already in Heaven. This was before milk carton photos and public service announcements, she tells us; back in 1973, when Susie mysteriously disappeared, people still believed these things didn't happen. In the sweet, untroubled voice of a precocious teenage girl, Susie relates the awful events of her death and her own adjustment to the strange new place she finds herself. It looks a lot like her school playground, with the good kind of swing sets. With love, longing, and a growing understanding, Susie watches her family as they cope with their grief, her father embarks on a search for the killer, her sister undertakes a feat of amazing daring, her little brother builds a fort in her honor and begin the difficult process of healing. In the hands of a brilliant novelist, this story of seemingly unbearable tragedy is transformed into a suspenseful and touching story about family, memory, love, Heaven, and living".

"This genre-bending read a dash of chick-lit with a historical twist has it all: romance, mystery, and adventure." Meg Cabot, author of The Princess Diaries Deciding that true romantic heroes are a thing of the past, Eloise Kelly, an intelligent American who always manages to wear her Jimmy Choo suede boots on the day it rains, leaves Harvard's Widener Library bound for England to finish her dissertation on the dashing pair of spies the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian. What she discovers is something the finest historians have missed: a secret history that begins with a letter dated 1803. Eloise has found the secret history of the Pink Carnation the most elusive spy of all time, the spy who single-handedly saved England from Napoleon's invasion.
The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, a wildly imaginative and highly adventurous debut, opens with the story of a modern-day heroine but soon becomes a book within a book. Eloise Kelly settles in to read the secret history hoping to unmask the Pink Carnation's identity, but before she can make this discovery, she uncovers a passionate romance within the pages of the secret history that almost threw off the course of world events. How did the Pink Carnation save England? What became of the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian? And will Eloise Kelly find a hero of her own"?

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  1. It seems a little strange to me but the only ones of those I have read are the Chadwicks and Pink Carnation. That's it!

  2. Thank you for this post. I am filing it away for future reference!

  3. Love Jean Plaidy. Will be reading those two listed. Thanks.

  4. Marg, that is really really strange we usually read a lot of the same stuff. They all are my favorites for the year. "Claude and Camille" was to die for!

    Mystica, hehe file it away girl. It took me forever to pick them which is why I am late in the month to post it.

    Ann, I love her too I have at least 50 of her books. I get really really greedy when it comes to her. I can not wait for the brand new re-prints that released yesterday as a matter of fact. My local bookstore is not so good on making sure the new releases are there on release day so I ordered mine but I have to wait for them to make the trip from the main ware house. I am hoping before the end of the week. If you EVER see the Rochester one buy it! It is on Amazon for 3,000$ right now.


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