Monday, March 24, 2014

Mailbox Monday: Elizabeth Loupas

Elizabeth Loupas returns with her most ambitious historical novel yet, a story of intrigue, passion, and murder in the Medici Court...

April, 1574, Florence, Italy. Grand Duke Cosimo de’ Medici lies dying. The city is paralyzed with dread, for the next man to wear the red lily crown will be Prince Francesco: despotic, dangerous, and obsessed with alchemy.

Chiara Nerini, the troubled daughter of an anti-Medici bookseller, sets out to save her starving family by selling her dead father’s rare alchemical equipment to the prince. Instead she is trapped in his household—imprisoned and forcibly initiated as a virgin acolyte in Francesco’s quest for power and immortality. Undaunted, she seizes her chance to pursue undreamed-of power of her own.

Witness to sensuous intrigues and brutal murder plots, Chiara seeks a safe path through the labyrinth of Medici tyranny and deception. Beside her walks the prince’s mysterious English alchemist Ruanno, her friend and teacher, driven by his own dark goals. Can Chiara trust him to keep her secrets…even to love her…or will he prove to be her most treacherous enemy of all?~Lizzie~

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Hot Historical Fiction March 2014

A King's Ransom by Sharon Kay Penman
"From the New York Times-bestselling author of Lionheartcomes the dramatic sequel, telling of the last dangerous years of Richard, Couer de Lion’s life.

This long-anticipated sequel to the national bestseller Lionheart is a vivid and heart-wrenching story of the last event-filled years in the life of Richard, Coeur de Lion. Taken captive by the Holy Roman Emperor while en route home—in violation of the papal decree protecting all crusaders—he was to spend fifteen months chained in a dungeon while Eleanor of Aquitaine moved heaven and earth to raise the exorbitant ransom. But a further humiliation awaited him: he was forced to kneel and swear fealty to his bitter enemy.

For the five years remaining to him, betrayals, intrigues, wars, and illness were ever present. So were his infidelities, perhaps a pattern set by his father’s faithlessness to Eleanor. But the courage, compassion, and intelligence of this warrior king became the stuff of legend, and A King’s Ransom brings the man and his world fully and powerfully alive".

Fallen Beauty by Erika Robuck 
“Without sin, can we know beauty? Can we fully appreciate the summer without the winter? No, I am glad to suffer so I can feel the fullness of our time in the light.”

Upstate New York, 1928. Laura Kelley and the man she loves sneak away from their judgmental town to attend a performance of the scandalous Ziegfeld Follies. But the dark consequences of their night of daring and delight reach far into the future.…

That same evening, Bohemian poet Edna St. Vincent Millay and her indulgent husband hold a wild party in their remote mountain estate, hoping to inspire her muse. Millay declares her wish for a new lover who will take her to unparalleled heights of passion and poetry, but for the first time, the man who responds will not bend completely to her will.…

Two years later, Laura, an unwed seamstress struggling to support her daughter, and Millay, a woman fighting the passage of time, work together secretly to create costumes for Millay’s next grand tour. As their complex, often uneasy friendship develops amid growing local condemnation, each woman is forced to confront what it means to be a fallen woman…and to decide for herself what price she is willing to pay to live a full life.

“Lovers of the Jazz Age, literary enthusiasts, and general historic fiction readers will find much to love about Call Me Zelda. Highly recommended.” –Historical Novel Society, Editors’ Choice.

The Harlot's Tale (Midwife Mysteries, #2) by Sam Thomas
It is August, 1645, one year since York fell into Puritan hands. As the city suffers through a brutal summer heat, Bridget Hodgson and Martha Hawkins are drawn into a murder investigation more frightening than their last. In order to appease God’s wrath—and end the heat-wave—the city’s overlords have launched a brutal campaign to whip the city’s sinners into godliness. But for someone in York, this is not enough. First a prostitute and her client are found stabbed to death, then a pair of adulterers are beaten and strangled. York’s sinners have been targeted for execution.

Bridget and Martha—assisted once again by Will, Bridget’s good-hearted nephew—race to find the killer even as he adds more bodies to his tally. The list of suspects is long: Hezekiah Ward, a fire and brimstone preacher new to York; Ward’s son, Praise-God, whose intensity mirrors his father’s; John Stubb, one of Ward’s fanatic followers, whose taste for blood may not have been sated by his time in Parliament’s armies. Or could the killer be closer to home? Will’s brother Joseph is no stranger to death, and he shares the Wards’ dreams of driving sin from the city.

To find the killer, Bridget, Martha, and Will must uncover the city’s most secret sins, and hope against hope that the killer does not turn his attention in their direction.

The Mapmaker's Daughter by Laurel Corona
A sweeping story of 1492 Spain, exploring how what we know about the world shapes our map of life Valencia, 1492. King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella issue an order expelling all Jews who refuse to convert to Christianity. Amalia Cresques, daughter of a Jewish mapmaker whose services were so valuable that his faith had been ignored, can no longer evade the throne. She must leave her beloved atlas, her house, her country, forever. As Amalia remembers her past, living as a converso, hiding her faith, she must decide whether to risk the wrath of the Inquisition or relinquish what''s left of her true life. A mesmerizing saga about faith, family and Jewish identity.

Queen Elizabeth's Daughter: A Novel of Elizabeth I by Anne Clinard Barnhill
From the author of At the Mercy of the Queen comes the gripping tale of Mary Shelton, Elizabeth I’s young cousin and ward, set
against the glittering backdrop of the Elizabethan court.

Mistress Mary Shelton is Queen Elizabeth’s favorite ward, enjoying every privilege the position affords. The queen loves Mary like a daughter, and, like any good mother, she wants her to make a powerful match. The most likely prospect: Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford. But while Oxford seems to be everything the queen admires: clever, polished and wealthy, Mary knows him to be lecherous, cruel, and full of treachery. No matter how hard the queen tries to push her into his arms, Mary refuses.

Instead, Mary falls in love with a man who is completely unsuitable. Sir John Skydemore is a minor knight with little money, a widower with five children. Worst of all, he’s a Catholic at a time when Catholic plots against Elizabeth are rampant. The queen forbids Mary to wed the man she loves. When the young woman, who is the queen’s own flesh and blood, defies her, the couple finds their very lives in danger as Elizabeth’s wrath knows no bounds.
The Midnight Rose: A Novel by Lucinda Riley
Spanning four generations, The Midnight Rose sweeps from the glittering palaces of the great maharajas of India to the majestic stately homes of England, following the extraordinary life of a remarkable girl, Anahita Chaval, from 1911 to the present day . . .

In the heyday of the British Raj, eleven-year-old Anahita, from a noble but impov­erished family, forms a lifelong friendship with the headstrong Princess Indira, the privileged daughter of Indian royalty. As the princess’s official companion, Anahita accompanies her friend to England just before the outbreak of WorldWar I. There, she meets young Donald Astbury—reluctant heir to the magnifi­cent, remote Astbury Estate—and his scheming mother.

Ninety years later, Rebecca Bradley, a young American film star, has the world at her feet. But when her turbulent relationship with her equally famous boyfriend takes an unexpected turn, she’s relieved that her latest role, playing a 1920s debutante, will take her away from the glare of publicity to a distant cor­ner of the English countryside. Shortly after filming begins at the now-crumbling Astbury Hall, Ari Malik, Anahita’s great-grandson, arrives unexpectedly, on a quest for his family’s past. What he and Rebecca discover begins to unravel the dark secrets that haunt the Astbury dynasty . . .

A multilayered, heartbreaking tale filled with unforgettable characters caught in the sweep of history, The Midnight Rose is Lucinda Riley at her most captivating and unforgettable.

Diamond Pitt: The Regent’s Diamond by Ann Wardlaw

Piracy on the high seas, shady dealings in imperial outposts, serial infidelity and a life-changing friendship with a Nawab prince provide the unlikely material for a novel about the grandfather of one of British politics’ most respected statesmen.

Starting in 1653 and spanning a century, this is the turbulent tale of Thomas Pitt, Grandfather to William Pitt the Elder, an adventurer whose exploits were bound up in the turmoil and glamour of Restoration and Georgian England.

Nicknamed ‘Diamond’ for procuring one of the world’s most extraordinary and valuable gems, Pitt was envied, feared and in some cases respected as a great entrepreneur of his time, with a hearty reputation for wealth and women.
Empress of the Night: A Novel of Catherine the Great by Eva Stachniak
The follow-up to the #1 bestseller The Winter Palace--perfect for the readers of Hilary Mantel and Alison Weir.
Catherine the Great, the Romanov monarch reflects on her astonishing ascension to the throne, her leadership over the world's greatest power, and the lives sacrificed to make her the most feared woman in the world--lives including her own...
Catherine the Great muses on her life, her relentless battle between love and power, the country she brought into the glorious new century, and the bodies left in her wake. By the end of her life, she had accomplished more than virtually any other woman in history. She built and grew the Romanov empire, amassed a vast fortune of art and land, and controlled an unruly and conniving court. Now, in a voice both indelible and intimate, she reflects on the decisions that gained her the world and brought her enemies to their knees. And before her last breath, shadowed by the bloody French Revolution, she sets up the end game for her last political maneuver, ensuring her successor and the greater glory of Russia.

The Plantagenets by Dan Jones
“Outstanding . . . A thrilling history of royal intrigues, violent skullduggery and brutal warfare.” Eva
— Simon Sebag Montefiore

The first Plantagenet king inherited a blood-soaked kingdom from the Normans and transformed it into an empire stretched at its peak from Scotland to Jerusalem. In this epic history, Dan Jones vividly resurrects this fierce and seductive royal dynasty and its mythic world.

We meet the captivating Eleanor of Aquitaine, twice queen and the most famous woman in Christendom; her son, Richard the Lionheart, who fought Saladin in the Third Crusade; and King John, a tyrant who was forced to sign Magna Carta, which formed the basis of our own Bill of Rights.

This is the era of chivalry, of Robin Hood and the Knights Templar, the Black Death, the founding of Parliament, the Black Prince, and the Hundred Year’s War. It will appeal as much to readers of Tudor history as to fans of 'Game of Thrones.

Monday, March 17, 2014


Like all royal princesses Isabella of France was married off young. Edward II King of England became her husband and she had no idea what to expect from him. Old for her years Isabella fell head over heels in love for new husband. Her love would never be returned in the way she rightly deserved. Edward had married Isabella out of necessity of getting an heir. It was speculated that Edward was gay because he did have his favorites and Piers Graveston was his “one true love”. Over the years Isabella was tolerant of this relationship but it all became a bitter pill for her to swallow everyday of her life she was always second in Edward’s affections. 

Edward was eventually forced into giving up Piers on multiple occasions and the last time Piers was illegally executed. His grief for Piers was all consuming for years he paid for prayers to be said in his name daily. Hugh Despenser became a new favorite of Edwards and he was handed a wealth of power with his new position. The new favorite set out to strip Isabella of her power, wealth and dignity. This time had been especially hard for Isabella because in the years after Graveston’s death her and Edward had become closer. It hurt her deeply that Edward would let his new favorite supplant her in his affections.

Striped of all her rights Isabella was of no consequence until Edward needed her to negotiate with her brother the King of France over a land dispute. Taken from her lock down Isabella was sent to her native France and on her arrival she became determined not to ever go back to way things were with Edward in England. With the help of her loving brother and the notorious English outlaw Rodger Mortimer, they out smarted Edward and had her young son sent to her in France. Her son was to pay homage to the French King for the land in his fathers place. It would be the beginning of the end for Edward. There is nothing worse in this life than the scorn of an ill treated wife and Isabella would have her revenge because Edward would not give her the one thing she so desperately needed; his love.

4/5 Loved this one! It was short to the point and broke down into little chapters that kept up to the pace of the story line. Recommended for historical fiction lovers alike because the wrath of a powerful queen always makes great reads.

FTC-This novel was sent to me by the author for review. I received no compensation for my review.
PG-13 Sexual References

Isabella Braveheart of France by Colin Falconer
Colin Falconer

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Book Review: COURTING HER HIGHNESS by Jean Plaidy

Queen Anne is part of the dying infamous Stuart lineage. The throne of England became hers after her brother in law William of Orange passed away leaving her with no more close blood relatives. Anne's life was riddled with tragedy after tragedy and since her only surviving child died young she had no heir. The Stuart curse did not leave Anne unscathed. Anne's greatest attribute was that she had a big heart and she decided from the beginning of her reign that she wanted to be known as "good Queen Anne". The people of England became her children and she mothered them the best way she knew how by being a loving devoted ruler.

Her tyrant best friend from childhood, Sarah Churchill, ruled Anne. She held all the real power in Anne's court because Sarah easily manipulated Anne since they were children. Sarah had long been training Anne to follow Sarah’s rule. The Churchill star was at a high point they ruled England in all but name. Sarah's handsome husband John led the English army to victory in numerous battles making John a legendary English war hero highly valued by the Queen. Sarah felt secure with Queen Anne's affection also but Sarah began to secretly despise her own best friend Queen. She even went as far as to constantly complain of the Queen in her family home very openly. The life long relationship hit a turning point when Sarah crossed the line with her treatment of Anne in public and in that moment the Churchill’s fall from royal favor began. A new star in Queen Anne’s court was on the rise at Anne's court. The new star in Anne's affections was brought to court by Sarah to be a chambermaid to the queen. Ironic as it is to have the mighty Sarah Churchill replaced by Abigail Hill. Abigail was a poor relation of Sarah's and she was the polar opposite of her cousin. Abigail was quiet, polite, reserved, and faithful to her religious beliefs unlike Sarah who only believed in herself. Abigail’s soothing personality was the balm Queen Anne sorely needed after the mistreatment Sarah Churchill had given her over the years. Anne removed the rose colored glasses and finally saw Sarah Churchill for who she really was.

There was one question that was on everyone's mind in England. Who would succeed the childless Queen Anne to the throne of England? There were two possibilities: George of Hanover or Anne's exiled younger half brother. Her younger brother was firm in his Catholic faith just like thier father James I was and he might not be willing to convert. If Anne could persuade him to convert to The Church of England then and only then could the coveted crown of England be his upon her death. The decision weighed heavily on Anne in the end and only she could make the final choice in her darkest hours.

4.5/5 I enjoyed Anne's story but Sarah Churchill almost ruined it for me. She was a nasty woman and this reader was sick and tired of her high and mighty attitude. I would recommend this novel to anyone who that would like to have more background history on the last of the Stuarts Kings and Queens.

FTC-this novel is from my personal collection
PG Rating

Monday, March 03, 2014

Mailbox Monday

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll illustrated Camille Rose Garcia
Would the fall never come to an end!'

Since its publication in 1865, Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland has delighted the world with a wildly imaginative and unforgettable journey, inspiring children of all ages to suspend disbelief and follow Alice into her fantasy worlds. This new gift edition presents Carroll's tale fully unabridged with a unique visual interpretation by renowned artist Camille Rose Garcia.

A Scandalous Life The Biography of Jane Digby by Mary S. Lovell
The biography of Jane Digby, an ‘enthralling tale of a nineteenth-century beauty whose heart – and hormones – ruled her head.’ Harpers and Queen

A celebrated aristocratic beauty, Jane Digby married Lord Ellenborough at seventeen. Their divorce a few years later was one of England s most scandalous at that time. In her quest for passionate fulfilment she had lovers which included an Austrian prince, King Ludvig I of Bavaria, and a Greek count whose infidelities drove her to the Orient. In Syria, she found the love of her life, a Bedouin nobleman, Sheikh Medjuel el Mezrab who was twenty years her junior.

Bestselling biographer Mary Lovell has produced from Jane Digby’s diaries not only a sympathetic and dramatic portrait of a rare woman, but a fascinating glimpse into the centuries-old Bedouin tradition that is now almost lost.
The Maid: A Novel of Joan of Arc by Kimberly Cutter
It is the fifteenth century and the tumultuous Hundred Years War rages on. France is under siege, English soldiers tear through the countryside destroying all who cross their path, and Charles VII, the uncrowned king, has neither the strength nor the will to rally his army. And in the quiet of her parents’ garden in Lorraine, a peasant girl sees a spangle of light and hears a powerful voice speak her name. Jehanne.

The story of Jehanne d'Arc, the visionary and saint who believed she had been chosen by God, who led an army and saved her country, has captivated our imagination for centuries. But the story of Jeanne - the girl - whose sister was murdered by the English, who sought an escape from a violent father and a forced marriage, who taught herself to ride and fight, and who somehow found the courage and tenacity to convince first one, then two, then thousands to follow her, is at once thrilling, unexpected and heart-breaking. Rich with unspoken love and battlefield valor, The Maid is a novel about the power and uncertainty of faith, and the exhilarating and devastating consequences of fame.
The Queen's Rival by Diane Haeger
As the beautiful daughter of courtiers, Elizabeth "Bessie" Blount is overjoyed when she secures a position as maid of honor to Katherine of Aragon. But when she captures the attention of the king himself, there are whispers that the queen ought to be worried for her throne.

When Bess gives birth to a healthy son the whispers become a roar. But soon the infamous Boleyn girls come to court and Henry's love for her begins to fade. Now, Bess must turn to her trusted friend, the illegitimate son of Cardinal Wolsey, to help her move beyond life as the queen's rival...

The Queen's Bastard by Robin Maxwell
Historians have long whispered that Elizabeth "the Virgin Queen's" passionate, lifelong affair with Robin Dudley, Earl of Leicester, may have led to the birth of a son, Arthur Dudley. In this exquisite sequel to The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn, Robin Maxwell fashions a stunning fictional account of the child switched at birth by a lady-in-waiting who foresaw the deleterious political consequences of a royal bastard.

Set against the sweeping, meticulously rendered backdrop of court intrigues, international scandals, and England's battle against the Spanish Armada, The Queen's Bastard deftly juxtaposes Elizabeth and Leicester's tumultuous relationship with the memoirs of the adventurous son lost to them -- yet ultimately discovered.~Lizzie~
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