Monday, January 11, 2010

Top Reads, Old and New of 2009

Why must I share my top reads for 2009? I feel I need to share them even though my blog was not even up and running for all of 2009. What started me on the blog was the lovely Robin Maxwell herself. With out her I never would have done this and to my delight it has become such a pleasure I truly love doing this.

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
Movie, Review
"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".
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  1. They look like great reads. I plan on reading some of them this year for the Historical Reading Challenge.

    Jennifer @ Mrs. Q: Book Addict

  2. I have read a couple of those, and have a few on my shelf. So glad you are blogging my friend! I absolutely adore your blog :)

  3. Hi I just found your blog and I LOVE it! The design is great but more importantly the content is excellent! I am Historically Obsessed too LOL! I'm more into American history but I love Queen Victoria and her life including Albert (*sigh* I am in love with Rupert Friend's portrayal of Albert from what I have seen of The Young Victoria!)

    I haven't read any of the books in this post except for The Triumph of Deborah which I really enjoyed.

    I look forward to reading more on your blog!

    xoxo~ Renee

  4. Your taste in books, my dear, is exquisite!

  5. Wow--lots of great recommendations for me to check out. Thanks!

  6. By far my top favorites ones that I still think about. Jennifer I am going to go and check your page out after here.

    Muse I am glad you are blogging too. My post with you in it goes up this week I promise. Thank you for your sweet compliments.

    Renee I am so happy that you found me and love the place! Man the American HF I have a deal with... I eventually hope to write my own book and I do not want to spoil it by adding something else I might have read somewhere else because I want mine to be an American HF. Victoria... I just review Notorious Royal Marragies and I included a quote from Victoria from the book in my review because it was too funny. I have her marked for futher follow up. More than likely Victria Victorious by Jean Plaidy. I am read Eve righ tnow and I it is so diffrent form anything I have ever read it is very poetically beautiful.

    Thank you Lucy I know that you have read a few of them great minds think alike and I am so stoked that I won The Secrects of Josephine B at you page I can not wait to read about her again.

    Erika your book was so good I wanted to add it so so bad. It was unique I never read anything remotely set in modern times. I really enjoyed the story very unique. It sent me on an internet search for a few weeks.

  7. I swear the blogiverse is telling me that I have to get the Christine Trent book.

    Looking forward to another good reading year in 2010.

  8. I'm so pleased to see Mistress of the Sun on this great list!

    Wonderful blog!

    Sandra Gulland

    Author of the Josephine B. Trilogy and Mistress of the Sun

  9. I'm honored that you chose SIGNORA DA VINCI as one of your top reads of 2009. I, too, love the design of your blog. The header is so gorgeous I'd like to wear it!

    Warm regards in the New Year,

  10. I really enjoyed Pope Joan and Mistress of the Sun too!

  11. Thank you so much for including THE QUEEN'S DOLLMAKER on your list. I'm glad you found the story so entertaining.

  12. Thanks you, de corazon, for including THE LAST QUEEN on your list, Lizzy. I am so grateful for your support of my work; I loved visiting Historically Obsessed last year and really look forward to visiting this year with THE CONFESSIONS OF CATHERINE DE MEDICI. Oh, and I think the blog's new look is fantastic!

  13. Marg, It is well worth the read I am telling you it is an amazing book. I am working with Christine on putting together a feature on her and doing a giveaway. Which I am super excited to do. I too am looking forward to a good reading year for 2010.

    Sandra be still my heart, you came for a visit! Thank you so much for the compliment I am so pleased you like it here. I have always been a sucker for a book with horses and even though I read it some time ago I still think about it.

    Robin your so silly I love it that we like the same things. Classic pretty things. I still have not made it to see the real painting in Portland I am hoping to make it asap.

    Christine any time you so deserve the recognition. For being a new author you sure have made a big hit in HF. I am looking forward to working on the interview.

    C.W. support, more like undying devotion! I literally keep laughing to myself think about you being the X mas grinch sleeping with your Confessions of Catherine De Medici ARC. You have such a witty sense of humor. I would have done the same thing too! I can not wait to get my own copy!

    Thank you for all the complements on the new lay out I too have fallen in love with it. I am still cleaning it up and working on the final touches like the navigation buttons. It sure has come out nice I surprised myself when I made it.

    All of the books I choose for many reasons not just because they were my favorites. But because ALL of them had a lingering affect in my mind and I just had to know more and more about the characters. Which is why I am obsessed, I love researching a historical character after I have read the book. It is like a fun game trying to find out what happened versus the book. The reads have been very accurate for fiction which is one reason I liked them so much.

    All of you brought your characters to life and I felt like I was looking over their shoulders watching the events unfolding. It takes a true gift for an author to transport you in to their worlds. Which all of you posses and I thoroughly enjoy. Keep writing and I promise I will keep reading!

  14. What a great list! I only read Signora Da Vinci on this list and really liked it! Many of these books are books I'd like to read, too.

  15. I loved Signora Da Vinci, I read it in 3 days. I could not put it down. It was such a unique story. Hopefully you found some to add to your list to read.

  16. Would probably put Innocent Taitor on my top "old" reads list too, plus The Josephine trilogy by Sandra Gulland (my fave ever)! I really enjoyed Perfect Royal Mistress, and you already know Signora da Vinci and The Last Queen are both my faves of the year! Have Pope Joan and The Triumph of Deborah on the shelf, TOD is coming up next after Secret of the Glass. Hope you are enjoying the Loves of Charles!! I can't wait to read that one..

  17. I read Innocent Traitor too but the previous year. I really liked but can hardly remember it now. I actually own it too.

    I have yet to get to Gulland's series. I won the first book on enchanted by Josephine but Charles had to come first it is my next RYOB.

    The Perfect Royal Mistress is why I am reading the Loves of Charles. I want to read more about Nell Gwyn, I love her. I am really diggin' the book it has been really good so far. I decided to break it up into the 3 books and do 3 reviews. Each book so far has been so different so far. I have about 60 pages left in the 2nd section or book two. A worthy read like I knew it would be.

    I think you will really enjoy Pope Joan it is an AMAZINGLY unique story. Triumph of Deborah has that same uniqueness too.


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