Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Giveaway: THE SEPTEMBER QUEEN by Gillian Bagwell

"Charles II is running for his life-and into the arms of a woman who will risk all for king and country.
Jane Lane is of marrying age, but she longs for adventure. She has pushed every potential suitor away-even those who could provide everything for her. Then one day, adventure makes its way to her doorstep, and with it comes mortal danger...
Royalists fighting to restore the crown to King Charles II implore Jane to help. Jane must transport him to safety, disguised as a manservant. As she places herself in harm's way, she finds herself falling in love with the gallant young Charles. And despite his reputation as a breaker of hearts, Jane finds herself surrendering to a passion that will change her life forever".
The Giveaway info: US and Canada only and up for grabs is one large ARC copy of The September Queen. Giveaway will end on 1.4.2012

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For 3 entries share this and add a real link to where you shared it.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

My Art Work: Pony Tail Red Head

This time around I did things a bit differently because I just could not help myself. Even though it literally kills my hands to do this I made this one completely with Prisma color pencils. No water color this time and this time the picture is completely un-edited. So this is the work in all of its natural glory. It  is a pretty good size too being 11 x 10. I figure as always I live my life in color so the more color the better. I hope you all enjoy her.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Today In History: Happy Birthday Mary Queen of Scots

Mary, Queen of Scots depicted in an 1885 engraving
469 years ago today Mary Queen of Scots was born on December 8th 1542. Happy birthday Mary

"Mary Stuart was born at Linlithgow Palace on 7th December 1542, the daughter of James V of Scotland and Mary of Guise. Six days after her birth her father died, and she became Queen of Scotland. From her infancy, Scotland's rival pro-English and pro-French factions plotted to gain control of Mary. Her French mother was chosen as regent, and she sent Mary to France in 1548. Mary lived as part of the French royal family. In April 1558 she married the Dauphin Francis; she secretly agreed to bequeath Scotland to France if she should die without a son. In July 1559 Francis succeeded his father becoming King Francis II and Mary became Queen of France as well as of Scotland. In addition, many Roman Catholics recognised Mary Stuart as Queen of England after Mary I died and the Protestant Elizabeth I succeeded her to the throne in November 1558. Mary Stuart's claim to the English throne was based on the fact that she was the grand-daughter of Margaret Tudor, sister of Henry VIII--Elizabeth's father. To the Roman Catholics, Mary's claim appeared stronger than Elizabeth's because they viewed Henry's marriage to Anne Boleyn as illegal. Mary's young husband Francis II died in December 1560 after a reign of 17 months. Mary, who was about to become 18 years of age, was left in a difficult position. Unwilling to stay in France and live under the domination of her mother-in-law Catherine De Medici's she decided to return to Scotland and take her chances with the Protestant reformers".

Mary's bedroom at Holyroodhouse.
At The Palace of Holyroodhouse Queen Victoria made sure that Mary Queen of Scots' bedroom and outer chamber were diligently preserved exactly the way it was left by Mary. It was in the outer chamber that Mary's beloved assistant David Rizzo was brutally murdered by her husband in front of her face. David was ripped from behind Mary's skirts and dragged across the floor before he was murdered. To this day you can take a tour of Holyroodhouse and see these beautiful rooms.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Mailbox Monday

The Talisman Ring by Georgette Heyer

One of Heyer's funniest Regency romances, and one of readers' favorites.

The Talisman Ring is one of Heyer's funniest and fastest-paced romantic comedies, telling the story of a fugitive heir, a tempestuous Frenchwoman, and the two sensible people who try to keep them out of trouble.

"... A long-lost family heirloom, a young heir falsely accused of murder, a band of smugglers, two utterly delightful Heyer heroines, a taciturn, but highly resourceful older gentleman - all play their parts in a tale funny enough to have you laughing aloud."

Keeper of the King's Secrets by Michelle Diener Releasing 4.3.2012

"The second elegant and gorgeously written historical novel from new author Michelle Diener, featuring King Henry VIII’s deadliest courtier and a royally commissioned artist caught in a web of Tudor court intrigue. Susanna Horenbout’s chance meeting with a jeweler from Antwerp pulls her and her betrothed, courtier John Parker, into a deadly plot against the King. Ever since Henry VIII’s sister Mary gave him the spectacular Mirror of Naples, part of the French Crown Jewels, the King of France has been plotting to get it back.
After the French king is captured in battle, the secret deal struck for the jewel’s return is in jeopardy—and French agents in London are taking matters into their own hands. But the powerful Duke of Norfolk has caught wind of the secret deal and sees the planned theft as an opportunity to rid himself of a hated rival at court—even if it means plunging England into an unwinnable war with France".

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Portland Oregon Exhibit: Titian's La Bella

Titian's La Bella
Masterworks | Portland Oregon
NOV 25, 2011 – JAN 29, 2012

"This fall, the Museum’s popular Masterworks|Portland series continues with an exceptional painting of Renaissance Venice, Titian’s La Bella (Woman in a Blue Dress). The luminous La Bella is a classic portrait of a beautiful woman that illustrates the continually evolving and infinitely elusive ideal of beauty. La Bella has never been exhibited in the United States and Portland is her only West Coast appearance. The painting was recently cleaned and conserved in Florence, returning La Bella to her original glory.

A color catalogue accompanies this single-painting exhibition and not only describes the historical significance of the work but also details the recent conservation project.

This exhibition is organized by the Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, in collaboration with the Foundation for Italian Art and Culture, New York, and is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Art and Humanities".

~From Wiki~
"Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio (c. 1488/1490– 27 August 1576 better known as Titian) was an Italian painter, the most important member of the 16th-century Venetian school. He was born in Pieve di Cadore, near Belluno (inVeneto), in the Republic of Venice. During his lifetime he was often called da Cadore, taken from the place of his birth.

Recognized by his contemporaries as "The Sun Amidst Small Stars" (recalling the famous final line of Dante's Paradiso), Titian was one of the most versatile of Italian painters, equally adept with portraits, landscape backgrounds, and mythological and religious subjects. His painting methods, particularly in the application and use of color, would exercise a profound influence not only on painters of the Italian Renaissance, but on future generations of Western art.

During the course of his long life, Titian's artistic manner changed drastically but he retained a lifelong interest in color. Although his mature works may not contain the vivid, luminous tints of his early pieces, their loose brushwork and subtlety of polychromatic modulations are without precedent in the history of Western art"

For more information on this exhibit check out the Portland Art Museum's website.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Hot HF Releases: November

"There are few more intriguing and captivating characters in the history of Hawaii than its last queen, Liliuokalani--the island monarch who could just as easily read Shakespeare as 'sit barefooted on a woven mat.

Told with mesmerizing detail by master storyteller James D. Houston, A Queen's Journeycaptures the deep ambiguities of Liliuokalani s magnetic personality and the tumultuous times in which she lived. Houston (1933-2009) was perhaps the only writer with the literary talent, courage, and deep knowledge of Hawaiian culture and history needed to tell this story, and although he died before finishing the novel that was to be his masterwork, we are lucky to have this first part, which stands alone as a fully realized and moving portrait of the queen and her time".

Guinevere, the Legend in Autumn: Book Three of the Guinevere Trilogy, Persia Wooley

"Surrounded by traitors, trapped by destiny, Britain's spirited Queen Guinevere recounts the last, dramatic years of Camelot. At King Arthur's side, she reigned over the fabled heroes of the Round Table as her heartbreaking honesty, courage, and integrity were challenged by those she loved most. Torn between duty and desire as he rescued his Queen, condemned to the stake for treason, Lancelot swept her away as she bartered her soul to save Arthur and Camelot from the furies of fate. This is Arthurian epic at its best–filled with romance, adventure, authentic Dark Ages detail, and wonderfully human people".

"The news arrives in a letter to his sister, Nannerl, in December 1791. But the message carries more than word of Nannerl’s brother’s demise. Two months earlier, Mozart confided to his wife that his life was rapidly drawing to a close . . . and that he knew he had been poisoned.

In Vienna to pay her final respects, Nannerl soon finds herself ensnared in a web of suspicion and intrigue—as the actions of jealous lovers, sinister creditors, rival composers, and Mozart’s Masonic brothers suggest that dark secrets hastened the genius to his grave. As Nannerl digs deeper into the mystery surrounding her brother’s passing, Mozart’s black fate threatens to overtake her as well.

Transporting readers to the salons and concert halls of eighteenth-century Austria, Mozart’s Last Aria is a magnificent historical mystery that pulls back the curtain on a world of soaring music, burning passion, and powerful secrets".

"Adam Deveril, Viscount Lynton, returns home from war to find his family in financial ruin. To help his family, he sacrifices his love for the beautiful Julia and marries plain Jenny Chawleigh, whose father is a wealthy businessman determined to marry his daughter into a title.

Adam chafes under Mr. Chawleigh's generosity, and Julia's behavior upon hearing of the betrothal nearly brings them all into a scandal. But Jenny's practicality and quiet love for Adam bring him comfort and eventually happiness. And over time, their arranged marriage blossoms into love and acceptance across the class divide".

"Charles II is running for his life-and into the arms of a woman who will risk all for king and country.
Jane Lane is of marrying age, but she longs for adventure. She has pushed every potential suitor away-even those who could provide everything for her. Then one day, adventure makes its way to her doorstep, and with it comes mortal danger...
Royalists fighting to restore the crown to King Charles II implore Jane to help. Jane must transport him to safety, disguised as a manservant. As she places herself in harm's way, she finds herself falling in love with the gallant young Charles. And despite his reputation as a breaker of hearts, Jane finds herself surrendering to a passion that will change her life forever".

"The Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Peter the Great, Nicholas and Alexandra, and The Romanovs returns with another masterpiece of narrative biography, the extraordinary story of an obscure young German princess who traveled to Russia at fourteen and rose to become one of the most remarkable, powerful, and captivating women in history.

Born into a minor noble family, Catherine transformed herself into Empress of Russia by sheer determination. Possessing a brilliant mind and an insatiable curiosity as a young woman, she devoured the works of Enlightenment philosophers and, when she reached the throne, attempted to use their principles to guide her rule of the vast and backward Russian empire. She knew or corresponded with the preeminent historical figures of her time: Voltaire, Diderot, Frederick the Great, Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, Marie Antoinette, and, surprisingly, the American naval hero, John Paul Jones.

Reaching the throne fired by Enlightenment philosophy and determined to become the embodiment of the “benevolent despot” idealized by Montesquieu, she found herself always contending with the deeply ingrained realities of Russian life, including serfdom. She persevered, and for thirty-four years the government, foreign policy, cultural development, and welfare of the Russian people were in her hands. She dealt with domestic rebellion, foreign wars, and the tidal wave of political change and violence churned up by the French Revolution that swept across Europe. Her reputation depended entirely on the perspective of the speaker. She was praised by Voltaire as the equal of the greatest of classical philosophers; she was condemned by her enemies, mostly foreign, as “the Messalina of the north.”

Catherine’s family, friends, ministers, generals, lovers, and enemies—all are here, vividly described. These included her ambitious, perpetually scheming mother; her weak, bullying husband, Peter (who left her lying untouched beside him for nine years after their marriage); her unhappy son and heir, Paul; her beloved grandchildren; and her “favorites”—the parade of young men from whom she sought companionship and the recapture of youth as well as sex. Here, too, is the giant figure of Gregory Potemkin, her most significant lover and possible husband, with whom she shared a passionate correspondence of love and separation, followed by seventeen years of unparalleled mutual achievement.

The story is superbly told. All the special qualities that Robert K. Massie brought to Nicholas and Alexandra and Peter the Great are present here: historical accuracy, depth of understanding, felicity of style, mastery of detail, ability to shatter myth, and a rare genius for finding and expressing the human drama in extraordinary lives.

History offers few stories richer in drama than that of Catherine the Great. In this book, this eternally fascinating woman is returned to life".


"London, 1760. For Jamie Fraser, paroled prisoner-of-war in the remote Lake District, life could be worse: He’s not cutting sugar cane in the West Indies, and he’s close enough to the son he cannot claim as his own. But Jamie Fraser’s quiet existence is coming apart at the seams, interrupted first by dreams of his lost wife, then by the appearance of Tobias Quinn, an erstwhile comrade from the Rising. 

Like many of the Jacobites who aren’t dead or in prison, Quinn still lives and breathes for the Cause. His latest plan involves an ancient relic that will rally the Irish. Jamie is having none of it—he’s sworn off politics, fighting, and war. Until Lord John Grey shows up with a summons that will take him away from everything he loves—again.

Lord John Grey—aristocrat, soldier, and occasional spy—finds himself in possession of a packet of explosive documents that exposes a damning case of corruption against a British officer. But they also hint at a more insidious danger. Time is of the essence as the investigation leads to Ireland, with a baffling message left in “Erse,” the tongue favored by Scottish Highlanders. Lord John, who oversaw Jacobite prisoners when he was governor of Ardsmiur prison, thinks Jamie may be able to translate—but will he agree to do it?

Soon Lord John and Jamie are unwilling companions on the road to Ireland, a country whose dark castles hold dreadful secrets, and whose bogs hide the bones of the dead. A captivating return to the world Diana Gabaldon created in her Outlander and Lord John series, The Scottish Prisoner is another masterpiece of epic history, wicked deceit, and scores that can only be settled in blood".

"Based on an episode in Henry James's life, the captivating story of a young heroine with ambitions and desires beyond her time.
By the start of the Civil War, Emily Hudson has lost her entire family to consumption. Wholly dependent upon her puritanical uncle, Emily forms a close bond with her ailing cousin, William, an ambitious young writer. When a promising engagement is broken, William, obsessed by Emily's spirit and beauty, becomes her patron and takes her to England-only to manipulate and neglect her for the sake of his own creativity. There, Emily finally spurns her cousin's rules and sets out alone to pursue an artist's life in the eternal city of Rome. Reminiscent of the novels of Edith Wharton and the films of Merchant Ivory, Emily Hudson will resonate with anyone who has ever sought to be true to herself".

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Portland Oregon Cavalia Show

Now showing in Portland Oregon for a very limited time: Cavalia. At their site you can see videos and much much more including show times and ticket pricing.

Portland, Oregon, USA
from November 16, 2011 to December 04, 2011

Seattle, Washington, USA
from January 24, 2012 to February 05, 2012

"Cavalia is a fresh mix of equestrian and performing arts, multimedia and special effects. Conceived by Normand Latourelle and often labelled an equestrian ballet, Cavalia is a spectacular and moving tribute to the relationship between men and horses throughout history, a dream of freedom, cooperation and harmony. In a fairy tale setting filled with poetry and emotion, the show innovatively integrates acrobatics, dance, aerial stunts, live music and equestrian arts. Under the largest Big Top on earth, a 50-metre stage permits the horses to express themselves in all their splendour, nobility and strength, often completely free".
Admired for his distinctive thoroughbred profile, large eyes, and high intelligence, the Arabian horse lived among the desert tribes of the Arabian peninsula for thousands of years. Bred by the Bedouins as war mounts, in extreme climatic conditions, the Arabian horse evolved with a level of stamina, energy and unequaled endurance. The breed’s age-old affinity to man is legendary. Arabian horses often shared the tents of their nomadic owners, along with their food and water. Historical figures like Genghis Khan, Napoleon, Alexander The Great and George Washington rode Arabian horses. Beautiful and athletic, the Arabian horse contributed to the evolution of virtually all modern breeds of horses".

Monday, November 14, 2011

Mailbox Monday

The Wars of the Roses (A Royal History of England) Anthony Cheetham (Author), Antonia Fraser (Editor)

"From Henry IV, the first Lancastrian king, to Richard III, The Wars of the Roses follows the history of the kings of the houses of Lancaster and York who shaped this tumultuous period of English history. Anthony Cheetham provides insight into the politics, society, and economy of this time, and above all, he conveys the personal histories and characters of its rulers.

About the series A Royal History of England:
From the beginning of monarchical power in Norman times to the present queen, the British royal family has experienced many scandals, triumphs, and changes in public image, but few of their reigns can be described as uneventful. With contributions by specialist authors and contemporary illustrations of royal heraldry and coats of arms, Antonia Fraser has edited a definitive and entertaining history of one of the most powerful monarchies in the world".

Friday, November 11, 2011

Guest Post: Gillian Bagwell "Priest Holes"

Priest Holes by Gillian Bagwell

After Queen Elizabeth I succeeded her hated Catholic sister Mary Tudor, who had come to be known as Bloody Mary because of the hundreds of Protestants who were executed during her reign, mostly by burning at the stake, England became virulently anti-Papist, and practicing Catholic rites was outlawed. There was particular hostility toward and fear of priests, who suspected of rousing their followers to rise against the Protestant queen.

So an Act was passed prohibiting Catholics from practicing the rites of their religion on pain of forfeiture of property for the first offense, a year’s imprisonment for the second, and imprisonment for life for the third. Anyone who refused to take the Oath of Supremacy, stating that the queen was the head of the Church of England, was labeled a recusant, and guilty of high treason. A law was also passed that if a Catholic converted a Protestant to Catholicism, both were guilty of treason and subject to the death penalty. And it was a hanging offense for a Catholic priest to say mass or otherwise practice as a priest.
Priest hole at Boscobel

In the early years of Elizabeth’s reign there was some tolerance. Catholics who practiced their faith privately at home were not persecuted. But after a Catholic rising in the north and various “Popish plots,” the laws were more strictly enforced. The perpetual threat posed by and recurring plots involving the Catholic Mary Queen of Scots only made the situation worse. In December 1591 a priest was hanged before the door of a house in Grey’s Inn for having said mass there the previous month.

After the Gunpowder Plot by Guy Fawkes and his conspirators, which aimed to kill the Protestant King James, was discovered on November 5, 1605, anti-Catholic sentiment became even more rabid.

One result of this oppression was that Catholic families began to build into their houses what became known as “priest holes.” These were little chambers, barely big enough to conceal a man, where a priest or forbidden items such as crucifixes could be hidden in case “priest catchers” came searching.

These small spaces were built into the structure of a house in such a way that they were not apparent. They might be sandwiched between the floor of one story and the ceiling of that below it, or constructed like a closet, with the entrance hidden under a staircase or in the paneling of a wall.

Many of these priest holes were built by the Jesuit Nicholas Owen, who devoted much of his life to constructing hiding places in the houses of many of the great Catholic families of England. As one scholar wrote, “he so disguised the entrances to these as to make them most unlike what they really were. Moreover, he kept these places so close a secret with himself that he would never disclose to another the place of concealment of any Catholic. He alone was both their architect and their builder, working at them with inexhaustible industry and labour, for generally the thickest walls had to be broken into and large stones excavated, requiring stronger arms than were attached to a body so diminutive as to give him the nickname of ‘Little John,’ and by this his skill many priests were preserved from the prey of persecutors. Nor is it easy to find anyone who had not often been indebted to his life to Owen’s hiding places.”

Boscobel priest hole.

Ironically, many years after Elizabeth’s reign, another class of fugitive made use of priest holes – Royalists fleeing from Parliamentary pursuers dung the Civil Wars. And when the young Charles II narrowly escaped with his life after the Battle of Worcester on September 3, 1651, and spent six weeks desperately trying to get out of England, he was hidden by Catholic families in priest holes at Boscobel House, Moseley Hall, Trent Manor, and Heale House while his friends sought to find him passage to France.
Boscobel priest hole.

After a day spent hiding in an oak tree behind Boscobel (for the story of the Royal Oak see my post at Lori’s Reading Corner (, Charles was hidden in one of two priest holes in the house. One is behind the wainscoting of “the Squire’s bedroom.” It is in a chimney stack and has a narrow staircase leading to the basement so the fugitive had a second way out. The other is accessed by a trap door at the top of a flight of stairs leading to the attic. It is about five feet deep and about four feet square – not very comfortable for Charles, who was six feet two inches.

Charles had to take refuge in the priest hole at Moseley, when it was learned that Roundhead soldiers had wind of a Royalist fugitive, possibly the king, and were coming to search the house. This priest hole is under the floor of a closet off the bedroom in which the king had been resting. Apparently a frequent practice was to put a close stool or chamber pot over the hatch into a priest hole, which not only kept it from being seen, but also provided a strong scent that helped throw search dogs off the track of their prey.
Mosely priest hole.

Charles spent a total of fifteen days at Trent Manor in Dorset, staying in Lady Wyndham’s room, which was the most private and removed from the rest of the house, and also had sort of a double priest hole – a closet-sized chamber with a hidden entrance, and then a smaller hiding place in the floor of this closet, accessed by a hatch, from which it was possible to escape down into the brew house chimney.

Charles appreciated the fact that he owed his preservation to many “recusants,” and when he was restored to the throne in 1660, he strove to enact tolerance for religious freedom. But the smoke from the flames at Smithfield where so many Protestants had died, drifted down over the decades. Throughout Charles’s reign anti-Catholic sentiment remained strong, and when he died without a legitimate heir and his Catholic brother the Duke of York succeeded him as James II, the new king was soon ousted in favor of his daughter Mary and her reassuringly Protestant husband and cousin William of Orange.
Gillian Bagwell in the Trent priest hole closet.

Ironically, it is likely that Charles himself converted to Catholicism on his deathbed. He was visited and ministered to by Father John Huddleston, a Catholic priest who had lived at Moseley and had helped arrange Charles’s shelter and escape in those dark days after the Battle of Worcester.

Primary source: Allan Fea, Secret Chambers and Hiding Places (c. 1900, reprinted by Echo Library, 2008)
Gillian Bagwell’s novel, The September Queen, the first fictional accounting of the story of Jane Lane, and ordinary English girl who helped Charles II escape after the Battle of Worcester, was released on November 1. Please visit her website,, to read more about her books and read her blog Jane Lane and the Royal Miracle, which recounts her research adventures and the daily episodes in Charles’s flight.
The Darling Strumpet
The September Queen

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Coming Soon: The Queen's Pleasure by Brandy Purdy



From the author of the bestselling historical novels The Boleyn Wife and The Tudor Throne comes a captivating, Tudor-era novel of loyalty and betrayal, duty and freedom—a fascinating portrait of both the rise of Elizabeth I and one of the most compelling periods in history...

Historical Fiction ISBN 13: 978-0-7582-6598-2 PRICE: $15.00/$16.95
PAGES: 384

"When young Robert Dudley, an earl’s son, meets squire’s daughter Amy Robsart, it is love at first sight. They marry despite parental misgivings, but their passion quickly fades, and the ambitious Dudley returns to court.

Swept up in the turmoil of Tudor politics, Dudley is imprisoned in the Tower. Also a prisoner is Dudley’s childhood playmate, the princess Elizabeth. In the shadow of the axe, their passion ignites. When Elizabeth becomes queen, rumors rage that Dudley means to free himself of Amy in order to wed her. And when Amy is found dead in unlikely circumstances, suspicion falls on Dudley—and the Queen...

Still hotly debated amongst scholars—was Amy’s death an accident, suicide, or murder?— the fascinating subject matter makes for an enthralling read for fans of historical fiction".

• The Boleyn Wife was a Sunday Times bestseller in the U.K. • With its fascinating, true-life love triangle, The Queen’s Pleasure is guaranteed to intrigue fans of Tudor-set historical fiction.

• Fans of Philippa Gregory, Robin Maxwell, Diane Haeger, Donna Russo Marin, and Kensington’s own Barbara Kyle will relish Brandy Purdy’s vibrant historical storytelling.

PRAISE FOR THE BOLEYN WIFE “Recommended for readers who can’t get enough of the Tudors and have devoured all of Philippa Gregory’s books.” —Library Journal

Readers can visit Brandy's website at:
Please note this book is published in the UK as A COURT AFFAIR by Emily Purdy.~Lizzie~

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Book Review: SUNRISE OF AVALON by Anna Elliott

 “Sunrise of Avalon” is a compelling take on the tragically romantic Arthurian legend Tystan and Isolde. This excellent trilogy starts with “Twilight of Avalon” (2009), “Dark Moon of Avalon” (2010), and the conclusion “Sunrise of Avalon” (2011) which was well worth the wait. If you have read previous novels on Trystan and Isolde this is not the same or typical spin on them. This trilogy is historical fiction gold for numerous reasons’ the top of them being my most favorite: a novel of two people who belong together but cannot be together because of outside forces that keep pulling them apart, that makes for good historical fiction reads. I am glad I was lured into this trilogy it is a new favorite of mine. Plus Trystan is literally the sexiest man name ever written down.

Trystan and Isolde were childhood best friends that were brought up into a mess of hate, fighting, and terrible things constantly happening. The days of the great king Arthur were violently coming to a close and both of them young as they were still were dragged into the battles of Camelerd with no choice. The fighting never stopped and the few antagonists like Trystan's father Lord Marche just kept stirring the pot and making it worse with every action. Lord Marche was a vile man he would be what we deem today as a woman beater and he later turned rouge lord and made a pack with the only other man as evil as he was Lord Octa of Kent. Octa was everyone’s enemy and he was planning an invasion he wanted to take everything over. He wanted all of England to himself. But Trystan knew he must do something to stop him and even though he and his father’s feud had turned escaladed to a bloody deadly high he still must risk everything to at least try to prevent the inevitable looming battle. With Octa and Marche everyone’s enemy Trystan had his own personal vendetta’s that demanded retribution against the two men.

In book one Isodle had been forced into marrying Lord Marche but in number Octa also had captured her but in three I really enjoyed the fact that Isolde took things in her own hands and made her own terms. She voluntarily went into her enemy Octa’s camp and not just to foil his attempts to kidnap her from her abbey sanctuary Saint Eucherius. This time Isolde had her own plans to infiltrate Octa’s camp and to secretly find high King Madoc of Gwynned’s five year old son and only heir who had been kidnapped. The child was being held as a form of ransom because Octa was not below hurting a child Isolde was his only hope of a way out.

Trystan had left Isolde at the abbey so she would be safe but with Octa always after her it was only a matter of time before he got to her. Isolde never stayed put but who would have guessed she would cross the line into the most dangerous place for her to go: Octa’s camp. Trystan and Isolde both had their own agenda’s for how they were going to sabatosh Octa and Marche before the whole country went to war. It was kill or be killed at this point and Octa had proven he had no qualms about fighting dirty. Isolde had made her choices and she knew she had to protect what was most important to her in the end. She made her choice she had to try and save Trystan even if it was himself who was bringing about his own downfall. Trystan loved Isolde but have you ever heard that song “your love is like a battlefield”? Trystan's love was like a battlefield and to protect Isolde even from himself he never really allowed his love to show. But trying to push it down and away made his love even stronger and even he could not control it in his darkest moments he would find Isolde was the only one that mattered. Isolde and Trystan have to save England from the blood lust lords before they tear all of England asunder before their very eyes but right when it matters the demons of the past keep all of England from healing and moving forward to better times. They must face it and they must do it together or die trying the scary part is the worst enemy is one who knows all your secrets.

5/5 Wonderful Arthurian legend mix. I do not read much on Tystan and Isolde but I have read some short stories and other things but this one is by far the best I have ever come across. I was elated that Elliott made these novels to her own tune and made a mixture of all the different versions of the legends. The ending in this version is the best to date and I know I am not alone in this thought. I do not want to ruin it for anyone but it way caught me off guard. I really enjoyed this series and really identified with Isolde and her inner strength she was one brave woman. I enjoyed this series and have to recommend it to all historical fiction lovers because if you are a sucker for a good love story then this is right up your alley.
  • Rating PG-13 for war violence
  • FTC-sent to me by the publisher for review

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Author Stephanie Dray On The Ancient Magic of Henna Tattoos

 The Ancient Magic of Henna Tattoos by Stephanie Dray The heroine of my novels, Cleopatra Selene, was the Queen of Mauretania and she ruled over the ancient Berbers, the descendants of whom still live in North Africa. For my first novel, Lily of the Nile, I researched the magic of ancient Egypt because I wanted to know the spiritual traditions with which Selene would have been familiar. But for Song of the Nile, I wanted to learn all I could about the life of the people who called Selene their queen. What I learned is that ancient Mauretania was every bit as exotic and sensual as Egypt, and that the women who lived there had a rich and colorful spirituality that expressed itself in their arts. We’ve all heard of Berber carpets. Perhaps we even own a piece of Berber jewelry. But the art of henna is largely associated with Indian culture now, even though it’s believed to have been of Berber origin. Henna is a plant that, when dried, crushed to a powder, and mixed with oil to form a paste, can safely dye the skin--and the color will remain for weeks. Because of this and other medicinal properties, henna became an important part of Berber culture. Like the Egyptians, the Berbers believed in a kind of sympathetic magic, whereby symbols could take the place and power of actual things. For example, whereas the Egyptians might carve a cobra or a jackal-headed god at the entrance of a tomb to guard it, the Berbers might paint a sharp object on a pregnant woman’s belly as if to pierce the evil eye. Whereas the Egyptians spent a great deal of time ornamenting tombs and creating magical amulets to be worn, the Berbers retreated to a more personal, more sensual connection to the supernatural world. By painting protective symbols on the body, the skin becomes its own talisman and magical protection. A manifestation of spirituality that is visible to anyone who might look upon the tattoos. It’s interesting to me that while I used bloody hieroglyphs on my heroine’s arms and hands as a way of the divine world speaking through her, I hadn’t considered the use of symbols on her arms and hands as a way for her to speak back. At least, not until I learned more about the Berbers among whom Selene built a new life for herself. While not exclusively reserved for women, Berber henna tattoos are inextricably entwined with women’s rituals. Henna tattoos are most often applied before a wedding, before and after birth, and before death. At all life’s thresholds, and, incidentally, all the times that a woman might need the comfort of others near her, rubbing her, pampering her, and seeing to it that she has adequate rest. The henna paste can be made with oils--sandalwood is a popular one--so that the long process of painting intricate designs on the skin can give aromatic pleasure to all those involved. Berber women couldn’t easily tattoo themselves, so it become a bonding experience, and one of giving over the body to others in trust. And if that’s not magic, what is?

More on Stephanie Dray...
Stephanie graduated from Smith, a small women’s college in Massachusetts where–to the consternation of her devoted professors–she was unable to master Latin. However, her focus on Middle Eastern Studies gave her a deeper understanding of the consequences of Egypt’s ancient clash with Rome, both in terms of the still-extant tensions between East and West as well as the worldwide decline of female-oriented religion.

Before she wrote novels, Stephanie was a lawyer, a game designer, and a teacher. Now she uses the transformative power of magic realism to illuminate the stories of women in history and inspire the young women of today. She remains fascinated by all things Roman or Egyptian and has–to the consternation of her devoted husband–collected a house full of cats and ancient artifacts.

"Sorceress. Seductress. Schemer. Cleopatra’s daughter has become the emperor’s most unlikely apprentice and the one woman who can destroy his empire… Having survived her perilous childhood as a royal captive of Rome, Selene pledged her loyalty to Augustus and swore she would become his very own Cleopatra. Now the young queen faces an uncertain destiny in a foreign land. Forced to marry a man of the emperor’s choosing, Selene will not allow her new husband to rule in her name. She quickly establishes herself as a capable leader in her own right and as a religious icon. Beginning the hard work of building a new nation, she wins the love of her new subjects and makes herself vital to Rome by bringing forth bountiful harvests. But it’s the magic of Isis flowing through her veins that makes her indispensable to the emperor. Against a backdrop of imperial politics and religious persecution, Cleopatra’s daughter beguiles her way to the very precipice of power. She has never forgotten her birthright, but will the price of her mother’s throne be more than she’s willing to pay"?

Berkley Trade in October 2011 (Trade Paperback)
# ISBN-10: 0425243044 and # ISBN-13: 9780425243046

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Happy Early Halloween Everyone!!!!

Okay so yes I have posted this adorable my little pony before but it is too cute to not do it again and this time add a few other cute Halloween inspired ponies. From my family to your have a safe and happy halloween everyone.

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