Wednesday, March 30, 2011

HFRT event Christy English and giveaway

Announcing a grand HFRT event! This time around the group is featuring the fabulous Christy English and her latest release "To Be Queen: A Novel of the Early Life of Eleanor of Aquitaine". For more on the event: check out the groups main site and schedule for the down low on what will be going on in the next week or so. I can not wait to feature this one because I know the ladies have some wonderful posts up their sleeves just waiting for us all to ooh and ahh over.

"The author of The Queen's Pawn delves into the early life of the legendary Eleanor of Aquitaine in her new historical novel.
After her father's sudden death, fifteen-year-old Eleanor is quickly crowned Duchess of Aquitaine and betrothed to King Louis VII. When her new husband cannot pronounce her given name, Alienor becomes Eleanor, Queen of France.
Although Louis is enamored of his bride, the newly crowned king is easily manipulated by the church and a God that Eleanor doesn't believe in. Now, if she can find the strength to fight for what she wants, Eleanor may finally find the passion she has longed for, and the means to fulfill her legacy as Queen".


To Be Queen: A Novel of the Early Life of Eleanor of Aquitaine
The Queen's Pawn

To celebrate the event kick off Historically Obsessed is having a Giveaway!
Up for grabs is one finished autographed copy of To Be Queen by Christy English
The ONLY rule is you MUST fill out the form below.

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Monday, March 28, 2011

Author Q & A with Stephanie Cowell on "Claude and Camille" and Bonus Giveaway!

Please give a warm welcome to author Stephanie Cowell! Author interviews are not my typical deal but since I am still madly in love with "Claude & Camille" I figured it was time to step out of the box and do something really special to celebrate the up coming paperback release of "Claude & Camille: A Novel of Monet". You can check out my review, Stephanie's guest post on Monet, and my best reads of 2010 post for more on  "Claude and Camille". With out further delay lets kick off the interview!

  Q: I loved “Claude and Camille and named it my most beloved novel of 2010. My question is since you helped me envision the real person behind the inspirational water lilies paintings: what is it that inspired you to so passionately convey Claude and Camille’s tragic love?

A: Thank you so much for your kind words about the novel! You know we know very little about the real Camille; she died at 32 which is in itself horribly sad and some people believe it was Monet’s second wife Alice who destroyed all her papers. So we have a few facts about her here and there. My agent pointed out to me that Claude Monet painted more portraits of Camille than he ever painted of anyone in his life. I have been in the arts all my life as have most of my closest friends and money is seldom reliable in the arts. So we had Camille who was nineteen and full of illusions of the glory of living for art alone and Claude Monet who was very sexy at twenty-five (he looked like a young Johnny Depp) and he thought that any day, any week he would make his fortune with his work. In reality they sometimes had no food money and were thrown out of their rooms because they could not pay their rent and had to pawn their things. When she died, he was still so poor he had to try to get her necklace out of pawn so she could be buried in it. So they had this passionate love against a very difficult reality and when she became so sick, he was working too hard to provide food to know how to get the best care for her. I think that haunted him all his life.

Q: “Claude and Camille” really brings to light the phrase “poor starving artist”, how proud are you that you can say your award winning novel contributes to part of the impressionism legacy Claude left behind?

A: I am very proud to have been able to bring Claude Monet to life as a young man as well as the other young painters who one day would band together for their first exhibition (which they paid for) and be called Impressionists by a sneering critic who thought their work was pretty awful. “A bad sketch for wallpaper is better,” he wrote. The sort of work Claude and his friends were doing was very shocking to most people; it wasn’t art.

Q:  Since “Claude and Camille” is now being sold at Monet’s home of the water lilies Giverny. I am curious to see if you have had the chance to visit there? If so where was your favorite Monet spot?

A: Oh yes, I did visit there but a few years ago, during the research period for the novel. I loved standing on the Japanese bridge the most. It was April and the water lilies had nor bloomed yet. It was an intensely spiritual experience for me. I felt Monet everywhere. And then after I was walking down the path outside the house and saw a church with steps rising to it and I had to climb them! And I did not know he was buried there. I found his family tomb with his name on it and I took a tiny sprig of some plant growing near the grave and brought it back to my husband who could not travel with me. There was a crowd in the Giverny gift shop but the graveyard was quite deserted.

Q: Monet has been inspiring the masses for some time now and I must ask which work of his is your favorite and why?

A: May I name two? My favorite is oddly from the period of the novel, a painting of the village of Vétheuil seen from across the icy river in winter. It’s in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris. It’s profoundly lonely. I wrote it into the novel as the thing he paints before he understands for the first time that Camille is very ill. He was painting and painting then and dragging his work into Paris to try to sell some of it. The second favorite is of the Japanese bridge over the lily pond. He painted it a lot. There are beautiful ones in Princeton and the Metropolitan Museum of New York.

Q: I have noticed a trend in your novels that they feature creative power houses like Mozart and Monet. Your unquestionable gift for prose is clear but do you hide any other creative muses in your life?

A: Oh goodness, well I was a classical singer for years. I sang a lot of the Mozart roles in very small opera houses. I miss singing with others very much, but you have to practice a lot and I haven’t in ages. And I love theater. I belong to a Shakespeare reading group and always hope I don’t get cast as the villain as I am bad at villains. No other gifts at all! My parents were painters and I think I was too intimidated to try.

Q: “Claude and Camille” has won a few awards would you care to enlighten us on its success with readers?

A: Unless I am forgetting something, I can say in all modesty that the only “award” it had was for one of the best novels of the year from January magazine. Maybe you are seeing its happy future! I won an American Book Award for a previous novel about an Anglican priest and physician in London circa 1640 called The Physician of London, which was the second book of a trilogy which I have yet to complete. But I have had just the most amazing e-mails from people about how much they loved Claude and Camille. I had a fair number from men too and of course it has had some marvelous reviews, including yours!

Q: Are you currently working on another project?

A: I am working on two projects at the time. One is about the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning and her incredible love story with Robert Browning who snatched her away from her London home when she was an invalid of forty and took her to live a romantic live in Italy. And the second is a love story set in an English abbey during the period when Henry VIII was closing all the abbeys; it’s from the point of view of the abbot’s goddaughter who grows up as a bookbinder amid the monks. I am not sure which one will be finished first.

For more on Stephanie Cowell and her lovely novels, you can check out the below links:
Her Website and be sure to check out the dates and locations of her live upcoming events!
Facebook & Twitter

Claude & Camille: A Novel of MonetClaude & CamilleMarrying Mozart

The Giveaway Rules
You must fill out the form below to have your entry included in the drawing
The giveaway ends April 4th at midnight
Up for grabs is 5 COPIES YES FIVE. They are brand new paperback copies.
Giveaway is only open to US residents, Sorry.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

It is so hard to say good bye

George 11-1996 to 3-22-2011
Beloved friend and Companion
You will be missed more than words can say
Rest in Peace George-a-Rella

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Late Edition of Mailbox Mondays

The Confession of Katherine HowardWon From The Confession of Katherine Howard by Suzannah Dunn

"When twelve-year-old Katherine Howard comes to live in the Duchess of Norfolk’s household, poor relation Cat Tilney is deeply suspicious of her. The two girls couldn’t be more different: Cat, watchful and ambitious; Katherine, interested only in clothes and boys. Their companions are in thrall to Katherine, but it’s Cat in whom Katherine confides. Summoned to court at seventeen, Katherine leaves Cat in the company of her ex-lover, Francis, with whom Cat begins a serious love affair.

Within months, the king has set aside his latest wife for Katherine. The future seems assured for the new queen and her maid-in-waiting, although Cat would feel more confident if Katherine hadn’t embarked on an affair with one of the king’s favoured attendants, Thomas Culpeper.

For a blissful year and a half, it seems that Katherine can have everything she wants. But then allegations are made about her girlhood love affairs. Desperately frightened, Katherine recounts a version of events which implicates Francis but which Cat knows to be a lie. With Francis imprisoned in the Tower, Cat alone knows the whole truth of Katherine Howard’s past".

Royal Sisters: The Story of the Daughters of James II (Novel of the Stuarts)Royal Sisters: The Story of the Daughters of James II (Novel of the Stuarts) by Jean Plaidy 

"Two sisters change the course of a nation by forsaking the King—their own father.

England is on the verge of revolution. Antagonized by the Catholicism of King James II, the people plot to drive him from the throne. But at the heart of the plot is a deep betrayal: the defection of the daughters James loves, Mary and Anne.

Both raised Protestant according to the wishes of England, the sisters support Protestant usurper William of Orange, Mary's husband, who lusts after the British crown. Passive Queen Mary is subservient to her husband's wishes, while Anne is desperate to please her childhood friend Sarah Churchill, a bold and domineering woman determined to subdue Anne, the queen-to-be, and rule England herself.

Intrigue and political drama run high as the sisters struggle to be reconciled with each other--and with the haunting memory of the father they have exiled".

Exit the Actress: A NovelExit the Actress: A Novel by Priya Parmar

"While selling oranges in the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, sweet and sprightly Ellen "Nell" Gwyn impresses the theater’s proprietors with a wit and sparkle that belie her youth and poverty. She quickly earns a place in the company, narrowly avoiding the life of prostitution to which her sister has already succumbed. As her roles evolve from supporting to starring, the scope of her life broadens as well. Soon Ellen is dressed in the finest fashions, charming the theatrical, literary, and royal luminaries of Restoration England. Ellen grows up on the stage, experiencing first love and heartbreak and eventually becoming the mistress of Charles II. Despite his reputation as a libertine, Ellen wholly captures his heart—and he hers—but even the most powerful love isn’t enough to stave off the gossip and bitter court politics that accompany a royal romance. Telling the story through a collection of vibrant seventeenth-century voices ranging from Ellen’s diary to playbills, letters, gossip columns, and home remedies, Priya Parmar brings to life the story of an endearing and delightful heroine".

The Aviary GateThe Aviary Gate by  Katie Hickman

Spellbinding and steeped in mystery and sexual intrigue, The Aviary Gate transports readers to exotic sixteenth-century Constantinople, offering the rarest glimpse into the forbidden confines of the sultanas harem".

The Confession of Katherine HowardRoyal Sisters: The Story of the Daughters of James II (Novel of the Stuarts)Exit the Actress: A Novel
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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Book Review: ROYAL PAINS by Leslie Carrol

I used to read a lot more non-fiction but that was before I had the blog and before all the wonderful offers of some of the best unreleased historical fiction around. I diligently keep up on Leslie Carroll and her non-fiction works no matter what. I do this not because Leslie is one of the coolest women I have been lucky to encounter while blogging it is mainly because I genuinely enjoy Leslie’s witty style. She is hilarious and I love that her good sense of humor shows through in her work. Her works always make me laugh.

“Royal Pains” named that way with good reason; it is a most fitting title. In Leslie’s newest release she focuses on historical persons who can be labeled as a “Royal Pain”. You are probably curious as to what would constitute a person as a qualifying royal pain? Well to start you had to be of some standing in the world and you had to be a constant thorn in the royal rose bush so to speak. My favorite royal pain that was featured was the “she wolf” Lettice Knolly's of sixteenth century England. Royal pain was an understatement in Lettice’s case because she was a thorn in Elizabeth I’s side ever since she arrived at her to court. Lettice’s parents were Queen Elizabeth’s most devoted courtiers from the very beginning of her rein and continued to be the rest of their lives.

Leslie nailed Lettice’s person with the best analogy I have ever read: “in looks and manner she is your majesty’s doppelganger”, her majesty being the one and only virgin queen Elizabeth I. Elizabeth and Lettice were cousins but not by choice and Lettice really did see herself on the same level as her royal cousin. In Lettice’s inevitable down fall from court she managed to connived her way into entrapping her royal cousins lifelong favorite Robert Dudley and earned herself not only permante banishment from court but the new title of “she wolf”. Besides being “Elizabeth doppelgänger” this one phrase that I have to quote made me laugh so hard I almost fell out of my chair; “The she-wolf became persona no grata at court” which is putting it nicely. In the end Lettice got her just desserts but even in her death she still had to make sure she slighted her cousin queen Elizabeth I.

With chapters on some of history’s biggest bad boys and girls like Richard III, Vlad the impaler, Ivan the terrible, Elizabeth Bathory who was dubbed the blood countess, Archduke Rudolf, Pauline Bonaparte, and Prince Albert Victor. Leslie Carroll made sure she shed light on hundreds of years of notorious persons who were big pains in the royal booty if you ask me.

5/5 I love it that I got to read about new people because it is so exciting. I never have time for non-fiction anymore but I have to make sure I make the time for Leslie Carroll works because they are filled with tasty historical tidy bits I can devour in bite sized chucks. Readers if you are in the pursuit of a new avenue of reading this read will catapult you into a whole new area of interesting historical pains that would be excellent to follow up with some more fiction reading. This read confirmed for me that I must explore more on Elizabeth Bathory, and that Ivan the terrible and Vlad the impaler scare the holy heck out of me so much that I am not sure I could stomach a historical fiction read on them. The above mentioned are some of histories scariest bad boys and Elizabeth Bathory is scary as heck too but as my fellow blogger said “do not read Elizabeth, Vlad or Ivan before bed” which I must confirm that. I would love to recommend this read to all history lovers because Leslie Carroll has perfected the mix of humorous commentary mingled with historical facts.
  • FTC- this book was sent by the publisher for review.
  • R-Rating for violence
Royal Pains: A Rogues' Gallery of Brats, Brutes, and Bad SeedsNotorious Royal Marriages: A Juicy Journey Through Nine Centuries of Dynasty, Destiny, and DesireRoyal Affairs: A Lusty Romp Through the Extramarital Adventures That Rocked theBritish Monarchy
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    Friday, March 18, 2011

    Royal Rival LETTICE KNOLLYS by Leslie Carroll and Rocking Giveaway!

    Please everyone give a warm welcome to my all time favorite non-fiction author the fabulous Leslie Carroll. Leslie has honored Historically Obsessed with a rocking guest post on my top most despised "she wolves" as Queen Elizabeth I would have called her. In reality what else are you suppose to call the woman who under your nose married the only man you ever loved? YES it is Lettice Knolly's and as many of you know she is one of my top picks for bad girls of the Tudor court since she ensnared Robert Dudley into her clutches. With out further delay take it away Leslie and readers be sure to read the post and go below for a rocking giveaway of  Leslie's brand new release "Royal Pains: A Rogues' Gallery of Brats, Brutes, and Bad Seeds".


    Desperate Housewife, Survivor—and Cougar?

    To celebrate the release of my 14th book, ROYAL PAINS: A Rogues’ Gallery of Brats, Brutes, and Bad Seeds (NAL Trade, March 2011), I was trying to think of a special way to write a guest post on Queen Elizabeth I’s lookalike cousin Lettice Knollys, something really different for Liz, and then it occurred to me that Lettice was so beautiful and had such a strong personality that if she were alive today there’s only one place she would be: no, not the throne. As Mary Boleyn’s granddaughter, she wasn’t in the line of succession and that wouldn’t have been an option.

    No—I’m fairly certain Lettice would have her own reality TV show. Because her life was far juicier than fiction!

    Lettice Knollys’s mother was Lady Catherine Carey, the daughter of Mary Boleyn Carey, Anne’s older sister—making the two feisty and formidable redheads first cousins once removed. In 1559, at the age of eighteen or nineteen, Lettice was appointed to a plum position at court as a Gentlewoman of the Queen’s Bedchamber. In December of the following year she wed Walter Devereux, 2nd Viscount Hereford, who would be made 1st Earl of Essex in 1572. Lettice left court after her marriage and bore Devereux five children in quick succession, reappearing in 1565 when she was very pregnant with her son Robert. Even in her delicate condition she completely captivated the Earl of Leicester—the queen’s favorite, Robert Dudley.

    The Spanish ambassador, Diego Guzmán de Silva, who found Lettice to be one of the prettiest women at court, cheerfully sent his employer a dispatch announcing that Dudley was utterly smitten with Her Majesty’s gorgeous cousin. Ten years separated the two women; and every time the queen looked at Lettice, she saw a younger, prettier, and equally vain and arrogant version of herself. Lettice possessed the same dark sparkling eyes as her late great-aunt, Anne Boleyn, and the abundant auburn hair, rosebud pout, and flawless, pale complexion of the Tudors, an enviable bonus in an age of smallpox. She was seductive and knew how to use her charm to maximum effect. Although she had been eager to become a handmaid to Her Majesty, she had also inherited the Boleyns’ ambitious streak and saw the queen as a cousin, not as a boss. Consequently, she refused to show the deference due to Elizabeth as her sovereign. In Lettice’s mind, the two women were equals. It was a war she couldn’t win, but it would never deter her from trying.

    Throughout her reign, the queen toyed with the prospect of wedding a foreign prince, or even one of her own subjects, but it was all politics and prevarication. However, the Earl of Leicester, Robert Dudley, remained the love of her life. She heaped him with honors, and risked her reputation (and consequently her own value on the marriage market) to spend hours alone with him. But it came with a price. Dudley’s job was to worship and adore her and her alone. In that respect, he betrayed her three times by wedding other women. The last Countess of Leicester would be Elizabeth’s own envious cousin, Lettice Knollys.

    Dudley had wed Amy Robsart in 1550, but a decade later, suffering from cancer, Amy died under mysterious circumstances after a fall down a shallow flight of stairs, having dismissed her servants for the day to attend a country fair. Then, in 1573, Dudley secretly wed one of Elizabeth’s waiting women, the widowed Douglas Sheffield, after she tired of being his mistress and insisted on a ring. But Dudley was a ladies’ man and wanted it all. He was also politically ambitious. He still hoped that Elizabeth (who was always the love of his life) would give in and decide to marry. And, failing that, he also still carried a torch for her redhaired cousin.

    During the mid 1570s, instead of focusing his attentions on his new wife, Douglas, and their young son, the earl turned in another direction entirely. If he couldn’t have Elizabeth, her look-alike cousin Lettice might make an appealing substitute. Their flirtation soon blossomed into a full blown affair and Dudley realized that he needed to ditch Douglas. He would begin by insisting that they had never legally been married. Fearful of Elizabeth’s reprisals if she ever learned of their union, Douglas agreed to Dudley’s terms: if asked, she would admit their affair, but pretend that they had never been legally wed (which also meant that they’d never get a divorce, making Dudley’s subsequent marriage to Lettice bigamous!)

    The Earl of Essex died in 1576, making Lettice available. Like her predecessor Douglas Sheffield, Lettice insisted on legalizing their relationship.

    But even bestowing her sexual favors, particularly as it was generally surmised that the queen withheld them, wasn’t getting Lettice any closer to an “I do.” So, relying upon Dudley’s honor as a gentleman, the less-than-ladylike Lettice employed the oldest trick in the book. She made certain she got pregnant. Lettice knew that the earl was tired of Douglas and that he desperately wanted a legitimate heir.

    Just as Lettice had hoped, her lover caved as soon as she informed him of her pregnancy. She and Dudley were wed in a secret ceremony at Kenilworth in the spring of 1578—with the precondition that the earl sever all ties with Douglas Sheffield. Once Dudley had complied with Lettice’s demand, her next move was to insist on a formal wedding ceremony with witnesses present to attest to its legality. But Dudley had his terms, too: the marriage would have to remain a secret.

    The “Tudor cub,” as the queen referred to herself, emitted a mighty roar when she eventually discovered the couple’s treachery, announcing that she would send Dudley to “rot in the Tower.” And when Lettice ostentatiously arrived at court arrayed in finery that rivaled the queen’s, Elizabeth literally boxed her cousin’s ears in public for daring to cross her—and then flaunting her triumph. “As but one sun lighten[s] this earth, [she] would have but one Queen in England,” she thundered. After berating Lettice, Elizabeth demanded that the “flouting wench” quit her sight and never darken a royal doorstep again. So irked was Elizabeth by Lettice’s existence that her cousin didn’t even need to be present to provoke the royal wrath. Even in her exile, Lettice managed to send the queen into a paralytic frenzy at the mere mention of her name.

    On September 4, 1588, just weeks after England’s naval triumph over Spain’s Armada, Dudley died, possibly from a malarial infection. Queen Elizabeth was utterly devastated and took to her bedchamber for days. Lettice was saddled with her late husband’s massive debts, amounting to about £50,000 (well over $16million today), half of which was owed to the crown. Under the circumstances, Elizabeth had no intentions of forgiving even a penny of it.

    But like a cat (or perhaps more specifically, a cougar), Lettice always managed to land on her feet. Described by a contemporary as having “a light, easy, healable nature,” in July 1589 she took a third husband—a boy toy twelve or thirteen years her junior named Christopher Blount. Blount had been Dudley’s Master of the Horse. He was also a hellraising friend of her oldest son Robert Devereux, who was now the 2nd Earl of Essex.

    No stranger to scandal, Lettice had once again set tongues wagging; even her own son tsk-tsked over his mother’s “unhappy choyce.” The rumor mill churned up lurid tales that Lettice had become Blount’s lover in 1587 and had poisoned Dudley so that she could wed her young stud. By then the fifty-something Queen Elizabeth had been exacting further revenge on her cousin for stealing Dudley, by taking the young Earl of Essex under her wing when he was in his late teens. Elizabeth gave the young man something his mother never could: power, prestige, and the indulgent, lavish attention of a queen.

    In January, 1598, Lettice, who had spent the past two years rusticating at her Staffordshire estate, heard that Elizabeth might be willing to welcome her back to court. It was the event of the decade for the courtiers who eagerly anticipated the reunion of the two formidable redheaded cousins. But the queen purposely kept postponing their encounter. When she finally deigned to meet Lettice, the two women were civil, though hardly cordial. Lettice remained unforgiven, and persona non grata at court.

    In 1599, Lettice once again petitioned her cousin for an audience, but this time she was pleading for clemency for her son. The hotheaded Earl of Essex, having successfully secured a commission to command a military expedition in Ireland, had mucked everything up by flouting Elizabeth’s orders and negotiating an ill-advised treaty with the enemy. He was incarcerated on his return to English soil; and the queen refused to permit his mother to visit him.

    The following year, Essex tried to raise an army against Elizabeth, intending to topple her from the throne. One of his conspirators was his stepfather and drinking buddy, Christopher Blount. They were sent to the Tower; and on February 25, 1601, Essex was executed for treason. On March 18, Lettice’s young husband was also beheaded.

    Essex’s execution broke Elizabeth’s heart as well as Lettice’s. Once again, the two cousins had something in common: the love of the same man, and the aching void left by his demise. But they never met again. According to Elizabeth’s Principal Secretary Sir Robert Cecil, “for her marriage with him [Leicester] Lettice “was long disgraced with the Queene” and their rift was a permanent one.

    Elizabeth died on March 24, 1603. Lettice outlived her by thirty-one years, a lifetime in itself in the seventeenth century. She died a wealthy woman at the age of ninety-three on Christmas Day, 1634. At her request, Lettice was buried at St. Mary’s, Warwick, “by my deere lord and husband the Earle of Leicester” Reposing beside him for all eternity, which Elizabeth (who was interred at Westminster Abbey) could never do, it was Lettice Knollys who had the last, celestial, laugh.

    So, if Lettice, with her larger-than-life personality, her colorful life, and her propensity to always land on her feet, had her own reality TV show today, what would you call it? And would you watch it?

     Wow that was a great post Leslie and in my world I think if Lettice had her own reality show it would have to be titled house wives of Leicester or something along those lines. For more on Leslie and her hilarious style you can check out her website, Twitter, and her blog. As Leslie as stated before "history is so juicy you do not even have to make this stuff up" and now for the GIVEAWAY!

    Okay everyone this one is for ONE autographed finished copy of Royal Pains: A Rogues' Gallery of Brats, Brutes, and Bad Seeds

    Sorry but the giveaway is only open to US residence and to be entered you MUST fill out the form below for your entry to count.

    Giveaway will end on March 22nd 2011

    Good luck to everyone and I will draw the winner on March 23rd

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