Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Book Review: LIGHT ON LUCREZIA by Jean Plaidy

At this point in Lucrezia Borgia life she was deeply entangled in the devious plots hatched by her notorious family. Lucrezia’s divorce was officially finalized and she was to be married again. This time she would truly love her new husband. Her new husband was a very handsome young man named Alfonso of Naples he was was the younger brother of her sister in law Sanchia of Aragon. He was very young but Lucrezia fell in love with him at first sight. The pair shared a vibrant young love and they suffered a bitter blow early on in their marriage. Lucrezia took a tumble and sadly she lost the babe she was carrying. The disappointment was bitter but it did not last long for she was quickly pregnant again and they both looked forward to the better days that were yet to come.

Those better days were marred by the return of Lucrezia’s domineering brother Cesare. Once he had been Sanchia’s lover but those days were over. Sanchia spent her days with her brother and Lucrezia. Cesare was sickened by the couples love and devotion. He became bound and determined to do away with this new pretty brother in law of his that usurped Lucrezia's affection. Alfonso had been acutely aware of Cesare’s growing animosity and began to fear for his life. Sanchia had begged him to flee for his life because she knew what Cesare was really capable of and he did so with all speed. Yet he came back because Lucrezia begged him to come back home. With in days of telling Lucrezia his fears of Cesare he was not only injured but also strangled to death by one of her brother’s henchmen. Cesare blatantly admitted he ordered it done and there would be no punishment for the most fear man in Italy. Lucrezia and Sanchia were inconsolable in their grief. They tried in vain to protect him and they were tricked in the end into leaving Alfonso alone and it only took a minute for him to be murdered. Sanchia vowed revenge on her one time lover and Lucrezia began to fear the family that loved her too much. It was at this point she realized the only way to escape was through another marriage far away from Rome.

This time around Pope Alexander VI was determined that Lucrezia should have the best and the best was another Alfonso. Lucrezia was to marry Alfonso d‘Este the heir to the dukedom of Ferrara and with this marriage came a glorious title. Since this was Lucrezia's only option to escape she threw herself fully into committing to this new marriage in Ferrara. She would be an official princess and when she finally went to her new home she was utterly disappointed. Her new sister in law despised her from the beginning. Alfonso her new husband did not care for her, and the lavish lifestyle she was accustomed to would be stripped away from her. Lucrezia became melancholy and tried to find some pleasure in what little life had to offer her. After several conflicts with-in the Este house Lucrezia was dealt a debilitating blow; the sudden loss of her father. Grieving deeply Lucrezia was shocked that those around her in the house of Este celebrated the downfall of the Borgia’s. Her only joy now rested on her murderous brother Cesare. In her cruel life Lucrezia had to steal what little happiness she could even if it meant having illicit affairs behind her unfaithful husbands back. She had survived the fall of the great Borgia’s but surviving the house of d'Este’s was a whole different matter.

5+/5 Love, love, loved this novel. The concluding chapters to Lucrezia’s life I thought would be tamer. I could not be more wrong, her life was in constant turmoil. After reading Jean Plaidy’s version of Lucrezia Borgia I could never see her the same again. She gave her love freely where she deemed fit and was cursed for it. I encourage HF lovers to read Plaidy’s duo on Lucrezia because she will really touch your heart in the end just like she probably did to everyone she met in her lifetime. I am officially a new lover of Lucrezia Borgia.

R-Rating for Violence and Sexual Reference.
FTC-This novel is part of my personal collection.
Amazon: LIGHT ON LUCREZIA by Jean Plaidy

Monday, May 26, 2014

Book Review: MADONNA OF THE SEVEN HILLS by Jean Plaidy

The Borgia’s are one of histories most notorious families. They were known for their many scandals that rocked Rome to its very core. Pope Alexander VI had illegitimate children before he became Pope with his long time mistress Vannozza Catanei. Alexander was the doting father and the children loved him for it. Lucrezia was the baby girl of the family and was adored by her many brothers and parents. Her brothers Cesare, Giovanni, and little Geffredo all shared a bond that was unusual from the beginning. With the exception of Cesare all of the siblings inherited their fathers carefree view of life. Anything was forgivable in the Borgia family including murder.

Lucrezia from the moment she was born was meant to love and be loved. She was the heart of the Borgia family especially her older brother Cesare’s heart. As children Cesare had an intense rivalry with his younger brother Giovanni. When she was born Cesare made it his mission to make sure that Lucrezia would always love him above all others. Through out their lives Lucrezia and Cesare had an intense type of love. Which may have been because Cesare was the dark brooding personality type where love and violence met together in a hazy grey area of emotions. No one could ever love Lucrezia like her brother could and because Cesare had no moral qualms holding him back he would stop at nothing to make sure his little sister had the very best of everything life had to offer.

Like most of the noble women of her time Lucrezia was married young for political advantages to Giovanni Sforza. It was a typical loveless marriage that eventually had to be undone because it no longer had any benefits to the Borgia family. Her father could give her a divorce or her jealous brother could just murder him with out any consequences. A divorce will set her free but all of that was put on hold when in a traumatic turn of events Lucrezia sought refuge in a convent because she was whole heartily sick of all the murderous intrigue that was dealt by the hands of her family. Her father did not want her to take the nun’s vows and repeatedly sent messengers to try and coax her out of the convent. Surprisingly Lucrezia had found some comfort in the most impossible of places. She fell madly in love with her father’s messenger and life outside of the convent walls began to call her back. Lucrezia had come to the nunnery with the hope of escaping one scandal yet she managed to created another one entirely of her own doing. Lucrezia now had a secret and it was due to be on its way shortly. Her choices from that moment on would give way to heartbreaking consequences that even her loving Cesare could not protect her from.
4/5 Another lovely Plaidy novel, she really did have a gift for making messy historical situations seem logical. There was no incest in Plaidy’s version of the Borgia’s. Her view on the dynamics between Lucrezia and Cesare to me was way more plausible than incest. I cannot wait to read the next novel on Lucrezia “Light on Lucrezia” to finish her story. I would highly recommend this novel to historical fiction lovers new to the house of Borgia because Jean Plaidy is always a good place to start.

R-Rating for Violence and Sexual Reference.
FTC-This novel is part of my personal collection.

Mailbox Monday: Robin Maxwell

O, Juliet by Robin Maxwell
"Before Juliet Capelletti lie two futures: a traditionally loveless marriage to her father's business partner, or the fulfillment of her poetic dreams, inspired by the great Dante. Unlike her beloved friend Lucrezia, who looks forward to her arranged marriage into the Medici dynasty, Juliet has a wild, romantic imagination that takes flight in the privacy of her bedchamber and on her garden balcony.
Her life and destiny are forever changed when Juliet meets Romeo Monticecco, a soulful young man seeking peace between their warring families. A dreamer himself, Romeo is unstoppable, once he determines to capture the heart of the remarkable woman foretold in his stars".

"The author who "masterfully builds a dramatic story" presents another gripping novel of the women of Tudor England.

As the bereft, orphaned cousin to the ill-fated Anne Boleyn, Katherine Howard knows better than many the danger of being favored by the King. But she is a Howard, and therefore ambitious, so she assumes the role Henry VIII has assigned her-his untouched child bride, his adored fifth wife. But her innocence is imagined, the first of many lies she will have to tell to gain the throne. And the path that she will tread to do so is one fraught with the same dangers that cost Queen Anne her head".

Thursday, May 22, 2014

REIGN on CW Review

I know that not everyone likes the new show Reign on CW. I have to admit that I LOVE IT! It is so far left field on everything especially on Mary Queen of Scots life in France that it is insanely bad. But it is so bad that it is GOOD! The clothing, the hair, and now even the music. The whole cast is to die for beautiful men and women. Yet Mary stands out as the shows great beauty. I know that the show has not just caused scandal on the historical accuracy front but it also air the CW networks raciest scene to ever air. I became hooked on it after I watched this raunchy scene between Mary's lady in waiting Kenna and the King of France. It was a down and dirty little sex scene that left my mouth gaping open. The moment proved that this show was defiantly an adult show. In Reign the women are glamorous with a modern day edge making for some very cute bohemian aristocratic fashion's. All of Mary's ladies are to die for beautiful and very different from each other which makes it all the more exciting. They even made Catherine De' Medici a beautiful mature woman. I guess Reign just makes everyone beautiful. I totally understand if this show is not your cup of tea but I thought I would share some of the cool things I love about this show just in case it sparks your interest.
From top left to right: Dauphin Francis, Mary Stuart, Sebastian, Catherine de Medici, Henry II. From bottom Left to right: Aylee, Kenna, Greer, Lola, Nostradamus. 
The Cast 
Kenna, Lola, and Greer.
Mary Stuart ~ Adelaide Kane
King Henry II of France ~ Alan van Sprang
Queen Catherine de Medici ~ Megan Follows
Dauphin Francis ~ Toby Regbo
Diane de Poitiers ~ Anna Walton
Sebastian (King Henry II and mistress Diane de Poitiers son) ~ Torrance Coombs
Nostradamus ~ Rossif Sutherland
Kenna ~ Caitlin Stasey
Lola (Mary's lady in waiting) ~ Anna Popplewell
Greer (Mary's lady in waiting) ~ Celina Sinden
Aylee (Mary's lady in waiting) ~ Jenessa Grant

On episode #118 the show was at a turning point. Mary and Francis are firmly married and the king Henry II has gone mad. Henry allowed a servant woman to usurp Queen Catherine De' Medici's crown after she won the queen of the bean contest. The little servant girl won and Henry being mad at the time let her take it way too far. Meanwhile in a turn of events a new contract was being negotiated with the Pope for certain land rents and Henry not being fit to negotiate means that the golden couple Mary and Francis would swoop in and save the day by taking over the negotiations. 

Catherine de Medici and Nostradamus
Did mention that all of this took place at a ball? That was the best part. Mary and Francis were taking the stage and finding their royal footing at this time. But surprisingly the best part of this scene was not the ball it was the music! It took me while to pick up on it but playing in the background for the ball there was a string quartet playing, I knew this song but until the courus broke out I had no idea how I knew it. Best song ever for the moment goes to Lordes "Royal" performed by Vitamin String Quartet. The music was oh so fitting and I loved it, loved it, LOVED it. I wanted to share the music with you and some info about my new favorite show even if it is not your cup of tea consider it a train wreck that you just can't take your eyes off of. I hope that through this show some might watch it and wonder what was the real Mary Queen of Scots like. Maybe they will become a historical fiction junkie too and who knows maybe just maybe someone will give Mary a chance and find out that her life was way more dramatic than anything a TV show could ever hope to produce. I am sad to say though that Reign had it's season finally last week and I hope to goodness they do not cancelled it but for now check out the stuff below for more on Reign including where to watch the full episodes for FREE.


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Book Review: THE SECOND DUCHESS by Elizabeth Loupas

Barbara of Austria was anything but a young and extraordinarily beautiful new bride. "Imperial" Barbara was married to the Duke of Ferrara; Alfonso d’ Este. The newly married couple was older and Barbara unlike her husband was a novice. She became Alfonso’s second Duchess of Ferrara. The death of the first Duchess of Ferrara was mysterious and it was the one topic that hovered on everyone’s lips at the Ferrarese court. Lucrezia de’ Medici was a forbidden topic unless you wanted to incur the wrath of the Duke by bringing up his dead wife.

The great mystery surrounding Lucrezia’s life and death would haunt Barbara from the moment she arrived in Ferrara. To save herself from becoming a victim of her new husband she must find out the truth about the circumstances that surrounded young Lucrezia’s death. It was rumored that she had died from ill humors in the Duke’s own nunnery but behind whispering hands at court it was said she was murdered by the Duke himself. Terrified of her new husband Barbara devised a plan to safe guard herself and gain the higher hand on the cold Duke. Barbara became determined to find the truth or die trying.

5++++/5 loved it! Poison, murder for hire, scandal, and every other plot you could think of and not think of all rolled into one engrossing novel. I inhaled this novel and read it in a matter of days and since I had just finished “The Red Crown Lily” it made it all the much better. I actually got lucky and discovered this novel was already in my collection because I remember around the release of this novel that there were so many book bloggers raving about it. Now I see why they all fell in love with this novel. I am elated that I finally got the chance to read this one because this lady has a new favorite author to add list of my favorite picks. I would highly recommended this novel for intrigue lovers.

R-Rating for Violence and Sexual References
FTC- this novel is part of my personal collection.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Book Review: THE RED CROWN LILY by Elizabeth Loupas

Chiara Nerini was starving and terrified, she left what remained of her family owned bookshop in a last ditch effort to survive. Her father had blown himself and most of his bookshop up practicing alchemy in secret. Her family suffered greatly because of the loss. She had planned on selling a piece of her father’s alchemy equipment to the highest bidder she could think of. At this time in Italy Francesco de’ Medici the son of the great Duke was a known dabbler in alchemy. The future Grand Duke would be the only man that would have the means to pay top dollar for her rare decanter and Chiara was desperate to buy food for her family.

As the Grand Duke of Tuscany Cosimo de’ Medici lay dying, his son Francesco waited to inherit his birthright. Chiara had devised a plan to approach the Prince but it failed miserably. Right when she thought her situation could not get anymore worse she was about to be defiled right at the palace gates by the guards when a rescuer suddenly came to her aid. He was one of Francesco’s men that had previously not even given her a second look. She had brazenly shouted the tiny bit of Latin she had memorized from her fathers alchemy book but Francesco never even reacted. Fortunately for her Francesco sent his man Ruanno dell Inghilterra on his giant beast of a horseback to investigate. Ruanno made the guards release her with a crack of his whip and he hauled her up on his horse like a sack of potatoes. Chiara awoke alone in a cell of some sorts in a place she had never been. Abducted right off the street by one of the heir's men but for what dark purpose, all she could do was wait for someone to return.

Francesco aka "Franco" spent most of his free time with his two loves alchemy and his evil mistress Bianca Cappello. Franco decided that he needed a “Mystic Sorra” which was considered to be the female component of all things in alchemy. The newly made Grand Duke would need her to be a virgin and possess malleable alchemy skills if she was to ever help him produce the philosopher’s stone. If Chiara could pass Franco’s tests she could become his new Mystic Sorra and maybe someday she could become a recognized alchemist in her own right. Ruanno who seemed so cold in the beginning helped her pass the trials of becoming the Mystic Sorra and Chiara became Franco’s new recognized Sorra Mystica. Becoming the Sorra Mystica of the new Grand Duke of Tuscany Chiara instantly was thrown into the viper pit that is the de’ Medici court. Court life is treacherous among the de' Medici's and it was a life Chiara knew nothing about.

The de’ Medici’s are a notoriously ruthless house of poisoning murder’s specializing with in their own family. Nothing could have prepared Chiara for the devastating heartbreak she would come to know at the hand of the de’ Medici's. She was quick to learn that no one was ever really safe with in a court filled with murderous intrigue. Chiara and Ruanno bonded together in an oath of vengeance for the same murdered loved one. The new duo swore to exact their revenge upon the Grand Duke and his second wife Bianca Capello for their sinister deeds. Just when life could not get complicated enough Chiara discovered she was falling head over heels in love with Ruanno and the cost of their revenge could be their love and their lives.

5+/5 this book was AMAZING! It was fast paced, filled page to page with intrigue after intrigue. It was a real nail bitter for me because you had no idea which way the story was going to go next. Sexy and violent it made for an engrossing page-turner. I have not read much on the de’ Medici’s and I found this novel eased me into their house. I HIGHLY praise this novel but it is defiantly in the R rating category and I loved every single bit of it.

R-Rating Violence and Sexual Reference.
FTC- this novel was sent to me by the publisher for review. I received no compensation for this review.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Book Review: THE CAPTIVE QUEEN OF SCOTS by Jean Plaidy

During civil war in Scotland Mary Queen of Scots fled her country for her own safety with high hopes that her queenly cousin Elizabeth I of England would aid her in regaining her throne. Mary had just escaped imprisonment at the hand of her bastard born half brother the Earl of Moray and she was desperate to recoup her losses. England was the closest escape possible. England’s virgin Queen was her only hope of saving her rule in Scotland. Mary would come to regret her decision everyday for the next eighteen years of her life.

Upon arriving in England Mary was treated with the highest respect fitting to her rank. Elizabeth later decided to go against Mary and align herself with the evil Earl of Moray. In the end it was best for Moray and Elizabth if Mary never saw Scotland or her young son ever again. Queen Elizabeth was a shrewd woman and she never forgot a slight towards her and the time had come for her to enact her revenge on Mary for proclaiming herself the “true” queen of England. It was said that Elizabeth was extremely jealous of her fair cousin and her wild love exploits. The two cousins were like night and day, Elizabeth needed no one and Mary needed to be loved by all. Mary had this quality that enchanted everyone that she came into contact with. She inspired men to do outrageous deeds for their love of her and yet it was never enough to save her from her English prison.

Plot after plot would follow Mary all of them were unsuccessful and she remained Elizabeth’s royal prisoner. Both women were Queen’s in their own right yet Elizabeth could not just do away with Mary with out a full-blown religious war because Mary was always a devout Catholic. The Catholic league of the world wanted Mary to claim England as hers and return the country back to its Catholic roots. Elizabeth could never let that happen it would literally have to happen over her dead body. A dilemma that only had one solution Mary must die but how could Elizabeth justify executing her own cousin and a royal queen like herself because if she did execute Mary an anointed Queen, Elizabeth could also be victim to the same fate. Elizabeth would be forced into quelling the Catholic uprisings in Mary’s name and there was only one way to end it all.

4/5 I waited a long time to read this novel because a whole novel on Mary’s years of imprisonment really did not seem appealing to me at the time. I was wrong, leave it to Jean Plaidy to make 18 years of imprisonment exciting and not overly drawn out. I have nothing but praise for Jean Plaidy like most historical fiction lovers. I can finally say I finished the whole Stuart series! I would recommend that this novel be read in order of the series and the sooner together the better because you tend to forget the details when you wait a long time in-between novels in any series. Together the two novels “Royal Road to Fotheringhay” and “The Captive Queen of Scots” are the complete tragic story that was Mary Queen of Scots.

PG-13 Rating for violence.
FTC- this novel is part of my personal collection.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Mailbox Monday: Elizabeth Chadwick

The Love Knot by Elizabeth Chadwick
"In the summer of 1140, Oliver Pascal returns home from a long pilgrimage to discover England ravaged by civil war and his family lands forfeit to the conflict between Henry I's daughter Mathilda, and her cousin Stephen of Blois, who has seized the crown at her expense. Riding to the Earl of Gloucester's keep at Bristol, Oliver stumbles upon the aftermath of a mercenary attack on an isolated village. Among the survivors are Richard, an illegitimate royal son and half-brother to the Earl himself, and the boy's young nurse Catrin. Widowed, stubborn and proud, she has much in common with Oliver, a man still grieving for a wife lost in childbirth.At Bristol, Catrin meets Ethel, a wise woman and midwife, who begins to train her in the healing arts and is instrumental in bringing Oliver and Catrin together as lovers. But the endurance of that love is threatened by the perils of injury in battle, the danger of childbirth, the upheaval of continuing civil war, and the risk of loving in exchange for nothing but heartbreak. In the end Catrin must decide where her true loyalties lie".~Lizzie~

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Hot Historical Fiction April & May 2014

A Royal Experiment: The Private Life of King George III by Janice Hadlow
"The surprising, deliciously dramatic, and ultimately heartbreaking story of King George III’s radical pursuit of happiness in his private life with Queen Charlotte and their 15 children
In the U.S., Britain's George III, the protagonist of A Royal Experiment, is known as the king from whom Americans won their independence and as "the mad king," but in Janice Hadlow’s groundbreaking and entertaining new biography, he is another character altogether—compelling and relatable".

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
"From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, a stunningly ambitious and beautiful novel about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Marie Laure lives with her father in Paris within walking distance of the Museum of Natural History where he works as the master of the locks (there are thousands of locks in the museum). When she is six, she goes blind, and her father builds her a model of their neighborhood, every house, every manhole, so she can memorize it with her fingers and navigate the real streets with her feet and cane. When the Germans occupy Paris, father and daughter flee to Saint-Malo on the Brittany coast, where Marie-Laure's agoraphobic great uncle lives in a tall, narrow house by the sea wall.

In another world in Germany, an orphan boy, Werner, grows up with his younger sister, Jutta, both enchanted by a crude radio Werner finds. He becomes a master at building and fixing radios, a talent that wins him a place at an elite and brutal military academy and, ultimately, makes him a highly specialized tracker of the Resistance. Werner travels through the heart of Hitler Youth to the far-flung outskirts of Russia, and finally into Saint-Malo, where his path converges with Marie-Laure".

Daughter of the Gods: A Novel of Ancient Egypt by Stephanie Thornton
"Egypt, 1400s BC. The pharaoh’s pampered second daughter, lively, intelligent Hatshepsut, delights in racing her chariot through the marketplace and testing her archery skills in the Nile’s marshlands. But the death of her elder sister, Neferubity, in a gruesome accident arising from Hatshepsut’s games forces her to confront her guilt...and sets her on a profoundly changed course.
Hatshepsut enters a loveless marriage with her half brother, Thut, to secure his claim to the Horus Throne and produce a male heir. But it is another of Thut’s wives, the commoner Aset, who bears him a son, while Hatshepsut develops a searing attraction for his brilliant adviser Senenmut. And when Thut suddenly dies, Hatshepsut becomes de facto ruler, as regent to her two-year-old nephew.

Once, Hatshepsut anticipated being free to live and love as she chose. Now she must put Egypt first. Ever daring, she will lead a vast army and build great temples, but always she will be torn between the demands of leadership and the desires of her heart. And even as she makes her boldest move of all, her enemies will plot her downfall...."

Dark Aemilia: A Novel of Shakespeare's Dark Lady by Sally O'Reilly

The daughter of a Venetian musician, Aemilia Bassano came of age in Queen Elizabeth’s royal court. The Queen’s favorite, she develops a love of poetry and learning, maturing into a young woman known not only for her beauty but also her sharp mind and quick tongue. Aemilia becomes the mistress of Lord Hunsdon, but her position is precarious. Then she crosses paths with an impetuous playwright named William Shakespeare and begins an impassioned but ill-fated affair.

A decade later, the Queen is dead, and Aemilia Bassano is now Aemilia Lanyer, fallen from favor and married to a fool. Like the rest of London, she fears the plague. And when her young son Henry takes ill, Aemilia resolves to do anything to save him, even if it means seeking help from her estranged lover, Will—or worse, making a pact with the Devil himself.

In rich, vivid detail, Sally O’Reilly breathes life into England’s first female poet, a mysterious woman nearly forgotten by history. Full of passion and devilish schemes, Dark Aemilia is a tale worthy of the Bard".

The Queen's Exiles by Barbara Kyle
"1572. Europe is in turmoil. In the Netherlands the streets are red with the blood of those who dare to oppose the brutal Spanish occupation. A vengeful faction of exiled English Catholics is plotting to overthrow Queen Elizabeth and install her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots on the throne. But amid the unrest, one resourceful young woman has made a lucrative enterprise ...
Scottish-born Fenella Doorn rules like a queen over a privateer's haven on the Isle of Sark. Her success at salvaging crippled vessels affords her gold and security, and it is on one of these ships that she meets wealthy Baron—and privateer—Adam Thornleigh. Secretly drawn to him, Fenella can’t refuse when Adam enlists her to join him in war-torn Brussels to help find his traitorous wife, Frances—and the children she’s taken from him.

But Fenella’s own bold actions have put a price on her head. Now Adam and Fenella’s lives are in peril as they race across Europe in an attempt to rescue his young ones, defend the crown, and restore the peace that few can remember".

Cavendon Hall by Barbara Taylor bradford
"From the #1 New York Times bestselling author comes an epic saga of intrigue and mystique set in Edwardian England. Cavendon Hall is home to two families, the aristocratic Inghams and the Swanns who serve them. Charles Ingham, the sixth Earl of Mowbray, lives there with his wife Felicity and their six children. Walter Swann, the premier male of the Swann family, is valet to the earl. His wife Alice, a clever seamstress who is in charge of the countess's wardrobe, also makes clothes for the four daughters. For centuries, these two families have lived side-by-side, beneath the backdrop of the imposing Yorkshire manor. Lady Daphne, the most beautiful of the Earl’s daughters, is about to be presented at court when a devastating event changes her life and threatens the Ingham name. With World War I looming, both families will find themselves tested in ways they never thought possible. Loyalties will be challenged and betrayals will be set into motion. In this time of uncertainty, one thing is sure: these two families will never be the same again. Cavendon Hall is Barbara Taylor Bradford at her very best, and its sweeping story of secrets, love, honor, and betrayal will have readers riveted up to the very last page".

The Island of Doves by Kelly O'Connor McNees
"Vivid and enthralling, Island of the Doves tells the story of a courageous woman who is desperate for freedom and of those who will risk everything to help her…
Susannah Fraser lives in one of Buffalo’s finest mansions, but her monstrous husband makes the home a terrible prison. When a local nun offers to help her escape, Susannah boards a steamship headed for Mackinac Island and a chance at freedom.

Magdelaine Fonteneau has seen her share of tragedy—a husband murdered before her eyes, two sisters lost—and she sees offering Susannah refuge in her island home as atonement for her many regrets. This act of kindness changes Susannah in ways she never could have imagined as she finds solace in the company of others who carry their own secrets and scars. Only together can they untangle their pasts—and find a future bright with the promise of new life…"

The Medici Boy by John L'Heureux
"The worlds of art, politics and passion collide in John L’Heureux’s masterful new novel, The Medici Boy. With rich composition, L’Heureux ingeniously transports the reader to Donatello’s Renaissance Italy—directly into his bottega, (workshop), as witnessed through the eyes of Luca Mattei, a devoted assistant. While creating his famous bronze of David and Goliath, Donatello’s passion for his enormously beautiful model and part time rent boy, Agnolo, ignites a dangerous jealousy that ultimately leads to Agnolo’s brutal murder. Luca, the complex and conflicted assistant, will sacrifice all to save the life of Donatello, even if it means the life of the master sculptor’s friend and great patron of art, Cosimo de’ Medici. John L’Heureux’s long-awaited novel delivers both a monumental and intimate narrative of the creative genius, Donatello, at the height of his powers. With incisive detail, L’Heureux beautifully renders the master sculptor’s forbidden homosexual passions, and the artistry that enthralled the powerful and highly competitive Medici and Albizzi families. The finished work is a sumptuously detailed historical novel that entertains while it delves deeply into both the sacred and the profane within one of the Italian Renaissance’s most consequential cities, fifteenth century Florence".

The Red Lily Crown: A Novel of Medici Florence by 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"?

The Collector of Dying Breaths: A Novel of Suspense by M.J. Rose
"A lush and imaginative novel that crisscrosses time as a perfumer and a mythologist search for the fine line between potion and poison, poison and passion…and past and present.
Florence, Italy—1533: An orphan named René le Florentin is plucked from poverty to become Catherine de Medici’s perfumer. Traveling with the young duchessina from Italy to France, René brings with him a cache of secret documents from the monastery where he was trained: recipes for exotic fragrances and potent medicines—and a formula for an alchemic process said to have the potential to reanimate the dead. In France, René becomes not only the greatest perfumer in the country but the most dangerous, creating deadly poisons for his Queen to use against her rivals. But while mixing herbs and essences under the light of flickering candles, Rene doesn’t begin to imagine the tragic and personal consequences for which his lethal potions will be responsible.

Paris, France—The Present: A renowned mythologist, Jac L’Etoile, is trying to recover from personal heartache by throwing herself into her work, learns of the 16th century perfumer who may have been working on an elixir that would unlock the secret to immortality. She becomes obsessed with René le Florentin’s work—particularly when she discovers the dying breathes he had collected during his lifetime. Jac’s efforts put her in the path of her estranged lover, Griffin North, a linguist who has already begun translating René le Florentin’s mysterious formula. Together they confront an eccentric heiress in possession of a world-class art collection. A woman who has her own dark purpose for the elixir… a purpose for which she believes the ends will justify her deadly means. This mesmerizing gothic tale of passion and obsession crisscrosses time, zigzagging from the violent days of Catherine de Medici’s court to twenty-first century France. Fiery and lush, set against deep, wild forests and dimly lit chateaus, The Collector of Dying Breaths illuminates the true path to immortality: the legacies we leave behind".

The Shadow Queen: A Novel by Sandra Gulland
"From the author of the beloved Josephine B. Trilogy, comes a spellbinding novel inspired by the true story of a young woman who rises from poverty to become confidante to the most powerful, provocative and dangerous woman in the 17th century French court: the mistress of the charismatic Sun King.
1660, Paris

Claudette’s life is like an ever-revolving stage set. From an impoverished childhood wandering the French countryside with her family’s acting troupe, Claudette finally witnesses her mother's astonishing rise to stardom in Parisian theaters. Working with playwrights Corneille, Molière and Racine, Claudette’s life is culturally rich, but like all in the theatrical world at the time, she's socially scorned.

A series of chance encounters gradually pull Claudette into the alluring orbit of Athénaïs de Montespan, mistress to Louis XIV and reigning "Shadow Queen." Needing someone to safeguard her secrets, Athénaïs offers to hire Claudette as her personal attendant.

Enticed by the promise of riches and respectability, Claudette leaves the world of the theater only to find that court is very much like a stage, with outward shows of loyalty masking more devious intentions. This parallel is not lost on Athénaïs, who fears political enemies are plotting her ruin as young courtesans angle to take the coveted spot in the king's bed.

Indeed, Claudette's "reputable" new position is marked by spying, illicit trysts and titanic power struggles. As Athénaïs, becomes ever more desperate to hold onto the King's favor, innocent love charms move into the realm of deadly Black Magic, and Claudette is forced to consider a move that will put her own life—and the family she loves so dearly—at risk.

Set against the gilded opulence of a newly-constructed Versailles and the War of Theaters, THE SHADOW QUEEN is a seductive, gripping novel about the lure of wealth, the illusion of power, and the increasingly uneasy relationship between two strong-willed women whose actions could shape the future of France".

The Venetian Contract by Marina Fiorato
"In 1576, five years after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire at the Battle of Lepanto, a ship slips unnoticed into Venice bearing a deadly cargo. A man, more dead than alive, disembarks and staggers twoards the Piazza San Marco. He brings a gift to Venice from the Turkish Sultan. Within days the city will be infected with bubonic plague - and the Turks will have their revenge.
For months the plague wreaks havoc on Venice. In despair, the Doge summons the architect Andrea Palladio and offers him a commission: the greatest church of his career, an offering to God so magnificent that Venice will be saved. Palladio's own life is in danger too, and it will require all the skills of Dr Annibale Cason, the city's finest plague doctor, to keep him alive. But what Dr Cason has not counted on is the other passenger who disembarked from the Turkish ship - a young and beautiful harem doctor whose skills will more than match his own".

The Secret Life of William Shakespeare by Jude Morgan
"There are so few established facts about how the son of a glove maker from Warwickshire became one of the greatest writers of all time that some people doubt he could really have written so many astonishing plays. We know that he married Anne Hathaway, who was pregnant and six years older than he, at the age of eighteen, and that one of their children died of the plague. We know that he left Stratford to seek his fortune in London, and eventually succeeded. He was clearly an unwilling craftsman, ambitious actor, resentful son, almost good-enough husband. But when and how did he also become a genius?
The Secret Life of William Shakespeare pulls back the curtain to imagine what it might have really been like to be Shakespeare before a seemingly ordinary man became a legend. In the hands of acclaimed historical novelist Jude Morgan, this is a brilliantly convincing story of unforgettable richness, warmth, and immediacy".

Stolen Remains by Christine Trent
"After establishing her reputation as one of London's most highly regarded undertakers, Violet Harper decided to take her practice to the wilds of the American West. But when her mother falls ill, Violet and her husband Samuel are summoned back to England, where her skills are as sought-after as ever. She's honored to undertake the funeral of Anthony Fairmont, the Viscount Raybourn, a close friend of Queen Victoria's who died in suspicious circumstances--but it's difficult to perform her services when his body disappears. . . As the viscount's undertaker, all eyes are on Violet as the Fairmonts and Scotland Yard begin the search for his earthly remains. Forced to exhume her latent talents as a sleuth to preserve her good name, Violet's own investigation takes her from servants' quarters, to the halls of Windsor Castle, to the tombs of ancient Egypt--and the Fairmont family's secrets quickly begin to unravel like a mummy's wrappings. But the closer Violet gets to the truth, the closer she gets to becoming the next missing body. . .
Wrought with both heartfelt bravery and breathtaking suspense, Stolen Remains is a captivating tale of death and deception set against the indelible backdrop of Victorian London".

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Late Mailbox Monday: Deborah Swift

The Lady's Slipper by Deborah Swift
"1660. King Charles II has returned from exile, but memories of the English Civil War still rankle. There are old scores to settle, and religious differences threaten to overturn a fragile peace. When Alice Ibbetson discovers a rare orchid, the Lady’s Slipper, growing in a wood belonging to Richard Wheeler, she is captivated by its beauty— though Wheeler, a Quaker, is determined to keep the flower where God intended it to grow. Knowing that the orchid is the last of its kind, she steals the flower, little dreaming that her seemingly simple act will set off a chain of events that will lead to murder and exile, and change her life forever…"
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