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Feb 2, 2010

GIVEAWAY! Ciji Ware Interview, author of Island of the Swans

Please welcome to The Burton Review:
Ciji Ware Interview, author of Island of the Swans, brand new release February 1, 2010. See my Review!

1.Ciji, your book Island of the Swans was a wonderful treat for me to read. It is about Jane Maxwell, the 4th Duchess of Gordon. What propelled you on the journey of first writing her story, twenty years ago?

McCullough Women

I come from a long line of “Uppity Women” of Scottish-American descent, and my great-grandmother, Elfie McCullough--the tall, statuesque woman second on the left in this picture of five generations of McCullough women (my mother is the babe-in-arms)--lived to be 94. Until her death when I was fifteen-years-old, she and my Great Aunt Marge filled my head with exciting family lore, and claimed that we were descended from the famous (some say infamous) Jane Maxwell, the 4th Duchess of Gordon.

Now, you need to understand that Hazel (Elifie McCullough’s daughter and my grandmother, Hazel, dressed in white, sitting in the rocker holding the baby) was mortified by a mother who ditched her hard-drinking husband and ran away from a Missouri cattle farm to New York with an itinerate violinist. Nana Hazel, in fact, along with my very practical mother (the baby in the picture) cautioned me “not to believe a word Elfie McCullough ever said.”

Years later I ran across a short monograph detailing the tumultuous life of “The Match-Making Duchess” and immediately felt a burning desire to learn everything I could about this eighteenth century “Woman of Fashion” who was the confidante of kings, in love with two men for more than thirty years, the rival of Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire, the patroness (and suspected paramour) of the poet Robert Burns--and connected through her five daughters’ dynastic marriages to three dukes, a marquis and a baronet.

I spent five years researching her life; made about five or six trips to visit her haunts throughout Scotland and England; traced the Scottish kilted regiments that fought in the American War of Independence; and even slept in her bedroom in the house she built in the Highlands. Sadly, I could never actually prove that my McCulloughs married into the Maxwells of Monreith a few generations before Jane Maxwell was born in 1749. However, it certainly was fun trying…

2.When you learned that this book would be reissued, what were the first thoughts running through your mind?

I was ecstatic when I learned through my agent that Sourcebooks’ historical novel imprint, Landmark, was interested in purchasing all my backlist for reissue, along with a new historical I had recently completed. I was particularly happy that Island of the Swans—first published twenty years ago in 1989—was going to find a new generation of readers and be published in this beautiful trade paperback format with an exquisite cover. I had always loved Daphne du Maurier and Anya Seton’s works and thought of my books as written in that tradition—in other words, as historical novels, not romances, though there is always a strong love story threaded through everything I’ve written. When I saw the draft cover for Swans utilizing the Romney portrait of the Duchess that hangs this very day in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, I literally burst out crying, feeling that my new publishers “got” what I had been trying to do as a writer from the first day I started to create this novel—my first.

3.Do you feel as close to your main characters in the book as you did twenty years ago? How has your relationship with Jane Maxwell, Alex Gordon and Thomas Fraser changed after twenty years?

Ciji as Duchess Gordon

What a great question! I lived with these characters for the five years it took me to research and write this book (1983-1988), and even used to give lectures about the book and the real-life historical figures of Jane, Alex, and Lt. Fraser dressed in full “Duchess Regalia!” When I read the Swans in 2009 in preparation to restore some 100 pages a previous publisher of a second edition had taken out, I was amazed (says she modestly…) how immediately caught up I became in the twists and turns of their true-life saga! I love Jane Maxwell for her courage, for her amazing accomplishments during an era when women were frowned upon for participating in the “public sphere,” and for her struggles to cope with being forced to marry a man she learned to admire—Alexander, the 4th Duke of Gordon. I felt her anguish that in letters I discovered that proved she could never put aside the love and devotion she bore for her childhood love, a man I believed to be Thomas Fraser of Struy.

4.The novel is based on real historical figures. Have you learned any new information regarding these characters since its first publication in 1989?

Yorktown Surrender

After Swans was published, I began a book that dealt with Lafayette during Colonial times in America and discovered that Jane’s true love and Lafayette may very well have known each other before and after the Battle of Yorktown, and the ultimate surrender of the British troops when the Scottish regiments were forced to lay down their arms. My portrayal of Jane caused a small amount of controversy among some descendants of the Maxwells and the Gordons who, I suppose, wanted everyone in the family to be portrayed only in the noblest of terms, which, of course, if one is trying to ferret out “truth” from events that took place two hundred years ago, is nigh on impossible. As with my life as a reporter for ABC in Los Angeles for twenty years, I call it as I see it. My credo when writing historical novels was never to put anything in the novel that I knew to be untrue, but this is a work of fiction, after all, so I obviously filled in what was not known with what I call “intelligent supposition based on the research and primary documents.”

5.I loved learning about Jane's independent spirit. What are some of the qualities of Jane that you admire? Do you think your portrayal of Jane is a close characterization of her?
Duchess of Gordon Recruiting on horseback
I think I portrayed her as close to reality as a writer could while still remembering to be a “storyteller”—which is the first duty of historical novelists in my view. The issue with Jane Maxwell was that she was the subject of a great deal of backbiting and public tittle-tattle due to her unorthodox habit of participating in the politics and policies of the day. The image above is a painting of her recruiting to enlist her fellow countrymen in The Gordon Highlanders regiment—an activity thought to be “forward” and “unladylike.” There were even political cartoons by Whig sympathizers disparaging her character as an ambitious mama, and having multiple lovers, a fact the record simply doesn’t support. I felt it was partly my duty to set the record straight, and I did this by reading correspondence and documents that had not been taken from the shelves of Scottish and English libraries in more than one hundred years! So I’m never surprised to hear from critics who either think I unfairly portrayed her “warts and all,” or from those who don’t believe I properly castigated this “uppity female” for being a woman who wanted to chart her own course in life, regardless of the men in her life or the mores of her day.

6. What are your favorite traits of your main characters, either fictitious or real?
I think what I most admire about Jane, Alex, and Thomas was their courage and steadfastness throughout three decades of tumultuous world events and private upheavals and tragedy.

7. Do you feel that Jane Maxwell and Thomas Fraser were lovers in reality?
In all the accounts of Jane’s love affair with her childhood sweetheart—with many relevant documents most likely destroyed by her family or disposed of after her death—the name of her life-long love could never be pinned down with total certainty. That there was such a person who fought in the Black Watch regiment in America during the French and Indian War and who later joined the 78th Fraser Highlanders (depicted in picture, left) to fight in the American War of Independence, there is little doubt. I combed the records of the Fraser Highlanders and picked out Lt. Thomas Fraser whose biography matched up with the dates, regiments, events, and associations between the Frasers of Struy, Simon Lovat of Fraser, and their rivals, the Dukes of Gordons—all hailing from the Scottish Highlands region. Luckily, I’m a novelist, not a biographer, so I get to make those choices and my choice was Lt. Thomas Fraser of Struy.

8. The novel takes place primarily in Scotland, with the social season also set in London. Yet, your love of Scotland shines through with your vivid descriptions. What is your personal connection to Scotland?
Ciji, Tony, son and daughter-in-law in Scottish regalia

As I mentioned, I come from a Scottish-American background, as you can guess from this picture in June 2009 at my son and now daughter-in-law’s engagement party. Spending all those years researching for Swans deeply connected me to my Scottish roots. Additionally, it turns out that my husband of 33 years, Tony Cook, is also of Scottish-American derivation. We learned long after we were married that his family name had been MacCook and that we shared several other Scottish names in our family tree: Bell, Alexander, McAllister, Hunter and Forester. We have loved being part of this “community” and for a while we were members of the MacLeod Scottish Country Dancers! I mean, talk about living your research….

9.Island of The Swans is filled with historical details that made it quite an interesting treat for the historically enthused readers like me! Your later works seem to be more leaning towards the romance genre and the self help non-fiction genre. Why were you not inspired to write another historically rich novel?

I’m not surprised that you may not know about my second historical novel Wicked Company, (Marie has it on her shelf now!) also set in Scotland and England about a group of “uppity” eighteenth century women playwrights whose works were produced—as in real life—at Covent Garden and Drury Lane theatres! I was changing publishers right at the time the first edition of Wicked was published and the book was given short shrift when it came out as a result. I actually am tremendously proud of this historical novel and believe it’s among my best work. I am thrilled that this “orphan” has found a new home with Sourcebooks/Landmark and will appear on their Fall, 2010 list!

What I find so fascinating is the way books are truly categorized by their covers. My other novels are as richly researched and steeped in history—even the dual story historical/contemporary titles like A Cottage by the Sea, Midnight on Julia Street, and A Light on the Veranda—but they were saddled with some God-awful covers during the period where every book was thought to have a better place in the marketplace if it was “genre-ized” by emphasizing the romance more than the history. Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca or Frenchman’s Creek would be thought to be pure romances if she’d had the covers I was given back in the eighties and nineties! Bless Sourcebooks/Landmark for creating covers that match the contents of my historicals!

10.I want to read more of your fiction! What other books of yours do you think I would love?

A COTTAGE BY THE SEA Sourcebooks Landmark (JUNE 2010)

Well, if you love Cornwall, England, and are fascinated by the idea that events in the past are still impacting your life in ways you’d never imagine, you might enjoy A Cottage by the Sea that will be out from Sourcebooks Landmark in June of this year. I’ve always been fascinated by the linkages between areas in America that were settled fairly early and the regions in Europe from whence the settlers to our country came. In this case, many the Cornish tin miners ended up in the mines of Wyoming and Pennsylvania. This novel starts out in the present time with a woman who has experienced a terrible trauma and literally runs away to the land of her ancestors—the area around Foy, Cornwall, which is—surprise, surprise—Daphne du Maurier country! Yes, there is a central love story, but this is a book about the way in which major events in eighteenth century Britain have echoed down through the centuries in the lives of the descendants of those brave souls who ventured across the Atlantic in search of a better life. As my dear husband calls this book and the two others that use the dual-story device, these are my “Woo-Woo Historicals.” I was interested in the form after I saw the film version of The French Lieutenant’s Woman and the movie Dead Again –both of which interwove past and present. I really loved the research that went into understanding not only the historical details of those periods in Cornwall (and for the other two books in this series: New Orleans and Natchez), but also my grasp of the “new science” that is developing about how traumatic events can become what I call “genetic memories.”

11.What are your future writing goals?

1906 Fairmont Hotel After the earthquake and Fire

I’ve just put the finishing touches on the first historical novel I’ve written in a decade called A Race to Splendor about a group of women architects who, amazingly enough for 1906, received the assignment of restoring the legendary Fairmont Hotel atop Nob Hill following the devastating San Francisco earthquake and fire that left some 250,000 citizens of the city homeless for up to two years. In the light of the terrible events in Haiti, this book has amazing relevance, I think, to our own lives here in America where earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes and other natural disasters test our character and our ability to maintain the veneer of a civilized society while the rebuilding takes place. My husband and I moved to San Francisco eleven years ago and ended up living in a building designed and built by Julia Morgan, the first licensed woman architect in California who’s main claim to fame was as the designer of the magical Hearst Castle here in California. As with the Duchess of Gordon, I became obsessed by her story of overcoming every obstacle imaginable to forge a career in the all-male realm of designing and constructing buildings! Morgan, through a series of absolute flukes, received the commission to rebuild the Fairmont following the April 18th quake and subsequent firestorm. Sourcebooks/Landmarks is bringing out this new historical of mine to mark the 104th anniversary in April, 2011, and you can’t imagine how thrilled and excited I am about this.

As for my future work: I have a parallel career in nonfiction (Rightsizing Your Life: Simplifying Your Surroundings While Keeping What Matters Most came out in 2007) and I do a lot of public speaking and writing about the subject of living more simply, which remains relevant, given the current economic downturn. As for fiction: I’m now noodling about a couple of historical projects: one dealing with the eighteenth century world of Fine Bone China, another about an eighteenth century woman court painter, and yet another idea about some little-known but totally fearless nineteenth century suffragettes in the Wild West!

As always, I want to keep asking the question: “What were the women doing in history!” A famous woman academic, Gerda Lerner, once wrote (and I’m paraphrasing) “Half of human history has yet to be written because the lives of women weren’t properly chronicled by historians; and the half of human history that has been written is woefully inaccurate because the lives of women weren’t properly chronicled.” In historical fiction, at least, I’m doing my very small part to try to rectify that.

Ciji reading on couch with dog and cat

13. Can you give us a selection of your favorite authors?
Well, I’ve already mentioned my favorites, Daphne du Maurier and Anya Seton, but I love Jane Austen, of course, along with Rosamund Pilcher, and a new novelist I’ve discovered who writes Regency mysteries, Tasha Alexander. I also love Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series set in the early 20th century, and of course, I love the Sourcebooks/Landmark’s reissuing of the Georgette Heyer legacy. I have to read a lot of nonfiction for the work I do in that genre, so there is no greater pleasure in life, as far as I’m concerned, than to curl up with a juicy historical that sweeps me out of my ordinary day and into the past. I am so grateful that this genre appears to be experiencing a marked resurgence of reader interest!

Ciji, I thank you so much for your time!! This was a fabulous interview experience for me!

ISLAND OF THE SWANS BY CIJI WARE—in stores February 2010
Re-issued in its original full length, this acclaimed and bestselling romantic historical novel by award-winning author Ciji Ware tells the true story of passionate and flamboyant Jane Maxwell, the 4th Duchess of Gordon (1749-1812). In love since childhood with Thomas Fraser, when she hears that he's been killed in America, she marries the Duke of Gordon with disastrous results. But Fraser, very much alive, returns to England to claim her love.

In addition to telling a heart-wrenching love story, Island of the Swans also paints a fascinating portrait of a powerful and controversial woman and the tumultuous era in which she lived. Patroness of poet Robert Burns, advisor to King George, painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds, Jane Maxwell was a towering figure in her own time and is an unforgettable heroine.

About the Author:
Ciji Ware has been an Emmy-award winning television producer, reporter, writer, and radio host. A Harvard graduate, she has written numerous historical and romance novels as well as non-fiction. When she's not writing, Ciji is a Scottish history and dancing aficionado. She lives with her husband in California.

Giveaway Fun!! 2 winners of ISLAND OF THE SWANS!
USA & Canada, no PO Boxes.
Comment here with your Email Address.. and you are entered!
If you want extra entries, then follow this blog +1 (current followers will get this if you let me know) or post about this Giveaway with a Graphic link on your Blog's Sidebar for +2 entries.
Ends around 2/12.

Good luck, and thanks for visiting with Ciji! See my Review!

Feb 1, 2010

Book Review: Island of The Swans by Ciji Ware

Island of The Swans by Ciji Ware
Sourcebooks Landmark Reissue, February 1, 2010
Review copy provided by Sourcebooks, thank you!
The Burton Review Rating:Five stars!

"Best friends in childhood, Jane's and Thomas's relationship blooms beyond friendship as they grow into adults. When Thomas is reportedly killed in the American colonies, Alexander, Duke of Gordon, appeals to a devastated Jane. Believing Thomas is gone forever, Jane hesitantly responds to the Duke, whose passion ignites her blood. But Thomas is not dead, and when he returns to find Jane betrothed to another, he refuses to accept the heartbreaking turn of events. Soon Jane's marriage is swept into a turbulent dance of tender wooing and clashing wills--as Alex seeks to make her his and his alone.

Winner of the "Romantic Times" award for Best Fictionalized Biography.

In this resplendent love story a dazzling era comes vividly to life as one woman's passionate struggle to follow her heart takes her from the opulent cotillions of Edinburgh to the London court of half-mad King George III . . . from a famed salon teeming with politicians and poets to a picturesque castle on the secluded, lush Island of the Swans. . . .

Best friends in childhood, Jane Maxwell and Thomas Fraser wreaked havoc on the cobbled streets of Edinburgh with their juvenile pranks. But years later, when Jane blossoms into a beautiful woman, her feelings for Thomas push beyond the borders of friendship, and he becomes the only man she wants. When Thomas is reportedly killed in the American colonies, the handsome, charismatic Alexander, Duke of Gordon, appeals to a devastated Jane. Believing Thomas is gone forever, Jane hesitantly responds to the Duke, whose passion ignites her blood, even as she rebels at his fierce desire to claim her.

But Thomas Fraser is not dead, and when he returns to find his beloved Jane betrothed to another, he refuses to accept the heartbreaking turn of events. Soon Jane's marriage is swept into a turbulent dance of tender wooing and clashing wills--as Alex seeks truly to make her his, and his alone. . . ."

This is such a wonderful piece of historical fiction that Sourcebooks Landmark publishers picked it up after twenty years and decided to republish it. And I am so glad that they did, because this is a story that needs to be told, but hasn't been. Based on a true story, Jane Maxwell is an infectiously delightful young lady who soon grows up to be a rival the Georgiana the Duchess of Devonshire. But how she got that way is the charm of the story. Set against the backdrop of Scotland, Ciji Ware brings Jane Maxwell to life in this endearing tale of love, passion and betrayal.

Jane Maxwell has an overbearing mother but enjoys her childhood with her sisters and the neighborhood boy, Thomas Fraser. As they grow up together, Thomas and Jane become more than friends, much to the chagrin of the status-seeking mother of Jane. Thomas leaves Scotland in spite of Jane's pleas to stay or to at least marry her before he leaves, but he is intent on restoring his family name by becoming a good soldier in the States. He leaves Jane behind, and she is heartbroken that his tunnel vision does not include the predicament that he left Jane in. With Thomas Fraser gone for two years, Jane's mother worked furiously to eradicate him from Jane's memory. A battle in the states went so bad with Indians that the soldiers could not distinguish who the bodies belonged to. Thomas was among those assumed dead. When Jane received word of this, she was stricken and paralyzed with grief. This was a superbly written part in the story that had me crying my eyes out, even though the back cover of the book foretold this event within the plot.

At the same time, the Duke of Gordon has lost the mother to his child, and he recognizes Jane's pain. He is a complete gentleman and makes the reader really enjoy his presence within the story, for he really seemed to be a diamond in the rough. And he was a DUKE! That was the most important thing to Jane's mother, even though Jane had no intentions of furthering the relationship beyond companionship. Eventually though, the Duke grew impatient, and in very much love with the beautiful Jane Maxwell. He was determined to rid her of her ghost of Thomas Fraser and to make her his wife. A turning point in the novel occurs when he coerces Jane into marrying him. And she is happy.. she thinks... till she finds out that Thomas is indeed alive and well, and this not until her honeymoon!! The tragedy of these two love birds was perceptible and heartbreaking, especially as they meet for one last goodbye at the island of the swans.

Can the Duke of Gordon make Jane forget Thomas Fraser? Can the Duke of Gordon handle being second fiddle to the ghost who came alive? Will their marriage work in the end? We fast forward and there are a brood of children to the Duke and Duchess of Gordon, and they appear happy. But the emotions of knowing that Thomas Fraser is alive wears both of them thin. The Duke is not quite as empathetic as he was before, because Jane is officially his wife and he has no desire to compete with a low born soldier. I felt my attitude of the even-tempered Duke become more and more exasperated with his masculine insecurities.
Jane Maxwell, 4th Duchess of GordonAnd yet at the same time, our heroine Jane carries on, and continues to bear children for the Duke. She very much wanted the marriage to work and enjoyed her Duchess status. She was an enigmatic character who enjoyed the social scene, traveling to London from the Gordon's Edinburgh home, and she seemingly tried very hard to keep Thomas Fraser out of her heart. She is said to have been the Duchess of Devonshire's rival. Unfortunately, Thomas showed up at inopportune times, causing major rifts in the marriage between Jane and Alex Gordon. I really loved the way that Ciji Ware spun this epic saga, taking little known details of this love triangle and making their long-gone stories come alive again through this plausible telling. Ciji Ware infuses the novel with historical details so that when the romance scenes take over, the historical aspect of the rest of the story more than made up for the steamy romance scenes. And yet, even though I am not a romance genre connoisseur, I loved the entire aura of the novel, coupled with the romance and the history. Of course the author had to infuse her interpretation of the facts to thicken out the novel, and one can only wonder if Alex was as sensitive as he seemed to be in this telling. But it is certainly true that he had a roving eye, and enjoyed bedding his servant.

A fantastic setting, and wonderful writing supported the slow moving drama of Jane Maxwell's life, and I felt like Jane would have been proud to have this story written for her. There are not many Jane Maxwell novels out there, and even if there were, this would still be the one that is highly acclaimed. Take this as a warning: it instills a melancholy within your soul, knowing that true love never dies regardless of the circumstances of one's life and the need to move on. The overwhelming feeling of sadness was palpable throughout the saga and I did weep several times. I am becoming such a softie it seems. This was a mesmerizing blend of sizzling romance, history, love and honor that I recommend to any historical fiction enthusiast. Ciji Ware has written an unforgettable tale that easily brings this Duchess of Gordon to life and into your heart.
This gorgeous reissue is available February 1, 2010!! Visit the awesome Interview with the author on my blog with some interesting photos. of course a giveaway is included.

Other Reviews of this title:
Lucy at Enchanted by Josephine
Jenny at Jenny Loves to Read
Jennifer at Rundpinne

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Mailbox Monday!

Mailbox Monday is hosted byMarcia at The Printed Page. We share what books that we found in our mailboxes last week. And I am adding what I purchased, swapped, etc.
I broke down and bought some more books. It's that old book disease again (insert zany insane smiley face here).

Oh well.
At least they were cheap.

Symphony by Jude Morgan: this is a gorgeous hardcover that I got dirt cheap from Amazon.. see that "best price" of .01? Awesome deal. Sarah of Reading the Past has touted this author, so I picked one.

"In 1827 Harriet Smithson, a beautiful and talented young Irish actress, makes an unusual decision. Determined to avoid the traditional route to stardom via the manager’s bed, she joins an English company in the bold experiment of taking Shakespeare to Paris.
With the ferment of revolution in the air, the new generation is longing for a novel kind of passionate, spontaneous art. And to Harriet’s astonishment, it is embodied in her---La Belle Irlandaise. In the midst of this frenzy she finds herself pursued by a strange, intense young composer named Hector Berlioz. So begins a painful and profound love affair. She is his muse, his idée fixe, his obsession; and Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, directly inspired by Harriet, will change music forever.
Symphony is an audacious, brilliant, and haunting novel, set against a background of nineteenth-century theatre, Romantic art, music, and revolutionary Europe. But at its heart lies the story of two lives transfigured and destroyed by genius, inspiration, and madness."

(*Sounds PERFECT for Enchanted by Josephine's Oh LALA Challenge!)

Here's a couple I've coveted for awhile. After no luck on wishlists I just had to breakdown and buy them. I just had to!!
Green Darkness by Anya Seton
"This unforgettable story of undying love combines mysticism, suspense, mystery, and romance into a web of good and evil that stretches from 16th-century England to the present day. Richard Marsdon marries a young American woman named Celia, brings her to live at his English estate, and all seems to be going well. But now Richard has become withdrawn, and Celia is constantly haunted by a vague dread. When she suffers a breakdown and wavers between life and death, a wise doctor realizes that only by forcing Celia to relive her past can he enable her to escape her illness. Celia travels back 400 years in time to her past life as a beautiful but doomed servant. Through her eyes, we see the England of the Tudors, torn by religious strife, and experience all the pageantry, lustiness, and cruelty of the age. As in other historical romance titles by this author, the past comes alive in this flamboyant classic novel."

Katherine by Anya Seton
"This classic romance novel tells the true story of the love affair that changed history-that of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, the ancestors of most of the British royal family. Set in the vibrant 14th century of Chaucer and the Black Death, the story features knights fighting in battle, serfs struggling in poverty, and the magnificent Plantagenets-Edward III, the Black Prince, and Richard II-who ruled despotically over a court rotten with intrigue. Within this era of danger and romance, John of Gaunt, the king's son, falls passionately in love with the already married Katherine. Their well-documented affair and love persist through decades of war, adultery, murder, loneliness, and redemption. This epic novel of conflict, cruelty, and untameable love has become a classic since its first publication in 1954."

The King's Grace by Anne Easter Smith: another cheap best price.. this came out in 2009 with mixed reviews. So we shall see how I feel about it, but this is right along the current events of the reads that I have been enjoying lately.
"All that history knows of Grace Plantagenet is that she was an illegitimate daughter of Edward IV and one of two attendants aboard the funeral barge of his widowed queen. Thus, she was half sister of the famous young princes, who -- when this story begins in 1485 -- had been housed in the Tower by their uncle, Richard III, and are presumed dead.
But in the 1490s, a young man appears at the courts of Europe claiming to be Richard, duke of York, the younger of the boys, and seeking to claim his rightful throne from England's first Tudor king, Henry VII. But is this man who he says he is? Or is he Perkin Warbeck, a puppet of Margaret of York, duchess of Burgundy, who is determined to regain the crown for her York family? Grace Plantagenet finds herself in the midst of one of English history's greatest mysteries. If she can discover the fate of the princes and the true identity of Perkin Warbeck, perhaps she will find her own place in her family."


The Players: A Novel of the Young Shakespeare (Hardcover)~ Stephanie Cowell
"A graceful and sensual historical novel tracing William Shakespeare's momentous path of self-discovery, both as a writer and as a young man. Before he was William Shakespeare, playwright and poet, he was simply Will, a young man who dreamed of the writer he would someday be. Based on extensive research and historical fact, this richly detailed fictionalization of Shakespeare's formative years begins with the glover's son roaming the fields of Stratford, hungry for knowledge and restless to escape the boundaries of his small town and loveless marriage. Will leaves his family for London and becomes a struggling actor whose charmed, reckless circle of literary and theatrical friends includes John Heminges, Ben Jonson, and Christopher Marlowe. All the while, however, Shakespeare continues to challenge himself as a writer; soon he is selling his plays and earning acclaim in the world of the London theater and aristocracy. Yet perhaps his finest and most heartfelt writing of the period can be found in the sonnets written for the Earl of Southampton, the beautiful young lord whose affection and aloofness stir the poet's soul. The earl becomes Shakespeare's patron, friend, romantic rival, and eventually, his lover. With the earl and the bewitching Italian musician Emilia Bassano, Shakespeare plunges into a tempestuous love triangle that will threaten both his desire to write and his sense of himself."

And another Amazon purchase:
The Vanishing Point by Mary Sharratt
"In the tradition of Philippa Gregory’s smart, transporting fiction comes this tale of dark suspense, love, and betrayal, featuring two star-crossed sisters, one lost and the other searching.

Bright and inquisitive, Hannah Powers was raised by a father who treated her as if she were his son. While her beautiful and reckless sister, May, pushes the limits of propriety in their small English town, Hannah harbors her own secret: their father has given her an education forbidden to women. But Hannah’s secret serves her well when she journeys to colonial Maryland to reunite with May, who has been married off to a distant cousin after her sexual misadventures ruined her marriage prospects in England.

As Hannah searches for May, who has disappeared, she finds herself falling in love with her brother-in-law. Alone in a wild, uncultivated land where the old rules no longer apply, Hannah is freed from the constraints of the society that judged both her and May as dangerous—too smart, too fearless, and too hungry for life. But Hannah is also plagued by doubt, as her quest for answers to May’s fate grows ever more disturbing and tangled."

And from Paperbackswap I received:

Wicked Company by Ciji Ware
"At a time when female writers are considered a scandal, Sophie McGann, an independent Scottish lass living in 1761 London, pens plays for David Garrick, the legendary actor-manager of Drury Lane." OK, so it's a lame description. But I really enjoyed Island of The Swans by this author, so much so that I will soon own all of her fiction. (insert that insane smiley here!)

Too Great A Lady: The Notorious, Glorious Life of Emma, Lady Hamilton:A Novel by Amanda Elyot
"Emma Hamilton is renowned as the real-life heroine of the greatest love story in British history. Now, Amanda Elyot breathes new life into this remarkable woman, in what might have been Emma's very own words.
The impoverished daughter of an illiterate country farrier, young Emily Lyon sold coal by the roadside to help put food on the family's table. By the time she was fifteen, she had made her way from London nursemaid to vivacious courtesan, and continued a meteoric rise through society, rung by slippery rung, to become the most talked-about woman in all of Europe, mistress of many tongues, a key envoy in Britain's and Italy's war against the French, and confidante to a queen.
This novel, inspired by her remarkable life, recounts Emma's many extraordinary adventures, the earth-shattering passion she eventually found with Lord Nelson, and how they braved the censure of king and country, risking all in the name of true love

I have a feeling I forgot something. But this is certainly a fun list to ponder.. and I love Amazon. Just posted today is my review of Island of The Swans by Ciji Ware, giveaway is Tuesday!

Jan 31, 2010

The Sunday Salon~ Emma, Part 2 Masterpiece Classic on PBS tonight!

The Sunday

Did you see the PBS film adaptation of Emma by Jane Austen last Sunday? I did, and I really enjoyed it. I even followed along some with the Twitter Party that went along with it, there were 5 or 6 others that I follow that were there. There were even some giveaways but I didn't have the computer nearby to google the answers but it was still fun following along with my iPhone. Jane Austen would be impressed that she was the object of a twitter party via iPhone, I daresay! This PBS version seems to have annoyed traditional Emma lovers though, but as a newbie to the Emma story I enjoyed it. A fabulous way to spend my Sunday night, as opposed to the traditional moaning and groaning that Monday is coming! So, again, part two is on this Sunday, and the last part is on next Sunday.

If you miss it, Emma will be available for online viewing January 25 - March 9, 2010. This adaptation of Austen's Regency England classic stars Romola Garai as Emma, and she was a tad emotive which turned some off, but we'll see if she 'matures' and tones it down for part two. I have zero complaints on the whole thing, and I think that reading Emma by Austen will be that much more enjoyable when I get to it. And Jonny Lee Miller as Mr. Knightley. Now I understand. Va va voom. And I loved the costumes, the houses, the setting, the atmosphere... Splendid! Check out this interesting blog post at Jane Austen's World about the fashions in this version of Emma and other Austen films.

Sunday, January 24: Emma , part 1
Sunday, January 31: Emma , part 2
Sunday, February 7: Emma , part 3
Sunday, February 14: Northanger Abbey
Sunday, February 21: Persuasion

I broke down and couldn't help it: after watching Emma 2009 on PBS, I went to Amazon and purchased the boxed BBC set of the Austen movies of Sense & Sensibility / Emma / Persuasion / Mansfield Park / Pride & Prejudice / Northanger Abbey (see above). My hubby will not be as thrilled as I am. I haven't received it yet, but now I know what I am going to be doing on Saturday nights instead of the reading that I should be doing. I haven't seen any of these movies yet. SQUEEEEEEE! Have you seen these?

It has probably been beat into your head by now, but I must mention the Historical Fiction Bloggers Round Table event this week for which I am a part of. I decided on creating a fun little article regarding my favorite Literary Lovers, and you can enter for a book giveaway on that post that I just published. I also reviewed Robin Maxwell's O, Juliet which is available for purchase 2/2/2010.

Follow along the rest of the Round Table events by visiting the main site which details all of the blog posts for this Round Table Event. It's been great fun, and I hope you were able to read some of the posts, I know there are A LOT of posts going on, so pick a few that pique your interest and you may find out something really interesting..

Like Arleigh's fun-loving romantic giveaways that do not include books. And Arleigh has saved her reviews of other Maxwell books for now as well, so you might want to check that out too! Susie from All Things Royal will finish up her three part article on The Life of William Shakespeare. Heather of The Maiden's Court will have her post on Lucrezia Tournabouni...

Allie at Hist-Fic Chick has posted about Romeo & Juliet artwork, and Lizzy at Historically Obsessed is a promising artist that was inspired by Maxwell's O, Juliet and created something special to share. And of course, everyone at the Round Table will have their own reviews posted as well. Even Robin herself has gotten into the fun and has some creative giveaways on her own blog! There are lots of OTHER things going on, so please check out the calendar.

And before I totally lose you, let me tell you.. I have a FANTASTIC interview with Ciji Ware coming February 2nd. She is the author of the book I am reviewing for you 2/1, Island of the Swans, about Jane Maxwell Gordon, Duchess of Gordon. I have mentioned this book before, and I repeat, this is awesome. Read, weep, read some more.. loved it!!!!!! The interview will feature a giveaway also =)

Of course I am supposed to tell you what I am reading, or have read this week.. I finished Susan Higginbotham's The Stolen Crown, which took me longer than I expected since I read Hugh & Bess in a day.. and now I have recently started Roses by Leila Meacham.. which of course I have spoken of here as well. It is one of those sweeping epic saga style novels that sucks you in, and I love love love it.

I am saving the Hugh & Bess review for Valentine's Day because it was a wonderfully historic love story. And The Stolen Crown will post later towards the publication date in early March. I will also have a guest post by Susan Higginbotham which I cannot wait to read, since I love her own blog posts very much. She is chock full of medieval information.

This week in author news, J.D. Salinger died at age 91. I honestly had no idea he was still alive, he was such a recluse. I wrote an article here for the Examiner which explains some more about him.

Have you made it this far? This is one little Sunday Salon that goes all over the place, doesn't it? To reward you for your efforts and keeping with me.. I am giving away my advance copy of The Lady in The Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn by Alison Weir. This giveaway is open only to my newsletter subscribers. Instructions to enter for this exclusive giveaway are in the newsletter (see the left sidebar under the google followers gadget to subscribe to future newsletters). Good luck! Don't forget the O, Juliet giveaway that's open to everyone everywhere!!

I hope everyone has a wonderful Sunday, and enjoys Emma on Masterpiece Theater!!! I can't wait!

Jan 30, 2010

Giveaway: Historical Fiction Bloggers Round Table: Tragic Romance in Literature

O, Juliet by Robin Maxwell
After reading O, Juliet by Robin Maxwell (my book review), I had a wonderful feeling of love and romance that enveloped me. The story of Romeo and Juliet created by Shakespeare is very familiar, with the sudden and fervent love that blossomed between the two doomed teens, but of course their tragedy is not unique. What is it that makes their love a tragedy? Social forces tried to push Romeo and Juliet away from each other, but their love had hope to overcome society's boundaries. Juliet by John William WaterhouseThe reader has trusted their hearts to the story, blindly hoping for a blissful ending. But, in the end, the couple didn't live to enjoy their love and the reader is left with a sense of loss and we are bereft because of it. Here I chose several stories that are either true stories or the stuff of legend. Both types have inspired works of literature and artwork, such as this painting shown by John William Waterhouse, titled Juliet.

Paolo and Francesca is a true tale made famous by Dante's Inferno, Book One of the Divine Comedy, and is mentioned in Robin Maxwell's novel O, Juliet as well. Francesca da Rimini (1255 – 1285) was tricked into marrying someone else, which made the intended Paolo to be Francesca's brother-in-law instead of the husband she wanted him to be. They are reading the love story of Lancelot and Guenevere (pic at right) Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882) and become intimate and when they are caught, they are killed by Francesca's husband. Francesca thought Paolo had escaped the room but he was stuck by his jacket, yet Francesca let her husband through the door thinking he had safely escaped. Francesca was killed by the rapier as she tried to stop her husband from harming her precious Paolo. She died in vain.
Paolo & Francesca: A Tragedy in Four Acts was written by Stephen Phillips and was first performed in 1902.

Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle MoranLiterature has brought us several stories such as this, although perhaps none so widely known as Romeo and Juliet. A true story is Egypt's Cleopatra and Marc Antony, and is highlighted in Michelle Moran's recent novel, Cleopatra's Daughter.
It is stated somewhat simply that when the couple were fleeing the Roman Octavian, they committed suicide once they realized that they could never escape. Michelle Moran took this a step further and created a dramatic death scene in front of their twin children, and this was at the beginning of Moran's gripping novel which continued through the eyes of their daughter Selene which never did quite let go of your heart. What was so tragic between Cleopatra and Marc Antony? Marc was a Roman himself, Cleopatra was the Egyptian Queen, making quite a pair of attempting to unite countries and build a prosperous empire. As the author puts it, once Cleopatra learned that Marc was losing the battle, she sent word that they themselves were killed. She wanted Marc to save himself, and not risk his life any further by coming for his family. Of course Marc is heartbroken when he hears this news, and he stabs himself. The soldiers bring him back to his family where Selene watches her father die, and then her mother the Queen makes one last important decision as she poisons herself with an asp (poisonous reptile). A wonderfully told story and I doubt one will ever compare to Michelle's telling of this tragic and true story.

Arthurian legend is focused on the story of King Arthur and Guenevere, which was seemingly a love match. Author Rosalind Miles has written a series with these characters that begins with Guenevere: Queen of the Summer Country. The image of Arthur evokes images of knights in shining armor, and undying love. Yet, his lovely wife, Queen Guenevere, falls in love with Sir Lancelot and they were caught in the act, much like the previously mentioned Paolo and Francesca. Arthur condemns Guenevere to burn at the stake. In Miles' book, Morgan is Arthur's half-sister who has returned to claim her rights, which forces Arthur to make the choice between Morgan and Guenevere.

Twilight of Avalon, Book One, by Anna Elliott
A story that I have only just begun is the trilogy that is in the works by Anna Elliott. Her debut novel, Twilight of Avalon, (May 2009) focuses on the love that is forged between Tristan and Isolde. The second in the series releases May 2010 and is called Dark Moon of Avalon. An earlier telling of the love story is Tristan and Iseult by Joseph Bedier who retold the story as he contrived it through earlier French poems. How Elliott's telling will relate to the accepted legendary story remains to be seen, but the first story impressed me greatly so that I have purchased another author's trilogy regarding the couple of Tristan and Isolde, by Rosalind Miles.
In Anna Elliott's first book, the setting is much more understated and is not made to be a tragic romance from the start. Isolde is Modred and Guenevere's daughter; Modred being Arthur's son, and Guenevere being the same woman who was in love with Lancelot as depicted above. Elliott's story does have a thread of romantic undertones in the first book but it is just a factor of respect rather than the reknowned unrequited love between Isolde and Tristan. It definitely has the chivalric tones and the added magical elements with Morgan's scenes while it leaves out the legend of Lancelot. As the thing of legend goes, the very legend changes from source to source..Dark Moon of Avalon, Book Two

One is that Tristan and Isolde fall in love, but Isolde is wed to Mark of Cornwall. Tristan is banished, Isolde pines for him, and she is eventually sent for by Tristan because he is deathly ill. Tristan is married to Iseult by this time, who lies to Tristan and tells him that Isolde is not coming to him. He dies, and Isolde indeed comes. They both die of grief, yearning for the other.

The rumor is that Meaney Dee Morrison has written Iseult's story in its truest form in her case, although includes more sorcery. There was the movie (the heart stopping gorgeous James Franco is perfect in this as Tristan) that has Iseult married to Mark, and Tristan and Mark are close friends.
Tristan and Isolde, 2006 movie
Heloise & Abelard: A New Biography by James BurgeA true story comes to us via Heloise & Abelard: A New Biography by James Burge. Pierre (Peter) Abelard, (1079-1142) heard of the great beauty and wisdom of Heloise (1101-1164), whose uncle was Canon Fulbert. A story of religion and love, and tragic consequences, the two fell in love despite the 20 year age difference. The two have a son. The uncle was incensed when he discovered the affair, forced them apart, and ended up castrating Peter Abelard. The lovers corresponded through letters, and were forever after separated after being married to the church. Heloise gave up her son and was forced into a convent, although she did eventually become successful there. Author James Burge published his biography on the couple in 2004 using just recently translated letters between the two. There were a few letters throughout time that existed which kept the story alive, but with the 113 letters now released the legend came alive again. Among religion, duty, reproach and regret, the letters relate the hold of the power of love had on Heloise even at moments she was worshipping God.Abelard and Heloise French Scholar and Nun Embracing in the Scriptorium by Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale The once separated couple now rest eternally together, and even though they were buried together initially, they were moved several times throughout history until Josephine Bonaparte had their remains moved to a cemetery in Paris where their tomb is now an attraction for modern day lovers.

Love is what makes the world go round. It also makes it tremble, weep, and jump for joy. It inspires. The tragedies that come with love should teach us to never take anything for granted. And unfortunately, some of the tragic love stories cited above became tragic only because someone else said they should not love each other. The feuding family, the angry uncle.. but sometimes, it is just not in the stars for some. Romeo and Juliet shall always be here to inspire lovers, readers.. romantics.. along with these other lovers mentioned. And for that, I am grateful, as we also now have the first ever fictionalized account of the traditional Romeo & Juliet, with Robin Maxwell's newest novel, O, Juliet. All the world needs is love, love, love.
Ford Madox Brown: Romeo and Juliet, 1867.

This week has been the O, Juliet Tour.. please visit the main website for the Historical Fiction Bloggers Round Table to see the other reviews and related posts for this event. There has also been some fabulous giveaways, so be sure to check out the calendar of events at the main HFBRT site.

Do you want your own copy of the book O, Juliet by Robin Maxwell?
To be entered for the random drawing you must do the following:

Enter your name and Email address here telling me who your favorite Literary Lovers are. (This is your primary entry which is mandatory)

It can be anyone of your choosing, either mentioned here or not.

Extra Entries: +1 Become a Follower (*current followers please tell me if you are)

+2 Post the Graphic link of the Book's Cover to this Giveaway post on your blog's sidebar

Giveaway ends February 12th. OPEN WORLDWIDE!!!!

Jan 29, 2010


You are invited to the Grand Event celebrating the upcoming release of O, Juliet by Robin Maxwell.
Join us at the Historical Fiction Blogger Round Table!

O, Juliet by Robin Maxwell
Read my review of O, Juliet here


TO WIN via The Burton Review:

Please come back tomorrow 1/30/2010 to see my creative post regarding Romeo and Juliet and other literary lovers that are my favorites! That is where I will be hosting my giveaway, & it's open worldwide!! My review is also posted, so be sure to check that out as well.

There is a chance to win at the Historical Fiction Bloggers Round Table , and you enter for more chances to win at all of our blogs! There will be 9 winners of books! Arleigh at is also hosting several different "love" themed giveaways, so be sure to check out her site as well for some of her fabulous love themed giveaways.

Visit my fellow members of the Historical Fiction Round Table to find their giveaway posts that are upcoming:
Allie at Hist-Fic Chick
Amy at Passages to the Past
Arleigh at
Heather at The Maiden's Court
Lizzy at Historically Obsessed
Lucy at Enchanted by Josephine
Susie at All Things Royal

Reviews Posted thus far:
Lucy's Book Review
Amy's Book Review
Susie's Book Review
Arleigh's Book Review

There are also multiple creative posts to navigate through, check out the calendar for a list of those. Have fun, and see you at the Round Table!

Jan 27, 2010

Book Review: O, Juliet by Robin Maxwell & Historical Fiction Bloggers Round Table!

O, Juliet by Robin Maxwell O, Juliet by Robin Maxwell
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: NAL Trade (February 2, 2010)
Historical Fiction
ISBN-10: 0451229150
Review Copy provided by publisher/author
Burton Book Review Rating:Five

"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."

Oh.. my heart, my heart!! Sweet torment of love! This was a riveting story that had me on the edge of my seat, and still, it was a love story that we all think we know. I have learned that there are mixed feelings about this novel.. this is to be expected when this is a retelling of an age-old story, told many ways before... I agree that this story idea is not a new one, and perhaps Maxwell's writing is not what others would think of as five star material, but I am going with my gut instinct on this read, and awarding it the coveted five stars because of the way I felt when I was through reading it. I was not as disappointed as other reviewers were; I had no high expectations for this one; I couldn't put it down; I loved every word of it; I was emotionally drained after going through all of the tragic events; and I was still surprised and heartsick at the ending, which stayed with me in my heart for days after reading this novel. I am not a voracious romance reader, and this filled that void. So .. flog me.

Robin Maxwell has written successful novels focusing on Tudor England previously and has repeated her recent Signora Da Vinci setting and brought her readers into Italy; this time we are in Florence, even though traditional Romeo and Juliet fans would disagree on this location (LUCY!). Robin Maxwell rewrites Shakespeare's beloved Romeo and Juliet tale with her fabulously eloquent prose, allowing the average non-Shakespearean-expert to sit back and relish this story as Shakespeare meant it to be enjoyed. Even though these are the same characters, with the same idea of forbidden love, Maxwell writes a cohesively understandable story of two families: Cappelleti and Monticecco (as opposed to Shakespeare's Capulet and Montague) who each have two young members of the family who irrevocably fall in love with each other. Yes ~ it is the same story... rewritten in a modern sense, and those looking for some unknown insight into the original Shakespearean story may be disappointed.

Much like the original, there is a marriage celebration and masked dancing where Romeo and Juliet meet for the first time. They are immediately attracted to each other as the two star-crossed lovers share a love of words, especially Dante's poetic verse, and they banter back and forth with the elegant quotes. Their love springs eternal, and we are swept up immediately in this ardent romance as we hope and pray that they will not have a tragic ending that we know Shakespeare has written. Their love for each other even inspires Juliet to write poetically of thoughts of her Romeo, which was something unusual for a woman in her day. She is hopelessly caught between a family responsibility to solidify her father's silk business by marrying Jacopo Strozzi, her father's soon-to-be-partner. Of course, Juliet wants nothing of Jacopo, he is an older man with no qualities of virtue and is quite unattractive. Juliet realizes he is dangerous as well, especially as Jacopo also sees through the charades of Romeo and Juliet and recognizes their young love, yet he is still eager to marry Juliet so that he will become partner in Juliet's father's silk business.

"I propose that after a respectable period I will allow you to pay court to her. You may see her in private, share your...poetry"-he uttered the word with a distinct sneer. "You may lay your lovesick head upon her knee." He smiled and shook his head condescendingly. "Publicly adore her. Meanwhile, she will live in my mother's house, subservient and groveling. She will obey me and stay cloistered there except to go to confession. She will bear my children, as many as I can get on her. I will, of course, have my mistresses."

That is what Juliet hears Jacopo Strozzi tell Romeo, and Juliet is petrified of the future that her father has bestowed on her, dooming her fate if she marries Jacopo Strozzi. Yet there is hope, because her father does seem reluctant to let go of his daughter right away. As a reader, I was hoping that the betrothal would not happen, and that the tragic fate of Romeo and Juliet would be averted. There is hope for about a day, until a family tragedy occurs, which makes things even worse than they were before, spinning one tragedy into a domino effect of disasters.

There are poignant scenes involving Juliet's insecure thoughts, and touching balcony scenes, which are all written in a modern tone yet with the spirit of the original telling and the nuances of figs, gardens and olives wafting throughout. The imagery of the vegetation and the setting of Juliet's family are rewarding to our senses along with the expressive prose throughout the story, as is indicative by this book's gorgeous cover art. The characters are all well-developed and add their unique aura to the story.. and there are several, from brothers to friars to friends. Jacopo Strozzi and his mother are the perfect villains, Juliet's parents are the perfect see-no-evil parents, and Romeo and Juliet's character's are seemingly written to expand upon Shakespeare's sentiments.

I am not going to go further in my telling of this heart wrenching story of Romeo and Juliet, for this is such a fantastic read I am not going to give anything away. This was a predictable love story of course, yet with layers and layers of factors of social mores, religious beliefs and friendship. Robin Maxwell has turned the legend into something that everyone can relate to in such an elegant fashion that I believe that those with an open heart should add this to your to be read pile. Even the cover of this book has the allure of beauty with the abundant flowers and colors. The words inside the pretty cover touched my heart, my soul, left me with a lump in my throat, texted my husband its outcome..and now I am off to read some Dante.

Read some more reviews:
Lucy’s Book Review at Enchanted by Josephine
Amy’s Book Review at Passages to the Past

Jan 26, 2010

Teaser Tuesday~ The Stolen Crown by Susan Higginbotham

TEASER TUESDAYS is hosted by ShouldBeReading and asks you to:
♠Grab your current read.
♠Let the book fall open to a random page.
♠Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page.
♠You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
Please avoid spoilers!

The Stolen Crown: A Novel by Susan Higginbotham

"Kate was a grown woman, who'd not taken it all that amiss when the late king executed his own brother. Did she really expect Richard to show mercy to the men who had plotted against his own life- and perhaps mine?" ~ page 223

Jan 25, 2010

Mailbox Monday!

Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page. We share what books that we found in our mailboxes last week. And I am adding what I purchased, swapped, etc.

After some rather large previous mailboxes, I've got just a small one this time to report.

But definitely some goodies!

The Founding by Cynthia Harrod Eagles. Another Reissue from Sourcebooks Casablanca, first published 1980.
"In the Morland Dynasty series, the majestic sweep of English history is richly and movingly portrayed through the fictional lives of the Morland family. It is 1434, and seeking power and prestige, ambitious Yorkshireman Edward Morland arranges a marriage between his meek son Robert and spirited Eleanor, young ward of the influential Beaufort family. Eleanor is appalled at being forced to marry a mere "sheep farmer;" she is, besides, secretly in love with Richard, Duke of York. Yet in time this apparently ill-matched union becomes both passionate and tender, the foundation of the Morland dynasty, and sustains them through bloody civil war which so often divides families, sets neighbor against neighbor, and brings tragedy close to home."

The Confessions of Catherine De Medici by the fabulous C.W. Gortner, and my fellow HF Bloggers and I cannot WAIT to sink our teeth into this May Round Table pick! It will be a fabulous event, to be sure!

The Confessions of Catherine De Medici
It's coming May 2010!

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom (February 2, 2010)

"Gone with the Wind is turned inside out in this tragic, page-turning novel in which a white indentured servant girl lives and works with black slaves. When a white servant girl violates the order of plantation society, she unleashes a tragedy that exposes the worst and best in the people she has come to call her family.
Orphaned while onboard ship from Ireland, seven-year-old Lavinia arrives on the steps of a tobacco plantation where she is to live and work with the slaves of the kitchen house. Under the care of Belle, the master's illegitimate daughter, Lavinia becomes deeply bonded to her adopted family, though she is set apart from them by her white skin.
Eventually, Lavinia is accepted into the world of the big house, where the master is absent and the mistress battles opium addiction. Lavinia finds herself perilously straddling two very different worlds. When she is forced to make a choice, loyalties are brought into question, dangerous truths are laid bare, and lives are put at risk.
The Kitchen House is a tragic story of page-turning suspense, exploring the meaning of family, where love and loyalty prevail."

And I also snuck in this purchase.. don't be turned off by the description on the Amazon page that says Kindle version. This is just perfect for reading your regular hardback or paperback book when your hubby is snoring and keeping you awake.

Jan 24, 2010

French OhLaLa Challenge & Jean Plaidy 2010 Challenge

The French Historical Challenge will run from January 1st to December 15th 2010.

This challenge is hosted by the fantabulous Lucy at Enchanted by Josephine.
All you have to do is read any Historical Fiction or Non-fiction books based on French history or French historical figures. Books can also overlap with other Challenges. (*Thank goodness!)

Reading Levels:

La Princesse: Read 3 books
La Dauphine: Read 6 books
La Reine: Read 9 books
L’Impératrice: More than 9 books
I'll probably go for the La Dauphine level =)
The other challenge I am joining is the Jean Plaidy 2010 Reading Challenge hosted by Royal Intrigue.

Challenge will begin January 15, 2010 and end on Dec. 15, 2010.
Ms. Carr: read 6 Books
Ms. Holt: read 8 Books
Grand Plaidy Lady: Over 12 books
I have my Plaidy List of books here where I own a great many Plaidy books, but sadly, I have not read very many of them. Such is the sad state of my life where I review new books and I cannot get cought up with old ones. But I will attempt to read one Plaidy/Carr/Holt book a month.. but I probably will be more like 8 books for the year so that's what my goal is: Ms. Holt level.
There are already many of my fellow Historical fiction book lovers who are signed up, so I hope to see you around the challenges!
I already posted about the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2010, over at Royal Reviews.
And that's it! I can't keep up! I've already given up on the Four Month Challenge part 2.
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The Sunday Salon~ EMMA on PBS TONIGHT! Jan. 24th!

The Sunday

Just a quick one today folks, as it's still the birthday weekend for my eldest (8 years old already!) and there is still so much more to be done before the Build-A-Bear adventure.

I wanted to remind everyone that tonight a PBS film adaptation of Emma by Jane Austen will air at 8:00 pm CST (on KERA in Texas) and 9:00 pm EST. It will be 120 minutes tonight, and 60 minutes for the following two Sundays. I am looking forward to it! If you miss it, Emma will be available for online viewing January 25 - March 9, 2010. This adaptation of Austen's Regency England classic stars Romola Garai as Emma, and not Gwyneth Paltrow as she looks like in the advertisements.

Emma What's even more fun.. is there is a Emma Twitter Party With PBS and Jane Austen enthusiasts
with Vic of Jane Austen's World from 9 - 11 pm EST. Check out her post for more details, such as hash tag #emma_pbs. I am @BurtonReview on twitter, I might be there too!

Masterpiece executive producer Rebecca Eaton previews Masterpiece Classic's new "Emma" adaptation and talks about Austen's enduring legacy:

And onwards to another favorite era of mine.. which includes Anne Boleyn. I had recently read Alison Weir's newest book, The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn (my review), and I just found this new article online Arguing The Case For Anne Boleyn. Weir mentions here that she feels she has made an excellent case against Thomas Cromwell, and indeed I agree with her, as I came away from that book with a new loathing for him and was quite happy that he got what he deserved, which was execution.

I had a wonderful giveaway post which was part of the kickoff event of The Historical Fiction Round Table, celebrating the new release of Leslie Carroll's newest non-fiction work, titled "Notorious Royal Marriages: A Juicy Journey Through Nine Centuries of Dynasty, Destiny and Desire". It was a fantastic interview, and I have a winner to announce, as she will receive one brand new copy of the book. Congratulations to Rachel!! Send me your snail mail address ASAP! Thanks to everyone else who entered the giveaway here and at the other members of the Round Table.

And with that Event wrapped up, it's time to announce the next one!! The fabulous new release of O, Juliet by Robin Maxwell coming out on 2/2/2010 is to be celebrated this week by the members of the Historical Fiction Blogger Round Table. Check out the Calendar of Events as there will be creative posts and giveaways and of course, reviews! My book giveaway will post Saturday the 30th with my creative post which highlights some interesting literary lovers. Until then, have a great week!