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Book three in the Restoration Chronicles!

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Historical fiction and Biblical fiction, reviewing since 2008

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Mar 30, 2010

Giveaway and Guest Post: Kathleen Grissom, author or The Kitchen House

Recently I reviewed and raved about the novel titled The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom. I was really touched and inspired by this novel, and I reached out to the publisher to see if I could help promote the book some more by offering my faithful followers a giveaway of the book. So they sent me two more copies of the book, and this guest post from the author. The novel is available now, try Amazon or DeepDiscount.


The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
Please welcome Kathleen Grissom to The Burton Review!

Writing About Slavery

Who am I, a white woman, to write about African American slavery? My book, The Kitchen House, is a story that is written in first person by two narrators – one, an Irish indentured servant girl, and the other an eighteen-year-old biracial (African and Caucasian) woman. I am a Caucasian woman, a Canadian, (who lives) whose home is now in southern Virginia.

When I began the book, I was so involved in the process of writing the story that I did not consider a possible controversy. However, as I told others of my project, more than one Caucasian friend asked me if I wasn’t concerned about a possible negative response from the African American community – their objection being that as a white woman I was not equipped to write about the experience of slavery.
I sought out and spoke about my concerns to an old African American woman, whose ancestors had been slaves. She listened carefully and then counseled me. “Just tell the truth,” she said. “Do good research and tell what really happened. We are all human beings and you’re writing about human beings. Everyone has the same feelings.”

The beginning of The Kitchen House came to me unexpectedly one day as I sat to do my daily journaling. It was based on a notation that I had recently seen on an old map that read ‘Negro Hill’. Those words haunted me and every day I would ask myself, “What could have happened there?” This particular day, after my morning meditation, I sat down to do my daily journaling and something unusual happened. It was as though a movie began to play out in my mind’s eye. I picked up my pencil and began to follow along. I saw the characters as surely as if they were alive, but what differed from actual reality was that I not only saw the characters, I felt them.

Simply put, I was in them, or, some would say, they were in me. I intrinsically understood what motivated each of the characters and I loved them as much for their failings as for their courage. I cheered them on and watched in dismay as they suffered.

But they were in charge. I could not change their story. From the beginning I learned that if I tried to change an event when I couldn’t bear the thought of an upcoming trauma, the story would stop. My characters drove the story forward but it had to be their experience in their own voice. I felt what they felt, but I did not speak for them, nor did I decide their fate. It’s true, I did my homework. But the mountains of research I did was picked through and used spontaneously by the characters as they had need of it, almost always surprising me when they did so.

Although after years of research I gained a good deal of knowledge and insight about both subjects, I did not intend this story to be a voice for the African American slave experience, nor as a voice for the indentured Irish. Rather, I wrote a story about a group of human beings who lived lives that were filled with trauma and love and indescribable courage. They happened to have been slaves, indentured servants and a family living on a plantation in 1790.

What I came away with, after finishing the book, was a renewed belief in the human spirit and in particular, an awe-like feeling of admiration for the ancestors of the African American people. This story, for me, was a spiritual gift.
~~~~
Thank you so much for this post, Mrs. Grissom!

And now for my lucky followers in the USA, I have two copies of her book up for grabs.
To enter:
Leave a comment with your email address telling me about your thoughts of slavery or what you have read that included the topic in some way; or tell me what attracts you to this story that Kathleen Grissom has written.

+2 Post a graphic link to this post on your sidebar.

Giveaway ends on April 16th.

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Mar 29, 2010

Book Review: Within the Hollow Crown: A Valiant King's Struggle to Save His Country, His Dynasty, and His Love by Margaret Cambell Barnes

Within the Hollow Crown by Margaret Campbell Barnes
also sometimes called Within the Hollow Crown: A Valiant King's Struggle to Save His Country, His Dynasty, and His Love
April 1st 2010 by Sourcebooks Landmark (first published 1947)
Paperback, 368 pages
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
The Burton Review Rating:

Set against the backdrop of a country racked by revolt and class warfare, Within the Hollow Crown showcases the true spirit of a king at the end of one of the most glorious dynasties, who wants both England's heart and crown. Perhaps one of the most misunderstood of all English monarchs, the son of the Black Prince and grandson of Edward III has been portrayed in a dim light by history. But Margaret Campbell Barnes gives readers a different portrait of Richard II. Although his peace-loving ways set him apart from the war-mongering medieval world around him, Richard proved himself a true king by standing down a peasant revolt and outwitting the political schemes of his enemies. Struggling to uphold the valiant Plantagenet dynasty, Richard and his queen, Anne of Bohemia, nonetheless manage to create an exquisite partnership, described as "one of the tenderest idylls of romance ever written."

Margaret Campbell Barnes was a popular historical writer of her day, which was fifty years ago. She doesn't write as dramatically as popular historical fiction writers of today, but she weaves us through the story as deftly as possible. Within The Hollow Crown features the young king, Richard II who 'ruled' from 1377 (at age ten) to 1399. Barnes attempts to recreate this tumultuous rule as he grows a bit older, marries Anne of Bohemia and ultimately loses control of his noblemen. It is interesting to watch the behind the scenes events along with more differences between Lancaster versus York factions in their beginnings towards the Wars of the Roses.

The characterizations are what sets Barnes apart, and are the highlight of this novel. The uncles who are vying for power such as Thomas of Gloucester who is portrayed as one to be wary of. Yet as history tells us, it is Lancaster's son Henry Bolingbroke who becomes the next king of England although John Gaunt of Lancaster was not as much of a significant threat to Richard as Thomas was throughout the novel. It is these uncles and their peers whom Richard has let take control of Parliament and the kingdom, and Richard has had little say in most matters until he finally decides to take the reins after watching the others rule for him.

There are many historical details that Barnes leaves out in the novel, which is quite understandable since this is a novel focused mostly on Richard and his character, perhaps in efforts by the author to bring a maligned king to justice. His spirit is captured in an amazing way that I have not seen before. The historical backdrop of the Peasant Revolt lasted at least 100 pages as Richard dealt with the peasants and the nobles and the grievances. Richard was attempting to prove himself worthy of the status of a king, even though he really didn't seem to want the title. He did handle the peasant revolt without the guidance of the council, as they seemed wholly inept at the art of dealing with the commoners. After the revolt was suppressed, something happened where the council members turned on him and forced Richard to seek sanctuary in the tower. The novel jumped from the one thing to the next and I could not even fathom why this was occurring, except for the fact that he had some greedy council members. This part is where Barnes lost me. The chronology and minor historical details are slanted to fit the continuity of the story, so those who prefer pure historical accuracy may be a little turned off.

An absolutely splendid scene occurs a little more than halfway through the book, where Richard stands up to his uncles and members of the council and asks them how old that he is. He is twenty-two, and fully ready to take charge of the kingdom, and for once, be a King. He takes the chancellor's seal from him, and he will choose a new chancellor, the point being that it is he who will choose. The council is stunned speechless. Throughout the novel Henry Bolingbroke is referenced, but he is not portrayed as an evil usurper as one would expect. If one hadn't known the true history of the situation, a novice would never have thought that this Henry would take the crown from Richard, which happened somewhat easily towards the end of the novel.

One of the best aspects of the novel was the relationship between Richard and his wife, Anne of Bohemia. It was charming and pleasant to watch them grow to love each other and support one another. Ultimately Richard is forced to take another wife, and that marriage is also portrayed as sweet and tender as possible. Richard's mother, Joan of Kent, was also a major figure in the beginning of the novel as Richard is shown to have relied on her presence and enjoyed having her with him. On the other hand, Uncle Tom of Gloucester and his sidekick Arundel, and the other major historical figures of the time were part of the story as Barnes sets up the surroundings of Richard II and makes us love him.

Those readers who are new to this specific period in the medieval era have a chance of  being bored off their rocker with this read. This is not a good starting point due to the lack of dramatization in the beginning of the novel. Those who do have a specific interest in Richard II and the political machinations of the time should enjoy this read, although I had lost track of the historic timeline when I think years had passed at times and I didn't really know it. Some of the importance of historical events were downplayed or just hinted at, so that those who have no idea of the period would not have recognized the implications of certain details that were imparted. I really did enjoy the prose of Margaret Campbell Barnes, but I was beginning to have the feeling of having missed out on something tangible until I reached the last half and I was utterly beholden to Richard as Barnes had achieved her goal of portraying Richard as a great person, but perhaps not a wonderful king.

History tells us more details of what happened to Richard and around his reign, but Barnes focuses on the human side of Richard which really made this story magnificent. I hold a large appreciation for what Barnes has done to rectify the sullied reputation of Richard II. I can say that I feel that I've gained an accurate feel for the sensitive character of Richard II that I otherwise would not have achieved without this read. I would recommend this for those who would like to gain that same sense of characterization and a glimpse into the reign of Richard II, the second son of the infamous Edward the Black Prince.

Sourcebooks has republished Barnes' novels in recent years:
The Tudor Rose: The Story of the Queen Who United a Kingdom and Birthed a Dynasty (10-2009)
King's Fool: A Notorious King, His Six Wives, and the One Man Who Knew All Their Secrets (2009-04-07)
My Lady of Cleves: A Novel of Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves (2008-09-01)
Brief Gaudy Hour: A Novel of Anne Boleyn  (03-2008)
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Mar 28, 2010

Mailbox Monday Time

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme that 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.
Warning: Exploring Mailbox Mondays across the blogosphere will lead to toppling wishlists and to-be-read-piles! But it's the thrill of the chase that counts!


There was no Mailbox Monday at The Burton Review last week because I only recieved two books on Saturday and I actually don't get on the computer much during the weekend. SO those two are added to this lot. The slow week of last week was completely redemptive this week.

The too cool for school blogger, Amy at Passages to the Past, sent this one my way. I missed out last year so I am looking forward to this one.

Ice Land by Betsy Tobin

"Iceland, AD 1000

Freya knows that her people are doomed. Warned by the Fates of an impending disaster, she must embark on a journey to find a magnificent gold necklace, one said to possess the power to alter the course of history. But even as Freya travels deep into the mountains of Iceland, the country is on the brink of war. The new world order of Christianity is threatening the old ways of Iceland's people, and tangled amidst it all are two star-crossed lovers who destiny draws them together-even as their families are determined to tear them apart.
Infused with the rich history and mythology of Iceland, Betsy Tobin's sweeping novel is an epic adventure of forbidden love, lust, jealousy, faith and magical wonder set under the shadow of a smoldering volcano."

From Swaptree:
Secret for A Nightingale by Victoria Holt aka Jean Plaidy
"As a young girl in India, beautiful, high-spirited Susanna Pleydell had first became aware of her special gifts to soothe the sick. But she had sacrificed that calling when she married the dashing and sophisticated Aubrey St. Clare. When they return home to London, however, Aubrey has changed. Susanna discovers she has married a man with a weakness for opium and the occult. And even more menacing, Aubrey has met the sinister Dr. Damien Adar, whose hold over him is fierce and frightening...."

Also from Swaptree:
Penhallow by Georgette Heyer (1942)
"The death of menacing old man Adam Penhallow, on the eve of his birthday, seems at first to be by natural causes. But Penhallow had ruled his Cornish roost with an iron will and a sharp tongue, playing one relative against another and giving both servants and kin cause to hate him, so that when it emerges that he was poisoned, there are more than a dozen prime suspects."

In celebration of all things William Marshal, of The Greatest Knight fame by Elizabeth Chadwick, I just could not resist these bodice rippers:
both of the following books by Mary Pershall from Paperbackswap (I received another one of this series a few weeks ago):

A Shield of Roses
"Lady Eve MacMurrough, fairest of Erin's fair flowers, her flashing emerald eyes held secrets no man could resist. Defiant daughter of one king and willful ward of another, she would bring the purity of true love to her marriage bed.
Sir Richard FiztGilbert deClare, sitting astride his great black war horse Taran, no English knight was bolder. To the tempestous Lady Eve he had pledged his troth, but he longed to posses in timeless ecstasy her wild, resisting heart.
Born in a fierce, feudal world as cruel as it was courtly, theirs was the rapturous love destined to change the face of the Irish nation forever."

 Dawn of the White Rose
"Isabel de Clare. Her tawny beauty was a King's prize, to be locked within a brooding castle until she exchanged its gray walls for a husband's tyranny...

William Marshal. The towering knight armed with a will of steel, he conquered Isabel's senses in a single blazing night.

Lovers bound by destiny. His power matched her pride. Their passion was a battlefield with no quarter given - and none asked. And with every battle they gambled what they held most dear...the tenderest of loves, in the heat of ceaseless challenge so dearly gained, and so easily lost... "


And a fabulous swap from Paperbackswap, woohoo:
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, which every one else talked about when it won the Booker Prize last year. (560 pages! 10/13/2009)
"In the ruthless arena of King Henry VIII’s court, only one man dares to gamble his life to win the king’s favor and ascend to the heights of political power.
England in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years, and marry Anne Boleyn. The pope and most of Europe opposes him. The quest for the king’s freedom destroys his adviser, the brilliant Cardinal Wolsey, and leaves a power vacuum.
Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell. Cromwell is a wholly original man, a charmer and a bully, both idealist and opportunist, astute in reading people and a demon of energy: he is also a consummate politician, hardened by his personal losses, implacable in his ambition. But Henry is volatile: one day tender, one day murderous. Cromwell helps him break the opposition, but what will be the price of his triumph?
In inimitable style, Hilary Mantel presents a picture of a half-made society on the cusp of change, where individuals fight or embrace their fate with passion and courage. With a vast array of characters, overflowing with incident, the novel re-creates an era when the personal and political are separated by a hairbreadth, where success brings unlimited power but a single failure means death."
For a future review:
No Will But His: A Novel of Kathryn Howard by Sarah A. Hoyt (April 6, 2010) (she also wrote under a penname Plain Jane, and I LOVED THAT ONE!)

"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."


Writing Jane Austen by Elizabeth Aston (April 13, 2010)
"Jane Austen for the twenty-first century! Mayhem ensues when a struggling young writer is chosen to complete an unfinished manuscript by a certain famous novelist... Critically acclaimed and award-winning -- but hardly bestselling -- author Georgina Jackson can't get past the first chapter of her second book. When she receives an urgent email from her agent, Georgina is certain it's bad news. Shockingly, she's offered a commission to complete a newly discovered manuscript by a major nineteenth-century author. Skeptical at first about her ability to complete the manuscript, Georgina is horrified to know that the author in question is Jane Austen.
Torn between pushing through or fleeing home to America, Georgina relies on the support of her banker-turned-science student roommate, Henry, and his quirky teenage sister, Maud -- a serious Janeite. With a sudden financial crisis looming, the only way Georgina can get by is to sign the hugely lucrative contract and finish the book. But first she has to admit she's never actually read Jane Austen!"

And check out this win! I won this from Wonders And Marvels site, which is such fun with odd historical details galore.
For The Soul of France: Culture Wars in the Age of Dreyfus (Jan. 2010) by Frederick Brown (perfect for the French Historicals Reading Challenge hosted by Enchanted by Josephine!)
"Brown shows us how Paris's most iconic monuments that rose up during those years bear witness to the passionate decades-long quarrel. At one end of Paris was Gustave Eiffel's tower, built in iron and more than a thousand feet tall, the beacon of a forward-looking nation; at Paris' other end, at the highest point in the city, the basilica of the Sacre-Coeur, atonement for the country's sins and moral laxity whose punishment was France's defeat in the war . . .

Brown makes clear that the Dreyfus Affair — the cannonade of the 1890s — can only be understood in light of these converging forces. The Affair shaped the character of public debate and informed private life. At stake was the fate of a Republic born during the Franco-Prussian War and reared against bitter opposition.

The losses that abounded during this time — the financial loss suffered by thousands in the crash of the Union Generale, a bank founded in 1875 to promote Catholic interests with Catholic capital outside the Rothschilds' sphere of influence, along with the failure of the Panama Canal Company — spurred the partisan press, which blamed both disasters on Jewry.
The author writes how the roiling conflicts that began thirty years before Dreyfus did not end with his exoneration in 1900. Instead they became the festering point that led to France's surrender to Hitler's armies in 1940, when the Third Republic fell and the Vichy government replaced it, with Marshal Petain heralded as the latest incarnation of Joan of Arc, France's savior . . ."

BIG NEWS!
My new Half-Price bookstore finally opened.. about a mile away.. so that's where many lunch breaks will be spent. French Fries to go and Books!
My first purchases, with promises of a loving relationship to come with many more future purchases:
Click the linked titles to go to the Goodreads page with a description and reviews.

Mary Queen of Scots: A Novel by Margaret George (Arleigh says there's some strange s*x scene in this one)..880 pages
The Autobiography of Henry VIII with Notes by His Fool, Will Somers by Margaret George (has anyone finished this one?) ..944 pages
The Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George ..976 pages
The Crimson Petal and the White by Michael Faber .. 944 pages
London: The Novel by Edward Rutherfurd .. 829 pages
Mary Stewart's Merlin Trilogy by Mary Stewart ..928 pages
The Last Boleyn: A Novel by Karen Harper ..a measly 592 pages

What are your thoughts on these selections? Have you read any of these? I am really looking forward to the Margaret George books, but they are HUGE! HUGE! If there was a chunkster challenge, these would suffice. I'll need to swear off review requests in order to read one of these, they would probably take me two weeks, three weeks if it's a snoozer.
And I did buy some at Half Price Books over the weekend but I'm saving them for next week.
What books did you receive this week?

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Mar 27, 2010

The Sunday Salon~ Giveaway Winners etc...Intro to The Tudor Mania Challenge

The Sunday Salon.com

Happy Sunday! Pull up a chair, click the above pics to see other virtual reading rooms.. what are you reading this week??

First .. some Blog Housekeeping and announcing winners of March's giveaways.


This week I had two giveaways end this week. I have randomly selected the winner from the qualifying entries (no email address= no entry) and the 2 winners of The Stolen Crown by Susan Higginbotham are:
LibraryPat and Amy/Tigerfan!

 
 

 
The winner of 31 Bond Street by Ellen Horan is:
HEATHER!

Congratulations! Emails will be sent, and the winners have 48 hours from the email to respond or I will choose the next on the list.


How about a new giveaway for my loyal followers?
Up for Giveaway courtesy of little ol' me are:
What Would Jane Austen Do? By Laurie Brown
See my review here (ARC from May 2009)

Fireworks Over Toccoa by Jeffrey Stepakoff
See my review
 (ARC April 2010)
If you are a Newsletter Subscriber, you will see Important information right here in your newsletter on how to enter for this giveaway.

Onwards to current happenings in my blogosphere...
The Historical Fiction Bloggers Round Table Event with Elizabeth Chadwick has just wrapped up. I enjoyed myself for this one, reading and reviewing both The Greatest Knight and The Scarlet Lion for the event, as well as writing an article titled "William Marshal In Ireland". I also had a guest post from Elizabeth Chadwick herself, explaining the Curse that was put on William Marshal's family. We had a giveaway for both of these books at the main site which concluded this weekend as well. I really enjoy the medieval era, and learning the stories of William Marshal's family has propelled me into a search for more books on the family and specifically his wife's family in Ireland. I look forward to learning more about them in the historical romances by Mary Pershall.

I've got a busy week coming for you guys, with reviews posting so I can work around the HFBRT busy schedule, so they'll be squished into a single week, but I hope you have time to come back for a visit. (SO glad the Round Tablers are taking a summer break!!)

The book that I gushed about here last week was The Kitchen House, and after confiming I have a guest post coming and a giveaway I decided it was finally time to publish the review which can be found here. Stay tuned for the Guest post and giveaway coming up hopefully this week as well. I finished reading The Founding by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles, and my review will post this coming week, which is about a fictional Morland Dynasty inserted into the plot of the Wars of the Roses. I will also post a review of Within the Hollow Crown by Margaret Campbell Barnes on Monday, and this was a wonderfully inspiring look at Richard II. Coming up awful quick is the Claude and Camille HFBRT on April 6 which is why I am slamming you with reviews this week. But hey, what am I here for, right? And right now I am reading the fabulous Christine Trent's The Queen's Dollmaker. This is my first foray into an official Marie Antoinette read! Finally!

For those that read and enjoyed Higginbotham's The Stolen Crown, there is a new guest post by Susan at Wonders and Marvels that gives an interesting tid-bit into Harry Stafford aka Buckingham's son, Edward Stafford.

In more book news, I have decided that the month of May I am going to start to catch up on some older books that I have really been neglecting to read and review which will go nicely with two new ones that I have in my pile right now.

I am going to use May as the kickoff month of Tudor Mania at The Burton Review. Some reviews you can look forward to (hopefully!!) will be Secrets of the Tudor Court by D.L. Bogdan, No Will But His by Sarah A. Hoyt, Jane Seymour by Elizabeth Norton, Mary Boleyn by Josephine Wilkinson, The Lady Penelope by Sally Varlow and The Six Wives of Henry VIII by David Loades. Hopefully I won't be ready to pull my hair out with so many Tudor themed reads. But I think that is a good mix of fiction and non-fiction and these are all reads that I do want to read for my personal entertainment and not just must-review reads.


If I find that I cannot fit it in..I will carry over to June! But my goal is to read them all for May. And I have some more I could read for June and July.. I know many people are either "challenged-out" or "Tudored-out", but I decided to host a TUDOR CHALLENGE!


I have set up a "main landing page" post for it with all of the details, and then you can comment with links to your current Tudor reviews for any Tudor books you have reviewed in May, June and July. And then at the end of July, I will choose the member of the challenge who reviewed the most Tudor books in that period and offer up a book prize of their choice up to $15 in value from The Book Depository since that is FREE SHIPPING WORLDWIDE. That way, International Readers can join in the LinkFest and compete for the prize.

I was going to wait for feedback before I went all crazy, but I went all crazy and decided to go ahead with it. See what happens when my husband falls asleep and I get bored?
The Tudor Mania Challenge includes both non-fiction and fictional books set between 1485 and 1603, in England. Reviews must be around 300 words or more in length (to make sure everyone is playing fair).

The Official Post and link up page has been created here. You can start reading your books now, and then get your reviews ready to post for May, June and/or July, when the linky widget is open to review links.
 
And finally this week, you can (Watch Online starting 3/29) look forward to Masterpiece Classic which returns Sunday night, 3/28 8:00 PM Central!!

For a limited time starting March 29, see Sharpe's Challenge in its entirety, or select your favorite scenes.
Soldier-adventurer Richard Sharpe (Sean Bean) comes out of retirement to find a MIA officer (his old friend Patrick Harper) and to quash a rebellion in British India. Sharpe faces shifting allegiances, the conniving seduction of Madhuvanthi (Padma Lakshmi, Top Chef) and an explosive confrontation with an old foe. Will this be Sharpe's ultimate challenge? Sharpe's Challenge is based on the characters created by novelist Bernard Cornwell.

I am there!!
See you on the blogs this week, let's see if you can keep up! =)

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Mar 26, 2010

Book Review: The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Touchstone; Original edition (February 2, 2010)
ISBN-13: 978-1439153666
Review copy provided by the publisher, Thank you!
The Burton Review Rating: You know it.. hello.. FIVE GLOWING SOUL CATCHING STARS!
"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."

I couldn't have said it better myself. The synopsis states that this is a tragic story of page-turning suspense, and OH MY they weren't kidding! This is the story of a little white girl, Lavinia, who was orphaned  during her family's journey to the states from Ireland, and she was so traumatized that she forgot what her name was. She becomes the property of the captain of the ship, and thankfully he seems like a gentle man. But upon her arrival she is given to the colored slaves to work with and upon doing so, Lavinia becomes accustomed to their way of life, and to living in the kitchen house.

The story is told in a dual first person narration from Lavinia starting when she was a young girl, to Belle, the young colored slave who takes Lavinia in. I found the narrations to be seamless and pleasing as the alternating shifts were not jarring or distracting to the story. There is so much to the story and I don't want to give any juicy details away. But there are a lot of behind the scene mixers going on, so along with other couplings, it turns out that Belle is actually the captain's daughter, but the captain's family do not know this fact. Therefore, the wife and the son firmly believe that Belle and the captain are lovers, when indeed they are just bonded by blood. This causes a ripple effect of deception and incest and ultimate horrid realizations as this fact remains hidden to those that should know.

I was so endeared to the slaves, the Negroes (the author's word used in its historical context only) and the quarters where the poorest of the Negroes were. There are different social classes amongst the blacks and the whites and how the families mingle. The plight of slavery is such a sad one, many were without hope yet Belle wants to stay and serve the captain's family. This is what becomes of Belle's life, to be a servant. Yet when she could have the opportunity to get her free papers from the captain, she doesn't press too hard. She wants to stay with what she knows, and who she knows. This is her family. And the servants are a wonderful family to get to know as the story unfolds; they are loyal, steadfast and completely lovable. Each one of the characters from Jimmy, Ben, Uncle, Mama, Beattie, Fanny.. I was drawn to them all.

And of course there is Lavinia. She is growing up beautifully from age 6 to 16.. becoming a part of the servant's family until she is finally taken to be educated properly as a white woman. And she even becomes engaged to an older man, a widower, which would seem like the best thing for an orphan raised as a servant could hope for. But of course, it was not.

The captain's son seemed to love Lavinia... and the captain's neighbor did too. So what is Lavinia going to do? Can she live among the servants who are her family, and live happily ever after? No, this is a story that is told with grit, and it is full of traumatic scenes, dramatic scenes, and it doesn't work out too wonderfully for Lavinia. The ending was not perfect, and not everyone would get what they want. Things didn't seem clear with the way it ended and I feel it could have been drawn out a bit more with the same sense of evil traumatic suspense that gripped me from the first page. The prose from the very beginning was so perfectly written that I felt like I was right there watching the drama enfold.

This book took over my soul.. and I could not put it down until I finished with it. No kidding. I stopped for potty breaks and to avert the kiddos from sudden disaster, and I read. I inhaled it. It devoured me. It captured my soul, my heart, these whites and blacks mingling back in the days they weren't supposed to and causing good things and bad things to happen. This is a must read. Absolute must read for those interested in America, how it was born, and who we are and why we should be thankful for the mere fact we are here today, and not back then. I would love to lend my copy out, but I am going to re-read this one. It's a keeper. There are lessons to be learned, and this is just one heck of a fantastic story.

Stay tuned for a guest post and a giveaway!

Mar 25, 2010

HF Bloggers Round Table Event: William Marshal in Ireland



Play this while reading my post, it shall surely get you in the Irish mood!

This post is dedicated to William Marshal, who is the main protagonist in Elizabeth Chadwick's two books:
Read my review of The Greatest Knight
Read my review of The Scarlet Lion
CURSES! Guest post by Elizabeth Chadwick

When I picked up the new US release The Scarlet Lion, by Elizabeth Chadwick, I noticed that on the map at the front of the book Carrickfergus, Ireland was one of the few places that was named on the map. I waited impatiently for its appearance in the actual novel, and it did finally come, albeit briefly. Carrickfergus can be found just a bit northeast of Belfast on the coast of the Irish Sea. Carrickfergus, Antrim County is where I found myself completely and utterly stuck while doing my genealogy research for my mother's family. So it holds a bit of mystique, and a faint calling of my name.. as I could not get past one Thomas Lee, and his son Gershom Lee, born around 1699 in Carrickfergus, Ireland and who died between 1750 - 1754 in Piscataway, Middlesex, N.J. He married Mary Drake between 1731 - 1732 in Piscataway, N.J., and she was the daughter of Andrew Drake and Hannah Randolph. The line has many descendants and some somewhat popular names and interesting stories. It is also a quagmire of cousins marrying cousins. Gershom and Mary are my 8th great-grandparents but the water got murky back there in Ireland to find who both of his parents were, and Gershom was a popular name. And so was Lee. As an American, my roots have been traced back to Ireland, Scotland and England and that's just my mom's side. My family tree branches out into many wonderful areas after that within America but today I mention it as my nemesis, as my Irish luck stopped in Carrickfergus with Gershom, but I was happy to see Carrickfergus mentioned in Elizabeth Chadwick's The Scarlet Lion as a true blast from my past.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/swampy_bogtrotter/ Carrickfergus
Hundreds of years before my 8th great-grandpa Gershom Lee was found in Ireland, the Normans had settled there and took over by building strong castles from which they could defend themselves in. By the year 1250, three quarters of Ireland was owned by the Normans after the Norman invasion and only some of the western lands were owned by the Irish, such as Clare and western Galway. Carrickfergus Castle was a Norman Castle built in 1177 and has a small history as it relates to King John's rule as it changes hands. Hugh De Lacy overtook the castle in 1204 from John De Courcy who was ruling as a petty king. In The Scarlet Lion, Chadwick depicts a siege being set up by William Marshal against De Lacy in July 1210. William is portrayed as being hesitant to inflict full force damage on the castle, and I had that same feeling as I was reading along. William pushed for a compromise between De Lacy and King John, but King John was eager to plunder and destroy. As King John called for surrender, there was no response. Suddenly a group of Irish warriors pounded into their camp, and told them of how the inhabitants of the castle had slipped away, and they were about to lay waste to a castle for no reason, as De Lacy and De Braose had left three days before with all the spoils of the castle. What I enjoyed most about this little adventure was Chadwick's sentence "Whatever happened now, it wouldn't happen in Ireland on his doorstep and while his consience wasn't entirely clear, he could at least hold his head above the mire."

Earlier, William Marshal had married Isabel de Clare in 1189, who was the heiress to her father's lands in Ireland. Her parents were Aoife MacMurrough of Leinster and Richard de Clare ('Strongbow', a norman invader) and the marriage of Aoife and Strongbow are depicted in this painting, as two sides united:
Daniel Maclise's The Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife
As we read Chadwick's William Marshal series, we are made thoroughly aware of the importance of the heritage of Isabel De Clare. Isabelle's father, Richard fitz Gilbert de Clare became Lord of Leinster in 1171, and in 1172 he built a wooden fortress at the present site of Kilkenny. The building of Norman fortresses, castles and towns began there. Strongbow never knew his son-in-law William Marshal because Strongbow had died of a leg infection in 1176. One will never know if Strongbow would have approved of the new Lord of Leinster. Wikipedia states that a life sized statue of Aoife is at Carrickfergus Castle, with a plaque describing her as "thinking of home." I searched online for an image of this but could not find anything relating to it so I wonder if that fact is true.

Kilkenny, Ireland is one of the frequent settings in the novel as Isabelle spent much of her time here while her husband was named Lord of Leinster in 1192 and focused on rebuilding the fortress and the city, and creating its charter of rights. William took homage from the Irish lords at this time and unrest began in his wife's lands as some resisted this Englishman who was off in England most of the time. Isabelle was depicted as a major figure in the novel The Scarlet Lion as she attempted to ease the baron's minds with the fact that it was she who was the true Irish heiress and the barons should appease her wishes and therefore her English husband's wishes at the same time.

From 1207 to 1212 William was out of royal favor of King John so William left court and sailed to Ireland to try to secure his wife's Irish inheritance, the county of Leinster. It is within this period that William focused on war against his Irish vassals who were led by Meilyr fitz Henry, King John's appointed justiciar in Ireland, as he refused to recognize William's lordship. In 1208 William's relations with John had not gotten any better when William helped William de Braose, who was not only William's friend but also his overlord for some land in England. King John demanded hostages, including his sons, squire and best friend John of Early.

After William died in 1219, his eldest son William succeeded to his father’s lands and offices along with his mother’s vast holdings in 1220 on her death. History later shows the De Lacy name again as he fights against the younger William Marshal in Ireland in 1224. The great Marshal barony lasted only a single generation, as a bishop's curse on William Marshal seems to have come true.

Please see the previous post, as Elizabeth Chadwick wrote a guest post specifically for the Round Table readers as she elaborates on the curse!

The Carrickfergus Song Lyrics:
I wished I was in Carrickfergus
Only for nights in Ballygrand
I would swim over the deepest ocean
The deepest ocean to be by your side.
But the sea is wide and I cant swim over
And neither have I the wings to fly.
If I could find me a handy boatman
To ferry me over to my love and die.
My childhood days bring back sad reflections
Of happy time spend so long ago.
My boyhood friends and my own relations.
Have all passed on like the melting snow.
I'll spend my days in endless roving
Soft is the grass and my bed is free.
Oh to be home now in Carrickfergus
On the long road down to the salty sea.
And in Kilkenny it is reported
On marble stone as black as ink
With gold and silver I did support her
But I'll sing no more now till I get a drink.
For I'm drunk today and I'm rarely sober
A handsome rover from town to town.
Oh but I am sick now and my days are numbered
so come on ye young men and lay me down.

Happily found during my search for William Marshal online travels, a historical romance series by Mary Pershall from the 80's. I ordered the first three. Perhaps Sourcebooks might want to take a look at these as potential reissues (when Chadwick has had her full of the Marshals, of course!):

A Shield of Roses is about about Sir Richard fitzGilbert de Clare and Lady Eve (Aoife) MacMurrough, the parents of Isabel de Clare, set in Ireland.
Dawn of the White Rose is about Isabel de Clare and William Marshal
A Triumph of Roses Beautiful Eleanor Plantagenet becomes a pawn in the intrigues of the medieval English court when she becomes the bride of the powerful William Fitzwilliam Marshal, Earl of Pembroke (a fictional son)
Roses of Glory A twist of fate sweeps beautiful Roanna Royston into the court of King Henry III, where, while learning the ways of a lady, she encounters Giles Fitzwilliam, a proud knight serving his king. Giles is a fictional son of William the younger.

Here's an interesting slideshow on the inside of Carrickfergus Castle:

Yes, it looks like there is a statue of a fellow on the privy towards the end there...

Don't forget to visit the main site for the Calendar of Events and giveaways for the Round Table tour of Elizabeth Chadwick's new release, The Scarlet Lion.
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Mar 24, 2010

Guest Author Post: CURSES! by Elizabeth Chadwick

Please visit the main site at Historical Fiction Bloggers Round Table for a complete listing of scheduled events that surround this month's release of Elizabeth Chadwick's The Scarlet Lion, book 2 in the William Marshal series.

Read my review of The Scarlet Lion and come back tomorrow for a special post I created regarding William Marshal's family in Ireland. There is also a two-book giveaway at the main site going on right now (closed).

For the Historical Fiction Bloggers Round Table event, I jumped at the chance to have the author of The Scarlet Lion go into some detail about the legend of the curse on the William Marshal male line.

Curses! By Elizabeth Chadwick

There is a legend that William Marshal, great thirteenth century magnate and regent of England, was cursed by a disgruntled Irish bishop, who declared that for his sins against the church, William Marshal’s line would perish in direct male descent.

William had ten children in all – five sons and five daughters, all apparently robust and healthy. The daughters were certainly fertile and produced numerous offspring to various husbands. But the sons all died during their prime – some we know for a fact were murdered, and none of them had children. So, how did this curse come about, and is it all just hokum?

The bishop’s anger at William Marshal boils down to an Irish land dispute. William had apparently taken into his own hand the manors of Temple Shanbo and Ferns, which were being claimed by Albin O’Molloy, bishop of Ferns, a close friend of King John. Bishop Albin kicked up a stink, complaining to Rome and involved the biship of Dublin, asking him to put William’s lands in Ireland under interdict. William was also warned that he faced excommunication from the English bishops if he didn’t hand over the lands.

Unfortunately for bishop Albin, his case hit a brick wall when the Pope declined to confirm the excommunication. The bishop tried again in 1218 through the ecclesiastical courts and was told that it was a lay matter, not church business. A complaint to Henry III got nowhere because William Marshal was acting regent for the young man and the case was deferred until Henry III should come of age. The bishop, blocked at every turn and fuming, went ahead and excommunicated William. We know from the chronicle of Matthew Paris that after William died, Bishop Albin made fresh efforts to get his manors back. He came to London and pleaded with Henry III, saying he would lift the excommunication from William if the King would only restore the manors to him.

The bishop therefore went to the tomb, and, in the presence of the king and many other persons, as if a live person was addressing a living one in the tomb, said,
"William, you who are entombed here, bound with the bonds of excommunication, if the possessions which you wrongfully deprived my church of be restored, with adequate satisfaction, by the agency of the king, or by your heir, or any one of your relations, I absolve you ; if otherwise, I confirm the said sentence, that, being involved in your sins, you may remain in hell a condemned man for ever."
The king, on hearing this, became angry, and reproved the immoderate severity of the bishop.

As it happened, the hapless bishop was still out of luck as Henry III refused the request too. I have yet to read the piece where the bishop actually laid his curse on future generations. It seems to be one of those oft reported things that is hard to find in the primary source, but I suspect that it is somewhere in Matthew Paris and that it was therefore written after the time when all the sons had shuffled off the mortal coil. Of course, Bishop Albin could have worked up enough of a head of steam to add the curse to his excommunication, and it may have resonated with active energy – who knows!

So what happened to the sons?

William’s son and heir, William II, who also turned down Bishop Albin’s request, died in 1131 of unknown causes when he was approximately 41 years old – although one chronicle suggests that he was poisoned. Richard was treacherously murdered in Ireland in April 1234, in his early 40’s. Gilbert was murdered at a tournament in 1141 when someone cut his reins and he fell from his horse and was dragged. Walter died in November 1245 of unknown causes and Ancel, the last son died within a month of Walter the same. Three grown men dead without reason and two murdered as reported in the chronicles. It is not difficult to believe that someone wanted the males of the Marshal line dead. Bishop Albin died in 1223, so unless his hand reached from beyond the grave in the form of that curse, he can’t be blamed. Myself, I put it down to the deeply murky politics of the time. (then again, when aren’t politics deeply murky?). Perhaps it’s a novel for further down the line…

~
Perhaps it is!!
Thank you to Elizabeth Chadwick for humoring me and writing about this subject for us.
I find this topic to be so intriguing to peruse, and the fate of William Marshal's sons is just too sad to overlook the curse. And yes, further down the line, we will have another Chadwick novel that includes the Marshals, and most specifically, Mahelt, the favored first daughter of William Marshal the elder. I am so looking forward to it!

What do you think, did the bishop's curse come true?

Mar 22, 2010

HF Bloggers Round Table: Book Review: The Scarlet Lion by Elizabeth Chadwick

The Scarlet Lion by Elizabeth Chadwick
Paperback: 592 pages
Sourcebooks Reissue March 2010
ISBN-13: 978-0751536591
Review copy provided by Sourcebooks, thank you!
The Burton Review Rating:Four and a Half Stars


The Legend of the Greatest Knight Lives On...William Marshal's skill with a sword and loyalty to his word have earned him the company of kings, the lands of a magnate, and the hand of Isabelle de Clare, one of England's wealthiest heiresses. But he is thrust back into the chaos of court when King Richard dies. Vindictive King John clashes with William, claims the family lands for the Crown- and takes two of the Marshal sons hostage. The conflict between obeying his king and rebelling over the royal injustices threatens the very heart of William and Isabelle's family. Fiercely intelligent and courageous, fearing for the man and marriage that light her life, Isabelle plunges with her husband down a precarious path that will lead William to more power than he ever expected.


The Scarlet Lion by Elizabeth Chadwick is rumored to 'stand-alone' and said not to require one to read the previous book by Chadwick, The Greatest Knight. I would disagree, especially for newcomers to the Medieval era. If I hadn't read The Greatest Knight (see my recent review), I would have had a fifty percent chance at finishing The Scarlet Lion. By reading the previous novel, I was able to become intrigued by the characters and get my mind around their habits and mindset (and fall in love with the Marshals). Once I began reading The Scarlet Lion, I thanked my lucky stars for getting the chance to read The Greatest Knight (hereafter abbreviated as TGK).

The reason for the luckiness is that The Scarlet Lion is much more low-key than TGK, and it is not written with the same sense of urgency and drama until the last half of the novel. It is still a great piece of work as I sense it is thoroughly researched and I appreciate the historical details. Dealing with the period of the late 1100's, I was sucked into the dramas of the Angevin Kings in TGK much more so than what we have presented to us with The Scarlet Lion. And Queen Eleanor, whom I adore, was also more prominent in TGK. But with The Scarlet Lion, which picks up at year 1197, Eleanor is elderly and does die within a short time. And the remaining son who is King of England is her youngest son, John, who was once upon a time stylized as John Lackland because all of his elder brothers had multiple lands handed to them, but there was nothing left for John. And John didn't seem to like that very much, as he is portrayed as an embittered, disgusting, vengeful and useless King. Records indeed indicate that his reign was quite disastrous.

The main protagonist is the sexy hunk of a man William Marshal. No, Chadwick never does actually come out and say he is sexy and masculine and gorgeous, but that's how I've got him pictured from TGK, and he is indeed The Greatest Knight in my mind. Let him save me from my burning tower any day. To be fair, his wife is probably just as sexy and gorgeous, because these two folks get it on!!! I've lost count several times and couldn't repeat their names, but the Marshals had somewhere around ten kids. Healthy ones. Ones that lived beyond birth! In fact, in the very first few pages of The Scarlet Lion we are welcoming a son into the family: 'Ah,' she said with satisfaction. 'I was right, it is a boy. Ha-ha, fine pair of hammers on him too!'  Most of my reads have the royal babies being very much sought after, but never have they been as abundant as the Marshals. That was certainly a refreshing change of pace, to have babies popping out happily one after the other. William and Isabelle have wonderful sexual chemistry, so there is a bit of sexual content scattered throughout the book, but nothing too outlandish. I am pleased to say that William is not a whore monger who goes out and beds all the women in sight also (as the author tells us, anyway). So, it is a happy marriage, even with the cranky Irish mother-in-law, Aoife, but less so when King John I sinks his claws into William's family and lands.

Oh, watch out for Aoife though.. rather, as Aoife says it (I just like typing Aoife), because it seems like she is hankering to put a spell on the Marshals..but it is just a heavy drop of dramatic foreshadowing. She says to watch out for the wolves.. sending chills and shivers down her daughter Isabelle's spine.. oh whatever can she mean??? She means that while William is off protecting the idiot King John or the French or English Marshal lands, they are forgetting the lands that are Isabelle's heritage in Ireland and that they must not let the evil Irish lords overstep their bounds. Or she means that King John is a wolf. King John I is keeping William kinda busy in Normandy and England, so of course we know what's going to happen in Ireland. And it does.

Again, King John is a bad king. His character was so evil in this novel that I don't think I could have my opinion changed. That being the case, for most of the novel I was silently screaming at William to run from King John to Ireland in order to at least protect Isabelle's heritage. But instead, we watch William stand by King John as one blunder after the other follows William in his wake. We watch William and Isabelle's offspring grow up and become heroic young men and the girls are betrothed in advantageous marriages. And Isabelle protects her Irish lands while of course William is away, and Isabelle is one tough lady when she lets herself be.

Since we don't have the Angevin brothers' angst in this novel, the political turmoil is focused on King Phillip of France against King John, the last Angevin brother standing which would have surprised everyone twenty years earlier. King Phillip of France is shrewd and cuts right to the point. He makes William an offer he cannot refuse. Is William going to go against King John? Could he ignore his oath to Queen Eleanor and the rest of her sons? How will King John take it? King John is shown here as a total jerk, and is hateful towards the Marshals. John had no sense of loyalty to his own family, thus the fact that his mother Queen Eleanor and her son King Richard favored the Marshals bore little meaning to King John, and perhaps even that made it worse. Bit by bit, King John whittles away at the lands, titles and the happy marriage that the Marshals have, and the reader is forced to turn the page with trepidation as King John strikes again and again. (Die King John, DIE!)

Finally, King John does die, but still leaves Marshal with the sense of loyalty to England that none can compare to. Even though in his sixties, William agrees to become the regent of England for John's young nine year old son, Henry. There are more battles to fight though, and his sons may be with him or against him. The last quarter of the novel makes up for the lackluster beginning of this read, because it did take awhile to get my heart into this one. William Marshal stayed true to character, as the greatest knight, and the last third of the book made up for the slow beginnings.

I was thankful for the helpful family charts at the beginning of book, as well as a few maps to aid us in placing William's whereabouts while doing King John's bidding. The story had a slower pace, but not as many new-to-me words as TGK had for me, thankfully. Isabelle was featured a bit more due to the Irish lands angle, and due to the strife that King John knowingly put into her marriage; she was always listening quietly to gossip or heeding warnings. I enjoyed learning more about William Marshal and his family, but did not feel as in tune to the historical aspect of the story until the second half when the drama started to pick up.

Elizabeth Chadwick has been described as "a gifted novelist and a dedicated researcher; it doesn't get any better than that" by my own favorite medieval author Sharon Kay Penman. If my opinion counts, Sharon Kay Penman would be first, and Jean Plaidy and Elizabeth Chadwick are presently battling it out for second place. I recommend this William Marshal series for any medieval history fan. Those new to medieval times may be a little less in awe to the story, and for them I would recommend Penman, of course, specifically the series that begins with When Christ and His Saints Slept. For those simply wanting the story of the greatest, most loyal and most chivalrous knight that ever lived, Chadwick's William Marshal series is your primary source for that. She will make you fall in love with William Marshal with her unforgettable story of his life, as his memory is finally being given its just rewards. William Marshal fans will be delighted to learn that in one of her next releases, To Defy A King, the story focuses on William’s eldest daughter, Mahelt Marshal who married Hugh Bigod, and includes some of the other siblings within the storyline. But To Defy a King is a sequel to a novel that will be published by Sourcebooks in the fall of 2010 titled For The King’s Favour.



For a giveaway of both of these novels, please check the main site at this post and enter there.(closed)

Mar 20, 2010

The Sunday Salon.. now you see me, now you don't

The Sunday Salon.com


Happy Sunday! Pull up a chair, click the above pics to see other virtual reading rooms.. what are you reading this week??
The Sunday Salon.. again.. this might look familiar to some because when I was composing this during the week, it published and posted and was live for a few hours before I realized it. Then I took it down again. So here it is again.

OK so I don't normally post about awards. And I haven't in like.. forever.

But I am bored so here we go:
I received the Honest Scrap award from Sheri at A Novel Menagerie. She is one of my blogger buddies that is always there in the shadows just waiting for me to cry on her shoulder. She's a good buddy. I think I've done this before but honestly.. who cares.
1. I am pretty sarcastic and many people take that as being snotty. Oh well.
2. I've always preferred older men. Then I married one. I did good.
3. I hate cliques. Despise them. I am always right there to lead an opposing clique.
4. Even though I complain a whole lot, I hope I am in the same place ten years from now.
5. I don't do house cleaning. Laundry and the-must-do-to-stay-sanitary stuff I do, grudgingly.
6. Sadly, I have never read the classic classics like Tolstoy, Faust, Faulkner etc.
7. I write with my right hand but throw with my left.
8. Sometimes I skip showers in the AM's when I hit the snooze button too many times.
9. I am a girlie girl and like pretty things. Pink, florals, bright but pastels within my surroundings. Most days I wear a lot of black. I'm odd.
10. I had many pen pals when I was a kid. I would write to some mail order place and they would send me a list of potential pen pals. I had one guy from Africa. It was such a learning experience! And of course I had the normal gal-pen pals with lots of stickers and sweet smelling paper flying across the states back and forth. I loved it. Sharla from OK where are you?!

And then.... Life After Jane honored me with the Beautiful Blogger award...awww. Be sure to visit Life After Jane, she has an awesome blog going.

If you are awarded, here are the rules:

1. Make a new post and add a link to the person who gave it to you

2. Pass this award on to 15 bloggers you've recently discovered and whom you think are fantastic.

3. State 7 things about yourself!


SOOOO
instead of yammering on about inane facts about me that I cannot seem to conjure up with my usual witticisms anyway... I'll spare you any more fun facts of Marie.

I am going to award both these awards to .......................... drum rooooollllll pllllease.....
Newly discovered blogs that you should check out (there may be veterans here but I just found them recently):
Muse in the Fog
Ann Lauren
Back to Books
Bippity Boppity Book
Padfoot and Prongs
Scuffed Slippers and Wormy Books
The Secret Dreamworld of a Jane Austen Fan
And I am making a new addendum to all the rules, you can acknowledge the award or not. Your prerogative. I still love you.

So go off and read those blogs.. And thanks for the nominations from my awardees.

So what have I read this week outside of blogs?
I read The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom in a day. A Long Day. But a great day.. I read and shushed the kids all day last Sunday. When I finished the book, my poor little brain was utterly completely fried so much so that I was over stimulated, yet exhausted, and I could not fall asleep. I checked on the snoring kids a couple times. I had slave babies going through my head and ultimately my dreams.. after reading that one. It was intense.

So the next day came and I couldn't read. I shut down until I write a review of the previous book, I simply cannot go on until the required review is written. It's in the blood, it's not a rule. I carried a new book around with me in hopes I would crack it open. Couldn't do it.

And I see on other blogs that they read like 40 books in a week (exaggeration) and they are starting on 40 more, and they have yet written reviews for the last 40.. and I can't help but wonder how they don't get confused by having 80 books swimming in their mind at the same time? My brain just doesn't work that way. Don't ask me what I ate last night because it'll be taxing on my brain.

I tried reading Jane Austen's unfinished novel Sanditon and stopped at Chapter 7 of 12. My version contained not a single line break. It felt like one huge run-on sentence, and my feeble brain just could not adjust to reading dialogues and narration in one big blob. Sorry Jane. Since you didn't finish your novel, I won't either.

So now I am going to try and get further into The Founding by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles. You may have seen the post at Amy's Passages to the Past. First off, the new brand new release by this author is #33 in the series (?!) and coming in November. Sourcebooks though is going back and reissuing some, so that's why I have #1, The Founding on my shelf. And #2 The Dark Rose. Then Amy posts about the entire series, and she explains simply the timeline of each book. Book one starts in 1434: War of the Roses and Richard III and Book 33 ~ The Dancing Years comprises of 1920 and the Irish war of independence, releasing in November 2010.
And it is a fabulous idea. If I enjoy the writing in #1 and #2 I might have to collect the series. But being on Chapter 3 as I write this, I am not sold yet but I do hope to be. We shall see what happens.
 
Coming up courtesy of the Historical Fiction Bloggers Round Table group is the Elizabeth Chadwick event. My review of The Greatest Knight, Book one in the William Marshal series, can be found here which I posted this week. We will have our reviews of Book 2 The Scarlet Lion coming up as well as creative posts and guest posts that discuss William Marshal and different aspects of the story. There are even a few guest posts by Elizabeth Chadwick herself. So even if you have read the series already, you will want to stop by our blogs and the main site to see what more you can learn of William Marshal and his family.

I also reviewed a touching story called Fireworks Over Toccoa by Jeffrey Stepakoff. It was a quick read and I enjoyed it. Coming up will be the review and giveaway for the aforementioned The Kitchen House, this is one book you do not want to miss! It was so awesome that it might even make it to my Best of 2010 List!

A BRAND NEW HalfPrice Books is opening in my neighborhood and the Grand Opening is Monday! I am very excited, and I have a gift card and coupon ready to go. I am tempted to call in sick to work. But I will probably end up scarfing down french fries on the way to the bookstore during lunch.

I also wanted to mention that an author who has been featured here several times before, Kate Emerson, has an announcement. Lizzy at Historically Obsessed also mentioned this week that Emerson's third novel in the Secrets of the Tudor Court series is coming in December. But Kate specifically wanted to make her readers aware of an obsession of hers that has finally born fruit. What was once only on a website, we now have a  searchable Who's Who of Tudor Women, for $5.00 in E Book Format! This is my first purchase ever in pdf format, which is now available as an e-book original of 355 pages exclusively from the new e-book store at http://www.awriterswork.com/

It is an easy Pay Pal checkout process of $5.00 total, and after the paypal is complete you get to a Download screen and you can download the book from there.

Here's what Kate writes:
"Although the WHO'S WHO still exists in html files at my Kate Emerson Historicals website, this text-only e-book offers the convenience of having all 622 entries (the number as of the end of February 2010) and the list of titles used in Tudor times in one, easy-to-search electronic file. A WHO'S WHO OF TUDOR WOMEN completely replaces my very out-of-date and inaccurate WIVES AND DAUGHTERS: THE WOMEN OF SIXTEENTH-CENTURY ENGLAND (1984), which is no longer in print."

Just so you get a fair taste of what you are getting, one of the 622 entries shows as the following:
ANNE OF CLEVES (September 22, 1515-July 16, 1557)
The daughter of John, duke of Cleves (d.1539) and Mary of Berg and Juliers (d.1543),
Anne of Cleves married Henry VIII of England (1491-1547) on January 6, 1540 but was
persuaded to accept an annulment granted on July 9 of that same year. She retired to
Richmond and Bletchingley, properties granted to her in a generous settlement, and was
thereafter treated as the king's sister. A false rumor, circulated in 1541, claimed she'd
given birth to a child. She was present at ceremonial occasions during the reign of Mary I
and when she died at Chelsea she was buried in Westminster Abbey. Biographies: Mary
Saaler, Anne of Cleves: Fourth Wife of Henry VIII; Elizabeth Norton, Anne of Cleves,
Henry VIII's Discarded Bride (2009); chapters in Antonia Fraser, The Wives of Henry
VIII, Alison Weir, The Six Wives of Henry VIII, and other collective biographies of Henry
VIII and/or his wives; Oxford DNB entry under "Anne [Anne of Cleves]." Portraits: two
by Hans Holbein the Younger, one a miniature; one by Barthel de Bruyn the Elder. 

And I still have two giveaways up .. so check the top left sidebar for the links.
Happy Sunday!

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Mar 18, 2010

Book Review: The Greatest Knight by Elizabeth Chadwick


The Greatest Knight by Elizabeth Chadwick
Paperback: 560 pages
Publisher: Time Warner (2006) Sourcebooks (2009)
ISBN-13: 978-0751536607
Personal copy retrieved from fellow HF blogger, Arleigh (thank you!)
The Burton Review Rating:Four Stars


"Based on fact, this is the story of William Marshal, the greatest knight of the Middle Ages, unsurpassed in the tourneys, adeptly manoeuvring through the colourful, dangerous world of Angevin politics to become one of the most powerful magnates of the realm and eventually regent of England. From minor beginnings and a narrow escape from death in childhood, William Marshal steadily rises through the ranks to become tutor in arms to the son of King Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. A champion on the tourney field, William must face the danger and petty jealousy targeting a royal favourite. Dogged by scandal, banished from court, his services are nevertheless sought throughout Europe and when William's honour is vindicated, he returns to court and wins greater acclaim and power than before. A crusader and the only knight ever to unhorse the legendary Richard Coeur de Lion, William's courage and steadfastness are rewarded by the hand in marriage of Anglo-Irish heiress Isobel de Clare, 19 years old, the grand-daughter of kings and his equal in every way."

I've been ruined by Sharon Kay Penman, utterly spoiled by her stories of Eleanor and her wild Angevin husband and children. I read her trilogy on Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine over a year ago, and nothing has yet to compare. Penman thoroughly went through the major events between the king and the queen that each retelling I've encountered barely holds a candle. Until now.

In Elizabeth Chadwick's story, The Greatest Knight, we learn more the story of William Marshal rather than just the royal family. Occurring between 1167 and 1194, William matures and becomes a knight, the subject matter and the main events are all focused around Henry and Eleanor's tumultuous marriage, their reign, their battles, and their boys who become kings themselves. The first 100 pages tells of how William Marshal was given over to King Stephen by his father, then William receives training, becomes a knight and is favored by Eleanor, which was intriguing and was holding its own for me. Soon he is tutoring Young Henry, aka the Young King, who is the eldest male to Eleanor and Henry and is set to inherit his father's title. We then shift the story to when Eleanor is imprisoned for inciting rebellion on behalf of her boys and Young Henry is quaking in his boots to become a king with all the benefits.

I have heard this all before via Sharon Kay Penman, and it was all so vivid to me with her prose, and Chadwick's story was starting to fade for me. But, the caveat is that those who have not already read Penman's Henry and Eleanor trilogy will enjoy the beginning of the story just fine, because it is akin to the Tudor drama that I also love. This is a period that is much more violent, with more battles, a lot of passion and fierce loyalties. The battle scene that focused on William's turning from boy to man, where his uncle was killed, was an excellent scene. But then I felt a little robbed when Chadwick skipped over the battles that Young Henry and his forces had when they fought against his father King Henry. I was taken aback by the jump in time from chapter to chapter which downplayed some of the major turmoils of the time, and therefore lessened the amount of drama that I was waiting for, but this was William Marshal's story, and not Henry and Eleanor's.

Once we get past the initial deja vu of the Henry vs. Eleanor story about 130 pages in, the drama picks up and I was much more intrigued with William Marshal as he becomes more of an honorable man to the reader. He grows from a child to a knight before our eyes. He becomes a tutor to the boys who will be kings, then he is a hostage, Queen Eleanor ransoms him (much to the disgust of others), he finds a mistress, loses the mistress, and eventually weds an heiress that gives William enough lands to make him almost the richest man next to the royal family (again, much to the disgust of others). William is portrayed as swift in battle and in tournaments, and as a loyal servant to his lord and his queen, and as a loyal husband. The novel involves the relationships of the other knights, his squires, and the lords that were jealous of William Marshal's high standing within the ranks.

There was nothing lacking in his character; which is what brings Elizabeth Chadwick's fans clamoring for more. And that more is within her next novel, The Scarlet Lion, which is just being released in the USA this spring. The Greatest Knight ends with King Richard slowly regaining his power back from his rebellious and power hungry brother John Lackland after Richard's return from captivity in Germany. The next novel continues the story of William Marshal and his family as he still is loyal to the royal family after Richard is dead and John is king. The Scarlet Lion occurs between 1197 and 1219.

I will always put Penman's trilogy first when recommending novels regarding the Henry and Eleanor saga, but this novel by Elizabeth Chadwick is also a wonderful side story to the drama that enfolds with each of the children of Henry and Eleanor. One thing to remember about Elizabeth Chadwick's writing is the fact that it is very thoroughly researched. She knows what she is talking about, and she is not one that will stretch the truth beyond repair for the sake of a good story. I enjoyed this novel immensely and I recommend it to anyone interested in the story of the legendary greatest knight, and those interested in Eleanor of Aquitaine's days. Some of the words that Chadwick used were new to me, making the story a bit more authentic but slightly distracting until I grasped their meanings:

Mesnie: 'Loosely defined as a medieval household with a feudal lord. More narrowly, a group of knights (typically errants ) who travel closely and fight in tourney and war with a feudal lord, who is usually of high noble bearing.'
conroi: 'A small group of knights who competed in tournaments together from the 12th and 13th centuries.'
palaver: 'a conference or discussion.'
unguents: 'an ointment or salve, usually liquid or semi-liquid, for application to wounds, sores, etc.'
carbuncles: 'an abscess larger than a boil, usually with one or more openings draining pus onto the skin.'
reliquary: 'a repository or receptacle for relics.'
distaff: 'a staff with a cleft end for holding wool, flax, etc., from which the thread is drawn in spinning by hand.'
braies: 'male undergarments'

As part of the Historical Fiction Bloggers Round Table, there are several events focusing on Elizabeth Chadwick and her new release of The Scarlet Lion beginning next week. Please see the Calendar of Events for more details.