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Apr 5, 2010

Guest author Sarah A. Hoyt discusses Kathryn Howard, Fifth wife of Henry VIII

NO WILL BUT HIS by Sarah A. Hoyt (Berkley Trade Paperback Original; April 6, 2010; 978-0425232514; $14.00) is the fourth in a series of historical novels about the wives of Henry VIII, whose lives and loves shaped the future of all of Britain .

Her name was Kathryn Howard. Cousin to Anne Boleyn, the women for whom King Henry VIII changed the world, the orphaned Kathryn grew up a poor relation in a household where discipline was lax. Her youthful indiscretions would have hardly mattered if the eye of the aging King had not fallen on her. But she caught the King’s attention and, a Howard, Kathryn was ambitious. Henry called her his rose without a thorn, and she assumed the role of his untouched child bride, his adored fifth wife. Meanwhile, Kathryn relatives conspired to make sure that the truth was kept from the King.  Read an excerpt.

Mind Over Matter by Sarah A. Hoyt

The writing of No Other Will Than His – or at least the selling of it – started five years ago, when apropos very little in a phone call with my editor, Ginjer Buchanan, I found myself disputing her assertion that Kathryn Howard fifth wife of Henry VIII was “just a slut” and not very bright. Eventually my vigorous argument got me a contract to write a book about her.

I confess my opinion in the matter was probably colored by having attended an all girl highschool, where the class slut was also one of the brightest students. But there were more material considerations. Every other of Henry’s wives was smart and accomplished in her own way.

In fact, taken all in all, Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour might have had little else in common, except that every contemporary agreed each one was a very intellectually accomplished female. Oh, certainly, Katherine of Aragon’s mind might run to theology, but she was also an able and accomplished agent for the relationship between England and Spain and proved more than a worthy adversary for Wolsey and all the King’s men. And Anne Boleyn was undisputedly quick of wit and as prompt with song and line as the king himself, if not more so. Jane Seymour, on the other hand, as quiet and domestic as she might have been – or at least played – was adept at managing the not inconsiderable royal household and was friends with her stepdaughter, Mary Tudor, who was herself no mean scholar.

With this in mind, and taking in account that part of what might have given Henry a disgust of Anne of Cleves was her inability to converse nimbly in English, it is highly unlikely he would have chosen a dumb bunny for his fifth wife.

I’m not disputing she was ignorant. The surviving letters from her are certainly pitiful. Though I will maintain you don’t have to be dumb to write near illegible letters. I have known mathematical and musical geniuses who could barely string two words together. On the other hand in her day book learning was not in general favored for women – beyond the king’s daughters themselves. Her step grandmother, too, the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, might have kept Kathryn deliberately ignorant so as to make her more pliable – and that’s assuming that she was interested enough at first to care if she learned or not.

However, even though she might have been proffered to the king as a puppet, something in her must have caught the king enough to marry her. Her cousin, Mary Howard, was at one point encouraged to make the king her paramour, but never to attempt to marry him. Kathryn, however, who was still a child in our terms, was told to aspire for the top, and did manage it.
In the hothouse environment of the court, there must have been many other dainty, pretty young damsels to take the king’s eye. But only Kathryn captured him in matrimony and that bespeaks both courage and intelligence – the daring to aim for the top and to achieve it.

Yes, afterwards she might have miscalculated her position and ultimately paid for it with her life. Strategic brilliance cannot be expected of a girl who died before eighteen.

But in a brutal time, she used her looks AND her mind to best effect and even though her romantic heart might have preferred Thomas Culpepper embraced the challenge of capturing the crown.

Her fall was as fast and precipitous as her rise, but with all that, let’s pause for a moment and admire a young woman who has often been much maligned, but who in life must have been a creature of considerable courage, decision and intelligence.
NO WILL BUT HIS by Sarah A. Hoyt is available for purchase from Amazon, Ebay or your favorite booksellers.

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Apr 4, 2010

Mailbox Monday!

Mailbox MondayMailbox 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.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my littlest one!

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!

Did you hear about my Tudor Mania Challenge coming up for May, June and July? Do you have Tudor Themed reads? I have these now to add to my list to read for the challenge:

HENRY VIII: The Tudor Tyrant by Richard Rex (Feb 2010)
"The future Henry VIII was born on 29 June 1491, the second son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. This talented, athletic and temperamental man might have proved something of a handful to his elder brother, Prince Arthur, the firstborn, had he survived to wear the crown. But Henry's life was changed forever when Arthur died in 1502 and the course of English history took a very unexpected turn... "

THE EARLY LOVES OF ANNE BOLEYN by Josephine Wilkinson (Feb. 2010)
"Anne Boleyn is perhaps the most engaging of Henry VIII's Queens. For her he would divorce his wife of some twenty years standing, he would take on the might of the Roman Church and the Holy Roman Empire; he would even alienate his own people in order to win her favor and, eventually, her hand.
But before Henry came into her life Anne Boleyn had already wandered down love's winding path. She had learned its twists and turns during her youth spent at the courts of the Low Countries and France, where she had been sent as a result of her scandalous behavior with her father's butler and chaplain. Here her education had been directed by two of the strongest women of the age - and one of the weakest.
Returning to England she was courted by three different suitors in three very different circumstances. The first was James Butler, with whom an arranged marriage was designed to settle a family dispute over the earldom of Ormond. Anne then captured the heart of Henry Percy, whose genuine love for her was reciprocated and would have lead to Anne becoming countess of Northumberland had the couple not been cruelly torn apart in the interests of politics and worldly ambition. Lastly, Thomas Wyatt, the dreamy young poet and ambassador who was captivated by Anne but who stepped aside when he saw that he had a rival: none other than the great King Henry VIII himself."

CATHERINE PARR by Elizabeth Norton (Feb. 2010)

"Wife, widow, mother, survivor, the story of the last queen of Henry VIII.

The sixth wife of Henry VIII was also the most married queen of England, outliving three husbands before finally marrying for love. Catherine Parr was enjoying her freedom after her first two arranged marriages when she caught the attention of the elderly Henry VIII. She was the most reluctant of all Henry's wives, offering to become his mistress rather than submit herself to the dangers of becoming Henry's queen. This only served to increase Henry's enthusiasm for the young widow and Catherine was forced to abandon her lover for the decrepit king.

Whilst Catherine was reluctant to be a queen she quickly made the role a success, providing Henry VIII with a domestic tranquillity that he had not known since the early days of his first marriage. For Henry, Catherine was a satisfactory choice but he never stopped considering a new marriage, to Catherine's terror. Catherine is remembered as the wife who survived but, without her strength of character it could have been very different. When informed that the king had ordered her arrest for heresy, she took decisive action, defusing the king's anger and once again becoming his 'own sweetheart'. It was a relief for Catherine when Henry finally died and she secretly married the man she had been forced to abandon for Henry, Thomas Seymour. During her retirement, Catherine's heart was broken by her discovery of a love affair between her stepdaughter, Princess Elizabeth, and her husband. She never recovered from the birth of her only child and, in her fever accused her husband of plotting her death.

Catherine Parr is often portrayed as a matronly and dutiful figure. Her life was indeed one of duty but, throughout, she attempted to escape her destiny and find happiness for herself. Ultimately, Catherine was betrayed and her great love affair with Thomas Seymour turned sour."

Purchased from Half Price Books (save me, I can't stop!):
The Gilded Chamber: A Novel of Queen Esther by Rebecca Kohn
I love this cover, even though there is a boo*ie on there! I already had the Paperback so that's going to Paperbackswap.

"In the bestselling tradition of The Red Tent, a dazzling novel of the extraordinary biblical heroine who ascended to the position of queen and sacrificed love in exchange for the lives of her people.The story of Esther-whose mesmerizing beauty was matched only by her clear-eyed wisdom-has inspired women for centuries. Now her suspenseful tale comes to life through the eyes of a contemporary woman, debut novelist Rebecca Kohn. Capturing the passionate longings and political danger that have made Esther's legacy so timeless, The Gilded Chamber blends meticulous research with gripping storytelling to transport us to an ancient time in the far-flung Persian Empire.

Orphaned and terrified, Esther journeys across the River Tigris to start a new life with her cousin-a man well positioned in the court, and to whom she is betrothed. Her transformation from girl to woman unfolds against a lavish backdrop of the royal court and harem, rife with intrigue and daring alliances. Esther wins much of what she seeks: the heart of a king, and the deliverance of her people. But her rise to the role of queen is not without a price; she must turn her back on all that she ever wanted, and give her body to a man she can never love.
In a haunting, unflinching voice, The Gilded Chamber illuminates an epic dilemma between the yearnings of a woman's heart and the obligations imposed on her by fate. In Esther's case, choice makes history-and unforgettable reading."

The Unruly Queen: The Life of Queen Caroline by Flora Fraser (1996, biography)
"There are two types of British queens," says Columbia University historian David Cannadine.
"Those who hold the position strictly as wife of the king, and those (few) who have ruled as sovereign in absence of a male heir." Queen Caroline, who briefly held title when King George IV was crowned in 1820 is numbered among the former. Vulgar, selfish, and undisciplined, she fled from the husband she hated and became nearly as well known for her promiscuity as King George IV himself. Viewed by the public as a wronged woman, she survived George's attempts to dissolve the marriage, but opinion turned against her and she died in 1821."

King's Fool: A Notorious King, His Six Wives, and the One Man Who Knew All Their Secrets by Margaret Campbell Barnes (2009 reissue)
"First published in 1959 by world-renowned historical novelist Margaret Campbell Barnes, King's Fool is a remarkable insider tale of the intrigue, ruthlessness, and majesty of the Tudor court. When country lad Will Somers lands himself the plum position of jester to the mercurial King Henry VIII, he has no idea that he's just been handed a front-row seat to history.
With a seat near the throne and an ear to the floor, Somers witnesses firsthand the dizzying power struggles and sly scheming that marked the reign of the fiery Tudor king. Somers watches the rise and fall of some of the most enigmatic women in history, including the tragic Katherine of Aragon, the doomed Anne Boleyn, and Mary Tudor, who confided in the jester as she made the best of the fragile life of a princess whom everyone wished was a prince.
Based on the life of the real Will Somers, King's Fool is infused with Margaret Campbell Barnes' trademark rich detail and historical accuracy. This intimate peek into the royal chambers gives readers a unique view on one of the most tumultuous periods in English history."

Catherine de Medici: A Biography by Leonie Frieda (2003)
Color plate illustrations, map, genealogy chart, beautiful color flyleaf, London import, 440 pages.. woo hoo
"Catherine de Medici was half French, half Italian. Orphaned in infancy, she was the sole legitimate heiress to the Medici family fortune. Married at fourteen to the future Henri II of France, she was constantly humiliated by his influential mistress Diane de Poitiers. When her husband died as a result of a duelling accident in Paris - Leonie Frieda's magnificient, throat-grabbing opening chapter - Catherine was made queen regent during the short reign of her eldest son (married to Mary Queen of Scots and like many of her children he died young). When her second son became king she was the power behind the throne.
She nursed dynastic ambitions, but was continually drawn into political and religious intrigues between catholics and protestants that plagued France for much of the later part of her life.. It had always been said that she was implicated in the notorious Saint Barthlomew's Day Massacre, together with the king and her third son who succeeded to the throne in 1574, but was murdered - he was left standing with his assassin's dagger in one hand, and his own entrails in the other. Her political influence waned, but she survived long enough to ensure the succession of her son-in-law who had married her daughter Margaret.
Leonie Frieda has returned to original sources and re-read the thousands of letters left by Catherine. There has not been a biography in English of Catherine for many years and she believes that the time has come to show her - like Queen Elizabeth I of England - as one of the most influential women in sixteenth-century Europe."

The Rose of Martinique: A Life of Napoleon's Josephine by Andrea Stuart

"Josephine Bonaparte was one of the most remarkable women of the modern era. In this acclaimed biography, Andrea Stuart brings her so utterly to life that we finally understand why Napoleon's last word before dying was the name he had given her, Josephine. Using diaries and letters, Stuart expertly re-creates Josephine's whirlwind of a life that began with an isolated Caribbean childhood and led to a marriage that would usher her onto the world stage and crown her empress of France. Josephine's life gives us a picture of the terrible vicissitudes of the times. She managed to be in the forefront of every important episode of her era's turbulent history. After the Terror in Paris, the brilliant corrupt director Paul Barras rescued her from near-starvation. She epitomized post revolutionary Paris with its wild decadence and love of all things exotic, and it was there as its star that she first caught the eye of a young Corsican general who was to become the colossus of the age, Napoleon Bonaparte. A true partner to Napoleon, she was a political adviser, hostess par excellence, his confidante, and passionate lover."
The Rebels of Ireland (The Dublin Saga, #2) by Edward Rutherfurd

"The Princes of Ireland, the first volume of Edward Rutherfurd’s magisterial epic of Irish history, ended with the disastrous Irish revolt of 1534 and the disappearance of the sacred Staff of Saint Patrick. The Rebels of Ireland opens with an Ireland transformed; plantation, the final step in the centuries-long English conquest of Ireland, is the order of the day, and the subjugation of the native Irish Catholic population has begun in earnest.

Edward Rutherfurd brings history to life through the tales of families whose fates rise and fall in each generation: Brothers who must choose between fidelity to their ancient faith or the security of their families; a wife whose passion for a charismatic Irish chieftain threatens her comfortable marriage to a prosperous merchant; a young scholar whose secret rebel sympathies are put to the test; men who risk their lives and their children's fortunes in the tragic pursuit of freedom, and those determined to root them out forever. Rutherfurd spins the saga of Ireland's 400-year path to independence in all its drama, tragedy, and glory through the stories of people from all strata of society--Protestant and Catholic, rich and poor, conniving and heroic.

His richly detailed narrative brings to life watershed moments and events, from the time of plantation settlements to the "Flight of the Earls," when the native aristocracy fled the island, to Cromwell's suppression of the population and the imposition of the harsh anti-Catholic penal laws. He describes the hardships of ordinary people and the romantic, doomed attempt to overthrow the Protestant oppressors, which ended in defeat at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, and the departure of the "Wild Geese." In vivid tones Rutherfurd re-creates Grattan's Parliament, Wolfe Tone's attempted French invasion of 1798, the tragic rising of Robert Emmet, the Catholic campaign of Daniel O'Connell, the catastrophic famine, the mass migration to America, and the glorious Irish Renaissance of Yeats and Joyce. And through the eyes of his characters, he captures the rise of Charles Stewart Parnell and the great Irish nationalists and the birth of an Ireland free of all ties to England. A tale of fierce battles, hot-blooded romances, and family and political intrigues, The Rebels of Ireland brings the story begun in The Princes of Ireland to a stunning conclusion." *I need to buy the first one.

And the next series that I'll need to buy the first one for is the Pendragon trilogy. Ms. Lucy, of Enchanted by Josephine is a doll and sent me books two and three by Helen Hollick:
Pendragon's Banner (Pendragon's Banner Trilogy, #2)

"At age twenty-four, King Arthur has the kingdom he fought so hard for and a new young family. But keeping the throne of Britain—and keeping his wife and three sons safe—proves far from easy. Two enemies in particular threaten everything that is dear to him: Winifred, Arthur's vindictive first wife, and Morgause, priestess of the Mother and malevolent Queen of the North. Both have royal ambitions of their own.
In this story of harsh battles, secret treasonous plots, and the life-threatening politics of early Britain's dark ages, author Helen Hollick boldly reintroduces King Arthur as you've never seen him before."

Shadow of the King (Pendragon's Banner Trilogy, #3)

"Arthur is dead. His widow, Gwenhwyfar, left at Caer Cadan with their small daughter, faces overthrow by the powerful council headed by Arthur's uncle. But, unknown to her, events in France and Germany mean that a far mightier battle lies ahead. This is the third volume in the "Pendragon's Banner" trilogy."

From Paperbackswap, thanks to Arleigh for some credits, I received:
Lament for a Lost Lover by Philippa Carr (Jean Plaidy) "Against the turbulent background of Cromwellian England is set this sweeping tale of a beautiful young woman's journey from innocence to wisdom--from love to treachery. Lovely, naive Arabella Tolworthy had grown accustomed to her innocence --until the colorful, charismatic actress, Harriet Main, and the dashing Edwin Eversleigh burst into her life. Arabella did pot know it, but these two people would completely change her future. Harriet, for one, would return again and again to influence Arabella's happiness. As for Edwin, Arabella fell deliriously in love with him and married him. But soon after the wedding she found herself a widow. She returned to England with the new reign of Charles II, ready to devote the rest of her life to memories of the past. Only one person had the power to free Arabella from her chaste and wealthy prison. That was Carleton Eversleigh, Edwin's cousin. But was he doing this for Arabella's sake... or his own?"

Knave of Hearts by Philippa Carr Daughters of England (book 10) Also known as Zipporah's Daughter: "Lottie, child of the passionate liaison between Zipporah and Gerard d' Aubigne, had loved her ambitious cousin Dickon since childhood. But when Dickon marries an heiress she is forced to begin a new life with her aristocratic father's family in France."

The Judas Kiss by Victoria Holt (Jean Plaidy) "Pippa Ewell had left behind the dark and forbidding Greystone Manor - also the memories of Conrad, the handsome stranger who had swept her breathlessly into his arms and heart. But Pippa returned to find the truth behind her sister's mysterious death. And suddenly the fairy-tale kindgom glittered with evil and danger..."

The Love Child by Philippa Carr "Priscilla Eversleigh hides Jocelyn Frinton, a young man who is traitor to the government and wanted alive. They fall in love, but tragically Jocelyn is captured and executed. Priscilla later finds out that she's going to have his baby.
Harriet Main, a friend of the family, helps to keep Priscilla's pregnancy a secret by inviting Priscilla on a vacation to Venice; upon arriving, Harriet will discover that she's "pregnant" and decide to have the child there.
In Venice, Priscilla is able to hide her pregnancy by wearing long, concealing clothes. She is pursued by Beaumont Granville, who tries to kidnap her. Fortunately, Harriet's son, Leigh, who was raised as Priscilla's brother, rescues her.
Priscilla gives birth to a lovely baby girl, whom everyone thinks is Harriet's, and they return home to England. But at home there is cival unrest among the royal family. King Charles has died, and two men are struggling for the throne. Priscilla's father gets involved, and is arrested. Desperate to save her father from execution, Priscilla agrees to let Beaumont help free her father, but for a price: Priscilla must spend the night with him."

Good King Harry by Denise Giardina (A Novel)
"Set against the sweeping backdrop of medieval England, Good King Harry brilliantly brings to life one of the most fascinating, conflicted monarchs in history: Henry V. Evoking the sights and sounds of fifteenth-century London, acclaimed author Denise Giardina artfully illuminates the double-edged sword of power--and the momentous events that unfold in the making of a king. . . .
A contemplative soul imbued with a compassion and mental agility beyond his years, young Harry, Prince of Wales--the future King Henry V--is marked early as the object of his father's scorn. For in the eyes of Lord Bolingbroke, his son is but a weak link in the House of Lancaster with a dangerous loyalty to the rebellious Welsh that must be broken.
As Harry reaches maturity, the battle within his heart grows fierce. Torn between the sensitivities of his soul and the uncompromising king he must become, Harry embarks on an odyssey rife with political agendas, sexual intrigue, and military combat--ultimately transforming into the accomplished monarch a volatile England so urgently demands."

A Secret Alchemy by Emma Darwin
something about 15th century, 21st century, royalty, England, history, historical fiction, Edward IV, Edward V, fiction, Henry VI, princes in the tower, Richard III, time-slip, Wars of the Roses, Elizabeth Woodville

In a fabulous win from Amy, the Still Too Cool for School Blogger over at Passages to The Past:
Drood by Dan Simmons .. I scoped out and entered for this book over at least 5 blogs, I wanted this win for my mama. Woo hoo! I also wanted Black Hills (I was born there!) but I was not that lucky.

"On June 9, 1865, while traveling by train to London with his secret mistress, 53-year-old Charles Dickens--at the height of his powers and popularity, the most famous and successful novelist in the world and perhaps in the history of the world--hurtled into a disaster that changed his life forever.
Did Dickens begin living a dark double life after the accident? Were his nightly forays into the worst slums of London and his deepening obsession with corpses, crypts, murder, opium dens, the use of lime pits to dissolve bodies, and a hidden subterranean London mere research . . . or something more terrifying?
Just as he did in The Terror, Dan Simmons draws impeccably from history to create a gloriously engaging and terrifying narrative. Based on the historical details of Charles Dickens's life and narrated by Wilkie Collins (Dickens's friend, frequent collaborator, and Salieri-style secret rival), DROOD explores the still-unsolved mysteries of the famous author's last years and may provide the key to Dickens's final, unfinished work: The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Chilling, haunting, and utterly original, DROOD is Dan Simmons at his powerful best."

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Apr 3, 2010

The Sunday Salon~ Happy Easter!!

The Sunday

Happy Sunday! Grab you mug of cocoa/coffee/tea, click the pics to visit other virtual reading rooms.. what are you reading this week??

And it's EASTER today... YAY I love Easter. Enjoyable bunny prep, lots of candy, ((CHOCOLATE!!)) and fun egg hunts!! It's of course only fun like that if you have little ones, and I qualify there, so I intend to enjoy it while I can.

And Easter will always be a little more fun because the day before Easter 2007 I brought my little boy home from the hospital for the first time. And I was a good mommy that year and made sure that I had everything prepped before I had the little brat. Yes he is a brat now. He was a brat in my belly too, come to think of it. Oh well. Someday he'll get his comeuppance.

This week I did not get a lot of reading done; I had finished Christine Trent's The Queen's Dollmaker, and began The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O'Connor McNees. I love Louisa May Alcott and this story begins as she is a young woman struggling with the constraints of family obligations over her own ambitions.

On Monday I reviewed Within the Hollow Crown by Margaret Campbell Barnes which I recommend for those interested in the period relating to Richard II. I also reviewed The Founding, book one of the Morland Dynasty, by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles.

The Historical Tapestry blog has a great list of new historical fiction posted this week for the month of April. A great month for readers, it is going to take me a year to keep up with April!

Coming up this week, the Historical Fiction Round Table Bloggers will bring you all set of different posts surrounding the release of Stephanie Cowell's Claude and Camille!! Be prepared to to be inspired, as I have been. I even felt much more in tune to the museum visit we had on Friday, and I was incredibly touched as I was inches away from Monet's paintings. Amazing stuff.

Don't forget to schedule some Tudor-themed reads for May, June and July, as I will be hosting the Tudor Mania Challenge here at The Burton Review! There is a post here with all of the details and see how you can participate in this challenge. I want to use this post as a chance for everyone to learn about new Tudor-themed reads, both non-fiction and fiction. I look forward to the challenge and I hope to see you there. There is a button on the top left sidebar that you can snag for your sidebar as well, I would appreciate you spreadinng the word for the challenge!

Happy Easter to everyone who celebrates! I am hoping the lovely Dallas weather of late keeps itself sunny and shiny for the eggs hunts! Enjoy!

PS Last week I had a newsletter contest for two different books: My hubby picked numbers and the winners are:
Mystica gets Fireworks over Toccoa
Michelle Miller gets What Would Jane Austen Do?

Congrats! I'll email you shortly!

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Apr 2, 2010

Book Review: The Founding by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

The Founding by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles (Book #1 Morland Dynasty)
Product ISBN: 9781402238154
Price: $14.99
Sourcebooks Publication Date: April 2010
Originally published by Sphere 1980
Review copy provided by Sourcebooks
The Burton Review Rating:Three and a Half Stars

Seeking power and prestige, grim, 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, after all, secretly in love with Richard, Duke of York.

Yet from this apparently ill-matched union, Robert and Eleanor form a surprising connection that soon will be tested by a bloody civil war that divides families, sets neighbor against neighbor, and brings tragedy close to home.
The Founding is a novel that Cynthia Harrod-Eagles wrote in 1980, originally intended to be a twelve volume series written by two writers. Which would have already been a large task, but somehow it turned into one writer penning all thirty-four novels (the thirty-fourth will be published in November 2010 by Sphere). Sourcebooks is now reissuing some of the earlier novels, such as this first book that starts in 1434 in England. The fictional Morland Dynasty is now the longest-running historical family saga ever, which follows the Morlands for over 500 years of their history.

Eleanor Courteney was a ward of a nobleman and fancied herself married to a nobleman one day. But she was with no dowry, so she was going to have to accept a lower standard and was forced to do so when she married into the Morland dynasty. The Morlands were not of the same group that Eleanor would have preferred, but they were known for their riches as they were successful sheep farmers. Eleanor was portrayed as haughty and materialistic, as she not so quietly put up with her father-in-law until he passed, and when he did she set to work on her weaker-minded husband as to how to raise a gentleman's household. I did not feel very sorry for Eleanor, she was a bit sarcastic and snide, and even the word sarcastic was used a bit too much throughout the novel.

The story is very much a family saga epic style that I truly enjoy, and the one setback for me was Eleanor. As the main protagonist, I did not empathize with her much, as she continually disappointed me until the very end. Her children came and went and I did not feel as close to them as I wanted to either. I could not get my head totally absorbed in the characters, perhaps because there were so many. Yet, the whole package of the story set against the backdrop of the Wars of the Roses was very cleverly done and is what propelled me through. The Wars of the Roses is one of my most favorite periods to read about, and I always enjoy reading another view point.

Of course, this is truly fictional with the fictional Morlands being inserted at opportune times to be able to tell what is going on behind closed political doors, and of course Eleanor was very close to certain members, such as Richard Plantagenet, father to King Edward IV, and later her son/grandson/(I lost track) was also in service to the next king Richard. I was most happy when the history part came in to being within the writing, and less so when it was all about Eleanor. (Think "Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!!" but replace that with Eleanor). Eleanor is strongly Yorkist, therefore the book is very pro-Ricardian and prejudiced against the Lancastrians. While I try not to stand too strongly in one camp, I do have respect for the Tudors, who are Lancastrian. There are mentions of the "vain-glorious and weak-headed Buckingham" and Henry Tidr (aka Henry VII) and the scoffing at Tidr wanting to change the spelling of his name to Tudor. Another favorite historical topic of mine deals with the missing princes in the tower, which was totally not accurately portrayed; along with many of the other historical details, but this issue could easily be overlooked by those who are simply enjoying the story of a family's journey.

Along with Eleanor there are many children. There were births of those children, marriages, births of children to those children, and deaths. There had to be a few left standing though, in order for the next 33 books to be able to be called the Morland Dynasty. There are family trees in the beginning of each book that pertain to that particular branch and book, and you can also find them on the author's website. I was having trouble keeping up with the kids and the kids of the kids and who belonged to who which is why the family trees come in handy, and I had to consult them often. I hated noticing the date of death for each person because then I knew what was going to happen. To top all that off, one kid was called either Thom or Thorn depending on what time of the day it was and I kept re-reading it to see if I had misread it. Turns out after I wrote this review that the name was supposed to be Thom but the ARC I had was wrong.

But through it all, although this is not a heart wrenching, tear jerking, literary masterpiece, I still enjoyed the story. I think if Eleanor was a bit more likable it would have reflected on the rest of the book for me as well. I have not given up though, as I have Book #2: The Dark Rose waiting in the wings for June 2010. The next one deals with Henry VIII's times and I look forward to the the point of view of that time period, and sincerely hope that the protagonist there is someone after my own heart. I think moving away from the matriarch Eleanor and from my favorite Wars of the Roses topic, there is still hope for me with the series since I did enjoy the writing style very much and I am a fan of historical sagas. I have seen many many many many much more gushing positive reviews than my opinion here (I spelled out all the knit-picky things here which I normally don't do) so I think I am the minority of those who did not absolutely adore the book. But, it must be said the ending did end well enough that I was deeply touched and the ending helped redeem the entirety of the novel for me. The novel did its job of keeping me entertained throughout, and I would recommend this for those who enjoy family sagas set against a historical theme.

Coincidentally, official publication dates that coincide with the April 1, 2010 reissue date for book #1 include:
The Fallen Kings (Book 32 Morland Dynasty) by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles (Hardcover - Apr. 1, 2010)
The Foreign Field (Book 31 Morland Dynasty) by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles (Paperback - Apr. 1, 2010)

Sphere is a UK publisher and these books will be available in the US and UK following the links.

See another review at Passages to the Past

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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 . . ."

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

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:

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. 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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