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May 5, 2010

Book Review: By Fire, By Water, by Mitchell James Kaplan

By Fire, By Water by Mitchell James Kaplan
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Other Press (May 18, 2010)
ISBN-13: 978-1590513521
Review copy provided by the author, thank you!
The Burton Review Rating:Four stars!

Luis de Santángel, chancellor to the court and longtime friend of the lusty King Ferdinand, has had enough of the Spanish Inquisition. As the power of Inquisitor General Tomás de Torquemada grows, so does the brutality of the Spanish church and the suspicion and paranoia it inspires. When a dear friend’s demise brings the violence close to home, Santángel is enraged and takes retribution into his own hands. But he is from a family of conversos, and his Jewish heritage makes him an easy target. As Santángel witnesses the horrific persecution of his loved ones, he begins slowly to reconnect with the Jewish faith his family left behind. Feeding his curiosity about his past is his growing love for Judith Migdal, a clever and beautiful Jewish woman navigating the mounting tensions in Granada. While he struggles to decide what his reputation is worth and what he can sacrifice, one man offers him a chance he thought he’d lost…the chance to hope for a better world. Christopher Columbus has plans to discover a route to paradise, and only Luis de Santángel can help him.

Within the dramatic story lies a subtle, insightful examination of the crisis of faith at the heart of the Spanish Inquisition. Irresolvable conflict rages within the conversos in By Fire, By Water, torn between the religion they left behind and the conversion meant to ensure their safety. In this story of love, God, faith, and torture, fifteenth-century Spain comes to dazzling, engrossing life.
Mitchell James Kaplan has certainly tackled a complicated subject with his first novel in By Fire, By Water. It deals primarily with the Spanish Inquisition that was being sponsored by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella as it spread throughout Spain as they attempted to unify the kingdom of Spain. The story is being told through King Ferdinand's chancellor's eyes, Luis de Santangel, who was a converso himself. A converso was someone who was not trusted completely because of the fact they had once been a Jew, or had the 'misfortunate heritage' of descending from one. Another part of the story is being told from a Jewish woman's point of view, Judith, and these two stories ultimately intercept in the novel although they do not meet until later in the novel.

At the beginning of the story we are introduced to Colon, the man who is known today as Christopher Columbus. Although he doesn't play as large of a part in the novel that I expected, it is the theme of conquest, greed and discovery that Colon represents in the story which attempts to come full circle by the end of the novel. A fact that is true is that Luis did help finance Colon's voyage with the three famous ships, but Colon is also portrayed as one who was willing to help some of the more unfortunate people at a time of need. The author did a fantastic job of presenting an accurate portrayal of the setting of Spain and the turmoil that the people faced as the inquisition spread deeper into Spain; raping, murdering and pillaging all those that stood in its way; all in the name of the Almighty God.

Luis de Santangel is portrayed as a simple man who silently wants peace, but does not voice his opinions too loudly. He is careful for his family's sake, as he has a son and a close cousin to care for. Yet Luis is struggling to make peace with his inner self, as he questions the faith of the Christianity that he has been brought up in, yet still has a fervor for the Jewish traditions within the secrets of his heredity. Luis and some of his peers began to hold secret meetings regarding these questions which eventually backfire on them all and send them into the very pits of hell within the Spanish Inquisition. Even being a Chancellor to the king does not save the tragic fate of Luis' friends and family members.

Judith's story is more simple and not as politically entrenched as Luis', as she is merely a pious woman struggling to take care of a nephew and an old man. Her character is constructed in such a way that makes the reader empathize with her: the embodiment of the plight of the Jewish people as they are ultimately expelled from Spain. When her brother dies, she is forced to learn the trade of silver-working and survives adequately enough with this as a Jewish woman in Granada. When Luis meets her, he is enchanted with her but can do nothing about it, since she is Jewish he can not afford to have any contact with her.

Eventually, life as Luis knows it twists into a horrible existence as the very crown that he works for has allowed his family to be taken from him and subjected to the tortures at the hands of the inquisitors. What comes forth is a heartfelt journey and struggle that ultimately leads Luis to Judith, but only temporarily, as he is also detained by the inquisitors. Who will survive and what will remain after the inquisition is what the reader is left to speculate on and what propels the story forward.

By Fire, By Water was a heart wrenching tale told with skill and details that makes me wonder at the tenacity of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. Why were they so driven to unify Spain when it meant to force their subjects to their own religion or face torture and death? How could they see the righteousness in that? And the pope even sanctioned the inquisition. The romantic visage that I had been fed via Tudor fiction regarding Catherine of Aragon's faithful yet warrior mother has been obliterated by the horrors that Queen Isabella sanctioned all in the name of her religion. How I once admired the strength or fortitude that was exaggerated in my learning of Isabella is a shame to me now. This was just one part of the story, although a big one, as it became a sordid tale of survival of the fittest during a time of religious insanity. Conversos were given little choice as they battled with their beliefs versus survival. I am saddened that many millions of schoolchildren like myself are fed such grandiose ideas about King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella when they are taught about Christopher Columbus sailing the ocean blue as opposed to exploitation. There are many sides to the story, and on this one in particular the author does not expand upon, but leaves his reader grappling with the ideas of both the inquisition and the promise of a new world. A new world for whom? And who has rights to who, and why?

Mitchell James Kaplan has effectively written a powerful story that I will always remember. Although steeped with religious views and questions, it did not preach any, as it merely explored the depths of one's soul using the characters of Luis de Santangel and Judith Migdal. As a Catholic, I was deeply saddened to learn the truth of the persecution of the Jewish and Muslim faiths. The questions that were put forth were very thought provoking and I was intrigued once I understood the characters and their unique stories. The image of the King and Queen of Spain will never be the same again for me and I wonder if in the religious zeal of Isabella if she was perhaps touched by some of that madness that her own daughter Juana was said to have. For anyone interesting in the Spanish Inquisition, this is a take that is wonderfully told, for despite the harrowing subject matter, I felt better for reading it.

May 2, 2010

Mailbox Monday Treasures

Please don't steal my images!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.

 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!

This is a little long because I didn't do a Mailbox Monday last weekm instead I read close to three books!

And it always helps to have a friend who likes to give away books. She is entirely truely generously awesome. Thank you! She sent me books that have been languishing on my wishlist and almost forgotten about:

Jane Boleyn by Julia Fox (PERFECT for the Tudor Mania Challenge!)
In a life of extraordinary drama, Jane Boleyn was catapulted from the obscurity of the Essex countryside to the forefront of Henry VIII's spectacular court. Born Jane Rochford in about 1505, this daughter of an aristocratic family became lady in waiting to not just one, but five of Henry's wives. Always at the center of court life and intrigue, Jane attended the parties, the masque balls, and the jousts, and participated in the royal births, the weddings, funerals and personal drama that swirled around the King, his wives and courtiers. What makes Jane Boleyn so unique is that she was a survivor. As Henry's wives rose and then fell, taking so many down with them, Jane stayed on. Her story gives readers an amazing on-going view of the personal toll that Henry's long and ruthlessly violent reign took on the people closest to him.

Doomed Queens by Kris Waldherr
Marie Antoinette, Anne Boleyn, and Mary, Queen of Scots. What did they have in common? For a while they were crowned in gold, cosseted in silk, and flattered by courtiers. But in the end, they spent long nights in dark prison towers and were marched to the scaffold where they surrendered their heads to the executioner. And they are hardly alone in their undignified demises. Throughout history, royal women have had a distressing way of meeting bad ends--dying of starvation, being burned at the stake, or expiring in childbirth while trying desperately to produce an heir. They always had to be on their toes and all too often even devious plotting, miraculous pregnancies, and selling out their sisters was not enough to keep them from forcible consignment to religious orders. From Cleopatra (suicide by asp), to Princess Caroline (suspiciously poisoned on her coronation day), there’s a gory downside to being blue-blooded when you lack a Y chromosome. Kris Waldherr’s elegant little book is a chronicle of the trials and tribulations of queens across the ages, a quirky, funny, utterly macabre tribute to the dark side of female empowerment. Over the course of fifty irresistibly illustrated and too-brief lives, Doomed Queens charts centuries of regal backstabbing and intrigue. We meet well-known figures like Catherine of Aragon, whose happy marriage to Henry VIII ended prematurely when it became clear that she was a starter wife--the first of six. And we meet forgotten queens like Amalasuntha, the notoriously literate Ostrogoth princess who overreached politically and was strangled in her bath.While their ends were bleak, these queens did not die without purpose. Their unfortunate lives are colorful cautionary tales for today’s would-be power brokers--a legacy of worldly and womanly wisdom gathered one spectacular regal ruin at a time.

The Sisters of Henry VIII by Maria Perry
A highly detailed history of intricate dynastic political tangles among England, Scotland, and their European neighbors during the 16th century. English actress, journalist, and historian Perry transports readers to a far-off time as she acquaints us with Henry VIII's lesser-known relatives. The author delves deeply into contemporary sources from an age when royal marriages played a dominant role in the art of politics. She captures the pageantry of power politics in a time when nobility competed with lavish displays of great wealth and conspicuous consumption that in itself suggested power and prestige among the royal houses of Europe. Margaret Tudor, Henry's elder sister, was widowed when James IV of Scotland died attacking the English at Flodden Field, a Scottish disaster. She later married a Douglas, Lord Angus, an enemy of the volatile Scottish ruling clans, causing herself much angst while fleeing danger with her two sons, potential heirs to the English throne. After a life of turmoil in near-anarchic Scotland, she is remembered as the grandmother of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, and great-grandmother of James VI of Scotland, who became James I of England. Mary Tudor, Henry's younger sister, married the aged Louis XII of France, became a widow shortly thereafter, then wed the duke of Suffolk, producing more pretenders to the throne. Henry's marriage to Anne Boleyn divided the country as many admired the devout, rejected Katharine of Aragon. Thankfully, the book includes a "House of Tudor" chart that will help general readers sort out the crowded cast of characters who shaped many of the leading events of the age. Perry's insightful account of the king's sisters and their timesmight well provide currently Tudor-infatuated Hollywood with a good source for future movies and miniseries.~Kirkus Reviews

The First Princess of Wales by Karen Harper
The daughter of a disgraced earl, she matched wits with a prince.

It is the fourteenth century, the height of the Medieval Age, and at the court of King Edward III of England, chivalry is loudly praised while treachery runs rampant. When the lovely and high-spirited Joan of Kent is sent to this politically charged court, she is woefully unprepared for the underhanded maneuverings of her peers.

Determined to increase the breadth of his rule, the king will use any means necessary to gain control of France—including manipulating his own son, Edward, Prince of Wales. Joan plots to become involved with the prince to scandalize the royal family, for she has learned they engineered her father’s downfall and death. But what begins as a calculated strategy soon—to Joan’s surprise—grows into love. When Joan learns that Edward returns her feelings, she is soon fighting her own, for how can she love the man that ruined her family? And, if she does, what will be the cost?
Filled with scandal, court intrigue, and prominent figures of the Medieval Age, The First Princess of Wales has at its center a wonderful love story, which is all the more remarkable because it is true. Karen Harper’s compelling, fast-paced novel tells the riveting tale of an innocent girl who marries a prince and gives birth to a king.
The Perfect Royal Mistress by Diane Haeger
Born into poverty and raised in a brothel, Nell Gwynne sells oranges in the pit at London’s King’s Theater, newly reopened after the plague and the Great Fire devastated the city. Soon, her quick sense of humor and natural charm get her noticed by those who have the means to make her life easier. But the street-smart Nell knows a woman doesn’t get ahead by selling her body. Through talent, charm, intelligence, and sheer determination—as well as a keen understanding of how the world operates—Nell works her way out of the pit and onto the stage to become the leading comedic actress of the day. Her skills and beauty quickly win the attention of all of London—eventually even catching the eye of King Charles II. Their attraction is as real as it is unlikely, and the scrappy orange girl with the pretty face and the quick wit soon finds herself plunged into the confusing and dangerous world of the court, where she learns there are few she can trust—and many whom she cannot turn her back on.
From the gritty streets of seventeenth-century London, to the backstage glamour of its theaters, to the glittering court of Charles II, The Perfect Royal Mistress is a love story for the ages, the rags-to-riches tale of a truly remarkable heroine.

And a goodie, a memoir by a faved childhood author Beverly Cleary: A Girl from Yamhill (Bev is 94 years young! Generations of children have grown up with Henry Huggins, Ramona Quimby, and all of their friends, families, and assorted pets. For everyone who has enjoyed the pranks and schemes, embarrassing moments, and all of the other poignant and colorful images of childhood brought to life in Beverly Cleary books, here is the fascinating true story of the remarkable woman who created them.
I ordered myself some goodies from The Book Depository in the UK, which was just in time since they are now out of the stock of them:

The Sun in Splendour by Jean Plaidy
Reckoned by those about him to be the most handsome man in the country, Edward the fourth has risen to the throne with the help of Warwick, the kingmaker. But even Warwick's trusted advice cannot convince the King to ignore his passion for the beautiful widow, Elizabeth Woodville - and when she refuses to become his mistress the two are married.

Lords of the White Castle by Elizabeth Chadwick
Based on a remarkable true story of honour, treachery and love spanning the turbulent reigns of four great Mediaeval kings. Award-winning author Elizabeth Chadwick brings the thirteenth century vividly to life in the tale of Fulke FitzWarin. From inexperienced young courtier to powerful Marcher lord, from loyal knight to dangerous outlaw, from lover of many women to faithful husband, Fulke's life story bursts across the page in authentic detail. A violent quarrel with Prince John, later King John, disrupts Fulke's life ambition to become 'Lord of the White Castle' and leads him to rebel. There are perils for John at every turn. No less dramatic is the dangerous love that Fulke harbours for Maude Walter, a wealthy widow whom John wants for himself. Negotiating a maze of deceit, treachery and shifting political alliances Fulke's striving is rewarded, but success is precarious. Personal tragedy follows the turbulence of the Magna Carta rebellion, culminating in the destruction of everything for which Fulke has fought. Yet even among the ashes he finds a reason to begin anew.

The Last Days of Henry VIII by Robert Hutchinson
blazing narrative history that boldly captures the end of England's most despotic ruler and his court -- a time of murderous conspiracies, terrifying betrayals, and sordid intrigue Henry VIII's crimes against his wives are well documented and have become historical lore. But much less attention has been paid to his monarchy, especially the closing years of his reign. Rich with information including details from new archival material and written with the nail-biting suspense of a modern thriller, "The Last Days of Henry VIII" offers a superb fresh look at this fascinating figure and new insight into an intriguing chapter in history. Robert Hutchinson paints a brilliant portrait of this egotistical tyrant who governed with a ruthlessness that rivals that of modern dictators; a monarch who had "no respect or fear of anyone in this world," according to the Spanish ambassador to his court. Henry VIII pioneered the modern "show trial": cynical propaganda exercises in which the victims were condemned before the proceedings even opened, proving the most powerful men in the land could be brought down overnight. After thirty-five years in power, Henry was a bloated, hideously obese, black-humored old recluse. And despite his having had six wives, the Tudor dynasty rested on the slight shoulders of his only male heir, the nine-year-old Prince Edward -- a situation that spurred rival factions into a deadly conflict to control the throne. "The Last Days of Henry VIII" is a gripping and compelling history as fascinating and remarkable as its subject.

For review:
Eleanor the Queen by Norah Lofts (a reissue)
Eleanor is young, high-spirited, supremely intelligent, heiress to the vast Duchy of Aquitaine - at a time when a woman's value was measured in terms of wealth. This is the story of a medieval figure - of a princess who led her own knights to the Crusades, who was bride to two kings and mother of Richard the Lion Heart.
For The King by Catherine Delors (for the June Historical Fiction Bloggers Round Table event!)
The Reign of Terror has ended, and Napoléon Bonaparte has seized power, but shifting political loyalties still tear apart families and lovers. On Christmas Eve 1800, a bomb explodes along Bonaparte's route, narrowly missing him but striking dozens of bystanders. Chief Inspector Roch Miquel, a young policeman with a bright future and a beautiful mistress, must arrest the assassins before they attack again. Complicating Miquel's investigation are the maneuverings of his superior, the redoubtable Fouché, the indiscretions of his own father, a former Jacobin, and two intriguing women.

Based on real events and characters and rich with historical detail, For the King takes readers through the dark alleys and glittering salons of post-revolutionary Paris and is a timeless epic of love, betrayal, and redemption.

And a giveaway win:
Lady Susan, The Watsons and Sanditon by Jane Austen (the same Sanditon that Ic ouldn't finish because there were zero paragraph breaks or punctuation in my edition! This one will read just fine, thank you!)Penguin Classics edition

And the book that I have wanted forever but never could find it below $55.. so my husband bought it for me =)
Historical Fiction II: A Guide to the Genre (Genreflecting Advisory Series) ~ Sarah L. Johnson (Editor), a fellow blogger at Reading the Past

"Johnson has updated her outstanding Historical Fiction: A Guide to the Genre (2005) by covering historical fiction from 2004 through mid-2008 and adding such new features as ISBNs for each book and keyword descriptors after each annotation. Chapter introductions have been updated to reflect changes, and a section on historical-fiction blogs has been added to the chapter on resources. This volume continues rather than replaces the earlier work, adding more than 2,700 new titles. . . . Historical Fiction was an essential purchase for public and school libraries, and Historical Fiction II will also be a must purchase since it covers the latest books in this very popular genre." ~Booklist

I love how Sarah has the Chapters separated out.. I tried to take a pic with the iPhone but they came out yucky, I still wanted to show you though!
 Click the pics to enlarge them.

May 1, 2010

The Sunday Salon~ My Brain Hurts

The Sunday

Happy Sunday! Sip along with your frappe from McD's, click the pics to visit other virtual reading rooms.. tell us..what are you reading this week??

I finished The Confessions of Catherine de Medici by C.W. Gortner (there will be losts of buzz about this very soon!), and just started the huge new Sourcebooks release by Edith Pargeter The Brothers of Gwynedd. Sourcebooks is having a Summer Reading Group with this read, and although the new book contains the original four novels of the series, we will host a blog chat night each month for one book at a time. The first book in the series is titled The Sunrise in The West. That is what I am reading now, and I will stop at the end of the first book and pick something else up.. hopefully TUDOR related.

The Tudor Mania Challenge is UNDERWAY! Add your review links from May through July on the challenge post and you can win your choice of a book from the Book Depository worth $15.

The Book Giveaway for The Darcy Cousins by Monica Fairview concluded last night. The two lucky winners have been e-mailed. They were KATY and CHRISTINE!! oops~~ Katy was already a winner of this book, so the next one up is CARRIE!! Congrats to these winners. Please be sure to read the first in the series, The Other Mr Darcy, before delving into this one, as it really helps set up the setting and the many characters. I enjoyed the first book, but I loved the newest book. Great regency fun!

Still ongoing is the Giveaway for the newest Tudor release by D.L. Bogdan, Secrets of The Tudor Court. My review is here which I just posted; you have got to read this book if you like Tudor fiction. I really enjoyed this story of Mary Howard, who was the daughter of the famous Thomas Howard otherwise known as Norfolk. Thomas was the wicked uncle to Queens Catherine Howard and Queen Anne Boleyn. My husband surprised me this week with the DVDs of the first three seasons of Showtime's The Tudors. The cover of the third scene shows a few naked bodies strategically photographed. So we know what season 3 is all about. Soft p*rn?

Last Saturday I finished up Mitchell James Kaplan's magnificent debut By Fire, By Water (May 18, 2010) which was not a mirthful or fast read, yet an important one that I did enjoy. Review will post this coming week. So I yearned for something fast and easy, which I found in Jean Kwok's debut novel. I read it in one day, staying up until midnight to do so, and I reviewed Girl in Translation already. What a sad but great story about a young girl growing up in poverty in Brooklyn. This was a girl who made something of herself, so it is not a woe is me story. A well written story that sucks you in, and you can win the book also but you have to act fast. Enter here.

Jean Kwok has started her Book Tour as well, I am sending Lizzy my ARC so she can have Jean sign my book for me. She will be in Beaverton, Oregon on May 7th at Powell's so if you are in the area, say hi to Lizzy and Jean! Here is a list of her book signing events. Some places she will be in are North Carolina, Georgia, Washington State and California.

The Masked Ball is underway as Mesmered's Blog... furious dancing is wearing me out. Mr Darcy eat your heart out! Follow along here.

What are you reading this week? Are you enjoying spring weather? I cannot believe that May is already here! Summer will be here and we will be sunning ourselves and jumping in pools soon! Exciting! Things are very busy around here and promising to get busier. I hope I get a chance to read! And I hope you get some great reading in, and hopefully it is Tudor Themed =)

Book Review: Secrets of The Tudor Court by D.L. Bogdan *Tudor Mania Challenge!!*

Secrets of The Tudor Court by D.L. Bogdan
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Kensington; Original edition (April 27, 2010)
ISBN-13: 978-0758241993
Review copy provided by the author, thank you!
The Burton Review Rating:Four and a half Stars

When young Mary Howard receives the news that she will be leaving her home for the grand court of King Henry VIII, to attend his mistress Anne Boleyn, she is ecstatic. Everything Anne touches seems to turn to gold, and Mary is certain Anne will one day become Queen. But Mary has also seen the King's fickle nature and how easily he discards those who were once close to him. . .

Discovering that she is a pawn in a carefully orchestrated plot devised by her father, the duke of Norfolk, Mary dare not disobey him. Yet despite all of her efforts to please him, she too falls prey to his cold wrath. Not until she becomes betrothed to Harry Fitzroy, the Duke of Richmond and son to King Henry VIII, does Mary finds the love and approval she's been seeking. But just when Mary believes she is finally free of her father, the tides turn. Now Mary must learn to play her part well in a dangerous chess game that could change her life--and the course of history.
This is another great read to add to your Tudor fiction library. It is full of the Tudor speculation and gossip that Tudor fans have come to enjoy and love, but this is not told in an over the top fashion. It is fast paced and intriguing, as the Tudor courts and the events of the demise of Henry VIII's wives are merely a backdrop for Mary Howard's story. Although an avid fan of Tudor history, this particular story is new to me, as I have never registered the fact that the shrewd and cunning Thomas Howard, known to many as simply Norfolk, had a daughter named Mary Howard.

The story begins with Mary Howard's vicious birth, and it is vicious because Norfolk is busy beating up Mary's mother Elizabeth Stafford when she is in labor. The entire novel is full of Norfolk abusing the women in his life. His wife, his daughter, and then being the one main force behind both of his niece's Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard wedding Henry, and eventually their demise. Mary Howard grows up under the thumb of her father, and she finds some comfort with her brother Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, until she realizes he is a chip off the old block. Initially, though, her brother and she enjoyed sharing poems with other literate members of the court. Through all the events of the wives of Henry, Mary is watching and trembling with fear throughout, but it is told with her fresh point of view and made me really care for Mary. It was a sad life for Mary, being unloved, until she finally is wedded to the admirable Henry Fitzroy, who was none other that the king's own illegitimate son. Just when Mary thinks she will be able to have a life of her own and have babies, which is her deepest wish, her father decides that although they can marry each other, they cannot actually be together till he deems fit.

Mary watches her mother being beaten by Norfolk, and eventually the abuse moves towards Mary as well. These were hard scenes to get through, and displayed a lot of madness and cruelty of Norfolk. Mary is used as eyes and ears for Norfolk at court, and she witnesses the political machinations behind all the evil that occurs at the Tudor Court. It was not all Henry VIII's doing, it had a lot of Thomas Howard's hands in it. This is not a depiction that is any way favorable on Thomas Howard by any stretch of the imagination, but makes one wonder what really went on behind the closed doors of the Tudor courts. Along with the relationship with her family, we are also subject to Mary's friendships with her father's long-standing mistress Bess Holland, and with friends at court such as Margaret Douglas who was a niece of Henry VIII constantly in the middle of court issues.

This was an impressive debut for Bogdan, covering a lot of material within the myriads of rumors and gossip of the courts, and I enjoyed it immensely. This is a wonderful addition to my Tudor fiction library, though not for those who would prefer more fact than fiction with regards specifically to the Tudors and the mention of some of the rumors that have since been believed as false. The reason they were included is because the author felt it would add to the atmosphere of the Tudor courts, since most of the rumors were believed to be fact at the time. The novel covers the reign of the queens Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard, and Catherine Parr, ending with Edward VI on the throne. As a complete and total Tudor junkie, I found that it was full of suspense, drama, and garnered my admiration for Lady Mary Howard, making me want to look for more information on this young woman who was witness to much of the turmoil of the Tudor courts, and daughter to the creator of many of the secrets of the Tudor courts.

This was my first read specifically for the Tudor Mania Reading Challenge which starts today. See the Challenge post and learn how you can win a book of your choice. Arleigh of and I read this at the same time and we were emailing each other back and forth about a lot of the events in the book. It is a great group read! Her review is here, as part of the Tudor Mania Challenge, so be sure to look for that.

Also, please visit the recent interview I posted with this author, which includes a giveaway for the Autographed finished copy of this book. If you like Tudor fiction, this is an absolute must read for you.

Apr 30, 2010

Tudor Mania Challenge is ALMOST HERE!

Tudor Mania Button

Visit the main page here, where you sign up and enter your review links so that you can be eligible to win prizes.

My first review will be of the newest Tudor fiction release by the very promising new author D.L. Bogdan of Secrets of The Tudor Court! The review will post May 1st as the kickoff to the Tudor Mania Challenge, and Arleigh at will also have her review up on her site as well.

Post your review links to the Linky Tool on the main post from May 1st through July 31.

Have fun!

Apr 27, 2010


Secrets of The Tudor Court by D.L. Bogdan
Available for purchase APRIL 27!!
PERFECT for the Tudor Mania Reading Challenge
It is with extreme pleasure that I welcome debut author, D.L. Bogdan to The Burton Review. I read this novel recently and will have my review posting here on May 1st as the kickoff review for my Tudor Mania Reading Challenge. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel that was told from a different point of view of the Tudor courts. Most Tudor readers recognize the title Norfolk, or the name Thomas Howard, because he was the 3rd Duke of Norfolk, Thomas Howard, a fearsome political force behind getting his nieces' Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard to the throne as Queens of England. The story that Bogdan gives us is through the eyes of Norfolk's daughter, Lady Mary Howard.  I always enjoy learning more about secondary characters of the Tudor court, and this Mary Howard was married to King Henry's illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy. Stay tuned for my review, but for now, let's hear about Bogdan's journey with Mary Howard:

What inspired you to tell the story of Mary Howard? Where had you first encountered her?

-I encountered Mary as a character who stood on the very fringes of the cast of several Tudor novels. The person who really fascinated me was her father, the 3rd Duke of Norfolk, Thomas Howard. But I wanted a gentler window into that history and found that telling a story that has become familiar to many through her unique perspective might be an interesting twist.

How hard was it to research for information on Mary Howard, as she is one of those more obscure members of the Tudor courts?

-It was like a wild goose chase but I ran into a lot of helpful people along the way, particularly Dr. David Head, who wrote THE EBBS AND FLOWS OF FORTUNE; the life of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk. He helped steer me in some very interesting directions! Every source I encountered led me to more; I found that utilizing a lot of original sources, such as letters from the people involved (Eustace Chapuys, Surrey, Norfolk, his wife, and Thomas Cromwell) as well as transcripts from the various trials the most helpful. It really was one of the joyous processes of my life!

Mary is portrayed as having a close relationship with her cousins Queen Anne and Queen Catherine Howard. Have you come across evidence that this may be true? Was she a lady-in-waiting to both of these queens?

-Yes, Mary was a lady in waiting to both of her cousins. How close she was to them in actuality, I really am not sure. I inferred because her father was such a key figure in the lives of both of these women that she would have been particularly involved with them as well. This is where I had to step in as an entertainer rather than historian and fill in some gaps!

Although you give a specific reason in the novel, why do you think Mary didn't marry after her first husband died?

-I believe her brother Surrey had a lot to do with it. He stridently objected to any union with the Seymours, which seemed Mary's only documented prospect, and as Mary appeared to be a dutiful member of the Howard family, she may have been too intimidated by the strong personalities around her to make another match.

Your depiction of Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, shows signs of tenderness at rare times, yet he is a very dark character. How true to life do you think this portrayal is?

-There is a lot more information about Thomas Howard's personality than Mary's. Through Dr. Head's work, as well as letters from Eustace Chapuys, ambassador to Charles V and an intimate of Henry VIII's court, I was able to discern a great deal about the complexities of the duke. The most helpful sources of all were letters exchanged between him and his fiery wife, Elizabeth, as well has her exchanges with Thomas Cromwell, along with the testimony given by her, his mistress Bess Holland, and Mary herself for his trial.

Although your novel includes some of the famous myths regarding the Tudor courts, such as Anne Boleyn's sixth finger, what are your personal thoughts on them?

-Honestly, I think a lot of those myths were probably stirred up at the time for sheer sensationalism, just as any contemporary public figure is found subject to them today. Fact and fiction seem to be inexorably intertwined in the myths and legends of the Tudor court and I incorporated some of them for the sake of entertainment.

You mention George and Jane Boleyn having a son. He is rarely mentioned in Tudor fiction and I would love to know if you remember where you had first picked up this fact.

-There are some references to it in other works of fiction, as well as a vague reference to it in an online family tree; however it listed the child as "baby boy Boleyn" so if there really was a child, I assume it likely did not survive to adulthood. It is true there are barely any mentions of a child in more well known sources which may make it just another Tudor myth . . .

Have you been lucky enough to have visited England? If so, what was your favorite event of the visit?

-I did, years before I ever knew it would be the subject of my novels (thank God I'm compulsive enough to take notes anyway!). My favorite part of the visit was Westminster Abbey. It made me feel so small and a little insignificant under the weight of so much history . . . but it was exhilarating to stand where so many key figures in history stood!

Do you have a favorite wife of Henry VIII that you enjoy reading about?

-That's a tough one. I find each of his wives extremely fascinating in their own right. I admire Catherine of Aragon's uncompromising beliefs and Anne Boleyn's sharp wit. I find Jane Seymour's timid but compassionate nature endearing, and was stirred to pity for Anne of Cleves, who was so far from home and so unwanted. Catherine Howard's naivete and typical teen antics were at once delightful and tragic, and Catherine Parr's intelligence and ability to survive what most didn't at her time was inspiring. So, the short answer would have been to say I like them all!

Who are some of your favorite Tudor period authors?

-I adore Robin Maxwell's work, Alison Weir, along with every one's favorite courtly author Jean Plaidy.

What is next in the works for your writing? Any more Tudor inspired novels coming our way?

Yes, I do have some works up my sleeve. In 6-9 months my second book, as yet untitled, will be released by Kensington, which is about Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, his wife Elizabeth, and his mistress Bess Holland, and told from all 3 perspectives. I am especially proud of this work because I had a wealth of research to aid me and I feel it is very historically accurate. There are also a few other projects I am working on, so this isn't the last you will hear from me!

I was so excited to hear she is working on her next Tudor novel! I am thrilled to have another successful Tudor author to look forward to. And I am even more excited to offer my followers a chance to WIN a SIGNED finished copy of Secrets of the Tudor Courts by D.L. Bogdan, courtesy of this very generous author! USA and Canada residents ONLY.

All you have to do is tell me what intrigues you about Tudor fiction!

Comment on this post with your email address.
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Giveaway ends May 14! Good Luck!! My review is posted here.
Edited to add that Jennifer at Rundpinne was the winner, congrats!

Apr 26, 2010

Book Review: (GIVEAWAY!) Girl In Translation by Jean Kwok

Girl In Translation by Jean Kwok
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover (April 29, 2010)
ISBN-13: 978-1594487569
Review copy from the publisher, thank you!
The Burton Review Rating:Four and a Half Stars!
Introducing a fresh, exciting Chinese-American voice, an inspiring debut about an immigrant girl forced to choose between two worlds and two futures.

When Kimberly Chang and her mother emigrate from Hong Kong to Brooklyn squalor, she quickly begins a secret double life: exceptional schoolgirl during the day, Chinatown sweatshop worker in the evenings. Disguising the more difficult truths of her life-like the staggering degree of her poverty, the weight of her family's future resting on her shoulders, or her secret love for a factory boy who shares none of her talent or ambition-Kimberly learns to constantly translate not just her language but herself back and forth between the worlds she straddles.

Through Kimberly's story, author Jean Kwok, who also emigrated from Hong Kong as a young girl, brings to the page the lives of countless immigrants who are caught between the pressure to succeed in America, their duty to their family, and their own personal desires, exposing a world that we rarely hear about. Written in an indelible voice that dramatizes the tensions of an immigrant girl growing up between two cultures, surrounded by a language and world only half understood, Girl in Translation is an unforgettable and classic novel of an American immigrant-a moving tale of hardship and triumph, heartbreak and love, and all that gets lost in translation.
A child and her mother come to America, 'the Golden mountain', in hopes for a better life, escaping the threats of a communist Hong Kong. Knowing little English and nothing of the American culture, Kim is thrust into the taunting and hateful school environment at age eleven. At the same time, Kim and her mother are beholden to a jealous aunt who makes them work long hours in a factory doing sewing work. They live in squalor, amongst roaches and rats, in the projects of Brooklyn, yet with not many neighbors because the place has been condemned.

The one saving grace for Kim is her intelligence and ability to catch on quickly. Kim makes a single friend who gets her through the days, and her mother never veers from her duty to try as hard as she can, although much of it is futile as they endure one freezing winter after another without any heat. Kim grows older and wiser, and surpasses the others at her school with stellar grades, and eventually gets accepted to Yale. Kim is forced to make a devastating choice go to Yale and leave her family obligations behind, or to accept her position in life as an immigrant forever trying to ingratiate herself into a foreign society.

Well told with a blunt passion for the subject matter, I wonder how close the story is to the author's own experiences. The racism is an underlying current, but not forced upon us as this is truly one young woman's story of surviving New York with little assistance and becoming an accomplished adult despite of it. It is also the story of young love and the repercussions of the romantic liaisons. There were a myriad of characters offered, from schoolmates to teachers to employers, and each one was an important part to Kim's story.  I enjoyed the novel and recommend for anyone wishing for a light and quick read that moves fast. I read this novel in a quick page flipping all-nighter so that I could learn what happens to these strong characters who had endeared themselves to me so quickly. Jean Kwok delivers a powerfully told story of a coming of age story that holds nothing back and gives everything expected, and more. With promise of much success from this new author, Girl In Translation has already been selected as an Indie Next List Pick as well as a Blue Ribbon featured pick for many book clubs.

The publisher has kindly agreed to offer up one ARC for my readers!
One copy USA and Canada!

Please comment on this post with your email address.
Discuss something about the themes of this book.. such as what other immigration stories have you read?  Have you read anything that included something Asian in its themes?

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Good Luck!
Contest ends May 7th.

Apr 24, 2010

The Sunday Salon~ Humble Is a Virtue

The Sunday

Happy Sunday! Sip along with your cola/coffee/tea/vodka, click the pics to visit other virtual reading rooms.. tell us..what are you reading this week??

I think I was in my top snarky form last week with my Sunday Salon, as I made fun of myself and therefore made you laugh. Which is great stuff. The sad thing is the moment I taunted that I am outside watching the kiddos romp and play, is the moment that the weekends turned yucky. That's what we call around here the Burton jinx. We have quite a few Burton jinxes around here. We try not to say them out loud.. so I'm moving on quietly lest the jinx gods hear me..

I do not like trying to contain two insufferable children in the same house that my husband is trying to sleep in at the same time. That is just one of the drawbacks of  having a second shifter in the family. So now that I have perfected the admonishing tone accompanied with the overly loud "SSSHHHH!", the devil's spawn have now effectively been trained to ignore me simultaneously. Of course.

I did manage to sneak in a read this week, that I am so eager to share it with you all. Most of you know that my truest passion belongs to the intrigues of the Tudor courts. The books have multiplied at my house simply because of the Tudor obsession of mine. And then of course some of you may know that I have allowed my passion to be diverted, by reviewing non-Tudor reads lately. Which is why I started the Tudor Mania Challenge, to give myself a gosh-darn-good-reason to get back to my passion. I even went hog wild a freaked a few of you out with my excessive Suggested Tudor Reading post.

Secrets of the Tudor Court by D.L. Bogdan
 (April 27, 2010)
My first read for this challenge, which starts May 1st, is the brand spanking new "Secrets of the Tudor Courts" by D.L. Bogdan. Eerily familiar to you because the author is new to you, but the title... yes, the title mirrors the series by Kate Emerson which of course I loved those too.. but back to the point... THIS Secrets of The Tudor Court was a flipping page frenzy of I-LOVE-ME-SOME-TUDOR-INTRIGUE!! Freaking fun evil Norfolk stuff you have here, and I am honored to have been able to catch this busy author amidst a life of more chaos than mine while she sat down and answered my Tudor questions. So on the release day of April 27th I will post an interview and have a book giveaway for an Autographed finished copy, which she is so kind to offer to my lucky lucky followers. Isn't that flipping fantastic?

But of course the review won't post till May first because I can't break my own Tudor Mania Challenge rules. (The Burton jinx rising its ugly head). The book was originally supposed to be out May 1, but Amazonian gods have moved up to April 27th. But May 1st also holds great promise for the author as she gets married that day..Congrats to her.. (don't do it!!) and may she live happily ever after to pen many more Tudoresque novels!

After I finished that read, I was on a book-high and needed some book encouragement to keep it going so I ordered two books from BookDepository UK and finally finally ordered the elusive missing piece to my Plaidy collection. Am I complete now that I have ordered The Sun in Splendour? Well gosh darn I really think I amthisclose!! I am going to have to thank the expert Plaidy ladies at Royal-intrigue for their help with organizing the collection and continuing to inspire me with their posts. My list of Plaidy aka Victoria Holt aka Philippa Carr titles can be found here. I have all of Victoria Holt, and missing two of the more expensive Carr's. After my book order comes in for The Sun in Splendour, I will own all of the Plaidy's that fit into a series; but it looks like I am missing about 11 of the Other Titles. Now, I just need to find the time to read them. Along with my Tudor reading challenge, there is the Jean Plaidy Reading Challenge that other Plaidy lovers need to join in on.

If you have the 532 page tome Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel on your shelf and have yet to read it, that would be perfect for the Tudor Mania Challenge.. but you can also participate in a read along at Amused By Books. Their goal is to get 100 pages read each week and discuss it each Wednesday. Also amusing is that they mention Oliver Cromwell as opposed to the true protagonist who is Thomas Cromwell, but hey it's a great idea, and perfect timing with this challenge!

And just when you think you cannot handle another challenge.. there is a new Daphne Du Maurier Challenge that I wish I could participate in. I have about 5 or 6 works of hers at this point. Book-A-Rama has the details here if you interested!

The winner of Mistress of Rome by Kate Quinn is Bethie.. the very last entrant wound up #1 on the List Randomizer! Congrats to Bethie! And I am having issues uploading pics to Blogger, how fun is that?

There was some odd blogging plagiarism controversy thing going on again.. what is wrong with people who still do that, I wonder? Don't they realize that they will get caught? We were treated to many bloggers explaining the word plagiarism and posting the definitions of plagiarism and teaching others how to spell plagiarism. While I would never condone plagiarism, and had one of the respected 'bloggers' in my historical fiction community be plagiarized, I understand the outburst of rage at this sickness that some have. But I always find it so fascinating how some book bloggers feed off each other each time there is a controversy in the community. It is like there is a fire in the blogosphere, and a blogger comments on a post, then decides to do their own post, and it moves on like a chain letter.. utilizing the viral twitter and facebook as a source to spread these links to these posts.. but the most best thing I can find about it is that it thankfully dies away in a week. Hopefully. I would not mind my book reviews being caught up in a viral chain letter!

How fun it is to be a book blogger. I feel that it is awesome to be privy to so many diverse thoughts, at the tips of my finger tips, whether I want to or not, and whether I agree with it or not.. it's there. Just like there is a Twitter + Blog = ? post at this blog which has already gotten lots of thoughts, and she muses whether Twitter contributes to the attacking mentality. But there were lots of issues there. I have a feeling that I would be chewed up and spit out by a majority of the book bloggers out there if I ever tried to have one of these serious discussions, but I find extreme comfort in the fact that I have my own book blogging homegirls who would pick the remnants of me up after that happened. And that's what it is all about, right? Finding solace and kinship with others. Being nice to your neighbors. More power to the bloggers who spread the love. More power to the Power bloggers!

For me.. I stay out of it as much as possible. I blog for FUN. (I type that as my ARC pile laughs at me). OK, let's say this blog is supposed to BE FUN. I am a member of a certain community that hugs me when I am in need of virtual care. No, this does not include the whole entire million of book bloggers out there who don't know me from a hole in the wall. I have a select few book blogging friends that I have been blessed with that I know will have my back if need be, and I love them to pieces. And they know who they are. And I am so glad that we don't have blogging controversy blow ups like some others do, because that is just not something I thrive on. I hate controversy. I think I must be the Beatles version compared to the Metallica of book bloggers. And I want to make it clear that I don't think it's wrong for bloggers to discuss controversial things going on in the blogworld. I just find it amazing how it goes viral so fast. Just think, who would've thought, ten years ago, that book blogging would be such a powerhouse? Again, more power to them and us. I am not into picking apart other people's brains. I am just a humble book blogger. I review books and spout out random thoughts for Sunday Salon Amusement. And I (want to) have fun doing it so that's as far as I will take it because that's all my feeble brain can handle. The End.

Not really. That being said, scroll your tired eyes over to my left sidebar and see the current book giveaway going on for The Darcy Cousins by Monica Fairview. I am really saddened by the lack of response to this giveaway! I loved this book so you are really missing out on a great read. I am going to be REALLY mad at you if you don't enter and comment on my newest fave read by D.L. Bogdan, for which the giveaway is coming on Tuesday. And take a gander over at the newest review that I posted of Christy English's The Queen's Pawn. There is a very intriguing back story behind Eleanor of Aquitaine's almost-daughter-in-law, Alais, and you need to read this new book and learn all about it.

One more thing.. Beverly Cleary turned 94 years old last week! Her book Beezus and Ramona is being made into a movie in July, and it stars that cute girl from Wizards of Waverly Place. My daughter can tell you her name, I've blocked it out after seeing her cute little face all over my daughter's wardrobe and various accessories. But.. the idea that there will be a Bev Cleary movie is awesome, coming from this Cleary fan.

Suggestion to the official Google Blogger platform: put bloggers in your spellcheck database.

Off to chase kids.. or ideally, read a great book.. I have just finished By Fire, By Water by Mitchell James Kaplan and working on that review. Next I will read Confessions of Catherine de Medici by C.W. Gortner for the Historical Fiction Bloggers Round Table event May 8th. I suspect this will be a book you will see all around the blogosphere in May! What are you reading? I hope it's something Tudor themed for the Tudor Mania Challenge!

Apr 23, 2010

Book Review: The Queen's Pawn by Christy English

The Queen's Pawn by Christy English
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: NAL Trade; Original edition (April 6, 2010)
ISBN: 978-0451229236
Review Copy provided by the author, thank you!
The Burton Review Rating:

At only nine, Princess Alais of France is sent to live in England until she is of age to wed Prince Richard, son of King Henry II and Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine. Alais is an innocent pawn on the chessboard of dynastic marriage, her betrothal intended to broker an uneasy truce between the nations.

Estranged from her husband, Eleanor sees a kindred spirit in this determined young girl. She embraces Alais as a daughter, teaching the princess what it takes to be a woman of power in a world of men. But as Alais grows to maturity and develops ambitions of her own, Eleanor begins to see her as a threat-and their love for each other becomes overshadowed by their bitter rivalry, dark betrayals, conflicting passions, and a battle for revenge over the throne of England itself.

The novel of The Queen's Pawn begins later in Queen Eleanor's life, in 1169 after she has given birth to the famous sons of King Henry II and where Eleanor is beginning to turn those sons against the king. Alais is a young woman seeking knowledge and soaking it all up from Eleanor, and Eleanor is one who intends to use everyone around Eleanor to her and her son's advantage. Although her favorite son Richard is not the eldest son, Eleanor has high hopes that Richard will go far, especially with Eleanor's duchy of Aquitaine. Putting her pawn, Alais, right in Richard's path she hopes to reap the rewards. As opposed to the many political and familial problems that Eleanor both created and endured, this story is focused on the one relationship between Eleanor and Alais, and ultimately the triangle to include Henry II. Eleanor had always thought of herself as the one single female in the kingdom who was able to balance power and keep kings and princes under her thumb, with the ladies bowing low before her. The one female who could glean this power and match wits with was none other than young Alais, Princess of France.

The events of this story are told in alternating first person narration by Alais and Eleanor, which can be irritating to some as it does not allow for a broad view in historical context. Back and forth the story went, from Eleanor conniving silently against her husband King Henry II, and Alais watching and learning from Eleanor. When Alais and the King meet, there are immediate sexual sparks which became a focus for Alais and in fact this liaison may have historical truth to it. I hoped, and Eleanor hoped, that Alais would marry Richard soon and solidify the alliance to move against the king. Henry had sunk his teeth into Alais, however, and was loathe to let her go, especially to a renegade son. Another topic regarding infidelity concerns the repeated references to Eleanor and her previous lover, Raymond, which I would like to believe is untrue, but was mentioned more than once. I wonder how much more we will learn about this paticular relationship in English's next Eleanor book, which is about Eleanor's life in earlier times. I have a read a few books with Eleanor featured, and my favorites are still the trilogy by Sharon Kay Penman which starts with When Christ and His Saints Slept.

In Christy English's novel, Eleanor is portrayed as calculating and manipulative, while Alais takes awhile to show how much she has learned from Eleanor. It also takes some time before Eleanor's character develops into a likable one, yet can be admired for her strength and will power. Eleanor truly sees Alais as her own daughter, and treats her as one. She loves her as much as she loves her boys, yet she is shrewd enough to position Alais into an advantageous position for Eleanor's political needs. The characterizations were well done with the group, and kept true to form and popular belief. The story itself that includes Alais is told in such a way that I have not encountered before and intrigued me with the insights Alais' view offered. History shows Alais being a ward of Eleanor and Henry, and Henry not willing to give her up. The novel peaks when Alais feels forced to make a decision between Eleanor and Henry, and the effects can be volcanic when dealing with this power couple. This is a very interesting story on Alais and one that is not seen often. For that reason, I would recommend it as it is a very interesting piece of a much larger story.

The author provides a quick read that started off questionable for me (the repeated references to how one's eyes looked quickly grew tiresome) but the actual storyline picked up its pace quickly enough to hold my attention for the remainder of it. The alternating narratives flowed well and I was not perturbed whenever it changed to the other person, and unlike some reads the timeline always moved forward instead of rehashing some of the same recent events, maintained a cohesiveness with it. There is also a lot of sex involved as Alais gives herself to the King but it is not over done, but done a lot (does that make sense?), as being a mistress to a king would inevitably be. Those looking for more substantial information regarding the turmoil of these medieval times concerning the uprisings against Henry will be disappointed; Richard was the only offspring that was mentioned often as he was betrothed to Alais, and John was only there as a young boy worshipful to his father. The eldest son Henry was mentioned only several times, so this is not another Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine Saga that some may assume. This is not a story that readers would particularly enjoy if they want as much factual information as possible but still is a read that can be enjoyed by those who are both new or old to the Eleanor story.

I really enjoyed the way that English wrote the relationship between the queen and the princess, and the love of a mother for the daughter; this was its most endearing part for me. Christy English's debut novel fills in the gaps that history provides concerning Alais, Princess of France, Countess of Vexin, and offers an excellent imaginary tale of intrigue, suspense, envy and power. I think this shows much promise of a new historical fiction author and I look forward to the next installment.

 The Queen's Pawn is available now for purchase!
Read a review at from a not new to Eleanor reader.
Read a review at Historically Obsessed, from a new to Eleanor reader.

Apr 21, 2010

Suggested Reading for the Tudor Mania Challenge

My best fan forever, Lucy of Enchanted by Josephine, wondered what Tudor-themed reads I could recommend for my upcoming Tudor Mania Challenge. See the post here at this link that details all the Challenge details and rules. The post that you are reading right now is just for suggestions. The main thing to remember is that there will be prizes, and your reads can be either Fiction or Non-Fiction, reviews must be posted between May 1 - July 31, and the reads must land somewhere between 1485 and 1603 during the reign of the Tudors.

Tudor Mania Button

Please know that no one in their right mind would be expected to read even a 1/4 of these for the challenge. This is just everything that I can think of to include. And if you are like me, you may have some of these books in your library at home, and more than likely you will be able to find some of these at your local library if you don't already own some. These pictures are from my own shelves, and this post and the pics are just an example of choices to pick from to read for my Tudor Mania Challenge. Of course there are titles that I have NOT listed that would qualify for the Challenge, so please feel free to choose ANY Tudor Themed books for the challenge.

Some titles by Jean Plaidy that would work are:
Tudor Themed Jean Plaidy books from my shelves
Uneasy Lies the Head  (reprinted as To Hold the Crown)
Katharine the Virgin Widow(included in reissue titled Katherine of Aragon)
The Shadow of the Pomegranate (included in Katherine of Aragon)
The King’s Secret Matter  (included in Katherine of Aragon)
Murder Most Royal
St. Thomas’s Eve (reissued as The King's Confidante)
The Sixth Wife
The Thistle and the Rose
Mary, Queen of France
The Spanish Bridegroom (reprinted as For a Queen’s Love)
Gay Lord Robert  (reprinted as A Favorite of the Queen)
In The Shadow of The Crown
The Lady in the Tower
Queen of this Realm
The Rose Without a Thorn
The Royal Road to Fotheringhay
The Captive Queen of Scots

Written by Victoria Holt, aka Jean Plaidy:
My Enemy The Queen
Daughter of Satan

New Tudor Fiction that I am reading for the challenge:
Secrets of the Tudor Courts by D.L. Bogdan 
No Will But His by Sarah A. Hoyt
Tudor Themed reads include C.J. Sansom's Shardlake series

Tudor Fiction that I have not reviewed here, but would work well as I have read some of these, in no order:
The Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory (2003)
The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory (2008)
The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory (2006)
The Virgin's Lover by Philippa Gregory (2005)
The Queen's Fool by Philippa Gregory (2005)
A Lady Raised High: A Novel of Anne Boleyn (Tudor Women Series) by Laurien Gardner
Plain Jane: A Novel of Jane Seymour (Tudor Women Series) by Laurien Gardner
The Spanish Bride: A Novel of Catherine of Aragon (Tudor Women Series) by Laurien Gardner
Innocent Traitor: A Novel of Lady Jane Grey by Alison Weir
The Lady Elizabeth: A Novel by Alison Weir
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (2009)
The Concubine: A Novel by Norah Lofts
The King's Pleasure: A Novel of Katharine of Aragon by Norah Lofts
Here Was a Man: A Novel of Sir Walter Raleigh and Elizabeth I by Norah Lofts
King's Fool: A Notorious King, His Six Wives, and the One Man Who Knew All Their Secrets by Margaret Campbell Barnes
Brief Gaudy Hour: A Novel of Anne Boleyn by Margaret Campbell Barnes
My Lady of Cleves: A Novel of Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves by Margaret Campbell Barnes
The Queen's Governess by Karen Harper
The Virgin's Daughters: In the Court of Elizabeth I by Jeane Westin
The King's Daughter. A Novel of the First Tudor Queen  by Sarndra Worth
The Secret Bride: In The Court of Henry VIII by Diane Haeger
The Virgin Queen's Daughter: A Novel by Ella March Chase
Virgin: Prelude to the Throne by Robin Maxwell
Mademoiselle Boleyn by Robin Maxwell
The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn by Robin Maxwell
The Queen's Bastard by Robin Maxwell
The Last Wife of Henry VIII by Carolly Erickson
Tudor themed reads from authors like David Starkey and Robin Maxwell

A sampling of some Tudor-themed books I have read previously that are linked to my reviews, alphabetical:

Her Mother's Daughter: A Novel of Mary Tudor by Julianne Lee (2009)
Secrets of The Tudor Court: The Pleasure Palace by Kate Emerson (2009)
Secrets of The Tudor Court: Between Two Queens by Kate Emerson (2009)
St. Thomas's Eve aka The King's Confidante by Jean Plaidy (reissued in 2009)
The Boleyn Wife by Brandy Purdy (2009)
The Captive Queen of Scots by Jean Plaidy (reissue 2006)
The Other Queen by Philipa Gregory (2009)
The Royal Road to Fotheringay by Jean Plaidy (1969)
The Tudor Rose: A Novel of Elizabeth of York by Margaret Campbell Barnes (reissue 2009)
The Queen's Mistake: A Novel by Catherine Howard by Diane Haeger (2009)
Young Bess by Margaret Irwin (reissue 2010)

Tudor Non-Fiction, linked to my reviews:
Arbella by Sarah Gristwood (2005)
Bess of Hardwick: Empire Builder by Mary S. Lovell (2007)
Elizabeth's Women:The Hidden Story of The Virgin Queen by Tracy Borman (2009)
The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn by Alison Weir (2009)
Try Alison Weir for both non-fiction and fiction, or anything Elizabeth I related

 Non-Fiction Recommendations, some of which are on my TBR list for the challenge:
JANE SEYMOUR by Elizabeth Norton
MARY BOLEYN by Josephine Wilkinson
CATHERINE PARR by Elizabeth Norton
HENRY VIII: The Tudor Tyrant by Richard Rex
THE LAST DAYS OF HENRY VIII by Robert Hutchinson

Try some obscure Edward VI non fiction, or there are always your old standby's for fiction like Philippa Gregory
Do you have any suggestions to add to the list for those who are looking for Tudor Reads?
The goal is that on the Challenge post we build up a long Master List of reviews for Tudor themed reads!

Apr 20, 2010

Teaser Tuesday~ Secrets of the Tudor Court by D.L. Bogdan

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

Secrets of the Tudor Court by D.L. Bogdan (April 27, 2010)

I stand with Frances now. At the other executions - imagine I can say that, as I have attended so many now!- I would bury my head in Surrey's shoulder and clutch his hand as I heard that sound, that sound that never really evacuates the consciousness, steel cutting through flesh and bone and muscle. Now I must be here for his wife; I must be the strong one.
- page 276 Advance copy

Apr 19, 2010

Giveaway and Interview: Monica Fairview, author of The Darcy Cousins series

The Darcy Cousins

One might reasonably expect that a young lady dispatched in disgrace across the Atlantic to England would strive to behave with decorum, but Mr. Darcy's incorrigible American cousin, Clarissa Darcy, manages to provoke Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Mr Collins, and the parishioners of Hunsford all in one morning! And there are more surprises in store for that bastion of tradition, Rosings Park, when the family gathers for their annual Easter visit. Georgiana Darcy, generally a shy model of propriety, decides to take a few lessons from her unconventional cousin. And Anne de Bourgh, encouraged to escape her "keeper," Mrs. Jenkinson, simply… vanishes.

In this tale of friendship, rebellion, and love, two young women entering Society forge a strong connection. A connection that is sorely tested when they both set out to win the heart of a most dashing—and dangerous— gentleman.

Book One: The Other Mr Darcy (2009)

Did you know that Mr. Darcy had an American cousin?!

"In this highly original Pride and Prejudice sequel by British author Monica Fairview, Caroline Bingley is our heroine. Caroline is sincerely broken-hearted when Mr. Darcy marries Lizzy Bennet— that is, until she meets his charming and sympathetic American cousin…

Mr. Robert Darcy is as charming as Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy is proud, and he is stunned to find the beautiful Caroline weeping at his cousin's wedding. Such depth of love, he thinks, is rare and precious. For him, it's nearly love at first sight. But these British can be so haughty and off-putting. How can he let the young lady, who was understandably mortified to be discovered in such a vulnerable moment, know how much he feels for and sympathizes with her?"

Please welcome Monica Fairview to The Burton Review, again!
See a guest post written by Monica for her previous release of The Other Mr. Darcy

Monica Fairview is Regency romance writer. As a literature professor, she enjoyed teaching students to love reading. But after years of postponing the urge, she finally realized that what she really, really wanted to do was to write books herself. She lived in Illinois, Los Angeles, Seattle, Texas, Colorado, Oregon and Boston as a student and professor, and now lives in London. For more information, please visit

 Monica Fairview Interview, author of The Darcy Cousins:

1.Welcome back to The Burton Review, Monica! Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. I truly enjoyed your second book that follows the Darcy cousins (my review is here). Tell us about what the reaction seems to be from classic Austen fans who are new to adaptations and sequels?

The reviews of The Other Mr. Darcy have generally been very positive, and The Jane Austen Centre in Bath will be taking up the paperback edition (which just came out in the UK) of The Other Mr. Darcy to sell in their gift shop, which is quite delightful. Beyond that, there isn’t any way to know if Jane Austen purists are interested in Austenesque sequels in general. I do hope they’re out there reading The Other Mr. Darcy and The Darcy Cousins.

2. Rest assured that I am one of those who are reading and enjoying your sequels! What have been your favorite Austen movie adaptations and why; fave actors and actresses. If your books were made into movies, who would you choose to star?

I’m a Colin Firth fan through and through, because I think he captures the hauteur of Mr Darcy very well. Macfadyen does a great job as a tormented soul, and he’s more expressive, but he doesn’t convey repressed-passion- simmering-under-the-surface as Firth does. Jennifer Ehle is a playful Elizabeth with a twinkle in her eyes, and I love that aspect of the film. Keira Knightly’s pouting is a bit overdone, I find. However, the 2005 film has the advantage of being more realistic, and more accurate historically. There are wonderful subtle touches like the fact that at Netherfield we see only male servants, which of course conveys wealth, since male servants were more expensive to keep. Lydia is more of a typical teen, which I think goes a long way to explain her behavior, and absent-minded Mr. Bennet is very appealing.

If The Darcy Cousins were made into a movie, I would love to see Jonny Lee Miller as Gatley (he was brilliant in the new production of Emma). Emma Watson fits in with my image of Georgiana, and Carey Mulligan (with darker hair) would be very effective as Clarissa.

3.I adored Miller in the new Emma as well. I quickly became a new fan of his and would love to see Miller play Mr Gatley, he would be delightful! Back to books, tell us some reliable resources as research for your books.

Because of the way I write my books, I tend to go for primary rather than secondary sources. For example, because I wanted to get a sense of how an American would be perceived in England, and how she would perceive England for The Darcy Cousins, I was fortunate enough to find a memoir by Joseph Ballard called England in 1815 as seen by a Young Boston Merchant. This was a wonderful resource as it outlined some of the important events of the year, and really gave me an insight into what things would stand out to someone coming from Boston to England. It was perfect for its purpose. I also went through a diary written by a young school-girl in Boston, Anna Green Winslow, written in 1771. It’s set quite a few years before Clarissa was a schoolgirl, but it gave me a very good sense of how differently the young ladies in Boston were raised from their counterparts in England, since the Puritan ethic was very clearly visible, despite Anna Green’s interest in fashionable pursuits. I don’t emphasize this in The Darcy Cousins, but it’s there, as a background to Clarissa, a reminder that young ladies of Boston were not actually any freer than those in London.

I’m giving these sources as examples because I wanted to illustrate why the references I read wouldn’t necessarily be of general interest. I wouldn’t recommend them for casual reading, though they’re of great value for a historical writer. I’m a big fan of primary sources. Ultimately, if you want to know Jane Austen, it’s good to read books about her. It would certainly reveal aspects of her life or writing that you wouldn’t get to know otherwise, but nothing beats going over her novels with a fine tooth comb.

4.What are the ultimate goals for you if the sky were the limit?

Well, my goal is to be a very successful writer. I wouldn’t mind being on a few bestseller lists :-) But really, I’m very pleased with the way things have been working so far.

5. You are on a great roll with your recent sequels! Besides Austen, who do you like to read for fun?

I’m an avid but eclectic reader. For Regency, I love Georgette Heyer, Julia Quinn, Jo Beverley and a host of others. Other “popular classics” I enjoy are Daphne du Maurier, Mary Stewart, and Anya Seton. I enjoy science fiction and fantasy, especially classic authors such as Ursula Le Guin and CJ Cherryh. I pick up current bestsellers arbitrarily – I’m drawn as much by their style as the content. I just read Paullina Simon’s The Bronze Horseman and loved it, The Time Traveller’s Wife, Outlander, Winter in Madrid. If I could read all day I would, but alas, the day is too short.

6.You touched on the Book Blogger Mantra there! So many books, etc... Please share with us, who is your muse?

It depends on what I’m writing, really. Style and rhythm are important to me, and often a particular writer will strike a cord so I’ll keep one of the books next to my bedside to dip into arbitrarily. When I’m writing Austenesque, I immerse myself in Austen, books, films, audios – anything to make sure that voice stays in my head.

7.What has been your greatest obstacle in your writing endeavors?

Wanting to do too many things and ending up doing a bit of each. I’d like to write in a variety of genres, though Regency is my favorite. I also would like to write children’s books, futuristic romance, and humorous contemporary. Impossible to do everything.

8.What has been one your accomplishments that you are proud of?

I graduated from college when I was 19, and I got my PhD when I was 24. I’m pretty proud of that.

9. A wonderful accomplishment! That definitely is something to be very proud of! And finally… please tell us what you are working on next for us readers!

At the moment I’m taking a break from Regency and Austenesque and working on a novel from a different time period. Once that’s done, I have plans to continue the story of Clarissa Darcy, and maybe of Frederick as well. My mind is full of plans. It’s a matter of finding the time to write!

So little time.. again I thank Monica for sparing us some time in her busy life! I would love to read what is in store for Clarissa! 

And now for the bonus: Sourcebooks is sponsoring a giveaway of Monica Fairview's newest release, The Darcy Cousins : 2 winners, US and Canada only! (no po boxes please).

Please enter for the giveaway by leaving me an answer to the following question with your Email Address:
What has been your favorite Austen-inspired Sequel or Adaptation (movie or book)?

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

Ends April 30th. Good luck!