Book Review: “Songbird” by Karen Heenan

57859999._SY475_We all know about the man who would become King Henry VIII. We know about his love life and his ever-changing views on religious reform, yet a side of the infamous king rarely explored; his love of music. Henry’s court in literature is often viewed through the lenses of those who held power in government and the lady’s maids, but what if it was considered from a different perspective? What if it was viewed from the perspective of one of the performers of King Henry VIII’s court? What might their experiences have been like singing their hearts out for the rich and glamorous? Karen Heenan tries to give her readers a better look into the world of Music with Bess, the titular character of her first novel in The Tudor Court series, “Songbird.”

I want to thank Karen Heenan for sending me a copy of this novel. I hosted a book tour for Karen a few months back for this book, so I was intrigued by this novel.

Beth is a ten-year-old girl who has a voice like an angel. One day, her father brought her to the court of Henry VIII to serve the king as one of his majesty’s minstrels. It is there that Bess meets a boy a year younger than her named Tom, who plays numerous instruments, but he prefers the lute. They form a bond that will last for years. Yet, as the friends grow closer, romance enters the picture, and the friends must navigate the ever-changing world of Henry VIII’s court during the time of the Great Matter.

What makes this book sensational is that the Tudors that we are familiar with, Henry VIII, Catherine of Aragon, and Anne Boleyn, tend to act as secondary characters, quite like a work by CJ Sansom. The focus is really on the music and the lives of the musicians. It shows just enough of the glitz and the glam of court life to get. The songs that Heenan included in this novel are so melodic that I could imagine the scenes without hearing the pieces aloud.

Oh boy, this book was an absolute treat. It was also a ride in the best sense. Bess and Tom go through many hurdles, including death, heartbreak, politics, and a good old-fashioned love triangle as a cherry on top. The world of the minstrels is full of its scandals, and it is just as brilliant as the court they entertain. There were points in this book where Bess or Tom made a mistake, and I just wanted to scream at them, but I couldn’t put this book down. These characters are so loveable that you will get emotionally attached to them.

To combine the story of the Great Matter with the lives of the minstrels like Beth and Tom is simply brilliant. If you want a historical fiction novel that gives a fresh take on the tumultuous Tudors, you should check out “Songbird” by Karen Heenan. Heenan gorgeously wrote this novel to portray the human experience through the reign of Henry VIII vividly.

Guest Post: “Historical Aspect of Queen of Blood” by Sarah Kennedy

Queen of Blood Blog Tour Banner
Today, I am pleased to welcome Sarah Kennedy to my blog to discuss the historical aspect of her latest novel Queen of Blood. Thanks to the Coffee Pot Book Club and Sarah Kennedy for allowing me to be part of this tour.

The most obvious historical aspect of my latest novel, Queen of Blood, is the Wyatt Rebellion, which occurred early in the reign of Mary Tudor (“Bloody Mary”). It was carried out, unsuccessfully, by a group of men who opposed her rule and her marriage to Philip of Spain. The uprising was soon put down, partly because some of the other nobles who were initially involved in the plot failed to raise their armies, and so the band that descended on London was small—and they did not get the support from Londoners that they expected.

That’s the historical context of the book, and it may be the most compelling part of the narrative for some readers. But it’s not the historical aspect that interests me the most. As in all of the novels in my Tudor series, The Cross and the Crown, the element that draws me in the most is the daily lives of everyday people. We know quite a lot about the lives of royals and nobles—and life was not easy even for people with vast resources of wealth and land—but my attention is always on people who lacked these privileges. I’ve always had sympathy for ordinary people who found (and still find) themselves tossed and turned by changes in their governments and their cultures; such changes occurred dramatically during the Tudor years in England.

I try to imagine what daily life was like, particularly for women, who had to worry about childbirth (or the inability to bear children); maintaining and running a household (or working in a household); and caring for extended family members. Just thinking about the number of chores and tasks that had to be accomplished every day, just to stay alive, is exhausting. Women like my main character, Catherine, sometimes had to keep the books for their husbands’ businesses; sometimes had to work in the business (Catherine’s current husband is a wool dealer), and they surely had to stop everything sometimes to show a young maid how to pluck a chicken correctly or how to make soap. I think, too, about the bodily needs that we take for granted today: staying clean; treating wounds and injuries; maintaining personal hygiene during menstruation, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and childbirth.

Can you imagine how time-consuming and difficult it was just to get through a day with enough food, shelter, and clothing?

My Catherine is fortunate in that she knows how to read and write because she was raised in a convent. She knows quite a lot about herbs and medicines, so she generally knows what to do if someone in her household falls ill or, say, cuts herself. She also has maids to help out around the house. But having a household staff means looking out for those people, and that job often fell to the lady of the house.

Now, when all of that daily toil is combined with turmoil in the government and the religion of the country, everything becomes more complicated. England, at the beginning of Mary Tudor’s reign, was Protestant. The convents and monasteries had been closed, and their lands and goods seized by the Crown. Mary, of course, remained Catholic, and one of her goals was to return England to Rome.

This goal was supported by some, opposed by others, and just entirely frustrating and confusing to many. A person could be arrested, imprisoned, and possibly executed for failing to submit to the current requirements of the current church, and I’m sure that this created anxiety, anger, and resentment. Which prayers was a person supposed to say? In what language? What if those requirements violated a person’s conscience? Those were questions that, under the Tudor monarchs, ordinary people often simply had to keep to themselves. They had to follow the rules or suffer the consequences, even if the rules were completely different from what they had been in the previous year.

So, on top of all the necessary daily, drudging work, everyday people were forced to submit to the requirements of church attendance, following the dictates from the throne. It’s no wonder that people rebelled. And it’s no wonder that those rebellions were met with force from the court.

People often adapt to the circumstances in which they find themselves if they can. And if they can’t? If they don’t understand the enormous changes, or don’t approve of them, or can’t bear them? The possible answers to those questions are at the center of my historical interest, and those questions, to me, are the most important historical aspect of my Cross and Crown series.

unnamed(Blurb)

Queen of Blood, Book Four of the Cross, and the Crown series continue the story of Catherine Havens, a former nun in Tudor England. It is now 1553, and Mary Tudor has just been crowned queen of England. Still a Roman Catholic, Mary seeks to return England to its former religion, and Catherine hopes that the country will be at peace under the daughter of Henry VIII. But rebellion is brewing around Thomas Wyatt, the son of a Tudor courtier, and when Catherine’s estranged son suddenly returns from Wittenberg amid circulating rumors about overthrowing the new monarch, Catherine finds herself having to choose between the queen she has always loved and the son who seems determined to join the Protestants who seek to usurp her throne.

Buy Links

Universal Link: mybook.to/QueenofBloodBookFour

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1950586758
Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Queen-Blood-Sarah-Kennedy/dp/1950586758
Amazon CA: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/1950586758
Amazon AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/1950586758

unnamedAuthor Bio

Sarah Kennedy

Sarah Kennedy is the author of the Tudor historical series, The Cross and the Crown, including The Altarpiece, City of Ladies, The King’s Sisters, and Queen of Blood. She has also published a stand-alone contemporary novel, Self-Portrait, with Ghost, as well as seven books of poems. A professor of English at Mary Baldwin University in Staunton, Virginia, Sarah Kennedy holds a Ph.D. in Renaissance Literature and an MFA in Creative Writing. She has received grants from both the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Virginia Commission for the Arts.

Social Media Links:

Website: http://sarahkennedybooks.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/KennedyNovels
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sarah.kennedy.520125
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Sarah-Kennedy/e/B0054NFF6W
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6538009.Sarah_Kennedy

Book Review: “Inside the Tudor Court: Henry VIII and his Six Wives through the eyes of the Spanish Ambassador” by Lauren Mackay

25266205The story of King Henry VIII and his six wives has been regaled for centuries in different mediums. We love the marital problems of this one English king because of how much of an impact it made on all of Europe in the 16th century and beyond. Yet our love affair with the Tudor dynasty would not have gotten to the point that it is today without the tireless efforts of the ambassadors who went to England to report the news of the day to their respected kings and emperors. We tend to think that the ambassadors are better left in the shadows, working to promote peace between countries and report what was happening, but one man made a name for himself as an ambassador and transcended time. His name was Eustace Chapuys. His story and his mission are finally being told in Lauren Mackay’s brilliant debut book, “Inside the Tudor Court: Henry VIII and his Six Wives through the eyes of the Spanish Ambassador”.

I have heard about this book in the past and how much of an impact it has made in the Tudor community in the past. I have read Lauren Mackay’s two other books and I have enjoyed them thoroughly and so I really wanted to read this book.

To understand the man behind the now-infamous words about the Tudors, especially Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, we have to go back to Chapuys hometown of Annecy. It is here where we see the Chapuys family rise in prominence to the point where Eustace Chapuys was employed by the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V as the Spanish Ambassador to England. His main job was to report information back to Charles about the Henirican court as accurately as possible.

Chapuys started his job as ambassador at a critical junction in English history when Henry VIII was in the middle of his divorce from his first wife Katherine of Aragon in 1529. Chapuys admired Katherine of Aragon’s strength and worked tirelessly to protect her daughter Mary. Since Chapuys had a close connection to those who were essential in the Tudor court, he has given historians fabulous insights into these tumultuous times. It was really his relationship with Anne Boleyn which has caused a lot of controversy over the years and has blackened Chapuys’ name for centuries. Mackay has masterfully examined Chapuys’ correspondences to uncover the truth about how he felt about the Tudor court from 1529 until 1545.

You cannot separate Tudor history during the reign of Henry VIII and the works of Eustace Chapuys, which is why this biography and Mackay’s research are so essential in understanding the 16th century. It sheds new light on the stories of Henry VIII and the lives of his six wives; Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard, and Catherine Parr. Chapuys was not afraid to speak his mind and to share the rumors of the day, which gives us significant insight into how the royal family was perceived by their public, both the positive and the negative aspects.

Eustace Chapuys has been one of those ambassadors who we think we know, but do we really? Mackay has rescued the much-maligned messenger of Charles V and restored him to the glory that he so rightfully deserves. Chapuys’ story was hidden in plain sight, but it took an extraordinary historian to bring his story to the spotlight. If you think you know about Eustace Chapuys and the Henrician court, you need to read this sublime biography, “Inside the Tudor Court: Henry VIII and his Six Wives through the eyes of the Spanish Ambassador” by Lauren Mackay. It might change how you view the Tudor dynasty.

Book Review: “The Brandon Men: In the Shadow of Kings” by Sarah Bryson

50419855Loyalty to one’s king was imperative during times of war and strife. This statement was painfully true during periods of civil war when cousins fought against cousins. The Wars of the Roses was where we see families rise and fall like the tides, depending on which side they were loyal to and who was on the throne. One family who was able to navigate this political quagmire and end up on the side that would win in the end was the Brandons. Many recognize the name Brandon because of Charles Brandon and his rise in the court of Henry VIII, but how did they reach that point? What are the origins of the Brandon family? In her latest book, “The Brandon Men: In the Shadow of Kings”, Sarah Bryson takes her readers on a ride to find out what loyalty to the crown gave this family and why their legacy lives on today.

I would like to thank Amberley Publishing for sending me a copy of this book. I have read Bryson’s first book on Mary Tudor and her marriage to Charles Brandon, which I found a delightful read. When I heard about this book, I was interested in reading it as I have always enjoyed the story of Charles Brandon and I wanted to know more about his family.

Bryson begins her journey into the Brandon family with William Brandon, who lived during the reign of King Henry VI and the origins of the Wars of the Roses. William’s gradual rise in power is nothing short of extraordinary and it extended to his son, also named William. William Sr would serve Henry VI, Edward IV, and Richard III, even when his son William decided to work with Henry Tudor. William’s loyalty to Henry Tudor would ultimately cost him his life as he died at the Battle of Bosworth Field as the standard-bearer for the would-be king.

The bulk of this particular title explores the life of Charles Brandon and his relationship with his best friend, King Henry VIII. We have seen how loyal the Brandons can be with the first two generations, but Charles took it to a whole new level. Since Bryson had mentioned a good portion of Charles’ life in her previous book, this felt a bit like a review. I know Charles is her favorite Brandon man, but I wish she would have focused a bit more on his grandfather, father, and his uncle, Sir Thomas Brandon. These men were crucial to understanding what kind of man Charles would become and why he was so loyal to the crown, even if he didn’t agree with all the decisions that Henry VIII made.

Overall, I found this book informative and easy to follow. Bryson has a passion for the Brandon family, and it shows with this particular title. The family trees and the letters that she included in this book are impressive and give the reader a deeper understanding of the family dynamic as well as the dynamic between the Brandons and the kings that they served. If you are interested in learning more about the Brandon family and the depth of their loyalty to the English crown, I highly suggest you read, “The Brandon Men: In the Shadow of Kings” by Sarah Bryson.

Book Review: “Daughters of Edward I” by Kathryn Warner

Pen & Sword Book Cover / Jacket artwork

The future King of England married a Spanish princess to create an alliance between the two countries through their children. This may sound like the marriage of Henry VIII and his brother’s widow Katherine of Aragon. However, this story is much older and the happy couple was Edward I and Leonor of Castile. Unlike the Tudor match, Edward and Leonor have numerous children, including Edward’s heir who would one day become Edward II, whose story has been told in various ways. The stories that Kathryn Warner has chosen to focus upon in her latest book, “Daughters of Edward I”, are the princesses who tend to be hidden behind their brother’s legacy.

I would like to thank Pen and Sword Books and NetGalley for sending me a copy of this book. I have read a few books by Kathryn Warner in the past and I have enjoyed them in the past for their complex nature. I enjoy a challenge and when I heard about this book, I knew I wanted to give it a shot. I, unfortunately, was not familiar with these princesses before partaking in this new adventure, so I was excited to hear their stories for the first time.

Edward I and Leonor of Castile had around fourteen children, but only six lived into adulthood; their heir Edward II and his five sisters. The names of the sisters were Eleanor of Windsor, Joan of Acre, Margaret of Brabant, Mary of Woodstock, and Elizabeth of Rhuddlan. Their marriages and children, except for Mary of Woodstock who would become a reluctant nun, would connect the Plantagenet bloodline to some of the most important families in England and beyond. When it comes to the marriages of the sisters, they tend to follow the counsel of the crown, except for Joan of Acre who chose to follow her heart and marry a man who she loved for her second marriage.

Warner’s specialty is unraveling the convoluted nature of certain family trees to uncover members who tend to slip into the shadows of the past. She explores the sisters’ relationships with their father Edward I, their brother Edward II, their nephew who would become Edward III, as well as the families that were essential to understanding England during the 13th and 14th centuries. I will admit that I did find myself using the lists in the back that gave brief descriptions of the daughters and their children as I was getting a tad confused on who was who and their relationship to others. However, I am really glad that Warner included that resource as it added something to this book.

Warner has taken on the difficult task of trying to uncover the stories of the daughters of Edward I and Leonor of Castile and has given readers a resource that can prove valuable in understanding this complex family dynamic. There were parts where the writing was a touch dry for my taste, but overall I found it a stimulating reading and that is because of the laborious research that Warner partook to tell their tales and the tales of their descendants. If you want a meticulously researched resource that tells the stories of women who knew Edward I, Edward II, and Edward III well, “Daughters of Edward I” by Kathryn Warner is the perfect book for you to add to your collection.

Book Review: “The White Ship: Conquest, Anarchy and the Wrecking of Henry I’s Dream” by Charles Spencer

53604802._SY475_In the middle of the night on November 25, 1120, screams could be heard from the English Channel. A ship known as The White Ship hit a rock and began to sink. Those on board were the glamorous English elite, including the legitimate son of King Henry I, William Aetheling. In an era where people feared the sea and could not swim, those on board sank to their watery death on that cold winter night that began with such frivolity. No one knew that night that this one disaster at sea would cause a dynastic struggle that would lead to the founding of the infamous Plantagenet dynasty. In his latest book, “The White Ship: Conquest, Anarchy and the Wrecking of Henry I’s Dream”, Charles Spencer takes his readers on a journey to fully understand the impact that this tragedy had on the English royal family.

Charles Spencer has written many nonfiction books in the past, but they have all been out of the time periods that I enjoy reading about. I might go back and read them in my own time, but when I saw that this particular title was going to be published and how much praise it had received from prominent historians, I decided to give it a try.

Spencer’s tale into this tragedy begins with a vivid account of the night of November 25th and then it jumps to the first part of the tale. To understand why this event was so horrific for Henry I, we have to understand what it took for Henry I to become King of England. Henry, I was one of three sons of William the Conqueror. After his father died in 1087, the third son, William Rufus became King William II, much to the chagrin of the eldest son, Robert Curthose, who remained Duke of Normandy, but he continued to be a thorn at his brother’s side. When William II died after a hunting accident, Henry knew that it was his chance to beat Robert to the throne, which he did, becoming Henry I, who fought hard to restore order to England.

His two legitimate children, William Aetheling and Matilda, allowed Henry I to breathe a sigh of relief, although he had numerous illegitimate children. This is why this tragedy hit me so hard. With William’s death, it meant that anyone could take the throne after Henry I’s death, which is exactly what happened. The period we know as The Anarchy was a battle between Matilda, who was Henry’s heir, and her cousin Stephen of Blois for the throne of England.

Spencer has painted a dramatically dark portrait of the fall of the Norman dynasty. The Normans were notorious for their cruelty towards those who opposed them, even their own family. What I thoroughly enjoyed with this book was Spencer’s tone. It is as if you are having a casual conversation with Spencer about Henry I’s reign and his family’s drama for the throne. I was impressed with how well researched this book was and the new information that Spencer provided to present the bigger picture of this catastrophe.

I found this book to be a thrilling read full of information and vivid descriptions. This may be Charles Spencer’s first dive into the world of medieval nonfiction, but I hope it is not the last. If you want a brilliant read about the aftermath of the Conquest, the rise and fall of Henry I, and the Anarchy, I highly recommend you read, “The White Ship: Conquest, Anarchy and the Wrecking of Henry I’s Dream” by Charles Spencer.

Book Review: “How to Survive in Medieval England” by Toni Mount

Pen & Sword Book Cover / Jacket artwork

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if you were able to travel back in time to the medieval ages and had to start your life all over again? Could you make the transition from the 21st century to the medieval period with no electronic technology and different customs? What would you wear? How would you get around with no cars and horses being very expensive? Where would you live? What job would you have? These questions and quandaries are answered in the latest nonfiction book by Toni Mount aptly entitled, “How to Survive in Medieval England”.

I would like to thank Pen and Sword Books and Net Galley for sending me a copy of this book. I have found time travel books really interesting in the past few years, so I was intrigued when I heard about this title.

Mount has created a fun and creative guide for those who have a passion for medieval England. For clarification, Mount defines medieval from 1154 to the death of King Richard III in 1485. It’s quite a range, but it gives the reader a chance to see how England transformed during the medieval time. In this book, Mount gives her readers the everyday details that they would want if they traveled to the past or if they just wanted to better understand the past. The information that Mount includes is practical and easy to follow so that anyone who is jumping into the past can understand.

The true highlight of this title and what separates Mount’s book from other time-traveling books are the interviews. No, she does not have her own Tardis, but it feels like she might with these passages. Mount has taken historical figures, both well known and those who her audience might not be familiar with, and has decided to write discussions with them to better understand the past and the motivation for their actions. It is a brilliant way for an author who writes both historical fiction and nonfiction to express their craft in a unique and engaging way.

I have read a few time travel books and I have to say, this one is special. It is one that is engaging for history experts and novices alike. There are warnings, but Mount has also included a bit of humor to make sure that her audience realizes that the past was not always dark.

Medieval England may look drastically different than our 21st century, but if you break it down, the people of the past are just trying to survive the best that they can just like we are. If you want a handy guide to take on your journeys to the past or you just want a book to better understand the past, I highly suggest you read this book, “How to Survive in Medieval England” by Toni Mount.

Guest Post: Excerpt from “The Usurper King: The Plantagenet Legacy Book 3” by Mercedes Rochelle

The Usurper King Tour BannerToday, I am pleased to welcome Mercedes Rochelle to my blog to share an excerpt from her book “The Usurper King: The Plantagenet Legacy Book 3”. This passage is when Prince Hal has to tell Queen Isabella about Richard’s death. I would like to thank Mercedes Rochelle and The Coffee Pot Book Club for inviting me to partake in this blog tour. 

Excerpt

Isabella of Valois was probably the only person in England who did not know about Richard’s funeral. She was fourteen now and kept in close confinement at Havering-atte-Bower, where she was taken after the failed rebellion. Her prison was an old royal palace to the northeast of London, modest but comfortable. She knew Richard’s life was in danger and was worried sick about him. Alas, no matter how much she cried and demanded to visit her husband, she was politely refused. So she was relieved when the Prince of Wales was announced, for of all King Henry’s children he was closest to her in age and they had gotten along well before he went to Ireland. Before her life fell apart.

Hal came in by himself and knelt before her—a gesture sorely lacking these many months. He had grown much taller since she last saw him, and his shoulders had filled out from training. Unsurprisingly, his stiff posture had not relaxed, nor had his eyes softened; they were guarded as usual. 

Blinking back tears, she held out her hands. “You are a welcome sight, my lord. Thank you for visiting me.”

Slowly he stood and together they walked over to a window seat. Tucking a lock of hair behind her ear, she smiled self-consciously. It had been so long since she had a visitor, she was not dressed like a princess. Hal didn’t seem to care. 

“Do you have everything you need?” he said, trying to find a good place to start a conversation.

Isabella nodded. She knew that’s not why he was here. “I had hoped to see my husband,” she said softly. She knew this was none of his doing, but she had to make her feelings known to somebody.

At least Hal had the grace to look embarrassed. “I loved King Richard like a father,” he said earnestly, trying to take her hand. “He was very good to me.”

“Loved?” Her eyes narrowed. “You love him no longer?”

He sighed. There was no easy way to say this. “My lady, there is something I must tell you.”

She pulled her hand away, panic spreading over her face. “What has happened to him?”

As he struggled to find the words, Isabella broke into tears. “He’s dead, isn’t he?” She covered her face with her hands. “My poor Richard. How could you do this to him?”

Stricken, Hal fell to his knees. “I swear to you, I am overcome with anguish. I didn’t even know where he was kept.”

Lowering her hands, she looked at him doubtfully. “Do you expect me to believe that?”

Hal shook his head. “I am not privy to my father’s decisions.”

“How can that be?”

He hesitated, biting his lip. “It seems my father trusts no one, except for the archbishop. And perhaps his inner circle. We were never close.”

She was not convinced. However, there was no point in arguing. “How did Richard die?” Her voice was so soft he barely heard her. 

“It is said that after the rebellion, he stopped eating. This went on for almost two weeks when they sent a confessor to reason with him. Relenting, he tried to eat but by then he was unable to swallow. Sadly, he expired shortly thereafter.”

“Dear God, he starved to death?”

“That is what I am told.” This sounded weak, even to him. What could he do? Richard’s death was shrouded in mystery. 

“Do you believe this?” Isabella’s voice was harsh. 

“Of course I do.” Hal tried to sound sincere. 

“I expect to attend his funeral,” she said firmly. Once again, he hesitated and she couldn’t restrain her tears. “You wouldn’t stop me, would you?”

Hal had to fight back his rage at his father. He was furious to discover Isabella hadn’t been told about the funeral and insisted he be the one to break the tidings to her. Now he regretted it. 

“It’s too late, Isabella. The king thought it best for you not to attend.”

“Not to attend?” Her voice rose to a shriek. 

Hal stood, stepping back. “He sent me to tell you. He thought it would be best for you to hear from my lips.” 

Did she even heed him? Turning away, she threw herself onto the cushion, crying uncontrollably. Looking around the room, Hal went over to a sideboard and poured a cup of water. He knelt by her side, holding it out.

“Here, drink this.”

Hiccoughing, she sat obediently, accepting the water. 

“I promise you, I will do my best to see you are well taken care of,” he said.

She stopped drinking. “What does it matter? I’ve lost everything I care about.”

Defeated, Hal got up to leave.

“Wait.” 

He stopped, his back to her.

“When?”

He was hoping she wouldn’t ask. Turning, Hal wiped his hands on his sides. “The funeral was the twelfth of March.” 

“That was months ago!” 

He waited for her to start wailing again and she surprised him by her restraint. “I see how it is,” she said sadly. “Once again I am a pawn in your game. I am not supposed to have feelings. I must do what I am told for I have no choice.”

She was breaking his heart. “My dear friend, you are not the only one.”

Henry’s response gave her pause. She cocked her head, considering him for a moment. “I am sorry we are enemies,” she said. “In another world we might have been friends. Please, Hal. Help me go home.”

The Usurper King cover(Blurb)

From Outlaw to Usurper, Henry Bolingbroke fought one rebellion after another.

First, he led his uprising. Gathering support the day he returned from exile, Henry marched across the country and vanquished the forsaken Richard II. Little did he realize that his problems were only just beginning. How does a usurper prove his legitimacy? What to do with the deposed king? Only three months after he took the crown, Henry IV had to face a rebellion led by Richard’s disgruntled favorites. Worse yet, he was harassed by rumors of Richard’s return to claim the throne. His supporters were turning against him. How to control the overweening Percies, who were already demanding more than he could give? What to do with the rebellious Welsh? After only three years, the horrific Battle of Shrewsbury nearly cost him the throne—and his life. It didn’t take long for Henry to discover that that having the kingship was much less rewarding than striving for it.

Buy Links:

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08YLFMVPZ

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08YLFMVPZ

Mercedes RochelleAuthor Bio:

Mercedes Rochelle

Mercedes Rochelle is an ardent lover of medieval history and has channeled this interest into fiction writing. Her first four books cover eleventh-century Britain and events surrounding the Norman Conquest of England. The next series is called The Plantagenet Legacy about the struggles and abdication of Richard II, leading to the troubled reigns of the Lancastrian Kings. She also writes a blog: HistoricalBritainBlog.com to explore the history behind the story. Born in St. Louis, MO, she received her BA in Literature at the Univ. of Missouri St. Louis in 1979 then moved to New York in 1982 while in her mid-20s to “see the world”. The search hasn’t ended! Today she lives in Sergeantsville, NJ with her husband in a log home they had built themselves.

Social Media Links:

Website: https://mercedesrochelle.com/

Blog: https://mercedesrochelle.com/wordpress/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mercedesrochelle.net

Twitter: https://twitter.com/authorRochelle

Book Bub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/mercedes-rochelle

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Mercedes-Rochelle/e/B001KMG5P6?

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1696491.Mercedes_Rochelle

Book Review: “Elizabeth I’s Last Favourite: Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex” by Sarah-Beth Watkins

56283014A man who was young and had charisma would attract the attention of the Virgin Queen herself, yet that attention came with a price. The young man could not do what he desired and was buried in debt. His anger could not be quenched and he would end up rebelling against the very queen who brought him so much glory and honor. This rebellion would lead to his execution. The man’s name was Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, and his story is told in Sarah-Beth Watkins’ latest bite-size biography, “Elizabeth I’s Last Favourite: Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex”.

I would like to thank Chronos Books for sending me a copy of this book. I had heard that Sarah-Beth Watkins was releasing this book around the same time that Tony Riches released his novel about Robert Devereux, so I thought it might be nice to read about this man through fiction and nonfiction.

The son of Walter Devereux and Lettice Knollys, Robert Devereux was destined to his father’s heir when he passed away. However, when Walter died, he left his young heir a mountain of debt. His mother would remarry, but her choice would cause her to be an enemy of the queen herself. Lettice Knollys married Elizabeth I’s most prized favorite at court, Robert Dudley. The legacies that Robert’s mother and father left him forced the penniless earl to think big and to strive to gain the queen’s favor.

His looks helped win the queen’s favor, but Robert wanted more. He wanted power, money, and military prestige, which was typical of an earl during the Tudor time. However, Robert was pretty terrible at being a military leader. No matter if it was in France, Spain, or Ireland, Devereux managed to fail on his missions and irritating the queen. Watkins included transcripts of poems and letters that Devereux and Elizabeth I exchanged and you can feel the anger and frustration centuries later. Devereux comes off as a spoiled brat who whined when he didn’t get his way and Elizabeth just continued to exasperate him.

Devereux would redeem himself slightly when he uncovered a plot by Elizabeth’s doctor Lopez to assassinate the queen with poison. Yet for the most part, the queen was almost always upset with the young man, which made him act recklessly. Although he did marry the daughter of Sir Francis Walsingham, he was known to have a few mistresses and illegitimate children on the side. When he was really upset with the queen, he would break into her chamber or he would sulk at home feigning illness until she would beg for him to come back to court. This was his routine until he was pushed over the edge and would stage a rebellion against the woman who raised him so high, ultimately leading to his own demise.

.Robert Devereux was the moody last favorite of Elizabeth I who depended too heavily on her influence to guide his life choices. Watkins does a very good job at portraying Devereux’s numerous attempts to change his fate and how he failed miserably. The length of this biography was reasonable and it did allow readers to get to know the truth about the young man who would be the final favorite. If you want a short biography about the man behind the Essex Rebellion, you should check out, “Elizabeth I’s Last Favourite: Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex” by Sarah-Beth Watkins.

Guest Post: “The Inspiration Behind The Poison Keeper” by Deborah Swift

The Poison Keeper Tour BannerToday, it is my pleasure to welcome Deborah Swift to my blog to discuss the inspiration for her latest novel, The Poison Keeper. I would like to thank Deborah Swift and The Coffee Pot Book Club for allowing my blog to host a stop on this tour. 

Deborah Swift, The Poison Keeper Cover

I had enjoyed writing about Seville in A Divided Inheritance and was looking to find another setting where I could escape from the dull grey English winter. My husband suggested Italy and I remembered reading about Giulia Tofana, a notorious Renaissance poisoner, and the poison Aqua Tofana, named after her. I decided to investigate her a bit further to see if she would make a subject for a novel.

I was surprised to find that no one had written a novel about her in English, and so that made me even more determined. However, as soon as I started the research process I realized I was researching someone who was more of a myth than a real historical figure. Most of the information about her was from the 19th century, a good three hundred years since any proper record of her. Also, there were so many different dates associated with her life – for example, she is said by different sources to have been executed, to have escaped, and to have been bricked up behind a wall (!) – and her time of death was variously attributed to 1659, 1709 or 1730.

Antonio_de_Pereda_-_Allegory_of_Vanity_-_Google_Art_Project 1634

Three Generations of Poisoners

There were some peculiarities in the history and it soon became apparent that I was dealing not with one person, but with three – Theofania d’Adamo, her daughter Giulia Tofana and her daughter Girolamo Spara. In Italy at the time, women often took the contracted version of their mothers’ forenames as Christian names – hence Theofania = Tofana. I decided to focus on the middle generation because Giulia was the only one who escaped without execution as far as I could tell.

The one date that could be fixed by contemporary records was the death of Theofania who died on 12th July 1633. This concords with the first record of Aqua Tofana the poison named after Giulia Tofana, or more likely her mother Theofania, which was in 1632. This gave me a firm idea of the timescale for the book.

Naples 1572 Wikipedia 1024px-Braun_Napoli_HAAB

The enticing City of Naples

I was fascinated by the geography of Naples in the 17th Century – a city in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius that had erupted only two years earlier in 1631. The city was still recovering from those horrific events which included not only the eruption, with the city choked by dust and lava, but also by the earthquakes that preceded it and the devastating tsunami that followed it. I was able to use these events in my characters’ backstories. Society was sharply divided into rich and poor areas with glittering Palazzos and squalid slums. Corruption was rife both in the Church and in business.

The Camorra or Mafia

Powerful aristocratic families controlled the city through extortion and racketeering – this was the early inception of the mafia, known as the Camorra. The etymology is from Camo – boss, or head, and Morra – a type of gambling game popular in 17th Century Naples. This provided me with a subplot that I could use with my main male character and allowed me to create a strong antagonist, the Duke de Verdi, for my story.

Aqua Tofana wiki

Aqua Tofana – A deadly poison

Aqua Tofana was supposed to kill by three drops in a drink or food. It was a colorless liquid, supposedly undetectable, but would cause death with similar symptoms to a wasting disease. The actual ingredients have never been confirmed, although many suspect arsenic to be the main ingredient. Naples was a city of alchemists and apothecaries, and the tradition of poison was well known in the city. There had been an epidemic of poisonings since the Borgias. This research area fascinated me, and I spent quite a few happy hours researching poisons in online libraries and through books.

The scope of the research was so interesting that the story soon grew into two books, and the sequel to The Poison Keeper, The Silkworm Keeper will be released soon. 

Thank you for hosting me!

NEW RELEASE 1(Blurb)

Naples 1633

Aqua Tofana – One drop to heal. Three drops to kill.

Giulia Tofana longs for more responsibility in her mother’s apothecary business, but Mamma has always been secretive and refuses to tell Giulia the hidden keys to her success. When Mamma is arrested for the poisoning of the powerful Duke de Verdi, Giulia is shocked to uncover the darker side of her trade.

Giulia must run for her life, and escapes to Naples, under the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, to the home of her Aunt Isabetta, a famous courtesan. But when Giulia hears that her mother has been executed, and the cruel manner of her death, she swears she will wreak revenge on the Duke de Verdi.

The trouble is, Naples is in the grip of Domenico, the Duke’s brother, who controls the city with the ‘Camorra’, the mafia. Worse, her Aunt Isabetta, under Domenico’s thrall, insists that she should be consort to him – the brother of the man she has vowed to kill.

Based on the legendary life of Giulia Tofana, this is a story of hidden family secrets, and how even the darkest desires can be vanquished by courage and love.

‘Her characters so real they linger in the mind long after the book is back on the shelf’ Historical Novel Society

Buy Links:

Is your book on Kindle Unlimited?  Yes

Universal Link (if you have it): mybook.to/PoisonKeeper

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0928WPHMH

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0928WPHMH

Amazon CA: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B0928WPHMH

Amazon AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B0928WPHMH

DeborahSwift-1018Author Bio:

Deborah Swift lives in the north of England and is a USA Today bestselling author who has written fourteen historical novels to date. Her first novel, The Lady’s Slipper, set in 17th Century England, was shortlisted for the Impress Prize, and her WW2 novel Past Encounters was a BookViral Millennium Award winner. 

Deborah enjoys writing about ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances, and most of her novels have been published in reading group editions. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University and is a mentor with The History Quill.

Social Media Links:

Website: http://www.deborahswift.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/swiftstory

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authordeborahswift/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/deborahswiftauthor

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/deborahswift1/

Book Bub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/deborah-swift

Amazon Author Page: http://author.to/DeborahSwift

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3297217.Deborah_Swift