Guest Post: “The Hearts of All on Fire” by Alana White Blurb

The Hearts of All on Fire Tour BannerI am pleased to welcome Alana White to my blog today to share a blurb from her latest novel, “The Hearts of All on Fire.” I would like to thank The Coffee Pot Book Club and Alana White for allowing me to be part of this tour.

The-Hearts-of-All-on-Fire_coverBlurb:

Florence, 1473. An impossible murder. A bitter rivalry. A serpent in the ranks.
Florentine investigator Guid’Antonio Vespucci returns to Florence from a government mission to find his dreams of success shattered. Life is good—but then a wealthy merchant dies from mushroom poisoning at Guid’Antonio’s Saint John’s Day table, and Guid’Antonio’s servant is charged with murder. Convinced of the youth’s innocence and fearful the killer may strike again, Guid’Antonio launches a private investigation into the merchant’s death, unaware that at the same time, powerful enemies are conspiring to overthrow the Florentine Republic—and him. A clever, richly evocative tale for lovers of medieval and renaissance mysteries everywhere, The Hearts of All on Fire is a timeless story of family relationships coupled with themes of love, loss, betrayal, and, above all, hope in a challenging world.

 

Buy Links:

Universal Link: https://books2read.com/u/md1RGZ

Amazon UK:
Kindle: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hearts-All-Fire-Alana-White-ebook/dp/B0BGJ1XHXS/
Paperback: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hearts-All-Fire-Alana-White/dp/1639884211

Amazon US:
Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/Hearts-All-Fire-Alana-White-ebook/dp/B0BGJ1XHXS/
Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/Hearts-All-Fire-Alana-White/dp/1639884211/

Amazon Canada:
Kindle: https://www.amazon.ca/Hearts-All-Fire-Alana-White-ebook/dp/B0BGJ1XHXS/
Paperback: https://www.amazon.ca/Hearts-All-Fire-Alana-White/dp/1639884211/

Amazon Australia:
Kindle: https://www.amazon.com.au/Hearts-All-Fire-Alana-White-ebook/dp/B0BGJ1XHXS/
Paperback: https://www.amazon.com.au/Hearts-All-Fire-Alana-White/dp/1639884211


Barnes & Noble:
Paperback: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-hearts-of-all-on-fire-alana-white/1141662345

Bookshop:
Paperback: https://bookshop.org/books/the-hearts-of-all-on-fire/9781639884216

Waterstones:
Paperback: https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-hearts-of-all-on-fire/alana-white/9781639884216

Parnassus Books (Nashville, Tennessee)
Paperback: https://www.parnassusbooks.net/book/9781639884216


Alana White author photoAuthor Bio:

Alana White’s passion for Renaissance Italy has taken her to Florence for research on the Vespucci and Medici families on numerous occasions. There along cobbled streets unchanged over the centuries, she traces their footsteps, listening to their imagined voices, including that of her protagonist, Guid’Antonio Vespucci, and his friends, Sandro Botticelli, Michelangelo, Lorenzo de’ Medici.

Alana’s first short story featuring real-life fifteenth-century lawyer Guid’Antonio Vespucci and his favorite nephew, Amerigo Vespucci, was a Macavity Award finalist and led to the Guid’Antonio Vespucci Mystery Series featuring “The Sign of the Weeping Virgin” (Book I) and “The Hearts of All on Fire” (Book II).

She is a member of the Women’s National Book Association and the Historical Novel Society, among other organizations. She loves hearing from readers, and you can contact her at her website, http://www.alanawhite.com.

Social Media Links:

Website: http://www.alanawhite.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AlanaWhite1480

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

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/feed/

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

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/writerawhite/

 

Book Review: “Pursuing a Masterpiece: A Novel” by Sandra Vasoli

63226327._SY475_What if you found information about a mysterious portrait that would radically change how we view history forever? Who would you tell? When Zara Rossi entered the Ancient Manuscripts Room at the Papal Archives in Rome, she never imagined how a single letter would change her life and the Tudor community. Each piece of the puzzle unlocks a new story from the past and allows Zara to explore the remarkable tale of this masterpiece. Follow the clues with Zara Rossi to solve this mystery from the past in Sandra Vasoli’s latest book, “Pursuing a Masterpiece: A Novel.”

Thank you, Sandra Vasoli and GreyLondon Press, for sending me a copy of this novel. I am always looking for a new way to incorporate Tudor history into a story, so when I heard the description of this particular book, I was captivated.

Zara Rossi begins her adventure into the past by going to the Ancient Manuscripts Room and the Papal Archives, which is an immense honor as you have to be invited even to have a chance to go into the Archives. She is looking for personal letters of Pope Clement VII to find his reaction to Henry VIII’s split from Rome. Instead, she found a letter from the Grand Master of the Order of St. John, Villiers de L’lsle-Adam, about a double portrait of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.

As Zara uncovers the tale with each clue in the modern age, Vasoli introduces her audience to a colorful cast of characters that span centuries. Starting in the 16th century, we are introduced to Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, his advisors, Hans Holbein the Younger, and the Court Astronomer Nikolaus Kratzer. We also become acquainted with the Order of St. John and rebellious Catholics horrified by this painting. But, we do not stay in the 16th century for long as Vasoli transports her readers to the middle of an 18th-century swashbuckling pirate adventure in the Caribbean that ends up in France with a murder, a trip on the Titanic with a fashion designer for the rich and famous, and an encounter with scoundrels from World War II at Hever Castle.

Vasoli created a complex yet spectacular story of pursuing the truth that will rock the academic world with vibrant characters and compelling cases. Zara is a main character that I could personally relate to, and while I was reading, I was hoping she would find her way to not only the truth about the painting but for her to be happy with her family and friends. Her desire to uncover the truth, no matter the cost, is genuinely admirable. I wanted to know if Zara would ever find the truth, but at the same time, I did not want the story to end.

Vasoli created a masterpiece by not only creating a thought-provoking fictitious double portrait of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn but a novel that is unlike anything I have read. It’s a love letter to the past and those who pursue the truth behind even the smallest fragment left by our ancestors. If you want a thrilling Tudor-based historical fiction novel, “Pursuing a Masterpiece: A Novel” by Sandra Vasoli is a must-read.

Book Review: “Queens of the Age of Chivalry: England’s Medieval Queens” by Alison Weir

cover263156-mediumWhen we think of the title “medieval queen,” a few things come to mind. They were seen as mere trophy wives who were only suitable for making alliances and giving birth to children. It may be a cruel assessment for a modern audience, but that was the reality of the medieval world. However, the late Plantagenet queens decided to step outside the socially acceptable path for their lives and forged a new one. In Alison Weir’s latest nonfiction book, “Queens of the Age of Chivalry: England’s Medieval Queens,” she explores the lives of five Plantagenet queens who had to adapt quickly to the ever-changing world of late medieval England.

Thank you, Ballantine Books and Net Galley, for sending me a copy of this book. I have read and enjoyed the previous books in England’s Medieval Queens series, and I wanted to see which queens would be included in this book.

The years covered in this book are 1299-1399, a time of turmoil, change, and the plague. During that time, five queens forever left their marks on England: Marguerite of France, Isabella of France, Philippa of Hainault, Anne of Bohemia, and Isabella of Valois. Their royal husbands were Edward I, Edward II, Edward III, and Richard II. Since these queens were foreign brides, it was a balancing act between what their home country expected of them and what England expected their new queen to do, which was, in most cases, to give birth to heirs and to stay out of politics.

We begin with Marguerite of France, who was the second wife of Edward I and the step-mother of Edward II; her most extraordinary claim to fame was to try and prevent her son from ever seeing Piers Gaveston, which sadly did not last long. Isabella of France had to deal with Edward II’s favoritism to not only Piers Gaveston but to Hugh Despenser the Younger. This led her to join Roger Mortimer and rebel against her husband. This decision would create a black cloud around her reputation for centuries.

As part of the rebellion, Edward III married Philippa of Hainault, who was the closest of these five queens to be the ideal medieval queen. She gave Edward III many heirs that would help define future generations. Richard II’s first wife, Anne of Bohemia, was the essence of sophistication, but her death sent him reeling, forcing him to take a child bride named Isabella of Valois.

Being a queen in the late medieval period was not easy, especially with the Black Death, the Hundred Years’ War, the Peasants’ Revolt, and internal struggles were constantly in play, but the five queens mentioned in this book were able to navigate this tumultuous time to create their legacies. Weir once again weaves fun facts and compelling tales of each queen to give her readers her perspective on their true legacies. If you have enjoyed the previous books in “England’s Medieval Queens” series, I would highly recommend you read “Queens of the Age of Chivalry: England’s Medieval Queens” by Alison Weir.

Book Review: “Power, Treason, and Plot in Tudor England: Margaret Clitherow, an Elizabethan Saint” by Tony Morgan

60530456 (1)The Tudor dynasty was a time of significant political change, but it was also a time of tremendous religious change. Each Tudor monarch had a different view on the divide between Catholics and Protestants. Although we have an idea of what it might have been like during the reign of Mary I, the way Elizabeth I tackled the issue of religion during her reign. One story of how Catholics were treated in the so-called “Golden Age” of Elizabethan England is the story of Margaret Clitherow. She helped hide a couple of Catholic priests and ended up suffering for her actions by being crushed to death. Tony Morgan tells her story and how she became a Catholic martyr in his book, “Power, Treason, and Plot in Tudor England: Margaret Clitherow, an Elizabethan Saint.”

Thank you, Pen and Sword Books and Casemate, for sending me a copy of this book. I have heard the name Margaret Clitherow mentioned a few times in books about Elizabeth I, but I found out about her tragic tale.

With each monarch came dramatic changes, and by the time Elizabeth was on the throne, Protestants were safe, and Catholics were on the run. Morgan breaks each chapter into sections: how England was changing, how York was dealing with the changes, and how the changes in York affected Margaret Clitherow and her family. It is a great way to give the audience an understanding of why these changes involved a family of business owners like the Middletons and her husband, John Clitherow, a butcher. Margaret was raised to be a Protestant, but in her heart, she would always be a Catholic recusant.

Margaret Clitherow was no stranger to prison, as she had landed behind bars several times before her last case. In it, she was convicted of hiding a couple of Catholic priests, which was against the act of 1585 known as the “Act Against Jesuits, Seminary Priests and Such Other Like Disobedient Persons.” When brought to court, Margaret refused to plead either guilty or not guilty, creating a dilemma; the court ultimately decided she was guilty and sentenced her to death by being crushed by large rocks. What we know of the trial and execution is due to the book by Father John Mush called “A True Report of the Life and Martyrdom of Mrs. Margaret Clitherow.”

I found some parts of the book a tad dry, but that was because it dealt with religious politics and new laws. When it came to the actual story of Margaret Clitherow and her family drama, Morgan did an excellent job of introducing his audience to a new figure who fought for what she believed was right until the bitter end. If you want a book that teaches you about the Catholic resistance during the Elizabethan era and wants to know about Margaret Clitherow, “Power, Treason, and Plot in Tudor England: Margaret Clitherow, an Elizabethan Saint” by Tony Morgan should be on your list of books to read.

Book Review: “Medieval Royal Mistresses: Mischievous Women who Slept with Kings and Princes” by Julia A. Hickey

61816116When we think about royal relationships from the past, we do not associate them with love; it is more about cementing power. Princes and kings knew how much was at stake, so they tended to have wives for politics and produce legitimate heirs that would inherit their kingdoms. For matters of love and lust, kings and princes would have mistresses, either of noble birth or lower, on the side. These women have been deemed whores and homewreckers but is that a fair assessment of their legacies? Julia A. Hickey takes a closer look at these misunderstood mistresses in her latest book, “Medieval Royal Mistresses: Mischievous Women who Slept with Kings and Princes.”

Thank you, Pen and Sword Books and Net Galley, for sending me a copy of this book. When I saw this title, it intrigued me, and I was hoping to learn something new.

Hickey covers several hundred years in this book, starting around the year 1000 and ending in 1485. We begin with Queen Emma, Aelfgifu, and the confusion of whether Aelfgifu should be considered a mistress. With these Anglo-Saxon and Norman kings of England, we see many relatively hidden mistresses of William I and Henry I (who had quite a few). We then move to the Plantagenets with Henry II, King John, Edward II, Edward III, and Edward IV. Hickey also pays attention to other affairs in different countries, such as King David of Scotland and the Tour de Neste Affair.

Some of these mistresses would be familiar to readers, such as Isabella of Angouleme, Fair Rosamund, Piers Gaveston, Alice Perrers, Katherine Swynford, Isabella of France and Roger Mortimer, Jane Shore, Eleanor Talbot, and Elizabeth Woodville. Many were new to me, including Princess Nest of Wales, whose abduction started a war, Edith Forne Sigulfson, and Elizabeth Wayte. She even included Eleanor of Aquitaine as one of the mistresses mentioned in this book, which I’m afraid I have to disagree with, as most of this stems from the black legend that has tainted her legacy.

I found the information provided in this book rather intriguing, but my one concern about this book was how it was structured. I wish Hickey had sections marked for each king she mentioned in this book so we could distinguish which mistress was associated with which king or prince.

Overall, I found this book enjoyable and informative. It was a bit repetitive, and there were some arguments that I disagreed with. Still, the fact that Hickey could combine nearly 500 years’ worth of history about relatively hidden royal mistresses is quite admirable. Suppose you want a solid introduction to medieval England’s world of royal mistresses. In that case, I recommend you read “Medieval Royal Mistresses: Mischievous Women who Slept with Kings and Princes” by Julia A. Hickey.

Guest Post: “What Makes a Historical Novel Seem ‘Authentic’?” by Carolyn Hughes

Squire's Hazard Tour BannerToday, I am pleased to welcome Carolyn Hughes to my blog to discuss the topic, “what makes a historical novel seem ‘authentic’” as part of the blog tour for her latest novel, “Squire’s Hazard,” the fifth book in her Meonbridge Chronicle series. Thank you, The Coffee Pot Book Club and Carolyn Hughes, for allowing me to be part of this blog tour. 

I love reading and writing historical fiction. My series of novels, The Meonbridge Chronicles, is set in fourteenth-century rural Hampshire. Though, the last three books, De Bohun’s Destiny, Children’s Fate, and Squire’s Hazard, do have scenes set elsewhere as well. The novels mostly focus on the lives of “ordinary people,” and in particular, the common people of fictional Meonbridge, though both De Bohun’s Destiny and Squire’s Hazard also depict the lives of the gentry too. But the novels are not about politics or war, or royals or heroes, but are rather the “everyday stories of country folk,” and my particular writing pleasure is trying to recreate their world in which readers can immerse themselves. 

And to make that world feel natural requires both “authenticity” and a little “strangeness,” so here are a few thoughts on how I try to achieve this…

Although my novels are not about “history,” history does provide the important factual context in which my characters’ fictional lives are set. The novels are set in a specific time, and each one follows on from the previous one after a two or three years gap. Mostly, what was going on in England as a whole is not important to the Chronicles’ stories. But that isn’t the case for Fortune’s Wheel, the first Chronicle, or the fourth one, Children’s Fate, where what we call the Black Death – plague – underlies the premise for the stories. In Children’s Fate, too, I describe a devastating storm that occurred in January 1363. I write about it because it emphasizes the horror that people had already been suffering in the previous months when the plague was killing children and young people when it must have seemed as if the world was coming to an end.

What was it like to live then? I enjoy depicting what we know or can deduce about how people lived – their homes, clothes, food, tools, and working practices – and showing everyday life as authentically as possible. Portraying the environment, in particular – people’s homes and their interactions with the world outside – can also help to give an authentic-seeming picture.

For example, in my depictions of peasants’ homes, I try to show how generally cramped, dark and smoky they were and, in bad weather, cold and damp. I don’t dwell on the unpleasantness but don’t shy away from it when required. Part of me thinks the grimness would be in our eyes rather than theirs. The Chronicles are told in the voices of the characters, not from the perspective of an omniscient narrator, and my feeling is that the people wouldn’t necessarily notice those things that we would find hard to cope with. Trying to put me into my characters’ shoes, to imagine the minutiae of their daily lives, is what I see so fascinating about writing about the past and what I hope contributes to that sense of authenticity.

Some readers might think I’m obsessed with the weather! Weather does play a big part in my novels, for it surely affected medieval people’s lives far more than it does ours (here in England, at any rate). If you owned only, at most, two sets of clothes, how miserable was it to work outdoors in the rain and come home all wet, with just a small hearth fire (no radiators or tumble dryer…)? Drying clothes must have been so difficult! No book has yet told me exactly what they did, so, putting myself in their shoes, I assume they arranged their clothes around the fire, on some sort of rack, perhaps, and that they possibly slept in their damp clothes – sometimes, anyway – to help dry them out. A pretty ghastly prospect! Yet what else could they do?

Depicting the physical aspects of daily life is important, but almost more important – and yet more difficult – is portraying the intangible aspects. Sexuality, religion, superstition, ideas, and sensibilities, in general, are trickier. The difficulty lies in transporting oneself as a writer into their very different mindsets. Fourteenth-century people must have been like us in many ways, yet also unlike us in many others, and tapping into those dissimilarities is a challenge and, perhaps, one of the principal points – and pleasures – of writing historical fiction.

For example, the Church was central to daily life: in prayers and oaths, influencing people’s view of their position in society, directing how they ran their lives to an extent that we would consider deeply interfering. The fourteenth century was also a world where what we consider natural (or man-made) disasters, such as ruinous weather, famine, and plague, were presumed to be God’s punishment for man’s sin. These aspects of life need to be portrayed in a way that shows the differences in people’s thinking, yet without making them seem alien – they were still individuals with ambitions and concerns, emotions and desires.

Historical fiction is sometimes criticized for failing to portray the past’s strangeness (the “foreign country”). Beyond religion and superstition are aspects of belief that modern readers are likely to find obscure or even bizarre: religious charms, relics, magic and spells, monsters, weird concepts, and seemingly fantastical happenings that today can be explained or dismissed. All of these were normal to people of the time, yet they need careful handling in a novel. “Magic and monsters” might have been part of a medieval person’s ordinary belief, but they are the opposite: we tend to consider them fantastical, not commonplace. And a danger of introducing such elements – however natural they might have been to a medieval mind – is that the novel might seem to the modern reader to be less historical fiction than fantasy. Achieving a sense of naturalness requires a balance between the authentic past and the skeptical present. This aspect of writing historical fiction makes it both a challenge and a pleasure. 

Squire-Final-working.inddBlurb:

How do you overcome the loathing, lust, and bitterness threatening you and your family’s honour?

It’s 1363, and in Steyning Castle, Sussex, Dickon de Bohun is enjoying life as a squire in the household of Earl Raoul de Fougère. Or he would be if it weren’t for Edwin de Courtenay, who’s making his life a misery with his bullying, threatening to expose the truth about Dickon’s birth.

At home in Meonbridge for Christmas, Dickon notices how grown-up his childhood playmate, Libby Fletcher, has become since he last saw her and feels the stirrings of desire. Libby, seeing how different he is, too, falls instantly in love. But as a servant to Dickon’s grandmother, Lady Margaret de Bohun, she could never be his wife.

Margery Tyler, Libby’s aunt, meeting her niece by chance and learns of her passion for young Dickon. Their conversation rekindles Margery’s long-held rancor against the de Bohuns, whom she blames for all the ills that befell her family, including her own servitude. For years she’s hidden her hunger for retribution, but she can no longer keep her hostility in check.

As the future Lord of Meonbridge, Dickon knows he must rise above de Courtenay’s loathing and intimidation and get the better of him. And, surely, he must master his lust for Libby so his own mother’s shocking history is not repeated? Of Margery’s bitterness, however, he has yet to learn…

Beset by the hazards these powerful and dangerous emotions bring, can young Dickon summon up the courage and resolve to overcome them?

Secrets, hatred, and betrayal, but also love and courage – Squire’s Hazard, the fifth MEONBRIDGE CHRONICLE.

Buy Links:

This book is available to read on #KindleUnlimited.

Universal Link: https://books2read.com/u/bW5yJz 

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Squires-Hazard-Meonbridge-Chronicle-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B0BHKH1QB1/ 

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Squires-Hazard-Meonbridge-Chronicle-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B0BHKH1QB1/ 

Amazon CA: https://www.amazon.ca/Squires-Hazard-Meonbridge-Chronicle-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B0BHKH1QB1/ 

Amazon AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/Squires-Hazard-Meonbridge-Chronicle-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B0BHKH1QB1/ 

The paperback is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Waterstones. 

Carolyn Hughes authorAuthor Bio:

CAROLYN HUGHES has lived much of her life in Hampshire. With a first degree in Classics and English, she started working life as a computer programmer, then a very new profession. But it was technical authoring that later proved her vocation, as she wrote and edited material, some fascinating, some dull, for an array of different clients, including banks, an international hotel group, and medical instruments manufacturers.

Having written creatively for most of her adult life, it was not until her children flew the nest several years ago that writing historical fiction took centre stage, alongside gaining a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Portsmouth University and a Ph.D. from the University of Southampton.

Squire’s Hazard is the fifth MEONBRIDGE CHRONICLE, and more stories about the folk of Meonbridge will follow.

You can connect with Carolyn through her website http://www.carolynhughesauthor.com and on social media.

Social Media Links:

Website: http://www.carolynhughesauthor.com 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/writingcalliope 

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

Book Bub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/carolyn-hughes 

Amazon Author Page UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Carolyn-Hughes/e/B01MG5TWH1/ 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16048212.Carolyn_Hughes 

Book Review: “The Marriage Portrait” by Maggie O’Farrell

62237869A 16-year-old duchess, who lived a sheltered life, died in a remote villa after only being married to her husband, Alfonso Duke of Ferrera, for a mere year. Many suspect that she died of a fever, but there are rumors that her husband had her poisoned. Not much is known about Lucrezia de Medici, Duchess of Ferrara, except her marriage portrait and a brief mention of her in Robert Browning’s poem, “My Last Duchess.” Did she die of a fever, or was there a more sinister plot behind her demise? The mystery around her life and unexpected death have not been discussed much until now in Maggie O’Farrell’s latest novel, “The Marriage Portrait.”

The last book I read by Maggie O’Farrell, “Hamnet,” was such an emotional ride for me, so when I heard that she would dive back into the 16th century with her latest novel, I was excited. I will admit that I had never heard the story of Lucrezia de Medici, so I was curious to see how O’Farrell would tell her tale.

We begin in the villa with Alfonso and Lucrezia, where Lucrezia feels uneasy and fearful for her life, but to understand why we must go back in time. We then jump to the past and Lucrezia’s childhood as the daughter of Cosimo I de Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, and his wife Eleanor of Toledo. Lucrezia’s youth should be filled with balls and glamor, but she is different than her siblings and is treated as almost an outcast in her own family. Her only solace is her maid Sofia, who acts more like her mother, and her love of the arts.

As a daughter of nobility, Lucrezia knows that she will have to marry a noble one day, but it comes sooner than expected when her eldest sister dies, and she is betrothed to Alfonso, Duke of Ferrara. Her marriage to Alfonso begins smoothly; Alfonso is loving and caring, allowing Lucrezia to pursue her passions and have the freedom she desires. He even allows for a portrait painted in her honor to show the world how regal his bride is and how much he loves her. However, as time passes, Alfonso’s more erratic side shows its ugly head, and Lucrezia sees how dangerous her husband can be to those who displease him.

I will admit that it took me a while to get used to how this particular book was structured, as O’Farrell jumps from the present to the past in every other chapter and presents Lucrezia’s story in a very artistic way. I am unsure if Lucrezia was an outcast in her family, but I believe she could have been an artist and viewed the world differently than her family. As for Lucrezia’s relationship with her husband Alfonso, I think it is plausible that he had a more erratic side to him, especially when it came to those who displeased him. Still, I am not sure that he was responsible for her death.

This novel was thought-provoking and engaging with an unlikely protagonist in Lucrezia de Medici. Even though you know she will die at the end, you will root for Lucrezia and hope that she can find even the slightest thread of happiness in her short life. I found this an utterly gripping novel, and I hope O’Farrell will write more stories set in 16th-century Italy. If you want a thrilling book about a young noblewoman living during the Italian Renaissance, “The Marriage Portrait” by Maggie O’Farrell should be at the top of your to-be-read list.

Book Review: “The Godmother’s Secret” by Elizabeth St. John

62232439When one says “the Princes in the Tower,” a few images pop into our mind. Two young boys were killed in the Tower by their evil uncle, who would become King Richard III. At least, that is the image that the Tudors wanted the world to see, and for centuries, that story has often been told. However, as research has expanded into who Richard III was, the tale of these two boys and their ultimate fate has become even murkier with new suspects and the question of whether the boys were murdered. Elizabeth St. John decided to take on the mystery of the Princes of the Tower with her twist to the tale in her latest novel, “The Godmother’s Secret.”

Thank you, Elizabeth St. John, for sending me a copy of your latest novel. I have found the mystery of the Princes of the Tower fascinating, and when I heard that this novel had a different angle to their tale, I knew I wanted to read it.

We begin our journey by introducing Lady Elysabeth Scrope, the wife of John Scrope and the half-sister to Margaret Beaufort, going into the sanctuary with Elizabeth Woodville. She is there to act as the godmother for Elizabeth Woodville’s first son, the future King Edward V, at the request of King Henry VI. Elysabeth is reluctant to help the Yorkist cause, as she was raised as a Lancastrian, but her husband is loyal to the Yorkists. She promises to keep Edward safe from harm, which would prove more challenging with the death of King Edward IV in 1483.

This should be a happy time for Elysabeth, John, and the new King Edward V, but a sermon and a coup caused everything to come crashing down. Edward and his brother Richard are removed to the Tower of London while their uncle becomes King Richard III. Along the way, Margaret Beaufort schemes to get her beloved son, Henry Tudor, to become the next king of England. Torn between her blood family and her family built by loyalty, Elysabeth must navigate the ever-changing political field of 1483-1485 to protect the princes, no matter the cost.

I thoroughly enjoyed being introduced to Lady Elysabeth Scrope and John Scrope and seeing the events unfold while they weathered the political storm the best they could. St. John has created a believable and compelling story about what might have happened to these two boys whose disappearance has captured our imaginations for centuries. She attempts to answer some age-old questions, like what might have happened to the boys, did Richard III have them killed, and did Margaret Beaufort have something to do with the princes’ disappearance? Suppose you want an engaging novel that gives a different perspective about what might have happened to the Princes in the Tower. In that case, I highly recommend you read “The Godmother’s Secret” by Elizabeth St. John.

Book Review: “House of Tudor: A Grisly History” by Mickey Mayhew

59607093._SY475_The glitzy, glamorous life of the Tudors portrayed in popular TV shows and novels mask the truth of this infamous dynasty. It is more bloody than what has been described. It is filled with grotesque executions, deadly diseases, bloody battles, and bloody battles. What happened to Richard III’s remains? What was Tudor torture like for those unfortunate victims? What were other devious tales at play in 16th-century Europe? Mickey Mayhew has worked hard to answer these questions by combining 45 of the most gruesome stories from this dynasty into one book, “The House of Tudor: A Grisly History.”

Thank you, Pen and Sword Books and Casemate Group, for sending me a copy of this book. I am always looking for a new book about the Tudors, so when I heard about this one, I decided that the perfect time to read it would be in October.

Mayhew begins the grotesque journey into the Tudor dynasty by exploring what happened to the previous king before Henry VII, Richard III, and his remains. We then jump into the reign of King Henry VIII with the tale of Catherine of Aragon and the head of King James IV of Scotland. It is then that Mayhew dives into the tumultuous reign of the big man, his unfortunate wives, and his ministers who got caught in the middle of all that tantalizing Tudor drama.

After the death of King Henry VIII, the political drama got more intense, as did the political and religious motivated executions. From the minute reign of Lady Jane Grey to the “bloody” albeit misnamed reign of Mary I to the colorful reign of Elizabeth I. Sprinkled in the chapters of these English queens were chapters dedicated to Mary Queen of Scots, Catherine de Medici, and the courts of Scotland and France, which were equally brutal as their English counterparts. We have plots plenty with the Babington, Ridolfi, and the smaller-scale Parry plot. Naturally, with schemes came rebellions and political assassinations that dominated 16-century Europe, especially in Tudor England, and numerous deadly diseases.

Mayhew categorized each chapter in chronological order with rather witty titles, which I appreciate in more academic writing. He does not shy away from the gory details, which adds another element to stories that are familiar to those who are Tudor fans. If you want something spooky to read in October or know more about the darker side of Tudor history, I recommend reading “House of Tudor: A Grisly History” by Mickey Mayhew.

Guest Post: Excerpt from “The Conjuror’s Apprentice” by G.J. Williams

The Conjuror’s ApprenticeI am pleased to welcome G.J. Williams to my blog today to share an excerpt from her latest novel, “The Conjuror’s Apprentice.” I want to thank G.J. Williams and The Coffee Pot Book Club for allowing me to be part of this blog tour. 

John Dee stared at the letter, then at Cecil. ‘The letter must have been penned by someone who has sight of this household – and the same person who planted the letter on Jonas.’

The master of the house nodded and put his head in his hands, propelling Mildred to cross the room and put her hand on his shoulder. He glanced up and patted her fingers. ‘Are you quite sure what you read, my dear?’

‘Yes. You heard the words yourself. The letter is to someone who wants testimony of your movements. The scrivener speaks of your visits to Lady Elizabeth. Each one is listed. They even know you are due to visit her again this week.’ Her lips pinched together in anxiety. ‘They state that you hide a book of Elizabeth’s treachery to protect her.’ Mildred looked at John Dee. ‘Why would they make up such stories of us?’

But next to her, Cecil did not move. He kept staring at the wood of his desk, his brow crinkled in thought. A slight flush spread across his cheeks.

Margaretta shifted in her seat, the feelings rising inside her. Dread. Something you’ve done. A secret. You imagine being arrested. You are hiding something. She leaned forward, touched John Dee’s sleeve, and whispered, ‘Mae e’n cuddio rhywbeth.’ He hides something.

Cecil’s eyes darted to her. ‘I do not speak my forefathers’ tongue with ease. What did you say?’

Thank the Lord John Dee stepped in. ‘She says she must away to the kitchen and her chores soon.’ He leaned forward and dropped his voice to a cajoling purr. ‘Is there anything you have secreted, my friend? Better we know.’

Cecil sat up straight and cleared his throat. His wife’s fingers tightened on his shoulder as she looked down, beginning to frown. Her husband looked at the window as if searching for the right words. ‘I…I…hold a book belonging to the Lady Elizabeth. Nothing treasonous. Just her thoughts.’ He swallowed and looked to Dee, a faint beseeching in his eyes.

The room was silent.

Panic. Confusion. It is you, Lady Mildred. Anger.

John Dee leaned forward again, keeping the low, calm voice. ‘Where is this book?’

‘Mildred’s library. Well hidden among the religious texts.’ At this, Lady Cecil gave a short, sharp cry and snatched her hand away from her husband. She walked to the window and put her hands on the glass. They could see her kirtle move with her fearful breathing. Then she turned and faced him, her face pale and fixed in fury. ‘You brought secrets here and put us all in danger? Have your senses left you, husband?’ Her voice was slow and cold.

In an instant, he was on his feet, rebutting her challenge with indignation. ‘No, Mildred. I was showing loyalty to a fragile girl wracked with fears. She is under constant suspicion.

So, when she was summoned to court to attend her sister’s birthing, she dared not take it with her nor leave it behind. I am the only one she trusts. What could I do? Abandon her?’

‘And what is in this book, William?’ asked Dee.

‘Her thoughts on regency. She speaks of a fair rule; of religious tolerance rather than the burning we live with today; of making this land great again and not a puppet of Spain.’

Cecil dropped his head forward, and his voice fell to a murmur. ‘She speaks of a golden age in which men thrive, not fear life.’

Dee sighed. ‘So, she speaks of being queen.’ He waited until Cecil nodded. ‘So, with Mary expecting her own son to succeed her, it is a tome of treason.’ He gave a small laugh. ‘Making my conjuring look pale in comparison.’

Cecil bristled. ‘No. It is a volume of hope. The only treason lies with those who would put a Spanish prince as our ruler.’

He gave a low growl. ‘For the love of God, they circle court like hawks awaiting the death of Mary and her babe so they can grasp power while England mourns.’

John Dee opened his palms in question. ‘Mary herself made Philip King of England. Not a prince. Not her consort. A king.’

Cecil wheeled round. ‘Elizabeth is the rightful heir to the throne. Not a Spanish puppet of the Catholic Pope. A woman of true faith…Protestantism.’

‘So, if Elizabeth aspires to be queen, she is the single threat to the supporters of Philip.’ John Dee pointed an accusing finger. ‘And that book sets out her ambition.’ He paused. ‘That book will take her to the Tower and her death for treason… and someone in your household knows of it. They also know your involvement.’

From the window, Lady Cecil spoke. ‘And her treasonous book is in this house. And somebody knows it.’ She turned to look through the glass onto the bustling street below. ‘May God save us.’

9781915194190Blurb

Born with the ability to hear thoughts and feelings when there is no sound, Margaretta Morgan’s strange gift sees her apprenticed to Doctor John Dee, a mathematician, astronomer, and alchemist. Using her secret link with the hidden side and her master’s brilliance, Margaretta faces her first murder mystery. Margaretta and Dee must uncover the evil bound to unravel the court of Bloody Mary. 

The year is 1555. This is a time ruled by fear. What secrets await to be pulled from the water?

The Conjuror’s Apprentice takes real people and true events in 1555, into which G J Williams weaves a tale of murder and intrigue. Appealing to readers of crime and well-researched historical fiction alike, this is the first in a series which will follow the life, times, plots, and murders of the Tudor Court.

Trigger Warnings:

Descriptions of bodies and the injuries that brought about their death. 

Threat of torture; description of man who has been tortured.

Buy Links

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Conjurors-Apprentice-G-J-Williams/dp/1915194199

Waterstones

https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-conjurors-apprentice/g-j-williams/9781915194190

RedDoor

https://www.reddoorpress.co.uk/products/the-conjurors-apprentice?_pos=1&_sid=30c68d694&_ss=r

Gwenllian Author photoAuthor Bio 

After a career as a business psychologist for city firms, G.J. Williams has returned to her first passion – writing tales of murder, mystery, and intrigue. Her psychology background, melded with a love of medieval history, draws her to the twists and turns of the human mind, subconscious powers, and the dark side of people who want too much. 

She lives between Somerset and London in the UK and is regularly found writing on a train next to a grumpy cat and a bucket of tea.

 

Social Media Links:

Twitter: https://mobile.twitter.com/gjwilliams92