Book Review: “Eleanor of Aquitaine: Queen of France and England, Mother of Empires” by Sara Cockerill

eleanor of aquitaineWhen we think of the infamous queens of England, some names come to mind, but one rises to the top for the number of black myths and influence surrounding her name: Eleanor of Aquitaine. The orphaned Duchess of Aquitaine, who married the future King Louis VII of France, went on the Second Crusades with her husband, survived battles and kidnappings, and ended up divorcing her first husband because she couldn’t give a male son. So, she married the young Count of Anjou, who would become the first king of the Plantagenet dynasty, King Henry II, who had a large family and split her time between England and France. Eleanor would eventually side with her sons, rebel against Henry, and spend 15 years in prison. A fire-cracker of a queen, but how many of the stories surrounding the titular queen are true? In her latest biography, “Eleanor of Aquitaine: Queen of France and England, Mother of Empires,” Sara Cockerill dives deep into the archives to tell the true story of this much-maligned queen of England and France.

I want to thank Amberley Publishing for sending me a copy of this book. I have enjoyed reading books about Eleanor of Aquitaine, and when I heard about this biography, I was fascinated. A few of my history friends have read this book and enjoyed it, so I wanted to see what the hype was about regarding this particular title.

Cockerill begins by showing what myths are typically associated with Eleanor of Aquitaine and how these myths have developed over time. She explains that Eleanor was a much more subdued queen than we imagined her to be and that her dive into the primary sources will show her readers the true Eleanor of Aquitaine. Cockerill then moves into the history of the Duchy of Aquitaine and Eleanor’s family, shaping her into the ruler and mother she would become.

The bulk of this book explores Eleanor of Aquitaine’s married life, first to King Louis VII of France and then to King Henry II of England. As Queen of France, Eleanor had two daughters, went on the Second Crusades, was kidnapped by pirates, and saw numerous battles. Eleanor’s reputation was blackened during the Crusades with the alleged Affair at Antioch. Still, Cockerill takes the time to go through the origins of each myth and show what might have happened according to the primary sources available. With the demise of the marriage of Eleanor and Louis VII, we see how Eleanor met Henry II and how her time as Queen of England was different than her time as Queen of France. We see her relationships with her sons and daughters and how her marriage with Henry went sour.

Most of the primary sources Sara Cockerill explores are charters that Eleanor of Aquitaine worked on as Duchess of Aquitaine and as Queen of France and England. This means it is more academic, and for casual history lovers, it can come across as a bit dry in some places. Overall, I found this a compelling retelling of Eleanor of Aquitaine’s story that gave me a lot to think about her and her time. Suppose you want a new biography that will present a fresh approach to the life and times of Eleanor of Aquitaine. In that case, I highly recommend you read “Eleanor of Aquitaine: Queen of France and England, Mother of Empires” by Sara Cockerill.

Guest Post: “Excerpt from ‘Close Your Eyes- A Fairy Tale’ by Chris Tomasini

Close Your Eyes A Fairy Tale Tour BannerI am pleased to welcome Chris Tomasini to my blog today to share an excerpt from his novel, “Close Your Eyes- A Fairy Tale.” I would like to thank Chris Tomasini and The Coffee Pot Book Club for allowing me to be part of this tour. 

Tycho

The first year Tycho spent with us at Gora, he was like a child running frenzied through a kitchen full of Christmas delicacies. The gossip which arose about him was voluminous. I often sat in the castle kitchen, a mug of beer in my hand, listening to what the women said about the boy. What amused me most, as I watched them roll their eyes when his name was again mentioned in a less than lustrous light, was that they adored Tycho. They pretended they didn’t, not wishing to be teased, but I could see it in their eyes, in their rapt attention when the boy walked into a room, in their troubled breathing when he touched his hands to their shoulders or hair.

I don’t know what drew them to him, but it was much more than his youth and good looks. He was playful and irreverent, and the aura of foreign lands hung about him. Tycho could speak a dozen languages fluently, he could tell those magical stories, twinkle his eyes seemingly at will, and when they twinkled for you, it felt like you were sharing something with him, a sort of blissful astonishment at being alive.

It was also in the way he moved. Tycho eased through a room like a breeze across a field. He was around you; you raised your face to allow the wind to sweep close, and then he was gone, around a table, talking to someone else. He was here and there, here and gone, coming and going, a smile for you, a smile for someone else, and from watching him in the kitchen, in the dining hall, amongst crowds, I think what made him so sought after was that people felt a need to be alone with him, to possess him unreservedly, if only for a few short moments.

I have spoken, in the years since he left, to many people about Tycho. I asked the women why they chased him, why they desired him when he was unabashedly a scamp who was sleeping with every woman in the castle. I asked other of our friends why it felt such a privilege to be alone with him, and I think we all knew, unconsciously, that the road was not yet done with Tycho and that he had only been given to us for a short time.

Ahab has spoken to me of a Greek historian named Herodotus and of his fascination with a people named the Scythians, who lived around the Black Sea. Ahab thought that Tycho resembled these people, who did not live in cities or settle farms, but rather followed their herds of cattle across endless prairies, riding on wagons, carrying their tents with them. The Greek word for this way of life was aporia – to be a nomad, to be without a home, to be inaccessible to others.

I have been a child of the road. I lived that life for three years, and Ahab, with his delight in things ancient, things intellectual, did not grasp the fundamental difference between Tycho and the Scythians. To be a Scythian, I imagine, was to carry your life with you – your family, your belongings, your past, your history. But Tycho was a single boy, an orphan, alone upon a road.

The road forces you to decide if your destination is worth the hardship – making this decision is the traveler’s burden. But Tycho was more than a traveler. He was a wanderer who did not even have a destination. I think it was this sadness which many of us saw in the boy beneath the charm and the winning smile. We saw the sadness of a soul which would forever be in transit, which would never know a home, and which would forever be apart.

Close Your Eyes CoverBlurb:

Set in early 1400s Europe, Close Your Eyes is a sincere yet light-hearted and lustful ode to love. As Samuel, the court jester, struggles to describe why his friends, Agnieszka, the cook, and Tycho, the storyteller, fled the King of Gora’s service, he learns that love was the beating heart behind everything that happened in the castle. 

He learns as well that more ghosts than he knew of walked the midnight halls and that the spirit of Jeanne d’Arc haunted his friend and once slid into bed with Tycho, daring him to leave – to take to the cold roads of Europe, where he had once wandered orphaned and alone, and find his destiny there.

Buy Links:

Universal Link: https://books2read.com/u/4DJN6g 

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09NRYXDM9

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09NRYXDM9

Amazon CA: https://www.amazon.ca/Close-Your-Eyes-Fairy-Tale/dp/B09NRK3ZQH

Amazon AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/Close-Your-Eyes-Fairy-Tale/dp/B09NRK3ZQH

Chris Tomasini

Author Bio:

Chris Tomasini lives in Ontario, Canada. He has studied creative writing via Humber College’s “Correspondence Program in Creative Writing” and through the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies. 

In the 1990s, Chris taught English as a Second Language and had stops in England, Poland, and Japan.

Since 2000, Chris has worked in bookstores, publishing, and libraries.

Chris is married with two children and can often be found (though not very easily) on a bicycle on country roads in central Ontario.

Social Media Links:

Website: http://www.christomasini.ca/

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

TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@chrisfindsthelight

Book Bub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/chris-tomasini

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/stores/author/B019NO9NO2

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14814659.Chris_Tomasini

Book Review: “The Royal Diaries- Elizabeth I: Red Rose of the House of Tudor” by Kathryn Lasky

royal diaries elizabeth IWhat was the first book you read that excited you so much about the historical figure that you wanted to continue studying history? You would read any text you could get ahold of that mentioned their name, including encyclopedia entries. You have fond memories of that book and wish to reread it as an adult to see if it is still a great book with all its charms. I have noted numerous times that the book series that enticed me to study history was The Royal Diaries Series. The book that started my fascination with the Tudors was “The Royal Diaries- Elizabeth I: Red Rose of the House of Tudor” by Kathryn Lasky.

I first read this book and the Royal Diaries series in 6th grade/ middle school. I remember being utterly enraptured with the invisible princess Elizabeth and her struggle to be noticed by her family, especially her father, Henry VIII. Elizabeth was a strong and very intellectual princess; she became my historical heroine as a child. I would read anything about her and the Tudors, which fueled my desire to study history in college. When I started Adventures of a Tudor Nerd, I knew I wanted to get a copy of this novel to reread and review as a nod to my past.

This fictitious diary of Elizabeth I begins in 1544 and ends in 1547, covering a lot of changes in young Elizabeth’s life and the Tudor court. Her governess, Kat Champernowne (soon to be Ashley), gave Elizabeth the diary to record her thoughts after Queen Catherine Parr convinced her father, King Henry VIII, to allow Elizabeth to return to court. Elizabeth’s life has been rocky since her mother’s execution at her father’s command because, as this version of the tale goes, she was a witch.

Since this is a children’s book, the diary entries, as are the characterizations of the people around Princess Elizabeth at court, are very generic. Kat is paranoid about poisons, Henry VIII is old, fat, and has dramatic mood changes. Anne of Cleves is a kind soul with a thick accent and an unpleasant appearance. Mary is a manipulative person who treats Elizabeth horribly because she is the daughter of Anne Boleyn. Edward is a sickly child destined to become the next King of England, but many wonders if he will last that long. Robin Dudley is Elizabeth’s best friend who would rather have fun than study like his friend.

While rereading this novel, I found numerous historical inaccuracies I overlooked when I was younger because it was the first Tudor novel I had ever read. Of course, the target audience for this book and the series are children the author hopes will get interested in the story and start studying history. Still, it deserves a rewrite to incorporate correct historical facts.

Even though there were errors, I still am very fond of this book and The Royal Diaries series. Overall, this is a decent book and series for young readers who want to study history, especially royal history. If you have a young history lover who wants to learn more about Elizabeth I and her childhood in a fun way, you should have them read “The Royal Diaries- Elizabeth I: Red Rose of the House of Tudor” by Kathryn Lasky.

Book Review: “Femina: A New History of the Middle Ages, Through the Women Written Out of It” by Janina Ramirez

feminaWhen we think of the phrase “middle ages,” we think of a time of bloody battles and deadly plagues, full of warriors and kings, and a more patriarchal society where women sat on the sidelines. Only the highly pious women or women who tore down barriers genuinely stood out in the history books. At least, that is what we have been told for centuries, but what does archeological research tell us? How about the newly discovered historical records? In her latest book, “Femina: A New History of the Middle Ages, Through the Women Written Out of It,” Janina Ramirez tells the story of the Middle Ages innovatively; through the stories of women who, until recently, were hidden voices from the past.

I am always looking for books that present the middle ages in a new light. When I saw Janina Ramirez talking about this book on Twitter and hearing endorsements from other prominent historians, I knew this would be a must-read book.

Ramirez begins her dive into the middle ages by examining the connection between medieval women and the Suffragettes. I am not one who typically studies the lives of the Suffragettes, so this is an intriguing start. We see how medieval women were perceived in art, books, and political movements that the Suffragettes would understand and follow in the footsteps of medieval women like Joan of Arc. New archeological research has breathed new life into what it meant to be a medieval woman and has given us new heroines who impacted the past.

Each chapter in this book begins with the story of how an artifact or a document was discovered, and then we go deeper into what these artifacts tell us about the past. Ramirez’s deep dive begins in the seventh century with the story of the Loftus Princess. We then move into eighth-century Mercia, where we are introduced to Queen Cynethetryth and Lady Aethelflaed. We get to see warrior women like the Viking woman from Birka and polymath mystics who radically changed how we viewed educated medieval women, like Hildegard of Bingen. We are introduced to the artists and the art subject of the Bayeux Tapestry, the women of the Cathars, Jadwiga, the female king of Poland, and the writings of Margery Kempe, who gives her audience a view of life in the town of King’s Lynn in England.

Janina Ramirez has written not just a love letter to the women who lived in the middle ages but to those willing to reveal these stories to the world, no matter the cost. This is one of the best books about medieval women I have ever read, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about the Middle Ages. A gorgeously written nonfiction book that will give readers a better appreciation for medievalists and medieval women alike, “Femina: A New History of the Middle Ages, Through the Women Written Out of It” by Janina Ramirez is a masterpiece.

Guest Post: “Spotlight for ‘Pagan King’ by MJ Porter”

Pagan King Tour BannerToday, I am pleased to welcome MJ Porter to my blog to share the blurb for her book, “Pagan King.” I would like to thank MJ Porter and The Coffee Pot Book Club for allowing me to be part of this blog tour. 

Pagan King coverBlurb:

From bestselling author MJ Porter comes the tale of the mighty pagan king, Penda of Mercia.

The year is AD641, and the great Oswald of Northumbria, bretwalda over England, must battle against an alliance of the old Britons and the Saxons led by Penda of the Hwicce, the victor of Hæ∂feld nine years before, the only Saxon leader seemingly immune to Oswald’s beguiling talk of the new Christianity spreading through England from both the north and the south.

Alliances will be made and broken, and the victory will go to the man most skilled in warcraft and statecraft.

The ebb and flow of battle will once more redraw the lines of the petty kingdoms stretching across the British Isles.

There will be another victor and another bloody loser.

 

Buy Links:

Universal Link: books2read.com/PaganKing

 Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Pagan-King-Gods-Kings-Book-ebook/dp/B01AWL0SW6/

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Pagan-King-Gods-Kings-Book-ebook/dp/B01AWL0SW6/

Amazon CA: https://www.amazon.ca/Pagan-King-Gods-Kings-Book-ebook/dp/B01AWL0SW6/

Amazon AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/Pagan-King-Gods-Kings-Book-ebook/dp/B01AWL0SW6/

 

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/pagan-king-m-j-porter/1141113393?ean=2940161148495

Waterstones: https://www.waterstones.com/book/pagan-king/m-j-porter/9781914332210

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/pagan-king-1

iBooks: https://apple.co/3XKZ0kC

iTunes: https://apple.co/3ZSRC8E

Audio: https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/Pagan-King-Britain-Audiobook/B0BLXB5SQ2

MJ Porter imageAuthor Bio:

MJ Porter is the author of many historical novels set predominantly in Seventh to Eleventh-Century England, as well as three twentieth-century mysteries. Being raised in the shadow of a building that was believed to house the bones of long-dead Kings of Mercia meant that the author’s writing destiny was set.

Social Media Links:

Website: www.mjporterauthor.com/

Blog: www.mjporterauthor.blog

Twitter: https://twitter.com/coloursofunison

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

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mj-porterauthor/

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

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

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/mj-porter

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/MJ-Porter/e/B006N8K6X4/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7163404.M_J_Porter

Linktr.ee: https://linktr.ee/MJPorterauthor

Tiktok: https://www.tiktok.com/@mjporterauthor

 Matt Coles – audiobook narrator:

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

Tiktok: https://www.tiktok.com/@mattcolesvoiceovers

Website: www.mattcolesvoiceover.com

 

Book Review: “The Stolen Crown” by Carol McGrath

The Stolen CrownA nautical disaster has left Henry I of England in a bind. His only legitimate child is his daughter Matilda, the former Holy Roman Empress. Matilda’s path to the throne may seem straightforward as she has the oaths of all the leading men in the kingdom and a new younger husband named Geoffrey of Anjou, but things take a drastic turn when Henry I dies. Chaos reigns supreme as her cousin, Stephen of Blois, is declared King of England. Matilda knows that the throne is rightfully hers, and she will fight tooth and nail to recover what has been lost. Her story is told in Carol McGrath’s latest novel, “The Stolen Crown.”

Thank you, Headline  Publishing and Carol McGrath, for sending me a copy of this novel. I have enjoyed reading about Empress Matilda and The Anarchy, so when I heard about this novel, I jumped at the opportunity to read it.

We begin with the all-important oath ceremony, where the great lords of England pledge their loyalty to Matilda as Henry I’s heir. Matilda is an 18-year-old widow who is headstrong and is willing to fight to become the rightful ruler of England, even though she is a woman and no woman has ever ruled England. She was deeply in love with her first husband, Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor, but her father has decided that she must marry again to keep his legacy alive, and the man he has chosen is the young Count of Anjou, Geoffrey. It would be an understatement to say their relationship was rocky initially, but they would have a family, including the future King Henry II.

On top of the typical cast of characters that one would expect in a novel about The Anarchy, McGrath invented new characters, Alice, Xander, Pipkin, and Sir Jacques. Alice, Xander, and Pipkin are performers willing to spy for Matilda, no matter how dangerous the mission, to ensure Matilda sits on the throne. McGrath shows the thrilling back-and-forth struggle between Matilda and Stephen for the throne that lasts for years. This novel has many strong women, not just Empress Matilda and Alice, but Stephen’s wife, Matilda of Boulogne.

McGrath has created an immersive story with strong, independent characters who are not afraid to fight for what they believe is right. The Anarachy was a time in history that is slowly getting more attention, and this novel will entice readers to learn more about this period in English history. A dynamic adventure full of intrigue and emotion, “The Stolen Crown” by Carol McGrath is a thrilling read for anyone interested in the birth of the Plantagenet dynasty and Empress Matilda’s fight for the throne.

Guest Post: “Viking England during the life of Earl Godwine” by Mercedes Rochelle

The Last Great Earls Tour Banner 1I am pleased to welcome Mercedes Rochelle to my blog today to discuss Viking England during the life of Earl Godwine, as part of the blog tour for her novel, “Godwine Kingmaker” of The Last Great Saxon Earls series. I would like to thank Mercedes Rochelle and The Coffer Pot Book Club, for allowing me to be part of this tour.

During Godwine’s rise to power, England lived under Danish rule from 1016-1042, though for some reason we rarely talk about it. That’s a whole generation! Sweyn Forkbeard conquered England in 1013 and was declared king, sending Aethelred the Unready into exile to Normandy along with his sons Edward and Alfred. But mysteriously, Sweyn died after only five weeks on the throne, and the Danelaw immediately declared his second son Canute king of England. However, the southerners had other ideas and recalled Aethelred, who gladly returned and drove the usurper out. This didn’t last long!

By late 1015, Canute came back with a large mercenary army and Wessex submitted to him, although Aethelred was still alive and sulking in London, leaving his son Edmund Ironside to fight his battles. This, too, didn’t last long; King Aethelred took his last breath on 23 April 1016, and London declared Edmund king. Now England had two kings, and so began a treacherous struggle marked by five major battles, men changing sides, a siege of London—where Canute was said to have dug a trench around the city—and many, many dead warriors.

Although Edmund stoutly aided London in its defense against the Danes, he frequently left the city in order to draw Canute away from his siege. It is said Ironside raised five armies that year–one for each battle. The last and most important, the Battle of Assandun took place on October 18 and ended in disaster for the Saxons because of the treachery of Eadric Streona, who took to flight with his forces and turned the tide against Edmund.

This time Canute was determined to end the conflicts. The Saxons withdrew but the Danes followed them up the Severn River into Gloucestershire, finally stopping at an island called Olney (or Alney). There, in deference to the chieftains of the land who had had enough (led by Eadric Streona, who somehow retained the goodwill of Edmund Ironside), the two Kings decided to solve the issue by single combat. This legend comes down to us through the chroniclers, as unlikely as it sounds.

canute the dane
Combat between Canute the Dane and Edmund Ironside, Matthew Paris, Chronica Maiora, Cambridge, Corpus Christi, 26, f. 160 (Wikipedia)

The Saxon King was said to have been the stronger fighter and soon hammered the Dane, breaking his shield and beating him down when Canute called a stop to the fight. “Bravest of youths,” he cried out, “why should either of us risk his life for the sake of a crown?” Edmund paused, considering. “Let us be brothers by adoption,” the Dane continued, “and divide the kingdom, governing so that I may rule your affairs, and you mine.” (Florence of Worcester). 

The single combat story is probably apocryphal, but the ensuing treaty is not. According to their agreement, Canute was to rule Northumbria and Danish Mercia, while Edmund was the ruler of Wessex, Essex, East Anglia, and English Mercia. It’s unclear who was supposed to rule London (I found it stated both ways), but in the end, the Londoners were obliged to come up with their own tribute payment to Canute and permit him to anchor his ships in the Thames for the winter, so I guess the result speaks for itself.

Most importantly, it was stated that this treaty excluded brothers and children of the two Kings; if either was to die, all the possessions would revert to the other. And so when Edmund Ironside died suddenly in the winter of 1016, Canute took the crown and made sure to bring the witnesses forward to confirm the terms of the treaty. An exhausted England accepted his claim without demurring. Canute sent Edmund’s children, Edward and Edmund Aetheling, to the King of Sweden in the hopes that they would be murdered, but instead, they were whisked away to Hungary for safekeeping. Then, in a gesture calculated to appease his new countrymen, Canute married Aethelred’s widow, Emma, making a deal with her that their children from previous marriages would be passed over in favor of any issue of their own. This agreement disinherited Edward and Alfred (safely in Normandy) and Canute’s son Harold Harefoot by his handfasted wife Aelfgifu of Northampton. Emma gave birth to Harthacnut, who was sent to Denmark when he was only eight years old as Canute’s representative under a council led by his brother-in-law Ulf. We don’t see him in England again until 1040.

Godwine Kingmaker CoverBlurb:

They showed so much promise. What happened to the Godwines? How did they lose their grip? Who was this Godwine anyway, the first Earl of Wessex and known as the Kingmaker? Was he an unscrupulous schemer, using King and Witan to gain power? Or was he the greatest of all Saxon Earls, protector of the English against the hated Normans? The answer depends on who you ask.

He was befriended by the Danes, raised up by Canute the Great, and given an Earldom and a wife from the highest Danish ranks. He sired nine children, among them four Earls, a Queen, and a future King. Along with his power came a struggle to keep his enemies at bay, and Godwine’s best efforts were brought down by the misdeeds of his eldest son Swegn.

Although he became father-in-law to a reluctant Edward the Confessor, his fortunes dwindled as the Normans gained prominence at court. Driven into exile, Godwine regathered his forces and came back even stronger, only to discover that his second son Harold was destined to surpass him in renown and glory.

Buy Links:

This series is available on Kindle Unlimited

Universal Link: https://books2read.com/u/38VrJZ

Amazon UK:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0BRQMHYWB

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BRQMHYWB

Amazon CA:  https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B0BRQMHYWB

Amazon AU:  https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B0BRQMHYWB

Audio:  https://www.audible.com/pd/Godwine-Kingmaker-Audiobook/B09JFJCY3G

Mercedes RochelleAuthor Bio

Mercedes Rochelle is an ardent lover of medieval history and has channeled this interest into fiction writing. She believes that good Historical Fiction, or Faction as it’s coming to be known, is an excellent way to introduce the subject to curious readers. 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/

Twitter:   https://twitter.com/authorrochelle

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

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

Amazon Author Page:   https://www.amazon.com/stores/Mercedes-Rochelle/author/B001KMG5P6

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

Book Review: “The Girl From Oto” by Amy Maroney

the girl from otoTwo independent women separated by time but united over two compelling portraits and the secrets hidden behind the paint. Mira (Miramonde) is a nun from a Renaissance convent in the Pyrenees who believes she is an orphan who wants to escape her small community and explore the world. Five hundred years later, Zari, an art scholar, begins the journey to discover who Mira is by using the clues she left behind in her works of art that will take her on a journey that will change her life forever. These two tales are woven together in the first book of the Miramonde series, “The Girl From Oto” by Amy Maroney.

I have seen this novel on social media, and it was an intriguing premise. I always look for books that present a fresh new look into the 16th century.

Our story begins with the birth of twins to Marguerite, the baroness of Oto, a boy and a girl. Unfortunately, in the house of Oto, daughters are not allowed to live, so Marguerite gives her daughter named, Miramonde, or Mira for short, to Elena, a mountain woman. Elena decides to make the journey to Belarac Abbey under the supervision of the Abbess Beatrice of Belarac. They make a plan that Mira will never know the truth about who she is and will be raised in the abbey until she is old enough to choose her path, which is her mother’s desire.

Jumping 500 years into the future, we meet Zari Durrell, a young art scholar on the hunt for paintings by a female Renaissance artist, Cornelia van der Zee, the topic of her dissertation. Her topic is well known, but while examining a portrait she believes was painted by Cornelia van der Zee, she discovers that the painting was painted by another artist named Mira. Zari’s journey to discover who Mira is will take her all over Europe as she follows the clues to the truth.

There is just something about a good history mystery mixed with a dual-timeline story that is so much fun to read. Maroney has done extensive research, not just for Mira’s story in the world of the Pyrenees, the wool trade, and life in a convent, but Zari’s adventures in academia and her journey along the Camino de Santiago.

Maroney created a colorful cast of characters, from the Renaissance to the modern day, that will grip the readers with the mysteries they must uncover. I cannot wait to see what other adventures Mira and Zari will go on. If you want a delightfully engaging and thrilling dual-timeline novel about 16th-century Spain, I highly recommend reading “The Girl From Oto” by Amy Maroney.

Book Review: “Marvelous” by Molly Greeley

MarvelousThe tale is as old as time, of beauty and the beast. We know the story from either Disney or retellings. A peasant girl finds herself locked in a castle with a prince who is transformed into a hideous beast. He can only change back into a human if he can learn to love another person. Like many fairy tales, we often ask ourselves whether this story can be based on historical facts. Molly Greeley believes that Beauty and the Beast’s origins could be found in the true story of Pedro and Catherine Gonzales, who lived in the court of Catherine de Medici. She has chosen to tell their love story in her latest novel, “Marvelous.”

I want to thank William Morrow and Net Galley for sending me a copy of this novel. Beauty and the Beast was one of my favorite fairy tales growing up, so when I heard this was a historical fiction retelling, I jumped at the opportunity to read it. I had only read a brief mention of Pedro’s daughter Tognina (Antoinette) Gonslavus earlier this year, so I was curious about her father’s tale.

Pedro’s story begins on the small island of Tenerife as an orphan boy who the village fears for his outward appearance. Pedro’s entire body is covered in hair, and he is considered a devil or a monster. One day, Pedro is kidnapped by pirates and sold to the highest bidder as an oddity; the highest bidder is the King of France, Henri II. King Henri II sees potential in Pedro, so he gives him the name of Petrus Gonslavus and an education worthy of a royal.

As a reward for his services to the king, Catherine de Medici grants Pedro a place in her court and a wife, Catherine Raffelin, the daughter of a merchant, who was down on his luck. It would be an understatement to say their marriage was off to a rough start, but Pedro shows her a world full of glamorous splendor and prejudice toward people who were considered “oddities.” With the birth of their children, Antoinette, Madeline, and Henri, we also see how France changes after the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre and the fall of the House of Valois. We also get to see how different countries during the 16th century and early 17th century handled people who were considered different.

My favorite historical fiction novels are when famous figures like kings, queens, and princesses take a back seat to lesser-known figures from the past. It breathes new life into historical events and provides a fresh lens into the past. Greeley gives her readers a love story on the level of beauty and beast by following the mysterious Gonzales family.

Greeley does a masterful job of telling Pedro and Catherine’s tales from their perspectives. It was a joy to read this novel, and I hope others will fall in love with the Gonzales family through this book. Suppose you want a stunning historical fiction novel full of love and a protagonist unlike any you have read before set in the reign of Catherine de Medici. In that case, I highly recommend you read “Marvelous” by Molly Greeley.

Five Years of Adventures of a Tudor Nerd

adventures of a tudor nerdI appreciate all the love and support you have all given me over the past five years. I started Adventures of a Tudor Nerd after writing a guest article for Tudors Dynasty. I have always been nervous about sharing my writing with others, but I have always loved history and wanted to share my passion. I took a chance, and I am so glad that I did.

We have gone on so many adventures in the past together. At first, I wanted this blog to focus solely on the Tudor dynasty and the Wars of the Roses, but I wanted to explore more stories of the past. Now, we discuss centuries of stories, both historical fiction and non-fiction, from the Anglo-Saxons to the modern monarchy.

I want to thank all the publishers and authors I have enjoyed working with over the last five years. Thank you for allowing me to read these historical fiction and nonfiction works and share my opinions about these books. I wouldn’t have been able to go on so many historical adventures without your generosity. I look forward to working with you all more in the future.

To my readers and followers, thank you for allowing me to share my passion for the past with you these five years. This has been a wild adventure, and you all have made it so much fun with your recommendations of books and your comments on my posts. I hope you all have had as much fun as I have and will continue to enjoy this historical journey.

When I started this epic adventure, I did not know how much I would grow as a reader, writer, and person. Thank you for making the last five years so much fun and for allowing me to share my passion for history and books with all of you wonderful people.

Here’s to more history adventures!

Heidi