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: “Catherine de Medici: Renaissance Queen of France” by Leonie Frieda

255134When we think about women rulers in the 16th century, some names, like Queen Mary I, Queen Elizabeth I, and Mary Queen of Scots, come to mind. However, another woman should be included in this list as her life helped keep the Valois dynasty alive and well in France, even though she was Italian by birth. Her name has been tainted with dark legends of poisoning, deadly incidents, and the infamous St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. This notorious queen was Catherine de Medici, and Leonie Frieda has chosen to shed some light on the myths and mysteries surrounding this misunderstood woman in her biography, “Catherine de Medici: Renaissance Queen of France.”

Catherine de Medici’s life was rough as her parents, Lorenzo II de Medici Duke of Urbino and Madeleine de La Tour d’ Auvergne, died shortly after she was born. A wealthy young heiress who was now an orphan, Catherine’s marriage was vital for the success of her family. The union meant for the young woman was with Henry II of France, the son of Francis I. Catherine fell deeply in love with Henry II. Still, another person in this marriage was Henry II’s mistress Diane de Poitiers. It took a while for Catherine and Henry to have the heirs necessary for their union to prove successful, but they did have ten children, including three sons that would become King of France; Francis II, Charles IX, and Henry III.

When her beloved husband, King Henry II, died in a jousting accident, a lance in the eye, Catherine had to step up and protect her family, no matter what. Her first son to be King was Francis II, alongside his Scottish bride, Mary Queen of Scots, but he died after only a year on the throne from a severe earache. Catherine had to act as regent for her third son, King Charles IX, as he was too young to rule independently. Unfortunately, his reign was mired by several wars of religion between Catholics and Protestants. One of the most tumultuous events of his reign occurred in August 1572, known as the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, which left a massive black mark on the legacy of Catherine de Medici for her supposed role in the disaster. After the death of Charles IX, Catherine had to once again act as regent as her fourth and favorite son, Henry III, had to make the journey back to France after being named King of Poland. Catherine de Medici died in 1589, and her favorite son Henry III died a few months later, ending the Valois dynasty and making way for the Bourbon dynasty in France.

In my opinion, I found this book a tad dry in areas, especially concerning the eight wars of religion in France. As someone who doesn’t read much about 16th-century France and its politics, this book was a bit of a challenge for me, and I felt that in some places, Catherine de Medici was more of a side character than the principal character in her biography. I also felt that Frieda focused on the black myth of Catherine de Medici and her supposed evil deeds instead of trying to debunk them.

Overall, I think this was a decent biography. Frieda does have a passion for her subject, and it shows from the political quagmire that she tries to navigate to the fun facts about Catherine and her family. If you know the story of Catherine de Medici and 16th-century France, you might find this book fascinating, but it might be challenging for novices in this area of research. If you want to know more about Catherine de Medici, “Catherine de Medici: Renaissance Queen of France” by Leonie Frieda could be the book for you.

Television Series Review: “Becoming Elizabeth”

MV5BZjYxNWQxMzctZjA2MC00ZTkxLTg4MTQtMDE3M2E3YTE5MzFhXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTM1MTE1NDMx._V1_FMjpg_UX1000_The year is 1547, and the infamous King Henry VIII is dead. The throne is left to his young son Edward VI while his half-sisters Mary and Elizabeth wait in the wing. Without their powerful father to look after their well-being, his children must navigate the tumultuous Tudor court with powerful men who desire to use them as mere pawns in their game to influence how England is ruled. Throw in some romantic drama and the ever-changing religious landscape with the clash between Protestants and Catholics. This is the premise of the latest Tudor drama on Starz, “Becoming Elizabeth,” which follows the titular Princess Elizabeth Tudor during the reign of the third Tudor king.

Before we begin, I want to provide a little context before I dive into this review. As many of you know, I am incredibly picky about Tudor dramas; shocker, I know. I will watch trailers for new dramas, but after Reign (which, after watching the show for five minutes, I had to turn it off because of the costume design), I have been highly wary about committing to sitting down each week to watch a new show about historical figures I know pretty well.

The story of Princess Elizabeth is what got me interested in studying history after reading The Royal Diaries book series, so when I heard about this series, I wanted to know more. When I first saw the trailer for “Becoming Elizabeth, ” I decided to take the plunge and watch the first episode, which turned into watching every episode every Sunday.

Now let’s get to my thoughts about the series “Becoming Elizabeth.” I will be discussing the plot points of this series, so if you have not watched this show before reading this review, I would highly recommend you do.

There are a few aspects that I want to touch on before we take a deeper dive into this series, which have to do with the settings, costumes, music, and other details that will delight Tudor nerds. The location of “Becoming Elizabeth” is spot on, immersing the audience in Tudor England, which includes using candles for lighting instead of torches (which was a thrilling addition). I congratulate the costume and make-up crew from this drama as they are the best replications of Tudor gowns and outfits I have ever seen in a Tudor drama. They used the Tudor portraits of the time to replicate specific dresses and jewelry used in the show (including the famous “B” necklace most associated with Anne Boleyn) was a lovely and thoughtful touch. The only exception was the lead women’s riding gowns in this series. I did not like that they rode astride and had pants under their skirts. Let them ride side saddle and wear the same dresses they do at court but in those brown and green tones.

The little touches like having servants sleeping in the rooms of the royalty/ nobility and the masques to show significant events were viewed at court were nice touches for Tudor nerds. I also appreciated the small nods in the dialogue to elements that those who know Tudor history would understand, like the Queen’s jewels and the foreshadowing of Edward VI’s dog. Finally, the music in this show was decent, but some soundtracks felt a tad too modern and took away from the whole escapism element you want in a historical drama.

Now, let’s get into the most critical points of this show: the acting, the actors, and the plot points.

becoming-elizabeth-tudors-1655065913770The cast of “Becoming Elizabeth” is a plethora of talented actors and actresses who remarkably bring the treacherous Tudor court to life. The titular role of Princess Elizabeth was played by Alicia von Rittberg, who portrays the young woman’s naivety and eventual strength in love and court politics. Oliver Zetterstrom is the young King Edward VI who struggles to find his identity as a reformer king while navigating the drama of his court and Lord Protectors. Finally, we have Romola Garai, who revolutionized how Princess Mary Tudor was portrayed on television. Garai gives the audience a more sympathetic and vibrant woman trying to hold her family together while defiantly standing up for her Catholic faith in a Protestant court.

A story like this would not be complete without a group of star-studded actors and actresses to help the trio of Tudor heirs shine. We have the vivacious Catherine Parr, played by Jessica Rayne, and her fourth husband, the sly Thomas Seymour, played by Tom Cullen, Thomas’ brother, and Edward VI’s first Lord Protector Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset is played by John Heffernan. We also have the Grey family, led by Henry Grey, played by Leo Bill, and the shy and studious Lady Jane Grey, played by Bella Ramsey. Finally, we have the Dudley family with the ambitious John Dudley, played by Jamie Parker, and the youthful Robert Dudley, played by Jamie Blackley. Along with the prominent families, we have Kat Ashley, the loyal servant to Princess Elizabeth, played by Alexandra Gilbreath, and the Spanish soldier Pedro who helps guide Princess Mary, played by Ekow Quartey. The interactions between this cast are so believable and passionately performed that it feels like you have been transported into the 16th century in the reign of King Edward VI.

We begin this series with the death of King Henry VIII. Prince Edward is now King Edward VI, and he and his sisters must learn to live without their infamous father. Mary goes to her own home while Elizabeth joins the household of Catherine Parr and her new husband (the man she truly loves), Thomas Seymour. While Mary and Edward VI argue vehemently over the matters of religion, Catholics vs. Protestants, Elizabeth navigates the unusual attention that Thomas Seymour is giving the young princess as she wonders if this is true love or something more sinister.

In addition to Princess Elizabeth, Catherine Parr and Thomas Seymour welcome the daughter of Henry Grey, Lady Jane Grey, to their household. Elizabeth and Jane do not seem to get along very well, and it feels like the only ones that Elizabeth can turn to when times get rough are Kat Ashley and the caring Robert Dudley. Mary may seem alone, but Pedro, a man who was supposed to spy on the Catholic princess, becomes her friend and ally. Unfortunately for Edward, he is stuck between factions of Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, and John Dudley as they fight to influence the young king and the direction he wants to take his kingdom. It was a time of rebellions, betrayals, executions, and moments behind closed doors that would forever shape these three Tudor heirs, especially Elizabeth Tudor.

ELI1_060521_0739_a_1900x1500While most of the storylines are engaging, and I found them rather enjoyable, one got under my skin: the intimate relationship between Princess Elizabeth and Thomas Seymour. Now I know it was the central storyline for the first half of this show, but it made my skin crawl. I know that Tom Cullen has discussed this issue with fans, and I think his portrayal of Thomas is spectacular. My problem is with Princess Elizabeth and how she goes along with the relationship to the point of no return. I feel like Princess Elizabeth was much stronger than how she was portrayed during those moments in the show, and she would have turned Thomas down, knowing the false allegations against her mother, Anne Boleyn. I do not think she slept with Thomas Seymour, but I do believe there were elements of flirting between the two, which could have been seen as them having an intimate relationship.

The creator of “Becoming Elizabeth,” Anya Reiss, has done a magnificent job telling the Tudor dynasty’s tale after Henry VIII’s death. The cast and crew are spectacular, the gowns and costumes are gorgeous, and there are so many Easter eggs that Tudor nerds will geek over. There will be moments that will make you laugh, cry, want to throw a book at your TV or laptop, and breathe a sigh of relief. I may not have seen many Tudor dramas in the past, but this is far and away one of my favorite shows about the 16th century. I hope we will get a second season of “Becoming Elizabeth,”, especially with how they closed the finale.

What are your opinions about “Becoming Elizabeth,” and who is your favorite character from this Tudor drama?

Sources for Images and Cast Information:

https://www.glamour.com/story/becoming-elizabeth-on-starz-everything-we-know-about-the-british-period-drama

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt11444366/

Book Review: “Blood, Fire & Gold: The Story of Elizabeth I and Catherine de Medici” by Estelle Paranque

9781529109221-usTwo queens; one a wife and the mother of kings and the other a virgin who had to fight for the right to rule her country independently. Two women who found friendship and a rivalry between each other with only a sea that divided them and religious discord to drive them apart. Catherine de Medici and Elizabeth I would define what it meant to be female rulers in the 16th century for France and England, respectively. The tales of Elizabeth I and Catherine de Medici have been covered in numerous books, but a joint biography of these two powerhouses is a rarity until now. Estelle Paranque demonstrates how both queens greatly affected each other’s lives in her latest book, “Blood, Fire & Gold: The Story of Elizabeth I and Catherine de Medici.”

Paranque begins her book with a short story about an encounter between Elizabeth I’s English ambassador to France, Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, and Catherine de Medici, who acted as regent for her son Charles IX. It is an example of how each queen viewed diplomacy and the dance they had to do to keep their respective dynasties on the thrones of England and France.

Catherine de Medici was the daughter of Lorenzo II de Medici, Duke of Urbino, and Madeline de La Tour, d’Auvergne. Her parents died when Catherine was young, leaving her to be a wealthy heiress and a powerful pawn in the marriage market. Her husband would be King Henry II, known to have several mistresses, including Diane de Poitiers, who was her husband’s, true love. Despite issues with Diane, Henry and Catherine had a huge family, including several sons, including King Francis II, King Charles IX, King Henry III, and Francis, Duke of Anjou. After the death of her husband, Catherine worked hard to be the regent for her sons until they came of age to rule and continue the Valois dynasty.

In England, Elizabeth I was the daughter of Anne Boleyn and the notorious King Henry VIII; their relationship was the most infamous of the 16th century for obvious reasons. After the deaths of King Henry VIII, King Edward VI, and Queen Mary I, Elizabeth got her chance to rule England in her way. When the issue of Elizabeth’s marriage came into play, Catherine de Medici entered Elizabeth I’s life, starting a 30- year relationship that began as a friendship but changed into a rivalry in the end.

Over the thirty years, Catherine de Medici and Elizabeth I dealt with many obstacles in their relationship. Catherine had to deal with the antics of her children and her daughter-in-law, Mary Queen of Scots, who would become one of Elizabeth’s biggest rivals. The bond between the two queens started over a desire for one of Catherine’s sons to marry Elizabeth and become King of England and France, but alas, this was wishful thinking. Catherine and Elizabeth also had to deal with other nations, like Spain, getting in the way of their relationship, as well as the issue of religion; Catherine was a devout Catholic, and Elizabeth was more Protestant. Catherine had to deal with several wars of religions and the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, while Elizabeth had to deal with the Spanish Armada and what to do with Mary Queen of Scots.

Catherine de Medici and Elizabeth I had to communicate through ambassadors and letters, which Paranque translated into modern English, making it easier for modern readers to understand. I cannot stress how much I loved this book and how Paranque was able to weave the stories of the two most powerful women in 16th-century Europe.

“Blood, Fire & Gold: The Story of Elizabeth I and Catherine de Medici’ by Estelle Paranque is a tour de force dual biography of two influential badass queens. This book is a must-read for anyone passionate about the 16th century.

Guest Post: Excerpt from “The King’s Inquisitor” by Tonya Ulynn Brown

The King's Inquisitor Tour BannerToday, I welcome Tonya Ulynn Brown to my blog to share an excerpt from her latest historical fiction novel, “The King’s Inquisitor.” I want to thank The Coffee Pot Book Club and Tonya Ulynn Brown for allowing me to be part of this blog tour. 

Sheepshearer held up his hand to silence the belligerent man. The king adjusted his seat but did not speak. Instead, Sheepshearer asked, “Where is this mark ye have found?” 

The offended man jerked the woman by the arm and pulled her hair up to expose her neck. “There,” he pointed with a stubby finger. James and I both leaned closer to get a better look at the mark. Sheepshearer stepped closer, taking out a small lens and holding it in front of his eye. He didn’t speak for a moment, then pulled a small leather pouch from inside his coat and walked to the table where we sat.  

I stared in fascination. I had never seen a witch pricker do his work. I admit that was one of the reasons I had agreed to accompany James this evening. I was intrigued at the method of determining who was a witch and who wasn’t.  

The witch pricker removed his coat, then untied a thin strap and unrolled the pouch. Inside were all manner of instruments. Needles of various lengths, pointed rods, some straight and some curved, several surgeon’s lancets with differing widths, a crude sort of pinching device, and a small rod with a severe hook on the end. I shivered as he selected his instrument of choice, then turned and faced the woman. 

“It looks like a lover’s mark to me,” I whispered to James. I eyed him to see if he understood my meaning. He was a recently married man, after all, but the queen was the only woman he had been with in his twenty-four years. She had performed her duty, but whether it had been with enjoyment was not something he had shared with even me.

“Perhaps,” he finally said. Yet, he did not move to stop Sheepshearer. I, on the other hand, shifted in my seat. I might have put a lover’s mark or two on a woman. I shuddered at the thought that any woman I had been with would be subjected to such treatment. Still, any woman worth her weight in ale would never allow a bruise to be discovered. Apparently, Geillis Duncan had no choice.  

He had chosen a straight blade. The likes of which a man would use to shave the hair from his face. Surely, he did not intend to filet her alive?

At the sight of the chosen instrument, Geillis, too, reacted. She tried to jerk her arm away from Seton, but he held fast. Curling her toes in an attempt to dig her bare feet into the wooden floor, she pushed against Seton, bowing her back and poking a boney elbow into his side. He almost lost hold of her until Sheepshearer motioned for Marley, who up until now had remained uninvolved in the shadows, to come forth and help restrain her.  

Once subdued, the woman stiffened her body, straight as a branding rod. There was no pleading, no entreating for mercy, nor cry of innocence. She simply stood, looking straight ahead. The darkness that had overshadowed her face earlier seemed to have settled into a permanent mien.   

The_Kings_Inquisitor_Book CoverBlurb

The queen of Scotland is dead. Her almoner’s son, William Broune, has fulfilled his father’s wish that he should serve the king, James VI, at court. William finds himself caught between loyalty to the king or loyalty to his conscience. As William is forced to serve as the king’s inquisitor in the North Berwick witch trials, he must make a decision. Will he do what the king asks and earn the wife, title, and prestige he has always desired, or will he let a bold Scottish lass influence him to follow his heart and do the right thing?

If William doesn’t make the right choice, he may be among the accused.

Trigger warnings: Some violent imagery.

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Tonya_Ulynn_Brown PicAuthor Bio  

Tonya Ulynn Brown

Tonya Ulynn Brown is an elementary school teacher. She holds a Master’s degree in Teaching and uses her love of history and reading to encourage the same love in her students. Tonya finds inspiration in the historical figures she has studied, and in the places, she has traveled. Her interest in medieval and early modern British history influences her writing. She resides in rural southeastern Ohio, USA, with her husband, Stephen, two boys, Garren and Gabriel, and a very naughty Springer Spaniel. 

Social Media Links:

Website: http://www.tonyaubrown.com

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Book Review: “Tudor Roses: From Margaret Beaufort to Elizabeth I” by Amy Licence

36762189When one studies a specific dynasty, we tend to focus on the stories of those who rule their respective countries and explore the men who influenced the king’s decisions. A dynasty’s legacy tends to be viewed from the military and legal victories of the men, but just as important are the women who stood beside the king. Royal women tend to be considered side characters of the dynasty who were only crucial for their inheritance, who they married, and the children they could produce. But if we focused on the story of the royal women in a specific dynasty, what could we learn about the dynasty? Amy Licence took this concept to explore women’s voices and decided to tackle the Tudor dynasty in her latest book, “Tudor Roses: From Margaret Beaufort to Elizabeth I.”

I want to thank Amberley Publishing for sending me a copy of this book. I am always looking for a new perspective on the Tudor dynasty. Although there is nothing new about exploring the lives of Tudor women, the idea of analyzing the Tudor queens and their reigns in one book is so unique and vital.

Licence starts her book at the very beginning of the Tudor dynasty with the stories of Margaret Beaufort and Elizabeth Woodville. These women are often viewed as enemies on opposite sides of the Wars of the Roses. Still, closer examination shows how alike they were and how they came together to unite the warring factions with the marriage of their children, Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. The first Tudor queen, Elizabeth of York, was seen as the pinnacle of excellence and the ideal queen for those who would try to follow in her footsteps. We also get to see how Margaret and Mary Tudor influenced their family’s legacy, even though they never sat on the English throne like their brother, Henry VIII.

The next group of Tudor queens that we examine are the wives of Henry VIII; Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard, and Catherine Parr. These queens mark a different aspect of being a royal woman and helped England move forward. Finally, Licence explores the lives of the daughters of Catherine of Aragon, Frances Brandon, and Anne Boleyn, who would become queens themselves; Lady Jane Grey, Mary I, and Elizabeth I.

Licence shows how England and Europe viewed women who wielded power throughout this book. Although the Tudor dynasty only lasted 118 years, the change was significant and impactful. The Tudors queens had to navigate not only their traumas through the most public lens, but they had to balance their own beliefs with the shifting political landscape of Europe. There are also glimpses of how other European queens navigated the tumultuous 16th century and how their lives and women’s education influenced the Tudor queens.

Book Review: “A Woman of Noble Wit” by Rosemary Griggs

A Woman of Noble Wit Tour BannerFor a woman from the past to leave a mark in history books, she had to have lived an extraordinary life. Some have notorious reputations, or they were considered women of immaculate character. In Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, there was one who was “a woman of noble wit.” She was the daughter of an ancient gentry family who had connections with the court of Henry VIII. Her large family would navigate political turmoil and religious reformations to survive. The name of this wife and mother was Katherine Raleigh, and her tale is told in Rosemary Griggs’ debut novel, “A Woman of Noble Wit.”

I would like to thank The Coffee Pot Book Club and Rosemary Griggs for sending me a copy of this novel and allowing me to be part of this book tour. I did not know much about Katherine Raleigh before this novel, except that she was the mother of Sir Walter Raleigh, so I was looking forward to reading her story.

Katherine was a daughter of the Champernowne family who had a fiery passion for reading. As a girl, she was terrified of marrying an older man, but her family decided to marry Katherine to Otho Gilbert, a young man with a passion for firearms and adventures. As Katherine settles into her new life at Greenway Court, England experiences the reign of King Henry VIII through religious reforms, many marriages, and numerous executions. Although Katherine was not at court, she would receive gossip about court and her sister Kat, who we know today as Kat Ashley, the governess of Princess Elizabeth Tudor.

Katherine is a dutiful and loving wife to Otho, but her heart skips a beat when she meets the charming privateer Walter Raleigh Senior one day. I found Walter a much better match for Katherine than Otho, who seemed rather vain and jealous of his wife’s reputation. Katherine is free to be her educated self with Walter. They navigate the reigns of Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I while raising their family. We see how Katherine was known as “a woman of noble wit” through heartache, fear, and love.

As a debut novel, I found it a delightfully engaging read. Griggs has brought Katherine Raleigh from the shadows of her famous son’s fame and shined a light on her story. If I did have a complaint about this novel, it would be that I felt the ending was a bit rushed. Overall, I think it was an enchanting debut novel that illuminated the life of a fascinating woman who lived during the Tudor dynasty. I am excited to see what Rosemary Griggs will write about next. If you want a novel about a relatively hidden Tudor woman, I would highly suggest you read “A Woman of Noble Wit” by Rosemary Griggs.

59476111._SY475_A Woman of Noble Wit

By Rosemary Griggs

Few women of her time lived to see their name in print. But Katherine was no ordinary woman. She was Sir Walter Raleighs mother. This is her story.

Set against the turbulent background of a Devon rocked by the religious and social changes that shaped Tudor England; a Devon of privateers and pirates; a Devon riven by rebellions and plots, A Woman of Noble Wit tells how Katherine became the woman who would inspire her famous sons to follow their dreams. It is Tudor history seen though a womans eyes.

As the daughter of a gentry family with close connections to the glittering court of King Henry VIII, Katherines duty is clear. She must put aside her dreams and accept the husband chosen for her. Still a girl, she starts a new life at Greenway Court, overlooking the River Dart, relieved that her husband is not the ageing monster of her nightmares. She settles into the life of a dutiful wife and mother until a chance shipboard encounter with a handsome privateer, turns her world upside down.…..

Years later a courageous act will set Katherines name in print and her youngest son will fly high.

Trigger Warnings: Rape.

Buy Links:

Universal Link: https://books2read.com/u/47O1WE

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Woman-Noble-Wit-Rosemary-Griggs-ebook/dp/B09FLVZKSK

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iBooks: https://books.apple.com/gb/book/a-woman-of-noble-wit/id1584793135

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Foyles: https://www.foyles.co.uk/witem/fiction-poetry/a-woman-of-noble-wit,rosemary-griggs-9781800464599

Rosemary GriggsAuthor Bio:

Rosemary Griggs is a retired Whitehall Senior Civil Servant with a lifelong passion for history. She is now a speaker on Devon’s sixteenth century history and costume. She leads heritage tours at Dartington Hall, has made regular costumed appearances at National Trust houses and helps local museums bring history to life.

Social Media Links:

Website: https://rosemarygriggs.co.uk/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RAGriggsauthor

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

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/griggs6176

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Rosemary-Griggs/e/B09GY6ZSYF

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/21850977.Rosemary_Griggs

Book Review: “Princes of the Renaissance: The Hidden Power Behind an Artistic Revolution” by Mary Hollingsworth

51601860The 15th and 16th centuries were full of dynamic political and religious reforms, but they were also known for cultural changes throughout Europe. The medieval foundations started to crumble, and the early modern age emerged. One of the centers of change was Italy, a series of states with their rulers vying for power and prestige. These rulers would help finance masterpieces in art, literature, and architecture, but it was their rivals that threatened to tear the Renaissance society apart. In “Princes of the Renaissance: The Hidden Power Behind an Artistic Revolution,” Mary Hollingsworth explores the lives of the men and women who helped shape the Renaissance.

I want to thank Pegasus Books for sending me a copy of this book. This title was intriguing to me, and I wanted to learn more about Italian history. The Italian Renaissance has been an area in history that I have been interested in studying more, but I was unsure where to begin.

Hollingsworth takes the tales of some of the most famous families in Italy to tell the story of the Renaissance. Each chapter focuses on two or three dynamic figures that shaped the era. Men like Cosimo de’ Medici, Alfonso of Aragon, Francesco Sforza, Leonello d’Este, Ferrante I of Naples, and Doge Andrea Gritti knew how to change the political landscape of Italy while acting as patrons for the artists that would define this era. The artists that they would employ were masters like Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Titian. We also saw powerful women like Lucrezia Borgia and Isabella d’Este, who impacted the Renaissance.

Although Hollingsworth mentions the works that the princes helped fund and did include stunning images of the masterpieces of art and architecture, the bulk of this book is looking at the drama behind the art. We see a complex political landscape of lords fighting each other, family members, and even papal authority for land and prestige. Things were bound to be complicated with famous families like the Estes, the Medicis, the Sforzas, and the Borgias. Still, it created a beautiful mosaic of different influences of colorful figures.

One thing that I wish Hollingsworth would have included would be family trees of the prominent families. As someone who is not that familiar with the significant Italian families and the individual states, I think it would have helped those who are not that familiar with Italian history.

Overall, I found this book an enjoyable and fascinating read. I think it provides gorgeous images of new aspects of the Renaissance with thrilling stories of love, jealously, and the desire for power. Suppose you want a great introduction to the Italian Renaissance and those who funded these masterpieces. In that case, you should check out “Princes of the Renaissance: The Hidden Power Behind an Artistic Revolution” by Mary Hollingsworth.

Book Review: “Rizzio” by Denise Mina

57147033 (1)David Rizzio was one of Mary, Queen of Scots’ favorites at court and the private secretary to the queen. Being a royal favorite would not have been seen as a grave offense in any other country during this time, yet this is Scotland in the 16th century. Scotland was filled with deadly feuds between lords fighting for control of the crown, which would lead to numerous prominent men being murdered, including Rizzio. On March 9, 1566, David Rizzio was murdered in front of Mary, Queen of Scots, while she was several months pregnant. The tale of the grotesque crime and those who witnessed the events of that night are told in Denis Mina’s latest gripping novella, “Rizzio.”

I want to thank Pegasus Books for sending me a copy of this novella. When I read the description of this book and how dynamic the cover design was, I knew that I wanted to read this title. I was intrigued to see how Denise Mina would write the tale of Rizzio for a modern audience.

We begin with a tennis match between David Rizzio and Lord Darnley, Mary’s angsty and angry husband. Darnley wants to be King of Scotland and is tired of Rizzio getting in the way of his plans and that his wife favors this Italian nobody. He wants Rizzio to die, but not by his hands. Darnley has enlisted a ragtag group of nobles to help kill Rizzio and make way for Darnley to become the King.

However, things don’t go as smoothly as Darnley plans. Mary hosts a dinner party for a small group of friends at Holyrood Palace before she goes into confinement to give birth to her son and heir, James VI. A delightful party is disrupted by Darnley, Lord Ruthven, and their men, including one Henry Yair, who have come to kill Rizzio. Mary tries in vain to protect her Italian favorite, but she cannot save her friend in the end.

The tension and the drama that Mina was able to create in such a short amount of time were masterfully done. She was able to show how complex Scottish politics and the battle between Catholicism and reform so that readers who are not familiar with this time could understand the friction between the factions. Even though I knew the history behind this event, how Mina described it sent shivers down my spine. The one issue that I had with this novella was the ending, and it felt a bit flat and rushed to me. I wish she would have tied in the death of Mary and Darnley a bit better into the murder of Rizzio.

I think for a historical fiction novella, Mina does an excellent job of grabbing the reader’s attention and transporting them to that horrible night. This story may be short, but the emotional impact and details will stay with readers even after reading it. If you love reading about Mary, Queen of Scots, and Stuart Scotland during the 16th century, you will find “Rizzio” by Denise Mina thrilling.

Guest Post: “Why I Write Dual Timeline Novels and Why I Choose Present Day” by Clare Marchant

The Queen's Spy Tour BannerToday, I am pleased to welcome Clare Marchant to my blog to discuss her latest novel, “The Queen’s Spy,” and her use of dual timelines. I would like to thank The Coffee Pot Book Club and Clare Marchant for stopping by on this tour. 

I have always loved reading dual timeline novels. I love history (of course!), and although I also read many historical books, both fiction and non-fiction, I love that connection between the past and the present, waiting to find out when the two worlds will meet.

I often wax lyrical about how I am fascinated with the connections that bind us all together, whether family ties, our links to places, objects, or indeed each other. We are all woven together by the way that we are threaded together with everything that we touch. We all have special items, be it family heirlooms or gifts, jewelry, or a book; perhaps that means something special to us. Something that will eventually belong to someone else. When it comes to history, these associations take on a whole new persona as they link over the years or centuries, and I love investigating this through my writing by tying the two stories together through a shared theme, a shared connection.

In Saffron Hall, that relationship, the object that tied the two stories together, was the book of hours. I have a fascination for old illuminated manuscripts, so I wanted to use one of these exquisite small prayer books as the object that united together my two protagonists, showing how the theme, ‘while I breathe, I hope’ touched the lives of them both. They both learn that they must live with the hurt they have endured and to keep taking each day at a time until things get better – they keep breathing and keep hoping. That eventually, time will help them to move on.

In The Queen’s Spy, the object is the triptych that Tom paints, showing his journey, which mirrors in some respects the one in the present day that Mathilde is taking. They are both connected by their shared background of being shunned by society for separate reasons. By being ‘different’ and having to face prejudice and leaving them to lead a peripatetic lifestyle never accepted by those around them. They are always searching for somewhere they will be recognized for who they are and loved for it. By investigating the painting, Mathilde begins to learn more about herself and her place in this world.  And she learns the book’s theme, that she cannot change the past, but she can change the future.

The reason why I choose present-day as my alternative timeline to the Tudor one is that despite the apparent differences to our daily lives between the way we now live compared to how they did in the sixteenth century, I think it shows just how much these morals that guide us affect us all whenever we lived. We are just the same in our hearts, with similar fears, hopes, desires, and despair. People love, they grieve, they laugh, and they cry. In every life, there are shared experiences, precious objects…and precious people.

The Queen's Spy Cover(Blurb)

1584: Elizabeth I rules England. But a dangerous plot is brewing in court, and Mary Queen of Scots will stop at nothing to take her cousin’s throne.

There’s only one thing standing in her way: Tom, the queen’s trusted apothecary, who makes the perfect silent spy…

2021: Travelling the globe in her campervan, Mathilde has never belonged anywhere. So when she receives news of an inheritance, she is shocked to discover she has a family in England.

Just like Mathilde, the medieval hall she inherits conceals secrets, and she quickly makes a haunting discovery. Can she unravel the truth about what happened there all those years ago? And will she finally find a place to call home?

Buy Links:

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Queens-Spy-gripping-historical-fiction-ebook/dp/B08R6Q4CC9

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Queens-Spy-gripping-historical-fiction-ebook/dp/B08R6Q4CC9

Amazon CA: https://www.amazon.ca/Queens-Spy-gripping-historical-fiction-ebook/dp/B08R6Q4CC9

Amazon AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/Queens-Spy-gripping-historical-fiction-ebook/dp/B08R6Q4CC9

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-queens-spy-clare-marchant/1139196760

Waterstones: https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-queens-spy/clare-marchant/9780008454357

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/the-queen-s-spy-2

iBooks: https://books.apple.com/gb/book/the-queens-spy/id1554626619

Audio: https://amzn.to/2QRzT2K

Clare MarchantAuthor Bio:

Growing up in Surrey, Clare always dreamed of being a writer. Instead, she followed a career in IT before moving to Norfolk for a quieter life and re-training as a jeweler.

Now writing full time, she lives with her husband and the youngest two of her six children. Weekends are spent exploring local castles and monastic ruins or visiting the nearby coast.

Social Media Links:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ClareMarchant1

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

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/claremarchant1/?hl=en

Amazon Author Page: https://amzn.to/3fkuf2r