Book Review: “The Anne Boleyn Collection III” by Claire Ridgway

49466496._SY475_The story and myths of Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn, have been debated and dissected for centuries. Was she a cruel and calculating figure who got what she deserved or was she an innocent victim of an evil tyrant of a husband? The funny thing about history is that the truth is never clear cut. Historical figures are human beings, no matter how many centuries separate their lives from our own. They were not all good or all bad, which is the perspective that Claire Ridgway tries to show when she is writing about her favorite figure, Anne Boleyn, either in her books or on her blog, The Anne Boleyn Files. To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Anne Boleyn Files, Claire Ridgway returns with the latest collection of articles, “The Anne Boleyn Collection III”.

Like the other two volumes of this series, Ridgway has taken some of the most popular articles from her blog, the Anne Boleyn Files. There are some recurring themes that Ridgway has highlighted in her previous two books, but there are some news topics that she discusses in length. Was Mary I or Lady Jane Grey the usurper? Did Anne Boleyn love Henry Norris? How did Henry VIII go from a Renaissance prince to an infamous tyrant? Who were the men who died with Anne Boleyn?

Ridgway’s passion for the Tudors, especially when it comes to Anne Boleyn, is extremely apparent when reading her books. That does not change at all in this book. Her writing style remains the same as in her previous books. It is like having a conversation with a friend about Tudor hot topics. What Ridgway added to this book was the use of poetry written about the historical figures that she discusses at length. I found the poetry refreshing and intriguing to delve deep into the meaning of the poet’s words.

I think this book is okay, but I did have a few problems when I was reading it. I did feel like this book was slightly redundant as it repeats some of the same points that she made in previous books. Now, this might be because they are articles from her blog and she wanted to focus heavily on certain topics, but I felt like there were other topics that she might have focused on. I wanted to learn new information about Anne Boleyn and her times.

Another issue that I had with this particular book was with the sources. Ridgway tends to favor certain authors and historians when it comes to her research, which is fine. However, I think there have been new biographies that were written before the publication of this book that would have helped Ridgway make her points even stronger. As a blogger, there are sources that we enjoy using, but one should be aware that there are other historians who are doing great research out there and they should be at least acknowledged. We should be open to new ideas, new sources, and new theories about historical figures, even if we don’t necessarily agree with them. It is how we grow as history lovers and how we can better understand the past.

Overall, I think this was a good book, but I was expecting a tad more, especially after how much I enjoyed book two of the collection. Ridgway’s feelings and passion for her subject were ever-present in this volume, but I think that she could have expanded her research a tad to include more recent biographies and books to get her point across to a new batch of readers. I think if you enjoyed her two previous books in this series, I would recommend you read Claire Ridgway’s latest book, “The Anne Boleyn Collection III”.

Book Review: “The Anne Boleyn Collection II” by Claire Ridgway

18588008The Boleyn family have been viewed as social climbers, who only desired power and prestige, in history and novels for centuries; their fall from grace was due to their ambitions. But, is this true? Did Anne Boleyn’s family only care about getting to the top by any means necessary? Were they manipulative, cunning, and cruel like they have been portrayed in dramas and novels? Who were the Boleyns and why have they been so maligned in history? In her second book of this series, “The Anne Boleyn Collection II”, Claire Ridgway of The Anne Boleyn Files examines Anne Boleyn and the truth about her family.

After I had finished the first edition of “The Anne Boleyn Collection”, I did have a conversation with Claire Ridgway about the structure of her book. If you read my review about that particular book, I did have a slight issue with the blog article structure of the book. Claire Ridgway explained that it was intentional as these books are a collection of blog articles from The Anne Boleyn Files, which helped me while reading the second collection of articles.

In my opinion, Ridgway’s structure in this second collection is much better than the first collection. It reads like a book and it is in an order that makes sense. We start our journey with the origins of the Boleyn family, which was fascinating and very informative to read about the different theories of how this family rose to power. Then, it is all about Anne and her life and the myths around her. Compared to her previous book, I found this part well researched and I learned a lot. Anne Boleyn is not exactly my favorite wife of King Henry VIII, but I did feel sympathy for her, and I could see why so many people do defend her while reading about her in this book.

The last section of this book deals with Anne Boleyn’s immediate family. Her father Thomas Boleyn has been viewed as a “power-hungry pimp” who only cared about his position rather than his children, but Ridgway shows that this was not the case. Anne’s mother Elizabeth Boleyn has been a shadowy figure in the past, yet Ridgway dives to find out what kind of parent she was and the rumors around her. Was George Boleyn such a scandalous figure and what was his relationship with his wife Jane Boleyn like? What is the truth about Mary Boleyn’s story? And finally, Ridgway explores the big question about the Boleyns and their religious viewpoints.

This is my favorite book from The Anne Boleyn Collection series so far. Claire Ridgway’s research and writing style has improved significantly between the two books, and it shows. I did thoroughly enjoy this one and I wanted to do my own research into these topics after reading this book. I learned so much about the Boleyns that it made me realize that maybe they were not as bad as novels and dramas have portrayed them. If you think you know the Boleyns, I would suggest you read, “The Anne Boleyn Collection II” by Claire Ridgway. It may change your mind about how you view this hotly debated family of Anne Boleyn.

Book Review: “The Anne Boleyn Collection” by Claire Ridgway

13488604Have you ever watched a historical drama/ movie or read a historical fiction novel and started to wonder if the “facts” they a portraying are true? You start researching the history of these people and the times that they lived in and it soon becomes a passion. You have your favorite figures to study and you want to defend them when those online decide to criticize them in discussion boards. For some of us, that is as far as it goes, but some choose to make blogs to explore these topics even further. This scenario is similar to what happened with Claire Ridgway, the creator of the popular blog The Anne Boleyn Files; however, her inspiration came from a dream. To share her passion for all things Anne Boleyn, Ridgway has decided to compile some of the most popular articles from her blog into her debut book, “The Anne Boleyn Collection”.

As a fellow history blogger, I share Ridgway’s passion for finding the truth about the past through personal research and to share that information with other Tudor fans through articles. I admire her for finding a subject that she is so passionate about that she decided to write enough articles to create an entire book about Anne Boleyn and the topics around her. There were several articles in this book that I found fascinating; like the missing Boleyn children, the men and women of Anne’s household, the discussion of the Boleyns in popular historical dramas, and the discovery of Anne’s remains, which I think shows Ridgway’s desire to show a different side to the Boleyn story to those who study the Tudors.

Ridgway’s book is a series of articles that were well received on her blog. They are not in chronological order, but there are some mini-series of articles that discuss certain topics at length. Some of the articles do discuss Anne Boleyn and how she is portrayed in The Tudors and The Other Boleyn Girl, which are popular but they tend to show Anne and her family in a rather negative light. Ridgway has very strong views on these programs and makes them very apparent.

The one major issue that I had with this book was the fact that she reused articles that were on her blog and just put them in an order that made sense. To me, there is a difference in style between writing a blog article and writing a book. You can still have the casual writing style that makes you feel like you are having a conversation with the reader, but expand your thoughts that you had in your articles while using more reliable sources. Since these articles are the same ones that were on the Anne Boleyn Files blog, it feels a bit redundant to have them in this book and on the blog.

Overall, I think that this was a decent debut book for Claire Ridgway. I thought she made some good points in her articles and her passion is evident in her writing. It does feel like having a conversation with Ridgway herself, which makes it easy for Tudor novices to understand. I did wish she expanded on some points and used more credible sources, but I thought it was a good book. If you are a fan of the Anne Boleyn Files and discussing hot topics about Anne Boleyn, I would recommend you check out, “The Anne Boleyn Collection” by Claire Ridgway.

Book Review: “On This Day in Tudor History” by Claire Ridgway

16125013The Tudor dynasty and the stories of those who lived during this time have drawn novices and experts alike to explore the history surrounding these events for hundreds of years. These tales can seem fictional, but the truth is often stranger than fiction, which is why it is important to understand when and why these events happened. The “when” can often be difficult to remember for any student of history because there are a lot of dates to deal with when you are dealing with a whole dynasty. That is why resources, like this particular book, can be so invaluable to have in one’s collection. Claire Ridgway has taken the time to give readers a day-by-day guide to the Tudors in her book, “On This Day in Tudor History”.

Ridgway has taken the concept of history books that explore what life was like in a year for a typical person in a certain time and she has expanded to cover an entire dynasty. Like these books, this one is divided by each month of the year and then by chronological order of the year. She covers all of the Tudor dynasty, with some dates before and after, to show how this one era truly impacted European and world history. Of course, she covers the big names of the dynasty; like Elizabeth I, Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn (which is a given since Ridgway is known for her other project, the Anne Boleyn Files), Mary I, and numerous courtiers and diplomats who made this time so fascinating for many of us to study.

What caught my interest in this book was the numerous figures that many might not know a lot about. There are the monarchs from all around Europe whose stories are often looked over for their English counterparts. And then there are the English scholars, explorers, martyrs, and playwrights that are often forgotten for more colorful figures. Their births, deaths, trials, tribulations, and triumphs are just as important as those who make the headlines. I did not know about so many of their stories and it made me want to learn more, to dive even deeper into the study of the Tudor dynasty.

Although I did enjoy reading this book, it is one that you need to take your time to read. It is a book that should be used as a resource for research into this time period. I did notice that with a few of the dates, some of the years were out of chronological order (which did bug me a bit since I like chronological order), but it is a minor issue. There are also some grammatical and spacing mistakes, but they do not take away from the context of this book. Ridgway does use some typical stories that have been debunked by recent biographies, but the dates are relatively accurate. I did wish that Ridgway included the major holidays and festivals into the actual book, instead of being at the beginning of the book, so that we could get a sense of what was going on during these significant events.

Overall, I found this book informative and fun. Claire Ridgway combined the trivia of Tudor dates with an easy to understand writing style. It is a massive tome, but a labor of love. If you want a book full of terrific Tudor trivia, I would recommend you read, “On This Day in Tudor History” by Claire Ridgway. It is a great addition to any Tudor collection.

New Book: Robin Hood’s Widow (Book Two in the Robin Hood Trilogy) Author Q&A with Olivia Longueville and J.C. Plummer

Today, I would like to welcome Olivia Longueville and J.C. Plummer to discuss their latest book, Robin Hood’s Widow (Book Two in the Robin Hood Trilogy).

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Robin Hood has been featured in many books, movies, and television shows.  How is your trilogy different?

We have taken a fresh approach to the Robin Hood story, and we’re excited to share our vision with fans of the legendary hero.   

In our first book, Robin Hood’s Dawn, we re-imagined the origins of the Robin Hood legend, which included exploring his family dynamics: an aloof, selfish father, and a kind-hearted mother devoted to ministering to the poor.  One theme is how the consequences of immoral actions and secret sins can reverberate across generations.  This is part of Robin’s legacy from his father.

We cast Robin as a hero fighting against the tyranny of a lawless government official. When Robin is falsely accused of a shocking crime by the new Sheriff of Nottingham, he could have retreated to a safe place beyond the reach of the sheriff.  However, he feels a responsibility to the people because he believes in the intrinsic value of every human being.  Instead of running away, he stays to protect the people from the sheriff.  And this points to another theme: one person can make a difference by taking a stand for what is right.

The second book, Robin Hood’s Widow, picks up where the first book ends. Robin is alive and still with King Richard in the Holy Land, but Marian, the sheriff, and Guy of Gisborne have returned to England thinking that Robin Hood is dead.

Robin Hood’s Widow explores themes of grief and redemption while featuring Marian’s adventures as leader of the outlaws. Her story is interwoven with Robin’s quest to return home while fulfilling his obligations to King Richard.

In this book, we wanted to explore both the stages of grief and their non-linear nature. Experiencing loss and grief is not like climbing stairs; you don’t complete one stage, progress to the next, and eventually arrive at acceptance. The emotional turmoil of an earlier stage can reappear and reassert itself during the process.

That being said, this story is not sad or depressing; Robin Hood’s Widow is an optimistic tale of triumphing over adversity. 

You’ve emphasized how your Robin Hood story has been re-imagined.  Will fans of the traditional ballads still recognize this as a Robin Hood story?

There is a lot of variety in the many books and screen adaptations of the Robin Hood legend.  We wanted to create a story that was respectful towards fans of the original ballads and legends without adhering to the same storylines that have been previously written.  We hope that all Robin Hood fans will enjoy this fresh retelling of the story.

However, we felt that Marian is a character who deserves more attention.  All too often she is a background character with little to do.  With this in mind, we have focused on creating a Lady Marian who will figure more prominently in the story, especially in Robin Hood’s Widow, where she takes center stage as the leader of the outlaws. She must learn how to lead while finding clever ways to thwart the sheriff and rob those supporters of Prince John who dare enter Sherwood Forest.  We also wanted Marian to be feminine and believable as a woman of the 12th century.    

Robin Hood’s Dawn introduced many familiar characters from the Robin Hood legends: Maid Marian, Little John, Allan-a-dale, Will Scarlet, Much the Miller’s son, Guy of Gisborne, and the Sheriff of Nottingham. In Robin Hood’s Widow, Brother Tuck, a Knight Templar, will join the outlaws.

Readers will also meet real historical figures such as Richard the Lionheart, King Philippe II of France, Prince John “the Lackland,” Eleanor of Aquitaine, and many others, including Ranulphus Besace.  Who was he?  Well, he was a real person who was King Richard’s personal physician!

Do the first two books of the trilogy end in cliff-hangers? Are the books stand alone?  

We have structured the trilogy so that the books do not end in cliff-hangers, and we have endeavored to create a sense of completion in each of the books. 

Although we want readers to start with Robin Hood’s Dawn, we know that some might be more interested in Robin Hood’s Widow. Therefore, we have endeavored to provide enough information in the second book so that a new reader will not be lost.

Both Robin and Marian are guarding secrets that will be revealed in Robin Hood’s Widow!

How did each of you become interested in writing this story and working together as co-authors?

Olivia:

I love to tell stories with multi-dimensional characters.  I speak several languages, and I enjoy writing stories in different languages.  My favorite legendary hero is Robin Hood, and my favorite historical figure is Anne Boleyn.  My first novel is an English-language alternate history featuring Anne Boleyn.

The story of Robin Hood’s Widow is very special to me, and I wrote the original version after I experienced a devastating personal loss. Readers might be surprised to learn that Robin Hood’s Widow was written before Robin Hood’s Dawn!

I met Coleen (J.C.) on the Internet, and we decided to co-author a Robin Hood Trilogy with Robin Hood’s Widow as its centerpiece.  

It is amazing that we have accomplished so much even though we have never met each other in real life.  We talk on the phone and frequently exchange Skype messages and emails.  We have been working together long-distance despite living in very different time zones.

Coleen (J.C.)

I had previously done editing work for other authors, and in 2015, I was inspired to create my own stories.  

I wanted to write a book that would honor the legend of Robin Hood as a man who stood against the tyranny of a powerful government official; a man who fought for justice and fairness because he recognized the intrinsic value rooted in the humanity of all people.  

 

So, you’ve never met, you come from different countries, different cultures, and speak different languages.  How can you co-author a book?  Is it because you have similar writing styles?

Coleen:

Fortunately, Olivia is fluent in English, because that’s the only language I know!

Olivia:

We have found that we have a lot in common—especially our love of writing and of history.  We have to work hard to merge our writing styles, but we have successfully done this. 

Coleen:

That’s true.  Olivia and I have very different “voices” and writing styles.  You might even say they are nearly opposite styles.  

I write in a straightforward, expository style, with a minimum of descriptive elements and metaphorical flourishes.  I am good at explaining things, organizing ideas, and creating natural-sounding dialogue.

Olivia:

My writing is characterized by lush romanticism and passionate lyricism.  I love to create metaphors and descriptions which excite the imagination of the reader in a vivid and dramatic way.

Coleen:

In some respects, Olivia’s words are the emotional heart of the story, and my words represent the rational intellect.  Of course, it’s not quite that cut-and-dried, but it is one way to describe how two people with such different styles have come together to create Robin Hood’s Dawn and Robin Hood’s Widow

Robin Hood’s Dawn (The Robin Hood Trilogy Book 1)

England, 1154-1194
A kingdom under assault.
A conspiracy born of anarchy.
A hero standing against tyranny.

Falsely convicted of a shocking crime, Robin Fitzooth, the Earl of Huntingdon, finds refuge in Sherwood Forest and becomes Robin Hood.  Leading a band of men against the injustices of a malevolent sheriff and his henchmen, Robin begins to unravel a web of treachery threatening the English royal family. 

As shadowy forces gather to destroy the future of a nation, Robin faces deceit, betrayal, and the ravages of war as he defends his king, his country, his people, and the woman he loves from a conspiracy so diabolical, so unexpected, that the course of history hangs in the balance.

From the mists of an ancient woodland to lavish royal courts teeming with intrigue, to the exotic shores of the Holy Land—Robin Hood leads the fight in a battle between good and evil, justice and tyranny, the future and the past.

Part one of an exciting three-part retelling of the Robin Hood legend!

The Robin Hood Trilogy, Book 2 - eBookRobin Hood’s Widow (The Robin Hood Trilogy Book 2)

Robin’s duty to his king sends him on an odyssey that will unfold from the streets of Paris to the banks of the Danube.  From incredible triumphs on the battlefields of the Crusade to harrowing sea voyages to a desperate dash across the frozen landscape of Central Europe, Robin Hood must ensure that King Richard safely returns to England.

Meanwhile, the outlaws of Sherwood Forest rise again under a new leader—and she is unwavering in her pursuit of justice against the tyranny of Sheriff de Argentan.  Marian endures the heartbreak of widowhood only to find strength and purpose as she leads a small band of devoted men in her quest for vengeance while she protects Robin’s legacy.

Sir Guy of Gisborne, tormented by his conscience and enslaved by the sheriff, faces the wraith-like fury of the woman he once loved.  How do you find forgiveness when you have committed an unforgivable crime?  He must attempt a daunting journey of redemption while finding inspiration from an unexpected source.

And through it all, Robin, Marian, and Guy are entangled in a web of treachery spun by the King of France and his sinister advisor, Montlhéry, as the plot to dismantle the Angevin Empire and take the throne of England from the Plantagenets boldly continues. 

Part two of an exciting three-part retelling of the Robin Hood legend!

Robin Hood’s Return (The Robin Hood Trilogy Book 3)

Robin and Marian are finally reunited as they confront an uncertain future. 

While an increasingly reckless Prince John pursues the throne, Queen Eleanor collects an unprecedented king’s ransom. Social unrest and ruinous taxation threatens to tear England apart.

As opposing forces battle for control of the English throne, the King of France and his sinister advisor, Montlhéry, conspire to end the Plantagenet dynasty forever.

Dark secrets and unexpected revelations could destroy the future of England. The course of history hangs in the balance.

Robin and Marian must save both King Richard and Prince John. But can they prevail in the ultimate battle between the future and the past?

About the Authors

Olivia Longueville 

Olivia has always loved literature and fiction, and she is passionate about historical research, genealogy, and the arts.  She has several degrees in finance & general management from London Business School (LBS) and other universities.  At present, she helps her father run the family business.  

During her first trip to France at the age of ten, Olivia had a life-changing epiphany when she visited the magnificent Château de Fontainebleau and toured its library.  This truly transformed her life as she realized her passion for books and writing, foreshadowing her future career as a writer.  In childhood, she began writing stories and poems in different languages.  Loving writing more than anything else in her life, Olivia has resolved to devote her life to creating historical fiction novels.  She has a special interest in the history of France and England.  

Having met on the Internet, Olivia and J. C. Plummer, a writer and historian, decided to co-author The Robin Hood Trilogy.  Olivia and J. C. are retelling the Robin Hood story with an unusual and imaginative plot that is solidly grounded in 12th-century history. The trilogy incorporates twists and turns which will captivate and entertain readers.

Olivia’s social media profiles:

Personal website: http://www.olivialongueville.com/

Project website: http://www.angevinworld.com/

Twitter: @O_Longueville

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/OliviaLongueville/

Tumblr: http://www.olivia-longueville.tumblr.com/

J. C. Plummer 

J.C. Plummer (Jennie Coleen) graduated Summa Cum Laude from Washburn University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Anthropology.  She later earned a Master of Science degree in Computer Information Science from Dartmouth College.

Co-authoring The Robin Hood Trilogy has merged J.C.’s passions for history, culture, and technology into one unique, exciting project.

As an author and historian, J.C.’s goal is to provide thoughtful and entertaining storytelling that honors the past, is mindful of the present, and is optimistic for the future.

J.C.’s social media profiles:

Project website: http://www.angevinworld.com/

Twitter: @JC_Plummer

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jennie.newbrand/

 

Book Review: “Crusaders: The Epic History of the Wars for the Holy Lands” by Dan Jones

43899574The story of the Crusades has been told in many different ways from numerous directions. The epic conflict between Christianity and Islam for the Holy Lands that went on for centuries that has lived in infamy. Many questions have arisen as historians try to separate facts from the myths surrounding this topic. How and why did it start? Why did it continue to go on for so long? Was there really a winner in this conflict? Who were the people who defined this conflict? Dan Jones has taken on the challenge of writing a comprehensive history of this conflict and the people who fought during this time in his latest book, “Crusaders: The Epic History of the Wars for the Holy Lands”.

I wanted to read this book since the day that it was announced. I did not know a whole lot about the Crusades and what I did know about this time was from quick overviews from history classes that I took while in school. I wanted a book that told the story of the Crusades from all sides to fully understand this struggle as a whole. This book delivered everything that I wanted and more.

Like the title suggests, Jones’s focus is more on the people, the crusaders, and how their decisions led to the numerous crusades from 1099 until 1492 when the Reconquista ended. But what separates this book from other books about the Crusades is that he doesn’t focus on one group of people, his focus is on multiple stories to paint a complex story of the time. Jones includes the tales of the dynamic and colorful people we think of when we study the crusades; Alexios I Komnenos, Anna Komnene, Pope Urban II, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Richard the Lionheart, Simon de Montfort, Saladin, Henry Bolingbroke, and many others. However, the story of the crusades was not limited to royalty, generals and popes. Jones includes the tales of the lowly monks who preached for fellow Christians to defend the Holy Lands, scholars and poets who told the tales of those who fought, servants and peasants who fought for their homes and their religions.

This particular subject may feel like a daunting challenge to tackle, but this book is so easy to understand. With a more human-centric approach, Jones is able to present the history of the Crusades in a rather enlightening way. It was not just a series of wars about religion, Christianity versus Islam or, in some cases, against pagan groups. In fact, it was a lot more complicated. They were wars about politics, monetary gains, and to regain lands from other groups of people.

I was blown away with how truly remarkable this book was to read. Jones’s combination of a plethora of facts with an engaging and comprehensive writing style brought the Crusades back to life. There were so many people who I was introduced to by reading this book that I really want to study more in the future. “Crusaders: The Epic History of the Wars for the Holy Lands” by Dan Jones was an absolute delight to read. If you want an excellent book that gives you a comprehensive look at the Crusades and the Crusaders, no matter if you are a novice or someone who has studied this period before, I highly recommend you read this book.

Book Review: “The Peasants’ Revolting…Crimes” by Terry Deary

47135242In history, we tend to look at people based on their class. There are the upper class (royalty and nobility), the middle class, and the underclasses (peasants). Most of the focus tends to be on the deeds of the upper and middle classes, yet the underclasses had there own struggles, some of which resulted in them committing crimes. What was life like for the criminals of the underclasses? What type of crimes did they commit and what sort of punishments did they suffer once they were caught? Terry Deary decided to explore the crimes of the British peasants throughout history, in his own humorous way, in his latest book, “The Peasants’ Revolting….Crimes”.

I would like to thank Pen and Sword Books for sending me a copy of this book. The description sounded really intriguing and I had never read a book by Terry Deary, so I decided to give it a try.

For those who are not familiar with Terry Deary, he is the author of a popular UK book series for kids about history called, “Horrible Histories”, a funny look at the past to get kids interested in historical figures. I will admit that I had heard people mention “Horrible Histories” and the video series, but I was not sure what to expect when it came to Deary’s writing style. I don’t normally read humourous history books because I love diving large biographies that contain minute details of the lives of historical figures, but I found myself enjoying this entertaining, yet rather unusual, history book.

This book was a delight to dive into. Deary breaks down his book by exploring the underclasses, from the nefarious Normans and the terrible Tudors to the vivacious Victorians and everyone in between. He included tales of arsonists, murderers, pirates, hooligans, beggars, rioters, and more to give readers a full view of crimes committed by those who were part of the underclasses. The topics that Deary discusses in this book can be rather dark and macabre, but it doesn’t have a dark tone to it. Instead, Deary infuses his own sense of humor that makes reading about these horrific crimes enjoyable. There were points while I was reading that I actually laughed out loud, but other points the humor did fall flat for me because it dealt with elements of living in the UK that I didn’t understand.

Deary does jump around a lot when it comes to the chronological order of this book, which did bother me a tad bit because I do prefer reading a historical book in chronological order. Yet Deary does get away with this since it is a book that acts like a comedy sketch instead of a serious study in the crimes of the underclasses. What I did wish Deary would have included in his book is a list of resources on the crimes that he mentioned so that those who were curious could look into the trials themselves, to help promote independent historical studies of the subjects.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Deary combined the study of history with humor to create a light-hearted and fun experience for anyone interested in history. Every once in awhile, it is good to take a break from serious historical studies and read something for fun. If you want a nice, casual read that explores the lives and crimes of peasants, I highly recommend you read, “The Peasants’ Revolting…Crimes” by Terry Deary.

Book Review: “Four Queens and a Countess: Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth I, Mary I, Lady Jane Grey and Bess of Hardwick: The Struggle for the Crown” by Jill Armitage

34411961The 16th century was filled with extremely strong women who went on to shape European and world history forever. This was true for England and Scotland, two countries whose stories were intertwined by powerful women. The women who ruled these two countries during this time were women that those who study this time period know about; Lady Jane Grey, Mary I, Elizabeth I, and Mary Queen of Scots. There was one woman who knew all four of these women and lived for over 80 years: Bess of Hardwick, Countess of Shrewsbury. The story of these five women is told in Jill Armitage’s book, “Four Queens and a Countess: Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth I, Mary I, Lady Jane Grey and Bess of Hardwick: The Struggle for the Crown”.

I would like to thank Amberley Publishing for sending me a copy of this book. I am always interested in learning how different people in the 16th century interacted with one another, plus I didn’t know a whole lot about Bess of Hardwick and I wanted to learn more about her.

Armitage begins her book by exploring Bess of Hardwick’s family and how they rose in power so that Bess could serve royalty. It was interesting to learn about her family and the four husbands that Bess married throughout her life: Robert Barlow, Sir William Cavendish, Sir William St. Loe, and George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury. Bess also had numerous children and grandchildren who would go to be influential in the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I. I really wish Armitage had included family trees of the different families that were involved in her book to make it easier for the readers to understand the connections, which are vital for the stories mentioned in this particular book.

The story of Bess of Hardwick’s life begins at the height of the reign of the Tudor when Henry VIII is on the throne and ends with the beginning of the Stuarts Dynasty so Armitage does include the lives of the women who shaped these times. Armitage begins with how Henry VII and Henry VIII came to the throne, marching swiftly through the six wives of Henry VIII until reaching the reign of Henry VIII’s son King Edward VI. It is here where the pace of the book slows down a bit and we dive into the lives of the Grey family and how Bess of Hardwick knew them and how the family’s legacy came to an abrupt end with the execution of Lady Jane Grey. Armitage then explores the reigns of Mary I, Elizabeth I, and Mary Queen of Scots and how Bess of Hardwick connects all three vivacious women.

Here is where I have another problem with this particular book; it is too short (less than 300 pages) when discussing all the history that Armitage has in it. Some parts felt like a review and other parts felt like facts were flying and she didn’t go into enough detail to explain it all. I feel like Armitage was a bit ambitious for the idea of this book and that if she wrote a bit more, the book would have flowed a lot better than it did.

Overall, I found this book rather interesting and relatively easy to understand. Armitage has a writing style that is readable. This is a great book for those who are being introduced to the Tudor dynasty, but for those who know about this time period, it feels like a review. If you are interested in learning about the connection between these five women, I recommend you read, “Four Queens and a Countess: Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth I, Mary I, Lady Jane Grey and Bess of Hardwick: The Struggle for the Crown” by Jill Armitage.

Movie Review: Downton Abbey

MV5BMmQxNGRkMjYtZTAyMy00MDUyLThiNmYtODI1NTkyNmI0ZTNlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjM4NTM5NDY@._V1_.jpgHave you ever wondered what your favorite television series would be like on the big screen? To have all your favorite characters go on new adventures, even after the series had ended. However, you are worried that something will get lost once the series moves to the film adaptation. I know I was worried about it before I went to see Downton Abbey the movie. 

Now, I know what you are thinking. Why is she talking about Downton Abbey, which takes place in the 1920s when this blog is all about the Wars of the Roses and the Tudors? Don’t worry, this is a one-time thing.  

Downton Abbey holds a special place in my heart. It is really the first series that I really felt that I could binge and it never gets old for me. It feels magical every time I watch it. From the clothes and the gorgeous Highclere Castle to the complex characters that you fall in love with, Downton Abbey is a series that stands the test of time.  

 I was worried that the film was not going to have the same magic as the series, but  Downton Abbey blew my expectations out of the water.

 Downton Abbey plays host to King George V and Queen Mary as they travel across the country, which means a lot of drama and oh so much stress. All of the original cast is back (which is amazing) with brand new royals and royal servants. With all of these regal characters, how will Downton Abbey, both upstairs and downstairs, deal with the new protocols and procedures fit for a king? 

The character interactions during the different twists and turns during this film feels like you never left Downton Abbey. They are still brilliantly witty, especially Dame Maggie Smith who plays Violet Crawley Dowager Countess of Grantham, and they truly care about the honor of the Crawley family and the honor of Downton Abbey. With romances and intrigue abound, Downton Abbey never disappoints. 

 I did have a few issues with the movie. I wanted to see more of the young kids. They were in the background a lot, but I wanted to see them interact more. I also wanted to see more of Robert and Cora Crawley, played by Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern respectfully. Finally, I wanted the interactions between Mary and Edith Crawley, played by Michelle Dockery and Laura Carmichael (who many might recognize as Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury in The Spanish Princess), to be more like they were in the past. In a word, they were a bit too “nice” to each other.

Overall, I loved Downton Abbey. It felt like reuniting with old friends and making new ones. I really hope that they make either a sequel movie or another season after this movie. If you are a fan of the Downton Abbey series, you will thoroughly enjoy Downton Abbey. 

 

Book Review: “Anne Boleyn: Adultery, Heresy, Desire” by Amy Licence

61lJBy4FGrL._SX343_BO1,204,203,200_Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII and the mother of the future Queen Elizabeth I, is one of the unique characters of the Tudor era. She was the sister of one of the king’s mistresses, Mary Boleyn, which she could have been, but Henry wanted Anne as his queen. Unfortunately, he was married to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. It is Henry’s divorce to Catherine and his relationship with Anne, the rise and fall, is what many people look at, but there is more to Anne’s story than just her life with Henry. What was Anne’s life really like and what really caused her fall? These are just a few questions that Amy Licence tackles in her latest biography, “Anne Boleyn: Adultery, Heresy, Desire.”

I would like to thank Amberley Publishing for sending me a copy of this book to review. I haven’t read many biographies about Anne Boleyn so this was a unique experience.

In her introduction, Amy Licence explains her approach to Anne’s life and why she is such an interesting figure to study:

Anne’s is very much a Tudor story, a narrative that balances on the cusp of old and new, equally informed by both. It has been told many times before, but what this version aims to offer afresh is a sense of continuity with earlier Boleyn generations. She was born into an ambitious dynasty, with each generation taking a step forward in terms of career and martial advancements…. That she was the most successful Boleyn cannot be disentangled from her gender and class. By the definitions of her time, Anne was an overreacher in more than one sense. She was a woman, born to be a wife, but not that of the king. She was an aristocrat, descended from the influential Howards, observing but not trained in the demands of queenship. She transcended boundaries of expected behaviour on both counts, which was both her most remarkable achievement and created her two areas of greatest vulnerability. This account of Anne’s life prioritises her relationship with the defining issues of gender and class, tracing their role in her rise and fall. (Licence, 8).

Licence begins her biography by going back to the origins of the Boleyn family, with Anne’s ancestor, Geoffrey Boleyn. Geoffrey came from very humble beginnings, but he worked hard and rose to become the Lord Mayor of London, as well as a knight. His descendants continued this tradition of working hard, which Licence takes the time to explain thoroughly so that the reader can understand that they were not necessarily overreachers; they were hard workers. This background information is extremely helpful to understand the Boleyn family as a whole.

The main focus of Licence’s book is  Anne’s relationship with Henry VIII, her husband. By including the letters between Anne and Henry, the reader can see how the relationship started and how their relationship ended in a dramatic fashion. Henry was the one who really took control of the relationship.  Anne may have learned how to be a strong woman from working in the French court, but she was no match for Henry VIII.

Although there have been many biographies about Anne Boleyn, this one stands out because Anne is seen in more of a sympathetic light. Licence combines a plethora of details with a writing style that is easy to understand to bring Anne out of the dark side of history. I learned so much about a queen I thought I knew.“Anne Boleyn: Adultery, Heresy, Desire” by Amy Licence was an absolute delight to read. It is a real page-turner and is a must for anyone who loves to read about the Tudors, the wives of Henry VIII, and Anne Boleyn.