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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Squire-Final-working.inddBlurb:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy Links:

This book is available to read on #KindleUnlimited.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carolyn Hughes authorAuthor Bio:

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

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

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

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

Social Media Links:

Website: http://www.carolynhughesauthor.com 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/writingcalliope 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The room was silent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9781915194190Blurb

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

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

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

Trigger Warnings:

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

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

Buy Links

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

Waterstones

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

RedDoor

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

Gwenllian Author photoAuthor Bio 

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

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

 

Social Media Links:

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

Book Review: “Essex Dogs” by Dan Jones

60841074The year is 1346, and numerous English ships have landed on the shores of France. King Edward III, his son Edward of Woodstock, and his lords launched the first stage of what would be known as the Hundred Years’ War. Amongst the English royalty, nobility, and regular soldiers, are companies of men who came of their own accord for money and glory. One company of men consists of ten men known as the Essex Dogs, led by Loveday FitzTalbot. They are not like the other groups. They do not fight for money or glory; they fight for each other. In the horrors of war in a foreign land, can the Essex Dogs keep their promise and stay alive? Dan Jones introduces the world to these ten men and the early stage of the Hundred Years’ War in his first historical fiction novel, “Essex Dogs.”

I have read nonfiction books by Dan Jones for years now, and I have thoroughly enjoyed the amount of detail he puts into each book. When Dan Jones announced that he would dive into the world of historical fiction, I was fascinated to see how well he could handle the transition from historical nonfiction to fiction. I was pleasantly surprised by how this amazingly gripping novel.

This story, from the landing in France to the Battle of Crecy, is told through the eyes of Essex Dogs, a rag-tag group of men from England, Scotland, and Wales. Each man has a past that they are trying to run away from, but their loyalty to each other unites them to finish their forty days of service to King Edward III. Some Essex Dogs include the pint-size fighter Pismire, the strong Scotsman, and the loyal Millstone. We also have crazy priest Father, the young and naive archer Romford, and their fearless leader, who will do anything to keep his group together, Loveday FitzTalbot.

I love the colorful interactions that the Essex Dogs had between one another and with the actual people who were involved in the campaign to Crecy. Each soldier’s struggles, from injuries and drug use to strategies and the punishments for not following royal commands, were written brilliantly. However, one area in which Jones excelled was portraying the brutality of war. The battles and skrimmages Jones included were so believable that I had to collect my breath after each battle before I went back to ensure the Essex Dogs were okay. Even the fights between companies were thrilling and will stay with me for a long time ( I am looking at you, chapter 12).

I honestly did not know what to expect when I ordered this book back in February, but it was a masterpiece. I can’t believe it took Dan Jones this long to write historical fiction, but I cannot wait for the next book in this trilogy. It is easily one of my favorite historical fiction novels of this year. If you want an electrifying novel with a compelling cast of characters set at the beginning of the Hundred Years’ War, “Essex Dogs” by Dan Jones is a must-read.

Book Review: “Keeper of the Queen’s Jewels” by Adrienne Dillard

61419479._SY475_ (1)Two women who served Anne Boleyn must deal with the ramifications of staying on opposite sides of the queen’s downfall. One is the next bride of King Henry VIII, who must give the king the son he desires or suffer the consequences. The other is a lady in waiting who holds a dark secret and a relic of the past that could be dangerous to both women. Many of us know the story of Jane Seymour, but is there more to the queen who was able to give King Henry VIII the son he desired? What about the mysterious Margery Horsman? What role did she play in Anne Boleyn’s and Jane Seymour’s inner circles? In her third book, “Keeper of the Queen’s Jewels,” Adrienne Dillard tells the tale of these women bonded by fate to work together to survive such a tumultuous time.

Thank you, Adrienne Dillard and GreyLondon Press, for sending me a copy of this novel. I had read Dillard’s previous novels and adored them, so when I heard that she was writing a new story with Jane Seymour and Margery Horsman as the heroines, I knew it was a must-read for this year.

We begin with the immediate aftermath of the death of Anne Boleyn. Margery Horsman is still reeling with her words and how they might have led to the deaths of innocent people. On top of that, Anne Boleyn entrusted her with her most famous piece of jewelry, the B necklace, which she must keep hidden until the time is right to give to Anne’s beloved daughter, Elizabeth. Alone in a sea of faces, Margery must navigate the Tudor court to ensure her queen’s final wish is fulfilled, even if it means working with Anne Boleyn’s replacement, Jane Seymour. Along the way, she unexpectedly falls in love with a widower and finds happiness.

While we have Margery Horsman’s story, we also have Jane’s tale of how she became queen quickly after the death of the woman she once swore to serve. Following the advice of her brothers, Thomas and Edward Seymour, Jane learns what she must do to survive as queen, even when she is not pregnant with a potential Tudor heir. She may appear like this meek and mild mother in the making, but deep down, Jane wants to speak up against issues that matter to her, like the Pilgrimage of Grace and the dissolution of the monasteries. A wise woman who knew how to balance her opinions in such a matter to avoid falling into the deep end and following her predecessor to the scaffold.

Dillard weaves historical facts with elements of fiction to create believable versions of the Tudors. The amount of care taken to write the stories of Jane Seymour and Margery Horsman is extraordinary. In short, “Keeper of the Queen’s Jewels” is Adrienne Dillard’s latest Tudor masterpiece and is a must-read for Tudor fans.

Book Review: “Lady of the English” by Elizabeth Chadwick

15931913The year 1120 was a horrible year for King Henry I. His only legitimate son William died when his ship, The White Ship, sank in the middle of the night. This tragedy left Henry with one option, his legitimate daughter Matilda, the former Holy Roman Empress, would become Queen of England, and her sons would continue the royal line. Unfortunately, Matilda’s throne was taken by Stephen of Blois, and now Matilda must join forces with her stepmother Her stepmother Adeliza has always stood by Matilda’s side. Still, when she remarries after Henry’s death, Adeliza struggles to support the rightful queen but stays loyal to her new husband, who supports Stephen. Matilda and Adeliza are caught in the middle of the Anarchy in Elizabeth Chadwick’s novel, “Lady of the English.”

We are introduced to Matilda at one of her lowest moments when her first husband, Holy Roman Emperor Henry V, dies, and she must go back to England. Her father, Henry I, has decided that Matilda will be his heiress, and she must marry again to secure his legacy if his current wife, Adeliza, cannot give him another heir. Matilda’s second husband is Geoffrey V Duke of Anjou, a braggart and is abusive towards his wife, even though she outranks him. It is a contentious relationship, but Matilda holds her head up high to try and make this arrangement work for her sons, Geffory, William, and the future Henry II.

Unfortunately for Adeliza, she cannot give her husband the heir he desires, which means that the greatest men in the land must swear oaths to honor Matilda as the next Queen of England. The plan is set, but when Henry I dies, Matilda is in France, so her cousin Stephen of Blois takes the opportunity to become the next King of England. Matilda is furious and decides to fight for her right to the English throne while Geoffrey is in Anjou, but then shifts her position that her eldest son, Henry II, will be the next King of England.

After Henry I’s death, Adeliza decides what is best for her is to live the rest of her life in a nunnery, but that is not her fate. A handsome young man named William D’Albini sweeps her off her feet and gives Adeliza the one thing she long desired, a family. Unfortunately, when Stephen becomes King of England, William D’Albini joins forces with the new king, while Adeliza stays loyal to her step-daughter and friend, Matilda.

This is my first time reading a novel by Elizabeth Chadwick, and I loved it so much. The way Chadwick blended elements of fiction with historical facts was nothing short of astounding. From battles to religious moments, politics to intimate moments, Chadwick brought the story of The Anarchy to life for a modern audience. Reading this novel felt like I was transported to 12th century England and showed where Henry II got his strength and determination to rule England. If you want a vivid and compelling novel about two dynamic women in the 12th century, I highly recommend reading “Lady of the English” by Elizabeth Chadwick.

Book Review: “Red Rose, White Rose” by Joanna Hickson

20892659One woman is torn between the loyalty to her birth family and the loyalty to her family by marriage. Now, this may sound like the story of Elizabeth of York, but alas, it is not. This story does take place in the fifteenth century, but it is the story of Elizabeth of York’s grandmother, “The Rose of Raby,” Cecily Neville. Born to the proud Neville family, who were proud Lancastrians, Cecily’s father, Ralph Neville, the Earl of Westmorland, arranged a marriage for his daughter to the young and ambitious Richard, Duke of York. She is now one of the most powerful women in England, but with power comes risks of ruin as Cecily has a secret that could be disastrous. War looms between the Red Roses of Lancaster and the White Roses of York, one that will transform English history forever, with Cecily caught in the middle. Her story is told in Joanna Hickson’s novel, “Red Rose, White Rose.”

Hickson begins her book by showing the interaction between Cecily and her half-brother, Cuthbert or Cuddy. Cecily is engaged to Richard Duke of York when she is kidnapped but is later rescued by John Neville, a distant cousin. In John Neville’s care, Cecily Neville’s life takes an unexpected turn, and a secret relationship is formed between the two. Although I know this was a fictitious relationship invented for this book, it still did not sit well with me. I have always thought Cecily was loyal and devoted to her husband and family (even though there were rumors of her and a knight having an affair), so this did not fit my view of Cecily Neville.

The bulk of this novel explores how Cecily and Richard were able to navigate the complex world of 15th-century English politics while their family grew. We also see Cuthbert fall in love and have his own family while he stays by Cecily’s side during such a tumultuous time.

This novel did not spend much time on the Wars of Roses. We get to see the origins of the major battles and how Edward became king, but we don’t see Cecily trying to hold her family together. I wanted to see her interactions with her sons Edward, George, and Richard during their feuding years. I wanted to see her reactions to Edward’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville and her interactions with her daughter-in-law. In short, I wanted a longer story that focused more on the Wars of the Roses and how Cecily Neville dealt with the changes in her family dynamic due to the throne’s power.

Overall, this novel was enjoyable and well-written. Some elements were included that I disagreed with their concept. The story was engaging and gave Hickson’s audience a sneak-peek into Cecily Neville, Richard Duke of York, and their children. If you want a solid novel about Cecily Neville, I recommend reading “Red Rose, White Rose” by Joanna Hickson.

Guest Post: Excerpt from “Raleigh: Tudor Adventurer by Tony Riches”

Raleigh Tudor Adventurer Tour BannerToday, it is my pleasure to welcome back to the blog Tony Riches to share an excerpt from his latest Elizabethan novel, “Raleigh: Tudor Adventurer. I want to thank Tony Riches and The Coffee Pot Book Club for allowing me to be part of this tour. 

Excerpt

I’d never seen the presence chamber so crowded. The queen sat on her gilded throne, flanked on both sides by her ladies in their best gowns. Every space was filled with courtiers, and I was pleased to see all the members of the Privy Council, including Lord Burghley and my nemesis, Sir Christopher Hatton.

There were gasps and muttered comments as we entered. I’d been right. Her Majesty’s newest subjects were the talk of London, and I had become the center of attention. I strode forwards and bowed, relishing the moment.

‘Your Majesty, I present Manteo and Wanchese, from the New World, now claimed as the empire of Virginia.’

Although we’d provided them with warmer clothing, as they suffered with the cold of London in autumn, they were bare-chested and bare-footed, showing their tattooed bodies. With iridescent feathers in their plaited hair, they dressed in loincloths, with black furs draped over their shoulders, increasing their wild appearance.

As prepared in our rehearsal at Durham House, they marched confidently through the crowded chamber and fell to their knees before the queen. Manteo greeted her in his own language, then Wanchese opened a small box containing the bracelet of pearls.

The queen stared at her visitors with open curiosity, then took the pearl bracelet and turned to me. ‘We wish to thank them. Do they understand any English?’

‘These men are chieftains of their people, and the bracelets are a gift from their queen, Your Majesty. Chief Manteo is learning a little English, and Master Thomas Harriot is learning what he can of their language.’

‘Tell Master Harriot to explain that we thank their queen for her gift, and commend their bravery in making the journey to England.’ She turned the pearl bracelet in the light and looked up at me. ‘Did your men discover gold or jewels?’

‘What they found is worth more than gold or jewels, Your Majesty.’ I paused and looked around the chamber, aware of my new status. ‘They discovered rich, fertile land, stretching as far as they could see, and claimed it in the gracious name of Your Majesty.’ I pointed to Manteo and Wanchese. ‘These men made my captains most welcome, and will help us understand the opportunities of the country of Virginia for the benefit of your colonists.’

* * *

The first of my rewards proved a surprise. I’d been appointed the junior Member of Parliament for Devon. Parliament had not met for twelve years, and my tax on broadcloth exports was unpopular with influential wool merchants in Exeter, so my new appointment was unexpected.

Sir Francis Walsingham was quick to explain. ‘This is the fifth meeting of the queen’s reign, which the Privy Council has recommended to discuss national security.’

‘There is talk at court that the Throckmorton Plot is only part of a wider Catholic conspiracy.’

Sir Francis nodded. ‘My informers on the Continent discovered plans for an invasion of England led by Henry, Duke of Guise, financed by the Spanish and the Vatican.’ He frowned. ‘We have to do whatever we can to prevent a simultaneous revolt of English Catholics.’

‘Do you think they might try?’ With a jolt, I realized how quickly everything I’d built up could vanish, like a morning mist.

‘You’ve seen the seditious pamphlet they call Leicester’s Commonwealth?’

‘I have, but no one, apart perhaps from the Earl of Leicester, takes it too seriously—’

‘That’s where you’re wrong, Master Raleigh. The Catholic faction draws encouragement from such works, and there are thousands of copies in circulation on the Continent. The pamphlet is a threat to our queen. We mustn’t forget Prince William of Orange was murdered by a man he trusted, a Catholic named Balthasar Gérard, who used a pistol at close range.’ Sir Francis shook his head. ‘He was assassinated at dinner in his own house, a reminder why we have to be prepared for anything.’

‘What do you wish me to do?’

‘A new act is to be put before Parliament, for the safety of the queen, to prevent any open invasion or rebellion, or any attempt to injure Her Majesty. Any person found guilty will be disbarred from inheriting the throne, and sentenced to death for treason.’

‘Including the queen’s cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots?’

He nodded. ‘Catholic sympathizers in Parliament will do all they can to delay, so use your influence to ensure the act is passed.’

I looked at him in surprise. I had no experience of politics or as a Member of Parliament and hadn’t seen myself as capable of political influence. Sir Francis Walsingham sat like a spider in the complex web of court, and his words proved that, at last, I’d achieved my ambition.

Raleigh coverRaleigh – Tudor Adventurer

(The Elizabethan Series, Book 3)

By Tony Riches

Blurb

Tudor adventurer, courtier, explorer, and poet Sir Walter Raleigh has been called the last true Elizabethan.

He didn’t dance or joust, didn’t come from a noble family, or marry into one. So how did an impoverished law student become a favorite of the queen and Captain of the Guard?

The story, which began with the best-selling Tudor trilogy, follows Walter Raleigh from his first days at the Elizabethan Court to the end of the Tudor dynasty.

Buy Links:

Available on #KindleUnlimited.

Universal Link: mybook. to/Raleigh

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09Z98J183

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09Z98J183

Amazon CA: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B09Z98J183

Amazon AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B09Z98J183

Tony Riches Author (1)Author Bio:

Tony Riches

Tony Riches is a full-time UK author of best-selling historical fiction. He lives in Pembrokeshire, West Wales, and is a specialist in the lives of the Tudors. He also runs the popular Stories of the Tudors Podcast’ podcast and posts book reviews and guest posts at his blog, The Writing Desk. For more information, visit his website tonyriches.com and find him on Facebook and Twitter @tonyriches.

Social Media Links:

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Book Review: “Raleigh: Tudor Adventurer (Elizabethan Book #3)” by Tony Riches

61016647._SY475_A man who wants to get ahead in any royal court must have an impeccable background and a willingness to serve his monarch no matter the obstacles thrown their way. It takes an extraordinary man who doesn’t have a pristine background to make it in the ruthless world of a royal court, but some men made names for themselves. One such man was an adventurer, a poet, an explorer, and a courtier. He came from humble beginnings and rose to prominence to become known as one of the last true Elizabethans. The man was Sir Walter Raleigh, and his story is told in Tony Riches’ latest novel, “Raleigh: Tudor Adventurer.”

I want to thank Tony Riches for sending me a copy of this novel. I have enjoyed his previous books in his Elizabethan series on Sir Francis Drake and Robert Devereux Earl of Essex, so I was thrilled when a new story about Sir Walter Raleigh was announced. I previously read a novel about Sir Walter Raleigh’s mother this year, so I was looking forward to an adventure with her son.

Walter Raleigh began his career as a law student who was not passionate about the law. He is ambitious and eventually attracts the attention of Queen Elizabeth I herself; it is in her court that he becomes a courtier and, finally, her Captain of the Guard. His dream was to set sail on the open seas with his brother. He finally gets his chance to sail the high seas, but it is not as glamorous as he envisioned, but he is hooked on the thrill of the adventure.

Some look down on Raleigh because he is not part of a noble family, but he rose through the ranks to become one of the Queen’s favorites. His good looks and charisma attracted the attention of many young ladies, including Bess Throckmorton, who would later become his wife. However, the bulk of this novel focuses on the adventures and investments Raleigh was known for. From Ireland and Cadiz to the New World and the search for the legendary City of Gold, Riches takes his readers on swashbuckling journeys full of perilous battles and high rewards.

I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Raleigh’s relationships with everyone from Queen Elizabeth I to his wife, Bess Raleigh. The audience gets a chance to see the inner workings of Elizabeth’s court through the eyes of someone who knew what it meant to be on Elizabeth’s good side. I also enjoyed the poetry that Riches weaves into this narrative to give his audience a better understanding of what Raleigh might have felt during crucial moments in his life. My one issue with this novel was that some of the battles and scenes during Raleigh’s expeditions felt a tad rushed to me, and I wish Riches developed these scenes a bit more.

Overall, I found this novel satisfying to read and a real treat for any Tudor fan. If you have enjoyed the previous Elizabethan series books or are looking for a stand-alone story about Sir Walter Raleigh, I would propose you read “Raleigh: Tudor Adventurer” by Tony Riches.