New This Week

The Second Empress ~ Michelle Moran
Publisher: Crown Publishing
Pages: 320
Release Date: August 14, 2012

National bestselling author Michelle Moran returns to Paris, this time under the rule of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte as he casts aside his beautiful wife to marry a Hapsburg princess he hopes will bear him a royal heir

   After the bloody French Revolution, Emperor Napoleon’s power is absolute. When Marie-Louise, the eighteen year old daughter of the King of Austria, is told that the Emperor has demanded her hand in marriage, her father presents her with a terrible choice: marry the cruel, capricious Napoleon, leaving the man she loves and her home forever, or say no, and plunge her country into war.

   Marie-Louise knows what she must do, and she travels to France, determined to be a good wife despite Napoleon’s reputation. But lavish parties greet her in Paris, and at the extravagant French court, she finds many rivals for her husband’s affection, including Napoleon’s first wife, Joséphine, and his sister Pauline, the only woman as ambitious as the emperor himself. Beloved by some and infamous to many, Pauline is fiercely loyal to her brother. She is also convinced that Napoleon is destined to become the modern Pharaoh of Egypt. Indeed, her greatest hope is to rule alongside him as his queen—a brother-sister marriage just as the ancient Egyptian royals practiced. Determined to see this dream come to pass, Pauline embarks on a campaign to undermine the new empress and convince Napoleon to divorce Marie-Louise. 

   As Pauline’s insightful Haitian servant, Paul, watches these two women clash, he is torn between his love for Pauline and his sympathy for Marie-Louise. But there are greater concerns than Pauline’s jealousy plaguing the court of France. While Napoleon becomes increasingly desperate for an heir, the empire’s peace looks increasingly unstable. When war once again sweeps the continent and bloodshed threatens Marie-Louise’s family in Austria, the second Empress is forced to make choices that will determine her place in history—and change the course of her life. 

   Based on primary resources from the time, The Second Empress takes readers back to Napoleon’s empire, where royals and servants alike live at the whim of one man, and two women vie to change their destinies.

The Kingmaker’s Daughter ~ Philippa Gregory

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Canada
Pages: 432
Release Date: August 14, 2012

Spies, poison, and curses surround her…. Is there anyone she can trust?

In The Kingmaker’s Daughter, #1 New York Times bestselling author Philippa Gregory presents a novel of conspiracy and a fight to the death for love and power at the court of Edward IV of England.

The Kingmaker’s Daughter is the gripping story of the daughters of the man known as the “Kingmaker,” Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick: the most powerful magnate in fifteenth-century England. Without a son and heir, he uses his daughters Anne and Isabel as pawns in his political games, and they grow up to be influential players in their own right. In this novel, her first sister story since The Other Boleyn Girl, Philippa Gregory explores the lives of two fascinating young women.

At the court of Edward IV and his beautiful queen, Elizabeth Woodville, Anne grows from a delightful child to become ever more fearful and desperate when her father makes war on his former friends. Married at age fourteen, she is soon left widowed and fatherless, her mother in sanctuary and her sister married to the enemy. Anne manages her own escape by marrying Richard, Duke of Gloucester, but her choice will set her on a collision course with the overwhelming power of the royal family and will cost the lives of those she loves most in the world, including her precious only son, Prince Edward. Ultimately, the kingmaker’s daughter will achieve her father’s greatest ambition.


The Spymaster’s Daughter ~ Jeane Westin

Publisher: NAL Trade
Pages: 416
Release Date: August 7, 2012

In the court of Elizabeth I, the daughter of the queen’s powerful spymaster becomes a secret agent, and plays a dangerous role in saving her country from its ruthless enemies.

In Tudor England, traitors are everywhere and the queen’s spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham, is assembling the greatest intelligence-gathering network in the world. Walsingham’s only daughter, Lady Frances Sidney, is smart, courageous, and unhappy in love. She longs for the excitement of decoding encrypted messages and setting traps for those working for rival Mary, Queen of Scots. But Frances's father refuses her any opportunity to contribute to the desperate effort of keeping England safe.

Then Elizabeth, impressed with Frances’s fiery spirit, calls her to court as a lady-in-waiting, and Frances seizes the chance to prove herself. Soon, she wins the trust of her father’s de-coders and begins her secret work, thrilled with the freedom to test her talents. But her peril is compounded as her beauty and wit also attract the romantic attention of two men, one the reckless Earl of Essex and the other her own brilliant but low-born servant, Robert Pauley. And when Frances uncovers the most dire plot of all, she will risk her father’s condemnation, her heart’s longing, and her very life to safeguard her queen.

The King’s Damsel ~ Kate Emerson

Publisher: Gallery Books
Pages: 368
Release Date: August 7, 2012

Handmaid. Spy. Mistress. Anxious to secure his own success at the glittering court of Henry VIII, heiress Tamsin Lodge’s ambitious guardian obtains her a position as maid of honor to young Princess Mary Tudor. Tamsin soon comes to love the neglected child, but in the Tudor court, not even a princess is secure. Mary’s father is besotted with the lovely Anne Boleyn, and the girl’s future has grown perilous. Plotting to be Mary’s eyes and ears, Tamsin joins Anne’s service, but the handsome silk worker who is her co-conspirator may be her undoing. While marriage with a merchant is unthinkable, she cannot resist Rafe Pinckney’s embraces. When Tamsin also attracts the lusty Henry, she must choose between loyalty and desire. . . . With Anne’s jealousy growing dangerous, can Tamsin survive the schemes and seductions that surround her?

Ruby Red ~ Kerstin Gier

Gwyneth Shepherd's sophisticated, beautiful cousin Charlotte has been prepared her entire life for traveling through time. But unexpectedly, it is Gwyneth, who in the middle of class takes a sudden spin to a different era!

Gwyneth must now unearth the mystery of why her mother would lie about her birth date to ward off suspicion about her ability, brush up on her history, and work with Gideon--the time traveler from a similarly gifted family that passes the gene through its male line, and whose presence becomes, in time, less insufferable and more essential. Together, Gwyneth and Gideon journey through time to discover who, in the 18th century and in contemporary London, they can trust.


Alright so this isn’t my typical novel – like at all. But once again I got hooked by the gorgeous cover art. It is absolutely spectacular! So there were things that I loved about this novel and things that really irritated me. Let’s start with the positives… I have to say that I was intrigued with the idea of time travel and of course I love the idea of ancient secret societies. I thought that the characters were very well developed and there was a lot of intrigue … and there are still a lot of questions that have remained unanswered – hopefully they will be answered in the following two novels. If you are looking for a satisfying conclusion, you definitely won’t get one with this book.

So the biggest issue that I had with this novel was the main character Gwen. She is supposed to be 16 almost 17 but she sounds like she’s 12 going on 13. I was so irritated by her and her classmates – I definitely felt like I was back in middle school – not a good thing.

Overall it was a decent read – it literally took me a few hours to get through the book – it was fast-paced and entertaining however it was also extremely juvenile. I think that it would be a great read for those “tween” girls but as an adult who enjoys Y.A novels … it’s a little young. 

Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow ~ Juliet Grey

A captivating novel of rich spectacle and royal scandal, Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow spans fifteen years in the fateful reign of Marie Antoinette, France’s most legendary and notorious queen.

Paris, 1774. At the tender age of eighteen, Marie Antoinette ascends to the French throne alongside her husband, Louis XVI. But behind the extravagance of the young queen’s elaborate silk gowns and dizzyingly high coiffures, she harbors deeper fears for her future and that of the Bourbon dynasty.

From the early growing pains of marriage to the joy of conceiving a child, from her passion for Swedish military attaché Axel von Fersen to the devastating Affair of the Diamond Necklace, Marie Antoinette tries to rise above the gossip and rivalries that encircle her. But as revolution blossoms in America, a much larger threat looms beyond the gilded gates of Versailles—one that could sweep away the French monarchy forever.


Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow is the second installment of a trilogy based on the life of Marie Antoinette. The first novel, Becoming Marie Antoinette focused on Antoinette’s childhood and her life in France as the dauphine. Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow picks up right where Becoming Marie Antoinette left off – after the death of Louis XV. The focus of this novel is on the early reign of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette as France’s new, young monarchs. The novel spans 15 years, from the beginning of the reign of Louis XVI up until the beginning of the French Revolution. The third novel in the series, The Last October Sky will be released in September 2013.

I loved Becoming Marie Antoinette so I had high hopes and expectations for this novel and I have to say that I was slightly disappointed. I was expecting another fabulous novel from Juliet Grey – and for the most part it was fantastic – but there were some flaws, mainly that there were some excruciatingly slow parts in the story. It’s written in Marie Antoinette’s voice – and I have to say that Ms. Grey does a fantastic job of getting inside Marie Antoinette’s brain – and the novel is extremely well researched, informative and well written however it just didn’t pull me into the story like Becoming Marie Antoinette did. The voices of the characters were engaging and the descriptions of the clothing, masques, palaces, etc., were vibrant and beautifully written.

I also appreciate how Ms. Grey chose to portray Marie Antoinette’s – she didn’t paint her in a good light or a bad light but rather she chose to show all of her faults, her naïveté, her inexperience in a non-judgmental way. She paints a sympathetic portrait of Marie Antoinette – she is almost a woman without a real place or purpose at court. It almost gives Marie Antoinette an excuse for all of her extravagance and bad behaviour – she was simply bored and without children to occupy her time and with a husband who never consulted her during his reign, she turned to fashion and gambling to pass the time. Ms. Grey always allowed the reader to experience Marie Antoinette’s emotions and her intrapersonal battles about her desire to have children, her desire for her husband’s love and affection, her guilt of loving another man and the torture of the people of France’s cruelty towards her.

Overall, it was a pretty good read – if only those parts that dragged were a little better! I would definitely recommend this book to people who love Marie Antoinette. Even though it is the second book in a trilogy, it is also a standalone novel, although I strongly recommend reading the first novel as well.  Can’t wait for the next novel! 


A Breath of Eyre ~ Eve Marie Mont

Emma Townsend has always believed in stories—the ones she reads voraciously, and the ones she creates in her head. Perhaps it’s because she feels like an outsider at her exclusive prep school, or because her stepmother doesn’t come close to filling the void left by her mother’s death. And her only romantic prospect—apart from a crush on her English teacher—is Gray Newman, a long-time friend who just adds to Emma’s confusion. But escape soon arrives in an old leather-bound copy of Jane Eyre…

Reading of Jane’s isolation sparks a deep sense of kinship. Then fate takes things a leap further when a lightning storm catapults Emma right into Jane’s body and her nineteenth-century world. As governess at Thornfield, Emma has a sense of belonging she’s never known—and an attraction to the brooding Mr. Rochester. Now, moving between her two realities and uncovering secrets in both, Emma must decide whether her destiny lies in the pages of Jane’s story, or in the unwritten chapters of her own…


Ok, confession time – I love classical literature but I have never actually gotten around to reading Jane Eyre . . . and after reading this novel I feel like it has kind of been ruined for me – not that it will stop me from reading the original of course.
So I originally thought that this was going to be an easy young adult read however it was so much more. There were so many serious teen issues thrown into this novel – suicide, mental illness, drinking, accidental teen death, inappropriate teacher-student relationships, not to mention the typical teen relationship issues of sex which complicates everything as well as trying to fit in at school and having to deal with those “mean girls” on a daily basis.

I have to say that I enjoyed this novel but it did take me a little while to get into it. The first time Emma “travelled” into Jane’s story – I didn’t like it – I was much more interested in her real life story, but after a few pages I grew to enjoy that part of the story as well, and thankfully the “travelling” between lives didn’t bother me for the rest of the novel. I can honestly say that I am excited for the other two books in the series – more twists on classical literature.

The Memoirs of Mary, Queen of Scots ~ Carolly Erickson

In this dramatic, compelling fictional memoir Carolly Erickson lets the courageous, spirited Mary Queen of Scots tell her own story—and the result is a novel readers will long remember.

Born Queen of Scotland, married as a young girl to the invalid young King of France, Mary took the reins of the unruly kingdom of Scotland as a young widow and fought to keep her throne. A second marriage to her handsome but dissolute cousin Lord Darnley ended in murder and scandal, while a third marriage to the dashing, commanding Lord Bothwell, the love of her life, gave her joy but widened the scandal and surrounded her with enduring ill repute.

Unable to rise above the violence and disorder that swirled around her, Mary plucked up her courage and escaped to England—only to find herself a prisoner of her ruthless, merciless cousin Queen Elizabeth. Here, in her own riveting account, is the enchanting woman whose name still evokes excitement and compassion—and whose death under the headsman’s axe still draws forth our sorrow.

In The Memoirs of Mary Queen of Scots, Carolly Erickson provides another in her series of mesmerizing historical entertainments, and takes readers deep into the life and heart of the sixteenth century’s most fascinating woman.


Ok, so I know that Carolly Erickson classifies her novels as “historical entertainment” instead of “historical fiction” which is probably a good thing since she likes to invent things that never happened or existed and change timelines and make up storylines – and I am normally pretty ok with that except that sometimes she goes too far and things become unbelievable. My major qualm with this novel is the portrayal of Lord Bothwell as Mary’s true, lifelong love as well as Mary’s portrayal as weak and a love-sick puppy dog. Seriously!? This woman went through hell throughout her life and would have had to be strong … I don’t think that she would have had the time or the energy to be dwelling on her love life. Also, the invention of Mary and Jamie’s secret daughter and Mary’s escape to Rome – those were just a little far-fetched for me, although it is interesting think that Mary might have escaped from her house arrest. I find that Erickson’s novels often focus on the “what ifs” in history – something that can be slightly annoying for me.

I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the first half of the novel, but then the silliness started – the illegitimate secret daughter, secret meetings with Elizabeth and the escape to Rome, but it was still a decent read – not Erickson’s best but by far not her worse either, it was rather . . . average.

The Selection ~ Kiera Cass

For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in the palace and compete for the heart of the gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn't want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she's made for herself- and realizes that the life she's always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.


This book for me was an interesting mix – it almost felt like a mix between the bachelor and (I’m probably going to get a lot of comments for this) the Hunger Games. An odd mix, I know … but surprisingly it kinda worked. The whole premise of this book is for Prince Maxon to find his future bride from 35 girls from around the country.

I found that the characters were rather predictable however. You have America who is an independent, free-spirit who doesn’t really fit in with her role in society and who wants to live her life the way she wants to regardless of society’s rules or expectations. America is definitely different from the rest of the girls in the Selection – first of all, she really didn’t want to be a part of this whole thing and only entered to help out her family. She does not find Maxon attractive and really does not want to become his wife but is rather simply content to remain his friend, only problem is that I see Maxon falling for her and she will probably end up being his choice and will become his princess.

Ok so like I said, I found that there were quite a few similarities between The Selection and The Hunger Games. They both feature a competition to reign supreme in the country oh and they are both televised for the public to enjoy. They both have strong, independent female heroines who have been dealt a crappy hand in life but who are then given the opportunity to bring fame and fortune to their impoverished families therefore dramatically changing their lives forever – sure Katniss is fighting to literally survive whereas America is simply fighting to remain in the competition for the prince. They both have a class system – the rigid caste system in The Selection and the districts in The Hunger Games.

This was a quick, easy read … and definitely not something that I would normally pick up but it was still enjoyable despite the cliff-hanger ending that annoys me to no end . . . I hate having to wait for the next installment! 


The Borgia Mistress ~ Sara Poole

From the author of Poison and The Borgia Betrayal, comes a new historical thriller, featuring the same intriguing and beautiful heroine: Borgia court poisoner, Francesca Giordano.

Mistress of death Francesca Giordano—court poisoner to the House of Borgia—returns to confront an ancient atrocity that threatens to extinguish the light of the Renaissance and plunge the world into eternal darkness. As the enemies of Pope Alexander VI close in and the papal court is forced to flee from Rome, Francesca joins forces with her lover, the brilliant and ruthless Cesare Borgia to unravel a conspiracy that strikes at the heart of Christendom. But when a shattering secret from her past imperils her precarious hold on sanity, only Francesca’s own courage and resolve can draw her back from the brink of madness to save all she values most. 


The third installment of this series is almost as good as both of its predecessors. I was stoked about the opportunity to learn more about Francesca’s past and how it has molded her into the woman she has become. I think that the exploration of her past has helped her to develop as a character and it adds to her charm and personality from the previous two installments. The revelation of what happened to her mother has opened up a whole new mystery. The only problem that I had with this novel is the lack of contiguity from the previous two novels – the main antagonist in the first two novels was missing in the third and I also found myself missing some of the smaller characters who were not present in this novel either. I also found that the supporting characters (Vittorio, Lucrezia, Renaldo) that Ms. Poole has been magnificently developing over the course of this series were either absent or thrown in as an afterthought. Still, I find myself anxiously awaiting the next installment – it’s fun (and slightly annoying … I’m not overly patient) to slowly piece together Francesca’s puzzle one book at a time.  


The Borgia Betrayal ~ Sara Poole

Before the Tudors, there were the Borgias. More passionate. More dangerous. More deadly.

From the author of Poison, called “stunning” and “a fascinating page-turner,” comes a new historical thriller, featuring the same intriguing and beautiful heroine: Borgia court poisoner, Francesca Giordano.

In the summer of 1493, Rodrigo Borgia, Alexander VI, has been pope for almost a year. Having played a crucial role in helping him ascend the chair of Saint Peter, Francesca, haunted by the shadows of her own past, is now charged with keeping him there. As court poisoner to the most notorious and dangerous family in Italy, this mistress of death faces a web of peril, intrigue, and deceit that threatens to extinguish the light of the Renaissance.

As dangers close in from every direction, Francesca conceives a desperate plan that puts her own life at risk and hurls her into a nightmare confrontation with a madman intent on destroying all she is pledged to protect. From the hidden crypts of fifteenth-century Rome to its teeming streets alive with sensuality, obsession, and treachery, Francesca must battle the demons of her own dark nature to unravel a plot to destroy the Borgias, seize control of Christendom, and plunge the world into eternal darkness.


This is the continuation of Poison and it was just as good as the first novel in the series. Even though this is the second book in a series, it still works as a standalone novel. I still love Francesca Giordano – she definitely grew as a character from the first book. She is the same dark and twisted poisoner, only better! The novel was passionate, dark and magnificent – I cannot wait for the author to continue with this series, I don’t think that I will tire of Francesca’s story, it can just keep going and going. Another awesome novel by Ms. Poole. 


The Queen’s Vow ~ C.W. Gortner

Publisher: Ballantine Books
Pages: 400
Release Date: June 12, 2012

So begins Isabella’s story, in this evocative, vividly imagined novel about one of history’s most famous and controversial queens—the warrior who united a fractured country, the champion of the faith whose reign gave rise to the Inquisition, and the visionary who sent Columbus to discover a New World. Acclaimed author C. W. Gortner envisages the turbulent early years of a woman whose mythic rise to power would go on to transform a monarchy, a nation, and the world. 

Young Isabella is barely a teenager when she and her brother are taken from their mother’s home to live under the watchful eye of their half-brother, King Enrique, and his sultry, conniving queen. There, Isabella is thrust into danger when she becomes an unwitting pawn in a plot to dethrone Enrique. Suspected of treason and held captive, she treads a perilous path, torn between loyalties, until at age seventeen she suddenly finds herself heiress of Castile, the largest kingdom in Spain. Plunged into a deadly conflict to secure her crown, she is determined to wed the one man she loves yet who is forbidden to her—Fernando, prince of Aragon.

As they unite their two realms under “one crown, one country, one faith,” Isabella and Fernando face an impoverished Spain beset by enemies. With the future of her throne at stake, Isabella resists the zealous demands of the inquisitor Torquemada even as she is seduced by the dreams of an enigmatic navigator named Columbus. But when the Moors of the southern domain of Granada declare war, a violent, treacherous battle against an ancient adversary erupts, one that will test all of Isabella’s resolve, her courage, and her tenacious belief in her destiny.

From the glorious palaces of Segovia to the battlefields of Granada and the intrigue-laden gardens of Seville, The Queen’s Vow sweeps us into the tumultuous forging of a nation and the complex, fascinating heart of the woman who overcame all odds to become Isabella of Castile.


The Secret Keeper ~ Sandra Byrd

Publisher: Howard Books
Pages: 352
Release Date: June 5, 2012

The author of To Die For returns to the court of Henry VIII, as a young woman is caught between love and honor. 

Juliana St. John is the daughter of a prosperous knight in Marlborough. Though her family wants her to marry the son of her father’s business partner, circumstances set her on a course toward the court of Henry VIII and his last wife, Kateryn Parr.

Sir Thomas Seymour, uncle of the current heir, Prince Edward, returns to Wiltshire to tie up his business with Juliana’s father’s estate and sees instantly that she would fit into the household of the woman he loves, Kateryn Parr. Her mother agrees to have her placed in the Parr household for “finishing” and Juliana goes, though perhaps reluctantly. For she knows a secret. She has been given the gift of prophecy, and in one of her visions she has seen Sir Thomas shredding the dress of the king’s daughter, the lady Elizabeth, to perilous consequence.

As Juliana learns the secrets of King Henry VIII’s court, she faces threats and opposition, learning truths about her own life that will upset everything she thought she once held dear.

The Kings Concubine ~ Anne O’brien

Publisher: NAL Trade
Pages: 464
Release Date: June 5, 2012

A child born in the plague year of 1348, abandoned and raised within the oppressive walls of a convent, Alice Perrers refused to take the veil, convinced that a greater destiny awaited her. Ambitious and quick-witted, she rose above her obscure beginnings to become the infamous mistress of Edward III. But always, essentially, she was alone....

Early in Alice's life, a chance meeting with royalty changes everything: Kindly Queen Philippa, deeply in love with her husband but gravely ill, chooses Alice as a lady-in-waiting. Under the queen's watchful eye, Alice dares to speak her mind. She demands to be taken seriously. She even flirts with the dynamic, much older king. But she is torn when her vibrant spirit captures his interest...and leads her to a betrayal she never intended.

In Edward's private chambers, Alice discovers the pleasures and paradoxes of her position. She is the queen's confidante and the king's lover, yet she can rely only on herself. It is a divided role she was destined to play, and she vows to play it until the bitter end. Even as she is swept up in Edward's lavish and magnificent court, amassing wealth and influence for herself, becoming an enemy of his power-hungry son John of Gaunt and a sparring partner to resourceful diplomat William de Windsor, she anticipates the day when the political winds will turn against her. For when her detractors voice their hatred and accusations of treason swirl around her, threatening to destroy everything she has achieved, who will stand by Alice then?


Her Highness the Traitor ~ Susan Higginbotham

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Pages: 336
Release Date: June 1, 2012

As Henry VIII draws his last breath, two very different women, Jane Dudley, Viscountess Lisle, and Frances Grey, Marchioness of Dorset, face the prospect of a boy king, Edward VI.

For Jane Dudley, basking in the affection of her large family, the coming of a new king means another step upward for her ambitious, able husband, John. For Frances Grey, increasingly alienated from her husband and her brilliant but arrogant daughter Lady Jane, it means that she—and the Lady Jane—are one step closer to the throne of England.

Then the young king falls deathly ill. Determined to keep England under Protestant rule, he concocts an audacious scheme that subverts his own father’s will. Suddenly, Jane Dudley and Frances Grey are reluctantly bound together in a common cause—one that will test their loyalties, their strength, and their faith, and that will change their lives beyond measure.


Poison ~ Sara Poole

In the simmering hot summer of 1492, a monstrous evil is stirring within the Eternal City of Rome. The brutal murder of an alchemist sets off a desperate race to uncover the plot that threatens to extinguish the light of the Renaissance and plunge Europe back into medieval darkness.

Determined to avenge the killing of her father, Francesca Giordano defies all convention to claim for herself the position of poisoner serving Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia, head of the most notorious and dangerous family in Italy. She becomes the confidante of Lucrezia Borgia and the lover of Cesare Borgia. At the same time, she is drawn to the young renegade monk who yearns to save her life and her soul.

Navigating a web of treachery and deceit, Francesca pursues her father’s killer from the depths of Rome’s Jewish ghetto to the heights of the Vatican itself. In so doing, she sets the stage for the ultimate confrontation with ancient forces that will seek to use her darkest desires to achieve their own catastrophic ends.


This was an awesome, action-packed novel. I have become a huge fan of the Borgia’s in recent years and this book definitely lives up to my high expectations. I love the main character Francesca Giordano – she is spunky, intelligent, confident and independent but best of all was her attitude – she’s a total bad-ass. Yes, she has a lover, who cares, totally the atypical female character in historical fiction. I liked the fact that she was a little more modern, it just added to her character. The fact that she was totally honest and open with her desire for revenge, her blood-lust, her promiscuity made for a great read. I find that often author have their female characters hide these feelings and the fact that Ms. Poole portrayed her as a strong, independent woman was different. There is no “damsel in distress” (ok … there’s one small part, but nothing major) but she also doesn’t have a “super woman” or “invincible” attitude either. Instead, Francesca is real. Her other characters were equally amazing – I have fallen in love with Cesare … and this book portrays him in a very attractive light.

I also really enjoyed Poole interpretation of the workings of the Catholic Church. Obviously she has done her research because it shows in her writing – full of rich details and colourful descriptions. There were some parts that moved a little slow for my liking, but overall it was a great read. I would recommend this for anyone who is a fan of the Borgia’s – it’s also a great accompaniment to the Bravo series. 


The Thwarted Queen ~ Cynthia Haggard

Onyx Book Château is pleased to welcome Cynthia Sally Haggard, author of The Thwarted Queen to the blog today! Cynthia is here today with an insightful guest post!

Cynthia Haggard, Thwarted Queen

One of my favorite pass-times is to imagine how things would have been in the past. I like to find a comfortable seat, open my notebook, and start writing ideas down.

But ideas don’t come without a lot of preparatory work. Before I sat on the Rock of Ceres just outside the town of Enna in Sicily, I had read up on the history of Sicily, and I had read three or four historical novels to make myself familiar with both the actual history of the land as well as the issues that historical novelists have chosen to highlight. So I’d filled my head with the history of Sicily, a land not unlike my native home of England with its many conquerors, before I opened my sketch pad and wrote. What sparked my imagination was the ruined by lovely Castello di Lombardia and the rock opposite called Ceres Rock.

Sicily is sometimes called Persephone’s Isle, after the young woman who was snatched up by the God of the Underworld. Her mother Demeter (or Ceres) was so upset that the whole world experienced a kind of winter. Spring was only restored when Persephone was allowed to return. As my novel has to do with certain themes from Greek mythology, and going down into the dark is one of the things that happens to my characters, I was intrigued by Ceres rock and its proximity to the castle. How would it be, I mused, if they all lived in that castle? But the eldest, who fancied herself a sorceress ,would sneak out in the middle of the night to cast her spells upon that rock? And so I opened my notebook and sat down and filled the page with ideas. While I wrote, I listened to the sound of the birds, and I took many photos of the castle and its surrounds. And that is how my new novel came to life.

The Thwarted Queen  

Cecylee is the apple of her mother's eye. The seventh daughter, she is the only one left unmarried by 1424, the year she turns nine. In her father's eyes, however, she is merely a valuable pawn in the game of marriage. The Earl of Westmorland plans to marry his youngest daughter to 13-year-old Richard, Duke of York, who is close to the throne. He wants this splendid match to take place so badly, he locks his daughter up. The even that fuels the narrative is Cecylee's encounter with Blaybourne, a handsome archer, when she is twenty-six years old. This love affair produces a child (the "One Seed" of Book II), who becomes King Edward IV. But how does a public figure like Cecylee, whose position depends upon the goodwill of her husband, carry off such an affair? The duke could have locked her up, or disposed of this illegitimate son.

But Richard does neither, keeping her firmly by his side as he tries to make his voice heard in the tumultuous years that encompass the end of the Hundred Years War – during which England loses all of her possessions in France – and the opening phase of the Wars of the Roses. He inherits the political mantle of his mentor Duke Humphrey of Gloucester, and become’s the people’s champion. The rambunctious Londoners are unhappy that their country has become mired in misrule due to the ineptitude of a King prone to fits of madness. Nor are they better pleased by the attempts of the King’s French wife to maneuver herself into power, especially as she was responsible for England’s losses in France. But can Richard and Cecylee prevail? Everywhere, their enemies lurk in the shadows.

This book is filled with many voices, not least those of the Londoners, who forged their political destiny by engaging in public debate with the powerful aristocrats of the time. By their courageous acts, these fifteenth-century Londoners set the stage for American Democracy.

Book Information

This novel is available in a variety of ways:
1) The Thwarted Queen

2) A 4-volume set of paperbacks
The Bride Price
One Seed Sown
The Gilded Cage
Two Murders Reaped

3) A 3-volume set of paperbacks
Rose of Raby
The Gilded Cage
Two Murders Reaped

About the Author Cynthia Haggard

CynthiaSallyHaggard.jpgBorn and raised in Surrey, England, Cynthia Sally Haggard has lived in the United States for twenty-nine years. She has had four careers: violinist, cognitive scientist, medical writer and novelist. Yes, she is related to H. Rider Haggard, the author of She and King Solomon's Mines. (H. Rider Haggard was a younger brother of the author's great-grandfather). Cynthia Sally Haggard is a member of the Historical Novel Society. You can visit her website at: http://spunstories.com/ 

I received the 3-volume set of paperbacks from
virtual book tour. 


I have to say that I both loved this book and hated this book at the same time. I am so glad that another author has taken an interest in Cecylee Neville – she was one formidable woman – Duchess of York; mother of two kings of England, Edward IV and Richard III; and Queen by Right. She was definitely a fierce woman and you should have thought twice before trying to cross her.

The story is written as Cecylee is dying, she is writing her memoirs; her version of the way things went down and not history’s version. The story begins with Cecylee as a young girl of 8 right up until her death and it covers everything from the birth of all of her 13 children, through the deaths of her husband, her children including Kings Edward IV and Richard, and her grandsons (the Princes in the Tower), up until Henry VII takes over the throne of England.

The characters were absolutely wonderful – they were genuine and believable – two things that I believe make a great historical fiction novel. I loved how Cecylee was portrayed as a sympathetic character – she definitely made life a lot more difficult for herself through the actions and decisions she made, but I found this to make her character seem more realistic and every easy to relate to. I also found both the characters and their relationships to be thoroughly developed which was great. Apart from the characters, I also really enjoyed the fact that not only was this story based on meticulously researched historical facts but that Ms. Haggard explored the rumour of Edward IV’s illegitimate heritage and made it a part of the story.

Here comes the criticism however . . . although I loved how thoroughly Ms. Haggard researched her topic and characters at times the story was no longer a story but rather a history lesson. I found this to be particularly true in the third book, The Gilded Cage, I have to say that I skipped over parts in this book because it was like reading a badly written history textbook. I really hate to say this but it was boring. You are reading along, loving the fiction and all of a sudden it is just fact, fact, fact oh character talking, fact, fact, fact . . . there was no flow at times and I think that the story got confused to whether it was a fiction or a non-fiction.

Overall I did enjoy this story, minus that brief period in book 3. The characters had great personalities and the story was well written. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys the War of the Roses and history in general.

Book Excerpt

Richard urged his palfrey into a gallop so that he could catch up with Gloucester, riding east to the city. What is he going to do now, thought Richard, following Gloucester along the Strand towards Saint Paul’s Cathedral. As soon as they got to the churchyard, Gloucester vaulted off his horse, threw his reins to a groom, and mounted the steps of Saint Paul’s Cross.
Richard followed.
The Londoners were enjoying themselves in the spring sunshine, it being that time of day after the main meal when people come out to pay visits, shop, and enjoy a fine afternoon stroll. In one corner of Saint Paul’s churchyard, a number of well-dressed citizens fingered the leather covers and the crisp pages of those new-fangled printed books. There were goldsmiths and silversmiths. There was a woman selling spring flowers. There was even a horse merchant, whose restless charges stamped their feet, tossed their heads, and added a pungent odor to the scene.
Just outside the door of the church stood a group of London merchants. The soft leather of their boots and gloves displayed their wealth, as did the exotic and colorful material of their robes, their jewel-encrusted collars, and the many rings on their fingers. They were outdone only by their wives, who wore as many necklaces, rings, and brooches as possible crammed onto their costumes. Richard bowed to one beldame passing by. She had so much cloth in her headdress, her husband must belong to the clothier’s guild.
As Gloucester arrived at Saint Paul’s Cross, the people immediately began to gather, separating Richard from his mentor. “Good Duke Humphrey!” they shouted. “‘Tis Good Duke Humphrey!”
Gloucester bowed.  A tapster from a nearby alehouse ran up to hand him a mug of ale.
He looks years younger, thought Richard, glancing at his friend basking in the approval of the crowd. How ironic that it is the people of England who respect him, not his aristocratic peers.
The crowd gathered around Saint Paul’s Cross, buzzing with excited anticipation as the horses neighed.
“I wonder what he’s got to say,” said the bookseller.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said the flower seller. “Most of them fancy people never bother with the likes of us.”
“Duke Humphrey, he’s good,” said the horse merchant. “He talks to us. Tells us what’s going on.”
“He’s become a champion of good governance,” said a well-dressed gentleman.
Duke Humphrey held up a hand, and the crowd fell silent.
“My friends, I have come here today to tell you about a piece of treachery. Nay, I can scarce believe it myself, and if any of you had told me this, I would think I had had a bad hangover from the night before.”
Some youngsters in the crowd erupted into laughter. Their elders grew watchful and silent.
Richard accepted a tankard of beer and stood by Gloucester. He looked at the faces tilted up before him. They don’t seem overawed, he thought, sipping his beer. This country is not like France, where the common people grovel before the aristocrats. These people seem to know that their voices count for something.
Gloucester raised his hand again. “Would you believe it, but in return for Margaret of Anjou, the Earl of Suffolk negotiated a marriage settlement in which we give away Maine and Anjou to the French.”
The crowd recoiled. “No!” they shouted.
Richard grew uneasy.
“Yes, good people. Yes: I am sorry to tell you so, but there it is.”
“What does this mean for trade, sir?” asked a man, a fashionably dressed woman on his arm.
“You lose the revenues from the counties of Maine and Anjou,” replied Duke Humphrey. “You lose revenues from wine.”
“Is our wine trade going to dry up?” asked one merchant with a red nose.
“Not unless we lose Bordeaux. So far, we are just talking about Maine and Anjou.”
The crowd responded with a harsh bark of laughter.
“But I can tell you,” continued Gloucester, “that the loss of Maine and Anjou means the loss of goodly fruit.”
“No more pears!” exclaimed a young girl with golden hair hanging out from an upstairs window. “But that’s my favorite fruit.” Her high voice sailed over the noise of the crowd.
“No more Anjou pears, madam,” said Gloucester sweeping her a low bow.
“Jacinda, do not shout out of the window. It is not ladylike.” A woman with an elaborate horned headdress appeared and gently pulled the child away. “Please accept my apologies, my lord Duke,” she called down. “She is very free.”
“Do not worry, madam,” said Gloucester bowing again with a flourish. “You have a charming daughter.”
Applause and cheers greeted this remark.
“What about the landowners of Maine and Anjou, my lord?” asked a merchant dressed in fine crimson silk, rubies winking from the collar around his neck. “What about their lands and holdings?”
“A good question.” Gloucester held up his hand to still the whispers and murmurings of the crowd. “They will be obliged to give up their lands. They will be forced to come home with nothing and start afresh.”
The crowd erupted into boos and murmurs, which grew louder. Richard looked at his friend.
“I see you look puzzled, good people,” remarked Gloucester, as the restless crowd grew silent. “Let me spell out the terms of the Treaty of Tours by which our king gained a wife. By this treaty, we give up Maine and Anjou. In return, we get exactly—nothing. That’s right. Nothing. The queen did not even bring a dowry with her. Can you believe it? Can you believe that Suffolk would be so stupid, so asinine, so treacherous, as to throw away something that we gained in a fair fight for nothing in return?”
Their roar threw Richard backward. He moved closer to Gloucester. “They’re getting upset,” he hissed.
Gloucester ignored him. “And all for a queen worth not ten marks,” he remarked, holding up his tankard of ale. “I feel personally betrayed.”
“We are betrayed!” roared the crowd. “A queen worth not ten marks!” They turned and hurried down Ludgate Hill in the direction of Westminster, shouting as they went.
“What are they going to do?” asked Richard.
Gloucester chuckled. “They are going to Westminster Palace, to shout insults at the queen.”