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.”


The Borgia Mistress by Sara Poole
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Pages: 416
Release Date: May 22, 2012

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.

Abdication by Juliet Nicholson
Publisher: Atria Books
Pages: 352
Release Date: May 22, 2012

The Second World War looms in a world that dreads another international conflict, and England is full of secrets, not least of which is the affair the newly proclaimed King is having with an American divorcÉe. But not every confidence involves royalty. The lovely young chauffeur May Thomas and the complex Oxford undergraduate Julian Richardson share an undeclared love, while the identity of May’s real father remains mysterious. Mrs. Cage, the housekeeper, desperately tries to keep her Nazi-sympathies hidden, and Evangeline Nettlefold’s ambivalent relationship with her school friend Wallis Simpson threatens to become explosive. Secrecy, tensions between parent and child, the private tussles of life, and the dilemma of whether or not duty supersedes love, reverberate throughout Abdication, in matters of social conscience, politics, and romance. A glorious story that brings to mind the film The King’s Speech, as well as the beloved English novels Brideshead Revisited and The Remains of the Day, Abdication is a breathtaking story inspired by a love affair that shook the world at a time when the world was on the brink of war.


Happy Mother's Day!

Wishing all you moms out there a very happy Mother's day!
Thank you Mama for everything you do! 
Love you!

Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow ~Juliet Grey

Publisher: Ballantine Books
Pages: 448
Release Date: May 15

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.

Gilt ~ Katherine Longshore

Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Pages: 416
Release Date: May 15

When Kitty Tylney's best friend, Catherine Howard, worms her way into King Henry VIII's heart and brings Kitty to court, she's thrust into a world filled with fabulous gowns, sparkling jewels, and elegant parties. No longer stuck in Cat's shadow, Kitty's now caught between two men--the object of her affection and the object of her desire. But court is also full of secrets, lies, and sordid affairs, and as Kitty witnesses Cat's meteoric rise and fall as queen, she must figure out how to keep being a good friend when the price of telling the truth could literally be her head.


The Invention of Hugo Cabret ~ Brian Selznick

"The story I am about to share with you takes place in 1931, under the roofs of Paris. Here you will meet a boy named Hugo Cabret, who once, long ago, discovered a mysterious drawing that changed his life forever." So begins the introduction of The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

Orphan, clock keeper, and thief, Hugo lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station, where his survival depends on secrets and anonymity. But when his world suddenly interlocks with an eccentric, bookish girl and a bitter old man who runs a toy booth in the station, Hugo's undercover life, and his most precious secret, are put in jeopardy. A cryptic drawing, a treasured notebook, a stolen key, a mechanical man, and a hidden message from Hugo's dead father form the backbone of this intricate, tender, and spellbinding mystery.


Exactly what is The Invention of Hugo Cabret? Author Brian Selznick has described his work perfectly  "... this is not exactly a novel, and it's not quite a picture book, and it's not really a graphic novel, or a flip book, or a movie, but a combination of all these things." This story is very special and it is a one of a kind. Although the novel is well over 500 pages long, there is only 26, 000 words – the rest of the book is filled with Selznick’s breathtaking artwork. The story of Hugo Cabret is equally told through images as it is through text and I believe that it is these images that really make the story so amazing. Reading this novel was a totally unique experience – it was like nothing I had ever seen before. Every single picture had a purpose, a role to play – they were there for a reason, not just thrown in haphazardly. I found that the images really brought the book to life and that they created a cinema like feeling to go along with the story. At times it felt like I was watching an old black and white film complete with the “camera” zooming in and out, bringing particular images or parts of images into focus, making the reader see what was really important.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a story for those of all ages – it is a timeless piece of work with spectacular artwork and an amazing story. Hugo’s story is an enchanting journey that is full of magic. It will have readers of all ages falling in love with story, from the child to the adult reader; the film and art fanatics – simply put, everyone will be left wanting more from Selznick. It is another classic children’s book that will be treasured for generations to come. 

Thought that I would share some of the artwork that I absolutely fell in love with while reading this amazing story ")

The Dressmaker ~ Kate Alcott

The story begins in Cherbourg where we find Tess, a young aspiring seamstress who is working as a maid in a country house. The Titanic is set to sail and Tess is desperate for a passage aboard the ship – all she wants to do is start a new life in America as a designer. As luck would have it Tess meets the infamous talented designer Lady Lucile Duff Gordon who as by chance is in need of a personal maid to accompany her on the trans-Atlantic voyage – a role Tess happily accepts. Once aboard the magnificent ship Tess is fascinated not only with the ship herself but also with the people on board – and a two men soon became charmed by her as well, one a rough but charming sailor, the other a mysterious Chicago millionaire. The trip proceeds as planned until the fourth night when disaster strikes and the unsinkable ship does the unthinkable and sinks, taking most of her passengers down with her to their watery graves.

Tess is one of the lucky ones who manage to find space on one of the few lifeboats as do the Duff Gordons and her sailor Jim Bonney albeit on different boats. In Tess’ boat, she must take charge along with Mrs. Molly Brown to row their capacity filled boat to safety. The story is much different in lifeboat 1 with the Duff Gordons – the boat was launched prematurely with only 12 people aboard including Jim Bonney, witness to Lady Duff Gordon’s questionable actions in the face of the tragedy. Once they arrive on dry land rumors about the actions and choices of the survivors begin to swirl and Lady Duff Gordon quickly becomes the subject of media scorn and later, the Senate hearings on the Titanic.


This novel is just in time for the centennial anniversary of the sinking of the unsinkable ship Titanic. It was not your typical book about this tragedy – its focus is not on the disaster itself but on the aftermath. Although the focus of the novel wasn’t on the ship actually sinking, I wanted more about the actual event. I wanted more details about what it was like for the characters; their thoughts, their feelings, more emotion. I just felt like it happened too fast and that the main event was almost brushed over to get to the main point of the novel – the repercussions. A lot of what happened that night was later revealed during the trials, through flashbacks and testimonies, but again not in detail and not a lot of emotion – I wanted more from the hearings. By the end of the book, I had a pretty good idea of what happened in lifeboat 1, but again there were so many holes in the stories being told that the question remains unanswered – the reader can believe what they want but I felt like it was left unfinished.

I have to say that I totally loved the characters – especially the strong-female characters that you wouldn’t normally find. The characters were (almost) all believable and realistic. Tess, she knew what she was worth and what she wanted and she was not going to let anything or anyone stand in the way of her dreams and she definitely wouldn’t compromise her values to get there either; Pinky Wade, a female reporter for the Times who is paid 50 cents an hour who is assigned the human-interest story of the Titanic who must fight for equality in the workplace because she is the best reporter on staff (or so she thinks); Molly Brown, a fierce woman who wants to testify about the events on that faithful night; and even Lucile Duff Gordon, an enterprising woman in a man’s world trying to make a name for herself. The only problem I have with the characters is that they had some very strange and unexplained relationships that didn’t always make sense – for example, what’s up with Lucile and her sister Elinor? And why is Pinky so concerned about Jim and Tess’ relationship considering she barely knows either one of them? As amazing as the characters were, there was really no clear distinction between who was good and who was bad. Everyone loves a hero and everyone loves a villain even more but there really was no clear villain and even the heroes (ahem Lowe, Bonney) weren’t very heroically written either.

As for the romance, the love triangle, it was tangible at best. First of all, I have absolutely no sympathy for a young woman who has not one but two dashing men who are completely and utterly head over heels in love with her. Nope, none at all. Guy number one: Jack … he is probably twice her age, a millionaire from Chicago, divorced once and currently in the process of divorcing wife number two, but is still technically (and legally) married to her. Guy number two: Jim … a crude sailor who is an amazing woodworker and who tells the truth about what happened on lifeboat 1 – therefore coming between Tess and her boss Lady Duff Gordon. Jack kind of seemed like a slime ball – he was still married and was courting another woman, half his age, come on now. I really wanted more about sailor Jim – he really deserved more page time.

There were unquestionably parts of this book that gave me goose bumps – the cook’s wife waiting for her children that would never come; the terrified passengers stuck on the sinking boat; some of the testimonies from the survivors – I only wish that there had been more of these moments but they most definitely made the book hard to put down. I think that the major point of this novel was for the reader to reflect, to look inside themself and to really think about the choices that they have made. The choices we make every day not only affect ourselves, but also the people around us and how they perceive us. I think that as the reader I was constantly asking myself what I would have done if I were to have been in that situation – would you stand up for what you believe in no matter what the personal cost or would you turn your back on those you love? Would you choose to follow your heart or your head? How would you defend these choices?

I am really hoping that there will be a sequel – I don’t want to let these characters go just yet! I think that it would be great for the story of Tess, Pinky and Molly to continue on as these three women forge ahead into the new world where women began to gain ground in their quest for equality. I would strongly recommend this novel to anyone who has a soft spot for the Titanic or those who like historical fiction and who would enjoy a quick, easy read. 


Four Sisters, All Queens - Sherry Jones

Publisher: Gallery Books
Pages: 464
Release Date: May 8, 2012

When Beatrice of Savoy, countess of Provence, sends her four beautiful, accomplished daughters to become queens, she admonishes them: Family comes first. As a result, the daughters - Marguerite, queen of France; Eleanor, queen of England; Sanchia, queen of Germany; and Beatrice, queen of Sicily - work not only to expand their husbands' empires and influence than before. Their father's death, however, tears the sisters apart, pitting them against one another for the legacy each believes rightfully hers - Provence itself. 

Told from alternating points of view of all four queens, and set in the tumultuous thirteenth century, this is a tale of greed, lust, ambition, and sibling rivalry on a royal scale, exploring the meaning of true power and bringing to life four of the most celebrated women of their time - each of whom had an impact on the history of Europe. 

Bringing Up The Bodies – Hilary Mantel

Bring up the BodiesPublisher: Fourth Estate
Pages: 608
Release Date: May 10, 2012

The sequel to the Man Booker-winning Wolf Hall.

By 1535 Thomas Cromwell, the blacksmith’s son, is far from his humble origins. Chief Minister to Henry VIII, his fortunes have risen with those of Anne Boleyn, Henry’s second wife, for whose sake Henry has broken with Rome and created his own church. But Henry’s actions have forced England into dangerous isolation, and Anne has failed to do what she promised: bear a son to secure the Tudor line. When Henry visits Wolf Hall, Cromwell watches as Henry falls in love with the silent, plain Jane Seymour. The minister sees what is at stake: not just the king’s pleasure, but the safety of the nation. As he eases a way through the sexual politics of the court, its miasma of gossip, he must negotiate a ‘truth’ that will satisfy Henry and secure his own career. But neither minister nor king will emerge undamaged from the bloody theatre of Anne’s final days.

In ‘Bring up the Bodies’, sequel to the Man Booker Prize-winning ‘Wolf Hall’, Hilary Mantel explores one of the most mystifying and frightening episodes in English history: the destruction of Anne Boleyn. This new novel is a speaking picture, an audacious vision of Tudor England that sheds its light on the modern world. It is the work of one of our great writers at the height of her powers.

Sister Queens ~ Sophie Perinot

Like most sisters, Marguerite and Eleanor were rivals. They were also queens.
The girls were raised together at the 13th Century court of their father, Count of Provence, the girl must pay their dues, as all young girls must, they are soon married to rival kings but they are never truly parted.

Patient, flawless, quiet Marguerite, the oldest of the Count’s four daughters who is always use to being the first to do anything, becomes Queen of France. Her husband Louis IX is young and beautiful and he is considered to be the greatest monarch of his age but he is also a religious extremist who denies himself of all pleasure – including the love and affection that his young wife desperately craves.

Zealous, determined and stubborn Eleanor, the second daughter of the Count’s four daughters and who is always in her sister’s shadow, becomes Queen of England. He husband Henry III is neither young nor handsome but Eleanor discovers that he is a great man – showering her with love and affection – however he is a very bad king.

As the girls’ lives take their different paths, each girl must face her own demons – Marguerite the lack of love from her husband and her overbearing mother-in-law Blanche of Castile, and Eleanor the hostility of her husband’s court and his weak hold on their country. Even though these two sister, these two queens are separated by an ocean they continue to play an integral part of each other’s lives through their letters. As the years pass, the sisters learn to set aside their rivalry and soon learn that the trait they find exceedingly annoying in each other is exactly what they need to survive – Marguerite borrows Eleanor’s fiery fortitude in an attempt to win back her husband’s love and affection and Eleanor adopts her sister’s calm demeanour and sets aside her pride in order to repair her marriage with Henry after a political clash.

The Sister Queens spans twenty years and an array of countries – from the splendid courts of France and England down into the Holy Land of Egypt and Jerusalem on Crusade. Sibling rivalry, family, politics, love and lust are all woven into an amazing story about two Queens who were sisters above everything else.


I absolutely adored this book! It was a fully engaging novel and remarkably relatable – I could totally imagine these two sisters carrying out a relationship through letters throughout their lives as rival queens. I was swept up in the stories of the Savoy sisters from the get go, even the lesser known sisters Sanchia and Beatrice. Each sister had very unique personalities that were richly developed throughout the story. While the sisters were different in temperament and life challenges, they were both so fascinating and lovable, although I have to say that I preferred Marguerite to Eleanor, just slightly. It was a very enjoyable read and at time very difficult to put down.

Ms. Perinot is a solid writer with the ability to create characters that have a life-like, jump off the page quality about them. Not only were the sisters beautifully developed but their husbands, Louis IX of France and Henry III of England, as well as Louis’ (wicked) mother Blanche of Castile, were all equally amazing. The story was beautifully written as well – the dialogue appeared to be written effortlessly as it flowed in a natural way, it never felt forced or fake. I especially enjoyed the letters that opened each chapter between the sisters; it felt as if the reader was getting an intimate look into the inner workings of the girls’ minds.

My only complaint about the book was that it ended too soon . . . I would have loved for it to have covered the rest of the sisters’ reigns! I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of historical fiction and especially to those of you out there who have a sister – I saw so much of my sister’s and my relationship in these pages (I saw myself being Marguerite and my sister as Eleanor) and I was able to reflect upon our own relationship. This was an amazing debut novel from Ms. Perinot and I look forward to reading her future works. 

~*~ I won this book from http://www.passagestothepast.com/ ~*~


May 1

Happy May Day! 

May Day is an ancient spring festival - the earliest May Day celebrations appeared in pre-Christian times, with the festival of Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers. May Day is best known for its tradition of dancing around the maypole and crowning of the Queen of the May.

Happy Birthday to . . .

King Kamehameha I, King of Hawaii 
(1758 - 1819)