Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Shadow on the Crown by Patricia Bracewell


A rich tale of power and forbidden love revolving around a young medieval queen

In 1002, fifteen­-year-old Emma of Normandy crosses the Narrow Sea to wed the much older King Athelred of England, whom she meets for the first time at the church door. Thrust into an unfamiliar and treacherous court, with a husband who mistrusts her, stepsons who resent her and a bewitching rival who covets her crown, Emma must defend herself against her enemies and secure her status as queen by bearing a son.

Determined to outmaneuver her adversaries, Emma forges alliances
with influential men at court and wins the affection of the English people. But her growing love for a man who is not her husband and the imminent threat of a Viking invasion jeopardize both her crown and her life.

Based on real events recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Shadow on the Crown introduces readers to a fascinating, overlooked period of history and an unforgettable heroine whose quest to find her place in the world will resonate with modern readers.

My Review:

I absolutely loved “Shadow on the Crown” by Patricia Bracewell. Not only because of her captivating writing style and thorough research, but also because I had never heard of or read about Emma of Normandy before this novel, so it was great to learn about a different historical figure! The author’s writing style is very fluid and detailed, as well as interesting. It was difficult for me to put the book down once I started reading it, and it was easy to lose track of time once I started. I loved that Patricia Bracewell stayed true to the historical facts, but also incorporated things like forbidden love and intrigue within the novel. I also enjoyed the rivalry between Emma and Elgiva. It added drama to the novel, and provided a foil for Emma.

I think of myself as a knowledgeable person when it comes to knowing about kings and queens of England, so coming across a novel about a queen I had never heard of grabbed my interest right away. I definitely fell in love with Emma’s character in this novel, and my interest in this time period has been piqued. This novel is the first installment in a series of three, so I am anxiously awaiting the next book in the series!

I would definitely suggest this novel to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, especially those who are tired of reading the hundreds of books about the Tudors or Plantagenet’s. It was refreshing to read about a different figure in England’s history, especially one as captivating as Emma of Normandy. Like I said, I had never heard of her before, and I had no problem understanding what was going on, so don’t feel as though you need to ‘read up’ on Emma before buying this novel.

I gave Shadow on the Crown a five out of five stars! I have a feeling that I’ll be giving all of the books in this series a five out of five!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Isabella: Braveheart of France by Colin Falconer


She was taught to obey. Now she has learned to rebel. 

12 year old Isabella, a French princess marries the King of England - only to discover he has a terrible secret. Ten long years later she is in utter despair - does she submit to a lifetime of solitude and a spiritual death - or seize her destiny and take the throne of England for herself?

Isabella is just twelve years old when she marries Edward II of England. For the young princess it is love at first sight - but Edward has a terrible secret that threatens to tear their marriage - and England apart.

Who is Piers Gaveston - and why is his presence in the king’s

court about to plunge England into civil war?

The young queen believes in the love songs of the troubadours and her own exalted destiny - but she finds reality very different. As she grows to a woman in the deadly maelstrom of Edward’s court, she must decide between her husband, her children, even her life - and one breath-taking gamble that will change the course of history.

This is the story of Isabella, the only woman ever to invade England - and win.

In the tradition of Philippa Gregory and Elizabeth Chadwick, ISABELLA is thoroughly researched and fast paced, the little known story of the one invasion the English never talk about.

My Review:

“Isabella: Braveheart of France” by Colin Falconer is an excellent work of historical fiction. I was excited when I received a request to read and review this novel, because it takes place during one of, what I consider to be, the most interesting periods in history. It takes place during reign of Edward II, when England was still at odds with Robert the Bruce in Scotland, and in a fragile peace with, his wife Isabella’s brother, the King of France.

There are many rumors surrounding Edward II and his ‘favorites.’ Most historians tend to agree that these favorites, Gaveston and Despenser, were likely Edward II’s lovers, even though there is no solid proof Edward II was homosexual. His overt favoritism towards these men, during different times in his reign, caused much anger among those men who were higher ranking. It also caused his wife, the Queen of England, Isabella to feel animosity towards these men. The novel does an excellent job of giving the reader an idea of what was really going on during this time period. We are able to see Isabella’s struggle to accept something which she cannot control, which is the fact that Edward will never love her like she wants and needs him to and he chooses others before her. Falconer also does a great job painting a picture of Edward’s weaknesses, which eventually cost him the crown of England. Even a reader not familiar with this time period will be able to grasp what is going on fairly easily, because the author does a great job of giving the reader the details in an interesting way, without feeling like they’re reading a history book. Isabella is really brought to life in this novel, and the author doesn’t put her into the ‘she-wolf’ role that many authors have done before. Yes, she is a strong woman, and she is intelligent as well as a shrewd judge of character, but she is not the ‘man-eater’, who stole her husband’s crown for her son and then had him killed, that many historians have made her out to be. I think the author did an excellent job of portraying her as what, I believe, she was really like during her lifetime. The affair between Mortimer and Isabella is also brought to life in this novel, and that was a plus for me, because I believe that historical fiction containing some semblance of a love story or a romance adds to the overall interest level.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It kept my interest throughout, and I believe the author stayed true to the actual history of that time period. The novel is written in third person, but in present tense. This distracted me at first, because I’m used to third person, historical fiction novels being written in the past tense. After a couple chapters I became familiar with his style of writing, and it was no longer a distraction. Anyone who has interest in Medieval Europe, or in historical fiction dealing with England’s Kings and Queens, will definitely find this novel to be very interesting. I would recommend it to all lovers of historical fiction.

I give this novel five out of five stars!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Serpent and the Pearl by Kate Quinn


One powerful family holds a city, a faith, and a woman in its grasp—from the national bestselling author of Daughters of Rome and Mistress of Rome.

Rome, 1492. The Holy City is drenched with blood and teeming with secrets. A pope lies dying and the throne of God is left vacant, a prize awarded only to the most virtuous—or the most ruthless. The Borgia family begins its legendary rise, chronicled by an innocent girl who finds herself drawn into their dangerous web…

Vivacious Giulia Farnese has floor-length golden hair and the world at her feet: beauty, wealth, and a handsome young husband. But she is stunned to discover that her glittering marriage is a sham, and she is to be given as a concubine to the ruthless, charismatic Cardinal Borgia: Spaniard, sensualist, candidate for Pope—and passionately in love with her.
Two trusted companions will follow her into the Pope's shadowy harem: Leonello, a cynical bodyguard bent on bloody revenge against a mysterious killer, and Carmelina, a fiery cook with a past full of secrets. But as corruption thickens in the Vatican and the enemies begin to circle, Giulia and her friends will need all their wits to survive in the world of the Borgias.

My Review:

"The Serpent and the Pearl" by Kate Quinn exceeded all expectations. I was drawn in from beginning until end, and I cannot wait for the next book in this series! I’ve been drawn to anything to do with the Borgia family for years, because of all the scandalous information I’ve read about while doing research or reading about this family, so I was excited to see another book about them. 

This book really brought the family to life, and I liked that the author, Kate Quinn, doesn’t make them completely unlikable, like many authors tend to do with the Borgia’s. I mean, face it, it’s pretty easy for an author to paint them as an immoral, greedy, scandal ridden family. The characters were obviously well researched, and well rounded. The novel was told through a couple different points of view, and I love when authors use this style of writing. I especially enjoyed the two fictional characters point of view,Carmelina and Leonello. Reading from the point of view of these two characters allows the reader to get a good look at the Borgia family from an outside perspective. These two characters are flawed, as are all people, and their mishaps and adventures in this book definitely help to make the story more interesting. I also liked reading Giulia Farnese's, the pope’s concubine, point of view. Often, in other books about the Borgia’s, she is painted negatively, so it was nice to see her from a different perspective.

Any lover of historical fiction will enjoy reading this book. I have four month old twin boys, and I found it hard to put the book down at times, and also found myself staying awake to read the book rather than getting much needed sleep! I cannot wait until January, when the next book in this series, The Lion and the Rose, will be available. I will be purchasing it as soon as it is available!

This novel definitely receives a FIVE out of FIVE stars from me! 

I'm back & How Life has Changed.

I know that I haven't posted a review on my blog for quite some time, but believe me, it's for good reason! I gave birth to identical twin boys on June 24th, so my hands have been quite full lately! I am definitely planning on getting back into reviewing more often now that things are calm(er) in my life!

I am looking to review historical fiction novels, and I'm most interested in history prior to the 20th century. I especially enjoy reading Civil War fiction and/or European fiction (between years 1100-1600). However, if you send a review request, and the book sounds interesting, it doesn't matter what time period it takes place in or if it's historical fiction.

I am currently reading Isabella:Braveheart of France by Colin Falconer, and I hope to finish it this week and post my review.

I'll leave you with a picture of my adorable twins!

Trenton Jeffrey & Trevor James