March 29, 2012

A Few New Releases: An Unfaithful Queen, A Kingmaker's Daughter, a Mistress and a Time Traveler

Here are a few upcoming releases I wanted to mention:

The Unfaithful Queen: A Novel of Henry VIII's Fifth Wife by Carolly Erickson

This novel follows the Katheryn Howard, the ill-fated fifth wife of King Henry VIII. According to Library Journal,
"Having given us the New York Times best-selling The Last Wife of Henry VIII (along with lots of other historical fiction and nonfiction titles), Erickson steps back to Henry’s penultimate bride, the vivacious Catherine Howard, who didn't bother to inform Henry that she’d had three lovers before him. And thus, with his disillusionment and her failure to produce a son, even as the succession was threatened by Prince Edward’s serious illness, Catherine met the fate of her cousin Anne Boleyn. Yummy for Anglophiles."

I'm curious to see how sympathetic (and accurate) this novel with be towards Katheryn. It will be available Sept. 18th in the USA.


The Kingmaker's Daughter by Philippa Gregory

Philippa Gregory continues her Cousins' War series with The Kingmaker's Daughter. Accorging to amazon,

"The Kingmaker’s Daughter is the gripping and ultimately tragic story of the daughters of the man known as the “Kingmaker,” the most powerful magnate in England through the Cousins’ Wars. In the absence of a son and heir, he uses the two girls as pawns in his political games, but they grow up to be influential players in their own right. In this novel, her first sister story since The Other Boleyn Girl, 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 brought up in intimacy and friendship with the family of Richard, Duke of Gloucester, to become ever more fearful and desperate when her father makes war on his former friends. Her will is tested when she is left widowed and fatherless, with her mother in sanctuary and her sister married to the enemy. Fortune’s wheel turns again when Richard rescues Anne from her sister’s house, with danger still following Anne, even as she eventually ascends to the throne as queen. Having lost those closest to her, she must protect herself and her precious only child, Prince Edward, from a court full of royal rivals."
This novel will be available on August 14th for those in the USA, and the 16th for those in the UK.

Bessie Blount: Mistress to Henry VIII by Elizabeth Norton

I am interested to read this one. I want to see what Norton has dug up, as there isn't a lot of historical evidence on Elizabeth "Bessie" Blount.

According to amazon, "Beautiful, young, exuberant, the amazing life of Elizabeth Blount, Henry VIII's mistress and mother to his first son who came tantalizingly close to succeeding him as King Henry IX. The earliest known, and longest lasting mistress of Henry VIII, Bessie Blount was the king's first love. More beautiful than Anne Boleyn or any of Henry's other wives or concubines, Bessie's beauty and other charms ensured that she turned heads, winning a place at court as one of Catherine of Aragon's ladies. Within months she was partnering the king in dancing and she rose to be the woman with the most influence over Henry, much to Catherine of Aragon's despair. The affair lasted five years (longer than most of Henry's marriages) and in 1519 she bore Henry VIII a son, Henry Fitzroy. As a mark of his importance Cardinal Wolsey was appointed his guardian and godfather. Supplanted soon after by Mary Boleyn, Bessie's importance rests on the vital proof it gave Henry VIII that he could father a healthy son and through Henry Fitzroy, Bessie remained a prominent figure at court. In the country at large, for proving that the king was capable of fathering a son Bessie prompted the saying 'Bless'ee, Bessie Blount' and her position of mother of such an important child made her an object of interest to many of her contemporaries. Sidelined by historians until now, Bessie and the son she had by the king are one of the great 'what ifs' of English history. If Jane Seymour had not produced a male heir and Bessie's son had not died young aged 17, in all likelihood Henry Fitzroy could have followed his father as King Henry IX and Bessie propelled to the status of mother of the king."

This biography was released in November 2011. You can read more about it on amazon.

The Time Traveler's Guide to Elizabethan England by Ian Mortimer.

According to amazon, "We think of Queen Elizabeth I as 'Gloriana': the most powerful English woman in history. We think of her reign (1558-1603) as a golden age of maritime heroes, like Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Richard Grenville and Sir Francis Drake, and of great writers, such as Edmund Spenser, Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson and William Shakespeare. But what was it actually like to live in Elizabethan England? If you could travel to the past and walk the streets of London in the 1590s, where would you stay? What would you eat? What would you wear? Would you really have a sense of it being a glorious age? And if so, how would that glory sit alongside the vagrants, diseases, violence, sexism and famine of the time?
In this book Ian Mortimer answers the key questions that a prospective traveller to late sixteenth-century England would ask. Applying the groundbreaking approach he pioneered in his bestselling Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England, the Elizabethan world unfolds around the reader."

The Independent has written a nice review for it here.

March 28, 2012

The Tudor Book Blog Book Reviews: The Lady and the Poet




The Lady and the Poet by Maeve Haran

*Warning, there are several spoilers in this review!

Background:

This novel is centered around Lady Ann More, and focuses on the last years of Elizabeth I's reign. Ann is a young girl, about 14, who is one of four daughters to Sir George More and niece to Sir Thomas Egerton, Lord Keeper of the Seal. She meets John Donne, a poet and secretary to Ann's uncle, the Lord Keeper. The two fall in love and eventually marry in secret, much to the horror of Ann's father and uncle.

According to the author, "The Lady and the Poet, based on fact and also on imagination, tells an extraordinary and little-known love story and attempts to paint a picture, my picture, of the Ann who is absent from history."

Review:

A young, and dashing, John Donne
Before beginning this book, I knew next to nothing about Ann More or John Donne. Because of this, I think I enjoyed the book all the more. Normally when I read books on the Tudor period, I am slightly distracted by historical accuracy, or knowing what is coming next. Here, however, I waited until I finished the book to look into the history behind it.

When delving into the history, I was pleasantly surprised to find how accurate it was! I always love authors that stick to history. Maeve Haran professes that John Donne has been her lifelong passion. I found it interesting then that she wrote the book from Ann's point of view. As she points out in her post script, little is known about Ann. She is only vaguely remembered by history as the wife of John Donne. There is no portrait of her, nor much historical evidence. However, Haran does a masterful job of bringing Ann to life. She clearly follows the events in Donne's life, but fills in the gaps with wonderfully written fiction.

Though Ann is a nobleman's daughter, she goes on many adventures throughout London alone. Haran really brings late Elizabethan London to life, describing the swarms of abandoned children and rampant stink. It is nothing like the romanticized London many have come to know through films and plays. Rather, it is a cesspool of filth and poverty.

Loseley, where Ann spent much time pining after Donne
Ann, in another extreme, also makes a trip to court where she encounters Queen Elizabeth. She is shown as a jealous, and almost insane, woman bent on mortifying her ladies and jealously holding on to her favorites. I actually really loved seeing this outside perspective of Elizabeth. I must admit, I am glad Ann did not take a position at court. I was not really interested in this becoming another Elizabeth novel. Rather, you really get a sense of life outside the court during Elizabeth's reign, rather than within it. 

Though I found the novel wonderfully written and the characters beautifully developed, I found myself disliking Ann at times. She constantly pines after Donne and does little to stop it. The two eventually profess their love for each other, then spend months (and at one point a year) apart. She does not attempt to see him, write him, or do much of anything to let him know she misses him. Rather, she mopes around, complains, and becomes depressed when she doesn't hear from him. I honestly had a hard time trusting Donne. Throughout the novel I wondered if he was paying Ann lip service, if he really loved her and was willing to do what it took to be with her. Ann wonders these things herself. She eventually finds out that he did really love her, but that his letters were intercepted. However, she then waits around to write him again! Perhaps I am being a little harsh, as she was under strict supervision by her family, but she still managed to secretly marry the man. The least she could do was get him a letter in a speedy manner...

"The Flea," one of Donne's most
popular poems.
That aside, I really liked Ann. She never let herself be stopped by societal restrictions. She married the man she loved, despite the fact that there was absolutely no benefit to it, and more likely extreme danger to it. Both give up their lives for this marriage; Ann her family and Donne his position. They are forced to leave London and live on a small estate with a member of Ann's family. However, some of Donne's greatest poetry came out of this time period.

When the marriage is finally discovered by Ann's father, it is not in the way I (or Ann) expected. Donne sends a letter to Ann's father via a nobleman. I felt it was a bit cowardly. Certainly, for honor's sake (and to be far more entertaining), Donne should have confronted Ann's father himself. However, he does at least tell him of it. Donne quickly finds himself imprisoned, despite not showing up himself to tell. He nearly dies in prison, but thanks to Ann's intervention with her father and uncle, is finally released. I felt this part of the book had a lot of lead up and a slightly disappointing climax. I felt because of this, the end was a bit rushed. I wish the author had gone into more detail about Ann and Donne's life after their marriage rather than briefly covering it in a postscript. However, the rest of the book certainly makes up for it. 

I was sad to read in the postscript that Ann dies in childbirth years later. Donne never remarried. I would love the author to write a companion to this novel from Donne's point of view. I think his view would be quite different and extremely interesting.

I give this novel four and a half Tudor Roses.



I loved it and highly recommend it to those who know a lot or nothing about Elizabethan England. It is easy to read and very engrossing.

*Note: A big thank you to the author for sending me a copy! I can't wait to read your next work!

March 19, 2012

And the Winner is...

The winner of a signed copy of The Anne Boleyn Collection and tote is....

Helen Harris

Yay! A HUGE thank you to all who entered the March Giveaway. I was overwhelmed by the interest and appreciation. Thank you so much! I know Claire is very very excited and appreciative of everyones' support as well! Thanks again! Be sure to check back for our April giveaway soon!

*Helen, please send me an e-mail at everythingtudor "at" yahoo.com to claim your prize. :)



March 12, 2012

Q&A with Claire on The Anne Boleyn Collection and Giveaway

I am so happy to welcome Claire Ridgway from the Anne Boleyn Files to The Tudor Book Blog today! 

About Your Book and Your Writing:


How did you get the idea for The Anne Boleyn Collection?
It was actually the idea of Dr Linda Saether, a wonderful lady who has followed The Anne Boleyn Files from the start and who I've had the pleasure to meet twice (on our tours). Linda emailed me and said that she thought it would be great if I could celebrate the website's three year anniversary with a published collection of our most popular articles. It wasn't quite as easy as that because I had to rewrite, re-research and I also wanted to add new content too.


Can you give us a little background on the book, such as its overall theme or design?
The book is a celebration of The Anne Boleyn Files and a way of getting the real truth about Anne Boleyn and Tudor history out there. My aim with the website was always to dig for the real truth, using primary sources, and then present it in a way that was readable by people from all walks of life. So, the theme, as always is “the REAL truth”. The cover design is an image we had made from Anne's own falcon badge, the one from her copy of The Ecclesiaste which was a manuscript presented to her brother, George, who translated the work for her. We also added an Anne image in the background – I like to think that it symbolizes that Anne is slightly hidden from us!


What is your writing process from start to finish? (For example, your writing environment, inspiration, etc.)
I start with research and that is the bulk of what I do. I have so many books and documents now and I keep a list of sources I've used and what's in them so I know where to go when I'm writing. My work space is very cluttered and I'm surrounded by bookcases which are overpacked with books so don't ask me to take a photo as it looks awful!
My inspiration for articles often comes from a question someone has asked me or a comment I've read online. I often get on my soapbox when I feel that the Boleyns are being misrepresented or something is downright wrong. My inspiration for my book projects is always in keeping with my mission – to educate people about the real truth as much as I can.


Do you have any writers whom you consider mentors, or that you take inspiration from?
I don't have a mentor as such but I admire historians like Eric Ives, Suzannah Lipscomb, Leanda de Lisle, John Guy and Linda Porter. They are all historians who, I feel, write very readable books but which also focus on evidence. Suzannah told me a few months ago that I needed to get my work published and out there, so I did what I was told!
Two other people who have inspired me and motivated me are childhood teachers. When I was 11, we had to write a story about a secret island ( a bit like the Famous Five) and I got very carried away and wrote well over 20 pages when the rest of the class just did a page. My teacher, Mr Taylor, told me that one day I would be an author and that has stuck with me. My secondary school history teacher, Mrs Sagi, gave me the “history bug” and sparked off my interest in the European Reformation. She was an excellent teacher and really motivated me. I heard from her the other day and she told me that Eric Ives was her tutor at university so perhaps that's why I like Professor Ives so much!


What is your favorite part about writing?
Getting carried away, either with the research element or the writing. I'm like a dog with a bone and I have to get to the bottom of things and then when inspiration strikes I have to go and write, and write, and write. Quite often, I'll still be in my pyjamas at lunchtime because inspiration struck me and I couldn't stop.


What do you find the most challenging when writing?
Striking a balance with regards to my family. It can be hard for our children because both Tim and I work from home so we're physically there but we're also working. I can get carried away and work too much and that's not good for the kids.


What is the most interesting or surprising thing you learned while writing your book?
I think with this book, I found it interesting researching “the lost Boleyns”, Anne Boleyn's brothers. My research led me down so many different avenues and had me reading books on monumental brasses and talking to the Monumental Brass Society – crazy!


Do you have plans for any books in the future?
Yes! I've been working on various projects over the past couple of years – a book on the fall of Anne Boleyn, one on Anne Boleyn and another on the Boleyn family.


Do you think you will ever get into writing historical fiction?
Fiction was where I started. I still have the manuscripts of “The Secret Island” and “Death on the Slopes” and they do make me chuckle now! I got a bit bored with the murder mystery one and killed everyone off in the end! Seriously, though, I would love to get back to writing fiction one day, but not at the moment.


General Questions about Yourself:


What is your favorite non-Tudor related book?
I haven't got one favourite so I'll list a few:-
Middlemarch by George Eliot
Dracula by Bram Stoker
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
The Return by Victoria Hislop
The Harry Potter series
I also love Patricia Cornwell and Stieg Larsson


Do any other time periods interest you?
Yes, the Victorian era. As a family, we loved watching “The Victorian Farm” and “The Victorian Pharmacy” on TV and the way of life in Victorian times just fascinates me.


What are your hopes for your site in the future? Are you currently working on anything new to add to it?
I love the way that The Anne Boleyn Files has become a community, rather than just a website, so making sure that people feel welcome and part of it. Daniela, who makes our “The Tudors” jewellery, is always working on new designs and I just leave her to it, I concentrate on the research and writing.


Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Go for it but be prepared for hard work. I know that some people will think that I've just been lucky with how the book is selling, but it's actually the result of three years full time work and research, plus lots of support and encouragement from AB Files followers and the Tudor history community. It's been quite a journey and there have been times when I've wanted to give it all up because I've got rather burned out, but then I get a lovely email or I find something in my research to motivate me.
Also, don't listen to the 'nay sayers'. People will tell you that you just can't do it and that you're not good enough, just smile politely and do it anyway. :)


I happy to also be hosting a fabulous giveaway along with the Q&A. The prizes? A signed copy of The Anne Boleyn Collection as well as an Anne Boleyn tote bag! To enter, please leave a comment below! You can enter until midnight on 3/18. The winner will be randomly drawn and announced on 3/19. Anyone can enter. Good luck!






March 7, 2012

Hilary Mantel's Bringing Up the Bodies


Hilary Mantel's new work, Bringing Up the Bodies is the sequel to the Man Booker-winning Wolf Hall.


I have a confession to make. I have yet to read Wolf Hall. I know, I know! Bad Tudor Book Blogger! But I promise, it is at the top of my list. Regardless, I am very excited about it, though a little unsure about the title...

Synopsis:

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.

I'm not going to lie. It sounds good! I know there have be a ton of novels written on Anne Boleyn, but I think that Mantel's style and deliverance of the events of May 1536 will offer a refreshing look. We shall see!

It is due for release on May 10, 2012 in the UK and May 22, 2012 in the USA.

March 5, 2012

Tudor Book Blog Reading Challenge Update # 2

Here's the 2nd update for our Tudor Book Blog Reading Challenge!

Members:

January Members:
Yvonne
Andrea
Anthony
Andrew
Elean
Kim
Trish
Jen
Leaigh Ann
Joy
Bridgette

February Members:
Kellie
Ashley
Sarah (1)
Raina
Jasmine

March Members:
Stephanie
Sarah (2)

Wow! I'm blown away by all the participants so far! Thanks everyone!

New Reviews for February:
* Bridgette at The Tudor Cafe: Le Temp Viendra and The Other Boleyn Girl.
* Jasmine on Facebook: Plain Jane: A Novel of Jane Seymour, Dissolution, Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne, and The Anne Boleyn Collection.
* Elean on Facebook: Elizabeth: Red Rose of the House of Tudor
* Trish on Facebook: Innocent Traitor: A Novel of Jane Grey
* Sarah (1) at The Tudor Book Blog Reading Challenge: Murder Most Royal, The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn, and Threads.
* Jen at The Tudor Book Blog Reading Challenge: Bloody Mary.
Whew! I think that's it. If I missed anyone PLEASE let me know! There is a lot going on so I wouldn't be surprised if I accidentally missed a review or two here or there.

If you haven't joined yet, you still can! Please sign up at The Tudor Book Blog Reading Challenge page. You can post your reviews there, the Facebook Page, or link from your own website.

March 1, 2012

New Updates

I haven't done a news update on the blog in a while, so there are a few things I would like to point out:

Firstly, I mentioned this a while back, but I thought I would re-mention it. Many of the most famous documents, such as Henry VIII's divorce plea and Galileo's heresy trial records, from the Vatican's Secret Archives are going to be on display in a special exhibition.

Here's an article detailing more about the exhibit.

There is also a podcast on the exhibit. Listen to it here.
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Secondly, I mentioned this on Facebook, but thought it certainly deserved a mention here; Several rare letters, including one from Jane Seymour to Henry VIII (detailing the birth of their son) have been found.


Be sure to check out this article for more details.
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Nextly, ever wonder what a pre-Reformation church in England looked like? Now you can catch a glimpse by visiting the South Leigh Church in Oxfordshire.
Beneath a layer of whitewash, intriguing paintings depicting doomsday were discovered in the late 1800's. They have been restored and now give the viewer a glimpse of what medieval and early Tudor subjects would have seen while attending church services. According to this article, these images "are a dramatic and unique representation of an early church’s teaching to village people who were unable to read and write."
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Site Related News

I would like to mention that The Tudor Book Blog Reading Challenge is really picking up! We have had a few new entries this month, as well as a lot of new reviews. 


Be sure to sign up here


A new post will be up in the next day or so reviewing the progress for Feb. as well as revealing the next prize in the Tudor Prize Pack! 
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And finally, Claire from The Anne Boleyn Files will be stopping by Everything Tudor Mon. March 12th for a special interview as part of her virtual blog tour for her new book The Anne Boleyn Collection. Be sure to tune in for that, as well as enter for a chance to win a signed copy of the book and an Anne Boleyn Tote bag!