July 26, 2013

Philippa Gregory's 'The White Queen and Her Rivals' Part II

Part II of Philippa Gregory's documentary on the women of the Wars of the Roses has premiered and is now available to watch online! Part I is here.

If you're in the UK, you can watch it on BBC iPlayer here.

If you are (like me) outside the UK, feel free to watch here!

What do you think of Part II, especially compared to Part I? Do you like how Gregory presented the information, and what she chose to talk about?

July 24, 2013

'The Tudor Conspiracy' Winner is...

'The Tudor Conspiracy' Giveaway Winner is...


Congrats Ann, and a huge thank you to C.W. Gortner for the prize, and all of you for entering! Ann mentioned that she would like to read a mystery involving Jane Seymour...perhaps something to do with her early death? I'd read it! There are quite a few other good ones, too. Hopefully we have inspired Mr. Gortner on his next novel ;)

Be sure to check in at the beginning of August for another giveaway!

July 19, 2013

Q&A With Author C.W. Gortner

Today I am so excited to welcome author C.W. Gortner. You may recall that I reviewed his latest release, The Tudor Conspiracy, here, earlier this week. He has graciously offered to answer a few questions for you today!
Author C.W. Gornter. URL.
Thank you so much for sending me the book for review, and joining us here today to answer my questions! I’m going to start off with a few book/writing related questions, then jump into a few fun ones!

1. What is your writing routine? (i.e. cup of coffee early in the morning, etc.)

I’m not much of a routine person now that I write full-time, but I do write every day. Usually, I get up and deal with the daily avalanche of e-mails, followed by breakfast. I then feed my spoiled cats, go to yoga class, and come home for lunch. I sit down to write after lunch and work through until 5 PM or so. In the evening, I do an hour of revisions.

2. You did such an amazing job of bringing Mary Tudor’s reign to life. How did you get inspired or get in the right mindset to capture it so well?

I’ve always been intrigued by the so-called “forgotten Tudors” who came after Henry VIII and before Elizabeth. It’s a time of great instability and change in England, especially after Edward VI dies and Mary assumes the throne. Mary is a tragic figure, who fell prey to her own circumstances and initiated a terrible reign of persecution. She’s challenging to depict yet quite a complex character for a novelist: a woman who was courageous and steadfast in her right to claim the throne, but became a paranoid ruler determined to wrest her subjects back to the Catholic faith even as she struggled to fulfill her duty to bear an heir. I research extensively before I start a novel to find my inspiration and become fluent in the customs and feel of the time. Part of my process is to mute my ego and perceptions of the world, so I can disappear into the time period and people I’m evoking. I read all the extant documentation of the era I can find, as well as biographies, social histories, specialized books on fashion, furniture, weaponry, etc. The era in all its diversity must become natural to me, yet I cannot grow so rigid in my authenticity that I lose the ability to make the past understandable to modern-day readers. It’s a delicate balance, finding the common thread between us and them. After all the research is done, I must use imagination to breathe life into the past without making it seem stilted.

3. Brendan’s mission is to find proof against Elizabeth. Do you think she was guilty or an innocent bystander?

If I answer that, I’ll give away the plot! Suffice to say, I think we can never know for certain how much Elizabeth knew or did during this tumultuous time, when her life was clearly in danger, and that’s part of her allure. She was certainly determined to survive, as events proved.

4. What inspired you to focus on this time period for your mysteries?

As I said earlier, I’m fascinated by the years after Henry VIII’s death and didn’t want to set these mysteries in an era that was already being covered. Other excellent novelists are mining Henry VIII’s reign as well as Elizabeth’s later years, but the time before her coronation is unexplored to a certain extent, though it is rife with opportunity. I also wanted to explore my fictional character Brendan’s rise as a spy in service to Elizabeth before she became queen, in order to develop an intimacy between them that could cause potential chaos because of the secret he carries. In fact, in the third installment of the Spymaster series, which I am currently writing, I’m setting the plot in the tenuous weeks following Mary’s death, shortly before Elizabeth’s coronation, when so much was at stake and no one knew how Elizabeth would fare. We tend to think of her as the fully fledged juggernaut of her Gloriana years, when she had England at her feet, but the first years of her reign were fraught with peril and deep uncertainty as to whether she could hold onto her throne.

5. What other time periods do you enjoy writing about?

I love history and have a wide range of interest in eras besides those I’ve written about. I cannot say more for now, but I do hope in the future to write books set in other time periods.

6. Was your main character, Brendan Prescott, inspired by any historical figures?

He’s inspired by the many anonymous men who were recruited into Elizabeth’s secret service and dedicated themselves to defending the queen against her foes, often at the cost of their lives.  I wanted to create a character who becomes her intimate spy and confidant, yet who is forced to hide his true identity, which pits him against the life he has been thrust into and the life he yearns for but feels he cannot have. Brendan is an everyday man who must become more than what he wants to be, because of the circumstances surrounding him and his past.

7. What historical figure inspires you the most?

I am inspired by Francis of Assisi because of his love for animals; and by President Lincoln, because he had the courage and resiliency to fight against injustice.

8. What event in history would you have liked to witness?

Elizabeth I’s speech rallying her troops against the Armada; it must have been an amazing moment when the future of the entire kingdom hung in the balance.

9. Have you visited any of the locations in your novel? How did it feel being there?

I always travel to the sites I write about. Doing research with books and documents is very important but to get an actual feel for a place is equally vital for me. Though much may have changed, the texture of the stone, sweep of the landscape and hue of the skies are details that bring a story to life; nothing can equal that special moment when you step into a palace or site where your character once lived and you realize it bears silent witness to the passage of the ages. I’ll always remember the first time I visited Hampton Court and had the chance to dance a galliard in the great hall. Just knowing that there, under the gorgeous gilded ceiling, Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII, and later, their daughter Elizabeth, once feasted before the court— it was an exhilarating sensation that for a brief moment collapsed the veil between their time and ours. For THE TUDOR CONSPIRACY, I spent some time in the Tower of London, and had the chance to see the rooms where the Dudleys were imprisoned and the leads where they took their exercise. That visit inspired the scene in the novel when Brendan looks out to see them walking there together, and realizes how much his situation has changed.

10. What do you do to celebrate a finished novel?

Sleep. A lot!

11. Do you have anything new in the works?

Yes, I’ve just finished my next historical novel about Lucrezia Borgia. Thrust into notoriety as the pope’s daughter, Lucrezia had to embark on a savage struggle against her family’s ambitions. Once again, I found myself drawn to a woman who’s been vilified by history; I was completely enthralled by Lucrezia and her world, as I hope readers will be.

Thank you for spending this time with me. I’m delighted to be here and hope your readers will enjoy THE TUDOR CONSPIRACY. To find out more about my work, please visit me at my website at: www.cwgortner.com

A huge thank you to C.W. Gortner! Be sure to enter for a chance to win a copy of 'The Tudor Conspiracy' here!

July 18, 2013

'The White Queen and Her Rivals' - Documentary by Philippa Gergory

Philippa Gregory, whose recent novel series, The Cousins' Wars, has been turned into a 10-part series by BBC and Starz. However, what about the real White Queen and the other women who are represented in the fictionalized drama?

The author herself goes into their back stories, building a foundation of real history and fact for the fictional novels and show to stand on.

What do you think of Philippa Gregory's documentary?

July 16, 2013

'The Tudor Conspiracy' Giveaway

As a follow-up to my review of The Tudor Conspiracy by C.W. Gortner, I have been given a copy of the novel for giveaway to one luck reader!

To enter, leave a comment here with your name and which historical Tudor figure you would like to see another Tudor 'mystery' involve!

All entries must be in by July 22nd at midnight. The winner will be randomly drawn and announced on July 23rd. Good luck!

Tudor Book Blog Reviews: 'The Tudor Conspiracy' by C.W. Gortner


(Don't worry, I don't spoil any of the mystery!)

Philip and Mary
The story opens in 1544, during the reign of Queen Mary. Brendan Prescott (our hero from Gortner's first novel, The Tudor Secret - read my review here) is visited by William Cecil who explains that there is a plot to take Princess Elizabeth out of the line of succession. He cites the Spanish ambassador, Simon Renard, as the instigator. He wishes to remove Elizabeth to make way for Mary's Spanish children by King Philip and, as a result, Hapsburg dominance of England. Though Prescott helped both Mary and Elizabeth in the first novel, he must now choose to work against either Mary or Elizabeth. Mary has been convinced by Renard that Elizabeth is basically a traitorous heathen who must be dealt with. However, both Cecil and Prescott know that this is not true. Prescott decides to work for Elizabeth, and infiltrate Mary's court to thwart Renard's plan. However, he is called upon by Queen Mary to find proof of Elizabeth's treachery. Now serving as a double agent, he must find the proof (whether it be treacherous or not) in Elizabeth's letters before his shadowy nemesis does.

My Thoughts

Princess Elizabeth Tudor
Though you don't need to read the first novel to enjoy this one, I highly recommend it. You get a base for the characters, especially Prescott. It would also help you better understand his point-of-view, as he assisted both Mary and Elizabeth in the first novel. Events and conclusions from the first mystery are also referenced in this mystery. However, you can still easily follow along; it would just be more enjoyable to have a base for what you are reading.

When reading the first novel, I was struck with how well researched it was. It was so easy for me to envision everything on the page. I was a little concerned that his latest novel wouldn't match up to the first. However, Gortner certainly knows his stuff. Though the premise of both novels (to a point) and the main character are fictitious, Gortner does an amazing job of bringing the real historical period, events, and people to life. For example, upon entering London, Prescott compares it to how it looked during Edward's reign. He captures the mood of the city and time, mentioning the disgruntled graffiti downing Catholicism and Spaniards. This particular period has seen some historical fiction, but nothing like Henry VIII's reign has. I love that Gortner has not written his first two novels in Henry's reign, but rather during the reigns of the 'forgotten Tudors,' Edward and Mary. That, combined with it being a mystery, was enough to hook me right there. However, Gortner doesn't just rely on his unique plot, but masterfully develops it and his characters to make it an excellent book, period.

Particularly, he does a good job of capturing how I, personally, envision Mary Tudor. When Prescott is summoned to meet her, he makes the following observation,
Mary Tudor was not beautiful. Whatever physical appeal she'd once possessed had been spoiled by years of bitter antagonism, so that she looked older than her thirty-seven years, her close-set hazel eyes pleated by wrinkles and her sunken cheeks betraying a premature loss of teeth. Poor eyesight had carved a furrow between her near-invisible brows, ans she was gaunt, her figure almost childlike in her rigid, gem-encrusted finery. What she lacked in beauty, however, she made up for with a regal presence and a generosity of heart that had engendered loyalty in many of those who served her.
Elizabeth, as a prisoner in the Tower.
Other characters, especially Robert Dudley (who makes another appearance) and Elizabeth Tudor are equally well crafted. I also enjoyed some of the minor characters. Jane Dormer, Kate, William Cecil and a whole slew of real and fictional characters grace the pages, some briefly and some who play key parts in the plot. No matter the part they play, Gortner completely develops them, even the stable boy!

This novel is very rich. It is full of history, fiction, mystery, and excitement. I found myself reading it very quickly, as I had a hard time putting it down. My favorite part was the time Gortner spent developing even the most insignificant characters as well as offering rich visual details of the settings. His detail really draws you in, making you feel a part of the period.

Overall, I give this novel 5 Tudor Roses! I love a good mystery (especially set during my favorite time period), and Gortner certainly delivers.

I am excited to announce that author C.W. Gornter will be stopping by The Tudor Book Blog on July 19th for an exclusive Q&A! Be sure to check back for that! Also, be sure to check out his website for more on his excellent novels.

Also, if you want to follow The Tudor Conspiracy and C.W. Gortner's Virtual Blog Tour, go here.

Note: A huge thank you to C.W. Gortner and Amy from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour for sending me a pre-release copy of this novel, as well as a copy for giveaway! More on that in the next post ;) 

July 8, 2013

The Tudor Book Blog Reading Challenge: July

Sorry I'm a few days late posting this. I went on a much needed vacation this last week!

June saw a few new reviews:

  • Jaclyn reviewed Diane Haeger’s novels The Queen’s Rival and The Queen's Mistake at the TBB.
  • Shannon Leigh (The Most Happy Reader) reviewed C. W. Gortner's The Last QueenSusan Higginbotham's The Stolen Crown: The Secret Marriage that Forever Changed the Fate of EnglandHer Mother's Daughter: A Novel of Mary TudorHer Highness, The Traitor, The Lady Elizabeth, My Lady of Cleves and The King's Daughter: A Novel of the First Tudor Queen.
  • Esther reviewed Alison Plowden's four-volume Elizabethan Quartet (The Young ElizabethDanger to ElizabethMarriage With My Kingdom, and Elizabeth Regina). 
  • Eva posted two reviews on GoodReads: The Lady in the Tower by Jean Plaidy and Catherine Parr by Elizabeth Norton.

Exciting news! Shannon also reached her goal this month! Yay Shannon!!! Eva is also only one away from her goal! You guys are awesome!

If I missed anyone or any reviews, please let me know! 

You may now start posting your July reviews here! I can't believe we are half way done with the reading challenge! Don't forget, you can sign up until mid-December. 

Happy reading! :)