Saturday, July 28, 2007

New Blog and New Read

Since I yip so much about Richard III on this blog, I've started a new one for that very purpose! Check it out here.

I've been reading Michelle Moran's historical novel Nefertiti, even as a stack of books on my shelf to be reviewed grows yet higher and higher. I'm enjoying it thoroughly, but as I have some other writing and reviewing obligations to take care of in the coming weeks (not to mention that pesky day job), I doubt I'll be giving it a full-fledged review. But it's well worth checking out, though I confess that what I know about ancient Egypt could fit into a miniature thimble. (If I knew anything about ancient Egypt I'd be able to come up with a better metaphor, for one thing. Any suggestions?)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Booking Through Thursday: Moustache-Twirling

Booking Through Thursday

Well, after last week’s record-breaking number of responses (92 last time I checked–an all-time BTT record), I was tempted to use this week’s question to ask what you all thought about Harry Potter 7–but since a decent proportion of you weren’t going to be reading it at all, that seemed unfair. So instead . . .

Who’s the worst fictional villain you can think of? As in, the one you hate the most, find the most evil, are happiest to see defeated? Not the cardboard, two-dimensional variety, but the most deliciously-written, most entertaining, best villain? Not necessarily the most “evil,” so much as the best-conceived on the part of the author…oh, you know what I mean!

There's scads of good candidates, but since Iago was taken, I'll go with Tulkinghorn from Bleak House. He destroys, or tries to destroy, lives dispassionately and for no better reason than the enjoyment he gets from having his victims in his power.

I'd say that Shakespeare's Richard III meets the criteria for the most entertaining villain. Having read a surfeit of novels where Richard is all but beatified, I find his stage version rather refreshing!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Queen Isabella: The Sitcom

In church on Sunday, being the pious rockin' blogger girl that I am, I thought when the lesson about Mary and Martha was read, "Wouldn't this make a good sitcom?" Well, the hamster in the ol' brain started going, and thanks to that and Alianore's recent post on Queen Isabella's later years, this was the twisted result:

"Rising to the Occasion": A New Sitcom

Queen Isabella expected things to be a little different when she left her son's court for a quieter life on her estates, but she didn't bargain for the wild and wacky retainers at Castle Rising! Can a dowager queen adjust to the simple life amongst the local yokels?

Episode #13: "A Heart in the Wrong Place"

When Isabella's new damsel, Alice, takes it upon herself to polish the dowager queen's jewel caskets, she accidentally throws out something very important—Edward II's heart! Can Alice and her friend, Isabella's bumbling steward, find it and put it back in its place before Isabella notices?

Episode #22: "Ladies' Knight"

Thanks to a gift of wine from the folks of Lynn, Isabella is having a rollicking girls-only evening with her old friends Elizabeth de Burgh and Marie de St. Pol—when Henry de Grosmont shows up! Will three merry widows be too much for even the gallant Henry?

Episode #49: "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?"

Isabella plans to ask her son Edward III for an increase in her allowance—but just as the king settles into his chamber, Isabella's cousin King John of France comes to visit, expecting to be entertained in high style! Will the gang be able to convince Edward that Isabella's poor while impressing John with Isabella's riches?

Episode #53: "The Papal Chase"

Just for fun, Isabella's clerks write a letter to the Pope in which Isabella confesses to her husband's murder—and they accidentally give it to the queen's messenger! Can they outride the messenger to Avignon?

(P.S. Vote for your favorite Henry in the sidebar!)

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Rockin', Reading, and Raving

I've been named as a

by Alison and by Tanzanite. Thanks, ladies! For my own nominations, I'll add not only those who nominated me, but these:

Sarah, over at Reading the Past. Always lots to read there!
Alianore, of course. Edward II, he's the man!
Tanzanite's Book Covers is a hoot!
It's always fun over at Carla's blog, even though I'm too lazy to cook her recipes.
Gabriele's site is always entertaining.
I've been enjoying the reviews on the new Historical Tapestry blog.

I know I'll think of some others once I turn off the computer and go to bed. Night, all!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Booking Through Thursday: Harry Potter

Booking Through Thursday

1. Okay, love him or loathe him, you’d have to live under a rock not to know that J.K. Rowling’s final Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, comes out on Saturday… Are you going to read it?
2. If so, right away? Or just, you know, eventually, when you get around to it? Are you attending any of the midnight parties?
3. If you’re not going to read it, why not?
4. And, for the record… what do you think? Will Harry survive the series? What are you most looking forward to?

As regular readers of this blog know, I'm not a fan of fantasy, so I probably won't be reading the final Harry Potter--I haven't read any of the others. It's not that I have any objections to fantasy as a genre; it's just that it leaves me utterly cold. Always has. Always will. I compared it in this blog once to simply not liking chocolate ice cream, and another non-fantasy-fan has suggested that it's simply a gene some are lacking. That sounds as good an explanation as any.

I did see one Harry Potter movie. When the characters were simply talking to each other, I enjoyed it. When things that don't fly in real life started flying, my attention began to lapse.

So, no Harry Potter, though if I had to read fantasy, that's probably where I'd start.

Given that I know so little about the intricacies of the books, I won't dare to speculate whether Rowling will kill Harry Potter or not. I rather hope not, because if you can't have a happy ending in fantasy, what's the point? I'm curious enough to peep at the ending when the book comes out (don't worry, no spoilers here!).

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Why I Can't Visit Finland

Courtesy of the Mechanical Contrivium via Alianore:

Ten Top Trivia Tips about Historical novelists!

  1. Historical novelists can smell some things up to six miles away.
  2. Most bottles and jars contain at least twenty-five percent recycled historical novelists!
  3. Olive oil was used for washing historical novelists in the ancient Mediterranean world.
  4. Europe is the only continent that lacks historical novelists!
  5. If you break historical novelists, you will get seven years of bad luck.
  6. US gold coins used to say 'In historical novelists we trust'.
  7. Historical novelists can sleep for three and a half years.
  8. Bees visit over three million flowers to make a single kilogram of historical novelists!
  9. The ace of spades in a playing card deck symbolizes historical novelists!
  10. Historical novelists were banned from Finland because of not wearing pants.
I am interested in - do tell me about

Monday, July 16, 2007

A Question for You Historical Fiction Addicts Out There

As I was writing this post on my Jean Plaidy blog, a thought occurred to me. I've read a number of historical novels where a female character, usually an ill-fated one--Anne Boleyn, Katherine Howard, Marie Antoinette, for instance--looks back at her life as she awaits death. Usually, she's either awaiting the executioner's ax or in the throes of mortal illness.

So my question is, are there historical novels where a man looks back over his past in this fashion? I'm sure there must be, but I can't for the life of me think of one. The closest I can come is The King's Touch by Jude Morgan, but the hero as he narrates that one isn't aware of his impending doom, only that he is about to take a fateful step.

Assuming there aren't that many novels featuring doomed first-person male narrators, my question is, why not? Perhaps this sort of introspection is considered insufficiently masculine? It would certainly be interesting to have, say, Roger Mortimer's last thoughts in the Tower, or Anthony Woodville's ruminations at Pontefract, or Louis XVI's in the Temple, for instance.

Awaiting your thoughts.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

An Interview With Michelle Moran, and Booking Through Thursday

First, if you haven't seen it, we over at Yesterday Revisited, a blog to which I contribute, interviewed author Michelle Moran about her novel Nefertiti. It's certainly on my TBR list!

Now for Booking Through Thursday:

1. In your opinion, what is the best translation of a book to a movie?
2. The worst?
3. Had you read the book before seeing the movie, and did that make a difference? (Personally, all other things being equal, I usually prefer whichever I was introduced to first.)

For the first, I'd say the movie a few years back of Persuasion, with Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds (surprise! I just checked, and I'd spelled his name right). I thought it really captured the spirit and the wit of Jane Austen's novel. I also enjoyed the big-screen adaptation of Sense and Sensibility a while back with Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet.

I also enjoyed the very long movie adaptation of Charles Dickens's Little Dorrit. It's been nearly 20 years since it came out, but it was true to the characters and to Dickens's story. I'll have to watch it again one day.

Hands down, my least favorite movie adaptation of a book was the one of Mansfield Park by Patricia Rozema. It was bad enough that the director chose to turn Austen's novel into a feminist and anti-slavery tract, she couldn't even do it consistently. One minute Sir Thomas Bertram, in his role as Oppressive Rich Male Patriarch, is bullying Fanny, the next he's sitting meekly as Mary Crawford lectures him. At the end of the movie, Fanny cheerfully tells the camera that Sir Thomas has divested himself of his plantation in the West Indies (and presumably of the slaves thereon) and has turned to investing in tobacco instead. This is supposed to be a good thing, it appears, but who does the director think was harvesting the tobacco in the American South at the time? (Hint: not the United Agricultural Workers.) Then there's Henry Crawford copulating with Maria Bertram and grinning when Fanny catches him, and the ridiculous lesbian pass Mary makes at Fanny, and the portrayal of the shallow Tom Bertram in the movie as a tormented-artist type, and . . . Well, I'd have to see it again to list all the things I disliked about this movie. As I recall it had some nice scenes in Portsmouth, but not nice enough to save the movie.

Oh, and with all of these movies, I'd read the book first. I might have hated the movie of Mansfield Park a little less if I hadn't read the book.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

At the Movies

So I've halfway figured out the book video trailer stuff now. Here's the result for The Traitor's Wife.

If you're interested in doing one yourself, there's some very helpful information here.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

In Which I Turn to Historical Romance

Reading Alianore's posts on a certain historical romance writer and doing my own post on Richard III's coronation has had a rather odd effect on my mind, I'm afraid. Here is the result:

: A Thrilling New Paranormal Romance by Summer Sutton

Beautiful, obsidian-eyed Lady Ebony Butler gives her promise to marry—and her strumpet's luscious body—to the young, dashing Duke of York. But even the ravishing Ebony is powerless over the blandishments of the wicked Elizabeth Woodville, who employs her silver-gilt hair—and her witch's powers—to ensnare the duke. When the duke becomes the King of England, Ebony is cast off.

But the King and his witch have failed to reckon with Ebony's own magical powers, awakened by his betrayal of her. Assuming the shape of Topaz de Leybourn, a temptress no man can resist, Ebony will become the mistress of the king's enigmatic younger brother, Dirk, trapped in a loveless marriage.

Through the secrets Topaz reveals to him, Dirk will capture the throne. Will he also capture Topaz's heart?

"I threw this book across the room . . . in ecstasy! Sutton brings the Wars of the Roses to life in this dazzling debut novel."
--Romantic Times

"Sizzles! I will remember the scene between Topaz and Dirk in Bishop Morton's strawberry garden for the rest of my natural life."
--Romance Reviewed Today


"You want me. You know you do," whispered Topaz. She gazed at Dirk's bulging dagger.

Dirk did want her. Anne, his wife, was a fit wife for a duke, and perhaps even for a king, but not for the animal that raged inside Dirk now. She'd grown fat and dull, even to her name. Anne—when she might have been named Amber, or Amethyst . . . Dirk wanted a woman like his brother's wife, Elizabeth Woodville. A witch who would set his groin on fire . . .

Without a further word, he seized Topaz and stripped her of her clinging gown. Soon they were riding passionate waves of ecstasy, waves that neither Dirk nor even Topaz had ever ridden before . . .


"You're telling me that my brother's father was an archer? I cannot believe it!"

"You must," said Topaz. "It is the very truth. An archer named Blade."

Dirk considered. "It is true that my lady mother always had tapestries of archers on the walls, and that she wore a little bow and arrow around her wrist, and that she was always particular that we practice our archery daily. But this I cannot believe! It is your witch's lies!"

"You must believe me. Your brother the king has cried the secret out in his sleep."

Dirk started. "Are you telling me you have shared the king's bed as well as mine?" He grabbed Topaz's ivory shoulder. "You demon!"

Topaz shook her head. "Nay! I have lain but with one brother of the House of York. But a beauteous young woman named Lady Ebony Butler shared your brother's bed, and she knew all of his secrets." She lowered her voice. "Dirk, you must trust what I tell you next. It will allow you to change the course of history . . . "

Friday, July 06, 2007

A Half-Hearted Happy Coronation Day to Richard III and Anne

I was going to write a rather long post today about Richard III and the supposed precontract between Edward IV and Eleanor Butler, but I got sidetracked last night by this post. Neat, isn't it? Naturally, I got to trying to make my own video trailer, and before I knew it, it was bedtime. I'll post my trailer once I finish it. Which may be a while, as Steven Spielberg I ain't.

Anyway, on July 6, 1483, Richard III and his wife, Anne Neville, were crowned King and Queen of England.

I'm fascinated by Richard III and the Wars of the Roses, and I'm even a member of the Richard III Society, but I'm not a great admirer of Richard III, as readers of this blog have no doubt deduced. I have no difficulty believing that he was a good husband to Anne and a good father to his children (legitimate and illegitimate), and I'll admit that he probably did mean to govern well once he took the crown. (Though one online fan's characterization of him as being responsible for "the foundation of Western law" struck me as a bit, er, overstated. Next we'll have the guy writing the United States Constitution.) But I also believe it very likely that he killed his nephews, or at the very least let it be known that he wouldn't inquire very closely if something amiss happened to the young boys.

Which brings us to the precontract story. That, I think, is probably the issue that divides the Ricardians from the non-Ricardians. If you can believe that there was a precontract, you can also believe that Richard III took the crown only reluctantly and that his enemies were a bunch of scheming ingrates who slandered his name only to gain power for themselves. If, on the other, you don't believe there was a precontract, it's rather simple to believe that Richard III, having fabricated this story to obtain the throne, was ready to eliminate anyone who stood in his way.

And I'm one of those who doesn't believe the precontract story. If, as Richard's partisans argue, Edward IV had Clarence executed and Stillington imprisoned to keep them from blabbing about the precontract, why did he later release Stillington? And if there was a precontract, surely more people than Clarence and Stillington knew about it. Edward IV wasn't a stupid man; why didn't he quietly take care of the matter with the Pope instead of taking the chance that no one else would mention Eleanor Butler? And why did neither Eleanor Butler nor her relations ever speak on her behalf, or at least tell their grievances to the Earl of Warwick, who would have loved the opportunity to attack the Woodville marriage? It wasn't as if Eleanor were a humble peasant girl; she was quite well connected.

With Edward IV and Eleanor Butler both dead in 1483, one person might have been able to shed light on Edward IV's relationship with Eleanor: William Hastings, Edward IV's closest friend and longtime partner in skirt-chasing. And perhaps not at all coincidentally, Richard III had him executed days before Richard and his agents began to circulate the precontract story.

There's also the matter of jurisdiction. In England, the ecclesiastical courts were where questions of marriage and legitimacy were decided. Richard III never took the question of the precontract to the papal courts where it belonged. Moreover, neither Edward IV's children nor their mother, Elizabeth Woodville, was ever given the opportunity to defend the validity of the Woodville marriage by questioning the existence of the precontract. Richard III got around this problem by proclaiming that the matter of the precontract was notorious, but it was a notoriety that came suspiciously late in the game.

So unless I hear something that convinces me that there was a precontract, my coronation day best wishes will continue to be grudging. But I'll be a sport and give them anyway.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Booking Through Thursday: The Great American Novel

From Booking Through Thursday:

What, in your opinion, is the (mythical) Great American Novel? At least to date. A “classic,” or a current one–either would be fine. Mark Twain? J.D. Salinger? F. Scott Fitzgerald? Stephen King? Laura Ingalls Wilder?

It doesn’t have to be your favorite book, mind you. “Citizen Kane” may be the “best” film, and I concede its merits, but it’s not my favorite. You don’t have to love something to know that it’s good.

I'll be stupendously unoriginal and go with Huckleberry Finn. It's not my favorite novel (I'd have to go to Dickens for that), but as many others have pointed out, there's something archtypically American about Huck's longing to "light out for the Territory." And the writing itself is fresh and humorous, unlike the mannered, self-consciously "literary" style that characterizes so many "serious" novels today.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Sheep and Stuff

I'm honored to say that The Traitor's Wife is the July book of the month over at the Historical Fiction bulletin board. (Look under "Readers' Groups," then "Book of the Month.") Swing on over, sign up, and feel free to post a question on the Book of the Month thread! Aside from the one about yours truly, there's lots of interesting discussions there, and anyone with an interest in historical fiction is welcome to sign up!

In my work-in-progress, the hero, Hugh, eldest son of Hugh le Despenser the younger, has a manor at Mapledurwell in Hampshire. While surfing for some pictures of the area, I found these cute little guys. I like to think that some of their ancestors lived on the manor when Hugh and his wife were there.