Thursday, 30 April 2009

The Swan Maiden by Jules Watson

In this lush, romantic retelling of one of the most enduring Irish legends, acclaimed Celtic historical author Jules Watson reignites the tale of Deirdre—the Irish Helen of Troy—in a story that is at once magical, beautiful, and tragic.

She was born with a blessing and a curse: that she would grow into a woman of extraordinary beauty—and bring ruin to the kingdom of Ulster and its ruler, the wily Conor. Ignoring the pleadings of his druid to expel the infant, King Conor secrets the girl child with a poor couple in his province, where no man can covet her. There, under the tutelage of a shamaness, Deirdre comes of age in nature and magic…. And in the season of her awakening, the king is inexorably drawn to her impossible beauty.

But for Deirdre, her fate as a man’s possession is worse than death. And soon the green-eyed girl, at home in waterfall and woods, finds herself at the side of three rebellious young warriors. Among them is the handsome Naisi. His heart charged with bitterness toward the aging king, and growing in love for the defiant girl, Naisi will lead Deirdre far from Ulster—and into a war of wits, swords, and spirit that will take a lifetime to wage.

Brimming with life and its lusts, here is a soaring tale of enchantment and eternal passions—and of a woman who became legend.

This was a totally amazing book, one of the quotes on back of the book was that Jules Watson doesn't jusr write the book she lives it (or something like that), how true the descriptions were utterly brilliant, the explanation of nature and everything - stunning!

I only discovered this book as a recommendation on Amazon whilst looking at Juliet Marillier books so if you love her books (as I do) I think you will most probably love this too.

Its so hard to write a review on books I love without spoiling it for someone who hasn't read it so I'm not going to say anymore about this book, I would even go as far as to say this is one of the best (if not THE best) books I have read this year.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Secrets of The Tudor Court: The Pleasure Palace by Kate Emerson

Beautiful. Seductive. Innocent. Jane Popyncourt was brought to the court as a child to be ward of the king and a companion to his daughters -- the princesses Margaret and Mary. With no money of her own, Jane could not hope for a powerful marriage, or perhaps even marriage at all. But as she grows into a lovely young woman, she still receives flattering attention from the virile young men flocking to serve the handsome new king, Henry VIII, who has recently married Catherine of Aragon. Then a dashing French prisoner of war, cousin to the king of France, is brought to London, and Jane finds she cannot help giving some of her heart -- and more -- to a man she can never marry. But the Tudor court is filled with dangers as well as seductions, and there are mysteries surrounding Jane's birth that have made her deadly enemies. Can she cultivate her beauty and her amorous wiles to guide her along a perilous path and bring her at last to happiness?

Basing her gripping tale on the life of the real Jane Popyncourt, gifted author Kate Emerson brings the Tudor monarchs, their family, and their courtiers to brilliant


I am a bit undecided about this book, it is very well researched regarding the taste and flavours of the Tudor court, Jane Popyncourt is not someone I had come across before (either in historical fiction or non) so that was interesting to find out something or rather someone who did exist rather than a fictional character.

It was enjoyable but, not something unputdownable it was good also seeing things from the other side ie. not directly King Henry or any of his Queens or children, I personally don't feel there are enough books about Henry's sisters and I loved reading about Mary.

Jane was an interesting character I did feel for her at times it was almost as if she didn't quite belong, there are also some interesting parts in the book regarding the family tree and at the back there is a description of all the different people at court which is helpful as it can get a bit confusing at times.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

The Spanish Bride by Laurien Gardner

The queen who married a Tudor and a tyrant.

Her name was Catherine. For over two decades, she was Queen of England, until her failure to bear the king a son, her advancing age, and King Henry VIII's obsession with Anne Boleyn cost Catherine the crown, her marriage, and her life. This is her story, told from the point of view of Estrella de Montoya, her trusted maid of honor, who traveled from Spain to England with her, and witnessed the triumphs and tragedies of her amazing life.

I am sad to say had I read this book first (of the three) I may well have not read the rest, so fortunate for me I read them out of order! I personally don't think its imperative to read them in order unless you are completely unfamiliar with the story of Henry's wives which I doubt.

I would add that of all the wives I would say Katherine is my least favourite but, thats not to say its the reason for not being completely bowled over by this book (I loved Philippa Gregory's Constant Princess) I think it has more to do with Estrella who is the narrater of this book, this book is written in the first person which is books I usually love but, Estrella was for me as dull as dull can be.

There are parts of this book which are quite dark and moody so not a book to be reading if you are depressed!

I liked (yes there were parts I did like) the fact it flitted back and forth between when Katherine was coming to England from Spain and when she first arrived in Spain to the later years, it was also good to hear about the journey coming over, most books on Katherine I have come across have started with her when she first marries Arthur.

Although as I said Katherine is not one of my favourite wives but, still I would like to read more on her so if anyone has any suggestions please feel free (with the exception of Philippa Gregory & Jean Plaidy).

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Maid Marian by Elsa Watson

An irresistible reimagining of the Robin Hood legend, Maid Marian brings to life the rollicking—and romantic—world of the Middle Ages.

An orphan and heiress to a large country estate, Marian Fitzwater is wed at the age of five to an equally young nobleman, Lord Hugh of Sencaster, a union that joins her inheritance to his. But when she is seventeen, Lord Hugh, whom she hasn’t seen in years, dies under mysterious circumstances. Marian is left alone again—a widow who has never been a bride. But now, like all unmarried young ladies of fortune, she is made the ward of King Richard the Lionheart. Since Richard is away on Crusade, Marian’s fate lies in the hands of his mother, the formidable Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine. The bridegroom Eleanor selects will get Marian’s lands and, in return, pledge his loyalty—and silver—to the king. Marian herself is irrelevant and she knows it. Determined not to be sold into another sham marriage, she seeks out the one man who can help uncover the queen’s intentions: Robin Hood, the notorious Saxon outlaw of Sherwood Forest.

Marian is surprised to discover that the famed “prince of thieves” is not only helpful but handsome, likeable, and sympathetic to her plight. Robin’s men intercept a letter from Queen Eleanor, from which Marian learns, to her horror, that she is to marry her late husband’s brother. His family has a history of mysterious deaths, and Marian knows she is in danger. Once married, she can be easily disposed of—a fate she may have escaped once already. On the eve of her wedding, Robin Hood spirits Marian back to the forest. The Queen believes her to be dead, and Marian begins a new life with Robin Hood’s outlaws, who pledge to help her regain her fortune and expose the treachery of her enemies.

I adored this! The Marian created here was a brilliant character based of course, in the 1100s this is quite a fast read at a atouch over 300 pages and there were no boring parts it all flowed nicely.

I have not read many books based around the period of Robin Hood, in fact if any at all so this was a nice light introduction (I have Jennifer Roberson's on deck - hope they are as good!), firstly we see Marian as quite spoiled but, not irritatingly so but, as we go further along in the book she becomes worker in the field and becomes far less spoiled.

I loved how like the last book I read this was written in the first person and I do prefer books that way although sometimes you don't always get a good feel for the other characters but, I feel you do here.

This is Marian's story of course, and naturally Robin Hood is quite a central character but, more is based on Marian, loved it!

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Plain Jane by Laurien Gardner

With a face better suited to a nun’s habit than a wedding dress, Jane Seymour has no suitors and few hopes. Then, her prospects brighten when she is granted a position at court as maid of honor to Queen Catherine. There, Jane watches as King Henry VIII ignores his aging wife, showering favor on the beautiful Anne Boleyn, the woman he would make his new queen.

But soon he tires of Anne and his wandering eye falls on Jane. Though she has feelings of affection for Henry, she cannot let herself be swept away by his attentions if she is to win not only his heart, but also the greatest prize of all—the Crown.


I really, really liked this. Jane Seymour is one of the wives not much written about in my experience and not that I am sure this is the greatest book but, it did provide me with some insight into this little known (to me) Queen, as I've said in other posts I mostly read about Anne Boleyn and I always just thought of Jane Seymour as the one Henry married so quickly after Anne died and who bore his only (legitimate) son.

I can't say as an Anne Boleyn sympathiser I had great sympathy for Jane but, although I understand this book is historically inaccurate I did quite feel for her with her parents in her early years not thinking so greatly of her and she did seem quite insecure.

A very easy to read and light book and I liked the fact is was written from Jane's POV.

Friday, 3 April 2009

The Friarsgate Inheritance by Bertrice Small

******** CONTAINS SPOILERS ***************
BOOK ONE: Rosamund
Rosamund Bolton is the heiress to the manor of Friarsgate in the wild Cumbrian border between England and Scotland. More than a splendid inheritance, Friarsgate will chart the fate of the orphaned beauty widowed at a precious young age. It will take her on an adventure that will test the limits of passion and betrayal, change the meaning of the word enemy, and turn even the most daring fantasy into true love...

At the age of thirteen Rosamund Bolton has been widowed twice her uncle Henry Bolton is desperate to get his hands on Friarsgate but, fortunately for Rosamund her late 2and husband has entrusted her to Henry VIII and it is there that she will find her third husband.

Much of this book, indeed the seies is set in my favourite English county of Cumbria and the rest in my favourite historical period and that of Henry VIII's court, Rosamund becomes great friends not only with Kathrine of Aragon but, also of Henry's sister Mary. They both feature quite alot in the first 2 books.

I wouldn't say if you love Tudor history you will love this as its not a historical fiction book per se but, if you love a good romance with asprinkling of history the ye go for it, personaly I love this book and the whole series I found it quite engrossing and it was quite an easy read nothing too taxing on the brain.

BOOK TWO: Until You


The time is the 16th century, and at the tender age of 22, Rosamund Bolton has been widowed three times and has three daughters. Lest her family marry her off a fourth time, she takes the girls and flees to her friend Meg, the Queen of Scotland. There she meets Patrick Leslie, a man in his 40s who sweeps her off her feet--and takes her away with him on a diplomatic mission to Italy. When they return, Rosamund wants marriage. Patrick agrees, but before they can manage to marry, England and Scotland go to war--and Rosamund must battle her enemies simply to stay alive.

Rosamund who has no been widowed three times finally founds herself completely and utterly in love with a much older man, Patrick Leslie who at 50 is much older than Rosamund.

A large part of this book takes us to San Lorenzo which I didnot find as fascinating as when it was based in Cumbria or King Henry's court and personally I found for me the amount of this book spent in San Lorenzo could have been shortened a little.

Rosamund has this thought that she and Patrick will not be together forever but, Patrick does not want to listen to that and can't bear to think about being apart from Rosamund, whether they will be together or not well ....

Of the four books I think this was the weakest although still enjoyable I much preferred the other three books.

BOOK THREE: Philippa
Philippa, Rosamund Bolton's willful eldest daughter, who couldn't care less about her mother's beloved estate. Even though she is destined to inherit Friarsgate, Philippa prefers to spend her time at court serving as one of Queen Katherine's maids of honor. When Philippa's fiance, Giles Fitzhugh, unexpectedly breaks their engagement, King Henry VIII and Queen Katherine send Philippa back to Friarsgate, mistakenly thinking she needs time for her wounded affections to heal. Fortunately, one of Philippa's favorite relatives soon arranges a new match with Crispin St. Clair. At first Philippa is certain she can convince Crispin to allow her to continue her service to the queen, but she soon discovers that she prefers spending time with her sexy, soon-to-be-husband rather than dallying at court.

Rosamunds eldest daughter Philippa who wants no part of the future of Friarsgate spends much time at the court of Henry VIII and in the service of Katherine of Aragon, the first part of this book Philippa comes over as quite difficult although in some parts quite funny (the part when Henry VIII & Charles Brandon find her with some others from the caght was particuarly amusing) Philippa also becomes briefly friends with Elizabeth Blount who she is caught with.

After the disappointment of the never to be of her intended marriage and meeting her future intended husband Philippa seems to change quite a bit she has a very passionate and sensual relationship with her new husband (check out the honey scene!!), Philippa is so scared of what will happen on her wedding night but, of course once it happens she wonders what she was so frightened about.

Philippa can be rather irritating so if you can get over that it is a good read.

BOOK FOUR: The Last Heiress
New York Times bestselling author Bertrice Small presents the conclusion of her highly acclaimed saga of Rosamund Bolton and her daughters with this dazzling tale of passion, intrigue, and seduction. Set against the glorious backdrop of King Henry's sixteenth-century court, The Last Heiress stars Elizabeth Meredith, the youngest Bolton daughter, who will risk everything to protect her beloved Friarsgate.

Elizabeth is the youngest of Rosamunds daughters and is the one who inherited Friarsgate from her mother after Philippa refused to take it, she is s at home there and has no interest of going to King Henry's court until her mother becomes concerned that there is no-one to inherit Friarsgate from Elizabeth. A husband must be found!

So to court she goes although she has little hope of finding a husband who will want to live at her northern Cumbrian estate, however she does make very good friends with the Kings future second wife, Anne Boleyn.

Although Elizabeth does not find a husband in the London court she does find a suitor although it is not all plain sailing but, it is towards the end that Elizabeth receives summons from he friend Anne who has now become Queen andis to be crowned Queen for she wants Elizabeth there and also until she gives birth to her first child. Elizabeth does not want to go and leave her precious Friarsgate but, of course she must.

Of course, she does return to Friarsgate and the ending is of course a happy one, whilst at court she made friends with Flynn a northern lad and it is he who brings the news of the demise of her good friend Anne - and I think we all know what happened.

This was a good series as I said earlier its very easy to read and though enjoyable probably not one I would read again great for a quick easy romantic read with a sprinkling of history!