New novel on Lady Jane Grey

UK Release Date:  September 25, 2009
Lady Jane Grey is the queen England rejected. In July 1553, Edward VI, the heir to Henry VIII, died after only a brief reign as a minor. His death left the Tudor dynasty in turmoil. In the aftermath, Jane Grey was proclaimed queen only to be ousted after thirteen days by Mary Tudor, Henry VIII’s bastard daughter. Seven months later she had Jane beheaded. History has portrayed Jane as both a hapless victim of political intrigue and a Protestant martyr, but most of all as an irrelevance, hence the popular but erroneous label, the ‘nine days queen’. Revisiting the sources surrounding Jane Grey’s upbringing, Eric Ives challenges these views, presenting Jane Grey as an accomplished young woman with a fierce personal integrity, and England’s outstanding female scholar. He teases out the complex evidence of the 1553 crisis and dissects the moves and motives of each of the other protagonist: Edward VI himself, feverishly re–writing his will during his dying days; Mary Tudor, the woman who ‘won’ the crown; John Dudley, Jane’s father–in–law, traditionally the villain of the piece, and Henry Grey, her father – the man ultimately responsible for her death.  As the story moves through the summer of 1553 to Jane’s execution, we see these people as agents in Jane Grey’s unfolding tragedy and her eventual moral triumph. The result is a new and compelling dissection by a master historian and storyteller of one of history’s most shocking injustices.  

article on the new movie, The Young Victoria

Click here to read a really great article from the man behind the new movie based on Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, called The Young Victoria.  After reading this I cannot wait for the movie!  Queen Victoria seems quite the character and a woman I want to know more about.

Emily Blunt plays the young Victoria, with Rupert Friend as Albert

In every woman there is a Queen

US Release Date: September 1, 2009

England's medieval queens were elemental in shaping the history of the nation. In an age where all politics were family politics, dynastic marriages placed English queens at the very centre of power - the king's bed. From Matilda of Flanders, the Conqueror's queen, to Elizabeth of York, the first Tudor consort, England's queens fashioned the nature of monarchy and influenced the direction of the state. Occupying a unique position in the mercurial, often violent world of medieval state-craft, English queens had to negotiate a role that combined tremendous influence with terrifying vulnerability. Lisa Hilton's meticulously researched new book explores the lives of the twenty women who were crowned queen between 1066 and 1503, reconsidering the fictions surrounding well-known figures like Eleanor of Aquitaine and illuminating the lives of forgotten figures such as Adeliza of Louvain. War, adultery, witchcraft, child abuse, murder - and occasionally even love - formed English queenship, but so too did patronage, learning and fashion.Lisa Hilton considers the evolution of the queenly office alongside intimate portraits of the individual women, dispelling the myth that medieval brides were no more than diplomatic pawns. From Eleanor of Castile's eccentric passion for fruit to Anne of Bohemia's contribution to the Protestant reformation, QUEENS CONSORT is a provocative and dramatic narrative which redefines English history in terms of an exceptional group of women whose personal ambitions, triumphs and failures helped to give birth to the modern state.

Castles or Bust! Hever Castle

Aerial view of Hever Castle

The History of Hever:
A gatehouse and bailey was the start of Hever Castle back in 1270. In the 16th century the Boleyn (Bullen) family purchased it and it is now popularly known as the childhood home of Henry VIII's second wife, Anne Boleyn. Hever would also be the residence of Henry VIII"s fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, after their annullment.

Official Hever Castle website states:
Since 1983, the castle has been owned by Broadland Properties Limited and open to the public. The castle has a homely atmosphere and houses historic 16th century Tudor portraits, furniture and tapestries. Other artefacts include two magnificent Books of Hours (prayer books), both signed and inscribed by Anne Boleyn. Costumed figures of Henry VIII and his six wives in the Long Gallery adds to the atmosphere and is popular with the children. The Council Chamber in the thirteenth century gatehouse contains collections of historic swords, armour, instruments of execution, torture and discipline.
You never know who you'll run into at Hever Castle.....from
Hever Castle is not surprisingly said to be haunted by the ghost of Anne Boleyn was so cruelly executed upon the orders of her husband King Henry VIII. There have apparently been many sightings of her restless spirit around the castle, the gardens and also gliding across the wooden bridge.

Review: The War of the Roses by Alison Weir

Lancaster and York. For much of the fifteenth century, these two families were locked in battle for control of the British throne. Kings were murdered and deposed. Armies marched on London. Old noble names were ruined while rising dynasties seized power and lands. The war between the royal Houses of Lancaster and York, the longest and most complex in British history, profoundly altered the course of the monarchy.
If I was given the choice of writing a novel on a certain historic event, you can bet the event at the bottom of my list would be The War of the Roses. I don't think I could deal with such a convoluted, tangled story, with an ungodly amount of characters to keep track would likely drive me mad. But, thankfully Alison Weir was of a different mindset and took the monster head on. And what a supurb job she did! Weir merged enjoyment and learning expertly and I can see how it would take a lot of work to not have it read as a text book. It was by no means a fast read, as it's all fact and no dialogue, but boring it was not. Nor was it one of those books that feels like a chore to read.

Weir starts the novel with the early origins of events that would eventually lead to the thirty-year battle for the throne of England, which dates back to King Edward III. The War of the Roses ends after the Battle of Tewkesbury. The Battle of Tewkesbury, fought on what is now known as Bloody Meadow would be the last meeting between York and Lancaster. The future of Lancaster, Prince Edward, was slain, his father King Henry VI had long been in prison (and shortly after this battle, the grave) and Queen Margaret was in hiding, then imprisoned in the Tower of London and finally ransomed by the King of France. For a woman that spent her a majority of her life surrounded by court and it's many minion and was quite comfortable in the role as a ruler, she lived her last days dependent on the meager funds she received from the King of France and died alone.. TWOTR is a sad note in England's history; sons fought fathers, brothers fought brothers, there was rampant betrayal and lies, lawlessness and violence ruled and havoc was wreaked upon towns, such as Towton.

I would recommend this to any history nut! Weir has a great writing style and it was very readable non-fiction. I admit I don't really care for her fiction novels; I thought Innocent Traitor was so-so and I couldn't finish The Lady Elizabeth, but now that I've read this one I'm excited to read the rest of her collection!

What I found most interesting (just shows it was more scheming and waiting to see what the other side will do next than actual fighting):
"There were, at most, thirteen weeks of fighting in the thirty-two years covered by both of the War of the Roses, while the total time spent campaigning amounted to approximately one year. Some of the battles were short, and non lasted longer than a day."

Key Players in The War of the Roses: Margaret of Anjou, Henry VI, Edward IV, Elizabeth Woodville and Richard "The Kingmaker" Neville, the Earl of Warwick

An illustration of The Battle of Barnet where Warwick was slain.
Edward IV is the on the left wearing the crown.

The last fight in the War of the Roses: Battle of Tewkesbury at "Bloody Meadow"

Alison Weir's website. Other books by Alison Weir.

Rare portrait of Elizabeth of York to be unveiled at Hever Castle


Television presenter David Starkey is set to unveil a rare royal portrait at Hever Castle in March.

The Tudor historian will unveil the 16th century portrait of Henry VIII's mother, Elizabeth of York, which will mark the start of Hever Castle's celebrations of the 500th anniversary of the famous monarch's accession to the throne on March 13.

A spokesman for Hever Castle said: "The portrait will form part of the Henry VIII: The Pampered Prince exhibition, which will provide an insight into a mother who spoiled and doted on her son, which had a great affect in shaping Henry VIII, famous for his pursuit of fame, indulgence and women." Visitors will also see a representation of the complete collection of portraits of the six wives of King Henry VIII.

Hever Castle re-opens on March 1 and is open Wednesdays to Sundays.

Hever Castle

anyone read Faye Kellerman?

I came across this new book coming out from Faye Kellerman and it looks promising, but I've never read her and wanted to check with you all to get your thoughts.

US Release Date:  April 7, 2009

Rebecca Lopez enjoys a life of privilege in Elizabeth's England -- yet she guards secrets she dares not reveal. The beautiful, tempestuous daughter of the queen's own physician, Rebecca is also a converso -- a Jew who practices her prohibited religion clandestinely -- helping others of her banned faith escape persecution and death. And her insatiable hunger for excitement often takes her to the bustling streets of London in male garb to experience the kind of adventure available only to men. But one such outing is leading her into a dangerous viper's nest built of intrigue and foul murder in the company of a dashing young actor who inflames her romantic passions, even as he escorts her toward peril, a charming and fearless would-be playwright who calls himself Will Shakespeare.

The Last Queen in paperback

The wonderful novel brought to you via the brilliant mind of C.W. Gortner will be available in paperback on May 5, 2009.  If you've yet to read this book, what the heck are you waiting for?  It's fantastic!

C.W. will be gracing Passages to the Past with an interview on May 6th, so mark your calendars!  Oh, I almost forgot to mention the best part - we will be having a giveaway for one copy of The Last Queen, so stay tuned!
One of history's most enigmatic women tells the haunting, passionate story of her tumultuous life. Juana of Castile is just thirteen when she witnesses the fall of Moorish Granada and uniting of the fractured kingdoms of Spain under her warrior parents, Isabel and Fernando. Intelligent and beautiful, proud of her heritage, Juana rebels against her fate when she is chosen as a bride for the Hapsburg heir - until she arrives in Flanders and comes face-to-face with the prince known as Philip the Fair, a man who will bring her the greatest of passions, and the darkest despair. One by one, tragedy decimates Juana's family in Spain. Suddenly, she finds herself heiress to Castile - a realm on the verge of chaos, prey to avaracious nobles and scheming lords bent on thwarting her rule. Juana vows to win her throne, until the betrayal of those she loves plunges her into a ruthless battle of wills - a struggle of corruption, perfidy, and heart-shattering deceit that could cost her the crown, her freedom, and her very life. From the somber majesty of Renaissance Spain to the glittering courts of Flanders, France and Tudor England, Juana of Castile reveals her life and secrets in this captivating historical novel of romance, grandeur, power and treachery by the acclaimed author of "The Secret Lion."

Proximidade Award

Teddy Ree from Excerpts from the Edge sent me some lovin' this morning! What a nice way to start the day, thanks Teddy Ree!

This award represents:

"This blog invests and believes in the PROXIMITY-nearness in space, time and relationships. These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement! Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers! Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this clever-written text into the body of their award."

Now to bestow this award on to eight wonderful bloggers:

Toni from A Circle of Books

Wordless Wednesday

View of Edinburgh from The Royal Mile
(this one's for you Michele!)

word verification on Blogger

It seems that Blogger is having issues and the word verification is not working for some users.  I noticed it today when trying to comment on Susan Higginbotham's blog.
They suggest turning it off in the meantime while they work on it and I wanted to let you know that I have done so.  If you were trying to comment and were unable to, please come on back and tell me again!

Yeah for Me!!!!

The lovely S. Krisha from S. Krishna's Books hosted a fabulous giveaway for Karen Harper's new novel, Mistress Shakespeare and guess who won?!? Give up? Yours truly!!!! Woo Hoo!!! Doing the happy dance! I never win anything!

I've been lusting after this one since I heard it was coming out and now it's's all mine! Ha!

Thanks again S. made my week!

I know, I know...I'm sorry

I can't stop myself! Seriously, where's the help group?

UK Release Date: April 30, 2009
US Release Date: March 24, 2009

American Heiress Delia Chandler leaves Virginia to marry Viscount Ivor Conisborough, completely unprepared for her new place within the royal circle. Soon she is holding dinner parties for Winston Churchill and Wallis Simpson and attending glittering balls with Prince Edward. But beneath the dazzling façade, Delia quickly discovers a world steeped in scandal. It seems everyone has a secret, including her husband. When Ivor is sent to Cairo and appointed advisor to King Fuad, Delia must follow with her two daughters. Like their mother, Petra and Davina are fiery beauties who long to escape the elegant and palatial villas of Garden City for the exotic, wild beating heart of Cairo. But their desires will lead them into dangerous territory, shattering their world as they know it, forever. Drenched in glamour, secrets and scandal, Palace Circle is an irresistible combination of real historical events and masterful storytelling.

Tuesday Thingers

Today's question: Do you have a specialized blog where you only review a certain genre or type of book? If so, what is your favorite thing about that type of book? If not, what is/are your favorite genre(s)? What makes that genre(s) a favorite?
And my answer would be a resounding YES!! My blog is all over historical fiction like flies on ...well, you know what they're on! I call The Other Boleyn Girl my "gateway" drug - it was the beginning of my love for the genre and now I can't get enough! I've thought about expanding my reading and reviewing to include other genres in order to gain a wider audience for my blog, but I don't have the passion there like I do for HF. And besides, I just can't tear myself away long enough to read anything else anyway!

What is my favorite thing about the historical fiction genre? Everything! I love that you can learn while still being entertained, I love the settings, I love the history, I love the clothes and above all I love the characters, whether they're are good or evil. I love trying to figure out what makes them tick and seeing them as real people instead of names you read in a history book. The trials and tribulations they endured ,which shaped who they were, the loves and friendships they shared, and their impact on historic events.

So, that's my story....what about you?

not tonight Josephine...

If you're a regular here than you are probably aware of my obsession with Tori Amos and the beautiful songs she writes. In an effort to learn her ginormous discography I created a system with my iPod - a playlist of the Tori I Know and another of the Tori I Need to Know. Once a song is learned it goes to the other playlist. Josephine (from To Venus & Back) is the song that is next in line and once I read the lyrics I realized she was talking about Josephine Bonaparte! I did some more research and found this to confirm my suspicions...

From a Tori Amos fan site I came across...

Who is Josephine?

She was the mistress and then wife of Napoleon. The taking of Moscow was a rather hollow victory for Napoleon, who found the city deserted. When he took up residence in the czar’s palace, the city was set on fire by its few remaining inhabitants. Fire-fighting equipment had been removed or destroyed. Napoleon planned to retreat from Moscow to avoid its harsh winters, but had miscalculated his departure date. Hampered by weather, beset by Russians on every step, Napoleon learned how futile victory could be. He is quoted as having said, “I beat the Russians every time, but that doesn’t get me anywhere.”

Here are the lyrics:

not tonight josephine

in an army's strength therein
lies the denouement
from here you're haunting me
by the seine so beautiful
only not to be of use - impossible

so strange, victory - 1,200 spires
the only sound, moscow burning
empty like the tuileries
like a dream vienna seems
only not to be of use - impossible

in the last extremity - to advance
or not to advance -
i hear you laughing

even still you're calling me
"not tonight, not tonight

not tonight"


there aren't enough hours in the day

UK Release Date: May 31, 2009

This first comprehensive biography of Henry I, the youngest son of William the Conqueror and an elusive figure for historians, offers a rich and compelling account of his tumultuous life and reign. Judith Green argues that although Henry's primary concern was defence of his inheritance this did not preclude expansion where circumstances were propitious, notably into Welsh territory. His skilful dealings with the Scots permitted consolidation of Norman rule in the northern counties of England, while in Normandy every sinew was strained to defend frontiers through political alliances and stone castles. Green argues that although Henry's own outlook was essentially traditional, the legacy of this fascinating and ruthless personality included some fundamentally important developments in governance. She also sheds light on Henry’s court, suggesting that it made an important contribution to the flowering of court culture throughout twelfth-century Europe.

UK Release Date: May 4, 2009

Francoise d'Aubigne, born in a bleak provincial prison, her father a condemned murderer and traitor to the state, rose from the depths of poverty to life at the vortex of power at Versailles. Married at fifteen to a tragically disfigured and scandalously popular poet, in his salon Francoise encountered all the brilliant characters of the seventeenth century's glitterati. After her husband's death, she led the life of a merry widow in the colourful Marais quarter of Paris, before becoming governess to the King's growing brood of royal batards. This is the extraordinary story of one woman's daring journey from beggar-girl, West Indian colonist and salonniere to royal mistress and thence, in secret, to the compromised position of Louis' uncrowned Queen. Through the rags-to-riches tale of the marquise de Maintenon, Veronica Buckley reveals every layer of the vibrant and shocking world that was France in the age of Louis XIV.

UK Release Date: May 4, 2009

Mary Tudor was the first woman to be crowned queen of England. Her accession, in the summer of 1553, took place against the odds and it was, in many ways, emblematic of her life. Anna Whitelock's assured, impassioned and absorbing debut tells the remarkable story of a woman who was a princess one minute, feted by the courts of Europe, and a disinherited bastard the next. It tells of her Spanish heritage, the unbreakable bond between Mary and her mother (Katherine of Aragon), her childhood, her adolescence, her rivalry with her sister Elizabeth, and finally her womanhood. It explores the formative experiences that made Mary the determined and single-minded queen she became. She had fought to survive, fought to preserve her integrity and her right to hear the Catholic mass, and finally she fought for the throne. As queen of England, Mary retained her tenacity. She married Philip of Spain against much opposition and struggled passionately to restore Catholicism, the religion to which she had remained true all her life. Yet whilst she was brave as a queen, as a woman she was dependent and prone to anxiety. In an age when marriages were made for political and diplomatic advantage, Mary married a man she truly loved but whom did not share her passion. It is this tension between Mary's dominance as queen and her tragedy as a woman that is crucial to understanding her reign. Her private traumas of phantom pregnancies, debilitating illnesses and unrequited love were played out in the public glare of the fickle Tudor court. The Mary that emerges is not the weak-willed failure of traditional narratives, but a complex figure of immense courage, determination and humanity. Anna Whitelock's biography is an assured, impassioned and absorbing debut.

UK Release Date: March 5, 2009

In 1664, the musketeer D'Artagnan rode beside a heavily-armoured carriage as it rumbled slowly southwards from Paris, carrying his great friend Nicolas Foucquet to internal exile and life imprisonment in the fortress of Pignerol. There he would be incarcerated in a cell next door to the Man with the Iron Mask. From a glittering zenith as the King's first minister, builder of the breathtaking chateau of Vaux-le-Vicomte, collector of books, patron of the arts and lover of beautiful women, Foucquet had fallen like Icarus. Charged with embezzlement, he was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. Charles Drazin's riveting account brings to life the rich, hazardous and machiavellian world in which Foucquet lived. His charm, cunning and charisma enchanted and beguiled those around him, but in them lay the seeds of his destruction.

UK Release Date: March 5, 2009

This is the first major biography for a generation of a truly formidable king – a man born to rule England, who believed that it was his right to rule all of Britain. His reign was one of the most dramatic and important of the entire Middle Ages, leading to war and conquest on an unprecedented scale, and leaving a legacy of division between the peoples of Britain that has lasted from his day to our own.
Edward I is familiar to millions as ‘Longshanks’, conqueror of Scotland and nemesis of Sir William Wallace (‘Braveheart’). Yet this story forms only the final chapter of the king’s astonishingly action-packed life. Earlier Edward had defeated and killed the famous Simon de Montfort in battle; travelled across Europe to the Holy Land on crusade; conquered Wales, extinguishing forever its native rulers, and constructing – at Conwy, Harlech, Beaumaris and Caernarfon – the most magnificent chain of castles ever created. He raised the greatest armies of the English Middle Ages, and summoned the largest parliaments; notoriously, he expelled all the Jews from his kingdom. The longest-lived of all England’s medieval kings, he fathered no fewer than fifteen children with his first wife, Eleanor of Castile, and after her death he erected the Eleanor Crosses – the grandest funeral monuments ever fashioned for an English monarch.
In this book, Marc Morris examines afresh the forces that drove Edward throughout his relentless career: his character, his Christian faith, and his sense of England’s destiny – a sense shaped in particular by the tales of the legendary King Arthur. He also explores the competing reasons that led Edward’s opponents (including Llywelyn ap Gruffudd and Robert Bruce) to resist him, and the very different societies that then existed in Scotland, Wales and Ireland. The result is a sweeping story, immaculately researched yet compellingly told, and a vivid picture of medieval Britain at the moment when its future was decided.

Review: The Kingmaking by Helen Hollick

A novel of Arthur as he really was.
In the first book of this exciting trilogy, author Helen Hollick brings to life Arthur Pendragon as he really might have been. Leaving behind the fairy-tale element of Merlin's magic and the improbable existence of Lancelot, Hollick instead transports the reader to the early years of Britain circa 455 AD and tells the Arthurian legend in a solid and believable way.
For one, Arthur does not pull a sword from a stone using superhuman strength; rather, he is named heir to Britain (if he can win it from the tyrant Vortigern) while standing near a "hallowed stone, the symbol of a warrior's strength and the chieftain's right of leadership." Later, a sword won in battle signals his place as Britain's King.

This is a story of harsh battles, secret treasonous plots, and the life-threatening politics of the dark ages of early Britain. Intertwined through it all is the often-tested love of Arthur and Gwenhwyfar (Guinevere in Welsh - her name as it really would have been) as they struggle to survive and conquer to see Pendragon become King.
Helen Hollick's novels have been on my wishlist since my obsession with historical fiction began. Until now, I haven't had any luck getting my hands on one, but that was before Sourcebooks Publishing came along and started re-publishing some excellent historical novels, including the Arthur Pendragon series.

Hollick's Arthur is not the usual halo-crowned, knight in shining armour. No rose-colored version here! He has flaws, fears, a roving eye and is stubborn as a mule! But, he has the heart, strength, cunning and courage necessary to excel as King. And you can't help but have a little crush on him!

Gwenhwyfar (or Gwen as I called her throughout the novel for sanity purposes - I just could not figure out how to pronounce!) is a girl after my own heart. A tomboy all the way - she is also strong-willed, tenacious and intelligent.

Arthur and Gwen are first bonded through a mutual suffering of abuse at the hands of evil, female caretakers. Both have a chance to save each other from these witches! Arthur & Gwen were a joy to read, these two have some great exchanges of words and make quite a pair!

The Kingmaking has everything without having too much. I much prefer this "real" Arthur to the "fairy tale" Arthur. What I like about historical fiction is that the people you read about were actually living, breathing human beings and that makes it so much easier to relate to their shortcomings or concerns or emotions. The Kingmaking was a fabulous novel, hard to put down and now on my list of all-time favorites! Helen Hollick's writing is fantastic and I am very much looking forward to reading the next two in the series!

Sourcebooks is releasing the other two in the Arthur Pendragon series...

Pendragon’s Banner (book #2): released September 1, 2009
Shadow of the King (book #3): released March 1, 2010

Helen Hollick's Web Journal.

Oh, I found this cute-as-hell photo while looking for images for the review and I just had to post it for you all! Isn't that hysterical?!? Some guinea pig owner has too much time on their hands!

*Please note, Passages to the Past will be posting an interview with Helen Hollick on March 2nd!

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