yep...totally buying this one!

Finally, a book written to appease my fascination with death and royalty!

US Release Date: September 1, 2009

Spanning more than a thousand years of European history, this work looks at the motives, means and consequences of the murders of - and sometimes by - members of Europe's ruling families. In early centuries murder was usually a "family matter", the result of warring factions fighting for real power. Richard II's throne was usurped by his cousin Henry Bolingbroke, a dramatic coup famously recreated in Shakespeare's play, as was the usurpation of Macbeth. In the sixteenth century monarchs fell victim to religious fanatics or were the subject of witchcraft - King James had a coven of witches convicted for raising storms at sea when he was on passage in 1589. In the seventeenth century "judicial murder" became part of a revolutionary process. Political motives dominated the Royal murders of the nineteenth century, among them the assassinations of Alexander II in Russia in 1881 and the Austrian Empress Elisabeth in 1898. In 1914 it was the assassination by a Slav nationalist at Sarajevo of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, which precipitated World War I. In the late twentieth century it is the lone madman who is most feared. A compendium of "who-dunnits", gruesome fellings, witchcraft, infanticide and assassinations that have changed the course of history.

Review: King's Fool by Margaret Campbell Barnes

Rating: 4.5/5

King's Fool is a story about Will Somers, a shy boy from Shropshire who becomes jester, friend and confidante to one of the most extraordinary of monarchs, King Henry VIII. Narrated by Will himself, we are given a special glimpse into the King Henry that only he knew.

A chance meeting with King Henry was all it took for the King to take a liking to Somers and offer him to join his court. Will was a well-rounded man - honest, compassionate and loyal - he fastly became a member of the royal family and was well-liked by the court. If at first the title of jester didn't appeal to him, he quickly changed his mind when told of all the perks - jesters had free reign (sorry - bad pun) over court and could pretty much blend in anywhere.
Will was jester throughout all of Henry's marriages and provides us with an unbiased account of all six debacles, as well as, the relationship between Henry and his children.

What I liked best about this book was the relationship between Will and King Henry. Will was probably the only true friend Henry ever had. I really enjoyed seeing the hidden side of Henry, the not so arrogant side - when he becomes Henry the man, not Henry the king. Henry the man is much more likable! In the very least, it made me have a bit of sympathy for Henry - it's not a life I would've wanted.

All in all I really liked this novel - Barnes is an excellent writer and manages to fit a lot of life into 300 pages, but for me I wished it had been longer. If after reading this book, you're itching to get more in-depth with Henry VIII, then I suggest Margaret George's The Autobiography of Henry VIII as told by his fool, Will Somers. This is very similar to King's Fool, albeit in reader's digest form, as George's novel is over 1000 pages.

Castles or Bust! Leeds Castle

 Leeds Castle was built by Henry I in 1119 and was used in 1278 as King Edward I and his queen, Eleanor of Castile's royal palace.  "Gloriette", the name of the medieval keep, was named in honor of Queen Eleanor.

 Leeds in Spring
Leeds Castle has had many Royalty roam it's corridors; King Edward II and Queen Isabella (I guess we can safely assume either Piers Gaveston or Hugh le Despenser was among the party), King Henry VIII and Queen Catherine of Aragon, Queen Elizabeth I was imprisoned here before her coronation.

 Pretty Peacock

Leeds Castle Ambassadors

Fireworks at Leeds
 Leeds in Winter

 The Maze is a recent addition (1988) and was constructed using 2,400 yew trees.
 The Library

 King Henry VIII Banquet Room

 The Queen's Bedroom

 Lady Baillie's Room

Cellar - the oldest surviving visible part of the castle and shows Norman influence, dating from the mid-twelfth century

Leeds Castle website

Mailbox Monday

Happy Monday to you! Hope everyone had a good weekend, even if it was too short!

Here is what was in the ol' mailbox last week! What goodies did you get?

Synopsis: Philip Ashley's older cousin Ambrose, who raised the orphaned Philip as his own son, has died in Rome. Philip, the heir to Ambrose's beautiful English estate, is crushed that the man he loved died far from home. He is also suspicious. While in Italy, Ambrose fell in love with Rachel, a beautiful English and Italian woman. But the final, brief letters Ambrose wrote hint that his love had turned to paranoia and fear.

Now Rachel has arrived at Philip's newly inherited estate. Could this exquisite woman, who seems to genuinely share Philip's grief at Ambrose's death, really be as cruel as Philip imagined? Or is she the kind, passionate woman with whom Ambrose fell in love? Philip struggles to answer this question, knowing Ambrose's estate, and his own future, will be destroyed if his answer is wrong.

April 23rd, David S. Brody will be here for a Guest Post!

A modern-day mystery novel rooted in recently-discovered ancient artifacts left by Templar Knights during a secret mission to North America in 1398. Attorney Cameron Thorne is thrust into a bloody tug-of-war involving secret societies, treasure hunters and keepers of the secrets of the Jesus bloodline. There is no shortage of people willing to maim and murder to prevent Cam from uncovering the shocking truths behind this ancient Templar mission. Joined by Amanda, a beautiful British researcher with secrets of her own, Cam races around New England with only two choices-unravel the 600-year-old mysteries encoded in the ancient artifacts, or die trying.

a girl can never have too many of these...

From Jenny at Jenny Loves to Read and zetor at Mog's Blog...

From Susan at Writer of Queens, Kristi at Books and Needlepoint, Blodeudd at Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell and Alabama Book Worm...

I can't thank you ladies bloggers really are the nicest people around!

three rivers press re-releasing Pope Joan

US Release Date:  June 9, 2009

Donna Woolfolk Cross will be interviewed at PTTP around the first week of June!

Brilliant and talented, young Joan rebels against the medieval social strictures forbidding women to learn to read and write. When her brother is killed during a Viking attack, Joan takes up his cloak and identity and goes to the monastery of Fulda to be initiated into the brotherhood. As Brother John Anglicus, Joan distinguishes herself as a great Christian scholar. Eventually she is drawn to Rome, where she becomes enmeshed in a dangerous web of love, passion, and politics. Triumphing over appalling odds, she finally attains the highest office in Christendom, wielding a power greater than any woman before or since. But such power comes with a price.

do you ab fab?

Sweetie, Darling!  Sweetie, Darling! SWEETIE, DARLING!!!!


Okay, I admit to not being very timely about this discussion being that the show last aired in 2005, but I've recently been hooked back into it, thanks to YouTube, which has all of their episodes available on-line!  I'm never getting any work done now!

I just adore this show!  I remember when the first season came out on VHS (ha!) and my mom and I watched it sooo many times together!  Eddie and Patsy are my heros (a little disturbing, huh??) and their antics have me in stitches!  Not only are the main character hilarious, but the supporting cast is just as good for laughs - my favorite is Bubble - what a tart!  

I found this great YouTube video that has clips of some of the best scenes!  If this leaves you wanting more after watching and you've never seen the show I would suggest starting at Season 1 Episode 1 - it's one of my favorite episodes and will get you hooked!  Enjoy!

pictures from the new season of The Tudors

I need to watch this series, if only for the costumes alone...simply gorgeous!

Henry and Jane Seymour (she doesn't look so mousy here)

Henry and Jane (it's so hard to not like him when he's so frickin' good looking!)

Click here to see some more pictures from Season 3 of the Tudors which starts April 5th.

Review: The Saga of Beowulf

The Saga of Beowulf is the first complete and accurate novelization of the epic 10th century Old English poem "Beowulf," chronicling the rise of the emerging Nordic nations, the tragic feuding of their clans, epic battles with mythological creatures, and the final, futile struggle of one man against the will of Fate that made of him a Legend.

"Breathtaking in scope and relentless in pace," the story follows the Nordic hero Beowulf as he embarks upon a fateful quest for vengeance against the creature that slew his father, setting in motion a sequence of events that will bring about the downfall of a nation, all the while fleeing from the woman he has sworn to love. Based on extensive historical research and steeped in Norse mythology and lore, the saga unfolds across the frozen fields of Sweden and the fetid fens of Denmark, ranging from the rocky heights of Geatland to the sprawling battlefields of ancient France.
Rating:  4/5

Most of us remember reading the Beowulf poem in school, and if you were like me it didn't really do anything for you - yeah it was the earliest piece of fiction written, but what kid cares about that?!  Well, this is your chance to re-visit Beowulf and read about the legend in the ideal way - as a superb epic fantasy novel!  R. Scot Johns has done a remarkable job and The Saga of Beowulf is a novel I really enjoyed reading!

Beowulf is filled with extraordinary characters, yet at the same time, are human with real faults and feelings that you as the reader can relate to.  The book is rather large at over 600 pages - slow parts creep in there every now and then, but there is enough action to keep you interested and turning the pages!  Beowulf has all the essentials that one shgould have in a good novel; love, battles, betrayal, fighting, honor and dragons, I mean a book is not a book without dragons!  Thank goodness he includes a Glossery of Proper Names to help you out with the character names...geesh, I though Welsh names were hard!  But it was pretty fun to try and pronounce them first - kinda became a game in my head!

It is obvious that R. Scot Johns researched the heck out of this book and the passion of his writing shows throughout the novel.  I'm intrigued as to what he will write next.

Bottom line:  I was a little nervous about this one, but only because I read mostly historical fiction and this is more historical fantasy.  However, I am very glad to have read it and found myself liking it better than I thought I would.  I recommend this to any history or fantasy lover!

About R. Scot Johns...
R. Scot Johns is a life-long student of ancient and medieval literature, with an enduring fascination for Norse mythology and fantasy epics. He first came to Beowulf through his love of J.R.R. Tolkien, a leading scholar on the subject. As an Honors Medieval Literature major he has given lectures on such topics as the historical King Arthur and the construction of Stonehenge, as well as having directed and performed in re-enactments of early medieval morality plays. He lives in Boise, Idaho and works for Books Are Fun, a division of Readers Digest.
Click here to read R. Scot John's guest post on Passages to the Past.

new book on Jane Seymour

UK Release Date:  May 15, 2009

The first ever biography of Jane Seymour, Henry VIII's third wife, who died in childbirth giving the king what he craved most - a son and heir.Jane Seymour is often portrayed as meek and mild and as the most successful, but one of the least significant, of Henry VIII's wives. The real Jane was a very different character, demure and submissive yet with a ruthless streak - as Anne Boleyn was being tried for treason, Jane was choosing her wedding dress. From the lowliest origins of any of Henry's wives her rise shows an ambition every bit as great as Anne's. Elizabeth Norton tells the thrilling life of a country girl from rural Wiltshire who rose to the throne of England and became the ideal Tudor woman.

The Revealing of Mary Rose


The raging debate about what King Henry VIII's flagship the Mary Rose looked like may have been put to an end, thanks to an artist.

Geoff Hunt claims to have the 'last word' on the argument after he spent weeks painstakingly researching the ship's features.

He met academics, reviewed new evidence and examined salvaged remains to create the most accurate image yet of the Tudor warship.

'It's been a bone of contention what she looked like for quite a long time because the chunk of the ship that survives is only 40 per cent – the lower part of the hull and a bit of the side,' he said.

'All the rest of it – the masts, the spars, the sails, the flags, the colour scheme – we don't have.'

Contemporary drawings showing it had double-decked 'castles' built at the stern and bows are now thought to be correct – meaning the ship rose 12m (40ft) above the waterline, he said.

The painting was commissioned for the 500th anniversary of the king's accession to the throne on 21 April, 1509 and will be unveiled next month at an exhibition.

'This is the last world on the ship before they start diving for more remains and that may never happen,' added Mr Hunt, from Wimbledon, south London.

Researchers believe the 38m-long (126ft) ship was crammed with 700 men when it capsized in the Solent in July 1545 while fighting the French.

upcoming historical fiction author interviews

Hey there! I just wanted to give you all a heads up on the author interviews I have lined up in the next few months...whet your appetite, if you will =)

Susan Higginbotham ~ The Traitor's Wife (April 6)
C.W. Gortner ~ The Last Queen (May 6)
Vanora Bennett ~ Figures in Silk (tbd)
Jules Watson ~ The Swan Maiden
Elizabeth Chadwick ~ The Greatest Knight (September, for US Release)

introducing my new nephew...Ayden Michael !!

Weighing in at a whopping 9 lbs 6 oz and 21.5 inches long, is the newest member of our family, Ayden Michael (he is the spitting image of his father).  

Happy Birthday Ayden! 


Passages to the Past is now on Facebook!

Hello beautiful, beautiful people you!  Hope everyone is having a good Wednesday - we're halfway to the weekend at least!

I wanted to let you all know that I started a Passages to the Past group on Facebook.  Please stop by and join us, I would love to see you there!  There is still a lot I want to do to the page, but in the meantime please feel free to post pictures or start discussions!

Click here and let the magic begin!

Wordless Wednesday

Houseboats in Amsterdam

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