Happy Memorial Day and thank you to all the women and men who serve our country

On this memorial day, I'd like to thank all of the women and men who serve our country and protect our freedom.  In particular I would like to acknowledge my grandfather, Major Joseph P. Gear who served in Korea, World War II and Vietnam.  He passed away 3 years ago but is missed and loved every day.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Memorial Day.


Mailbox Monday

Another Monday, Another Mailbox!! This is a feature where we all share with each other the yummy books that showed up at our doors! WARNING: Mailbox Mondays can lead to extreme envy and GINORMOUS wishlists!!

Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page.
Speaking of the lovely and oh so generous Marcia from The Printed Page, she sent me two ARCs of Captive Queen: A Novel of Eleanor of Aquitaine by Alison Weir and Becoming Queen Victoria by Kate Williams.  Thank you Marcia...I've been lusting after these two for a while and I can't wait to read them!

SYNOPSIS:  Nearing her thirtieth birthday, Eleanor has spent the past dozen frustrating years as consort to the pious King Louis VII of France. For all its political advantages, the marriage has brought Eleanor only increasing unhappiness—and daughters instead of the hoped-for male heir. But when the young and dynamic Henry of Anjou arrives at the French court, Eleanor sees a way out of her discontent. For even as their eyes meet for the first time, the seductive Eleanor and the virile Henry know that theirs is a passion that could ignite the world.
Returning to her duchy of Aquitaine after the annulment of her marriage to Louis, Eleanor immediately sends for Henry, the future King of England, to come and marry her. The union of this royal couple will create a vast empire that stretches from the Scottish border to the Pyrenees, and marks the beginning of the celebrated Plantagenet dynasty.

But Henry and Eleanor’s marriage, charged with physical heat, begins a fiery downward spiral marred by power struggles, betrayals, bitter rivalries, and a devil’s brood of young Plantagenets—including Richard the Lionheart and the future King John. Early on, Eleanor must endure Henry’s formidable mother, the Empress Matilda, as well as his infidelities, while in later years, Henry’s friendship with Thomas Becket will lead to a deadly rivalry. Eventually, as the couple’s rebellious sons grow impatient for power, the scene is set for a vicious and tragic conflict that will engulf both Eleanor and Henry.
Vivid in detail, epic in scope, Captive Queen is an astounding and brilliantly wrought historical novel that encompasses the building of an empire and the monumental story of a royal marriage.

SYNOPSIS:  In her lauded biography England’s Mistress, Kate Williams painted a vivid and intimate portrait of Emma Hamilton, the lover of English national hero Lord Horatio Nelson. Now, with the same keen insight and gift for telling detail, Williams provides a gripping account of Queen Victoria’s rise to the throne and her early years in power—as well as the tragic, little-known story of the princess whose demise made it all possible.
Toward the end of the eighteenth century, monarchies across Europe found themselves in crisis. With mad King George III and his delinquent offspring tarnishing the realm, the English pinned their hopes on the only legitimate heir to the throne: the lovely and prudent Princess Charlotte, daughter of the Prince of Wales and granddaughter of the king. Sadly, those dreams faded when, at age twenty-one, she died after a complicated pregnancy and stillbirth. While a nation grieved, Charlotte’s power-hungry uncles plotted quickly to produce a new heir. Only the Duke of Kent proved successful in his endeavor, with the birth of a girl named Victoria.
Writing with a combination of novelistic flair and historical precision, Williams reveals an energetic and vibrant woman in the prime of her life, while chronicling the byzantine machinations behind Victoria’s struggle to occupy the throne—scheming that continued even after the crown was placed on her head.

Upon hearing of the death of her predecessor, King William IV, Victoria—in her bold first act as queen—banished her overambitious mother from the room, a simple yet resolute move that would set the tone for her reign. The queen clashed constantly not only with her mother and her mother’s adviser, the Irish adventurer John Conroy, but with her ministers and even her beloved Prince Albert, all of whom, in one way or another, attempted to seize control from her.

By connecting Charlotte’s sad fate to Victoria’s majestic rule, Kate Williams lays bare the passions that swirled around the throne—the court secrets, the sexual repression, and the endless intrigue. The result is a grand and satisfying tale of a woman whose destiny began long before she was born and whose legacy lives on. 

And from Barnes & Noble I picked up The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn by Alison Weir.

SYNOPSIS:  Nearly five hundred years after her violent death, Anne Boleyn, second wife to Henry VIII, remains one of the world's most fascinating, controversial, and tragic heroines. Now acclaimed historian and bestselling author Alison Weir has drawn on myriad sources from the Tudor era to give us the first book that examines, in unprecedented depth, the gripping, dark, and chilling story of Anne Boleyn's final days.

The tempestuous love affair between Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn scandalized Christendom and altered forever the religious landscape of England. Anne's ascent from private gentlewoman to queen was astonishing, but equally compelling was her shockingly swift downfall. Charged with high treason and imprisoned in the Tower of London in May 1536, Anne met her terrible end all the while protesting her innocence. There remains, however, much mystery surrounding the queen's arrest and the events leading up to it: Were charges against her fabricated because she stood in the way of Henry VIII making a third marriage and siring an heir, or was she the victim of a more complex plot fueled by court politics and deadly rivalry?

The Lady in the Tower examines in engrossing detail the motives and intrigues of those who helped to seal the queen's fate. Weir unravels the tragic tale of Anne's fall, from her miscarriage of the son who would have saved her to the horrors of her incarceration and that final, dramatic scene on the scaffold. What emerges is an extraordinary portrayal of a woman of great courage whose enemies were bent on utterly destroying her, and who was tested to the extreme by the terrible plight in which she found herself. 
Richly researched and utterly captivating, The Lady in the Tower presents the full array of evidence of Anne Boleyn's guilt—or innocence. Only in Alison Weir's capable hands can readers learn the truth about the fate of one of the most influential and important women in English history. 

So dear readers, what goodies came in your mailbox?


June releases in Historical Fiction & Non-Fiction/History


the winner of Secrets of the Tudor Court by D.L. Bogdan is...

The lucky winner of D.L. Bogdan's novel, Secrets of the Tudor Court is...

CONGRATULATIONS!  I really enjoyed this novel and hope you do as well!  

Thanks to all who entered and to D.L. Bogdan for providing the giveaway copy!



announcing the winners of the Sandra Gulland Mother's Day Giveaway!

Okay, kiddies...time to announce the winners of the Sandra Gulland Mother's Day giveaway!!! 

The winner of the Josephine B. Trilogy is.....

The 3 winners of Mistress of the Sun are.....

CONGRATS to you all!!!  Along with the books, the winners will also be receiving signed bookplates from Sandra Gulland.

A big thanks to all who entered and to Diane and Sandra for allowing me to host this fabulous giveaway and providing the giveaway copies and bookplates!


Wordless Wednesday

Coast of Cornwall, England


Welcome to the inaugural Sourcebooks Summer Reading Club Book Chat Night!

 Thank you for stopping by and WELCOME to the inaugural Sourcebooks Summer Reading Club Book Chat Night!  Woo Hoo!  

Let the fun begin!!!

Tonight we will be talking about The Brothers of Gwynedd by Edith Pargeter, Book One: Sunrise in the West.

Here's how it's gonna work.  We'll start off with question #1 and after we talk about that a bit I will add question #2 to the post, so please REFRESH YOUR PAGE to see the new question...and so on and so on.

This is a first for Danielle at Sourcebooks and I, so please bear that in mind.  Also, feel free to ask any questions you'd like in the comments section or you can email me at passagestothepast@gmail.com if there is a topic you'd like to talk about OR if there's a problem with the page or post.  


1. When Lord Griffith and his family commit treason and defect to the English court, only Llewelyn decides to stay behind and support his Welsh homeland. Though still a child, Llewelyn has such a strong sense of loyalty to Wales that he breaks his ties to his family and abandons them to return home. How would the first part of the novel been different if Llewelyn had remained loyal to his family instead of his country? Is a person’s family or country more deserving of their undying loyalty?

2. Though both arranged along a hierarchy, the expectations for members of the English and Welsh courts are very different, with the English court utilizing servility and the Welsh court members knowing their place, but respecting each other more as equals. Which is the better way to rule a kingdom, with a strict iron fist or with strong and respected authority? Do the attempts of fratricide and rebellion within the Welsh court give evidence that equality can weaken a ruler’s authority?

3. The legitimacy of an heir is a prominent issue in the first part of the novel and the main reason for bad blood and war between two generations of Welsh rulers. Do you agree with the English that only a child born in wedlock can contend for the throne, or should any child born to a ruler be considered a possible heir? Does being a ‘bastard’ undermine a person’s authority to rule in a land that is heavily governed by religion?

4. Samson not only finds the means to escape an abusive parent when he joins the priests at Aberdaron, but he also gains an immense amount of education and wisdom through their tutelage. How has the knowledge he gained there helped him in his young adult life? Has his introverted personality and tendency for observance been a hindrance to Samson at all?

5. The rivalries between Lord Griffith’s four male children reaches new heights when Owen and David battle Llewelyn for the land and rights they feel they are due. To Llewelyn, this opposition from his two brothers seems to come on suddenly, but Samson alone knows that David had been feeling resentful for quite some time. If Samson maintains his loyalty to Llewelyn by dismissing David and his grievances, why then does Samson not tell his prince of David’s dangerous jealousy? Is Samson to blame for letting the rivalry get so far along by remaining silent to both sides?

6. Upon returning to Wales from his childhood asylum in England, David begins to wage an internal war between the lavish memories of his happy, though traitorous, upbringing and the guilt he feels for not defending his homeland in the war. Does David fight for his quarter of the Gwynedd realm out of a guilty need to prove himself to the Welsh people or is it his haughty pride that urges him to war in the hopes of gaining money and a title like he had as a spoiled child in England?

7. There are many different reasons why the people of Wales defect to England at the onset of war; some because they felt safer with a more powerful kingdom, some due to grievances over land, and others with the hope of benefiting from the Welsh Lord David’s ruin. Are there ever excusable reasons to commit treason? When the brothers are first reunited and Samson saves Llewelyn from being murdered by Owen, his vassal, is this treasonous act excusable?

now reading....A Cottage by the Sea by Ciji Ware

Because I adored Ciji Ware's novel Island of the Swans (read my review HERE), I jumped at the chance to read another re-issue of hers, A Cottage by the Sea.

Release Date:  June 1, 2010

SYNOPSIS:  Some might call it running away . . .

But after a scandalous Hollywood divorce, Blythe Stowe considered it damage control for body and soul. The pain, the humiliation, the daily tabloids shouting details as her famous husband dumped her for her own sister demanded a serious getaway: to the wild coast of Cornwall and a cottage by the sea that her Wyoming grandmother claimed had been home to her ancestors.

Some might call it chance . . .

But Blythe encountered more than just a quaint retreat nestled amid vivid skies and gorgeous ocean. And she had the odd sensation that her wickedly handsome neighbor Lucas Teague was more than a British gentleman going broke. He might be her destiny.


the winner of The Highest Stakes by Emery Lee is...

Congrats Steve!!  The Highest Stakes is a great read and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Thanks to all who entered and to author Emery Lee for her generosity!


Mailbox Monday

Another Monday, Another Mailbox!! This is a feature where we all share with each other the yummy books that showed up at our doors! WARNING: Mailbox Mondays can lead to extreme envy and GINORMOUS wishlists!!

Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page.

I received two books this week for review from Sourcebooks and one came with a bonus surprise.  Yours truly was quoted on the press release sent out with the ARCs for For the King's Favor by Elizabeth Chadwick, as was Allie from Hist Fic Chick!  It was pretty cool to see myself on there I must say, especially so because Chadwick is one of my favorite HF writers!

Release Date:  September 1, 2010

Note:  this book was released under the previous title of The Time of Singing.

SYNOPSIS:  A captivating story of a mother's love stretched to breaking and a knight determined to rebuild his life with the royal mistress, For the King's Favor is Elizabeth Chadwick at her best. Based on a true story never before told and impeccably researched, this is a testament to the power of sacrifice and the strength of love. When Roger Bigod, heir to the powerful earldom of Norfolk, arrives at court to settle an inheritance, he meets Ida de Tosney, young mistress to King Henry II. In Roger, Ida sees a chance for lasting love, but their decision to marry carries an agonizing price. It's a breathtaking novel of making choices, not giving up, and coping with the terrible shifting whims of the king.

Release Date:  August 1, 2010

SYNOPSIS:  Loosely based on the Norman Conquest of Sicily, Great Maria is the story of a courageous woman struggling for love and power. A masterful writer whom the New York Times called "a literary phenomenon," Cecelia Holland sets this story in southern Italy, where Maria, a daughter of a Norman robber baron, must work with the husband she never wanted as a kingship drifts within their grasp. At its heart, Great Maria is the story of a woman who must find a way to survive in a male-dominated world, a woman who triumphantly makes strengths out of weaknesses.

What goodies came your way?


Announcing the inaugural Sourcebooks Book Chat Night at PTTP!!

Sourcebooks Publishing is trying something new, a Summer Reading Club with their re-issue of The Brothers of Gwynedd by Edith Pargeter,  and yours truly will be hosting the first book chat night!  

The fun starts here tomorrow (Monday) night from 7:00 - 9:00 pm est and I would love for you all to join me and Danielle from Sourcebooks to chat about Book One of The Brothers of Gwynedd novel, Sunrise in the West.

It will be a sort of virtual book club where we will post questions and then answer in the comments section.  Danielle and Sourcebooks has come up with some really great and thought-provoking questions that I think will serve for some awesome discussion!

I really enjoyed reading Book One (read my review HERE) and can't wait to talk about it with you all! 

Hope to see you here!


2010 NF Release: Elizabeth I: Virgin Queen? by Philippa Jones

A new book about my favorite monarch and just in time for my birthday! Yeah!  

I'm interested to see how the author spins this controversy and the conclusions she comes to.  I can see it being really good or really bad! 

by Philippa Jones

Release Date:   July 25, 2010

SYNOPSIS: 'Gloriana', 'Faerie Queene', 'Queen Bess' are just some of the names given to Elizabeth I, the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. But the name for which she is perhaps best remembered and which best explains why Elizabeth was the last of the Tudor monarchs, was the 'Virgin Queen'. But how appropriate is that image? Were Elizabeth's suitors and favourites really just innocent intrigues? Or were they much more than that? Was Elizabeth really a woman driven by her passions, who had affairs with several men, including Thomas Seymour, while he was still the husband of her guardian Catherine Parr, and Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester - a man adjudged to have been the great love of her life? And, are the rumours of Elizabeth's illegitimate children true? Was the 'Virgin Queen' image a carefully thought out piece of Tudor propaganda? Historian Philippa Jones, author of the acclaimed "The Other Tudors", challenges the many myths and truths surrounding Elizabeth's life and reveals the passionate woman behind the powerful and fearless 'Virgin Queen'.


2010 NF Release: Catherine of Aragon: The Spanish Queen of Henry VIII by Giles Tremlett

by Giles Tremlett

Release Date: October 26, 2010

SYNOPSIS: The youngest child of the legendary monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, Catherine of Aragon (1485 -1536) was born to marry for dynastic gain. Endowed with English royal blood on her mother's side, she was betrothed in infancy to Arthur, Prince of Wales, eldest son of Henry VII of England, an alliance that greatly benefited both sides. Yet Arthur died weeks after their marriage in 1501, and Catherine found herself remarried to his younger brother, soon to become Henry VIII. The history of England-and indeed of Europe-was forever altered by their union.

Drawing on his deep knowledge of both Spain and England, Giles Tremlett has produced the first full biography in more than four decades of the tenacious woman whose marriage to Henry VIII lasted twice as long (twenty-four years) as his five other marriages combined. Her refusal to divorce him put her at the center of one of history's greatest power struggles, one that has resonated down through the centuries - Henry's break away from the Catholic Church as, bereft of a son, he attempted to annul his marriage to Catherine and wed Anne Boleyn. Catherine's daughter, Mary, would controversially inherit Henry's throne; briefly and bloodily, she returned England to the Catholicism of her mother's native Spain, foreshadowing the Spanish Armada some three decades later. From Catherine's peripatetic childhood at the glittering court of Ferdinand and Isabella to the battlefield at Flodden, where she, in Henry's absence abroad, led the English forces to victory against Scotland to her determination to remain queen and her last years in almost monastic isolation, Giles Tremlett vividly re-creates the life of a giant figure in the sixteenth century. Catherine of Aragon will take its place among the best of Tudor biography.


Guest Post + 5 book giveaway! By Fire, By Water by Mitchell James Kaplan

Passages to the Past is pleased to bring you a guest post by Michell James Kaplan, author of the new novel By Fire, By Water.  Stay tuned for giveaway information at the bottom of this post.  Take it away Mitchell....

Introduction:  By Fire, By Water depicts the end of an eight-hundred year era in Spain, the era known as convivencia. It may be helpful, as background, to see all that was achieved during that era, and to get a sense for all that Spain lost (as well as what she gained) through the process of “unification.”


The term convivencia (“coexistence”) refers to the period when Christians, Jews, and Muslims shared rulership of the Iberian Peninsula. This period was one of the most fruitful and significant in European cultural history. However, forces of intolerance, blame, and superstition continued to vie against the forces that promoted cultural exchange and expansion. Major dates include:

Synagogue, Toledo
711  Islamic Berbers and Arabs (the “Moors”) invade Spain from North Africa. The caliphate they create is far more tolerant than the Christian Visigoth society they conquer.

10th and 11th centuries  Cordova and Toledo are the most prominent and sophisticated cities in Europe, producing important scholars, poets, scientists, merchants, and philosophers. Islamic-Spanish architecture, harmonizing complex geometries, reaches its zenith. An extraordinary example of cross-cultural literary wealth, the poetic form called muwashaha, calls for both Latin and Classical Arabic versification within the same poem.

1066  The crucifixion of the Jewish vizier of Granada, and the subsequent massacre of Jews throughout Granada, mark the beginning of the end of the Golden Age of Judaism in Spain.

12th century  The Muslim Averroes and the Jewish Maimonides reintroduce Aristotelian reasoning to Europe, foreshadowing Aquinas and ultimately the Renaissance.

1118  Alfonso I of Aragon reconquers Saragossa and its stunning fortresscastle, the Aljaferia, future home of King Ferdinand.
Aljaferia Palaca, Saragossa
13th century  The Islamic presence in Spain, under pressure from Christian forces, retreats to the Emirate of Granada, at the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula.

1236  Ferdinand III of Castile reconquers Cordova.

Late 14th century  Anti-Jewish riots throughout Christian Spain lead to forced conversions and deaths.

Late 15th century  By the late fifteenth century, the end of convivencia is in sight as Spain retreats into a tragic, monolithic parody of its imagined past. The events listed below, as witnessed by Luis de Santángel, the chancellor of Aragon, form the historical background of By Fire, By Water:

October 19, 1469  Marriage of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella of Castile.

September 15, 1485  Murder of Pedro de Arbues, first chief inquisitor of the kingdom of Aragon.

August 18, 1487  Auto-da-fé (religious trial) in Saragossa, the capital of Aragon, including members of the chancellor’s family.

January 2, 1492  Fall of the Emirate of Granada, the last Islamic political entity in Western Europe.

March 31, 1492  Expulsion Edict, aka the Alhambra Decree, ordering all Jews to depart from Spain, leaving their wealth and possessions behind.

July 31, 1492  Final date for all Jews to quit Spain.

August 3, 1492  Christopher Columbus’s ships depart on a voyage of discovery.

October 12, 1492  Columbus lands in the present-day Bahamas.
Columbus at the Royal Court of Spain by V. Brozik 1884

Thank you to Mitchell for stopping by and writing such an interesting post!!!  And now on to the giveaway, of which PTTP has been given FIVE copies of By Fire, By Water to giveaway!

SYNOPSIS:  Luis de Santángel, chancellor to the court and longtime friend of the lusty King Ferdinand, has had enough of the Spanish Inquisition. As the power of Inquisitor General Tomás de Torquemada grows, so does the brutality of the Spanish church and the suspicion and paranoia it inspires. When a dear friend’s demise brings the violence close to home, Santángel is enraged and takes retribution into his own hands. But he is from a family of conversos, and his Jewish heritage makes him an easy target. As Santángel witnesses the horrific persecution of his loved ones, he begins slowly to reconnect with the Jewish faith his family left behind. Feeding his curiosity about his past is his growing love for Judith Migdal, a clever and beautiful Jewish woman navigating the mounting tensions in Granada. While he struggles to decide what his reputation is worth and what he can sacrifice, one man offers him a chance he thought he’d lost…the chance to hope for a better world. Christopher Columbus has plans to discover a route to paradise, and only Luis de Santángel can help him.

Within the dramatic story lies a subtle, insightful examination of the crisis of faith at the heart of the Spanish Inquisition. Irresolvable conflict rages within the conversos in By Fire, By Water, torn between the religion they left behind and the conversion meant to ensure their safety. In this story of love, God, faith, and torture, fifteenth-century Spain comes to dazzling, engrossing life.


- To enter, please leave a comment and include your email
- Only one entry per person
- Giveaway is open to US and Canada entries ONLY (sorry to my int'l readers)
- Giveaway ends on June 2nd

Good Luck to you all!


Review: Brothers of Gwynedd, Book One: Sunrise in the West by Edith Pargeter

The Brothers of Gwynedd: The Legend of the First True Prince of Wales

Book One: Sunrise in the West

by Edith Pargeter

Pages: 800
Pub Date: May 1, 2010
Publisher:  Sourcebooks Landmark

Edith Pargeter's novel, The Brothers of Gwynedd is comprised of four stories: Sunrise in the West, The Dragon at Noonday, The Hounds of Sunset and Afterglow and Nightfall.

For this review we will be focusing on the first story: Sunrise in the West, which tells the story of Llewelyn ap Grruffyd (also called Llewelyn the Last) of Wales, grandson to Llewelyn the Great, through the eyes of his clerk, friend and closest confidante Samson. Samson is truly an invaluable narrator with his keen sense of insight and candidness. He's a character that you can't help but like immediately and I don't think this novel would have the depth that it does were it written first person. I believe that some people in our lives know us better than we do ourselves and thus can explain it more clearly, so through Samson, I feel I know the real Llewelyn.

Through a series of events including the death of their father and the imprisonment of Llewelyn's mother and brothers at the English court, and with King Henry III encroaching bit by bit into Wales it primarily falls to Llewelyn tohelp unite his country and drive the English out, though he is but the second son, not the heir. Like his grandfather and namesake Llewelyn dreamed of a complete Wales, united under one leader, one Prince.

Opposition to Llewelyn's ambition doesn't just come from afar, but close to home when his brothers take up arms against him and fight for a bigger piece of the Welsh pie. Llewelyn's victory and justice are swiftly dealt and he is now ready to take on King Henry III of England.

I have to admit that when I first started this book my initial feeling was one of confusion. Within the first few pages, I was baffled as to how was who and it doesn't help that they all seem to have the same name. But, hang in there, I promose it all became clear soon enough and there is a family tree to refer to. Pargeter's writing style took a little getting used to with the long sentences, but once you slow down and really savor the words it's quite beautiful and almost prose-like. And there are some excellent quotes throughout, my favorite being:
"So does the impetus of habit continue to carry us when the heart has ceased to put forth any power or passion"
I have thoroughly enjoyed reading The Brothers of Gwynedd but bear in mind that is no light read by an means, however it is an extremely rewarding one! Savor this novel...like you would a fine wine! It is well worth the journey!

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