Review: The de Lacy Inheritance by Elizabeth Ashworth

by Elizabeth Ashworth

Publication Date:  July 14, 2010
Myrmidon Books

SYNOPSIS:  Using characters known to recorded history—including one to become the real Sheriff of Nottingham—Elizabeth Ashworth weaves a tale of loves lost and found during the exile of Richard the Lionheart.
Richard Fitz-Eustace's return from Palestine is far from joyous. Damned by leprosy, he must bid his family a final and sorrowful farewell and leave his estates at Halton Castle forever. Condemned to shun the company of others, he must now find a place of solitude where he can seek forgiveness for sins committed in the Holy Land for which he is certain he has earned God’s curse. Resolved to live out his life as a hermit, he journeys north into the newly named county of Lancashire. But this is no arbitrary journey; there is one last obligation to be undertaken for his grandmother—he must seek out her kinsman, Sir Robert de Lacy, at Cliderhou Castle and there press his consideration of her claim to his estate. While at Halton, Richard’s headstrong 14-year-old sister Johanna is distraught. Her other brother, ruthless and ambitious Roger, has returned to take his place as head of the family. He and Johanna’s mother have contrived a marriage for her to a wealthy old landowner, and without Richard’s protection there seems little she can do about it—unless of course she can escape and find him.

Being short myself, I’ve always subscribed to the “good things come in small packages” mentality, and now I can apply that to the new novel by Elizabeth Ashworth, The de Lacy Inheritance.  At 280 pages this short book packs a powerful and emotional punch that I wasn’t quite expecting!

Richard has just returned home from fighting the infidels in the Crusades, but the homecoming is bittersweet as he has returned with leprosy and as such, must be declared dead by a priest, banished from his childhood home and cut off from his family. Before leaving he promises his grandmother that he will find her cousin, Robert de Lacy and help ensure her inheritance. Although they aren’t the only ones who expect to inherit the de Lacy lands and Richard must work carefully to secure his family’s rights without revealing who he is.

From the very beginning I felt an immediate liking for Richard and sympathized with his plight. The first few pages had me teary eyed as he receives the Mass of Separation from his priest that takes away everything he has ever held dear - his home, his family and any hope of a meaningful future. His love of his family, unfailing devotion to God and constant atonement for his one moment of weakness is endearing. I seriously wanted to jump through the pages and hug him!

I didn’t really expect to love this book as much as I do and I expect that Richard will be staying with me for a long time. There was never a point in the book where I was bored, once started it was a quick read that kept me entranced. Elizabeth Ashworth has earned a fan in me and I look forward to future books from her.

For more information, please visit Elizabeth Ashworth's WEBSITE.

FTC DISCLOSURE:  Thank you to the author for sending me her fantastic book for review!


Author Interview with Barbara Kyle & 2 Book Giveaway of The Queen's Captive

I am super excited to have an interview with the lovely Barbara Kyle, author of the Thornleigh series, today here at Passages to the Past!!  The third book in the series, The Queen's Captive will be released tomorrow, September 1st, so Happy Early Release Day to Barbara!  And I have 2 copies of The Queen's Captive up for grabs so make sure you enter at the bottom of this post.

Welcome Barbara and thank you for stopping by and answering a few questions! 

First, let me say it’s a pleasure to be a guest at “Passages to the Past.” The site is a real treat – a treasure trove of info on the genre. Thanks for that, Amy.

Have you always been a fan of historical fiction? If so, do you remember how and when it started?

I’ve been a fan of historical fiction for as long as I can remember. When I was about eleven I got a book from the library, a YA bio of Eleanor of Aquitaine, that transported me to twelfth-century England and France and left me in a happy daze. I was hooked. In my teens I gobbled up Leon Uris’s novels, my favorites being TRINITY and MILA 18, and then the late, great Edith Pargeter’s wonderful novels of Wales in the Middle Ages. You recently featured Pargeter on “Passages to the Past,” which was much appreciated.

To this day, the books that have thrilled me most – the books that I stayed up late reading, and in fact that made me look forward to bed just so I could go on reading them – have been historical novels, usually big, saga-type stories: James Michener’s THE SOURCE, James Clavell’s SHOGUN, Margaret Mitchell’s GONE WITH THE WIND, Larry McMurtry’s LONESOME DOVE, Herman Wouk’s THE WINDS OF WAR. A few months ago I reread SHOGUN and marvelled all over again at its narrative vitality and the thrilling scope of Clavell’s depiction of the life-and-death political and social currents in 16th century Japan. In fact, I would happily re-read all of the books I listed above.

Two other favorite novels set in the past are A.S. Byatt’s mesmerizing Possession and Ian McEwan’s masterpiece, Atonement.

Why did you choose to set your Thornleigh series in the time of the Tudors? Are you a big Tudor fan?

Actually, it wasn’t the Tudor monarchs who drew me to write the first of these novels, THE QUEEN’S LADY. I was drawn by the paradox of Sir Thomas More. He was Henry VIII’s chancellor, and famously went to the execution block because he refused to sanction Henry’s divorce from Katherine of Aragon. I say paradox, because More was a brilliant scholar and a loving father, but as chancellor of England he banned books and burned men. In THE QUEEN’S LADY I created a character, Honor Larke, to be More’s ward, and my story turns on Honor’s passionate conflict with her once-beloved guardian as she tries to save his victims from the stake, enlisting rogue ship-captain Richard Thornleigh in her missions.

I found these characters so engaging – and, I’m happy to say, so did readers – that I wrote a sequel, THE KING’S DAUGHTER, featuring Honor and Richard’s daughter, Isabel. It’s set in 1554 when Henry VIII’s bitter daughter, Queen Mary, launches her reign with a vow to annihilate heretics, and Isabel must act quickly to save her family. Determined to rescue her father from prison, she entrusts her mission, and herself, to a ruthless soldier of fortune, Carlos Valverde. I’m delighted that so many readers have found Honor and Isabel such appealing heroes.

The ending of The Queen's Captive seems like there could possibly be another book in the series, maybe one based more on Adam? Will there be a 4th book in the series?

There sure is. It’s the book I’m currently writing, mentioned above. Adam Thornleigh does play a role in it, captaining his ship in daring raids against the French fleet off Edinburgh. He is captured and faces execution. OK having, I hope, whetted your readers’ appetites with that tidbit, let me leave Adam there and say that the story in fact centers on his sister Isabel (she of the adventures in the Wyatt Rebellion in THE KING’S DAUGHTER) and her Spanish soldier husband, Carlos Valverde. Isabel and Carlos return from the New World with their young son, only to be swept up in the Scottish crisis when Queen Elizabeth enlists Isabel to secretly take money to help the Scottish rebels fight the French. But when Carlos is sent to Scotland as a Spanish military advisor to the French troops, he and Isabel find they are on opposite sides in this deadly “cold” war, and the Queen has made their little boy her hostage. The book will be published in mid-2011.

You give writing courses and workshops, so I know you have tons of good advice for first time writers. What is the best advice you can give to an aspiring historical fiction writer?

In my workshops I enjoy getting across to aspiring writers the importance – and the thrill – of being in control of story structure, and of creating a proactive and empathetic protagonist. Learning about story structure can be a “light bulb” moment for new writers. I also give Master Classes for emerging writers who have a novel in progress. Several who’ve attended have now been published.

As for advice, my agent, Al Zuckerman, when asked to give one piece of advice to aspiring writers, said, “Be willing to work your ass off.” That’s about right! Talent takes you only so far. Successful writers know that it’s the daily slog that produces results – what author Tim O’Brien calls, “the hard-lifting, heavy-duty, day-by-day, unending labor of a fiction writer.” My advice is to embrace that reality.

As for the aspiring writer of historical fiction specifically, I’d say be careful to not let the research become a tyrant. All HF writers do lots of research, because historical fact is the basis of historical fiction, but the research has a tendency to take over and crowd out the writer’s imagination. As journalists wryly advise: Never let the facts get in the way of a good story. Readers may be attracted to a historical novel for the history, but they stay with a book – and fall in love with it – because they care deeply about the characters. So give your characters compelling stories, wherever the historical chips may fall.

I saw from your website that you attended the Historical Novel Conference in Chicago in 2009, will you be attending in 2011? A few other bloggers and I are hoping to meet there and I'm wondering if you would tell us a little of what to expect.

Yes, the Historical Novel Society is a great group. At the conference they asked me to speak on a panel where the topic was: “Is Sex necessary in a Historical Novel?” There were four other authors on the panel who all gave very thoughtful views about “Is Sex Necessary.” When it was my turn I said, “The short answer is: Yes. The long answer is: Yes, duh!”

I do recommend the HNS conferences. They offer workshops and panel discussions with all sorts of HF authors, and there’s always an excellent keynote speaker at the dinner. In Chicago in 2009 it was Sharon Kay Penman. And the keynote speaker at the luncheon was Trish Todd, vice president and editor-in-chief of Touchstone Fireside, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.

A choice moment at the conference in 2009 was a comment from panellist Karen Essex, a very successful HF author, recalling a life‐changing moment in the midst of her busy career as a university professor. She said, “I woke up one night just after my 30th birthday and thought ‘Oh my God, I forgot to be a writer!’”

This is a two part question. You started your career out as an actor in Canada and have been in movies, sitcoms, daytime dramas and the theater. What lessons that you learned while acting have you been able to use also with writing?

My acting career was great preparation for writing. Twenty years of working with scripts gave me a bone-deep sense of dramatic structure. However, that took me only so far, because acting is an interpretive art, whereas writing is pure creation, and consequently I had no real idea of how to be in control of the dynamic elements of story structure. So I had to learn the hard way, as every new writer does, by trial and error. In other words: write, and rewrite, and rewrite, and rewrite. There is no other way to master the craft.

I would add that being an actor taught me how to write dynamic dialogue. Actors know that people often don’t say what they mean, or, indeed, mean what they say. Actors play what’s called subtext – that is, the real meaning behind a person’s words. What does this character want?– that’s what an actor plays. It’s helped me write convincing and dramatic scenes of dialogue.

What are you reading now?

Mostly biographies as research for the book I’m currently writing. I did recently take a break from that to read Aravind Adiga’s THE WHITE TIGER which won the 2008 Booker Prize, and I was captivated by it. And I’ve just read an advance copy of a searing debut novel called SAVING MAX by Antoinette van Heugten that my agent asked me to read to give a quote for the cover.

As for having my nose stuck in research books, it’s no hardship, believe me, since I’m endlessly fascinated by the Tudor period. It’s for the novel I’m writing, which is #4 in my “Thornleigh” series. The story is set in Scotland in 1560 during the first international crisis of the 26-year-old Queen Elizabeth’s reign. She’d been queen for less than a year when John Knox led a Protestant rebellion against Scotland’s French overlords. In response, the French landed thousands of troops in Edinburgh to crush the rebels, and this massive troop build-up made Elizabeth fear that France would use Scotland as a base to invade England. So I’m reading about John Knox, and Scotland’s Queen Regent (Mary de Guise, the mother of Mary Queen of Scots), and of course lots about Elizabeth.

If you could read any one book again for the first time, which one would it be?

THE QUEEN’S LADY – not as its author, but as a reader!

For more information, visit Barbara Kyle's WEBSITE.


Passages to the Past has 2 copies of The Queen's Captive up for grabs, thanks to the generosity of Barbara Kyle!

- Giveaway is open to US/Canada entries ONLY.
- To enter, please complete form at bottom of post.
- For +1 additional entry each, please help spread the word about this giveaway:  write a blog post, post on sidebar, tweet or facebook to get extra entries!
- Giveaway ends on September 14th.


SYNOPSIS: England, 1554. In the wake of the failed Wyatt Rebellion, a vengeful Queen Mary has ordered all conspirators captured and executed. Among the imprisoned is her own sister, twenty-one-year-old Princess Elizabeth. Though she protests her innocence, Elizabeth-s brave stand only angers Mary more.

Elizabeth longs to gain her liberty-and her sister-s crown. In Honor and Richard Thornleigh and their son, Adam, the young princess has loyal allies. Disgusted by Queen Mary-s proclaimed intent to burn heretics, Honor visits Elizabeth in the Tower and they quickly become friends. And when Adam foils a would-be assassin, Elizabeth-s gratitude swells into a powerful-and mutual-attraction. But while Honor is willing to risk her own safety for her future queen, aiding in a new rebellion against the wrathful Mary will soon lead her to an impossible choice-

Riveting, masterfully written, and rich in intricate details, The Queen-s Captive brings one of history-s most fascinating and treacherous periods to vibrant, passionate life.


Announcing the Susan Holloway Scott Collection MEGA Giveaway!!!

I am so THRILLED to bring you one of my biggest giveaways of the year!

In honor of  the release of The Countess and the King, Passages to the Past, with thanks to Susan Holloway Scott, has Susan's entire bibliography up for grabs!  Yep, that's right could win all FIVE of Susan's books including my favorite read of the year, The Countess and the King!!!  All together now, THANK YOU SUSAN!!!

The Susan Holloway Scott Giveaway Extravaganza includes:

Duchess: A Novel of Sarah Churchill
Royal Harlot: A Novel of the Countess Castlemaine and King Charles II
The Countess and the King: A Novel of the Countess of Dorcester and King James II
The King's Favourite: A Novel of Nell Gwyn and King Charles II
The French Mistress: A Novel of the Duchess of Portsmouth and King Charles II

Giveaway Rules:
 - To enter, please complete the form below. 
- Giveaway is open to US/Canada entries ONLY.
- Giveaway ends on September 13th.

Additional Entries:

For +1 extra entry each, please blog, post on sidebar, tweet or facebook about this giveaway.

For +5 extra entries, attend the Passages to the Past AUTHOR CHAT NIGHT w/ SUSAN HOLLOWAY SCOTT on September 13th from 6:00 - 7:00 pm EST.



giveaway winners for The Killing Way by Tony Hays and The Russian Concubine by Kate Furnivall

Please help me congratulate the following winners....

The four lucky readers who won a signed copy of The Killing Way by Tony Hays are...

Carol Wong

Heather Figearo from Raging Bibliomania

Heidi from Musings from Mom


And the winner of The Russian Concubine by Kate Furnivall is...

Vera from Luxury Reading

Thanks again to all who entered and helped spread the word and to Tony Hays and Penguin Publishing for providing the giveaway copies.

Stay tuned for my next HUGE giveaway in honor of the release of The Countess and The King by Susan Holloway Scott!!!


Review: His Last Letter by Jeane Westin

by Jeane Westin

Publication Date:  August 3, 2010
Publisher: NAL Trade

SYNOPSIS:  One of the greatest loves of all time-between Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley-comes to life in this vivid novel.

They were playmates as children, impetuous lovers as adults-and for thirty years were the center of each others' lives. Astute to the dangers of choosing any one man, the Virgin Queen could never give her "Sweet Robin" what he wanted most-marriage- yet she insisted he stay close by her side. Possessive and jealous, their love survived quarrels, his two disastrous marriages to other women, her constant flirtations, and political machinations with foreign princes. 

His Last Letter tells the story of this great love... and especially of the last three years Elizabeth and Dudley spent together, the most dangerous of her rule, when their passion was tempered by a bittersweet recognition of all that they shared-and all that would remain unfulfilled. 

In Jeane Westin’s sophomore release she tackles one of the most intriguing love stories in history...that of Queen Elizabeth I of England and Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester.

His Last Letter focuses on the last three years that Elizabeth and Robert were together before his death and alternately goes back to various pivotal points in their relationship. I thought the author did a fantastic job at this, giving the reader glimpses of their tempetuous past and then bringing it back to their final years, showing how those events transformed their relationship (though I wish she would have touched on the death of Robert’s wife Amy a bit more).

“Always she must deny her woman’s wants, a queen outside, a woman inside.”

Westin’s characterization of Elizabeth reads true and I felt she gave her a great voice. Not only did Elizabeth have to be strong to survive in a world dominated by men, but she also had a constant battle of wills raging between her head and heart when it came to Dudley. Their bond, forged in childhood, sealed while they were both prisoners in the tower and was tested relentlessly throughout their lives; Elizabeth’s wooing of foreign princes to satisfy her council fueled Robert’s jealousy, Robert’s marriage to Amy Robsart and her subsequent scandalous death and again when Robert secretly married Lettice Knowlys, Elizabeth’s cousin, all threatened to shatter their entanglement but their love would prove too deep. Elizabeth would banish him, and in the next breathe send for him to return to her again, never able to be parted long from her sweet Robin.

Engaging, heartfelt and touching, I highly recommend His Last Letter and am very much looking forward to future novels by Jeane Westin.

Click HERE to read my interview with Jeane Westin, where she talks about her next project, what she admires most about Elizabeth I and her opinion on the death of Amy Robsart.

Visit Jeane Westin's WEBSITE.

FTC DISCLOSURE:  I received this book for review from the publisher.


this can't wait until next Mailbox Monday!!

Never have I wanted to hug my postman so much in my life!  I got 2 packages today that made me super duper excited and there is no way I can wait until next Monday to share them!

The first book is one that you heard me gush about a few months ago, Elizabeth I by Margaret George!!  And OMG, the cover is the most gorgeous thing I've ever seen!  And I am SO pleased to tell you that Margaret George has agreed for an author interview here at Passages to the Past!!  It will most likely take place in late March 2011 and I am so excited, but very nervous!

Release Date:  April 5, 2011

SYNOPSIS:  One of today's premier historical novelists, Margaret George dazzles here as she tackles her most difficult subject yet: the legendary Elizabeth Tudor, queen of enigma - the Virgin Queen who had many suitors, the victor of the Armada who hated war; the gorgeously attired, jewel-bedecked woman who pinched pennies.  England's greatest monarch has baffled and intrigued the world for centuries.  But what was she really like?

In this novel, her flame-haired, look-alike cousin, Lettice Knollys, thinks she knows all too well.  Elizabeth's rival for the love of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and mother to the Earl of Essex, the mercurial nobleman who challenged Elizabeth's throne, Lettice has been intertwined with Elizabeth since childhood.  This is a story of two women of fierce intellect and desire, one trying to protect her country, and throne, the other trying to regain power and position for her family.  Their rivalry, and it's ensuing drama, soon involves everyone close to Elizabeth, from the famed courtiers who enriched the crown to the legendary poets and playwrights who paid homage to it with their works.  Intimate portraits of the personalities who made the Elizabethan Age great - Shakespeare, Marlowe, Dudley, Raleigh, Drake - fill these pages, giving us an unforgettable glimpse of a queen who ruled as much from the heart as from the head, and considered herself married to her people. 

Oh man is it going to be hard not diving right into it!  Patience grasshopper...

The next package was equally know of my love of the works of Helen Hollick, so I cannot wait to read this one!  The Forever Queen (previously published under the title, A Hollow Crown) will be released on November 1, 2010.  And Helen has also agreed to come back for another interview in late October!

And I was so surprised to see that I was quoted in the beginning of the cool to see my site in print!!

SYNOPSIS:  In 1022, when Emma vowed to give her soul to England, she never could have imaged how very far she would have to take that promise.  Fed up with her incompetent husband and determined to save her people, Emma must take matters into her own hands.  But can she risk everything on a gamble that could rescue a country-but ruin the rest of her life?

This vivid and compelling tale reveals the unmatched life of Queen Emma-the only woman to have been anointed, crowned, and reigning queen to two different kings; the mother of two more; and the great aunt of William the Conqueror.


author Anna Elliott releases FREE Short Story: The Witch Queen's Secret

If you're a regular to this blog, then you have probably heard me rave about Anna Elliott and her Trystan and Isolde books. I just finished my second reading of Twilight of Avalon and I liked it even better than the first time around, if that's possible. I am now moving to the second book in the series, Dark Moon of Avalon and to be honest I was kinda feeling bummed because I knew I'd be going through withdrawals once that's read! But, now author Anna Elliott has come to the rescue! She has written a short story based off of a minor character in Twilight of Avalon and has posted it for FREE on her site, though you can also pay $.99 and get it downloaded from Amazon (more info below).

You can bet I downloaded it faster than you can say Avalon and used materials at work to bind it, so I have a purty little story and can't wait to devour it! 

I think this is a FABULOUS idea....not only does it give her current fans a little something special, but for the people who haven't read her, this will give them the opportunity to check out her writing style and get the feel of the books, which I know will make a lot of you guys fall in love with her!

The Witch Queen's Secret is available for free in various e-reader and printer compatible forms on my website here. Or (because of Amazon policy) it's available for 99 cents on the Kindle store here.

The Witch Queen's Secret features a minor character from Twilight of Avalon, but it's self-contained; you don't at all have to have read any of the Twilight of Avalon trilogy to understand it. A bit more about the story:

In the shadow of King Arthur's Britain, a young mother will need all her courage to save the Queen's castle from the hands of a traitor…

Dera owes Britain's former High Queen Isolde her life. But as an army harlot, the life she leads is one of degradation and often desperate danger, with small hope for the future either for Dera or for her small son.

Through a Britain torn by war with Saxon invaders, Dera makes her way to Dinas Emrys, last stronghold of Britain's army, to beg Queen Isolde's help once more. Isolde offers Dera a new life, both for herself and for her child. But when Dera and Isolde uncover a treasonous plot, Dera must leave her little boy and undertake a dangerous mission, the outcome of which comes to her as a stunning, but wonderful, surprise.

And as she risks her life, Dera also draws nearer to Queen Isolde's most closely-guarded secret: one that Britain's courageous witch-queen may be hiding even from herself.

Happy Reading!!!

Visit Anna's WEBSITE.
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