Mailbox Monday

Another Monday, Another Mailbox!! Mailbox Monday is a feature where we gush about the yummy new books that now grace our bookshelves! WARNING: Mailbox Mondays can lead to extreme envy and GINORMOUS wishlists!!

For the month of November, Mailbox Monday is being hosted by Marcia at the Mailbox Monday website.  Next month's host will be my friend Jenny Q at her blog, Let Them Read Books.
Hello, dear readers!  I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!  I had a great time seeing my family in Florida and am still stuffed from all the delicious food we ate, but isn't that what it's all about?!  
For this Mailbox Monday I have a new e-ARC that I received from NetGalley...The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak.  This will be my first read on Catherine the Great and I hope it's a good introduction. 
Release Date:  January 10, 2012
From award-winning author Eva Stachniak comes this passionate novel that illuminates, as only fiction can, the early life of one of history’s boldest women. The Winter Palace tells the epic story of Catherine the Great’s improbable rise to power—as seen through the ever-watchful eyes of an all-but-invisible servant close to the throne.

Her name is Barbara—in Russian, Varvara. Nimble-witted and attentive, she’s allowed into the employ of the Empress Elizabeth, amid the glitter and cruelty of the world’s most eminent court. Under the tutelage of Count Bestuzhev, Chancellor and spymaster, Varvara will be educated in skills from lock picking to lovemaking, learning above all else to listen—and to wait for opportunity. That opportunity arrives in a slender young princess from Zerbst named Sophie, a playful teenager destined to become the indomitable Catherine the Great. Sophie’s destiny at court is to marry the Empress’s nephew, but she has other, loftier, more dangerous ambitions, and she proves to be more guileful than she first appears.

What Sophie needs is an insider at court, a loyal pair of eyes and ears who knows the traps, the conspiracies, and the treacheries that surround her. Varvara will become Sophie’s confidante—and together the two young women will rise to the pinnacle of absolute power.

With dazzling details and intense drama, Eva Stachniak depicts Varvara’s secret alliance with Catherine as the princess grows into a legend—through an enforced marriage, illicit seductions, and, at last, the shocking coup to assume the throne of all of Russia.

Impeccably researched and magnificently written, The Winter Palace is an irresistible peek through the keyhole of one of history’s grandest tales.
That's my mailbox...what goodies did you receive?

Mailbox Monday

Another Monday, Another Mailbox!! Mailbox Monday is a feature where we gush about the yummy new books that now grace our bookshelves! WARNING: Mailbox Mondays can lead to extreme envy and GINORMOUS wishlists!!

For the month of November, Mailbox Monday is being hosted by Marcia at the Mailbox Monday website.  Next month's host will be my friend Jenny Q at her blog, Let Them Read Books.

Hello all, I hope this MM post finds everyone well!  It's a chilly day here in Atlanta but we're staying warm by the fireplace.  Winter sure did start early this year.  So, what are your plans for the Thanksgiving holidays?  We are headed down to Florida to visit with our families whom we haven't seen in quite a while, so I'm very excited about that.  And of course I'm looking forward to all of the yummy food!  My mom and step-dad make a mean Thanksgiving dinner and I'll be contributing with my kick-ass deviled eggs....mmmm :)  Whatever your plans may be I hope you have a wonderful Turkey day and safe travels.

For this Mailbox Monday I have only one new addition to report and it's my first e-book for my new Kindle Fire!  I got my new Kindle Fire last Tuesday and I've been having so much fun with it, this thing is even studlier than I imagined!  I'll be writing up a full review on the Firfe, but so far it's exceeded my expectations.  Here is what I am now reading:

by Elizabeth Lev

Publication Date:  October 18, 2011


The astonishing life of a long-misunderstood Renaissance virago...

Wife, mother, leader, warrior. Caterina Riario Sforza was one of the most prominent women in Renaissance Italy—and one of the most vilified. In this glittering biography, Elizabeth Lev reexamines her extraordinary life and accomplishments.

Raised in the court of Milan and wed at age ten to the pope’s corrupt nephew, Caterina was ensnared in Italy’s political intrigues early in life. After turbulent years in Rome’s papal court, she moved to the Romagnol province of Forlì. Following her husband’s assassination, she ruled Italy’s crossroads with iron will, martial strength, political savvy—and an icon’s fashion sense. In finally losing her lands to the Borgia family, she put up a resistance that inspired all of Europe and set the stage for her progeny—including Cosimo de' Medici—to follow her example to greatness.

A rich evocation the Renaissance, The Tigress of Forlì reveals Caterina Riario Sforza as a brilliant and fearless ruler, and a tragic but unbowed figure.  

That's my mailbox...what goodies did you receive?


Bookshelf Cleaning Giveaway #3

Hello, dear readers!  I've got another Bookshelf Cleaning Giveaway for you and this time up for grabs is a trio of fabulous HF novels!  I've read and LOVED all three books, but due to an oversight I received double copies of each, so I am spreading the love to you!

When you enter to win please let me know which title you are interested in, you can choose all three if you like!

Here are the books included in the giveaway, their formats and condition: 

The Confessions of Catherine de Medici by C.W. Gortner - Paperback ARC (with a few small kitten bite marks on one corner.  Apparently Jasta kitten thought it was just as yummy as I did :)

For the King by Catherine Delors - Hardcover, finished copy, perfect condition

Claude & Camile: A Novel of Monet by Stephanie Cowell - Paperback ARC, perfect condition

About the Books

by C.W. Gortner

SYNOPSIS:  The truth is, not one of us is innocent. We all have sins to confess.
So reveals Catherine de Medici, the last legitimate descendant of her family’s illustrious line. Expelled from her native Florence, Catherine is betrothed to Henri, son of François I of France. In an unfamiliar realm, Catherine strives to create a role for herself through her patronage of the famous clairvoyant Nostradamus and her own innate gift as a seer. But in her fortieth year, Catherine is widowed, left alone with six young children in a kingdom torn apart by the ambitions of a treacherous nobility. Relying on her tenacity, wit, and uncanny gift for compromise, Catherine seizes power, intent on securing the throne for her sons, unaware that if she is to save France, she may have to sacrifice her ideals, her reputation, and the secret of her embattled heart.

by Catherine Delors

SYNOPSIS:  From the author of the critically acclaimed Mistress of the Revolution comes a spellbinding historical thriller set in post- revolutionary Paris.

For her first novel, Mistress of the Revolution, which the Associated Press dubbed one of the "best reads of the year," Catherine Delors earned comparisons to Tracy Chevalier and Philippa Gregory. In For the King, she again demonstrates her matchless ability to illuminate key turning points in history while weaving a gripping story about a man caught between his heart and his integrity.

The Reign of Terror has ended, and Napoléon Bonaparte has seized power, but shifting political loyalties still tear apart families and lovers. On Christmas Eve 1800, a bomb explodes along Bonaparte's route, narrowly missing him but striking dozens of bystanders. Chief Inspector Roch Miquel, a young policeman with a bright future and a beautiful mistress, must arrest the assassins before they attack again. Complicating Miquel's investigation are the maneuverings of his superior, the redoubtable Fouché, the indiscretions of his own father, a former Jacobin, and two intriguing women.

Based on real events and characters and rich with historical detail, For the King takes readers through the dark alleys and glittering salons of post-revolutionary Paris and is a timeless epic of love, betrayal, and redemption.

by Stephanie Cowell

SYNOPSIS:  Sometimes he dreamt he held her; that he would turn in bed and she would be there. But she was gone and he was old. Nearly seventy. Only cool paint met his fingers. “Ma très chère . . .” Darkness started to fall, dimming the paintings. He felt the crumpled letter in his pocket. “I loved you so,” he said. “I never would have had it turn out as it did. You were with all of us when we began, you gave us courage. These gardens at Giverny are for you but I’m old and you’re forever young and will never see them. . . .”

In the mid-nineteenth century, a young man named Claude Monet decided that he would rather endure a difficult life painting landscapes than take over his father’s nautical supplies business in a French seaside town. Against his father’s will, and with nothing but a dream and an insatiable urge to create a new style of art that repudiated the Classical Realism of the time, he set off for Paris.

But once there he is confronted with obstacles: an art world that refused to validate his style, extreme poverty, and a war that led him away from his home and friends. But there were bright spots as well: his deep, enduring friendships with men named Renoir, Cézanne, Pissarro, Manet – a group that together would come to be known as the Impressionists, and that supported each other through the difficult years. But even more illuminating was his lifelong love, Camille Doncieux, a beautiful, upper-class Parisian girl who threw away her privileged life to be by the side of the defiant painter and embrace the lively Bohemian life of their time.

His muse, his best friend, his passionate lover, and the mother to his two children, Camille stayed with Monet—and believed in his work—even as they lived in wretched rooms, were sometimes kicked out of those, and often suffered the indignities of destitution. She comforted him during his frequent emotional torments, even when he would leave her for long periods to go off on his own to paint in the countryside.

But Camille had her own demons – secrets that  Monet could never penetrate, including one that when eventually revealed would pain him so deeply that he would never fully recover from its impact. For though Camille never once stopped loving the painter with her entire being, she was not immune to the loneliness that often came with being his partner.

A vividly-rendered portrait of both the rise of Impressionism and of the artist at the center of the movement, Claude and Camille is above all a love story of the highest romantic order.
Giveaway Information

- To enter, please leave a comment below and include your email address (only comments with email addresses will be entered in the giveaway).
- Please tell me which book you are entering the giveaway for, you can choose all three if you'd like.
- Giveaway is open to US and Canada ONLY.
- For +5 additional entries become a follower of Passages to the Past. If you are already a follower you will automatically receive the bonus entries. 
- For +3 additional entries join the Passages to the Past FB Page.
- For +1 additional entry each, please help spread the word by blogging, posting on sidebar, tweeting or posting this giveaway on Facebook.  You can use the SHARE buttons below.
- Giveaway ends on November 28th.

Cover unveiled for The Queen's Vow by C.W. Gortner!

Check out the gorgeous cover of the C.W. Gortner's upcoming release of The Queen's Vow: A Novel of Isabella of Castile!  I hope it is the final cover because I love it!

The release date is June 12, 2012 and I, for one, will be counting down the days!


Review: The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

The Dovekeepers
by Alice Hoffman

Release Date:  October 4, 2011
Scribner Publishing


Over five years in the writing, The Dovekeepers is Alice Hoffman’s most ambitious and mesmerizing novel, a tour de force of imagination and research, set in ancient Israel.

In 70 C.E., nine hundred Jews held out for months against armies of Romans on Masada, a mountain in the Judean desert. According to the ancient historian Josephus, two women and five children survived. Based on this tragic and iconic event, Hoffman’s novel is a spellbinding tale of four extraordinarily bold, resourceful, and sensuous women, each of whom has come to Masada by a different path. Yael’s mother died in childbirth, and her father, an expert assassin, never forgave her for that death. Revka, a village baker’s wife, watched the horrifically brutal murder of her daughter by Roman soldiers; she brings to Masada her young grandsons, rendered mute by what they have witnessed. Aziza is a warrior’s daughter, raised as a boy, a fearless rider and an expert marksman who finds passion with a fellow soldier. Shirah, born in Alexandria, is wise in the ways of ancient magic and medicine, a woman with uncanny insight and power.

The lives of these four complex and fiercely independent women intersect in the desperate days of the siege. All are dovekeepers, and all are also keeping secrets—about who they are, where they come from, who fathered them, and whom they love. The Dovekeepers is Alice Hoffman’s masterpiece.


Never before has a book entranced me the way The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman has. I’ve literally just finished reading this book and I can’t get my mind to settle down. It’s almost as if I’ve ran a race, my adrenaline is pumping and my heart beating a mile a minute, scenes from the book keep going around and around in my head. My urgent need to tell everyone about this beautifully haunting book is taking over all other thoughts, so I need to get this review out before I explode! 

Alice Hoffman is the author of Practical Magic and The Red Garden, plus many, many other novels but The Dovekeepers is her first historical fiction work. Hoffman was inspired by a trip to Jerusalem, when she visited a place called Masada, a fortress built by Herod the Great that is situated on top of a large mountain, where a group of nine hundred Jews in the first century CE, who had fled their homelands from the invading Romans converged together to escape the slaughter of their people. 

The Dovekeepers is the story of four women – Aziza, the girl-warrior; Shirah, the Witch of Moab; Yael, the lioness; and Revka, the revenging mother – who came to Masada after their homes and towns were destroyed, each arriving a completely different woman than who they had been before the invasion. They tell the stories of their own life, prior to and including their time in Masada, up to that fateful day and each story is more haunting and profound than the next. Hoffman’s writing is among the most exquisite I have ever read! She has expertly woven a tale of tragedy and hope, hate and love, magic and human nature and I was mesmerized by every word. 

This book should come with a warning as it has the power to thoroughly enthrall a reader, causing them to block out the world around them completely. My household chores were abandoned, husband and child ignored, I was just absorbed into the pages of this novel that everything else took a backseat to the fascinating story enfolding in front of me. 

I cried when I finished the novel, not only because of the sad fate of the people of Masada, but because I will miss these four bold and unyielding women. I will carry their story in my heart forever.


Review: The Queen's Gamble by Barbara Kyle

The Queen's Gamble (Book #4, Thornleigh Series)
by Barbara Kyle

Release Date: September 1, 2011
Kensington Publishing


Young Queen Elizabeth I's path to the throne has been a perilous one, and already she faces a dangerous crisis. French troops have landed in Scotland to quell a rebel Protestant army, and Elizabeth fears once they are entrenched on the border, they will invade England.

Isabel Thornleigh has returned to London from the New World with her Spanish husband, Carlos Valverde, and their young son. Ever the queen's loyal servant, Isabel is recruited to smuggle money to the Scottish rebels. Yet Elizabeth's trust only goes so far—Isabel's son will be the queen's pampered hostage until she completes her mission. Matters grow worse when Isabel's husband is engaged as military advisor to the French, putting the couple on opposite sides in a deadly cold war.


The newest installment of Barbara Kyle’s Thornleigh series, The Queen’s Gamble, is a great historical mystery novel set in the early reign of Elizabeth I.  Readers meet up again with the Thornleigh family, but this time it’s the Thornleigh’s daughter, Isabel, and their son-in-law, Carlos, who are in the spotlight.  Isabel has been blackmailed by the queen into aiding the rebels in Scotland who are fighting the French (and thus keeping them too busy to invade England) and her husband, Carlos, is called upon by duty to assist his lord, the French king.  Spouses now find themselves on either side of a war neither of them wants and their small family is now at the mercy of a queen who will do anything to save her country. Beyond the religious strife running rampant through England and the threat of an invading French army, there is also inner-conflict within the Thornleigh family that makes for some interesting reading!

This is my second foray into the Thornleigh series and I have found both books to be really enjoyable. All four novels can be read as stand-alone novels, and while I don't feel I missed anything with not reading the first two books, I still wish that I had more knowledge on the background of the characters.

Historical mysteries are great escape reads for me, fictional characters set during real historical events, and Kyle has a real talent for writing page-turning action. All in all, I found The Queen’s Gamble to be a fun and entertaining read, jam packed with intrigue and adventure and I am looking forward to the next book in the series!  

For more information on Barbara Kyle and her novels, please visit her WEBSITE.

Kick-Off Day for the Virtual Book Tour for THE HYPNOTIST by M.J. Rose + GIVEAWAY

Welcome to the Virtual Book Tour kick-off for The Hypnotist by international-bestselling author, M.J. Rose! M.J. will be touring with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for her latest book in the Reincarnationist series from November 8th to December 13th.  There are some fabulous blogs on this tour so be sure to check out the schedule below to follow the tour fun!

To kick off this tour right Passages to the Past is hosting a giveaway for one delicious copy of The Hypnotist!  Giveaway information will be located after the tour schedule below. 

 About The Hypnotist

SYNOPSIS: An FBI agent, tormented by a death he wasn't able to prevent, a crime he's never been able to solve and a love he's never forgotten, discovers that his true conflict resides not in his past, but in a…Past Life.

Haunted by a twenty-year old murder of a beautiful young painter, Lucian Glass keeps his demons at bay through his fascinating work as a Special Agent with the FBI's Art Crime Team. Currently investigating a crazed art collector who has begun destroying prized masterworks, Glass is thrust into a bizarre hostage negotiation that takes him undercover at the Phoenix Foundation—dedicated to the science of past life study—where, in order to maintain his cover, he agrees to submit to the treatment of a hypnotist.

Under hypnosis, Glass travels from ancient Greece to 19th century Persia, while the case takes him from New York to Paris and the movie capital of world. These journeys will change his very understanding of reality, lead him to question his own sanity and land him at the center of perhaps the most audacious art heist in history: the theft of a 1,500 year old sculpture from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

International bestselling author M. J. Rose's The Hynpotist is her most mesmerizing novel yet. An adventure, a love story, a clash of cultures, a spiritual quest, it is above all a thrilling capstone to her unique Reincarnation novels, The Reincarnationist and The Memorist. 

About M.J. Rose

 M.J. Rose, is the international bestselling author of 10 novels; Lip Service, In Fidelity, Flesh Tones, Sheet Music, Lying in Bed, The Halo Effect, The Delilah Complex, The Venus Fix, The Reincarnationist, and The Memorist. She is a founding member and board member of International Thriller Writers and the founder of the first marketing company for authors: Rose has appeared on The Today Show, Fox News, The Jim Lehrer News Hour, and features on her have appeared in dozens of magazines and newspapers in the U.S. and abroad, including USA Today, Stern, Poets and Writers and Publishers Weekly. She lives in Connecticut with Doug Scofield, a composer, and their very spoiled dog, Winka.

The Hypnotist Virtual Tour Schedule

Tuesday, November 8th   
Tour Kickoff & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, November 9th

Thursday, November 10th

Friday, November 11th
Author Guest Post at A Chick Who Reads

Monday, November 14th
Review at Book Den

Tuesday, November 15th

Wednesday, November 16th
Author Guest Post & Giveaway at Books Devoured

Thursday,  November 17th
Author Guest Post at Book Den

Friday, November 18th

Tuesday, November 22nd
Review at A Bookish Affair

Wednesday, November 23rd
Author Guest Post & Giveaway at Confessions of an Avid Reader

Thursday, November 24th
Review at Books Devoured

Friday, November 25th
Author Interview & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair

Monday, November 28th

Tuesday, November 29th
Author Guest Post & Giveaway at Alive on the Shelves

Wednesday, November 30th

Thursday, December 1st
Review at A Few More Pages

Friday, December 2nd
Author Guest Post & Giveaway at Bippity Boppity Book

Monday, December 5th
Author Guest Post at A Few More Pages

Tuesday, December 6th

Wednesday, December 7th
Author Interview and Giveaway at The Owl Bookmark Blog

Thursday, December 8th

Friday, December 9th
Author Guest Post & Giveaway at The True Book Addict

Monday, December 12th

Tuesday, December 13th
Review at Just One More Paragraph

*You can follow the tour on Twitter at #TheHypnotistVirtualTour

Giveaway Information

- To enter, please leave a comment below and include your email address (only comments with email addresses will be entered in the giveaway).
- Giveaway is open to US and Canada ONLY.
- For +5 additional entries become a follower of Passages to the Past. If you are already a follower you will automatically receive the bonus entries. 
- For +3 additional entries join the Passages to the Past FB Page.
- For +1 additional entry each, please help spread the word by blogging, posting on sidebar, tweeting or posting this giveaway on Facebook.  You can use the SHARE buttons below.
- Giveaway ends on November 18th.

Good luck to you all and enjoy the tour!


2012 Release: The Spymaster's Daughter by Jeane Westin

by Jeane Westin

Release Date:  August 7, 2012


Danger and intrigue in the Tudor court of Elizabeth I, from the author of His Last Letter.

In Tudor England, traitors are everywhere and the queen’s spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham, is assembling the greatest intelligence-gathering network in the world. Walsingham’s daughter, Lady Frances Sidney, smart, courageous, and unhappy in love, longs for the excitement of decoding encrypted messages and setting traps for those working for rival Mary, Queen of Scots. When Elizabeth makes her a lady-in-waiting, Frances seizes the chance to prove herself. She will risk her father’s condemnation, her heart’s longing, and her very life to safeguard her queen.


2012 Release: The Queen's Lover by Francine du Plessix Gray

by Francine du Plessix Gray

Release Date:  June 14, 2012


The Queen’s Lover begins at a masquerade ball in Paris in 1774, when the dashing Swedish nobleman Count Axel von Fersen first meets the mesmerizing nineteen-year-old Dauphine, Marie Antoinette, wife of the shy, reclusive prince who will soon become Louis XVI. This electric encounter launches a lifelong romance that will span the course of the French Revolution.

The affair begins in friendship, however, and Fersen quickly becomes a devoted companion to the entire royal family. As he roams the halls of Versailles and visits the private haven of Le Petit Trianon, Fersen discovers the deepest secrets of the court, even learning the startling, erotic details of Marie Antoinette’s marriage to Louis XVI. But the events of the American Revolution tear Fersen away. Moved by the cause, he joins French troops in the fight for American independence. When he returns, he finds France on the brink of disintegration. After the Revolution of 1789 the royal family is moved from Versailles to the Tuileries. Fersen devises an escape for the family and their young children (Marie-Thérèse and the Dauphin—whom many suspect is in fact Fersen’s son). The failed attempt leads to a more grueling imprisonment, and the family spends its excruciating final days captive before the King and Queen meet the guillotine.

Grieving his lost love in his native Sweden, Fersen begins to sense the effects of the French Revolution in his homeland. Royalists are now targets, and the sensuous world of his youth is fast vanishing. Fersen is incapable of realizing that centuries of tradition have disappeared, and he pays dearly for his naïveté, losing his life at the hands of a savage mob that views him as a pivotal member of the aristocracy. Scion of Sweden’s most esteemed nobility, Fersen came to be seen as an enemy of the country he loved. His fate is symbolic of the violent speed with which the events of the eighteenth century transformed European culture. Expertly researched and deeply imagined, The Queen’s Lover is a fresh vision of the French Revolution and the French royal family as told through the love story that was at its center.

Shadows Walking Virtual Book Tour Starts Tomorrow!

Please join author Douglas R. Skopp as he tours with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for his novel, Shadows Walking, from November 7th - November 28th!

About Shadows Walking

Release Date: December 21, 2010
Paperback | 482 pages

SYNOPSIS: Johann Brenner, an idealistic physician and ardent German nationalist, has joined the Nazi Party and willingly participated in its  "crimes against humanity." His Jewish childhood friend, Philipp Stein, has also become a doctor. Their lives inevitably intersect until their last, fateful meeting.
After the war, Brenner, with stolen papers and a new name, has become a janitor in the courthouse where the Nuremberg Trials are being held. Hoping to "heal himself" and wishing to begin a new life with his estranged wife, he decides that he must write her a letter telling what he has done and why.

Brenner's letter sets the theme for each chapter of Shadows Walking. Through his letter, we see him admit his choices and their consequences as he slips deeper and deeper into the brutality of the Third Reich.

Click HERE to read the first chapter.

About Douglas R. Skopp

With an undergraduate degree from Dartmouth College and a master’s degree at Connecticut College, Doug began his career as a college professor in 1964 at Mitchell College in New London, Connecticut. After three years, he began doctoral studies in European History at Brown University. With a Social Science Research Council Award, Doug researched the history of German elementary education in the mid-nineteenth century. He began teaching at SUNY Plattsburgh in 1972 and received a doctorate from Brown in 1974. Retiring in 2006 from SUNY Plattsburgh with the rank of Distinguished University Teaching Professor of History, Doug taught all levels of history courses and received many awards, including the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and a Fulbright Senior Scholar/Teacher Award to study medical ethics and practices in Germany between 1880 and 1945. During his Fulbright year in Germany, Doug began the research which underpins his novel, Shadows Walking. In 1998, Doug was an inaugural Fellow in SUNY Plattsburgh’s Institute for Ethics and Public Life and, even though retired, he continues to assist in the Institute’s “guided inquiry” faculty seminars on ethics, ethical practices, and the curriculum, as well as serve as SUNY Plattsburgh’s College Historian.

Please visit Douglas R. Skopp @ WEBSITE | FACEBOOK PAGE | TWITTER


Shadows Walking Virtual Tour Schedule

Monday, November 7th
Review at Impressions in Ink

Thursday, November 10th
Review at Small World Reads

Monday, November 14th
Review at A Bookish Affair

Thursday, November 17th
Review at The Book Garden

Monday, November 21st
Author Interview at A Bookish Affair

Thursday, November 24th
Review at Confessions of a Book Hoarder

Monday, November 28th
Author Guest Post at Confessions of a Book Hoarder

*Follow the tour on Twitter at #ShadowsWalkingVirtualTour.

I hope to see everyone around the fabulous blogs we have on the tour!

2012 NF Release: The Deadly Sisterhood: Eight Princesses of the Italian Rennasaince by Leonie Frieda

by Leonie Frieda

Release Date:  April 12, 2012


The book is one of drama on a grand scale, a Renaissance epic, as Christendom emerged from the shadows of the calamitous 14th century. The sweeping tale involves inspired and corrupt monarchs, the finest thinkers, the most brilliant artists, and the greatest beauties in Christendom. Here are the stories of its most remarkable women, who are all joined by birth, marriage and friendship and who ruled for a time in place of their men-folk: Lucrezia Turnabuoni (Queen Mother of Florence, the power behind the Medici throne), Clarice Orsini (Roman princess, feudal wife), Beatrice d'Este (Golden Girl of the Renaissance), Caterina Sforza (Lioness of the Romagna), Isabella d'Este (the Acquisitive Marchesa), Giulia Farnese ('la bella', the family asset), Isabella d'Aragona (the Weeping Duchess) and Lucrezia Borgia (the Virtuous Fury). The men play a secondary role in this grand saga; whenever possible the action is seen through the eyes our heroines. These eight women experienced great riches, power and the warm smile of fortune, but they also knew banishment, poverty, the death of a husband or the loss of one or more of their children. As each of the chosen heroines comes to the fore in her turn, she is handed the baton by her 'sister' and Leonie Frieda recounts the role each woman played in the hundred-year drama that is THE DEADLY SISTERHOOD.

2012 NF Release: The King's Mistresses: The Liberated Lives of Marie Mancini, Princess Colonna, and her Sister Hortense, Duchess Mazarin by Elizabeth C. Goldsmith

by Elizabeth C. Goldsmith

Release Date: April 3, 2012


The little-known story of two spirited sisters who flaunted every social convention of 17th century Europe in their determination to live independently The Mancini sisters, Marie and Hortense, were born in Rome, brought to the court of Louis XIV of France at Versailles, and strategically married off by their uncle, Cardinal Mazarin, to secure his political power base. Such was the life of many young woman of the age: they had no independent status under the law, and were entirely a part of their husband's property once married. 

Marie and Hortense, however, had another lifestyle in mind altogether. Abandoning their husbands, they took to the road, using the brand new post coach service to ferry them across Europe. Hortense was a famous gambler, the women often dressed and passed as men, and their scandalous behavior became a sensation. 

Elizabeth Goldsmith has written a vibrant biography of two pioneering free spirits, feminists long before the term existed, who refused to be constrained by the morals, mores, and hypocrisies of their age. 

About the Author... 

Elizabeth C. Goldsmith is a professor of French and director of the study abroad curriculum at Boston University. She has written books on literature in the age of Louis XIV, focusing on letter correspondences and women's writing. She teaches courses on seventeenth-century theater and the novel, travel writing, and historical fiction. 


Guest Post by Gillian Bagwell, author of The September Queen

Dear readers, I am so pleased to bring you a guest post by author Gillian Bagwell in honor of her latest release, The September Queen, which hit stores today!  I read and reviewed The September Queen recently and thought it was just fabulous.  You can read my review HERE.

Happy Release Day, Gillian!  The floor is yours...

Riding Pillion

I was thrilled that when my agent sold my first novel, The Darling Strumpet, she also sold my second book, as yet unwritten, and I was very excited to have the opportunity to write the first fictional account of Jane Lane, an ordinary Staffordshire girl who risked her life to help the young Charles II escape after the Battle of Worcester on September 3, 1651. 

When I first read about Jane’s part in Charles’s adventures, I was intrigued by the references to her “riding pillion” with Charles. What did that mean? Even more confusing, some sources mentioned them riding on “a double horse” or “a double gelding.” What?! Can’t a horse only be gelded once? It was obvious that somehow Jane was riding behind Charles on a horse, but I had no idea how that would actually work, and since their long days riding together were a very important part of the story, I had to find out as much as I could. 

Jane and Charles, painted by Isaac Fuller
 I Googled “pillion” and “riding pillion,” hoping to find some useful images. What came up was pictures of motorcycles, with or without riders! Obviously the terminology that had once been applied to riding horses had been transferred to more modern forms of getting around. 

Pillion Saddle
As soon as I knew I was going to be writing the book, I embarked on a research trip to England, as some of the places associated with my story would be shortly closing for the winter, and traveling around England wouldn’t get any easier as it got colder, wetter, and darker. While my friend Alice Northgreaves and I were zooming around the countryside trying to follow the route that Jane Lane and Charles II had taken, we were making inquiries by email about pillions – and especially whether I might be able to get the chance to experience in person how Jane had ridden. 

My quest for information lit up email lists and organizations all over England and the U.S., as one helpful person referred us to someone else. We talked to museums, libraries, riding stables, sidesaddle associations, historical re-enactors, and equine experts and enthusiasts of every kind, and soon, we had quite a lot of very useful information, and some wonderful pictures. 

Pillion Saddle
 The word “pillion” comes from the Irish Gaelic word “pillin,” the diminutive of “pell,” meaning couch, pallet, or cushion. This is logical, as the earliest form of a pillion was a simple pad placed behind the saddle, so that two people could ride one horse. Eventually the structure became more elaborate, with the pillion strapped to the back of the saddle and secured under the horse’s tail by a crupper. The person riding pillion had to hold onto the rider in front (and sometimes such a rider work a special belt for that purpose) and/or the crupper strap. Some pillions had a specially built handhold. At some point – and definitely by the time Jane Lane was riding with Charles – pillions acquired a little shelf called a planchette which hung down on one side of the horse, for the feet of the person riding in back. It is thought that this whole arrangement was the basis for the design of the earliest sidesaddles. 

Riding pillion was a standard form of transportation for centuries, most frequently allowing a woman to ride behind a man. But Jim Myers, AKA Duke Eringlin of the Society for Creative Anachronism, also sent me some 13th century images of Knights Templar riding two on a horse, which they apparently did for reasons connected to vows of poverty, and a 14th century image of St. George and “a coffee bearer,” as he jocosely referred to the smaller male companion.
It would not have been very comfortable to ride pillion for a very long time and it would not have been practical to go at much more than a walk. 

According to Lynda Fjelman pillions are still used during festivals in Spain and Mexico today, but are just a pad without a footrest, on which the ladies sit sideways in their frilly dresses. The use of the pillion came to the Americas from Spain, and pillions were used in Spanish colonies in North and South America. 

Several equestrian people told me that they had occasionally ridden or observed other people doing what is now called “riding double,” i.e., having a second person perched on a horse behind the rider in the saddle. Though another way of having two people on one horse is to have the second person in front of the person in the saddle, none of the 16th and 17th century pictures I saw showed that arrangement. This is interesting, as Natalie Wooldrige told me “Most riding horses will have no issue with someone riding in front of the rider but I've seen them really come unglued when the person is sitting on their butt!” 

I never did get the chance to ride pillion myself. But from what I learned, it’s clear that Jane’s travels with Charles, when they were riding 30 miles or more a day, were probably quite uncomfortable, although perhaps the discomfort was tempered by the excitement of cozying up to the handsome young exiled king. 

Sources: Many people in the equestrian and historical reenactment communities, including the Society for Creative Anachronism, the Sidesaddle Association, and the American Sidesaddle Association, gallantly came to my aid. Natalie Wooldridge, known in the SCA as Lady Ariadne De Glevo, gave me lots of information about horse breeds, their gaits and speeds, how much ground a horse could travel in a day, etc., as well as riding pillion, and sent me a wonderful photo of Steve and Jean Emmit in beautiful period garb on a caparisoned horse, he astride and she riding pillion. Mike Glasson of the Walsall Leather Museum sent me some photos of pillions. Margie Beeson sent me information about and photos of pillions provided by Rhonda of the ASA. Others who helped along the way were archivist Sue Hurley of the Worshipful Company of Saddlers, Jeremy Smith at the Guildhall Library, Karol Kafka of California Aside, Stephanie Hutcherson at Georgia Ladies Aside, Melodee Spevak, VP Marti Friddle of the ASA, Jim Myers, Lynda Fjellman, Jane Pryor and Shirley Oultram of the SA, Jo Strange of Hazlemere in Surrey, Frances Dorrian, and King’s Saddlery in Walsall. Gillian Bagwell’s novel The September Queen, the first fictional account of Jane Lane, will be released on November 1. 

Please visit her website,, to read more about her books and read her blog Jane Lane and the Royal Miracle, which recounts her research adventures and the daily episodes in Charles’s flight to freedom.

About The September Queen...

SYNOPSIS: Charles II is running for his life-and into the arms of a woman who will risk all for king and country.

Jane Lane is of marrying age, but she longs for adventure. She has pushed every potential suitor away-even those who could provide everything for her. Then one day, adventure makes its way to her doorstep, and with it comes mortal danger...

Royalists fighting to restore the crown to King Charles II implore Jane to help. Jane must transport him to safety, disguised as a manservant. As she places herself in harm's way, she finds herself falling in love with the gallant young Charles. And despite his reputation as a breaker of hearts, Jane finds herself surrendering to a passion that will change her life forever.

About Gillian Bagwell...

Photo Credit: Brendan Elms
Gillian Bagwell grew up in Berkeley, California, and began her professional life as an actress, studying at the University of California Berkeley and the Drama Studio London at Berkeley before relocating to Los Angeles to pursue a career in film and television. She moved into directing and producing theatre, founding The Pasadena Shakespeare Company, where she served as artistic director for nine years, producing thirty-seven critically acclaimed productions.

She united her life-long love of books, British history, and theatre in writing her first novel, The Darling Strumpet, based on the life of Nell Gwynn. Her second novel, The September Queen, is the first fictional account of the perilous and romantic odyssey of Jane Lane, an ordinary English girl who risked her life to help the young Charles II escape after the disastrous Battle of Worcester in 1651 by disguising him as her servant. Gillian recently returned to Berkeley and is at work on her third novel, about the formidable four-times widowed Tudor dynast Bess of Hardwick.

For more information on Gillian and her novels, please visit her WEBSITE.  For more information on The September Queen, please visit the Jane Lane and the Royal Miracle Blog.

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