Review: Queen Defiant: A Novel of Eleanor of Aquitaine by Anne O'Brien

Publication Date:  June 7, 2011
NAL Trade


A riveting novel of Eleanor of Aquitaine's early adult years from the author of The Virgin Widow.

Orphaned at a young age, Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine, seeks a strong husband to keep her hold on the vast lands that have made her the most powerful heiress in Europe. But her arranged marriage to Louis VII, King of France, is made disastrous by Louis's weakness of will and fanatical devotion to the Church. Eleanor defies her husband by risking her life on an adventurous Crusade, and even challenges the Pope himself. And in young, brilliant, mercurial Henry d'Anjou, she finds her soul mate-the one man who is audacious enough to claim her for his own and make her Queen of England.


Eleanor of Aquitaine seems to be the historical “it” girl of 2011 and adding to the bevy of books on her is Anne O’Brien’s novel, Queen Defiant. This is truly one of the reasons why I love the historical fiction genre: you can read so many varied books on any one person and they all bring something new to the table.

In Queen Defiant, O’Brien chronicles Eleanor’s life from the death of her father, through her time as Queen of France and her unhappy marriage to the ineffectual and overly-pious King Louis. I have mixed emotions about this book, while Eleanor is portrayed as a strong- willed and determined woman, which I have always seen her as, at times she comes off a bit too haughty and kind of bitchy, which didn’t do much to endear her to me. I envision my Eleanor as a bit more subtle, and she’s definitely more outspoken here than I’ve seen her in other novels, though there were scenes that warranted it. That Louis could be so maddening! Louis’ character was pretty spot on from what I’ve read of him previously, though his piousness is taken to a whole new level. The fact that Eleanor managed to produce two children from this marriage seems to no less than a miracle and a testament to her tenacity.

Like any famous person, Eleanor has her share of rumors and scandals surrounding her and in Queen Defiant there is no shortage of drama! Not being a scholar on Eleanor I couldn’t tell you whether or not any of these are true, but they were interesting to read about to say the least! One little qualm I had with this book was that I wished there had been more of a setting up of the scenes; it seemed that the characters were here and then they were there and it made the read a little disjointed in my opinion.

But, all in all I enjoyed the new perspective of Eleanor. Her story is one that I will never tire of and if you’re like me then I suggest you check out Anne O’Brien’s novel, Queen Defiant!


Anne O'Brien was born in the West Riding of Yorkshire. After gaining a B.A. Honours degree in History at Manchester University and a Masters degree in education at Hull, she lived in the East Riding as a teacher of history. Always a prolific reader, she enjoyed historical fiction and was encouraged to try her hand at writing. Success in short story competitions spurred her on.

Leaving teaching - but not her love of history - she wrote her first historical romance, a Regency, which was published in 2005. To date nine historical romances and a novella, ranging from medieval, through the Civil War and Restoration and back to Regency, have been published internationally.

Anne now lives with her husband in an eighteenth century timber-framed cottage in the depths of the Welsh Marches in Herefordshire, a wild, beautiful place on the borders between England and Wales, renowned for its black and white timbered houses, ruined castles and priories and magnificent churches. Steeped in history, famous people and bloody deeds as well as ghosts and folk lore, it has given her inspiration for her writing. Since living there she has become hooked on medieval history.

Virgin Widow, published in 2010 was Anne's first novel based on the life of an historical character, Anne Neville. Her second novel, the early life of Eleanor of Aquitaine will be published in the UK in May 2011 as Devil's Consort and in the USA in June as Queen Defiant.  She is now working on the scandalous life of Alice Perrers, mistress of King Edward III.  A woman who broke all the rules.

For more information please visit Anne O'Brien's WEBSITE.


Win all 4 books in Tony Hays' Arthurian mystery series!

Thanks to the generosity of author Tony Hays Passages to the Past has all four of his Arthurian mystery novels up for grabs!  The series consists of The Killing Way, The Divine Sacrifice and The Beloved Dead, which were released to fabulous reviews. The fourth novel, The Stolen Bride will be out in April 2012.

The lucky giveaway winner will win the following:

The Killing Way (hardcover)
The Divine Sacrifice (paperback)
The Beloved Dead (hardcover)
The Stolen Bride - an advance reading copy will be sent once they are available in November

About the books...

It is the time of Arthur, but this is not his storied epic. Arthur is a young and powerful warrior who some would say stands on the brink of legend. Britain’s leaders have come to elect a new supreme king, and Arthur is favored. But when a young woman is brutally murdered and the blame is placed at Merlin’s feet, Arthur’s reputation is at stake and his enemies are poised to strike. Arthur turns to Malgwyn ap Cuneglas, a man whose knowledge of battle and keen insight into how the human mind works has helped Arthur come to the brink of kingship. 

Malgwyn is also the man who hates Arthur most in the world.

After the death of Malgwyn's wife by Saxon hands, he became Mad Malgwyn, killer of Saxons and right-hand lieutenant to the warrior Arthur. Right hand, that is, until a Saxon cut his sword arm off and left him to die on the battlefield. Arthur rescued him. Now a one-armed scribe and a heavy drinker, Malgwyn rejects the half-life that his liege gave him. But loyalty is sometimes stronger than loathing…and Malgwyn is pulled toward a puzzle that he can’t walk away from.

Think CSI: Medieval: gritty, powerful, and with the true ring of historical perspective and a character who sees more than those around him. The Killing Way is the first in a mystery series that is sure to be a hit with both mystery readers and historical fans alike. 

The Divine Sacrifice continues the story of King Arthur's conselor, Malgwyn ap Cuneglas, a solider who lost his arm in battle. 

Arthur and Malgwyn are called to the abbey of Glastonbury to settle a matter of great political importance—tin is being mined for export to the Empire.  While there, Malgwyn and Arthur meet St. Patrick, a legend in the Church who is there on a mission of his own, to root out the heresy of Pelagius.

When an aged monk is found cruelly murdered in his cell, Malgwyn is set with a problem that will test his skills as an investigator.  His search for the truth may uncover a conspiracy that could endanger the kingdom.

Gritty and powerful with a true ring of historical perspective, and a character who sees more than those around him, The Divine Sacrifice is a historical mystery that will hook mystery readers and historical fans alike.

Malgwyn ap Cuneglas was one of King Arthur’s earliest companions and now is his most trusted counselor.  Despite the malice of his enemies, who fear Arthur’s power, and the machinations of the still powerful druids who mightily resist him, Malgwyn knows that Arthur will stop at nothing in his efforts to lead his people to Christ and help to bring civil law and justice to a people who have known little such.

To consolidate his power, Arthur decides that it is time to take a noble wife.  But in this Malgwyn knows not only his lord’s ambition but his personal grief, because in order to take a queen Arthur must set aside his love Guinevere, because he believes that the scandal surrounding their affair has tainted her for the crown.  

Malgwyn is sent north to fetch the young woman who is to be Arthur’s bride.  The way is fraught with tension and disaster for there are forces who would not see the king wed.  When Malgwyn discovers a string of killings involving young virginal women who are slaughtered in a horrific manner—not unlike a ritual sacrifice—he is left with a question that he must answer quickly.  

Are these murders portents of the gods taking vengeance on the intrusion of a new faith? 
Or mortal men plotting to unseat the king?

A murdered king, his young and defenseless widow, and the fate of all of Britain are in the hands of a one-armed scribe Malgwyn ap Cuneglas is counselor to Arthur, High King of the Britons. When he accompanies his liege to the West to broker a deal between warring tribes, they come across a scene of utmost depravity and murder to sicken even the most battle-hardened warrior. Things don’t get any better when they finally arrive at their destination to discover that King Dogel is
fighting to keep his kingdom safe from both Saxons from abroad and younger nobles vying for power. Dogel loses that fight when shortly after Arthur and his counselor arrive, he is murdered. His young wife, defenseless and alone, appeals to Arthur to find her husband’s killer. Arthur agrees and Malgwyn is given this almost impossible task.

Why is Arthur so interested in keeping this small region stable and under the High King’s influence? Perhaps because Dogel’s people had discovered caves that might contain huge veins of gold….

The Stolen Bride is the next masterpiece in Tony Hay’s critically acclaimed Arthurian mystery series.

For more information please visit Tony Hays' WEBSITE

About Tony Hays...

As an active member of Mystery Writers of America and the Appalachian Writer's Association, Tony is the author of  seven novels, six historical mysteries and a contemporary satire, The Trouble With Patriots, set in the Middle East and released in 2002 by Bridge Works Press. It has now been optioned for film. His first novel, Murder on the Twelfth Night, was nominated for the Tennessee Volunteer Book Award.

The first three volumes in his Dark Ages mysteries, The Killing Way, The Divine Sacrifice and The Beloved Dead, have met with wide acclaim, each receiving starred reviews from both Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly and glowing praise from Booklist, Kirkus, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, the Historical Novel Society Book Review, and many more.  

Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine named The Divine Sacrifice one of the best new mysteries of 2010.  Publisher’s Weekly has called Tony one of the best authors in the medieval field today.

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 INTERNATIONALLY!
- 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 August 5th.

Good luck to all!


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 was originally hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page and now located here, but is now a traveling meme and for the month of July your new host for MM will be Gwen @ A Sea of Books.

Bonjour, dear readers and welcome to yet another edition of Mailbox Monday!  I have two new books that I received for review and both look particularly enticing!

by Gabrielle Kimm

Release Date:  October 1, 2011


The chilling story of Lucrezia de Medici, duchess to Alfonso d'Este, His Last Duchess paints a portrait of a lonely young girl and her marriage to an inscrutable duke. Lucrezia longs for love, Alfonso desperately needs an heir, and in a true story of lust and dark decadence, the dramatic fireworks the marriage kindles threaten to destroy the duke's entire inheritance–and Lucrezia's future. His Last Duchess gorgeously brings to life the passions and people of sixteenth-century Tuscany and Ferrara.

by Jane Aiken Hodge

Release Date:  August 1, 2011


An internationally bestselling phenomenon and queen of the Regency romance, Georgette Heyer is one of the most beloved historical novelists of our time.  She wrote more than 50 novels, yet her private life was inaccessible to any but her nearest friends and relatives.

Lavishly illustrated, and with access to private papers, correspondence and family archives, this classic biography opens a window into Georgette Heyer's world and that of her most memorable characters, revealing a formidable, energetic woman with an impeccable sense of style and, beyond everything, a love for all things Regency.

Well, that's my mailbox...what about yours?


Review: Elizabeth I in Film and Television by Bethany Latham

by Bethany Latham

Publication Date: April 27, 2011
McFarland Publishing


This analysis of how filmmakers have portrayed England's Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603), and the audience's perception of Elizabeth based upon these portrayals, examines key representations of the Tudor monarch in various motion pictures and television miniseries. It appraises of the productions themselves and the actresses who have portrayed Elizabeth, among them Bette Davis, Glenda Jackson, Vanessa Redgrave, Judy Dench, Cate Blanchett and Helen Mirren, as well as Quentin Crisp's cross-dressing appearance as the Queen in Orlando (1992). The text focuses on the historical context of the period in which each film or miniseries was made; the extent of the portrayals of Elizabeth; and how these representations have influenced the characterization of Elizabeth on film, as well as popular understanding of the historical Queen.


In my quest to gobble up anything related to Queen Elizabeth I, I jumped at the chance to further my obsession and check out Bethany Latham’s book, Elizabeth I in Film and Television: A Study of the Major Portrayals.

From the first film to feature Elizabeth, the silent movie Les Amours de la Reine Elisabeth with the Divine Sarah Bernhardt portraying the famed monarch to the more recent Elizabeth: The Golden Age, with the stunning Cate Blanchett as the Virgin Queen, Latham covers the map of Elizabeth portrayals. Elizabeth I in Film and Television explores the major Hollywood productions, television mini-series and even a few of the smaller roles, such as Judi Dench in Shakespeare in Love and Tim Burtons’ Alice in Wonderland.

Readers are given a back-stage pass and a behind the scenes look at each work. Bethany delves into the actress portraying Elizabeth, the historical accuracy of the film, status of the film industry, entertainment factor, people’s sentiments of Elizabeth at the time of production, picture making capabilities of the day, and the director’s vision/purpose of the movie. I was seriously impressed by the amount of research and at how thorough and in-depth her analysis was and have since began a mission to watch every movie covered in the book. For a non-fiction work I can tell you that this did not read dry at all! I had an inkling that I would enjoy the read, but I was quite surprised on how absorbed I became in it and not only because of Elizabeth, but even learning about the actresses, directors, the film industry in general and the history of picture making was fascinating!

So for those of you like Bethany and me, who continue to still be fascinated by Elizabeth and share a love of historical & period films, you will not want to miss this excellent read!


Bethany Latham is an associate professor and electronic resources/documents librarian at Jacksonville State University in Alabama.  Her articles have appeared in such publications as Reference Reviews and Library Journal.  She is the managing editor of The Historical Novels Review.


giveaway winners!

Hello all!  It's time to announce some lucky giveaway winners!  

Please help me in congratulating the following...

The winners of Before Versailles: A Novel of Louis XIV by Karleen Koen are...

Jessica M & Anna Amber

The winner of Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman is...


The winner of the Sea Witch Voyages Tour by Helen Hollick is...

Terry (choice of book: Sea Witch)

The winners of For the King by Catherine Delors are...

Carine de Vos & Emma

Emails have been sent to all winners.  A huge thanks to the publishers for providing the giveaway copies and to all who entered and helped spread the word!


Win a hardcover copy of The Lady of the Butterflies by Fiona Mountain

Hello dear readers!  I recently had the delight of reading Fiona Mountain's novel Lady of the Butterflies and I loved it so much that I picked up a copy to give away to one of my lucky readers to spread the love!

About Lady of the Butterflies


They say I'm mad and perhaps it's true. 

It is well known that lust brings madness and desperation and ruin. But upon my oath, I never meant any harm. All I wanted was to be happy, to love and to be loved in return, and for my life to count for something. 

That is not madness, is it?

So begins the story of Eleanor Glanville, the beautiful daughter of a seventeenth-century Puritan nobleman whose unconventional passions scandalized society. When butterflies were believed to be the souls of the dead, Eleanor's scientific study of them made her little better than a witch. But her life-set against a backdrop of war, betrayal, and sexual obsession-was that of a woman far ahead of her time. 
You can read my review HERE.

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 entries 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 July 27th.



Virtual Book Tour for EROMENOS by Melanie McDonald starts TODAY!

The Virtual Book Tour for EROMENOS by Melanie McDonald starts today!  Please join Melanie as she travels the blogosphere from July 18th - September 26th.

Eromenos Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Monday, July 18th

Author Guest Post at C.W. Gortner's Historical Boys

Thursday, July 21st

Monday, July 25th

Author Guest Post at Christy English's A Writer's Life: Working with the Muse
Review at Unabridged Chick

Friday, July 29th

Monday, August 1st

Author Interview at Unabridged Chick

Thursday, August 4th

Review at Bibrary Bookslut

Monday, August 8th

Thursday, August 11th

Review at Bonjour, Cass

Monday, August 15th

Thursday, August 18th

Author Guest Post at The Musings of a Book Junkie

Monday, August 22nd

Thursday, August 25th

Review at Broken Teepee

Monday, August 29th

Review at The Book Garden

Thursday, September 1st

Author Guest Post at One Book Shy of a Full Shelf

Monday, September 5th

Author Guest Post at The True Book Addict

Thursday, September 8th

Thursday, September 15th

Review at A Bookish Affair

Monday, September 19th

Wednesday, September 21st

Author Interview at Historical Fiction Obsession

Friday, September 23rd

Review at Rundpinne

Monday, September 26th

Review at Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell

About Eromenos


Eros and Thanatos converge in the story of a glorious youth, an untimely death, and an imperial love affair that gives rise to the last pagan god of antiquity. In this coming-of-age novel set in the second century AD, Antinous of Bithynia, a Greek youth from Asia Minor, recounts his seven-year affair with Hadrian, fourteenth emperor of Rome. In a partnership more intimate than Hadrian's sanctioned political marriage to Sabina, Antinous captivates the most powerful ruler on earth both in life and after death.

This version of the affair between the emperor and his beloved ephebe vindicates the youth scorned by early Christian church fathers as a "shameless and scandalous boy" and "sordid and loathsome instrument of his master's lust." EROMENOS envisions the personal history of the young man who achieved apotheosis as a pagan god of antiquity, whose cult of worship lasted for hundreds of years far longer than the cult of the emperor Hadrian.

In EROMENOS, the young man Antinous, whose beautiful image still may be found in museums around the world, finds a voice of his own at last.

Publication Date:  March 11, 2011
Publisher:  Seriously Good Books
176 pages

Read Excerpt HERE.

Praise for Eromenos

What is the nature of love? Of control? These big questions without easy answers are the heart of the book, as we watch Antinous come to his own conclusions about both.

No one knows what happened to the real Antinous. All that is known is that he drowned in the Nile and then Hadrian deified him. McDonald has given us the imaginary voice of a young man whose image has been immortalized in busts and sculptures, a young man who may very well have been as haunted as his death is mysterious.

--FOREWORD review

Intelligent, deeply-felt historical fiction like Eromenos is rare enough even in this new golden age of the genre. McDonald has honed her narrative until every phrase glitters. The machinations of other court favorites, the richly-detailed period atmosphere, the wary yet compulsive attraction between the emperor and Antinous all are so richly and intelligently evoked that readers are swept along, forgetting that they already know how this particular story turns out. Eromenos is one of the finest historical novels I've read in many years. Readers are urged not to miss it.

--Historical Novel Society Online Review, May 2011

About Melanie McDonald

Melanie McDonald was awarded a 2008 Hawthornden Fellowship for Eromenos and was a finalist at the 2011 Next Generation Indie Book Awards.

She has an MFA from the University of Arkansas. Her short stories have appeared in New York Stories, Fugue, Indigenous Fiction, and online. An Arkansas native whose Campbell ancestors were Highland Scots, she now lives in Virginia with her husband, Kevin McDonald, the author of Above the Clouds: Managing Risk in the World of Cloud Computing.

For more information, please visit Melanie McDonald's WEBSITE.


Mailbox Monday (Birthday Edition)

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 was originally hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page and now located here, but is now a traveling meme and for the month of July your new host for MM will be Gwen @ A Sea of Books.

Hey all, welcome to another edition of Mailbox Monday!  Boy have I got some fabulous new additions to my bookshelves to tell you all about.  This past Friday was my birthday and then Saturday was my husband's birthday, so it was a prolonged weekend celebration :)  I received some gift cards and picked up some books that have been on my wishlist and also included are books that were sent to me for review.

Let's start with the review copies first...

The Wild Rose (The Tea Rose #3)
by Jennifer Donnelly

Release Date: August 2, 2011
Acquired via: Hyperion Publishing


The Wild Rose is a part of the sweeping, multi-generational saga that began with The Tea Rose and continued with The Winter Rose

It is London, 1914. World War I looms on the horizon, women are fighting for the right to vote, and explorers are pushing the limits of endurance in the most forbidding corners of the earth. Into this volatile time, Jennifer Donnelly places her vivid and memorable characters:

--Willa Alden, a passionate mountain climber who lost her leg while summiting Kilimanjaro with Seamus Finnegan, and who will never forgive him for saving her life;

--Seamus Finnegan, a polar explorer who tries to forget Willa as he marries a beautiful young schoolteacher back home in England

--Max von Brandt, a handsome German sophisticate who courts high society women, but has a secret agenda in wartime London. 

Many other beloved characters from The Winter Rose continue their adventures in The Wild Rose as well. With myriad twists and turns, thrilling cliffhangers, and fabulous period detail and atmosphere, The Wild Rose provides a highly satisfying conclusion to an unforgettable trilogy.

by Juliet Grey

Release Date: August 9, 2011
Acquired via: Random House


This enthralling confection of a novel, the first in a new trilogy, follows the transformation of a coddled Austrian archduchess into the reckless, powerful, beautiful queen Marie Antoinette.

Why must it be me? I wondered. When I am so clearly inadequate to my destiny?

Raised alongside her numerous brothers and sisters by the formidable empress of Austria, ten-year-old Maria Antonia knew that her idyllic existence would one day be sacrificed to her mother’s political ambitions. What she never anticipated was that the day in question would come so soon.

Before she can journey from sunlit picnics with her sisters in Vienna to the glitter, glamour, and gossip of Versailles, Antonia must change everything about herself in order to be accepted as dauphine of France and the wife of the awkward teenage boy who will one day be Louis XVI. Yet nothing can prepare her for the ingenuity and influence it will take to become queen.

Filled with smart history, treacherous rivalries, lavish clothes, and sparkling jewels, Becoming Marie Antoinette will utterly captivate fiction and history lovers alike.

by Victoria Grossack and Alice Underwood

Publication Date: December 5, 2010
Acquired via: Victoria Grossack


Young and beautiful, born to a powerful family, Jocasta is destined to become Queen of Thebes... trapped in a loveless marriage, she cannot save her firstborn child from her husband's wrath... left alone on the throne after her husband's death, she must contend with the dangerous Sphinx and contrive a plan to protect her city...charmed by a foreign prince, she does not know she is falling in love with her own son... A vibrant tale set in Bronze Age Greece, Jocasta has garnered rave reviews from university faculty, publications such as Historical Novels Reviews Online, and numerous readers. A Greek-language version of Jocasta was released by Kedros Publishers of Athens in 2006.

by Carolly Erickson

Release Date: August 2, 2011
Acquired via: St. Martin's Griffin


From the New York Times bestselling author of The Last Wife of Henry VIII comes a novel about the bitter rivalry between Queen Elizabeth I and her fascinating cousin, Lettice Knollys, for the love of one extraordinary man. 

Powerful and dramatic, this is the story of the only woman to ever stand up to the Virgin Queen—her own cousin, Lettice Knollys. Far more attractive than the queen, Lettice soon won the attention of the handsome and ambitious Robert Dudley, a man so enamored of the queen and determined to share her throne that it was rumored he had murdered his own wife in order to become her royal consort. The enigmatic Elizabeth allowed Dudley into her heart, and relied on his devoted service, but shied away from the personal and political risks of marriage.

When Elizabeth discovered that he had married her cousin Lettice in secret, Lettice would pay a terrible price, fighting to keep her husband’s love and ultimately losing her beloved son to the queen’s headsman.

This is the unforgettable story of two women related by blood, yet destined to clash over one of Tudor England’s most charismatic men.
by Angus McDonald

Release Date: August 2, 2011
Acquired via: St. Martin's Griffin


After the events of Outlaw, Robin of Locksley—and his sidekick and narrator, Alan Dale—finds himself in a very different England and a very changed world.
In 1190 A.D. Richard the Lionheart, the new King of England, has launched his epic crusade to seize Jerusalem from the Saracens. Marching with the vast royal army is Britain’s most famous, most feared, most ferocious warrior: the Outlaw of Nottingham, the Earl of Locksley—Robin Hood himself. With his band of loyal men at his side, Robin cuts a bloody swath on the brutal journey east. Daring and dangerous, he can outwit and outlast any foe—but the battlefields of the Holy Land are the ultimate proving ground. And within Robin’s camp lurks a traitor—a hidden enemy determined to assassinate England’s most dangerous rogue. 
Richly imagined and furiously paced, featuring a cast of unforgettable characters, Holy Warrior is adventure, history and legend at its finest.

And now for the birthday books...

by Barbara Erskine

Publication Date: July 1, 2011


Past and present collide in richly mysterious Egypt, where recently divorced Anna Coburn is retracing a journey her great grandmother Louisa made in the 19th century. Cruising down the Nile from Luxor to the Valley of the Kings, Anna carries with her two mementos: an ancient Egyptian scent bottle, and the diary of that original Nile voyage, which has lain unread for a hundred years. As she follows Louisa's footsteps, Anna discovers both the chilling secret of the bottle and the terrifying specters that pursued her great grandmother.
by Winston Graham 

Publication Date: November 1, 2009


A gorgeous new release of the heartwarming and hilarious first novel in the Poldark series, the subject of the landmark BBC series.
Ross Poldark is a heartwarming, gripping, and utterly entertaining saga that brings to life an unforgettable cast of characters and one of the greatest love stories of our age.
Ross Poldark returns to Cornwall from war, looking forward to a joyful homecoming with his family and his beloved Elizabeth. But instead he discovers that his father has died, his home is overrun by livestock and drunken servants, and Elizabeth, having believed Ross dead, is now engaged to his cousin. Ross must start over, building a completely new path for his life, one that takes him in exciting and unexpected directions…

Thus begins an intricately plotted story spanning loves, lives, and generations. The Poldark series is the masterwork of Winston Graham, who evoked the period and people like only he could, and created a world of rich and poor, loss and love, that readers will not soon forget.

Demelza: A Novel of Cornwall, 1788-1790 (Poldark #2)
by Winston Graham

Publication Date: June 1, 2010


The second novel in the Poldark series, Demelza is a heartwarming, gripping, and utterly entertaining saga that brings to life an unforgettable cast of characters and one of the greatest love stories of our age.

Demelza Carne, the impoverished miner's daughter that Ross Poldark rescued from a fairground brawl, is now his wife. But the events of these turbulent years test their marriage and their love. Ross begins a bitter struggle for the right of the mining communities—and sows the seeds of an enduring rivalry with powerful George Warleggan. All the while, Demelza's efforts to adapt to the ways of the gentry—and her husband—place her in hilarious and embarrassing situations. But the birth of her first child bring a joy she never experienced before…

Jeremy Poldark: A Novel of Cornwall, 1790-1791 (Poldark #3)
by Winston Graham

Publication Date: November 1, 2010


Ross Poldark faces the darkest hour of his life in this third novel of the Poldark series. Reeling from the tragic death of a loved one, Captain Poldark vents his grief by inciting impoverished locals to salvage the contents of a ship run aground in a storm-an act for which British law proscribes death by hanging. Ross is brought to trial for his involvement, and despite their stormy marriage, Demelza tries to rally support for her husband, to save him and their family.

But there are enemies in plenty who would be happy to see Ross convicted, not the least of which is George Warleggan, the powerful banker whose personal rivalry with Ross grows ever more intense and threatens to destroy the Poldarks.

And into this setting, Jeremy Poldark, Ross and Demelza's first son, is born...

The Poldark series is the masterwork of Winston Graham's lifework, evoking the period and people like only he can and creating a work of rich and poor, loss and love, that you will not soon forget.

The Rose of Martinique: A Life of Napoleon's Josephine
by Andrea Stuart

Publication Date: May 10, 2005


One of the most remarkable women of the modern era, Josephine Bonaparte was born Rose de Tasher on her family's sugar plantation in Martinique. She embodied all the characteristics of a true Creole-sensuality, vivacity, and willfulness. Using diaries and letters, Andrea Stuart expertly re-creates Josephine's whirlwind of a life, which began with an isolated Caribbean childhood and led to a marriage that would usher her onto the world stage and crown her empress of France.

Josephine managed to be in the forefront of every important episode of her era's turbulent history: from the rise of the West Indian slave plantations that bankrolled Europe's rapid economic development, to the decaying of the ancien régime, to the French Revolution itself, from which she barely escaped the guillotine.

Rescued from near starvation, she grew to epitomize the wild decadence of post-revolutionary Paris. It was there that Josephine first caught the eye of Napoleon Bonaparte. A true partner to Napoleon, she was equal parts political adviser, hostess par excellence, confidante, and passionate lover. In this captivating biography, Stuart brings her so utterly to life that we finally understand why Napoleon's last word before dying was the name he had given her: Josephine.

Well, that's my mailbox...what did you get in yours?


Review: Lady of the Butterflies by Fiona Mountain

by Fiona Mountain

Paperback Release Date:  July 5, 2011
Berkley Trade


They say I'm mad and perhaps it's true. 

It is well known that lust brings madness and desperation and ruin. But upon my oath, I never meant any harm. All I wanted was to be happy, to love and to be loved in return, and for my life to count for something. 

That is not madness, is it?

So begins the story of Eleanor Glanville, the beautiful daughter of a seventeenth-century Puritan nobleman whose unconventional passions scandalized society. Still known as one of the great natural scientists of her age, Eleanor was a woman ahead of her time.  But her life was marked by two reckless preoccupations: a fascination with science - especially the study of butterflies - and a tempestuous love affair with the dashing soldier Richard Glanville that nearly cost her everything she held dear.


In Lady of the Butterflies, author Fiona Mountain tackles the life of the spirited and tenacious Eleanor Glanville. Known today as one of the pioneer entomologists of the 17th century, Eleanor was an anomaly among the women of her day and her personal life was no less captivating.

Raised by her staunch Puritan father after the death of her mother and sister, Eleanor’s childhood was sheltered and lonely. For a child whose very soul craved fresh air, freedom and nature, she found it difficult to adhere to the restrictions of her father’s religion. Though education was for boys, Eleanor’s father encouraged her studies in nature, especially her love of butterflies, as to him they were a sign from God of hope and eternal life. Not everyone appreciated Eleanor’s inquisitive nature, though and townspeople were sure she was a little touched in the head. After all, this was the 17th century and superstition rampant in small towns, with many still believing that butterflies are souls of the undead and to study them is akin to witchcraft.

Through love, passion, heartache and diversity, readers follow Eleanor through her life as a mother, wife, lover and scientist. At the soul of the novel, is Eleanor’s passionate love affair with the devastatingly charming Richard Glanville. With all its beautiful complexities and layers, I was entranced by the intensity of their relationship.

A mix of historical fact and the author’s imagination, Lady of the Butterflies is an elegantly written novel that kept me up til all hours of the night and had me utterly gripped from page one. I have since added her other books to my wishlist and will be recommending this novel to everyone I know! Never again will I look at butterflies without thinking of the extraordinary Eleanor Glanville.


2012 Release: At the Mercy of the Queen: A Novel of Anne Boleyn by Anne Clinard Barnhill

by Anne Clinard Barnhill

Release Date: January 3, 2012


A sweeping tale of sexual seduction and intrigue at the court of Henry VIII, At the Mercy of the Queen is a rich and dramatic debut historical novel about Madge Shelton, cousin and lady-in-waiting to Anne Boleyn.

At the innocent age of fifteen, Lady Margaret Shelton arrives at the court of Henry VIII and quickly becomes the confidante of her cousin, Queen Anne Boleyn. But she soon finds herself drawn into the perilous web of Anne’s ambition.

Desperate to hold onto the king’s waning affection, Anne schemes to have him take her guileless young cousin as mistress, ensuring her husband’s new paramour will owe her loyalty to the queen. But Margaret has fallen deeply in love with a handsome young courtier. She is faced with a terrible dilemma: give herself to the king and betray the love of her life or refuse to become his mistress and jeopardize the life of the her cousin, Queen Anne.

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