I'm pleased to announce the winner of the lovely 18th century stationary set (pictured below) being offered as part of the virtual tour for Christine Blevin's latest release, The Turning of Anne Merrick.
And the winner is (selected using random.org):
Congratulations, Margaret. I'll be sending you an email to collect your mailing details. Thanks to everyone who stopped by for the guest post and giveaway.
are the Pendragon, rightful Lord of Dumnonia and the Summer Land; Lord
of less Britain. By all that is right, you ought be seated where
Vortigern sits... You ought to be King."
Here lies the truth of the Lord of the Summer Land.
is the tale of Arthur flesh and bone. Of the shaping of the man, both
courageous and flawed, into the celebrated ruler who inspired armies,
who captured Gwenhyfar's heart, and who emerged as the hero of the
Dark Ages and the most enduring hero of all time.
This is the unexpected story of the making of a king - the legend who united all of Britain.
Book One of the Pendragon Banner Trilogy
Synopsis courtesy of chapters.indigo.ca
The first novel in English author Helen Hollick's Pendragon Banner trilogy, The Kingmaking follows the life of Arthur Pendragon from his early teenage years to his ascension to the throne of Britain. This Arthurian tale, however, differs significantly from the legend with which most readers are familiar. Prominent Arthurian figures such as Merlin and Lancelot have been excluded, there is no round table, and chivalrous is definitely not a word used to describe the Arthur Pendragon of The Kingmaking. Rather than being set in an age and place of magic and mysticism, Hollick's story is planted firmly in 5th century Britain during the Dark Ages, a violent period in British history.
Full of the rich historical detail that is the hallmark of the other Helen Hollick novels I've read, it is evident that a significant amount of research went into the preparation of The Kingmaking. As a result, Hollick makes what is known of fifth century Britain come alive for the reader. The novel's greatest strength is that the life and times of this King Arthur are presented in such a way as to lend the greatest credibility to the legend. Devoid of the fantastical elements (e.g., magic, sorcery, etc) found in most other Arthurian writings, The Kingmaking is an entirely plausible story. Nevertheless, I found this Arthur uninspiring and even, at times, unlikeable. There is a hardness to his character that, while probably necessary to be a successful leader during such a ruthless era, made it difficult for me to connect with him. As a result of this, his love affair with Gwynyfar, a character I did like, didn't resonate with me throughout most of the novel and I never understood what it was about Arthur that Gwynyfar was drawn to. While I had difficulty connecting with Arthur himself, the novel's secondary characters are well drawn and intriguing, even those, such as Arthur's loyal companion Kay, who aren't featured prominently in the story. I especially enjoyed Hollick's depiction of the story's female antagonists, Morgause and Winnifred, and look forward to finding out what life holds for them in book two.
Overall, The Kingmaking is a worthwhile read, especially for readers interested in Arthurian legend or Dark Age Britain. While I had issues with the Arthur portrayed in this novel, the overall story and characters kept me turning the pages wanting to find out what was next. I look forward to reading the next installment in the Pendragon Banner trilogy.
Arthur's story continues in Pendragon's Banner.
Note: This book comes from my own personal collection.
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and Bookish. This meme features a different top 10 list every week.
This week's topic:
Top Ten Books I'd Quickly Save If My House Was Going To Be Abducted By Aliens (or any other natural disaster...you get the drift. )
(1 and 2) Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows (Special Edition) and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Special Edition) by J.K. Rowling. I have the Bloomsbury Special Edition Hardcover editions of all the HP books. I'd try to save them all, but if I couldn't I'd at least save the final two books.
(3) The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling (Collector's Edition).
(4) Persuasion by Jane Austen. My Folio Society edition of this novel is a definite must save.
(5) The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman. One of my two favourite works of historical fiction. This is a book I can read over and over again.
(6) Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. The second of my two favourite works of historical fiction.
(7) War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. I'd be forced to read it this way.
(8 and 9) Mariana and The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley. Two of my all-time favourites novels.
(10) My Kindle. This isn't as big of a cheat as it appears as most of my books are still in paper form.
Another week, another Mailbox Monday! This weekly meme, which allows
bloggers to share the books that arrived in their home over the previous
week, is being hosted during the month of February by Metro Reader.
Received for Review
To Have and To Hold by Mary Johnston
Virginia Company, Jamestown, 1621. The once struggling colony is now thriving, and the arrival of a ship full of potential brides has all the single men rushing to put on their best and meet the ladies in hopes of finding wives. Captain Ralph Percy, hardened soldier, gentleman farmer, and avowed bachelor, watches from the sidelines, marveling as his comrades make fools of themselves over the women. He has no need of a wife and can’t understand the sense in asking a perfect stranger to marry him . . . until he catches sight of Jocelyn Leigh.
Struck by her uncommon beauty, quiet grace, and regal bearing, he wonders why a woman such as she would need to brave the sea voyage and the wilds of the new world to find a husband. And then he finds himself doing the unthinkable, asking for her hand in marriage before another man can snatch her up! But he was right to suspect that Jocelyn was not as she seemed, and he soon discovers that his new wife fled England in a desperate attempt to escape an arranged marriage. Ralph vows to protect her, not knowing how soon he will be called upon to do so, or how dangerous it will be to him.
Jocelyn’s jilted fiancée is coming to find her, and when Lord Carnal lands at Jamestown, he brings dubious tidings. A handsome lord with the wealth and power of the king at his disposal, he informs Ralph that he has married a ward of the king without the king’s permission, a treasonous offense. But all will be well—all Ralph has to do is hand her over and Lord Carnal will sail away with her as though nothing ever happened. But if Ralph does not comply, he is to be clapped in irons and bound for England and the Tower, and Lord Carnal will take Jocelyn by force. The choice seems clear enough—who is Captain Ralph Percy to go against the King’s orders? But one look at Jocelyn’s fear-stricken face decides his fate. This solemn and stoic woman has woven herself into the fabric of his life, and he’s not going to give her up so easily.
Ralph and Jocelyn defy the King’s command and fight for their right to stay together, but it soon becomes evident that their only course of action is to flee. As they make their way through the dangerous wilderness, battling the King’s men, Indians, and even pirates, what started out as a marriage of convenience becomes a true love match, and Ralph discovers that what is worth having is worth holding, no matter the cost.
The Sword of Albion by Mark Chadbourn
1588: rumours reach Queen Elizabeth's court of the reappearance of a legendary doomsday device. Originally from the East, its power has been fabled for millennia. Last used by the Moors when they invaded Spain, it had been lost for centuries but now Walsingham's spies believe it has surfaced in Seville, where Philip of Spain's men are frantically trying to track it down -- their intention to use it in a plot to murder England's queen.
Will Swyfte -- swordsman, adventurer, scholar, rake, and the greatest of this new breed of spy -- uncovers a plot within a plot that has, at its dark heart, the venomous world of Faerie. It seems the Unseelie Court wants the device for its own nefarious ends: to launch a devastating attack on England in revenge for the capture of the Faerie Queen. Caught in a deadly race against time, Will journeys from London to Edinburgh, to Seville and finally to Venice in pursuit of the fiendish device as Philip's Armada prepares for its naval assault on England, providing cover for the Faerie world's even more deadly, magickal attack.
The Violets of March by Sarah Jio
A heartbroken woman stumbled upon a diary and steps into the life of its anonymous author.
In her twenties, Emily Wilson was on top of the world: she had a bestselling novel, a husband plucked from the pages of GQ, and a one-way ticket to happily ever after.
Ten years later, the tide has turned on Emily's good fortune. So when her great-aunt Bee invites her to spend the month of March on Bainbridge Island in Washington State, Emily accepts, longing to be healed by the sea. Researching her next book, Emily discovers a red velvet diary, dated 1943, whose contents reveal startling connections to her own life.
A mesmerizing debut with an idyllic setting and intriguing dual story line, The Violets of March announces Sarah Jio as a writer to watch.
The Bungalow by Sarah Jio
A sweeping World War II saga of thwarted love, murder, and a long-lost painting.
In the summer of 1942, twenty-one-year-old Anne Calloway, newly engaged, sets off to serve in the Army Nurse Corps on the Pacific island of Bora-Bora. More exhilarated by the adventure of a lifetime than she ever was by her predictable fiancé, she is drawn to a mysterious soldier named Westry, and their friendship soon blossoms into hues as deep as the hibiscus flowers native to the island. Under the thatched roof of an abandoned beach bungalow, the two share a private world-until they witness a gruesome crime, Westry is suddenly redeployed, and the idyll vanishes into the winds of war.
A timeless story of enduring passion, The Bungalow chronicles Anne's determination to discover the truth about the twin losses-of life, and of love-that have haunted her for seventy years.
Other book-related acquisitions:
In addition to some new books, a Kindle Touch also found its way into my home :-) I ordered one as soon as I found out they are now available to ship to Canada. I like my K3, but based on my limited use of the Touch over the past couple of days I already like it better. I still do most of my reading on physical books, but with shelf space becoming an increasing issue for me I have to start doing more e-reading!
As part of the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour for her latest novel, The Turning of Anne Merrick, I'm pleased to welcome author Christine Blevins to Confessions of an Avid Reader today. Thanks to Christine not only for her fantastic post, but also for the wonderful giveaway included with it.
Catarrh… Ague… the Itch… it’s enough to give you Apoplexy!
I have been getting over a bad head cold this past week, and as I blew my poor red nose for about the 1,379th time, I thought about the word “catarrh” – the 18th century term for having a “cold” – and wondered at its origins. The word “cold” kind of makes sense… the word “catarrh” does not.
To the etymology dictionary, Chris!!
late 14c., from M.L. catarrus, from L.L. catarrhus, from Gk. katarrhous "a catarrh, a head cold," lit. "a flowing down," from kata- "down" + rhein "to flow" (see rheum).
I am fascinated with, and collect interesting archaic words used in the 18th century. (My husband hates playing Scrabble with me.) I love discovering interesting words to weave into the narrative and dialog of my stories, and I find the terms that relate to illnesses among the most evocative.
During the War for Independence, more Americans died of disease than from bullets or cannonade. Infectious diseases like the bloody flux (dysentery), putrid fever (typhoid), consumption (tuberculosis) and ague (malaria) were rife in army encampments and on British prison hulks, and the mortality rate for those infected was very high. Adding to the misery, want of cleanliness and a decent diet caused soldiers to also suffer with parasitic infestations like lice and “the itch” (scabies).
The height of disease prevention was the then controversial practice of inoculation. To prevent his army from being disseminated by an epidemic, General Washington ordered all recruits who’d never contracted the disease to be inoculated. Inoculation involved taking a bit of matter from oozing pustules of a smallpox victim and spooning it into an open cut on the healthy soldier. The inoculated soldier would then contract a light case of smallpox with little chance of death and scarring. Though a small number who were inoculated actually did die of the disease they were trying to avoid, the practice of inoculation was successful in immunizing most.
The cures of the day were sometimes worse than the diseases, and often contributed to the ultimate demise of the patient. Some of the herbal remedies employed were truly helpful, like the use of willow bark for fever, whose active ingredient, salicylic acid, is the basis of modern day aspirin; or warm poultices to ease congestion in the chest, or quinine to treat malaria.
18th century physicians preferred treatments that flushed or purged disease from the system. The go-to treatments included emetics to induce vomiting, and laxatives and enemas that caused… well, a different type of cleansing. “Blistering” involved application of a caustic solution to the skin to raise blisters – the thinking being the blisters drew out inflammation. Most people are familiar with the practice of bloodletting as yet another means to release poisons or “bad blood”.
So as I dose myself with a shot of orange-flavored Dayquil, rub some Vick’s Vaporub into my chest, cuddle up in a microfleece blanket, blow my nose for the 1,453rd time with a Puffs Plus tissue, and sip on a nice hot cup of honey-lemon tea, I think, “Hey, this cataarh ain’t so bad!”
Giveaway: 18th Century Notes and Envelopes – perfect for writing down your most effective remedies. The bundle is decorated with a feather quill and wrapped for convenient stowing in your medicine chest.
Author Christine Blevins writes what she loves to read – historical adventure stories. The Turning of Anne Merrick is the second in a 3-book series set during the American Revolution, and the companion book to The Tory Widow. A native Chicagoan, Christine lives in Elmhurst, Illinois, along with her husband Brian, and The Dude, a very silly golden-doodle. She is at work finishing the third novel inspired by a lifelong fascination with the foundations of American history and the revolutionary spirit.
Giveaway Details: This giveaway is open internationally. Just leave your name and email address in the comments field below to enter. Giveaway ends at midnight on February 24, 2012.
She spies for General Washington, betrays the Redcoats and battles for America's independence...
1777, and a fledgling country wages an almost hopeless struggle
against the might of the British Empire. Brought together by a fateful
kiss, Anne Merrick and Jack Hampton are devoted to each other and to
their Patriot cause. As part of Washington's daring network of spies,
they are ready and willing to pay even the ultimate price for freedom.
battlefields raging along the Hudson, to the desperate winter
encampment at Valley Forge and through the dangerous intrigue of
British-occupied Philadelphia, Anne and Jack brave the trials of
separation, the ravages of war and an unyielding enemy growing ever
For love and for country, all is put at
risk-and together the pair must call upon their every ounce of courage
and cunning in order to survive.
The Turning of Anne Merrick, the second novel in Christine Blevins' American Revolution series, finds our heroine, Anne Merrick, once again using her considerable charms on the British in an effort to gather intelligence for the Patriot cause. While the series' first novel, The Tory Widow, takes place in New York City, this second book has Anne once again acting as a Patriot spy when she and her trusted servant Sally join British General Burgoyne's campaign down the Hudson Valley. With the collapse of Burgoyne's forces, Anne and Sally join up with the Patriot army to winter at Valley Forge. Once again reunited with her lover Jack Hampton, who serves as a Patriot scout, Anne hopes that she can put her spying days behind her and start a new life with Jack. General Washington, however, has other plans and calls on Anne to again assume the role of dedicated loyalist, this time in British-occupied Philadelphia where it is expected she will gather much needed intelligence about British plans. While this mission means another separation from Jack, she accepts without question knowing that any information she can gather could help defeat the British. But the mission to Philadelphia, where Anne opens a coffee house, proves to be her most dangerous yet. Not only are spies are being hung for treason, but someone from Anne's past resurfaces intent on destroying Anne and all she holds dear.
Overall, The Turning of Anne Merrick is a great read. Blevins paints a vivid portrait of life with the British army, at that time the most formidable army in the world, as well as with the Patriot army under General Washington. I found Anne's days with the British Army and as a 'loyalist' coffee house owner in Philadelphia to be especially interesting and entertaining. One of the greatest strengths of this novel is the relationship between Anne and Jack. I admit I wasn't a big fan of Jack in the first novel but after reading the second book I've grown to like him. While I didn't at first find Jack to be a good match for Anne, by the end of this novel I came to better understand their relationship. Although the events at the conclusion of this novel seemed somewhat implausible, my interest in them never waned. Before I had finished, I found myself looking forward to the events of the next book.
Although The Turning of Anne Merrick can be read as a stand alone novel, I highly recommend reading The Tory Widow first as it gives important background on the characters and events of this novel.
Recommended to fans of historical fiction, particularly those interested in the American Revolution.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this novel as a host for The Turning of Anne Merrick Virtual Book Tour.
On a bright May day in New York City, Anne
Peabody receives an unexpected kiss from a stranger. Bringing news of
the repeal of the Stamp Act, Jack Hampton, a member of the Sons of
Liberty, abruptly sweeps Anne into his arms, kisses her-and then leaves
her to her fate of an arranged marriage...
ten years have passed and Anne, now the Widow Merrick, continues her
late husband's business printing Tory propaganda, not because she
believes in the cause, but because she needs the money to survive. When
her shop is ransacked by the Sons of Liberty, Anne once again comes
face to face with Jack and finds herself drawn to the ardent patriot
and his rebel cause.
As shots ring out at Lexington and war
erupts, Anne is faced with a life-altering decision: sit back and watch
her world torn apart, or stand and fight for both her country's
independence and her own.
Synopsis courtesy of Chapters.indigo.ca
The Tory Widow, the first novel in author Christine Blevins American Revolution series, is set in New York City in the early days of the Revolutionary War. At the start of the conflict, Anne Merrick is a young widow struggling to keep her late husband's printing business alive by publishing British propaganda, even though she doesn't necessarily believe in the propaganda herself. When her print shop is attacked by the Sons of Liberty, lead by the dashing Jack Hampton, Anne begins to question her actions. In so doing, she becomes increasingly drawn to both Jack and her country's struggle for independence from British rule. When the Patriot army is defeated in New York, and the city falls under British occupation, Anne decides to remain in her home and convert her print shop into a coffee house that caters to British officers. While outwardly playing the part of dedicated loyalist, Anne does whatever it takes to glean important information from the British and pass it on the Patriots. In so doing, Anne puts her very life on the line in the cause of liberty.
Overall, The Tory Widow is an enjoyable read. Blevins paints a vivid portrait of life in New York City at the start of the Revolutionary War, both before and during the British occupation. One of the greatest strengths of this novel is Blevins' ability to convey the British as the enemy without painting them as a one-dimensional evil force. Even though they sit on opposite sides of the conflict, Anne comes to respect some of the British officers with whom she crosses paths and recognizes that if not for the war she would have little quarrel with them. One of the principal weaknesses of this novel, however, rests with the development of Anne as a character. At the opening of the novel, Anne is portrayed as dismissive and disapproving of the Sons of Liberty and their cause. Many years later, at the start of the war, while no longer disapproving, Anne still seems reluctant to support the Patriots. The arrival of Jack Hampton into her life changes this, and Anne seemingly goes from a reluctant bystander to an ardent patriot almost overnight. It would have been beneficial to the story for Blevins to have included a little more insight into the rationale behind Anne's abrupt embracing of the patriot cause, as it seems to come out of nowhere. Furthermore, some of Anne's actions don't seem consistent with her established character, nor with how a respectable woman of the age would have behaved -- war or not (e.g. mooning the British with a bunch of prostitutes from the roof of a brothel). Nevertheless, these weaknesses didn't detract significantly from my enjoyment of the story. While Anne herself could have been a bit better developed, the novel's secondary and tertiary characters, whether they be patriot or British, hero or villain, shine and I look forward to finding out what's next for them in the novel's follow-up, The Turning of Anne Merrick. Recommended for fans of the historical fiction genre interested in the Revolutionary War period.
Note: The book comes from my own personal collection.
I am granddaughter to a king and daughter to a prince, a wife twice over, a queen as well. I have fought with sword and bow, and struggled fierce to bear my babes into this world. I have loved deeply and hated deeply, too.
Lady Gruadh, called Rue, is the last female descendent of Scotland's
most royal line. Married to a powerful northern lord, she is widowed
while still carrying his child and forced to marry her husband's
murderer: a rising war-lord named Macbeth. Encountering danger from
Vikings, Saxons, and treacherous Scottish lords, Rue begins to respect
the man she once despised-and then realizes that Macbeth's complex
ambitions extend beyond the borders of the vast northern region. Among
the powerful warlords and their steel-games, only Macbeth can unite
Scotland-and his wife's royal blood is the key to his ultimate
Determined to protect her small son and a proud
legacy of warrior kings and strong women, Rue invokes the ancient
wisdom and secret practices of her female ancestors as she strives to
hold her own in a warrior society. Finally, side by side as the last
Celtic king and queen of Scotland, she and Macbeth must face the
gathering storm brought on by their combined destiny.
towering crags to misted moors and formidable fortresses, Lady Macbeth
transports readers to the heart of eleventh-century Scotland, painting a
bold, vivid portrait of a woman much maligned by history.
Synopsis courtesy of Chapters.indigo.ca
Susan Fraser King's debut novel, Lady Macbeth, takes readers back to 11th century Scotland. The novel's protagonist, Lady Gruadh, is the last descendent of Scotland's ancient royal line. Married to one of Scotland's most powerful lords, Gruadh leaves the comfort and familiarity of her family home to join her husband in his vast and unforgiving northern domain. Just as she begins to feel comfortable in her new surroundings, a pregnant Gruadh is left a widow at the hands of Macbeth, a man many feel is rightful lord over her late husband's people and lands. Widowhood doesn't last long for Gruadh, who is forced to marry Macbeth almost immediately after the death of her husband. While tumultuous at the outset, the marriage evolves into one of respect, admiration and finally love on the part of Gruadh, who works with her husband to unite Scotland and put an end to the constant threats posed by the Vikings and Saxons. Lady Macbeth is Gruadh's story.
Overall, Lady Macbeth is an enjoyable read. This novel's greatest strengths are Fraser King's descriptive prose and attention to historical detail, which enable the politics, culture, customs and beliefs of 11th century Scotland to come vividly to life. My enjoyment of this novel, however, was tempered by the author's use of first person narrative. Gruadh is an aloof figure and, even though the story is told from her perspective, by the novel's end I didn't feel as if I knew her any better than I did at the start. Furthermore, by telling the story through Gruadh's eyes, the motivations of the novel's supporting characters are inadequately, or not at all, explained. Macbeth himself remains very much an enigma. Yet learning more about him would have enhanced my enjoyment of the story. While the characters failed to come completely alive for me, Fraser King's presentation of life in 11th century Scotland in and of itself makes this novel a worthwhile read.
Recommended to fans of historical fiction interested in Scottish history, particularly those interested in the early medieval era.
Note: This book comes from my own personal collection.
Another week, another Mailbox Monday! This weekly meme, which allows bloggers to share the books that arrived in their home over the previous week, is being hosted during the month of February by Metro Reader.
While I'm trying to cut back on the number of books I purchase (really, I am!) this past did see a few new books arrive at my door :-)
All books are my own purchases. Synopses courtesy of Chapters.indigo.ca.
The Return of Captain John Emmett by Elizabeth Speller
London, 1920. In the aftermath of the Great
War and a devastating family tragedy, Laurence Bartram has turned his
back on the world. But with a well-timed letter, an old flame manages
to draw him back in. Mary Emmett's brother John--like Laurence, an
officer during the war--has apparently killed himself while in the care
of a remote veterans' hospital, and Mary needs to know why.
Aided by his friend Charles--a dauntless gentleman with detective
skills cadged from mystery novels--Laurence begins asking difficult
questions. What connects a group of war poets, a bitter feud within
Emmett's regiment, and a hidden love affair? Was Emmett's death really a
suicide, or the missing piece in a puzzling series of murders? As
veterans tied to Emmett continue to turn up dead, and Laurence is
forced to face the darkest corners of his own war experiences, his own
survival may depend on uncovering the truth. At once a compelling
mystery and an elegant literary debut, "The Return of Captain John
Emmett" blends the psychological depth of Pat Barker's Regeneration
trilogy with lively storytelling from the golden age of British crime
Cashelmara by Susan Howatch
The rich and mighty saga of a wealthy and titled English family in Ireland during the 19th century.
A Place of Secrets by Rachel Hore
Auction house appraiser Jude leaves London
for her dream job at Starbrough Hall, an estate in the countryside,
examining and pricing the manuscripts and instruments of an
eighteenth-century astronomer. She is welcomed by Chantal Wickham and
Jude feels close to the old woman at once: they have both lost their
husbands. Hard times have forced the Wickham family to sell the
astronomer's work, their land and with it, the timeworn tower that
lies nearby. The tower was built as an observatory for astronomer
Anthony Wickham and his daughter Esther, and it served as the setting
for their most incredible discoveries.
Though Jude is far
away from her life in London, her arrival at Starbrough Hall brings a
host of childhood memories. She meets Euan, a famed writer and
naturalist who lives in the gamekeeper's cottage at the foot of the
tower, where Jude's grandfather once lived. And a nightmare begins to
haunt her six-year-old niece, the same nightmare Jude herself had years
ago. Is it possible that the dreams are passed down from one
generation to the next? What secrets does the tower hold? And will Jude
unearth them before it's too late?
Secrets by Freya North
A "warm, sexy, satisfying" (Heat) read about
the dark secrets that hold us hostage. The most successful novel from a
UK author with more than ten bestselling novels to her credit, Secrets
will tug at your heart and whisper in your ear. Joe has a beautiful
house, a great job, no commitments -- and he likes it that way. All he
needs is a quiet house-sitter for his rambling old place by the sea.
When Tess turns up, he's not sure she's right for the job. Where has
she come from in such a hurry? Her past is blank and she's a bit of an
enigma. But we all have our secrets. It's just that some are bigger