Monday, March 29, 2010

ABC Historical Fiction: Letter H

Just in time for another fortnight, here is my pick for the Letter

 My Enemy the Queen - A Historical Novel

I have to say that in this novel, Jean Plaidy did a fantastic job at portraying characters' worst traits.  The story was one of intrigue, suspense -which brought out in me, utter disgust for all of the main characters:  Queen Elizabeth, Lettice Devereux, Dearest(sarcastically) Robin- Earl of Leicester, and the totally obnoxious Earl of Essex (Lettice's son).

The entanglement of their lives, unhappiness, deviousness and so much more, had me hating each and everyone of these historical figures for awhile...But, one thing is for sure, Plaidy did catch my attention (she always does)- and made it so that I will never forget this book; I was completely hooked and could not put it down!

Read my review, and you'll see what I mean.

The ABC in Historical Fiction Challenge is hosted at Historical Tapestry.  I love this challenge because it brings back all of the memorable books I've read.  Come join:)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Book Review: The Scarlet Lion, by Elizabeth Chadwick

The Scarlet Lion

Paperback: 592 pages
Sourcebooks Reissue March 2010
ISBN-13: 978-0751536591
Review copy provided by Sourcebooks, thank you!

William Marshall most certainly is The Greatest Knight (btw, that’s actually the title of the prequel of this novel by Chadwick)…

If you’re looking to read about a REAL historical hero who’s got it all; strength, chivalry, superb knightly skills, insurmountable patience and intelligence, passion, loyalty, faith, love of family, fidelity, rugged looks, and the guts to stick to his purpose no matter what…then THE SCARLET LION is the book for you. 

Seriously though, let alone the fact that I personally fell head over heels for this genuine hero, there is so much substance in this novel regarding history, that I must recommend it as an Absolute Must Read for anyone interested in the 1200’s.  The novel takes us from the end of Richard The Lion Heart’s reign (Eleanore’s favourite son), right through to the last of King John’s days. 

Not only was William a superb knight, loyal to his last breath- He was also a true family man, completely devoted to his wife, the beautiful Isabelle de Clare, who bore him ten children.  Theirs was the ultimate love story of two people who were equals in everything. After living a life under the scrutiny and reign of the atrocious King John (who was immoral and cruel without remorse) which nearly put their own sons at risk, their love and marriage would still culminate in the happily ever after.  In fact, even though Isabelle was 20 years younger than William, after his death, Isabelle could no longer find happiness and she too died a year later.

The thing I found most enjoyable about reading this novel (that could easily pass for non-fiction considering its impeccable accuracy), was the perfect mix of battle, love, rich history and exacting character portrayal, to balance the read and urge me on.  If there’s one thing I hate, it’s reading endless pages of either one of these elements non-stop (especially battles or dewy love scenes), resulting in boredom.  This was not the case here.  The story progressed and flowed exquisitely- I was hooked till the end.

Chadwick’s writing style is none other than superb. Reading this novel is like being immersed into the scene itself.  Her writing is clear, specific, including descriptive moments within every single sentence.  This kept me tuned into the book without ever needing to skim through any part. Her story telling is a captivating feast for the senses.

After reading The Scarlet Lion, I can truly say that Chadwick stands out in a class of her own. Wow, what a story…who needs real history when fiction is this excellent?

For more reviews and creative posts, Please check out Historical Fiction Bloggers Round Table- Calendar of Events, for this amazing Elizabeth Chadwick event.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Winner of Melanie Clegg's: The Secret Diary of A Princess...

The Lucky Winner of this new novel on Marie Antoinette: TheSecret Diary of A Princess, by upstarting author Melanie Clegg... Read her wonderful Guest Post here. the fantastic artist Ingrid Mida from Fashion is My Muse- who happens to LOVE Marie Antoinette and posts about her all the time!  How Lucky is that?!

Congratulations Ingrid!! Can't wait to read you review:)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Announcing Shadow of The King Winner...

And who is the winner of Helen Hollick's: Shadow Of The King ?

Congratulations Marie- Enjoy the read:)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Fly High Features...Yours Truly + GIVEAWAY

Have you ever visited Maria Grazia's Blog: Fly High? If not, you really are missing something...especially if you're into period drama and movies AND- Jane Austen. At Fly High, you will find excellent book reviews, movie reviews, Austen-related posts, and so much more. Not only is the blog fabulous, Maria Grazia is what I would call absolutely...Enchanting!

Living in Italy, Maria Grazia is an English teacher with a flair for teaching our lovely language in the most creative ways. Please check out her blog, and you'll see exactly what I mean.

Maria Grazia also has a series going on over at her site, where she features her Blogger Buddies. Today, over at her site, she is featuring...yours truly:)

If you're interested in some menial ramblings about myself, please go check it out. I'm also having a GIVEAWAY there for 2 AUSTEN BOOKS that might interest you. If you get the chance, I'll see you there!

Monday, March 8, 2010

NEW BOOK on Marie Antoinette Announced with Fantastic Author GP -AND-- GIVEAWAY Worldwide!!!!

A few weeks ago, here on EBJ, I mentioned that I would have a special post by new Author Melanie Clegg of that amazing blog: Kill Them All, God Will Know His own (Madame Guillotine). Melanie has written a splendid novel, in the form of a Memoir, of Marie Antoinette!

I am particularly excited about this new novel: The Secret Diary of A Princess because as you all know, I am completely fascinated by Marie Antoinette and can't read enough about her. So, you can just imagine the excitement when Melanie announced to me that she had finally published her book on this favourite queen of mine! 

Melanie has graciously written a fabulous guestpost on Marie Antoinette for my blog and has included some beautiful photos to go along.  But that's not all...Melanie has also agreed to do a Worldwide GIVEAWAY of her book!!!!

But let me stop taking up all of your time and move you along to what you really want to be reading; Melanie's fantastic post...

Without further ado, I am very pleased to bring you, Melanie Clegg:)

Many thanks to the divine Lucy for inviting me to host this guest blog! It is actually my first so I am not quite sure what happens next, to be honest! I think I need my own version of Madame de Noailles on hand to talk me through the thrilling etiquette of What A Novice Blogger Should Do On Her First Guest Blog.

I am very pleased by the interest in my first book The Secret Diary of a Princess, which was published on Lulu press a few weeks ago. I am a bit scared of agents and publishers so decided to self publish my first novel by myself. Of course, the great thing about having an agent and publisher behind you is that they can help you do all the boring marketing type stuff so I am truly thankful to Lucy for inviting me to come here and chat to you all about it!

The Secret Diary of a Princess has been described by one of its readers as 'Bridget Jones written by Georgette Heyer about Marie Antoinette', which is simultaneously worrying and also exceedingly flattering as I love Bridget Jones and Georgette Heyer is my all time favourite authoress. When I started writing it, my plan was to recreate the early years of Marie Antoinette from her life at the Viennese court to the point that she became Queen of France. It seemed to me that everyone is familiar with the hoary tale of the enchanting Queen whose life fell apart amidst sordid calumny and Revolution, but not many people knew about what had led her dainty silk slippered feet to such an awful precipice.

I was also intrigued by the young Marie Antoinette: the youngest and least important of Maria Theresa's eight daughters. At first it seemed like she was fated to be either married off to an obscure princeling or, unimaginable, consigned to a convent but a series of family tragedies which left one sister disfigured and another dead, brought her to a new prominence and ultimately led to her betrothal to the Dauphin.

It seems amazing to us now, with the shimmering, luminously beautiful image of Marie Antoinette as painted by Vigée-Lebrun before us, that the young princess was ever anything other than exquisite, with that immaculate grasp of fashion and high maintenance grooming that we scruffy English roses envy so much in our French sisters. But so it was.


When, at the age of thirteen, the young Archduchess Maria Antonia was first proposed as a match for the Dauphin Louis, she was not actually considered to be suitable French Princess material with both her wardrobe and her looks found to be wanting. The Duc de Choiseul, who was busy promoting the match in France, was informed by the French ambassador to Vienna, the Marquis de Durfort and by Maria Antonia's tutor, the Abbé Vermond that the girl was childish, disliked etiquette, had no interest in fashion and often looked unkempt to the point of scruffiness. They also reported that her teeth were crooked and her hairline was wonky. As for her bosom? Oh la la.

Anxious that the match should go ahead, Maria Theresa set to work, first of all accepting assistance from Choiseul with regard to updating her daughter's wardrobe to that of a chic and refined French girl. Parisian dressmakers, no doubt the favourites of Choiseul's fearsome sister, the Duchesse de Gramont, were despatched to Vienna, bearing legions of fashion poupées to take the Archduchess in hand and, much to her disgust, she was made to wear a restrictive whalebone corset.

'”Today it was the turn of the dressmakers. I spent several hours this morning being measured for what is to be a splendid collection of clothes. ‘Mama is determined that you should look as exquisite as any of the French princesses,’ Amalia said with a smile as she sat in a chair and watched while the dressmakers showed me swatch after swatch of silk, cotton, taffeta, brocade and velvet in all the colours imaginable, some striped, some spotted and some patterned with tiny stars, hearts, flowers and fruits.

There was a milliner as well with the most gorgeous designs for bonnets and hats, a stocking maker who showed me delicious stripped and plain silk stockings, several shoe makers who measured my feet and then made me try on beautiful shoes, the colour of delicate Spring flowers with diamond buckles and ribbons at the heel.

‘I am sure that Monsieur de Durfort will appreciate all of the effort that has been made to attract his approbation,’ Amalia commented wryly as she picked up a sample of very fine Brussels lace and examined it against the light. ‘Let us hope that he is suitably bedazzled by your transformation.’

I smiled, lifting up my green silk skirts to admire a very lovely peach silk shoe, decorated with green velvet ribbons. ‘I do not see how he could fail to be impressed.’ I turned my ankle this way and that, thinking how pretty it all was and how lovely I would look from now on. What could the French possibly find to complain about now?”

Next to be corrected were her teeth and in 1768, a French dentist by the name of Pierre Laveran arrived in Vienna bearing what probably appeared to be a hideous torture device but what was actually an eighteenth century form of brace, designed by the inventive dentist Pierre Fauchard. We can only imagine Maria Antonia's feelings on being told that she would have to wear it for many months to come!


Today, however, Joseph was waiting for me there with a new French dentist who bowed very low and then politely requested to be allowed to see ‘Madame l’Archiduchesse’s’ teeth. He had a silly wig and smelled strongly of roses and cloves, which was pleasant at first but then began to give me a headache as he stood behind me and poked and prodded inside my mouth for about ten minutes before announcing that my teeth were of acceptable quality but lamentably crooked.

‘What is to be done?’ Joseph asked with a frown. Who would have thought that my teeth would be cause of so much fuss? ‘Can they be straightened?’

The dentist grinned and bowed. ‘But of course! I trained with the great dentist, Pierre Fauchard himself and so am entirely proficient with the employment of a brace on the teeth.’ He opened a small wooden box and produced a strange contraption made of metal and silk threads. ‘It looks entirely insignificant, does it not, but this device, invented by Monsieur Fauchard himself, will straighten Madame l’Archiduchesse’s teeth in a matter of months.’

I stared in horror at the ugly brace as he excitedly waved it around. ‘You expect me to put that thing in my mouth?’ I asked, casting an imploring look at Joseph. ‘Will I have to wear it all the time? Won’t I look very ugly?’

‘Better now than later on when you are seen more in public,’ Joseph said with a shrug. ‘Just try not to smile at Monsieur de Durfort.’”

Last to be sorted out was her hair, which was a mass of often unbrushed reddish blonde curls. Of course at the time, hair was a very, very big deal and so having the perfect hair was of the utmost importance, especially in a princess of France. Once again, Choiseul's sister Béatrix, the Duchesse de Gramont came to the rescue and sent her own hairdresser, Larsenneur to the Hofburg, where he modified the style favoured by the late Madame de Pompadour so that it would disguise the Archduchess' high forehead and accentuate her youth and charm:
 “'He arrived today, Monsieur Larsenneur, a small man with a monkey face, pink taffeta coat and ingratiating manner. I did not like him at first and was unwilling to allow him to touch my hair but had to relent in the end and let him have his way, while Amalia and Elizabeth stood by and gossiped with their ladies in waiting. He started by staring at me for a while, with his little head on one side and a gleam in his eye. ‘Ah, but la petite is careless of her beauty,’ he whispered to me at last, in a very flirtatious manner that I did not really like and which made me feel hot and embarrassed. ‘Do not look so nervous, belle chérie, I shall transform you from a gauche girl into a beautiful young woman.’

‘Just by doing my hair?’ I could not help but laugh at him.

Larsenneur looked hurt. ‘But of course. A beautiful coiffure is everything nowadays! Did you not know that?’ He lifted up one of my reddish blonde curls. ‘Ah, but Mademoiselle has the most lovely strawberry blonde hair, comme une fraise. I had expected a blonde Viennese fräulein, not this.’ He tutted as he looked through my hair. ‘Do you not have maids to brush your hair? Why so many tangles?’

I jerked my head away. ‘I do not like to have my hair brushed,’ I muttered. ‘It is boring and hurts my head.’

‘Tsk, this will never do. A princesse does not have tangled hair like a… like a fille de ferme. It is not right!’ He waved his silver handled comb in my face and looked really quite upset. ‘From now on you must submit gracefully to having your hair brushed through no less than twice a day. A hundred strokes each time!’ I must have looked appalled as he pinched my chin consolingly. ‘Ah, but after only a very few days Mademoiselle will be rewarded with the most beautiful hair and be the envy of all who see her.’ He raised his voice. ‘Now, I must have gossip while I work! Someone tell me something scandalous! Do you have scandals in Vienna? I want to hear them all!’

‘Cover your ears, Antonia,’ Amalia said with a laugh.

It took a very long time and I was very weary and short tempered by the time Larsenneur had finished his work, but oh, it was so worth it. I stared at myself in the mirror for a very long time, unable to believe that the sophisticated little lady with powdered, carefully arranged hair staring back was me. ‘Mademoiselle entered this room as a gauche, untidy schoolgirl and now, voila!’ the little hairdresser crowed triumphantly as he tucked a final delicately blooming pink rose behind my ear. ‘Mademoiselle, you are a beautiful princesse at last.’”
 Of course, Maria Antonia’s transformation was not just sartorial - there were hours of dancing and etiquette lesssons to be endured as well before she was declared to have the requisite poise and majestic bearing of a Dauphine of France. For the young Archduchess, who loved to spend her time frolicking in the grounds of Schonnbrunn with her friends and pet dogs, the new improved version of herself that gazed back out from her mirror must have seemed very alien and strange at first.


Anyway, thanks so much for reading my ramblings! 
Ramblings?!  Are you kidding me, Melanie?!  Anyone even remotely interested in Marie Antoinette can't help but be totally absorbed by these wonderful details and thoughts by/ and regrding the Grand Queen.  Thank you so much for enhancing your delightful and most interesting post with excerpts of your book.  It sounds wonderful and I for one, cannot wait to read it!
THANK YOU Melanie!! 

And to this lovely GIVEAWAY of The Secret Diary of A Princess, by Melanie Clegg


I would love this precious book to land in the hands of a true Marie Antoinette fan so...this time I will open the giveaway to the Lucky Book blogger that agrees to review it on their blog.  Let me know if that's YOU.

1 Chance:  Leave a comment telling me what you love most about Marie Antoinette (and if you're willing to review this on your blog;).
 3 Chances: For new followers (regular followers get this automatically)
5 Chances for blogging about this over at your site- send me the link- or Posting it on your SIDEBAR

2 EXTRA Chances every time you tweet and come back here with the link.
GOOD LUCK TO ALL!!!  Winner Announced on March 15th

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Fantastic King Arthur GIVEAWAY...

Happy Weekend Everyone!

On this bright and sunny Saturday morning here in Montreal, I am giving away my copy of Shadow of The King (3rd book in the Pendragon Trilogy), by Helen Hollick.- Sourcebooks Publishers

To Enter:

1 chance: Leave a comment and your email address.

3 chances: Post about this and leave me yor link.

5 chances: Become a follower of this blog (if you already follow, you get this automatically)

2 extra chances everytime you tweet and come back here with the link.

Open to Canada and US. Winner announced March 14th


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Oh-La-La French Historicals Oh-La-La! UPDATE and MORE...

Time flies! March is already here, and so I thought I’d like to give you all an update on what is happening so far. First of all, if you’ll notice the top of my page, I now have a task bar where I’ve included a few pages for the Challenge:
Join The Challenge, Challenge Participants, and Contributing Reviews.

If you’re interested in seeing who is participating (and there are quite a few of us!), go check out the Challenge Participants page –and- if you haven’t joined yet but would like to do so- leave me a comment and I’ll include your name.

***NOTE: For me to update your progress, and put a number next to your name- you MUST send me your updates and links to your reviews- how else will I keep track of you for our end of year prizes??***

At this point, I’d like to mention once again, that if you have any reviews you would like me to post up at my site, please forward them to:

I have set up a page just for Contributing Challenge Reviews with links to these. So far, Mel from The Reading Life has contributed 2! If you’d like to read her Reviews of:

  Pierre et Jean, by Guy de Maupassant - and/or -  Indiana, by George Sand , please visit her and leave a comment!


Have you ever met Roberta from Con-tain-it blog? Roberta is a fantastic artist, creator, historical fiction reader/ reviewer, cook- and the nicest person ever! She is an avid follower of this blog- and a French Challenge participant as well.

Roberta and I share many of the same interests when it comes to reading and art and so you can imagine my delight when she announced she would be complementing my French Challenge with an art challenge of her own!
Are you ready for this…?

Roberta is proposing an ART JOURNAL for reading and reviews!! She calls it:

Basically, it is a journal that you can create to go along with your reading. You can post bits and pieces of info about what you’re reading and reviewing- or, if you’d like (that’s what I’m planning to do) is illustrate and artsy-it-up to create your own Art-Reading Journa! ( Lizzy are you excited or what!! And, Ingrid, you’d love this too!) I am definitely participating in this event; where I will illustrate, paint, draw, collage, sew (whatever inspires me!)- and write about my favourite reads. 

To start I will name my journal the French Historicals Oh-La-La Journal.

Look at the beautiful journal Roberta is working on. She has even placed the French Historicals button on hers!

This is the button for Roberta’s Art Reviewing Journal Challenge to place on your sidebar with link back to her-once you’ve joined at her site.

In addition, I will post my progress on this as well- and if some of you would like to share photos of this- again, please send them to:
and I’ll be sure to post your progress as well. Isn’t this exciting?!

So far I’ve read 3 books: The Night’s Dark Shade, Powder and Patch, and The Queen’s Dollmaker.

So, where are you upto in your reading?