Thursday, November 29, 2012


Today and tomorrow I will be featuring THE WEDDING SHROUD, by Elisabeth Storrs.  Please join me for my review, Author Guest Post and a Giveaway:))

My Review...

Elisabeth Storrs brings us life in the Etruscan times when Rome and Veii (an Etruscan city merely 12 miles away)were enemies.  The heroine, Caecilia, a Roman born from a plebian father and patrician mother (back then a problem from the onset), is given in marriage to a Veii as a peace treaty of the two regions.

Caecillia, having been brought up as a cloistered and extremely modest young Roman girl, is brought into a world that in every way contrasts her own.  Married to Val Mastarna, a wealthy and very powerful Veii, Caecillia grudgingly gives up her life of purity in acceptance of the Etruscan ways.  Not used to the liberty that Veii women enjoyed (drinking wine, conversing publicly with their husbands, ruling alongside, and enjoying an almost-equality with the men- all this unheard of in Rome!) - She was disgusted by it all…but nonetheless, very intrigued.

Caecillia matures into a new realm of understanding of not only the Veii way, but also about her husband and his past (a major part being the loss of his beloved first wife, Seitane), but there is also a coming of age and exploring  of herself as a woman.  Now dabbling in wines, substances and herbs, Caecillia’s discoveries lead her into forbidden realms…Her slave (another difference with Rome), actually became Caecillia’s confidante; whereas a notable courtesan also became part of her circle of knowledge.  And of course, then there is the religious corruption- presenting Artile, Mastarna’s brother, the priest…

Mastarna, the typical Veii- and unlike his Roman adversaries, treats his new bride on an almost equal standing.  He understands her reluctance regarding their relationship, their sex life and the Veii traditions.  In his realm however, it is Caecillia who is the outsider. The citizens of Veii are non-trusting of her and shun her for the most part.  Yet, Mastarna looks out for her and even stands up for her.  

Incredibly detailed, The Wedding Shroud is a tale masterfully crafted that brings us not only the opulence and rawness of ancient times- but also a very different take on roles, cultures and traditions.  Only twelve miles away from each other, who would have guessed that Veii and Rome could be completely different? I enjoyed discovering the life of Etruscans and their ways.  It was also very surprising  to see women being accepted as equals back then- a first for me!  What a delightful change of pace for ancient times.

Characters, setting, plot- everything falls perfectly in line with what I consider to be excellent ancient historical fiction!  I could go on and on!  I recommend you get this - you won’t be disappointed!



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Come Back tomorrow for Elisabeth Storrs' Guest Post + GIVEAWAY Continues!!


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Guest Post + GIVEAWAY!!

Deborah Swift

is visiting us today with a fantastic GUEST POST!  As well, there is a GIVEAWAY of THE GILDED LILY!!

Without further ado, here is the Guest Post:

Literature and Sisterly Love

My novel THE GILDED LILY is about the relationship between sisters - one pretty and one plain, when they run away to the gilded streets of London to escape a difficult past. Although the novel is set in 1661, during my research for the novel I looked into the relationships between sisters in lots of different periods in order to see where the tensions between sisters commonly lie. In THE GILDED LILY the sisters’ relationship puts them in danger, but also ultimately saves them.

For my guest post today I thought I’d share a little about the relationship between famous literary sisters, The Bronte Sisters. In many ways their lives were the opposite of the glamorous, luxurious women who are usually featured on this blog, but this is the sort of landscape the two Appleby sisters in my novel are leaving behind, with hopes for a more glittering future ahead.

Did Charlotte Bronte burn her sister Emily’s manuscript?

 Originally there were five Bronte sisters. When Emily was only six she was sent to boarding school - the Clergy Daughters' School at Cowan Bridge, which her older sisters Maria, Elizabeth, and Charlotte already attended. The school was a grim and dismal place, run with the idea of casting out sin by physical punishment. Weakened by this cruel regime, in 1825 Maria and Elizabeth both died of tuberculosis. The same disease later claimed Emily and Anne as well. Following these bereavements the surviving sisters, Charlotte and Emily, were removed from the school but they never forgot their harsh treatment and Charlotte made it the model for the terrifying school in ‘Jane Eyre’.

Life at home was much better for the girls. They were isolated in their house on the Yorkshire moors and so they developed an extremely close relationship, a lot of which was based on a fantasy game. Their father brought their brother Branwell a box of wooden soldiers, and each child chose one and gave him a name and character. Over the course of the next sixteen years they made tiny books containing stories, plays, histories, and poetry written by their imagined heroes and heroines from the fictional “Gondal”. This is the sort of thing I used to do with my sister when I was small. Did any of you?

 Unfortunately, only the stories written by Charlotte and Branwell survive. Of Emily's work we only have her poetry, but her most passionate poetry is written from the perspectives of Gondal’s fictional inhabitants.

In 1845 Charlotte came across Emily's “Gondal” poems and read them, which made Emily furious when she found out. However, the discovery led to the publication of a volume of Charlotte, Emily, and the youngest sister Anne's poetry under the names of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. They sold only two copies, but it filled them with enthusiasm for writing. Afterwards the three continued to write but not without rivalry. ‘Wuthering Heights’ was probably written in 1845-6, while Charlotte was working on ‘Jane Eyre’, and Anne wrote ‘Agnes Grey’. 

‘Wuthering Heights’, Emily’s novel, (under the pseudonym Ellis Bell) was published in 1847 to considerable critical acclaim, though some Victorians were shocked and horrified by the violence it contained.

After Emily's death, Charlotte wrote the preface to a new edition and in it preface she apologizes for her sister’s novel by saying Emily wasn't in control of what she wrote—her "gift" was not of her own making, but Emily was merely the instrument of inspirations from the beyond.

Whether it is right or advisable to create beings like Heathcliff, I do not know; I scarcely think it is.

And, when her publisher wrote to discuss the novel with her, Charlotte was apologetic:

Ellis (Emily) has a strong, original mind, full of strange though sombre power ... but in prose it breaks forth in scenes which shock more than they attract – Ellis will improve, however, because he knows his defects.

About her sister Anne's second novel, Charlotte took an even harsher line, writing,

'Wildfell Hall' it hardly appears to me desirable to preserve. The choice of subject in that work is a mistake.

And she refused to authorize a new edition of  ‘The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.’ Charlotte's attitude toward her sisters' literary efforts was patronizing. She decided to "improve" Emily's poetry when she published an edition of it after her death, altering words and even adding her own stanzas or removing entire parts altogether.

This led to many believing that Charlotte actually burnt Emily’s second novel, a novel for which there is ample evidence in correspondence from the publisher. No novel has survived, hence the accusations. It is unclear whether Charlotte’s motivations were of jealousy, or of protecting her sister’s memory from ridicule. But whatever her motives it is clear that despite this she had great love for her sisters, particularly when she was left the only survivor of the original six children.

This is what fascinates me about sisterly relationships – they can be both cruel and loving, all within the space of a short time. I hope my readers will find as much fascination in my characters Sadie and Ella Appleby as I found in the Bronte sisters. More information about the Bronte sisters can be found at
or at the brilliant blog by Clare Dunkle
or see Juliet Barker’s excellent book, The Brontës.

Click on these links to read about other famous literary sisters who have turbulent relationships.
Joan and Jackie Collins
Margaret Drabble and AS Byatt’s relationship

THE GILDED LILY is out on 27th November, published by St Martin’s Press. Watch the live action Trailer here

Charlotte Bronte (wiki)
Jane Eyre Movie
Wuthering Heights

THANK YOU Deborah Swift!!! 


To Enter to Win a Copy olf THE GILDED LILY:

1- You must be a Follower of this blog
2-  For Additional Chances, post on FB, Twitter, Linkedin, Blog...and come back with your link in comments.

Open to US and Canada
Good Luck!!!

Please  visit Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for a complete schedule of events for THE GILDED LILY.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

WINNERS of Sacred Treason AND Most Beautiful Princess!!!

Announcing the Winner for SACRED TREASON...

Announcing the Winner for MOST BEAUTIFUL PRINCESS...

Please email me your contact info at:

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

RELEASED TODAY: Royal Romances, by Leslie Carroll- Book Review

By Leslie Carroll
 Leslie Carroll is well on her way to officially becoming THE “notorious Royal” historian when it comes to non-fiction on royal couples of past and present.  I quickly became hooked on her series and practically devoured both:  Notorious Royal Marriages (my review) and, Royal Pains (my review).  Today’s release of ROYAL ROMANCES, is no exception.  Upbeat, detailed and spot-on, Carroll delivers an excellent account of some of the royal romances that still intrigue us even  today.

Meticulously researched, in Royal Romances, Leslie Carroll gives us the scoop on what really happened back in the days. Nothing dry about this history!  Filled with quotes and almost upto the minute retelling of events, each story flows right into the juicy stuff that history buffs are dying to know. 

The couples chosen for this splendid history lesson are none other than the ones we are most curious about; some very well-known, but many new and fresh ones as well…some of these I personally knew very little about- yet they delighted me the most! The regulars, such as: Marie Antoinette and Count Fersen, Napoleon and Marie Walewka (yep-this time no Josephine), Louis XIV (my favourite king..)and Athenais and la Marquise de Maintenon, Louis XV and la Pompadour and la Du Barry, Sophia Dorothea and Count Konigsmark- too name a few-spilling with romance, secret encounters, despair, dangerous liaisons, and even tragedy.  And then to my surprise, I reveled in learning about some very new historical figures such as Caroline Mathilde, Queen of Denmark as well as Charles VII and Agnes Sorel.  Finally, the greatest treat of all, was the inclusion of Kate and William- what a finale!  No other royal publication (even royal magazines)I’ve ever read came close to the details I found here.

For anyone who wants the facts delivered in all of their original spice- Royal Romances (and I can vouch the same for the other ‘Royal’ books of this series), will have you hooked from the first page…and you won’t put it down until the last. 

Honestly, writing history as entertaining and engaging as this, is truly an art.  You need to add this one to your history book collection- it’s a must.


Friday, November 2, 2012

Most Beautiful Princess: My Review + GIVEAWAY

This year I made a promise to start reading more on Russian history and it started of course with the Romanovs.  Little did I know that my quest would lead me to reading about the amazingly gracious Elizabeth, Grand Duchess of Russia!

Most Beautiful Princess, by Christina Croft is excellent and accurate history made entertaining and captivating through vivid dialogue- a dream for historical fiction fanatics that are purists at heart. Croft remained true to the history, fact after fact, without even introducing one fictitious character to help embellish the plot.  There was no need for embellishment, the story vibrantly carries itself throughout without skipping a beat.

From the moment Ella meets and then marries Serge, the Grand Duke, the story sweeps us into the royal family of Russia where we meet the whole immediate and extended family.  Their concerns, worries, joys, sorrows, lifestyles (some rather questionable) and secrets- everything they experienced is made known to the reader through an engaging dialog and deep reflections that help us understand and feel what it may have been like for these people back then.  I really enjoyed getting to know these royals!

Almost like watching a reality show (a very elegant one though!) Even Queen Victoria made her appearance! As the very grand matriarch- let alone Queen of England, Grandmama had been the one who helped raise Ella when her mother, Alice, passed away. Throughout, Queen Victoria gave off the sense that she had been a far better granny than a mommy.  Of course the whole story though has Ella as the focal point- and as such she was magnificent. 

A true beauty physically and spiritually, Ella lived through a marriage that did not seem normal by any standard.  She and Serge had a platonic relationship that Ella somehow turned into a love story of the heart...and although difficult to imagine that being possible, Serge and Ella claimed to love eachother very deeply.

Ella's altruistic nature, her kindness and saintly soul is clearly seen by the way she cares for the poor, the wounded and ultimately when she forgives her husband's murderer. The most moving and heart-wrenching moment is certainly when she is being buried alive...and there too she captures a moment of hope, light and faith.

 Elegantly written with care in depicting each character true to his/ her likeness, Christina Croft has taken a slice of the past and brought it back to life.  Most Beautiful Princess will become an all-time favourite for historical fiction and non-fiction lovers alike.

To Enter:
You Must be a Follower of this blog!
Leave a comment and email
For extra chances: Tweet, post on FB, Blogs...and come back with the link

Psst...go check out Christina Croft's Guest Post and enter there too!


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Happy Birthday Grand Duchess of Russia!! GUEST POST + GIVEAWAY!!

Today marks the birthday of Grand Duchess Elizabeth of Russia - a much loved, legendary royal who is also a 20th century martyr and saint. (I've always associated Nov. 1st with All Saints Day- so now I'll always remember it as this royal's b-day too!)

To celebrate this grand lady's birthday, here at EBJ - History Salon (where we are all about fantastic ladies in history!) there will be:

- a Guest Post by author Christina Croft who has written Most Beautiful Princesss; the story of Grand Duchess Elizabeth of Russia. (Check out her blog; which is filled with fantastic history!)

- My Review of this FABULOUS book

- and...a GIVEAWAY!!

Please drop by at all these posts for a chance to enter the Giveaway!

Today, I have the pleasure of having Christina Croft honor us with her Guest Post.  If you don't know much about the Grand Duchess, read on- her story is amazing!

Above the West Door of Westminster Abbey, stands a series of statues dedicated to 20th Century Martyrs – among them a Russian Orthodox nun, who was murdered by the Bolsheviks in July 1918 by being thrown down a mineshaft and left to starve to death. Of the thousands of tourists and visitors who enter the Abbey each month, very few seem to be aware of this woman’s remarkable story, nor would they suspect at first glance that ‘Saint Elizabeth of Russia’ once entered the Abbey to attend the celebratory service to mark the Golden Jubilee of her grandmother, Queen Victoria. 
‘Ella’ as she was known in the family, was the second daughter of Queen Victoria’s daughter, the unconventional Princess Alice, who married the heir to the Grand Duchy of Hesse-Darmstadt and immediately caused a sensation by inviting various unorthodox thinkers to her home, and venturing into the homes of the poor and the sick to scrub their floors, make meals and tend to their needs, following the advice of Florence Nightingale, whose works she studied avidly. Queen Victoria was not amused by her daughter’s studies of nursing and biology, but was even more shocked when she discovered that she was breast-feeding baby Ella. So disgruntled was the Queen, that she immediately sent word that a cow in the Royal Dairy should be named ‘Alice’!
Unperturbed, Alice continued her ‘wayward’ pursuits and was keen to instil her own values of service into her children. From their earliest years she took them with her to hospitals, where she performed the most menial tasks, and, at the same time ensured they received a broad-ranging education. Alongside academic studies, they were taught gardening and cooking and were expected to take full responsibility for themselves, without relying on servants. Ella enjoyed a wonderfully happy childhood but, when she was fourteen years old, a diphtheria epidemic broke out, affecting all the rest of her family. For her own safety, Ella was sent to stay with her paternal grandmother but during her absence her youngest sister, May, died and shortly afterwards Alice, who had been personally tending the rest of the family, contracted the disease and died at the age of only 35.
Queen Victoria’s heart went out to Alice’s children and, promising ‘to be a mother to them’, she did everything possible to support them, and she did not fail to notice that Ella was blossoming into a very beautiful young woman. At this time, Ella’s cousin, the future Kaiser Wilhelm II, fell madly in love with her and the Queen was eager to promote a match but, as Ella adamantly refused his proposal, the Queen resigned herself to finding alternative suitors all of whom Ella rejected. By now she had the reputation of being ‘the most beautiful princess in Europe’ and combined with her striking beauty, she was seen as the ‘personification of kindness’. Queen Victoria was certain that she would find a suitable husband but was totally unprepared for Ella’s sudden announcement that she intended to marry Grand Duke Serge Alexandrovich – a younger brother of Tsar Alexander III of Russia. The Queen was horrified. Russia, she said, was unstable, the climate was appalling and the Romanov Court was decadent but Ella stood firm and, at the age of 19, married the Grand Duke in a lavish ceremony in St. Petersburg.
Now, one of the wealthiest and most beautiful women in the world, she appeared to have stepped into a fairy tale but, within a short time, rumours began to circulate that her marriage was desperately unhappy. Her shy and highly-strung husband’s aloof manner made him very unpopular, and gossips revelled in spreading stories of his cruelty to his innocent wife. The fact that the couple had no children fuelled the (totally unsubstantiated) rumours that he was homosexual and increasingly prurient tales about their relationship spread through all the Courts of Europe. For twenty years this continued, despite Ella’s frequent protestations that she loved him and was ‘perfectly happy’, but throughout that time her many talents were being stifled in the endless routine of balls and receptions; and even though, after converting to Orthodoxy, she spent a good deal of time and money supporting and founding various charities, as a Romanov Grand Duchess she was not permitted to venture far beyond the walls of her palaces or to visit the poor or the sick as she had done throughout her childhood. 
1905 was a year of great tumult in Russia and, as discontent and violence spread through the country, Serge became the object of hatred. One February morning, as Ella was working on a project for the relief of soldiers in the Russo-Japanese War, an anarchist hurled a bomb at Serge’s carriage. Hearing the explosion, Ella hurried to the scene to find what was left her husband: his arm, leg and head had been blown off, and the blast was so great that days later his fingers were found on the Kremlin roof. With her own hands, Ella gathered his remains, and a couple of days later went to the prison where her husband’s assassin was being held. She handed the assassin a Bible and an icon, and told him she had come to forgive him and to ask what had driven him to such violence. He spoke of the terrible poverty of the people and his words clearly resonated with Ella who throughout her life had – according to her own account -  ‘a longing to help those who suffer; particularly those in moral suffering’.
Within days of their meeting, she began to dispense with all her vast wealth and made plans to establish a hospital, orphanage and convent in the poorest part of Moscow. Establishing a new religious order, she trained as a nurse and personally tended the most abject patients whom other hospitals refused to take, and devoted the rest of her relatively short life to improving the lives of the poorest Russian people. Having grown up and lived amid beauty for so long, it was her intention to create beauty in the lives of those who had only known drudgery and poverty. Her hospital was designed and decorated by the finest architects and artists in Russia, and was open to anyone in need of help; the gardens were well-tended and her intention was to establish similar places throughout the country. In fact, such was her devotion to her cause that she was, in a gentle way, far more revolutionary than the revolutionaries who arrested and murdered her in 1918, simply because she had married ‘a Romanov’.     
In my novel - Most Beautiful Princess – I have endeavoured to remain as true to history as possible. There are no fictional characters in the book, which is based on my earlier unpublished biography, and my intention in writing it was to make this remarkable woman better known. The novel is available in paperback, Kindle and Apple format.
Should you pass the West Door of Westminster Abbey, do look up and see the statue of ‘the most beautiful princess’, Queen Victoria’s saintly granddaughter.
Thank you, Lucy, for your hospitality and for allowing me to post on your beautiful blog!   
Thank you Christina!!
To Enter the Giveaway of Most Beautiful Princess:
-Please leave a comment for Christina
-Increase your chances  by posting on FB, Twitter, and any other sites- come back and post link in your comment.

Be sure to come back tomorrow for the REVIEW of the book and for EXTRA CHANCES to Win the Giveaway!!