Sunday, February 28, 2010

Suddenly Sunday

Since The Sunday Salon is closed to new members, I have created own weekly event of Suddenly Sunday! Feel free to join in the fun, just link back to this blog :)

Another week has flown by, but at least I feel that I have accomplished a lot in my reading this past week! I was able to post two reviews this week:

There are so many exciting historical fiction novels just recently released and coming up in the next couple weeks; and I'm happy to be able to review a lot of them for you! I have just finished reading The Secret of the Glass by Donna Russo Morin and The Scarlet Lion by Elizabeth Chadwick; their reviews should be up sometime this week. Now, after waiting for what seems like forever, I am starting The Stolen Crown by Susan Higginbotham :)

Be sure to watch or set your DVR to record "The 39 Steps" on Masterpiece Classic tonight (2/28) at 9:00 PM! Here is the Synopsis from Masterpiece Classic:
Newly returned to England on the eve of World War I, Richard Hannay's (Rupert Penry-Jones, Persuasion) listless London life is about to spiral out of control. When a neighbor bursts in with a top-secret notebook full of cryptic codes and a frantic story of an impending assassination, unlikely patriot Hannay is soon on the run to save himself and his country. He bumps into feisty suffragette Victoria Sinclair (Lydia Leonard), and while their fates may be intertwined, their personalities aren't. But like it or not, they'll together navigate murder, betrayal and near death in order to untangle a plot of national importance, and understand the charms and challenges of human nature. A bracing and romantic thriller,The 39 Steps is based on the novel by John Buchan. (One episode; 90 minutes.

I have really been enjoying HFBRT's week long event for The Secret of the Glass by Donna Russo Morin; they have had some great creative posts and interviews! The event is ending today (2/28) but you can still check out everything they have done for this event on their website: Historical Fiction Round Table.

Don't forget to enter in my giveaway! I have one signed copy of The Boleyn Wife up for grabs...hurry the giveaway ends tomorrow (3/1).  Enter in the giveaway here.

Have a wonderful week everyone & happy reading!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Book Review: The Queen's Governess by Karen Harper


Synopsis: (From the Publisher)
A fresh and intriguing historical novel told in the voice of Queen Elizabeth I's governess. Katherine Ashley, the daughter of a poor country squire, happily secures an education and a place for herself in a noble household. But when Thomas Cromwell, a henchman for King Henry VIII, brings her to the royal court as a spy, Kat enters into a thrilling new world of the Tudor monarchs. Freed from a life of espionage by Cromwell's downfall, Kat eventually befriends Anne Boleyn. As a dying favor to the doomed queen, Kat becomes governess and surrogate-mother to the young Elizabeth Tudor. Together they suffer bitter exile, assassination attempts, and imprisonment, barely escaping with their lives. But they do, and when Elizabeth is crowned, Kat continues to serve her, faithfully guarding all the queen's secrets (including Elizabeth's affair with the dashing Robert Dudley) . . . and ultimately emerging as the lifelong confidante and true mother-figure to Queen Elizabeth. 

My Review:

Kat Ashley is a woman who is very familiar with loss and hardship. As a little girl she lost her mother to a terrible accident and was soon forced to work as a servant to her stepmother, whom she suspected had a hand in her mothers demise. After many years of dreary living, she met by chance Thomas Cromwell, who saw in her a potential for serving him as a spy. Kat knew that Cromwell was her only chance to escape her miserable existence in the country and she eagerly accepted his terms. Little did she know what a peaceful and safe life she was leaving behind....

Kat's arrival in London was everything she could have hoped for. Sent to be a lady in waiting to Anne Boleyn, she was instructed to be a messenger between Anne and Cromwell. She found this task to be simple enough and spent much of her free time dreaming of the dashing Thomas Seymour, whom she met on her journey to court. Unfortunately, her dreams of Thomas were destroyed by an ill event that occurred the night of Anne's coronation banquet. After that horrible night, Kat's happy world at court began to crumble rapidly. She began to disagree with the power hungry Cromwell and tried to rebel, only to find that she was completely at Cromwell's mercy. Kat being surrounded by chaos at court soon finds herself to be the governess of the Princess Elizabeth. She is well aware and prepared for the tough journey that lies before them. Even through the threat of prison, torture, exile and the hope of new love, Kat's bond with Elizabeth never weakens and she keeps her vow to protect her at any cost...

This novel is extremely detailed, well researched and historically accurate. At times the extensive detail began to read like a history book, but those moments were brief and soon forgotten when the compelling story of Kat Ashley picked up. The description of scenery was splendid; I could see the castles and almost smell the dust in the secret passageways. Many of the characters were three dimensional and the plot was well thought out. My main complaint with this book is how every once in a while it would switch between the past and future within the same paragraph. This was mostly found in the first half of the book when we were being told of how Kat came to be Elizabeth's governess.While this led to some mild confusion, it in no way made the book unreadable or unlikable. This book would be perfect for someone wanting to learn more about Elizabeth I by means of an enjoyable reading experience.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Book Review: Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin


Synopsis: (From the Publisher)
Few works of literature are as universally beloved as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Now, in this spellbinding historical novel, we meet the young girl whose bright spirit sent her on an unforgettable trip down the rabbit hole–and the grown woman whose story is no less enthralling.

But oh my dear, I am tired of being Alice in Wonderland. Does it sound ungrateful?

Alice Liddell Hargreaves’s life has been a richly woven tapestry: As a young woman, wife, mother, and widow, she’s experienced intense passion, great privilege, and greater tragedy. But as she nears her eighty-first birthday, she knows that, to the world around her, she is and will always be only “Alice.” Her life was permanently dog-eared at one fateful moment in her tenth year–the golden summer day she urged a grown-up friend to write down one of his fanciful stories.

That story, a wild tale of rabbits, queens, and a precocious young child, becomes a sensation the world over. Its author, a shy, stuttering Oxford professor, does more than immortalize Alice–he changes her life forever. But even he cannot stop time, as much as he might like to. And as Alice’s childhood slips away, a peacetime of glittering balls and royal romances gives way to the urgent tide of war. 

For Alice, the stakes could not be higher, for she is the mother of three grown sons, soldiers all. Yet even as she stands to lose everything she treasures, one part of her will always be the determined, undaunted Alice of the story, who discovered that life beyond the rabbit hole was an astonishing journey.

A love story and a literary mystery, Alice I Have Been brilliantly blends fact and fiction to capture the passionate spirit of a woman who was truly worthy of her fictional alter ego, in a world as captivating as the Wonderland only she could inspire.  

My Review:

"But oh my dear, I am tired of being Alice in Wonderland. Does it sound ungrateful?"... So begins the tale of Alice Liddell, the girl behind the beloved classic Alice's Adventures in Wonderland; but what caused her to want to escape Wonderland and why, when every other girl dreams of being Alice from Wonderland, did she have no desire to be that Alice? In Melanie Benjamin's captivating novel, Alice I Have Been, we hear a side of the story never told; a side that takes you beyond Wonderland and into the real world of a girl longing for love and desperate to live every moment to the fullest.

Seven year old Alice Liddell was a spirited and remarkable child; a child who never wanted to grow up. As a child Alice had a unique friendship with a much older Mr. Charles Dodgson. Alice feels that he is the only one who truly understands her and she takes pride in the fact that he bestows upon her his most ardent attention. On one "golden afternoon" Mr Dodgson tells Alice and her sisters a marvelous story about a little girl named Alice and her adventures in Wonderland. Alice begs him to write the tale down so she can be immortalized as a child forever, but little does she know that her world of Wonderland might not always be so wonderful...
That "golden afternoon" is soon clouded over, and Alice finds herself in a world where she is more confused then ever. She is now a young lady full of hopes, desires, and madly in love. Unfortunately, her role in the making of Wonderland and the scandal that occurred after that "golden afternoon" threatens to destroy any chance of finding happiness...

Melanie Benjamin has weaved an engaging and haunting tale with her novel Alice I Have Been. Before reading this novel, I had never known that there was a real Alice that inspired Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. This novel has brought Alice's story to life in a whole new way. Throughout the book, there are many phrases used from Alice's adventures in Wonderland, which made the book even more enchanting. It was also brilliant how the author gave characters certain personality traits which easily tied them to the classic story. This was a fast paced and very well written book. The last chapter of the book was one of surprise intensity and answering any questions that might have been lurking in the back of the readers mind, resulting in complete and perfect closure. Alice I Have Been is a wonderful book that will leave you with a whole new view of the beloved classic Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

A Little Extra:

Alice Liddell at age seven photo by Charles Dodgson aka Lewis Caroll
Alice Liddell at age eighteen photo by Charles Dodgson aka Lewis Caroll
Alice Liddell Hargreaves at age eighty in 1932, two years before her death.

Copyright © 2010 Svea Love. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What's New Wednesday: A Look at Next Weeks New Releases

Pub. Date: March 01, 2010
Format: Paperback, 576pp
Synopsis: (From the Publisher)
Following early beginnings as a knight in the English royal household and a champion of the tourneys, William Marshal's prowess and loyalty have been rewarded by the hand in marriage of Isabelle de Clare, heiress to great estates in England, Normandy and Ireland. Now a powerful magnate, William has weathered the difficult years of King Richard's absence on crusade and is currently serving him on campaign in Normandy while Isabelle governs their estates. All the stability William and Isabelle have enjoyed with their young and growing family comes crashing down as Richard dies and his brother John becomes King. Rebellion is stirring throughout the Angevin domains and although John has created William Earl of Pembroke, the friction between the two men leads William and Isabelle to distance themselves in Ireland. The situation escalates, with John holding their sons as hostages and seizing their English lands. The conflict between remaining loyal and rebelling over injustices committed, threatens to tear apart William and Isabelle's marriage and their family...

Pub. Date: March 1, 2010
Format: Paperback, 400pp
Synopsis: (From the Publisher)
When six-year-old Kate Woodville’s beautiful sister Elizabeth makes a shocking—and secret—marriage to King Edward IV in 1464, Kate and her large family are whisked to the king’s court. Soon a bedazzled Kate becomes one of the greatest ladies in the land when she marries young Harry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham. But Kate’s fairy-tale existence as a duchess is shattered when the ongoing conflict between the houses of Lancaster and York engulfs the Woodville family.
As Edward IV fights to keep his crown, Harry’s relatives become hopelessly divided between Lancaster and York. Forced constantly to struggle with his own allegiances, Harry faces his defining moment when his dear friend Richard, Duke of Gloucester, determines to seize the throne for himself as Richard III. With lives in jeopardy and nothing less than a dynasty at stake, Harry’s loyalties—and his conscience—will be put to the ultimate test.

Pub. Date: March 1, 2010
Format: Paperback, 400pp

Synopsis: (From the Publisher)
Young Elizabeth Tudor lives in the shadow of her infamous mother, Anne Boleyn. Declared a bastard and banished from her father's court, young princess Elizabeth has become adept at dodging the constant political games and royal whims that ensure her situation is never secure.
After Henry VIII's death, Elizabeth is taken in by the king's last wife, Katherine Parr, and Katherine's new husband, Tom Seymour. But handsome Tom is playing for higher stakes. Marrying a widowed queen is one thing, but courting the King's daughter and second in line to the throne is another. Seymor pursues the adolescent Elizabeth, as she finds herself dangerously attracted to him. And with her brother's death, Elizabeth faces a perilous and uncertain future with danger encroaching from all sides...

Pub. Date: March 01, 2010
Format: Paperback, 672pp

Synopsis: (From the Publisher)
At long last, the peace King Arthur was born to usher in has settled over the realm. But Arthur was also born to be a warrior... and all true warriors are restless without a fight. Yearning for battle and ever-loyal, Arthur is easily deceived into setting sail for Gaul to defend its territories-leaving his country vulnerable and leaderless.
A beacon of hope in a land of desolation, he was to be the Lord of the Summer Land for now and forever. But first, the Pendragon must face the ultimate test, one that will take all his courage, strength of will, and honor to survive.
Because once destiny is fulfilled, can you ever truly win again?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Jean Plaidy Reading Challenge 2010

So I am already doing seven challenges...whats one more??? I might be crazy for joining number eight but after having read so many great reviews of Jean Plaidy's works, I just had to join this reading challenge.

Plaidy Challenge 2010

Royal Intrigue is hosting a Jean Plaidy reading challenge for 2010. The object is to read as much Jean Plaidy as you can and report back here with your numbers. Prizes go to the top readers and we'll be giving out awards to all challengers at the end of the year! 

After I finish reading a novel and post my review, I will then catalog it in this original post. This challenge button will always be on my sidebar, so you can check my progress at anytime. All of the challenge participants reviews will also be posted on the hosts website, Royal Intrigue.


Monday, February 22, 2010

Masterpiece Monday

Franz Xaver Winterhalter. Portrait of Mme. Rimsky-Korsakova. 1864

Aristocratic families were Franz Xaver Winterhalter's strongest patrons. He was comissioned multipul times by the royal families of England, France, Spain, Russia, Austria and many more. One of his more popular portraits is The Family of Queen Victoria in 1846 (coming soon to Masterpiece Monday). He was commissioned by Queen Victoria over 100 times to paint portraits of herself and family.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Friday Finds at the Bookstore: The Serpent in the Garden by Janet Gleeson

Pub. Date: February 2005 (In bookstores now)
Format: Paperback, 352pp

I love it when your walking through the bookstore and you find a book that you remember reading and enjoying years ago. I read this book when it was first published in 2005. As far as I can remember, it was a really good book that I read in record time. There was one gruesome spot that I can recall, but the rest of the book made up for it. This book was a very fast paced read with a plot that was full of twists and just when you think you have it all figured out...

Synopsis: (From the Publisher)
She opened the shagreen box. Couched in gray silk was an emerald necklace, one he had not seen for twenty years. The stones were just as he recalled them: a dozen or more, baguette cut and set in gold links, with a single ruby at the center. Flashes of verdigris, orpiment, and Prussian blue sparkled in the candlelight. The form of this necklace was as disturbing as ever. It had nearly cost him his life.

It is the summer of 1765. The renowned and exquisitely dressed portrait painter Joshua Pope accepts a commission to paint the wedding portrait of Herbert Bentnick and his fiancée, Sabine Mercer, to whom Bentnick has become engaged less than a year after the death of his first wife. Joshua has barely begun the portrait when a man's body is found in the conservatory. A few days later, Sabine's emerald necklace disappears, and Bentnick accuses Joshua of theft. The painter is suddenly fighting not only for his reputation but for his life. With a sure understanding of period detail and character, Janet Gleeson creates a richly nuanced tale of greed and revenge that plays out in the refined landscapes and dark streets of eighteenth-century London.


Sunday Finds at the Bookstore is going to be posted on Friday's from now on, and of course the title will be changed to FRIDAY Finds at the Bookstore. "Why the change" you might ask...well I am just starting a new weekly event called Suddenly Sunday and so it has of course taken the Sunday spot of my blog. If you want to view the first Suddenly Sunday post and see what it's all about, you may view it here: Suddenly Sunday.

Suddenly Sunday

Since The Sunday Salon is closed to new members, I am creating my own weekly event of Suddenly Sunday! Feel free to join in the fun, just link back to this blog :)

At this moment I think the title of this post is 100% is it suddenly Sunday? I am sitting here typing this post while being very distracted by the Olympics, but it's only on every two years so I guess it's ok to be distracted.

I posted my review for Island of the Swans by Ciji Ware this week and was very excited to follow it up with a great interview with Ciji Ware. You can view the review and interview here: 

My reading has been a little slow this week after being out of town. My baby came down with a cold today, so tomorrow I will probably get caught up on some reading while we sit on the couch watching Disney's Sleeping Beauty, Peter Pan and other classics.

If you have not heard yet, HFBRT just started their newest event: The Secret of the Glass by Donna Russo Morin. This event will run February 21st - 28th. You can check it out on their website: Historical Fiction Round Table. I am really looking forward to all their creative posts!

 Don't forget to enter my giveaway for this month, it ends March 1st: The Boleyn Wife giveaway

Have a great week everyone and happy reading!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Persuasion on Masterpiece Classic, February 21st 2010

Airing February 21 at 9:00pm on PBS, Masterpiece Classic will air an encore presentation of Jane Austen's Persuasion. It will air as one 90-minute episode

Synopsis (From Masterpiece Classic)
Unhappily unmarried at age 27, and dealing with family financial peril, hope is fading from Anne Elliot's (Sally Hawkins, Little Britain) life. Circumstances bring Captain Frederick Wentworth (Rupert Penry-Jones, Casanova), a dashing naval officer she once deeply loved, back into her life eight years after Anne was persuaded by her family to reject his marriage proposal. Having returned from sea with a new fortune, Wentworth is surrounded by swooning women while Anne broods at the periphery, longing to be in Wentworth's favor. Now Anne comes face-to-face with the deep regret of her old decision, and her abiding love for Wentworth, as she wonders if a long ago love can be rekindled.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Author Interview: Ciji Ware talks about Island of the Swans

I am so excited to bring you a wonderful interview with the very talented Ciji Ware, author of Island of the Swans, which you can read my review for here. Thank you Ciji for your thoughtful answers and honoring "Confessions and Ramblings of a Muse in the Fog" with your presence. 

What inspired you to write about the Duchess of Gordon?

I hail from a long line of professional writers, including my father, Harlan Ware, who was a mid-century popular fiction author, screenwriter, and a co-writer of a (now) long-gone radio show called One Man’s Family.  His office was across the hall from my bedroom and I would wake up to the sound of him pounding on the typewriter from about 5am.  I think I absorbed early on that writing as a profession—not a hobby—took the discipline of putting one’s seat of the pants onto a chair early in the day and one’s hands on the keyboard!

Harlan Ware, circa 1950
We had always, therefore, been big readers in our household, and my dad would take me with him to a wonderful local bookstore where he’d hang out with the owner, and I’d head for the children’s section to read as many Nancy Drew mysteries as I could during the time we were there. 

Later on, I discovered the writers Daphne du Maurier and Anya Seton, and thrilled to such historical novels as The French General and The Winthrop Woman.  Dad and I loved going to see swashbuckling films like The Man in the Iron Mask and The Three Musketeers. 

I realize, now, what a rarified childhood atmosphere that was to grow up in, especially since at an early age my dad read something I’d written for school and declared, “Well, you’ve got that Ware writing gene!  It was a family ‘given’ that someone in each generation--going back to a Ware ancestor, Henry Ware, who published his works in 1802--would carry the torch forward, and I knew that I was probably ‘the one.’

Given my love of history (I majored in it in college); my enthusiastic response to those glimpses of eighteenth century life I saw in all those Errol Flynn films; and the enthusiasm my dad had for “the rich, full creative life” as he called it, I somehow always knew I’d get around to writing books—but only after I made a living as a TV-Radio news reporter and commentator for ABC in Los Angeles, so I could pay the bills.

The final push toward writing my first novel came when I stumbled across a monograph about “The Match-Making Duchess”—Jane Maxwell, 4th Duchess of Gordon, whom my very dotty great-grandmother claimed was our ancestress.  When I hit forty, I spent five years in my off-camera hours researching and writing the book that eventually became Island of the Swans. 

 Jane Maxwell with Son (Left) - Ciji Ware dressed as Jane Maxwell (right)

 I could never prove without a doubt I was from the branch of the McCulloughs of Gatehouse of Fleet (in Ayrshire—the poet, Robert Burn’s territory) that had, indeed, married into the Maxwells of Monreith a few generations before Jane was born.  However, I had a wild ride trying to trace the links and got a novel out of the process—which, when it first came out, I would promote at author conferences and speaking engagements dressed in full duchess regalia!

What do you think the marriage would have been like for the Duke and Duchess of Gordon if Thomas had not been in the picture?

Alexander the 4th Duke of Gordon
This is such a fabulous “what if” question, and one I’ve thought about for a long time.  The Duke and Duchess of Gordon are, of course, historical figures who lived in the second half of the eighteenth century and into the early nineteenth.  That there was a love triangle that went on for nearly three decades between Alexander, Jane, and her childhood love is not in doubt, with very strong evidence in the historical record that one of Jane’s seven children was not by the duke.

From the few family letters that still exist, I think that had Thomas died—as was thought he did for a year—in the Scottish kilted regiment skirmish with Native Americans outside Fort Pitt in Pennsylvania, Jane and Alex would have had a quite exemplary marriage, for I believed love truly existed between them in the early part of their marriage.  Remember, however, that theirs was a “dynastic union” to begin with—with Jane’s mother, an impoverished member of the minor nobility anxious for her daughters to “marry up” and improve the Maxwell standard of living.

  The Duchess of Gordon on horseback recruiting troops
They had all the makings of an extraordinary union.  Alex was a remarkably handsome man in his youth; Jane, a beauty in her day (seen here helping Alex and her brother recruit troops in the Scottish Highlands to fight for the British in the American Revolution)…and together, they were a “Power Couple” on the order of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. 

Jane loved politics and policy debates and became Prime Minister Pitt, The Younger’s social hostess on London, as he was a bachelor.  Alex was the largest landowner in Scotland, an ardent music lover, and wielded tremendous power as an aristocratic.  Without the divisiveness of Jane’s virtual inability to forget her love for another man, I think history, today, would be more aware of their contributions to eighteenth century society.

 I love the rivalry between the Duchess of Gordon and the Duchess of Devonshire. Who do you think was the greatest Duchess and why?

Duchess of Devonshire
Many of us have read the book and seen the movie about the life of the Duchess of Devonshire, Jane Maxwell’s rival.  The Duchess of D supported the Whigs of James Fox retinue; The Duchess of G supported the King, which meant she was a Tory.

One of the most significant contributions she made during the so-called “Madness Crisis of George III (see the film where Helen Mirren played poor Queen Charlotte) was to have been instrumental in finding a doctor who didn’t believe in using leeches and horrible, dangerous “potions” such as mercury when treating ailing King George.

The king wasn’t mad at all, but had a disease called porphyria that caused seizures during which he appeared to “rave.”  Once the new doctor stopped the brutalizing treatments he’d been getting, he made a recovery and remained on the throne for another few decades.  Trust me, what those earlier doctors had done to the poor king would have driven any of us mad! 

At any rate, Jane, I believe, is the far better duchess because she truly had the public’s good in mind as a driving principle for her life’s work. 

Duchess of D Huntington Reynolds
Georgiana, on the other hand, was an addicted gambler, drinker, and very public about the messiness of her private life.  Jane,  whose life also had its chaotic moments, was known not only for her life in the politics of the day, but also for her efforts to provide employment on her husband’s vast lands in northern Scotland through sheep raising and weaving industries that discouraged the wholesale departure to the New World of local inhabitants—a practice that bled Scotland of so many of its “best and brightest” between about 1775 onwards.

What was your opinion of Alexander Gordon as you researched and wrote about him? e.g. Should he be pitied for his jealous nature over his wife or did he cause himself a lot of grief by not accepting his wife for who she was, was the Gordon madness a cause for some of his problems etc.?

An older Alexander
Alex was a product of his breeding and the times in which he lived.  He was “to the manor born”—a bit arrogant and certainly accustomed to having his own way.  As he grew older, his good looks disappeared, and his unhappiness was written on his face for everyone to see.

Sadly, his father had died when he was fairly young and he also had a very dominating, controlling mother who was fearful she would somehow be left in the dust.  She married the second time to an American –not much admired in those times—and was constantly maneuvering to get her slice of the ducal pie!

Alex was, of course, perfectly sane.  The Gordon Madness--which had run through the family for generations due to the fact that aristocrats intermarried far too frequently--always shadowed him throughout his life and made him, I believe, reluctant to take a very public role in the House of Lords.  He’d show up for sessions, but rarely took a position of prominence.

Any little unusual response or action and the tittle-tattles of the day would pounce on it as “evidence” the duke was affected by the family blight, as his brother Lord Gordon certainly was.  It must have been an awful burden to live with.

Alex had many honorable qualities, but his background and the events of his life took him down a road where he simply couldn’t give his wife Jane her due, and in fact, the evidence indicates that he felt increasingly over the years that her gain was his loss in terms of honor, accomplishments, and status.

If Jane and Alex could only have rowed their boat in the same direction, I’ve always wondered what amazing things they could have accomplished together, and I think theirs would have been one of the great love stories of all time. Alas, fate, and the vagarious of the heart determined it would not be so….

 Any advice or suggestions for aspiring authors?

Ciji Ware at fictional signing
Always strive to keep an image in your mind of your work-in-progress between actual covers!  And remember, no one can write the story you are going to write, so don’t worry about “competition.”

I was once half way through a nonfiction book about joint custody kids (I have a dual-track fiction and nonfiction career so I can pay my light bills!) and discovered that the exact, same subject was being covered by a child psychologist.  When I called my editor to wail and whine, he said in a sharp tone of voice, “Look, Ciji, no one brings your particular sensibilities to the subject.  No one is going to choose the words you’re choosing to put on the page.  Forget about it, and just keep writing. Your manuscript is due in two months.”

My two-bit advice?  True professionals just keep writing until they type “The End.” 


Sourcebooks is republishing all five of Ciji's historical fiction novels. The next one being Cottage by the Sea, available June 2010.

Ciji's is currently working on A Race to Splendor, which will be set in 1906 after the great quake in San Francisco. It will be her newest historical fiction novel in ten years; with an expected release date of April 2011.

Copyright © 2010 Svea Love. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Book Review: Island of the Swans by Ciji Ware


Synopsis: (From the Publisher)
Re-issued in its original full length, this acclaimed and bestselling romantic historical novel by award-winning author Ciji Ware tells the true story of passionate and flamboyant Jane Maxwell, the 4th Duchess of Gordon (1749-1812). In love since childhood with Thomas Fraser, when she hears that he's been killed in America, she marries the Duke of Gordon with disastrous results. But Fraser, very much alive, returns to England to claim her love.

In addition to telling a heart-wrenching love story, Island of the Swans also paints a fascinating portrait of a powerful and controversial woman and the tumultuous era in which she lived. Patroness of poet Robert Burns, advisor to King George, painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds, Jane Maxwell was a towering figure in her own time and is an unforgettable heroine.

My Review:
In this epic story of tragic love, the life of Jane Maxwell the 4th Duchess of Gordon is reviled to us in a spectacular way. Rich in historical accuracy and detail, Jane Maxwell comes to life as you read her story.

Jane Maxwell was a child who loved adventure, this was quickly apparent in one of the opening scenes, when we find Jane pig racing with her little sister through the center of town. Of course her mother was very displeased after finding out about the race and the horrible accident that occurred afterward. Jane and her mother never saw eye to eye on anything. While Jane wanted a happy life full of love, her mother only cared for titles and riches and aimed to use her daughter to obtain them. Thomas Fraser, Jane's best friend and childhood sweetheart, was the main obstacle in her mothers grand aspirations for Jane's marriage. Jane cared little for her mothers displeasure of Thomas; and being very opinionated and stubborn, Jane secretly agreed to marry Thomas as soon as possible. Unfortunately their happy secret would not come to pass. Due to plotting between Jane's mother and Thomas's Uncle, Thomas was soon sent to America as a solider. Soon after Thomas left, Jane received the heartbreaking news that Thomas had been killed in battle.

Jane threw herself into deep mourning for Thomas and completely disengaged from all society. Only when Alexander, the 4th Duke of Gordon, offered her his friendship and felt sympathy for her heartbreak did she begin to live again. Things moved quickly between Jane and Alex; and with her mothers constant pushing, a wedding was soon underway. Everything seemed wonderful for the newly wed couple as they embarked on their honeymoon and traveled to Gordon Castle. Alas, their bliss was short lived. Jane soon received a letter informing her that Thomas was still alive and on his way back to Scotland and her...

A tragic love triangle quickly ensued, with its intensity never seeming to cease. Spanning two decades, we read about the immense hurt they cause each other and their constant struggle for reconciliation.

This was an excellent and moving book. There are so many emotions felt as you read Jane's story. It was told in such a captivating way that you find yourself lost in the characters struggle for happiness and love. This is definitely a book I could see as an epic movie; right up there with Gone With the Wind. In the authors note at the beginning of the book, we are told that a full-length biography of Jane Maxwell does not exist. Therefore, I definitely have to give a huge thank you to Ciji Ware for bringing the historical figure of Jane Maxwell to life in such a remarkable way.

A Little Extra:
I have been able to interview the very talented Ciji Ware; and she has some wonderful things to share with us about Island of the Swans! Please check it out here.

Copyright © 2010 Svea Love. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

What's New Wednesday: A Look at Next Weeks New Releases

~ For the Week of February 21st ~

Pub. Date: February 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 448pp

Synopsis: (From the Publisher)
Masterfully blending true events with fiction, this blockbuster historical thriller delivers a page-turning murder mystery set on the sixteenth-century Oxford University campus.

Giordano Bruno was a monk, poet, scientist, and magician on the run from the Roman Inquisition on charges of heresy for his belief that the Earth orbits the sun and that the universe is infinite. This alone could have got him burned at the stake, but he was also a student of occult philosophies and magic.

In S. J. Parris's gripping novel, Bruno's pursuit of this rare knowledge brings him to London, where he is unexpectedly recruited by Queen Elizabeth I and is sent undercover to Oxford University on the pretext of a royal visitation. Officially Bruno is to take part in a debate on the Copernican theory of the universe; unofficially, he is to find out whatever he can about a Catholic plot to overthrow the queen.

His mission is dramatically thrown off course by a series of...

Pub. Date: February 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 640pp

 Synopsis: (From the Publisher)
For the first time in decades, here, in a single volume, is a fresh look at the fabled Tudor dynasty, comprising some of the most enigmatic figures ever to rule a country. Acclaimed historian G. J. Meyer reveals the flesh-and-bone reality in all its wild excess.

In 1485, young Henry Tudor, whose claim to the throne was so weak as to be almost laughable, crossed the English Channel from France at the head of a ragtag little army and took the crown from the family that had ruled England for almost four hundred years. Half a century later his son, Henry VIII, desperate to rid himself of his first wife in order to marry a second, launched a reign of terror aimed at taking powers no previous monarch had even dreamed of possessing. In the process he plunged his kingdom into generations of division and disorder, creating a legacy of blood and betrayal that would blight the lives of his children and the destiny of his country.

The boy king Edward VI, a fervent believer in reforming the English church, died before bringing to fruition his dream of a second English Reformation. Mary I, the disgraced daughter of Catherine of Aragon, tried and failed to reestablish the Catholic Church and produce an heir. And finally came Elizabeth I, who devoted her life to creating an image of herself as Gloriana the Virgin Queen but, behind that mask, sacrificed all chance of personal happiness in order to survive.

The Tudors weaves together all the sinners and saints, the tragedies and triumphs, the high dreams and dark crimes, that reveal the Tudor era to be, in its enthralling, notorious truth, as momentous and as fascinating as the fictions audiences have come to love.

Pub. Date: February 23, 2010
Format: Paperback, 416pp


Synopsis: (From the Publisher)
In the summer of 1922, Robert Shannon, a Marine chaplain and a young American hero of the Great War, lands in Ireland. He still suffers from shell shock, and his mentor hopes that a journey Robert had always wanted to make—to find his family roots along the banks of the River Shannon—will restore his equilibrium and his vocation. But there is more to the story: On his return from the war, Robert had witnessed startling corruption in the Archdiocese of Boston. He has been sent to Ireland to secure his silence—permanently. As Robert faces the dangers of a strife-torn Ireland roiling in civil war, the nation’s myths and people, its beliefs and traditions, unfurl healingly before him. And the River Shannon gives comfort to the young man who is inspired by the words of his mentor: “Find your soul and you’ll live.”

Monday, February 15, 2010

Masterpiece Monday

Jean-Honoré Fragonard. The Lover Crowned. This is the fourth and final panel from The Progress of Love series. 1771-72 

Saturday, February 13, 2010

This Day in History

1542 - Catharine Howard, queen of England/5th wife of Henry VIII, beheaded

Catherine Howard was Henry VIII's "rose without a thorn", becoming the fifth wife of Henry VIII she took the motto of "no other will but his". After less then two years of marriage, Catherine was found guilty of adultery and therefore charged with treason. She was taken to the Tower of London on February 10th and executed three days later.

1867 - Johann Strauss' "Blue Danube" waltz premieres in Vienna

The first few bars of "The Blue Danube" waltz, signed by Johann Strauss

The Blue Danube waltz was first played for a concert of the Wiener Männergesangsverein (Vienna Men's Choral Association). Even though this song is a loved and widely popular classical piece, it attracted only a lukewarm debut. After its apparent failure, Johann was quoted saying "The devil take the waltz, my only regret is for the coda—I wish that had been a success!"