Thursday, March 31, 2011

Giveaway winner!

And the winner of one brand new copy of Jules Watson's latest novel, The Raven Queen, is........

Congratulations, Marie! I will be sending you an email shortly to obtain your information :)

Many thanks to everyone who entered for a chance to win. I have a couple great giveaways coming up over the next few days, so check back soon!


Monday, March 28, 2011

Guest Post: Sarah Bower talks about the Borgias

Hello everyone! Well it's another week here at Muse in the Fog, and I am delighted to start your week off with a guest post from Sarah Bower, author of the newly released Sins of the House of Borgia. I know many of us are excited about the upcoming Showtime series, The Borgias, so what better way to add to all the excitement than with this guest post and, of course, her intriguing novel! I now give you Sarah Bower:


"When we think about the Renaissance, the first thing most of us think of is the unique flowering of the arts that took place in Italy and Northern Europe. The political and economic conditions that made it possible probably don’t occur to us till some way down the line. Artists, however, need patrons and patrons tend to be those who wield political and economic clout. It is Pope Sixtus IV who gave his name to the Sistine Chapel, not Michelangelo, and Cardinal Ippolito d’Este (the son, incidentally, of Lucrezia Borgia) who takes the credit for the Villa d’Este at Tivoli, not his architect or garden designer. Leonardo made his day to day living as a party planner for the Duke of Milan and military engineer for Cesare Borgia, among other things.

Cesare Borgia and his father, Rodrigo, who became Pope Alexander VI in 1492, are in many ways archetypes of Italian Renaissance power, although their family came originally from a small town called Xativa, near Valencia, in Spain. They competed for the control of small city states, of which fifteenth century Italy was a patchwork, by political bargaining, force of arms and, when necessary, by simply murdering the opposition. They weren’t alone in this. The Borgias were one of several successful families, of whom perhaps the best known example is the Medici, who exploited the decimation of traditional social structures left by the Black Death in the previous century to grab power, influence and wealth for themselves.

The Borgias were not, when one looks closely at the historical record, any more or less corrupt, venal or violent than most other powerful families of their age, but their reputation is far more lurid. I think there are two reasons for this. Firstly, they were foreigners. Pope Alexander’s uncle, Alonso de Borja, first came to Italy in 1444, and himself became Pope Calixtus III eleven years later. Even though Alexander’s famous children, Cesare, Juan, Lucrezia and Jofre, were born in Italy and had an Italian mother, they always spoke Catalan among themselves – much to the frustration of a number of legates and ambassadors who reported being forced to stand around blank faced while the Borgia clan prattled away to one another in their unintelligible patois. This is one reason why their success was particularly resented and why rumours arose of demonic powers and barbarous practices at the Vatican. As we all know, the concept of the foreigner brings out strong prejudices.

Secondly, their rise and fall were meteoric. Less than fifty years after the election of Calixtus III, they had sunk into obscurity. Alexander was dead. Cesare’s state had disintegrated and he himself was in prison in Spain awaiting trial for the murder of his brother, Juan, a murder he almost certainly didn’t commit. Only Lucrezia still had a secure foothold in Italy, but because she was the wife of the Duke of Ferrara, not because she was a Borgia. She survived by reinventing herself. The brevity of their time at the top has the effect of placing their careers under a historical microscope; we can examine their every act minutely because there were relatively few of them. Both the crimes they committed and those which have been placed at their door because it was convenient to blame the foreigner, the other, are magnified by being condensed into such a short space of time.

So, I would suggest the Borgias were no more corrupted by power than the next Renaissance dynasty. They lived in an age when human life was cheap and survival a desperate struggle, threatened everywhere by disease, violence and superstition. Perhaps, had they, like the Medici, been great patrons of the arts, posterity would have come to see them as part of Renaissance enlightenment rather than an illustration of its dark underbelly. Alexander and Cesare were charismatic and brilliant, Lucrezia charming and accomplished and, in the end, a shrewder operator than any of the men in her family.

And anyway, what do we want from our history? In the immortal words of Harry Lime, ‘in Italy for thirty years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love; they had five hundred years of democracy and peace and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.’ "

Thank you, Sarah, for taking the time to present us with this fascinating guest post! 

Keep an eye out for my upcoming review of Sins of the House of Borgia and international giveaway, later this week!

Copyright © 2011 Svea Love. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Guest Post: Karen Harper, author of The Irish Princess

I am very excited to bring you the lovely Karen Harper, author of the newly released The Irish Princess. In this delightful post, Karen gives us a glimpse into what her latest creation is all about. From the research behind it, to a bit of the plot, this post will leave you wanting to go read the book this very instant. Now, without further ado, I give you Karen Harper:

"Each time I discuss or write about my new historical revenge story, THE IRISH PRINCESS, I am reminded of Irish stew—a delicious thought in the month of March when St. Patrick’s Day celebrations occur. Irish stew has a little bit of everything in it, and so does this true story of Elizabeth (Gera) Fitzgerald, the “uncrowned princess of Ireland.”

As I discovered Gera and then studied her life, I realized she would make a dynamic and fascinating heroine. Her life was full of adventure, tragedy, and triumph. She had a love/hate relationship with Edward Clinton, the Lord High Admiral of the English Navy, despite her vow of vengeance against the English—ah, there’s nothing like forbidden love. And her story fit everything I look for in settings for a book, because Tudor England and the British Isles—in this case, old Ireland—is my love and my specialty.

The Fitzgeralds, Gera’s family, were considered to be “the uncrowned kings of Ireland,” but when they dared to challenge King Henry VIII, he ordered their castle besieged and the men of the family eliminated. (His Majesty’s standard practice for ruining a powerful or noble family that could compete with the Tudors: imprisonment in the Tower and a public beheading.)

But the king badly miscalculated the strength of one “weak” woman in the family, the beautiful Gera, who vowed revenge on him and his family—and then came to admire and befriend Elizabeth Tudor, with whom Gera had so much in common.

The novel also has a real swashbuckling flavor, thanks to the fact that the hero is a sea captain. Gera even commanded one of his ships to chase pirates in the name of the queen. I could not have found a more exciting hero and heroine if I had made them up. If you would like to see how close the compelling cover of THE IRISH PRINCESS comes to portraits of the real Gera Fitzgerald, take a look at both on my website, which also has portraits of the other key characters in the novel

Of course, a research trip to Ireland provided some of the background and the sense of Irish ‘magic’ for the book. Just as with English Tudor-era sites, it’s not hard to imagine what the past in Ireland must have been like by visits to castles, charming villages and the green, green countryside. I hope I caught that special aura or old Erin and its people. Whether I’m writing historical novels or contemporary suspense set in Ohio Amish country, I always try to treat the settings as another key character.

I hope you have a great St. Patrick’s Day. I intend to dance a jig (I really can!), attend a parade and drink a toast to old Ireland and to the bold spirit of Gera Fitzgerald and her people. I also plan to enjoy some Irish stew, and hope that you will too. Erin Go Bragh!"

Thank you, Karen, for taking the time to share this delightful guest post with us!

Synopsis (From the Publisher):
"A grand-scale historical novel from the national bestselling author ofMistress Shakespeare. 
Born into a first family of Ireland, with royal ties on both sides, Elizabeth Fitzgerald-known as Gera-finds her world overturned when Henry VIII imprisons her father, the Earl of Kildare, and brutally destroys her family. Torn from the home she loves, her remaining family scattered, Gera dares not deny the refuge offered her in England's glittering royal court. There she must navigate ever-shifting alliances even as she nurtures her secret desire for revenge. From County Kildare's lush green fields to London's rough-and-tumble streets and the royal court's luxurious pageantry, The Irish Princess follows the journey of a daring woman whose will cannot be tamed, and who won't be satisfied until she restores her family to its rightful place in Ireland."

Copyright © 2011 Svea Love. All Rights Reserved.

Giveaway! The Raven Queen by Jules Watson

I have one brand new copy of Jules Watson's intriguing novel, The Raven Queen, up for grabs. It is not often I am able to offer an international giveaway, so I am pleased to announce that this will indeed be an international drawing!

Since this giveaway will be apart of the "Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop", hosted by Kathy @ I am a Reader not a Writer, the giveaway guidelines are a bit different than my normal entry procedure, so make sure you take a look at them.

Cover Image

Synopsis (From the Publisher):
"In this dazzling retelling of one of Ireland’s most stirring legends, acclaimed author Jules Watson brings to life the story of Maeve, the raven queen, who is as fierce as she is captivating.

She was born to be a pawn, used to secure her father’s royal hold on his land. She was forced to advance his will through marriage—her own desires always thwarted. But free-spirited Maeve will no longer endure the schemes of her latest husband, Conor, the cunning ruler of Ulster. And when her father’s death puts her homeland at the mercy of its greedy lords and Conor’s forces, Maeve knows she must at last come into her own power to save it.
With secret skill and daring, Maeve proves herself the equal of any warrior on the battlefield. With intelligence and stealth, she learns the strategies—and sacrifices—of ruling a kingdom through treacherous alliances. And to draw on the dangerous magic of her country’s oldest gods, Maeve seeks out the wandering druid Ruan, whose unexpected passion and strange connection to the worlds of spirit imperil everything Maeve thought true about herself—and put her at war with both her duty and her fate."

Giveaway Guidelines:

~6 possible entries~

  • +1 entry for posting a comment with your e-mail and being a follower via Google Friend Connect (no comment with e-mail and follow via GFC = no entry)
  • + 3 entries for adding a link to this giveaway on the sidebar of your blog. (please post link with your comment)
  • + 2 entries for tweeting about this giveaway (please post link with your comment)  

~Please post all your entries in one comment, thanks :)
~This giveaway will international.

~Ends March 20th

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Author Interview with C.W. Gortner, author of The Tudor Secret

Hello everyone! Today I am thrilled to bring you my Q&A with C.W. Gornter, author of The Tudor Secret . If you haven't done so already, you can read my review of this enthralling novel HERE. Now, let's get to the exciting part of this post!

What was your inspiration for writing the Spymaster Chronicles?

Years ago, while researching the Tudor era for my first unpublished novel I came across information about the espionage system developed to keep Elizabeth I safe. We often don't realize it today, but during her long reign Elizabeth was besieged by enemies, both in England and abroad; I was immediately intrigued by the idea of ordinary men and women who risked their lives to defend the monarch. I loved the idea of creating my own spy to serve Elizabeth, but it wasn’t until I started writing the outline for the book that I began to conceive of this young squire, connected to Elizabeth through his master, Robert Dudley, who unwittingly carries his own secret and fosters a lethal rivalry with the future queen’s favorite. I was also fascinated with the idea of delving into the years before Elizabeth takes the throne; I felt that while much of her later life had been covered in previous novels, the events surrounding her brother Edward VI's death were rife with possibilities, the perfect scenario to set my story.

So far, your books have been set in Spain/Flanders, France and now England. Do all of these settings captivate you completely, or is there a particular one that stands out as your favorite?

I am captivated by all, for different reasons. But I must admit, Spain is my favorite because I'm half Spanish by birth and was raised there; the history of Spain is quite complex, full of drama, and relatively unknown to many readers of historical fiction. There are so many stories that beg to be told. However, I feel similar about France, where the Revolution and demise of the monarchy often overshadow its vibrant Renaissance period and enthralling medieval era. Flanders has an incredible history, too, with a strategic importance that made it a prize and one of the most cultured courts in Europe. And while England is perhaps most well covered in historical fiction, the sheer number of larger-than-life characters who shaped its destiny remain a constant source of inspiration for writers. Few dynasties, for example, offer the diversity and drama of the Tudors.

When did you first discover your passion for writing historical fiction?

As a child, I first fell in love with the historical novels of such writers as Rafael Sabatini, Alexander Dumas, Daphne du Maurier, and the venerable Jean Plaidy. Reading their books, I became enthralled with the idea of creating my own interpretations of these people who lived and died so long ago; they became intimate to me through historical fiction. I started writing my own stories but didn't discover the actual passion for writing historical fiction until I was in my twenties and embarked on my first attempt to complete a novel. Historical fiction is a demanding and quite difficult genre to master; the research is not always easy or particularly clear, and there are many directions a writer can go. But I love finding my stories in those very places where the facts differ, to excavate possibilities in the opaque corners of history.

In The Tudor Secret, Robert Dudley is definitely a questionable character. What is your opinion of Robert, and has it changed throughout your research?

I've been so interested by readers' reactions to Robert Dudley in my book. As I mentioned earlier, we develop these intimate relationships with historical figures through our reading and we all have our favorites and those we like less. For me, Robert is one of those polarizing characters. The Tudor Secret is the first book in a planned series, so as every other character evolves, so will Robert—though not necessarily in ways others have described him. Lest there be any doubt, I both like and admire him; he was a strong man who survived the downfall of his family to become one of the greatest people of his age, and, if some sources are to be believed, the lifelong love of Elizabeth. But I don’t think he lacked a dark side. His own actions show him to be complex in his motivations and I think he was motivated, at least in his initial years, by ambition, like most men of his birth. He was the son of a powerful family close to the throne; he wasn’t inclined to be gracious to inferiors or sacrifice his sense of entitlement. I present Robert when he is still quite young, privileged, and resolved to succeed. I do think this most likely is who he was, until fate brought down his world and he learned what the price of his ambition might entail. Nevertheless, as anyone who’s studied Elizabeth and Robert knows, it didn’t stop him. Theirs was never a simple relationship.

What captivating reading experience will you bestow upon your readers next?

I’ve just finished my third biographical novel, this time about Isabella of Castile, to be published in 2012 by Ballantine Books. In this novel, I depict a different Isabella from her ascetic legend; we will meet a young, defiant princess who engaged in a tumultuous fight for her throne as well as a remarkable forbidden love for Fernando of Aragon. The book covers the dramatic years of her reign leading to the fall of Granada, during which she went into battle against her nobility and the Moors to forge a single kingdom and set Spain on the path to becoming a world power. I also explore her oft-conflicted responsibility for the Inquisition, her dark association with Torquemada, and her inspired relationship with the then-unknown navigator, Columbus.

Currently I’m writing the second book in the Spymaster Chronicles, tentatively titled The Queen’s Hunt. This time, the story begins in the winter of 1554, a few months after the conclusion of The Tudor Secret, At Cecil’s behest Brendan reluctantly returns to court, where Elizabeth has been residing amidst mounting rumors of treason. Brendan becomes embroiled in a deadly plot against the princess, concocted by the Imperial ambassador. This time, however, he believes he knows what he’s up against. He’s in for some very troubling surprises

And the trade paperback release of my novel The Confessions of Catherine de Medici comes out on May 24 from Ballantine, with extra Reader Group Guide material.

Thank you so much for inviting me. To find out more about me and my work, please visit me at Happy reading!

Thank you, C.W. Gortner, for honoring this blog with your presence, once again!


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Book Review: The Tudor Secret by C.W. Gortner

The Tudor Secret by C.W. Gortner
Publish Date: February 2011
Format: Paperback 352pp

Synopsis (From the Publisher):
"The era of the Tudors was one of danger, intrigue, conspiracy, and, above all, spies. 
Summer 1553: A time of danger and deceit. Brendan Prescott, an orphan, is reared in the household of the powerful Dudley family. Brought to court, Prescott finds himself sent on an illicit mission to the king’s brilliant but enigmatic sister, Princess Elizabeth. But Brendan is soon compelled to work as a double agent by Elizabeth’s protector, William Cecil, who promises in exchange to help him unravel the secret of his own mysterious past. 
A dark plot swirls around Elizabeth’s quest to unravel the truth about the ominous disappearance of her seriously ill brother, King Edward VI. With only a bold stable boy and an audacious lady-in-waiting at his side, Brendan plunges into a ruthless gambit of half-truths, lies, and murder. Filled with the intrigue and pageantry of Tudor England, The Tudor Secret is the first book in The Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles."

My Review:

I first had the pleasure of discovering C.W. Gortner's work last year, with his breathtaking novel, The Last Queen (my review). In just a few chapters, I realized that I had found an author destined to be a favorite of mine. Therefore, when I learned of C.W. Gortner's newest release, I could not have been more excited! And, just like always, I was captivated from the very first page.

The Tudor Secret begins with the return of Brendan Prescott to the Dudley household. Having lived there through his childhood, and having been the subject of the Dudley brothers pranks, Brendan is wary when he is called to be the squire of Robert Dudley. While the animosity is still quite apparent, Robert turns out to be the most mature of the brothers, and for that, Brendan is thankful. However, Brendan's thankfulness is short lived,  for on the very first night of performing his services as squire, he is sent on secretive missions and creates formidable enemies. Thrown into a world of espionage and treachery, Brendan must learn whom to trust and how to navigate his way through the deadly Tudor court.

I could not have been happier with C.W. Gortner's newest creation. The novel unravels at a steady pace and the plot twists are constant throughout. Unlike his former novels, which gave us intense emotional reactions, The Tudor Secret gives a calm reading experience, allowing for the mind to process the mystery, and ultimately increases the shock when secrets are reviled. C.W. Gortner did a fabulous job setting up this series with the end of The Tudor Secret, and, knowing how talented an author he is, I can only imagine what an adventurous journey he has planned for us all.

FTC: I received this book from the publisher. As always, these are my own honest opinions.

Copyright © 2011 Svea Love. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Guest Post: C.S. Harris talks about her research

Today I am pleased to bring you C.S. Harris, author of the newly released Where Shadows Dance, as she gives us a glimpse into her world of research for the acclaimed St. Cyr Regency mystery series. Thank you, C.S. Harris, for being here with us today! 

Synopsis (From the Publisher):
"Sebastian St. Cyr proves his courage once again, with murder and marriage-in a brand new historical mystery.
Sebastian St. Cyr finds himself in the realm of international intrigue when he investigates the murder of a foreign office diplomat-a murder his reluctant bride-to-be, Hero Jarvis, knows something about. And when a second body is found, Sebastian must race to unmask a ruthless killer who is now threatening Hero's life-and the life of their unborn child."

And now I give you C.S. Harris:

"Because I have a PhD in nineteenth-century European history, people often think I don’t need to do much research for my Sebastian St. Cyr Regency mystery series. But the truth is, I probably spend almost as much time on research as I do writing. My historical background gives me a good understanding of the zeitgeist of the day—the spirit or culture of the time in all its political, intellectual, philosophical, and artistic manifestations. But when you’re writing historical fiction, the devil is in the details. And sometimes those details can be very elusive.

I can spend hours searching for the kind of tiny facts that most readers breeze past without even noticing, whether it’s a description of the uniform and cadenettesof a French hussar officer or the price of a bunch of watercress in 1812. And that’s as it should be. It is very important to me for my books to be as accurate as possible, but I want those details to be subtle, to give a sense of the flavor and mood of the period without being boring or weighing down the story. I like a good, fast-paced read, so that’s what I try to deliver.

But what ends up as fast-paced can sometimes be excruciating to create. I have maps of London from 1747, 1810, 1811, and 1814, and I spend hours peering at them with a magnifying glass. I also have a wonderful thick six volume set from the nineteenth century on the history of London’s streets and buildings, from which I’ve gleaned all sorts of fascinating details and facts and even a few plot ideas.

Does this mean I never get things wrong? Unfortunately, no. Sometimes the mistakes come from simple forgetfulness: I once casually referred to a certain breed of dog without stopping to think that the breed might not have existed in 1811. It didn’t. Or sometimes I’ll think I know something when I actually don’t.

But I do own an eighteenth century double-barreled flintlock pistol similar to the one Sebastian carries; it hangs on the wall beside my computer. And I’ve a shot a flintlock rifle so that I know exactly what it looks, smells, and feels like. I do everything I can to bring the London of Sebastian St. Cyr to life in my books.

You can visit my website at, and my blog at"

My review for C.S. Harris's new release, Where Shadows Dance, will be coming soon!

Copyright © 2011 Svea Love. All Rights Reserved.