Saturday, September 29, 2012
Set in 1272 in England and the Middle East, this is the story of Chandra, who was raised by her father to be a warrior, to fight like a man and to enjoy the company of men. She loathes the traditional role of women that confines them to being a broodmare under a man’s domination. She loves her father and her home, Croyland Castle, on the Welsh border and never wants to leave. But her father has other plans. He has found a man who respects Chandra, Jerval de Vernon, who has even saved her from a bad guy (the hero in FIRE SONG) and has decreed she will marry Jerval whether she likes it or not. Chandra thinks of Jerval as a friend, a playmate, but when she marries him, he turns into a domineering man just like all the others.
This is a fast-paced story that takes you from the Welsh marches of England to Cumbria on the border of Scotland and then to the Mediterranean and the Holy Land on crusade with King Edward. During many adventures, Chandra and Jerval discover how to blend their different personalities and to find love in the midst of several challenges.
Chandra is a heroine to die for: brave, unique, independent and willing to fight for her right to use her gifts. She takes a bad beginning with a mother who doesn’t love her and uses it to build strength. I loved this woman. Jerval instantly finds himself lusting after her but doesn’t realize that when they are married she will still be the warrior woman she is when they meet. Like many husbands, he thinks to change her. But, since this is romance, they both change.
Coulter did a great job on the research of the times and gives us a feeling for both 13th century England and the 9th and last Holy Land Crusade. Her dialog is excellent, her characters rich and the plot is believable (though I admit Chandra’s skills are a bit over the top). I really enjoyed this one and all in the series and think you will, too.
The Medieval Song Series:
WARRIOR'S SONG (earlier version titled CHANDRA)
Thursday, September 27, 2012
This was my first by Madeline Hunter and I have since purchased all in her 14th Century London series (see list below). It is an amazing romance...great historical setting, very detailed characters, realistic dialog for the period and a wonderful heartrending story of love that overcomes many obstacles.
Set in the time of King Edward II, it is the story of Addis de Valence, a high born nobleman and knight, and Moira Falkner, the daughter of a nobleman's mistress and a bondwoman to Valence, though she claims her mother's lover freed her. She has secretly loved Addis since she was 12 and always seemed to be there when he needed care or comforting, though he was promised to the high born Claire, Moira's friend. Addis married Claire, who was vain and selfish and deserted Addis when he was sorely wounded and it was thought he'd never walk again. Now back from years in captivity in the Baltic, where he was taken in the Crusades as a slave, he fights to regain his rightful place all the while wanting Moira by his side and without benefit of marriage. But she will not go the path of her mother.
You will love this story, I promise. I couldn't put it down; and it's worth a re-read! Here's the 14th Century London series in chronological order (the order in which the stories take place, NOT publication order):
LORD OF A THOUSAND NIGHTS
Monday, September 24, 2012
THROUGH A DARK MIST is the first and tells the story of the Black Wolf of Lincoln and Lady Servanne de Briscourt and is set in the woods of Lincoln and at the Bloodmoor Castle in England. The Wolf, also known as Lucien Wardieu, abducts Servanne for ransom on his way to regaining his rightful name and saving a young heir to the throne. His lands were stolen by his bastard younger brother, the Dragon Lord of Bloodmoor Keep (Lady Servanne's betrothed), who thought he had killed his older brother in the Crusades. The Black Wolf is truly a drool worthy hero and Lady Servanne is a delicate beauty with a spine of iron. Just the kind of hero and heroine I like! His was a heart that couldn't be touched until Lady Servanne's courage and purity of heart captured him.
IN THE SHADOW OF MIDNIGHT is the story of the Wolf's cub, Eduard, and his red haired headstrong love, Lady Ariel de Clare, who will not be marrying the man King John has promised her to thank you. She has her own plans but even those go awry as her heart is captured by the Wolf's cub, Eduard FitzRandwulf d'Amboise, who has been tasked to transport her safely to a prince in Wales her father has agreed she'll marry instead of the King's man.
Since I couldn't put them down and I will be reading them again, they drew 5 stars from me. Marsha Canham has done it again!
The Robin Hood Trilogy:
THROUGH A DARK MIST
IN THE SHADOW OF MIDNIGHT
THE LAST ARROW
Friday, September 21, 2012
New Review: Elizabeth Stuart’s WHERE LOVE DWELLS – Captivating Tale of Love Among Enemies in 13th Century Wales
This book won the RITA Award for Best Historical in 1991 and was the beginning of several wonderful romances by this author. This one is one of those sweeping sagas that draw you in and hold you captive. Stuart is superb at integrating historical details and building characters with believable histories. Since she is Welsh and this is a tale set in Wales in the late 13th century, it was a labor of love for her.
This is the story of the battles between England and Wales as the Welsh fought to hold onto their independence and their lands. Of course, it was a losing battle. The story opens as Lady Elen of Teifi loses her family (and her betrothed) in a battle that leaves her the last of her ruling family, a Welsh princess. Escaping into the north woods, she helps her remaining people lead raids on the English knights. The man who has protected her all her life becomes the Welsh Fox the English dread. In a raid on her rebel camp, Elen is taken prisoner by Sir Richard of Kent, King Edward’s liege knight who has been given the assignment to rid Wales of the rebels. He doesn’t know the young woman he has captured is the last of the royal Welsh family. Instead, he thinks she is the mistress of the rebel known as the Welsh Fox.
The story of how Elen and Richard discover their love for each other notwithstanding they are enemies is a wonderful tale well told. However, there were some improbable occurrences early in the story that just didn’t make sense. I found that surprising for a RITA award winner until I read on—the book was so worth it. Here are some examples of what I found improbable:
--Richard assumes from her appearance that Elen is a “mere girl”--13 or 14 (she is really 16) -- yet he instantly concludes she must be the mistress of the Red Fox who he believes to be well over 30, and therefore he also concludes she is not a virgin. He doesn’t even ask her.
--Elen speaks beautiful French and Welsh, but Richard assumes she cannot speak English, too. He doesn’t even test his theory and speaks freely of his plans to capture the Fox in front of her. It seemed unlikely an experienced warrior would do that.
--Knowing she is the only hope of her people to birth the next generation of Welsh rulers, she plots to kill Richard by using seduction to gain his weapon, never thinking that if she slept with him, she would give birth to the children of her enemy. I just can’t see a patriot engaging in that behavior.
--Richard continues to believe Elen is the mistress of the Red Fox even after she told him her betrothed was slain by him in an earlier battle. If she was 16 and betrothed, she’d be no man’s mistress. Yet, Richard never even thinks about that inconsistency.
Stuart speaks of the Welsh and English as different “races.” Perhaps they considered themselves as such, however, they are all one race, Caucasian.
Even with these negatives, this is an amazing story and recommend it as a “keeper.”
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
New Review: Elizabeth Stuart’s BRIDE OF THE LION – Unquestionably One of the Finest Medieval Romances!
Robert de Langley became famous as the Lion of Normandy as he fought at his father’s side for King Stephen—until he died in a fiery inferno surrounded by Henry de Anjou’s men in a church in France. At least that’s what everyone thought. But the Lion didn’t die. He survived to return to England with one goal in mind: to retake his family’s castle, Belavoir, from the dreaded Lord Montagne who had seized it, and to continue the fight against Henry de Anjou, now duke of Normandy. When Montagne leaves on a trip to London, Robert and his loyal men take the castle by treachery, much to the delight of all at Belavoir—all except Montagne’s daughters. Left in charge by her father, though she is his least favorite because her dark coloring reminds him of his Welsh second wife, Jocelyn Montagne makes it clear to Robert that while the castle is rightfully his, she will fight him to protect the her virtue and that of her sister.
Stuart has a gift with words. Her descriptions take on a lyrical quality as she reaches for ways of describing what her mind sees that bring the scenes to life in a vivid way (“Jocelyn held her breath, watching as Robert de Langley surged across the plain like an angel of death. His sword rose and fell with a grace that was both beautiful and terrifying to behold, with a stark economy of motion that was unstoppable.”) It’s a pleasure to read a story that draws you in on each page. And she does not neglect the developing romance between a hero who has long ago stopped trusting women and a woman who is worthy of his trust above all others but believes no one wants her. There’s lots of history here, too, for us history lovers as Henry Plantagenet (Henry II) seeks the English throne. (If you like history with your historical romance and not just some vague background, you’ll like this story.)
I promise you will love this one!
Monday, September 17, 2012
Elizabeth spent her childhood on an Arkansas farm surrounded by animals. Later, she spent ten years in Louisiana working in hospital management. She enjoys horseback riding (reflected in her novels) and has traveled in Europe. When last heard of she was residing in St. Louis.
Unfortunately for her readers (but fortunately, I’m sure, for her family), she stopped writing in 1995 to raise a family. It’s been over fifteen years since we’ve had any news and one can only hope she is writing again. I just LOVE her work!
During the years she wrote romance novels, she gave us some of the finest. All her novels are on my “Best Romances” lists. All, save the first, were written under the name Elizabeth Stuart.
RECKLESS ANGEL (1988, writing as Elizabeth Awbrey) – Western historical
HEARTSTORM (1989) –Scottish historical
WHERE LOVE DWELLS (1990, winner of the RITA Award for Best Historical in 1991) –Welsh historical
WITHOUT HONOR (1994) –Scottish historical
BRIDE OF THE LION (1995, winner of Romantic Times’ best Medieval Historical Romance) –English medieval
Sunday, September 16, 2012
“Autumn in the Highlands would be brief—a glorious riot of color blazing red across the moors and gleaming every shade of gold in the forests of sheltered glens. Those achingly beautiful images would be painted again and again across the hills and in the shivering waters of the mountain tarns until the harsh winds of winter sent the last quaking leaf to its death on the frozen ground.”
--Anne MacKinnon, the heroine from Elizabeth Stuart's HEARTSTORM
This week will feature Favorite Author Elizabeth Stuart and her wonderful medieval novel, BRIDE OF THE LION, so come back!
Saturday, September 15, 2012
New Review: Jennifer Horsman’s AWAKEN MY FIRE – Absorbing Medieval Romance in France with a Proud Knight Hero and an Inspiring Feisty Heroine
Set in 15th century France, this tells the story of French noblewoman Roshelle de la Never, daughter of the magician Papillion and raised at the Valois court, who at 13 was forced by her guardian, the Duke of Orleans, bending to pressure from her wicked, occult uncle, Rodez Valois, to wed an old duke she did not want. To save her, Papillion curses the girl at her wedding, saying any man who tries to bed her will die before he can accomplish the deed. And before the night is done the old duke is dead. Now, years later she is still a maid and has seen two husbands to their graves and several men dead for trying to take her against her will. She has become the champion of her people, giving them hope to fight the English knights coming to conquer their lands. The English are led by Vincent de la Eresman, Duke of Suffolk, a handsome proud warrior who has been sent by King Henry to rein in the beautiful and rebellious girl holding her castle.
Roshelle is a worthy heroine. Even as a young girl she was unselfish and noble, loved by her servants. Now she is fighting for her life and her people. Her beauty makes Vincent weak in the knees. He is such a proud warrior it is sweet justice. We love it. But he is also a noble hero and so he treats Roshelle and her people well, winning their hearts notwithstanding his loyalty to the dreaded English king.
There’s lots of history in this one and lots of intrigue, treachery and action. It’s a satisfying story with many twists and turns, an evil, devious villain, and some wonderful secondary characters. You have to stay alert to pick up all the background and all the threads. It’s a book to get lost in on a rainy day. I recommend it!
Thursday, September 13, 2012
Ceidre is a fiery lass, a healer and a loyal Saxon who, in league with her brothers Edwin and Morcar, risks all to restore Aelfgar to its rightful heirs--her family. She seeks to thwart Rolf at every turn, while irresistibly attracted to the Norman. He treats her very badly most of the time but he’s still obsessed with her. Having caught her in treason and flogged her till she bled (the usual punishment for a woman), he decides to get rid of her by marrying her to one of his knights. But then he finds he cannot give her up entirely and will exercise his rights as liege lord to have her.
Joyce serves up a suspenseful tale full of history and with wonderful characters. I loved the heroine for her courage and her defiance of the Norman overlord. To be Saxon in the days of William the Conqueror was to know hardship and humiliation. Ceidre tried to do her part to fight against it even at the cost of her personal integrity. Rolfe was a strong leader who was clearly a favored knight of the king, yet he would risk much to protect the Saxon maid he wanted. Though Ceidre and Rolfe are fictional, her two brothers, Edwin and Morcar were real historic figures who rebelled against Norman rule till their deaths.
I thought the book very well written and it held my interest though at times the characters acted in a despicable manner. Perhaps it was understandable for the times and Joyce is to be commended for her realism. I recommend it.
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
It is the story of Lady Margaret of Blackthorne, a Glendruid "witch" (though she is really a God fearing young woman who loves her people), and Dominic le Sabre ("the Sword"), a knight who has returned to Scotland to be rewarded by King Henry I for great service in the Middle East. His reward is Blackthorne Keep, its lands and the Lady Margaret ("Meg"), its mistress. Dominic wants lands, peace and heirs--male heirs--but the Glendruid women cannot bear male heirs unless there is real love present and Dominic has none to give as he’s been wounded in heart and soul at the hands of the Saracens. Dominic knows Meg was promised to another and he suspects the man was also her lover. However, Meg is an innocent young woman, though wise in the ways of people and animals. She's a gifted healer, as are all the Glendruids, and she has an amazing way with the falcons they raise at Blackthorne.
I loved the way Lowell wove falconry and the life of a medieval keep into her incredibly detailed story. She created wonderful characters (two of whom are featured in FORBIDDEN and ENCHANTED) with period dialog that drew me in from the first page. The romance is well done and very believable.
This is a keeper, worth enjoying more than once! I highly recommend it.
Sunday, September 9, 2012
To this day, very little has been published about Blair Leighton: there are no modern monographs dedicated to his work, and he is seldom mentioned in books which discuss Victorian art, and yet some of his paintings number amongst the most recognizable of Victorian art to many people and have garnered large prices at auction in recent years. You could say Leighton inherited his gift from his father, Charles Blair Leighton, who was a very talented artist, and exhibited several works during his short career (he died when he was only thirty-two years of age.)
Blair Leighton's works of Godspeed (1900) and The Accolade (1901), pictured here, can be seen in almost every poster shop around the world and are used as the epitome of medieval iconography. If one looks at the visual elements in Godspeed, for example, it becomes evident that very few paintings encapsulate with such a strong a sense, the sensibilities of this genre.
In Godspeed, the beautiful maiden on the steps of a stone castle, the knight in shining armor, the white steed, and the sense of immediate peril which threatens the subjects’ contentment almost define our modern day conception of Medieval legend and romantic sentiment.
The Accolade (pictured below) derived its inspiration from a French work on chivalry, which mentioned that even ladies occasionally conferred the order of knighthood on worthy men.
Though Blair Leighton was forced by his family into a mercantile career, the artistic impulse in his heart refused to be denied. He spent all of his spare time in drawing, and made such progress that when he was seventeen he decided to devote his evenings after business hours to the study of art. When he turned twenty-one, he announced to his family that, cost what it might, he would be a painter. To that end he had been saving all he could out of his salary, and managed to put by enough to provide a good year’s start. He resolved first to get into the Royal Academy Schools. So, he went to the British Museum, did the necessary drawings as examples of his skill, and was soon admitted as a student.
To meet his expenses, he began to sell his illustrations, which drew comparatively high prices. The reason for his rapid success was perhaps to be found in the fact that he treated each drawing as if it were a picture, not only paying models to sit for him, but even going to the expense of hiring the right costumes. About eighteen months after he had entered the Royal Academy Schools, he sent his first picture to the Royal Academy Exhibition. The critic of the Standard at that time (1877) expressed the hope that the artist would not be demoralized by being elected a Member of the Academy too soon, but would be kept waiting for a time till he had done some more good work.
In 1885, he married Katherine Nash, with whom he had two children, Eric James Blair Leighton, who also attended the Royal Academy School of Art, and Sophie Blair Leighton, who married the famous British civil engineer Sir Harold John Boyer Harding.
Although Blair Leighton was elected to the Royal Institute of Oil Painters in 1887, he was never voted in as an associate of the Royal Academy. His career hit its peak in and around 1900 with his most famous works of Godspeed being in 1900, The Accolade, 1901, The End of the Song, 1902, Alian Chartier, 1903, and Vox Populi, 1904. He continued to paint other great masterpieces for many years, with less and less large-scale works as he neared the end of his life. He died on September 1st, 1922. Thankfully, we have his legacy today...beautiful works of art.
Rudolph De Cordova http://www.artmagick.com/articles/article.aspx?id=11813
E. Blair Leighton: The Prominent Outsider by Kara Ross, http://www.artrenewal.org/articles/2011/Leighton_Prominent_Outsider/Leighton_Prominent_Outsider.php
Friday, September 7, 2012
The story is of Gabriel de Vere, the oldest son of a Norman lord who has rejected him as his heir to their barony in England because on her deathbed his mother confessed to having had other lovers. Since Gabriel and his younger brother Blase have her dark looks, the father wonders if they are really his. He chooses instead the fairer third son. Gabriel leaves, vowing to make it on his own. He succeeds, becoming a powerful knight fighting in the Crusades and gaining the favor of King Richard who gives him a castle and estate in Normandy.
Gabriel’s close friend, Bernart Kinthorpe, blames him unfairly for a wound that robbed him of his manhood in the Crusades. When Bernart returns home, he marries his betrothed Julianna without telling her they can have no real marriage. Since Bernart cannot consummate his marriage to Julianna, he decides to gain a son with another man's seed. Out of revenge, he picks Gabriel, so that he can take from him what he feels Gabriel robbed him of--the capacity to sire an heir. So, he lures Gabriel to his castle in England with a high stakes tournament and then, using threats against her much loved sister, forces Julianna to go to Gabriel's bed in the dark of night disguised as a castle wench. Julianna complies, though she is against the whole idea. (She is a faithful, albeit virgin, wife.) Believing Bernart's lies about Gabriel, Julianna initially has no feelings for Gabriel other than disdain, but in their moments of passion over the week he's at her husband's castle and as she discovers him to be a man of courage and honor, her heart is given to Gabriel. When Gabriel discovers the ruse, he vows to claim any child that results and have his revenge on both Julianna and Bernart who he sees as co-conspirators.
The author captures well the 12th century, balancing the language of the time with a need to be understandable to modern readers. Hence we know clearly what is going on but we know we are back in the time of Richard the Lion Heart. Great attention is given to castle life, preparation for battle, food, dress, customs and the history of the time so that you feel you are living it. But since this is a romance, the love story is central and this is a good one that kept me reading late into the night (always a good sign).
The characters are well defined and you care about them, the love scenes realistic, and the tale very well told. You won't regret reading this one!
Wednesday, September 5, 2012
New Review: Rebecca Brandewyne’s ROSE OF RAPTURE – Superb Medieval Romance Steeped in War of the Roses History
Typical of Brandewyne’s novels, it is divided into five "books": Against the Summer Sky, The Rose of Rapture, The Windswept Moors, Tears, and Lonely Sojourn. Book one begins in 1490, then we're back to 1470, then back to 1453 as we experience the beginnings of Warrick ap Tremayne, a half Welsh bastard of an English lord who grows up at his father's castle, Hawkhurst, to be a favored knight of Edward. When their first warden dies, the king makes Warrick the new warden of Rushden, and though he has no desire to marry, betroths him to Isabella, now 15. But she loves another...
This tale is rich in the history of the period, so much so that at times I had trouble holding all the names in my head as Brandyewyne weaves a complex tale of deception, intrigue, mystery and betrayal. But I loved it. The lives of all are influenced by the battle for the English throne that takes on the appearance of a game of musical chairs before it's done.
I'll warn you the ending is bittersweet, but it's a great love story...a well told tale of two worthy characters living in a tumultuous time. I highly recommend it.
Monday, September 3, 2012
New Review: Jannine Corti-Petska’s THE LILY AND THE FALCON – A Wonderful Dive into Renaissance Italy and a Great Love Story
Corti-Petska captures the time (1433-34) and the place (Florence, Italy) so that this becomes not only a trip to Italy, but also a trip into the past. She uses enough of the language and the common terms of the era to bring to life the time when wealthy warring families controlled the city-states. Her dialog is natural and creates both tension and suspense as she serves up a worthy story of love and treachery.
I liked that the relationship developed as one would imagine it might. Cristiano has an unwilling love at first sight experience but denies his heart; and Bianca, who is dragged kicking and screaming in to the relationship, is the one who recognizes the strong love she is coming to feel for her new husband. I think you’ll like this one; I recommend it.
The Medieval series thus far:
THE LILY AND THE FALCON (Republic of Florence, 1433)
SURRENDER TO HONOR (Palermo, Sicily 1440)
DANTE’S FLAME (Kingdom of Naples, 1437)
Saturday, September 1, 2012
During September and October on my blog, I will feature medieval romances, or historical romances set between the 5th and 15th centuries. Of course, there will be knights and their ladies and wonderful love stories. We'll have book reviews, guest and favorite authors and my BEST LIST.