Tuesday, May 31, 2011

WINNER: A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

Congratulations to Laura @ The Calico Critic -- you are the winner of A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin! You will be contacted by e-mail for your mailing information. I hope you enjoy it!

Thank you to everyone who entered the giveaway!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Jane and the Man of the Cloth by Stephanie Barron

"Jane and her family are looking forward to a peaceful holiday in the seaside village of Lyme Regis. Yet on the outskirts of town an overturned carriage forces the shaken travelers to take refuge at a nearby manor house. And it is there that Jane meets the darkly forbidding yet strangely attractive Mr. Geoffrey Sidmouth. What murky secrets does the brooding Mr. Sidmouth seek to hide? Jane suspects the worst--but her attention is swiftly diverted when a man is discovered hanged from a makeshift gibbet by the sea. The worthies of Lyme are certain his death is the work of "the Reverend," the ringleader of the midnight smuggling trade whose identity is the town's paramount mystery. Now it falls to Jane to entrap and expose the notorious Reverend--even if the evidence points to the last person on earth she wants to suspect--a man who already may have won her heart."
(from the publisher)

my thoughts:

Jane and the Man of the Cloth (there's a play on words here) is a delightful cozy mystery from the very talented Stephanie Barron, with all the period details and manners of speech that you find in Jane Austen's writing. It's so very realistic in style and substance that I have to keep reminding myself that this is not actually written by Austen, nor is it an actual account of what happened to her during her lifetime! Barron does base her fictional mysteries on some authentic material gleaned from Austen's letters and known facts about her life, so this makes the stories seem as if they truly are a peek inside Jane's innermost thoughts and feelings in journal form. For anyone who enjoys Austen-inspired works written in true Austen style with mystery and adventure, the Jane Austen-as-sleuth collection is highly recommended. Barron creates Austen as a self-assured sleuth with wit and charm guaranteed to make you want to curl up with a cup of tea. I especially enjoyed this adventure with smugglers, contraband, midnight spying in secret caves, and Jane's tender hearted affection for a gentleman...or is he a rogue?

To read about the historical background and letters Barron used to create Jane and the Man of the Cloth, visit Stephanie Barron's website here.

This book completes the third book I've read for Being a Jane Austen Mystery Reading Challenge 2011 sponsored by Austenprose.

4/5 stars

Title: Jane and the Man of the Cloth
Author: Stephanie Barron
335 pages
genre: historical mystery

Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

"Deep in the heart of Oxford's Bodleian Library, scholar Diana Bishop requests a manuscript called Ashmole 782 in the course of her research. Coming from an old and distinguished lineage of witches, Diana senses that the ancient book might be bound up with magic--but she herself wants nothing to do with sorcery; and after making a few notes on its curious images, she banishes it quickly back to the stacks. But what she doesn't know is that the old alchemical text has been lost for centuries, and its sudden appearance has set a fantastical underworld stirring. Soon, a distracting horde of daemons, witches, and vampires descends upon the Bodleian's reading rooms. One of these creatures is Matthew Clairmont, an enigmatic and eminent geneticist, practioner of yoga, and wine connoisseur--and also a vampire with a keen interest in Ashmole 782.

Equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense, A Discovery of Witches is a novel of epic scope, traveling from the cobbled streets of Oxford to the chateaus and mountains of the Auvergne to a small town in upstate New York. It also takes us into a rich fifteen-hundred-year history that spans Clovis and the Crusades, the Knights Templar, and the American Revolution. As Matthew and Diana's alliance deepens into intimacy, Diana must come to terms with age-old taboos and her own family's conflicted history--and she must learn where the modern woman she is meets the course of ancient power that is her legacy. With a scholar's depth and the touch of a great storyteller, Deborah Harkness has woven a tale of passion and obsession; the collision of magic, alchemy, and science; and the closely guarded secrets of an enchanted world."
(from the publisher)

my thoughts:

I had high expectations and hopes for this novel.

I thought the premise of the book sounded absolutely fascinating, and what could be better than a rich combination of historical, romantic, and paranormal elements? There has been quite a buzz (good and bad) on some book sites about A Discovery of Witches, so my interest was piqued and I just had to get my hands on this book!

To be honest, it was a letdown.

Now I know that too much hype about a novel can raise a person's expectations too high, but I went in with an open mind expecting to read a fresh take on witches and vampires. I gave it my undivided attention for many days and kept hoping it would take off and be magical, but I struggled to stay interested. I found it hard to like the character of Diana Bishop, the powerful witch at the center of the story, as she constantly needed answers and help from others around her. For an alchemical scholar at Oxford, she is awfully dense and naive. She was far too weak and dependent throughout the entire book -- no real character arc here at all. Matthew Clairmont, the vampire and love interest, was a more richly drawn character, but I still couldn't get past the fact that he was an expert on everything and far too perfect.

Chalk it up as just one of those books that is either a hit or a miss, and for me, it was a miss.

I hasten to add that others thought it was fantastic, and I've seen many five star reviews, so this is just one person's opinion. I thought it was one of those ideas that if it had been in the right hands, it could have been brilliant. It had a strong beginning but lost steam along the way, and I'm not sure I'm interested enough to read any of remaining books in this trilogy when they are published. Glad I read it, though, as I wouldn't be able to rest until I satisfied my curiosity. Now I know better. :)

2/5 stars

Title: A Discovery of Witches - Book 1 in the All Souls Trilogy
Author: Deborah Harkness
579 pages
Genre: fiction/paranormal

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I'm getting angry!

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr! I'm getting angry and it isn't pretty! I'm tired of Blogger problems. I've tried several times to respond to my readers who've left comments and blogger won't allow me to sign in. I've also attempted to leave comments on other blogs, and I'm blocked. Oddly, I can post but can't comment. So sorry if I'm unable to respond to you or visit your blogs -- hopefully, this new Blogger headache will be solved shortly -- again.

Update: Wednesday 5/25/11 -- Problem with Blogger has not been remedied, and there are many still affected. I can post but not comment on my own blog and some other blogs. It appears that I can post as "anonymous" but that's it. :(

****GIVEAWAY: Game of Thrones -- Someone contacted me by e-mail trying to enter the giveaway and they were also not able to leave a comment. I apologize for this inconvenience, but if you will send me an e-mail at joannemccabe9@cox.net, I will make sure you are entered into the contest. Thanks!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Suddenly Sunday

Happy Sunday to everyone -- hope your weekend so far has been full of good things for you! It's been a very busy time around my house with my children's end-of-school year final frenzy: last minute projects, final exams, out-of-town school trips, and end-of-year parties and dances, and for my son, graduation from 8th grade. Whew!

I've been planning a few getaways that I'm very much looking forward to. A New York trip will put me in the city at the same time as the Romance Writers of America annual conference, so I plan on attending the authors' book signing event. Since there are going to be hundreds of romance writers in attendance, it should be a fabulous time to meet some great authors (and discover some new ones).

I'm also super excited to get a little R&R (that means without the kids) at one of my favorite plantations. Nottoway is a gorgeous antebellum plantation (a former sugarcane plantation) not too far away from where I live, and while I've visited it several times, I've never had the opportunity to stay overnight. Here are a few pictures to give you an idea of the home's grandeur. (I could get used to this!) You can click on the photo for a much larger view.

(Do you see the small arched alcove in the middle of the stairways? At one time when guests arrived by carriages along a curved driveway, a carriage boy stood at attention in that alcove and came out to assist with the horses.)

This is known as the famous White Ballroom. It is here where the daughters of the master of the house made their debuts to society, and five of his eleven children were married in the White Ballroom.

Here is the grand dining room. They do not serve guests dinner here now, though -- we will be served lunch and dinner at lovely outdoor tables on a balcony overlooking the grounds.

Tea, anyone? Join me in the Tea Parlor.

These are just two of the countless bedrooms in the home where guests can stay.

Can't you just see the gentlemen retiring here for cigars and brandy in the study? And check out the draperies....reminds me of Carol Burnett's spoof of GWTW, doesn't it?

In book news, I've been on a buying spree lately and have been collecting books faster than I can read them. I'm currently reading A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness and will be reading A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin next.

Speaking of A Game of Thrones, I'm having a giveaway of this popular novel, so any US residents may take a chance on winning a paperback copy here at Slice of Life. Click on the novel in the sidebar to take you to the post to enter.

With summertime fast approaching, I hope to have a little more time to get back to reading more. Happy Reading!

Suddenly Sunday is hosted by Svea at Confessions and Rambings of a Muse in the Fog.

Monday, May 16, 2011

GIVEAWAY: A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

"In A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin has created a genuine masterpiece, bringing together the best the genre has to offer. Mystery, intrigue, romance, and adventure fill the pages of the first volume in an epic series sure to delight fantasy fans everywhere."

****This contest is now closed.************* 5/31/11


Sounds like a book you would like to win and read? Well, if so, today's your lucky day! (Long story short, I have an extra paperback copy of A Game of Thrones due to an order mixup, so I thought I would share it with a lucky reader of my blog.) Since the book and shipping are on me, the giveaway is open only to U.S. addresses (sorry). You don't need to be a follower to enter (but it's always appreciated).

Just leave a comment on this post with contact info, and I will randomly select one winner to be announced on May 31, 2011. Good luck!

********This contest is now closed.************* 5/31/11

Title: A Game of Thrones -- Book One of A Song of Ice and Fire
Author: George R. R. Martin
835 pages
mass market paperback

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Mr. Perfect by Linda Howard


"That's the deliciously racy topic that Jaine Bright and her three girlfriends are pondering one night at their favorite after-hours hot spot: Mr. Perfect. Would he be tall, dark, and handsome? Caring and warmhearted -- or will just muscular do? As their conversation heats up, they concoct a tongue-in-cheek checklist that becomes an overnight sensation, spreading like wildfire at work and sizzling along e-mail lines. But what began as a joke among friends turns deadly serious when one of the four women is murdered....Turning to her neighbor, an unpredictable police detective, for help, Jaine must unmask a killer to save her friends---and herself. Now, knowing whom to trust and whom to love is a matter of survival -- as the dream of Mr. Perfect becomes a chilling nightmare."
(from the publisher)

my thoughts:

Let me start off with a warning: don't pick up this book if you have a busy day ahead -- because I promise you, once you read the chilling prologue, you won't be able to put this book down until you've read the last page! It was so good! I had my nose stuck in the book all day long, and I was practically bumping into walls while I moved through my activities.

Jaine Bright is the fiesty, outspoken heroine of the story. At the age of thirty (with three failed engagements under her belt!), she's very proud of the fact that she's settling into her quaint new home in a lovely neighborhood. There's one big problem, however, that is marring her newfound domestic tranquility -- her next door neighbor is a surly, loud-mouthed jerk! Sam Donovan is unkempt, drives a car with a muffler that could wake up the dead, and comes in at odd hours during the night, depriving Jaine of a peaceful night's sleep. She is certain he is either the town drunk or a drug dealer, and it's just her luck he lives right next door to her! Their first few encounters end up in a shouting match, and Jaine is discouraged that this derelict is going to be a constant thorn in her side. Trust me, things get really interesting between these two! (wink, wink)

Meanwhile, Jaine and her three friends from work meet for their regular Friday night dinner and drinks. As usual, the conversation turns to men and relationships, and they begin joking around about what makes the perfect man. They are having such a good time laughing and deciding on their priorities, that one of them pulls out a pad and starts to take notes. Unfortunately, these notes that were supposed to be a private joke make their way into the public and become a local and national sensation! Although their names were not originally attached to the list (they were identified as A, B, C, and D), their identities are discovered and they are hounded by reporters from magazines, tv, and newspapers. Women are amused by the list, and men are annoyed at the physical attributes for the perfect man -- let's just say that most men would "come up short" in that department! The list has also angered a psychotic killer, and one by one the women's lives become a nightmare as the killer begins to stalk them and strike out to retaliate.

I won't spoil the twists and turns in the plot, but not everyone is as they seem. (I guessed the killer's identity but that did not detract from the enjoyment of the story as there were more surprises ahead that I didn't see coming). This is a really funny, sexy thriller with lots of fireworks and sizzling scenes with Jaine and her new love interest. My only minor complaint is that for someone who has had such a bad track record (three broken engagements), she moves awfully fast to commitment -- seems pretty risky to me! Overall, a great read, laugh-out-loud moments, and real page-turning suspense.

4.5/5 stars

Title: Mr. Perfect
Author: Linda Howard
Pocket Books
405 pages
genre: contemporary thriller/romance

Monday, May 9, 2011

Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind: A Bestseller's Odyssey from Atlanta to Hollywood by Ellen Brown & John Wiley, Jr.

"In the seventy-five years since Gone With the Wind's publication, millions of people the world over have speculated about what happened after Rhett Butler told Scarlett O'Hara he didn't give a damn. Whether author Margaret Mitchell envisioned a reconciliation for her famous lovers is one of many intriguing questions surroung the legendary novel and its enigmatic creator.

Granted unprecendented access to GWTW records and correspondence, Ellen F. Brown and John Wiley, Jr. examine the biggest mystery of them all: how a disorganized and incomplete manuscript by an unknown Southern writer was discovered by a major New York publisher and became one of the most popular, profitable, and controversial novels in literary history. Various Mitchell biographies and several compilations of her letters tell part of the story, but until now no single source has delved into the full saga.

Brown and Wiley answer the question once posed by her husband, "How in the hell did she do it?"

(from the publisher)

my thoughts:

Every once in a while I pull out my copy of Gone With the Wind and just pick a chapter at random....it doesn't take me long to get totally swept up in this amazing saga of one of the most controversial heroines in southern literature.....Scarlett O'Hara. Once, someone compared the fiesty Margaret Mitchell to her fictional creation, Scarlett, and the author was most offended!

"About the only good qualities Scarlett had were courage and a refusal to admit defeat. But on the other side she was selfish, vain, almost illiterate, a bungler in her dealings with other people, a person with shoddy tastes and a fondness for cheap companions. She neglected her children and she was the ruination of every man who loved her. She stopped at nothing in her grasping determination to make money, including cheating, swindling, and cruel abuse of the helpless convicts she hired. She committed murder, she stole her sister's sweetheart with a lie, and she offered her body for sale at a price." (p. 193)

Whew! Yet millions of fans are enthralled with Mitchell's Civil War-era tale and after seventy-five years, the story of Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara is still going strong, considered by some to be one of the Great American Novels.

This account, although tedious at times (copyright issues = ZZZZzzzzzzzzz), traces the origins of GWTW. Margaret Mitchell was the epitome of the southern lady.....gracious, charming, pretty and petite, with a family legacy of Civil War stories told to her from the time she was born. The only real writing experience Mitchell had was childhood stories and news articles. She had an idea for a story in her head, and over the years began quietly working on her manuscript in a haphazard way. As she completed chapters or ran into a road block, she filed away the papers in large envelopes and stashed them all over her tiny apartment in Atlanta that she shared with her husband. After several years, the apartment was crowded with overstuffed envelopes! She had no intention of showing her work to anyone, much less getting it published, but as we all know, this mishmash of envelopes was eventually fine-tuned and honed into a blockbuster masterpiece. A former reporter friend of Mitchell, Lois Cole, went to work for Macmillan Publishing House in New York. It was this connection with the publishing world that eventually brought Harold Latham, a Macmillan publishing executive, to seek out Mitchell while on a trip to the south. Margaret was horrified to learn that her friend had discussed her work as the quiet lady suffered from severe self-doubt. She simply couldn't believe anyone would be interested in reading her material, much less publishing it and paying good money for it! The manuscript was not even complete or organized into any cohesive start-to-finish format. At first she denied ever having written anything, but Latham convinced her to share her work and asked to see what she had on hand. She reluctantly gathered together the envelopes she could find and handed them over against her better judgement, and the rest is history. Those stuffed envelopes held a future Pulitzer Prize winning novel!

What followed for Margaret Mitchell, however, is not a happily-ever-after fairytale. The job of completing the manuscript, researching for historical accuracy, proofreading and editing, and filling in gaps for continuity over the next year took it's toll on her mentally and physically. Working from dawn and well into the night, she and her husband (who assisted her) almost dropped from exhaustion to try to meet the deadline Macmillan had set for publication. It was an arduous task for her, and once her manuscript was finally completed to her satisfaction, she vowed she would never write again. The toll was just too great, and "Tote the Weary Load" could well have been the title!

Unfortunately for Margaret, the publication of her novel was not the end of her worries. In fact, she and her husband spent the remaining years of her life fiercely guarding and overseeing the overwhelming universe that Gone With the Wind created. Everything from copyrights for radio, audio recordings, film, stage, merchandise, foreign translations and overseas rights, etc... kept them working full-time to protect their financial interests and legal rights. Everyone wanted to cash in on the phenomenal success of GWTW, and the publicity-shy, reclusive new author was thrust into the glare of worldwide success and high-stakes business deals. In one way, she was like her Scarlett: she was a fierce warrior when it came to protecting her personal interests. Margaret Mitchell dug in her heels and made her views known to Macmillian and the world: she would not appear in public to promote her book -- her poor health would not allow her to travel extensively; she would not speak about her book in public -- her few attempts ended in a bad case of stage fright; she was not up to writing again; and NO ONE would profit from her intellectual property without her consent. (The one thing Mitchell was dedicated to was her fan mail -- she and her assistant diligently answered the thousands of fan letters she received and believed each person should be individually thanked.) She was pleased with the Hollywood version of GWTW, but again, she wanted little to do with the movie's creation after signing a deal with MGM for the movie rights. She did appear at the movie's Atlanta premiere and made a brief statement, thanking the people of Atlanta for their kindness to "me and my poor Scarlett."

The one thing everyone wanted to know was, "What happens to Rhett and Scarlett? Will you write a sequel?" Her coy answer to the first question was always, "Why, I don't really know." As to the question of a sequel, she had a definite answer: "No." She was so insistent that a sequel not be written that her will stated the all future heirs/trusts should respect her wishes. The book ended exactly how she intended it to end. Period. She insisted she simply didn't have time to write again as managing the business of GWTW was a full-time job. Her untimely and tragic death in 1949 (she was hit by a car while crossing Peachtree Street) put an end to the possibility of the world ever experiencing another book from this extraordinary woman.

Why, then, did her brother (who became her heir upon the death of Margaret's husband) agree to a sequel? Stephens Mitchell, her brother, also had spent his life protecting his sister's interests and deflected offers to have a sequel written for many years. He also fought unauthorized fan fiction versions of his sister's writings. However, he was in his eighties, and he was weary of fighting. He had no idea how much longer he would live, and after his death, he felt people would have a field day with GWTW. If he authorized a sequel, at least the Margaret Mitchell Trust could handpick the author and to a certain degree, guarantee that it would be in keeping with the integrity of the novel. Alexandra Ripley, a southern author, took on the job, knowing that it would be a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" job. People would criticize her work as inferior to Mitchell's (which she was willing to admit she was no Margaret Mitchell), and she would not please everyone with her plot for Scarlett and Rhett. The world finally had their sequel in 1991, Scarlett, and one alternative to what may have happened to Scarlett and Rhett. Rhett also got his story in 2007 with McCaig's Rhett Butler's People.

So, join me and dust off your old copy of Gone With the Wind, raise a glass and toast to seventy-five years of stunning success for Margaret Mitchell and her "poor Scarlett."

Original cover of 1936 first edition

Title: Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind: A Bestseller's Odyssey from Atlanta to Hollywood
Authors: Ellen F. Brown, John Wiley, Jr.
Taylor Trade Publishing
379 pages
nonfiction: literature and film industry

Friday, May 6, 2011

M. M. Kaye's Autobiographical Trilogy

I am thrilled to have stumbled upon this autobiographical trilogy of M. M. Kaye, The Sun in the Morning, Golden Afternoon, and Enchanted Evening. Anyone who has read Lauren Willig's The Betrayal of the Blood Lily knows that this book was her homage to Mollie Kaye's books and her enchantment with India, and being a fan of Willig's novels, I began collecting M. M. Kaye's works (which, unfortunately, are not easy to find -- I buy used copies.) Trade Wnd just blew me away and became a favorite last year, and I'm looking forward to reading Kaye's other epic novels. What an exciting and privileged life Mollie Kaye must have lived to have needed THREE volumes to write about her adventures in England, India and China! I know it will take me a while to work my way through these volumes (jam packed with fabulous photos of exotic settings, social gatherings, and fashions through the years), so I plan on savoring them. Here's a preview of each of her memoirs:

Volume I - The Sun in the Morning
In this wonderfully evocative autobiography M. M. Kaye, bestselling author of The Far Pavillions, Shadow of the Moon, and Trade Wind, recounts her first eighteen years in India and England. Rich in period detail and peopled with extraordinary and unforgettable characters, The Sun in the Morning is a brilliant and vivid memoir of life under the Raj.

Volume II - Golden Afternoon

Returning from an English boarding-school to India in 1927, Mollie Kaye plunges into the glories -- and embarrassments -- of the Delhi Season. But more than the social life of the Raj, she rediscovers her love for the country -- the magic paradise of Kashmir, the sun-scorched plains of Rajputana, the teeming life of the markets and the complexities of high-caste life. Spiced with humour, incident and her trenchant views of the world, both then and now, Golden Afternoon is suffused above all with the enchantment that is India.

Volume III - Enchanted Evening

M. M. Kaye is forced to leave her cherished home in India when her father takes a new post in China. Though at first disoriented by the unfamiliar customs and confusing protocol of her new surroundings, it is in China that she discovers the pleasures that come from independence. Coming into her own as a painter, Kaye first meets with artistic success in China and then moves to cramped quarters in London's South Kensington neighborhood where she begins to flourish as a writer. With vivid descriptions that comes with age, Mollie Kaye looks back on the years spent as a young woman in a world as yet unmarked by World War II's devastation.


To explore more of M. M. Kaye's works, click here. She's an author not to be missed!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Legacy by Jeanette Baker


Christina Murray is elated to inherit her family's ancestral home in Scotland. But upon her arrival she is confronted by her breathtakingly handsome new neighbor, Ian Douglas...and an ancient family curse that comes with the castle.


Seduced by Ian's easy Scottish charm by day, Christina dreams at night of three raven-haired beauties, ancestors who fell victim to the curse one generation after another: Katrine, the fiery Jacobite supporter who lost her heart to an Englishman; Jeanne, an accused witch; and Mairi, who shared a forbidden passion with the King of England.

Now it's Christina's turn to lie in that cursed bed....and loving Ian might just cost her her life."
(from the publisher)

my thoughts:

I'm always on the search for a good story that combines some of my favorite elements: Scottish history, romance, and time travel, and Jeanette Baker's Legacy fits the bill. It is the story of four women, all of whom share a legacy of tragedy and an ancient curse.

Christina Murray is the modern day heroine, a thirty-eight year old American who has spent her life studying Gaelic history and exploring Scotland's history. But after many years teaching at Boston College and experiencing a painful divorce, she travels back to Scotland when she is mysteriously summoned to Traquair House, Scotland's oldest manor house. Upon her arrival, she is presented to the dying Lady Ellen Maxwell, who becomes terrifyingly agitated when she sees Christina, and suddenly dies. Christina learns that upon the death of Lady Maxwell that she in now an heiress and has inherited Traquair House! And if that was not enough of hitting the jackpot, the manor house also comes with it's own gorgeous, unattached neighbor, Ian Douglas.

Here's where the story really kicks into high gear -- Ian and Christina quickly develop a very interesting and close relationship, but she is troubled by several strange events. She is a diabetic and knows the weakness and fatigue that can occur if she does not have her insulin; however, her moments of fatigue and illness are turning into visions or dreams of the past, where she begins to experience glimpses of ancestors who, the reader learns over time, are all linked through a witch's curse and an ancient secret of Scotland's stone of destiny. Stories from the thirteenth, sixteenth, eighteenth, and modern day times are woven together to finish with a very dramatic and page-turning conclusion. Great for those who enjoy a nice mix of romance, fantasy, and Scottish history.

By the way, Traquair House really exists, dating back to 1107 as a hunting lodge for Scottish kings and queens.

3.5/5 stars

Title: Legacy
Author: Jeanette Baker
1996, 2011
Sourcebooks Casablanca
368 pages
genre: historical romance/time travel

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Elizabeth I by Margaret George

About the book, Elizabeth I

It is 1588, and the showdown between England and Spain has finally come. Elizabeth and her island kingdom stand alone against the strongest country in Europe. Yet after that triumph, she cannot rest. There are many other challenges to her, and the ever-hanging question of the succession to the childless queen. Surrounded by such larger-than-life characters as Drake, Shakespeare, the Earl of Essex, Raleigh, and Francis Bacon, the queen proves bigger than all of them.

Her cousin and rival, Lettice Knollys, mother of the Earl of Essex and widow of Robert Dudley, who was Elizabeth’s love and soul mate, provides a dark counterpoint to the glittering aura of Elizabeth’s legend. Bound together in a love-hate relationship, the two women pursue their linked destinies.

My thoughts on the novel, Elizabeth I

I was so pleased to be a part of the virtual tour for such a noteworthy author as Margaret George. I was already familiar with her work because of the popularity of her book, The Autobiography of Henry VIII, so I felt honored to be able to preview her latest historical fiction release, Elizabeth I.

Let's start with the amazing cover, shall we? With the much over-used "headless woman" covers lately, it was refreshing to see this elegant and classic design. Bravo!

Next, this novel is unique in that it does not retell the story of her life from its beginning, a story that most people familiar with the Tudor era already know; rather, the story opens in the year 1588 as the queen and her army are preparing for the attack from the Spanish Armada, and continues with the remaining fifteen years of her life.

Margaret George creates a powerful drama of the loves, passions, rivals, and power of Elizabeth I, including such figures as Drake, Raleigh, the Earl of Essex, Robert Dudley, Lettice Knollys, and Shakespeare (among others). Dramatic and rich with historical detail of the era, I was very impressed with this fascinating portrait of the Virgin Queen's final years of reign. Reading Elizabeth I has made me want to explore the other works of Margare George as well, and I can highly recommend Elizabeth I to all historical fiction enthusiasts and to all who enjoy a well-researched, richly told tale.

Read an excerpt

May 1588

The whip cracked and snapped as it sought its victim.

I could see the groom cowering in the bushes, then crawling away in the underbrush as the whip ripped leaves off a branch just over his head. A stream of Spanish followed him, words to the effect that he was a worthless wretch. Then the face of the persecutor turned toward me, shining with his effort. “Your Majesty,” he said, “why do you keep my whip?”

It was a face I had thought never to see again—that of Don Bernardino de Mendoza, the Spanish ambassador I had evicted from England four years earlier for spying. Now he rounded on me and began fingering his whip as he walked toward me.

I sat up in bed. I could still smell the leather of the whip, lingering in the air where it had cracked. And that smirk on the face of Mendoza, his teeth bared like yellowed carved ivory—I shuddered at its cold rictus.

It was only a dream. I shook my head to clear it. The Spanish were much on my mind, that was all. But . . . didn’t Mendoza actually leave me a whip? Or did we just find one in his rooms after he hurriedly left? I had it somewhere. It was smaller than the one in the dream, useful only for urging
horses, not punishing horse grooms. It had been black, and braided, and supple as a cat’s tail. Spain’s leather was renowned for its softness and strength. Perhaps that was why I had kept it.

It was not light out yet. Too early to arise. I would keep my own counsel here in bed. Doubtless devout Catholics—secretly here in England, openly in Europe—were already at early Mass. Some Protestants were most likely up and studying Scripture. But I, their reluctant figurehead, would commune with the Lord by myself.

I, Elizabeth Tudor, Queen of England for thirty years, had been cast by my birth into the role of defender of the Protestant faith. Spiteful people said, “Henry VIII broke with the pope and founded his own church only so he could get his way with Anne Boleyn.” My father had given them grounds with his flip quote “If the pope excommunicates me, I’ll declare him a heretic and do as I please.” Thus the King’s Conscience had become a joke. But out of it had come the necessity of embracing Protestantism, and from that had grown a national church that now had its own character, its own martyrs and theology. To the old Catholic Church, I was a bastard and usurper queen; thus I say that my birth imposed Protestantism upon me.

Why must England, a poor country, be stuck with subsidizing three others—the French, the Dutch, the Scots—and facing Spain, the Goliath champion of Catholicism? God’s teeth, wasn’t it enough for me to defend and manage my own realm? The role was a sponge that soaked up our resources and was driving us slowly but inexorably toward bankruptcy. To be the soldier of God was an expense I could have done without.

Soldier. God must be laughing, to have handed me his banner to carry, when all the world knew—or thought it did—that a woman could never lead troops into battle

About Margaret George

Margaret George is the author of six epic biographical novels, all New York Times bestsellers, featuring larger than life characters like Henry VIII and Cleopatra. Although painstakingly accurate historically, their real focus is the psychology of the characters. We know what they did, we want to know why. Her latest release is Elizabeth I.

Margaret’s research has taken her from the islands of Scotland to the temples of Upper Egypt, with experiences that include snake-keeping and gladiatorial training.

She lives in Wisconsin and Washington DC. Interests include reptile conservation efforts, Middle Eastern dance (aka bellydancing), and archeology.

For more information about the author and her books, you can visit Margaret George’s website at www.margaretgeorge.com.


I would like to thank Cheryl Malandrinos of Pump Up Your Book! for inviting me to take part in the Margaret George tour and The Penguin Group for providing me with an advance review copy of Elizabeth I by Margaret George.

Favorite Period Dramas

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Joanne's to-read book montage

On a Highland Shore
A Light on the Veranda
The Queen's Vow: A Novel Of Isabella Of Castile
The Edwardians
Maisie Dobbs
Howards End
Lady's Maid
Instruments Of Darkness
When Maidens Mourn
Where Shadows Dance
What Remains of Heaven
Where Serpents Sleep
Why Mermaids Sing
When Gods Die
Before Ever After
The Sugar Queen
Garden Spells
After the Night

Joanne's favorite books »