Finding an Old Friend

The title may be misleading. This is very metaphorical. Having been an English ed major, general book worm, and readaholic, an old friend to me is usually a good book. Though I’ve graduated I’ve been subbing everywhere and anywhere I can. Monday, I had the joy of being a librarian for the day. Sitting in a very nice middle school library, I got the itch to walk around and stretch my legs.

As I made my promenade through the shelves and around the room, I came across a dear friend. A friend that helped lead me to where I am today. A friend that I hadn’t seen in a number of years; that brought back all of the memories of the first time I saw it, all of the feelings of wonder and questions that I had.

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It’s part of the Royal Diaries series, the same people who do the Dear America books. Elizabeth I, Red Rose of the House of Tudor. I was fortunate enough to grow up 2 blocks away from the library. I read through the entire Princess Diaries series and the Dear America books. I’ve also read all of the Magic Treehouse books. Though I love them dearly, none of them compared to this. Something about this book struck a chord. Sitting on the front porch of our little house, in the sunshine of summer, I was infatuated.

Fast forward 16 years and now I’m teaching. I’ve taught freshmen about Queen Elizabeth I twice during pre-reading for Shakespeare. I’m preparing to take the history praxis. I am encouraging students to read, hoping that one of them will find “the book.” The one that turns their life upside down. The book that years after they have me, they’ll see on a shelf, or their own child will bring home, and they’ll remember. I hope they will think “I remember you, hello my dear, old, friend.”

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Author Interview With Carrie Turansky

Carrie Turanksy, author of The Governess of Highland Hall, has been gracious enough to answer some question for me! You can read my review of The Governess of Highland Hall here!

CT- Carrie Turansky   AS- ME

CT- Hi Anna, thanks for inviting me over to your blog!

AS- Thank you so much for taking the time to answer a few questions for me! I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Governess of Highland Hall and can’t wait to keep reading the rest of the Edwardian Brides series! I stayed up until 3 am the other night after I sent my email to you, to read it! I will just jump right in here.

Where is your favorite place to write? Do you have any thing in particular you like to have with you? Tea, specific music, candles, outside etc…

CT- I have a corner desk in our dining room that serves as my office. Sometimes I sit at the desk to write, but I often take my laptop and sit in other more comfortable places around the house. I also like to sit outside on our back patio when the weather is nice so I can enjoy a view of my garden while writing. To block out noise and provide inspiration, I to listen to instrumental music or movie soundtracks while writing. I have some favorite Pandora stations that I listen to as well. I’m a tea drinker, so you’ll find me drinking a cup of Earl Grey in the cool weather, and when it’s warm, I like to enjoy iced Passion Tazo tea.

AS- Faith takes a relatively important role in your books; what made you decide to incorporate that aspect into your writing? Did you find that it hindered your opportunities at all?

CT- My faith is central to who I am, so it is natural for me to include faith elements in my novels. I believe God’s Word has practical answers and wisdom for any problem or circumstance we face. Good stories include conflict and problems that the characters have to overcome, so I like to think of how God helps me or others I know through similar issues and include that in my novels to encourage readers. I hope they will see faith and God’s work in their lives in a new light when they read one of my books. There is a need for well-written stories that include faith elements, and there are publishers who come from that perspective and are looking for authors who can write inspirational stories.

AS- What is the best advice you have been given as a writer thus far?

CT- Keep learning and growing as a writer. Read widely and write every day or as often as you can. Connect with other writers and those in the publishing industry to glean from them and learn all you can. Attend writers’ conferences. Keep writing and never give up.

AS- What training/education do you have when it comes to writing?

CT- I have a degree in fine art from Oregon State University and graduate diploma in Bible from Multnomah University. My training for writing has come through attending writers’ conferences, reading writing craft books, networking with other authors, being in critique groups, and writing.

AS- You are a Oregon native, which is cool because I lived in Washington State for a time, but are now in New Jersey, right across the river from me in Pennsylvania! Neither are very close to England. Where did your interest in England come from?

CT- I’ve always loved history and reading classic novels, many which are set in England. I homeschooled my five children and read many historical novels aloud to them. All that stirred my interest in writing historical fiction. In 2012 I attended a conference and asked an editor what type of book she was looking for. She said she’d love to see a story set in England during the same time period as Downton Abbey since that series was just becoming popular. She even suggested the heroine be a governess and the hero have a brooding personality with a secret past, reflecting some elements from Jane Eyre. I loved the idea, but I wasn’t sure I could write a story set in England in the early 1900s. It’s hard enough to write a story set in the US in a previous time. But I had a good friend who had just published a book set in England in 1912, and she encouraged me and gave me several research books. I jumped into the research and fell in love with Edwardian England.

AS- I truly appreciate your love of Edwardian England, since I am a bit of a time period snob myself. What about that era drew you in and made you decide to set your series in that time?

CT- When I started researching the time period I watched both seasons of Downton Abbey and a lesser-known series called Manor House. Manor House is an English reality series where people take on the roles of servants and wealthy, titled family members and live on an English country estate like they did in the Edwardian period. The division of the classes is very interesting. The homes, fashions, and lifestyle are fascinating, but there are many modern inventions that make that time period similar to today – trains, cars, telephones, etc. It’s a great time period, and there aren’t too many authors writing books set then, so it was a good time to do it.

AS- I just finished reading The Governess of Highland Hall, the first book in your Edwardian Bride. Where did your inspiration for these characters come from?

CT- The heroine, Julia Foster, is inspired by missionary Amy Carmichael, who traveled to India and served the Lord there for many years. I took pieces of Amy’s back-story and wove them together in my imagination to create Julia. There is also the influence of Jane Eyre’s story in the hero, heroine, and some of the situations in the book.

AS- I love your author website, it’s one of the best I’ve seen. The recipes that you have to go along with your different books are a great touch! Where did you get the idea and the recipes!?

CT- Thanks for your kind words about my website. I love to cook, so I enjoy including food in my books. I thought it would be fun to share those recipes with my readers, so I added them to my website. Some of the recipes are family favorites, so that’s a special nod to my family members.

AS- You are a very busy author/mom/grandmother/speaker/writer/gardener and involved in ministry! How in the world do you keep it all straight? Do you have a super awesome planner that we should all invest in? Where do you find the time to write!?

CT- I am blessed to be at the stage of life where it’s just my husband and I at home, so that frees me up to plan my days and spend a good amount of time on writing. But my life is more than writing. My family, our ministry, and my friendships are all important to me. I try to start each day spending time in God’s Word, writing in my prayer journal, and making a list of goals for the day. When I am working on a book I set a weekly word count goal, and that helps me finish my books on time.

Great questions, Anna! Thank you!

I love to connect with readers on Facebook, Pinterest, and through my website. I send out an email newsletter every other month to share book news, recipes, book reviews, and encouraging articles. I also blog at my website. The sign up for the blog and newsletter are on the home page of my website: http://carrieturansky.com/

Blessings and Happy Reading!

-Carrie

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Along with visit Carrie’s website, you can also find her on instagram @carrieturansky to keep up with what she is reading, writing, her beautiful gardens and travels! She is also an active Pinner with some great stuff!

The Governess of Highland Hall- Carrie Turansky

I have a Pinterest problem. Like….a 16,000 pins Pinterest problem. In the midst of pinning, I pinned the book Daughter of Highland Hall, by Carrie Turansky. She happened to see that I had pinned the book and commented on it. One thing led to another, and I ended up buying the first book in her Edwardian Brides series, The Governess of Highland Hall. I then read the whole thing in a few hours, it just happens….

Julia has spent the last 12 years in India, the daughter of two missionaries. She has returned home to England with her family due to her father’s poor health and she must find a job. As luck would have it, a local family with two young women as their wards and two children are in need of a governess. Though she has never been a governess, or helped polish young ladies for their debut into society, she has a great work ethic, experience with children and a steadfast faith in the Lord to help her through.

Nothing beats a good romance to help kick off summer reading. There were a few webs of love spun and woven together throughout the course of the book. Some were able to weather their storms while others were not so lucky. Either way, when an author can make me fall in love with the characters, that’s really all that matters.

The story takes place in Edwardian England, very Downton Abbey. These are two of my other favorite things, England and a time period piece. There is an added air of romance to the culture and lives of people from that time and place. There have been many days where I wish some of those ideologies were still prevalent, I think our literature and culture would be a better place.

Turansky has an eloquent ability to make the words come alive off of the page. Her vivid imagery and detail made this book an absolute joy to read. My favorite scenes were Christmas, as she described the Christmas tree, swags with bows and cinnamon and the decorations. I could smell the cinnamon and fresh-cut tree right in my room. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that I had just been smelling holiday candles at the Yankee Candle Outlet the other day….but I’d rather give the credit to her.

Her characters are quirky, honest, intriguing, real, mischievous, relatable and fun. I am a very interactive reader, it is not uncommon to hear me yelling at the characters as I go. More than once did I find myself laughing, rooting for, and shaking my head at the antics and choices of the members of the family and household. Julia Foster was a very endearing main character that was a perfect counter to the Darcy-ish William Ramsey.

If you are a Downton Abbey fan, you should read this book. If you want a light summer read, you should read this book. If you are a sucker for a romance, you should read this book. The second book in the series, The Daughter of Highland Hall, is currently available. The next book, A Refuge at Highland Hall will be available October 20, 2015!

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Jen Turano Author Interview

Last night I posted my book review of Jen Turano’s A Change of Fortune, the first book in her Ladies of Distinction series! I was inspired by my writing for the media class to incorporate more author interviews. If there is one thing I have learned recently, it is that most authors are more than willing to answer a few questions. Why are more people not reaching out to do this!?

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Oh yeah, and she’s s so pretty! 🙂 Below is my mini interview with Turano-

AS- Me!

JT- Jen Turano

AS-Where is your favorite place to write? Do you have any thing in particular you like to have with you? Tea, specific music, candles, outside etc…

JT-When I’m writing a first draft, I’m most productive if I stay in my office and work on my big computer with the large screen and enormous keyboard. After that, I can move around the house with my laptop to do edits, although I’m not a writer who enjoys going to coffee shops to write – there are just far too many distractions and I’d never get anything done. I really don’t have any specific rituals when I’m writing. I just set a goal for the day, usually word count, and I don’t stop writing until I reach that goal.

AS-You are an Ohio native, but have moved around a bit. Do you think the different environments have influenced your writing?

JT-I don’t think the different environments influenced my writing as much as the different people I’ve encountered have. Most of my characters are inspired by real people I’ve met over the years, and most of those people have been rather quirky. If I’d have lived in one place all my life, I wouldn’t have met so many fabulous friends, and I’d have far less ready material tucked away in my mind to pull out when needed.

AS-Writing was not your first career, in fact, you found writing quite unusually. When did you realize that you might actually have a knack for this and go for it?

JT-As many readers know, I started writing because of a rather horrible series my son and I were reading together when he was in the third grade. We decided we’d try our hand at creating a book together, and armed with his wild suggestions (because he was your typical little boy back then) I wrote a fantasy called “Fanglers” that was filled with creatures and completely ridiculous scenes that my son suggested. I really didn’t consider sending it out to anyone until my son’s librarian asked to read it. I ran the PTO at the school so everyone knew me which is why I really had no choice but to hand over the story – especially since librarians can be somewhat scary. I was then pleasantly surprised to discover she enjoyed it. However, that’s when I learned my first important lesson – people who know you, are not the best people to critique your work. When I did send the manuscript out to a few agents, I was quickly informed that my craft needed a ton of work, but since it was somewhat pleasant, using my brain again, I just started writing a lot, and different genres at that. I knew I was doing something right because I got suggestions back from agents/editors, and then I finally signed with an agent and she very kindly sold my work to Bethany House.

AS-I truly appreciate your love of The Gilded Age, since I am a bit of a time period snob myself. What about that era drew you in and made you decide to set your series in that time?

JT-Growing up, I read mostly Regency when I’d read a romance, but a few years back, I read a non-fiction book about Alva Vanderbilt and realized how absolutely fascinating The Gilded Age was. This was truly a time in our history when we can see the rise of the New York Socialite, and see the influence of American heiresses. Since I have a background in fashion, I love being able to use the old department stores for scenes every once and a while, and don’t even get me started on the interior of the mansions that began springing up on Fifth Avenue. With my latest series, I’ve been adding in a touch more history to the storylines, mostly because there are just so many cool things about The Gilded Age. I’ve even set a story in Newport for the sheer reason that I wanted to set the scene in one of the “cottages” that were in such demand during the summer social season.

AS-I just finished reading A Change of Fortune, the first book in your Ladies of Distinction Where did your inspiration for these characters come from?

JT-Odd as this may seem, I was actually thinking about walking away from trying to get a book published because I’d had some disappointing news regarding a different manuscript. Because I was in a bit of a gloomy mood, I decided I’d clean the house because…well, that’s sure to perk a girl up, and while I was scrubbing the shower – the entire Ladies of Distinction series popped to mind. I knew everything – the characters, the storylines, you name it, it was all there. But, because I’m a little weird about cleaning, I couldn’t simply stop and start writing, so armed with a pad of post-it notes, I continued on to another room, scribbling down ideas as I cleaned, and then I started writing “A Change of Fortune” the next day. I’ve come to the belief that my inspiration for this series definitely came from above because I really was ready to throw in the towel and go back to fashion after being a stay-at-home mom for so many years.

AS-Faith takes a relatively important role in your books, and you’re obviously published by Bethany House; what made you decide to incorporate that aspect into your writing? Did you find that it hindered your opportunities at all?

JT-I felt there was a distinct need for more clean romances in the market – books that a mom would not be embarrassed to share with her teenage daughter if you will. Because of that, and because I’m comfortable with my faith and talking about God, it was a logical choice for me to turn to the inspirational market. Do I feel it’s hindered my opportunities? That’s difficult to say. My books do get banished to the dark and sometimes gloomy Christian section in the large bookstores instead of being shelved in romance, but…with every new release, more readers find me, so…I think I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.

AS-A Most Peculiar Circumstance, was chosen by Booklist as a Top Ten Romance for 2013, what did it feel like to have that recognition that you had not only been accepted as a writer, but people were truly enjoying your work!?

JT-It was a huge surprise, as well as an honor, but, quite honestly, it completely freaked me out. Writers are an odd lot, and we dwell on all sorts of nonsense, mostly what will happen if we can’t produce another fun book, and then…readers will hate us and they’ll never buy another book again, and…well, the neurosis goes on and on. That’s what happened to me when Booklist was so kind as to really like my book. I was sure I’d never be able to produce something even remotely close to “A Most Peculiar Circumstance” again and then I’d just have to go back to being a buyer for a department store. I’ve calmed down a touch since that book was released – although I do still get super nervous when I have a new book coming out because it’s always all about the reader, and I really don’t want to put out a book that readers find disappointing.

AS-What is the best advice you have been given as a writer thus far?

JT-Keep producing new work and don’t read your reviews – especially on Goodreads because, wow, people can be mean.

To learn more about her books visit http://jenturano.com/category/books/

To learn more about the Gilded age and why she loves it so much, check out her posts here!

Follow her on Facebook to keep up with new books, book giveaways, other articles on Jen and her work and just to see what she’s up too!

A Change of Fortune- Jen Turano

I recently discovered a new author. I’m kind of excited about this one and I can not wait to get even more of her books. Jen Turano is an accidental writer, finding her niche when she began writing along with her young son. She is a historical-Christian-fiction-romance writer. Say that five times fast. I thoroughly enjoyed every ounce of this book from start to finish.

Miss Eliza Sumner is a woman on a mission, one scorned woman to be exact. As English aristocracy, her family fortune was swindled by their seemingly trustworthy accountant. She has tracked him down and followed this man across the pond to New York City.

Mr. Hamilton Beckett is a widower with two endearing children. He is wealthy, good-looking and a bit brooding. Life is a bit monotonous and business deals are falling out from under him left and right. He is doing the best he can considering his circumstances. At a dinner party held by the Watsons, he meets the family’s quirky and entertaining governess is it a twist of fate and just what he needs?

Mr. Zayne Beckett is the younger brother of Hamilton Beckett. Charming, business-minded and much less broody than his brother, Zayne is off-limits to the world of women…or so he says. He too has the pleasure of being invited to the same dinner party as Hamilton and meets the unique and intriguing governess. Will she pull him out of his world of dating or help turn his world upside down?

Miss Agatha is the oldest of the three Watson daughters. She does everything to avoid her mother’s scheming, matchmaking ways, including feigning illness to avoid her parent’s dinner party. She is an aspiring and succeeding writer…unbeknownst to her doting and very proper parents. Pairing up with the new governess, Agatha engages on an adventure not even her creative mind could create.

I am a sucker for a good romance. I am a sucker for a good historical romance. I liked how she entwined a bit of mystery and managed to make everyone’s story intertwine. It was nice to be able to read and know that I wouldn’t be coming across awkward sex scenes. The struggle with faith that Eliza and Hamilton go through compared to the faith of Agatha and Zayne was great contrast and real. How often do we go through valleys of faith while those around us seem to be growing and blooming in their own? It is hard to praise God through the storm, not to be cliché.

I had a sneaking suspicion within the first chapter how everything was going to work out- but the actual getting there is always my favorite part. When an author can get my heart rate up with excitement and anticipation, when an author can make me giggle and laugh at the antics of the characters, when I groan and shake my head feeling their own embarrassments and mistakes-when authors can make you connect and feel their people- THAT is a good book.

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GI Brides- Duncan Barrett & Nuala Calvi

They’re exciting. They’re new. They’re attractive. They are different. They’re smooth. They’re exotic. They are American GI’s passing through England in the midst of World War II.

GI Brides follows the stories of four English women, Sylvia Bradley, Rae Brewer, Margaret Boyle and Gwendolyn Rowe, the parts they played in the war effort, their romances and moves across the pond to American with their new GI grooms. The best part- all four women did exist. These are true stories, complete with a mid-book insert containing picture of the women, their families and their hunky GI men. The book probably falls into the category of historical fiction. But it’s one of those, historical, realistic, biographical, romantic fiction books. It could be smooshed into a few different places.

I will say, brides coming from the UK to America after World War II was something that I had never thought about. It’s something that the history textbooks don’t even mention briefly- I checked my old high school textbook to make sure I hadn’t just missed that day or something. There were actually meetings at the YMCA and mini support groups of European women! The best part- they STILL have meetings for those that are still alive! It’s just another element to the war that had a relative impact on society but is quietly passed over throughout history and education.

Margaret Boyle was actually great-grandmother of author Nuala Calvi! How cool is that!? Sadly, Margaret had passed away before she saw the completion of the book.

This book was kind of a drag. I mean, thankfully the women all end up finding happiness, but it was hard getting through some of them. I feel like following 4 different women was a bit much, especially in the beginning when they were all dating multiple men and you had to keep track of everyone. I felt like I needed a chart to keep them all straight. They rotated through the four women. I think the book would have been much easier to read,  and much easier to follow and connect with the characters had they just written four separate sections for each one.

It was a cute little book, I read the majority of it on a lazy Sunday afternoon. It was romantic without being anywhere near trashy. It was a nice little read before the hustle and bustle of being in school and back to work in the next week!

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The Hatmaker’s Heart- Carla Stewart

Sometimes you just need a feel good book. Sometimes you just need to remove yourself from reality and step into someone else’s.

Carla Stewart did a brilliant job with this novel. As has created a story with a few of my favorite elements.

1. HISTORY! I have a serious problem, if you haven’t been able to deduct this from my previous book reviews then you might want to go take another look. This novel takes place in 1920’s New York and it is splendid. Absolutely lovely. To give it another layer of depth, she throws in some London, England in there too. Which leads me too…

2. ENGLAND! I love how she incorporated England into the main character’s life, the plot AND threw in the royal wedding. Kudos and extra points for that one. Having just had a royal wedding a few shorts years ago, it was super relatable for me.

3. Relatable characters. Prunella was darling. There are so many things I liked about her character. Her innocents, her passion, her integrity, her faith, her love and loyalty to her family and friends- she was a breath of fresh air. How lovely to have a female be her own hero and not be a cotton headed ninny muggins. Yup. I said it. Everyone has dealt and come across people like the characters in “The Hatmaker’s Heart” in their life. The nasty boss, the cruel girl in school, the first love of childhood, the crazy relatives, the beloved grandmother- it’s like walking out of your life and comfortably walking into someone else’s.

This was such a great read. I read it in a few hours. It was refreshing to read a book that was appropriate in language, plot, and romance. The ending was just so right. There’s something to be said about reading a book that really does just have a happy ending for everybody, even if it does seem fantastical and silly. But, what girl doesn’t want to see love win out in the end?

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Queen Of Someday-Sherry D Ficklin

I can add this to my list of historical fictions. I have a serious problem. And this book is good. It is a great disservice to be such a history nerd. I feel like sometimes it ruins reading historical fiction works. I know too much about the realities of the lives of these people to get too attached to their fictitious representations.

There are a number of things I really liked about this book and a few that I didn’t. Obviously I loved the fact that it’s historical. Catherine the Great is somebody whom I have only more recently taken an interest in. However, being the great ruler that she was, this is not the first time she has come across my radar. Ficklin used great, graphic wording to describe the world of Empress Elizabeth of Russia. There is the perfect swirl of romance, danger, fun, passion, fire and ambition. So much is known about the Great Empress, but it is her youth, and beginnings in the strange courts of Russia that Ficklin has chosen to zero in on.

Other than the ebook version being a bit wonky with its layout and just not very good, the flow of the book itself was great. It kept pace. At no point did I feel the need to put the book down or take a break. I didn’t necessarily find myself tearing through it to find out what would happen next either. It was a leisurely read that was perfect for lounging on our porch swing this evening.

Over all, I wish the characters had shown a bit more dimension and dynamic growth. It is obvious that this is a first book in a series and I get that. The scene and the foundation must be laid for all involved. I could tell that Ficklin really wanted to show a change and growth in Sophie (Catherine), but I felt that it fell just a bit short of her goal. Granted, most of the characters aren’t supposed to have much dimension, that IS the point. As the rest of them stay stagnant, it is Catherine who is to rise to the occasion. I found myself unable to quite connect to Sophie/Catherine in my usual immersive way. I am hoping in the next book, her transformation from naive, young woman will more fully blossom to her full potential.

I am certainly looking forward to Sherry Ficklin’s next installment in Catherine’s story. I would recommend this to my students being that is it “clean” as far as sexual and lexicon content are concerned. It was an entertaining read and enjoyable as far as summer reads go.

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Innocent Traitor- Alison Weir

This is a continuation of my obsession. I don’t joke when I say I literally have a shelf of Tudor literature. This is only a portion of it.

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History seems to always remember everybody and yet they always miss pivotal people. When reciting the English Monarchy most people recite it as such “King Henry VIII, Edward, Mary Tudor, Queen Elizabeth I, James.” But they’re missing someone. I know. There was no one else listed in your high school history book. Your history professor in college totally breezed over the Tudors. No where, at no time, was another monarch EVER mentioned. Oh, but there was. Her name? Lady Jane Grey.

Lady Jane Grey is  the granddaughter of Mary Tudor, King Henry VIII’s sister. After the death of King Henry VIII, the throne went to his sickly son, Edward. He was the only son of KHVIII and Jane Seymour, the only woman he claims to have ever loved. Edward was a staunch Anglican and fully believed in the church his father had created away from the Pope and Catholicism of the rest of Christendom. As Edward’s health continued to decline, there was a rush and panic as to the order of succession. Edward was not married and had produced no heirs. As it stood, Mary Tudor, his older half-sister, daughter of  Katherine of Aragon, Henry’s first wife, was in line next. Mary, as her mother, was a zealot Catholic and had plans to purge the country of its wrong doers. A plan emerged.

In a panic, Lady Jane was married to the son of Edwards Chief Minister, Guilford Dudley. You should recognize the name Dudley, as Robert Dudley is known as one of Queen Elizabeth I’s best friends through childhood as well as adulthood. It has been speculated that they were even lovers. ANYWHO.

As Edward lay dying, he was convinced to name his cousin Lady Jane Grey as his successor for fear of what his sister would do to the Anglican Church after he passed. Lady Jane Grey was queen on England from July 10 1553- July 19 1553. At that time, Mary Tudor, Edward’s sister, was able to rally her supporters and took over the government. Lady Jane Grey was imprisoned.

Alison Weir is one of my favorite Tudor historians, as I own a number of her books. The Innocent Traitor follows the story of the young and pretty Lady Jane Grey. Jane was the victim of circumstance. Though to an extent she did not quarrel what was expected of her, she was young and pushed into this role by her father, father-in-law and the world she lived in. This book follows the plans, the wedding, the imprisonment and ultimate beheading of Lady Jane Grey.

Jane was a beautiful, intelligent, and quiet young lady. She loved her cousin Edward dearly. She loved learning and the growth of her mind. She had reservations and fears of being thrust upon the throne of England. Weir does a spectacular job documenting the journey this brave young woman took in the format of a diary from the point of view of those involved. Jane Grey, Frances Brandon, Queen Katherine Parr (Henry’s last wife), Mary Tudor, and of course the Dudley men all have their moments throughout the book.

It is so easy to get swept into this world. It is so easy to be shocked that history has somehow forgotten to mention this story in its text books. You can not help but feel helpless and cheer for the young woman as she is thrust into the world of men, royalty and schemes. There is an empathy built around the characters that leaves you in tears as you finish the last pages. I think what takes my breath away and makes this story so much harder to read is knowing that….it happened. This innocent young woman was beheaded because of the pride of men. Though this is a work of historical fiction, there is a great deal of truth to much of what has been written. As she stay in the tower during her imprisonment in February 1554, Lady Jane Grey writes, “If my faults deserve punishment, my youth at least and my imprudence, were worthy of excuse. God and posterity will show me more favor.” It is a shame that much of history has forgotten to show her the favor she so awkwardly earned as she flailed for the block in her final moments.

After being found guilty of high treason, among other charges, she was led to the block as so many others had in the previous years before during her Uncle’s reign. Along with her, Guiliford her husband, as well as his father John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, two of the other Dudley sons, and her father were all beheaded.

This is an enveloping, easy read. The only thing that I wish had been included is a family line of the Dudley’s, just to make it easier to keep track of all of them. They had quite the brood! The family line of the Tudor’s is extraordinarily helpful when trudging through not only this book, but many other Tudor books I’ve read throughout the years. ALWAYS have one handy if the book doesn’t provide one. There are way too many people, Catherines, Katherines, Anne’s, Mary’s….you get the picture. I would definitely recommend this to one of my high school students. Since it is more of an easy read I would suggest this to a 9th or 19th grader unless they were at a lower reading level or I knew they enjoyed historical fiction. Weir’s bright, descriptive and fast paced writing makes this book delectable and devour-able!

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The Lady of the Rivers-Philippa Gregory

My heart is so heavy. I have this thing. I totally get attached to characters. For a time, I become them. I am transported to their time and space. I wear their clothes, I feel their fears, triumphs, defeats and victories. Nobody creates a world more vivid than Philippa Gregory. This is the 3rd book in “The Cousin’s War” series based on the women of The War of the Roses that ravaged England’s lands for decades. The first two are “The White Queen,” and “The Red Queen.” The colors are representative of the York and Lancastrian lines, each with their own claim to the crown.

With The Lady of the Rivers, Gregory takes a bit of a step backwards timeline wise with the series. The main character of the book, Jacquetta, is actually first met in “The White Queen” as Elizabeth Woodville’s mother. This book begins with Jacquetta as a child living in the torn, war scarred country of France where she meets and becomes friendly with Joan of Arc. After Joan’s death, still a teenager, she is wed to the great English Lord John of Lancaster, a man in his mid 40s. Shockingly, Lord John does not want her as a wife in every sense of the word, to bear him heirs and run his household- no. Jacquetta has a gift- the gift of sight, of knowledge, and she is used by him in his quest for the elixir of life and Philosophers Stone.

Carried by Fortunes Wheel, Jacquetta finds herself widowed, remarried and in the thick of the crumbling English monarchy of King Henry VI and his French wife Margaret of Anjou.

It is her life that Gregory has plunged me once again. There is this terrible thing that happens when reading books based on history. YOU KNOW HOW IT ENDS! But at the same time, while reading, you are so engulfed in it all you forget, for the briefest of moments who prevails. The struggle is real.

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Though historical fiction, Philippa Gregory is very much so a historian that bases the lives of her subjects on her research. THIS is something that no Hunger Games or fictional novel can do. So many books try to create new worlds, new realities- but the ultimate reality is the lives and history of these women. I think that is what makes this series so impactful. Though Gregory gave these women voices, emotions and feelings that have been long lost in the shuffle of times and records in their male dominated world- this was their realty. War was the reality they lived everyday. Leaving their homes, watching their husbands and sons walk away to fight for something they didn’t know or understand. They struggled with decisions like who would be the safest to marry their sons and daughters too. They lived in a world of constant uncertainty. She gives the women who changed the course of history voices. She gives them their place and honor when they received none in life. Though these women lived in a world of wars and men, they ruled them all.

I began The Lady of the Rivers yesterday. I finished it about 20 minutes ago. Yes, I stayed up until 3am, but with 100 pages left I had to turn out the light. It’s a little over 400 pages and grabs your attention from the first page. As I said, this is technically the third book in the series but chronologically, it is the first. I did not have to wish for a next book to tell me what becomes of the family of Jacquetta because I already read it. The next two books are The King Maker’s Daughter and The White Princess. These are both waiting for me to read this afternoon. There is a third book just released this year that is after the end of The War of the Roses and dips into the reigns of both King Henry VII and King Henry VIII, The King’s Curse.

The great thing about these books is that they can all be read individually, or collectively. Each book is from a different perspective, and in most cases from either the point of view of a Lancastrian or York. I’m not quite sure how somebody could read ONE of these books and NOT want to read the rest of the books to find out what happens to everybody and how they all get there. I am an anomaly in that I am a freak about English history and know how it all works out in the end. But there are many that will read these books, unprepared to be launched into the twisted, unbelievable world of The Cousin’s War.

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For more Philippa Gregory books check out her website.

The White Queen was turned into a tv series on STARZ

Gregory provides family trees and maps of both England and France with battles and lines drawn, however I find it useful to print out copies of them to refer to while reading. I also just bought an encyclopedia of The Plantagenet’s which has been tremendous in helping me keep them all straight. Because people are usually referred too by both their titles as well as their real names, it can get confusing and overwhelming to keep it all straight.