Category Archives: William Marshal

William Marshal series by Mary Pershall

Thanks to inka for sharing this on Goodreads
I had recently acquired some Mary Pershall titles that are out of print but looking like a lot of fun for reading by the beach type of thing, so I wanted to share with you. If this is deja vu, it is because I had posted a few of the titles in a mailbox post a few years ago. I’ve received a new shinier set now, with the addition of the last title and these copies are in a lot better shape. Has anyone read any of these? I would love to know if they merit the steamy covers, but I’d venture to say there are some romantic scenes.. and would make for a great buddy read/read along/book club discussion, perhaps. A little birdie told me the heroine of the first one was TSTL. I had to ask what that meant, and the answer is Too Stupid To Live. Definitely beach reads, eh? In my case, by the pool with a margarita or two.
Information is hard to find on the author. It seems she also writes children’s books with her daughter and has another pen name of Susan Shelley.
My pretty  maids all in a row..
Lady Eve MacMurrough, fairest of Erin’s fair flowers, her flashing emerald eyes held secrets no man could resist. Defiant daughter of one king and willful ward of another, she would bring the purity of true love to her marriage bed.

Sir Richard FiztGilbert deClare, sitting astride his great black war horse Taran, no English knight was bolder. To the tempestuous Lady Eve he had pledged his troth, but he longed to posses in timeless ecstasy her wild, resisting heart.
Born in a fierce, feudal world as cruel as it was courtly, theirs was the rapturous love destined to change the face of the Irish nation forever.


Isabel de Clare. Her tawny beauty was a King’s prize, to be locked within a brooding castle until she exchanged its gray walls for a husband’s tyranny…

William Marshal. The towering knight armed with a will of steel, he conquered Isabel’s senses in a single blazing night.

Lovers bound by destiny. His power matched her pride. Their passion was a battlefield with no quarter given – and none asked. And with every battle they gambled what they held most dear…the tenderest of loves, in the heat of ceaseless challenge so dearly gained, and so easily lost…


Eleanor Plantagenet. The raven-haired princess of the roses, betrothed as a child, betrayed as a woman- an innocent flower waiting to be plucked by the stranger she must call her lord.. her master.. her husband. William Fitzwilliam Marshal {fictional son of William Marshal}.
The powerful Earl of Pembroke, his castle was a possession defended by his mighty sword; his bride was a royal prize granted by his king… Their destiny was desire. His passion demanded her surrender. Her pride refused to yield even as her body submitted to a traitorous pleasure in his arms. Theirs was a fierce battle of hearts, where looks could wound, where words could kill, where wanton desire drover her into rapture’s flames… but kindled a war that could destroy all they cherished – or inspire the triumph of glorious love eternal…


Roanna Royston. The beautiful tavern wench from the lusty London docks whom fortune made a lady…she was as bold and rebellious as the wild mane of hair that tumbled ’round her shoulders – until one man’s savage passions possessed her.

Giles fitzWilliam. The bastard son of one of England’s noblest families, the stableboy who became a knight….he longed for the fiery tempered Roanna, had always wanted her, would never stop wanting her…

Destined for Danger, Desire, and Triumph.
While all of England writhed in the flames of rebellion they loved and fought with a passion that could never be conquered. Surrounded by treachery, accused of treason, forced into captivity, neither would surrender…until a final ravishing climax brought the lady and the knight together on the peaks of burning love..

I also found this image on goodreads for the last title:

*whew, off I go to fan myself*



Filed under Historical Romance, Mary Pershall, William Marshal

The Plantagenet Series by Juliet Dymoke

The Synopses of The Plantagenet Series by Juliet Dymoke

I was very lucky to be put in touch with someone selling some of their out of print historicals, and this lot of Juliet Dymoke titles is exactly what made me want to buy the whole box of books, even though there were some duplicates within. I had these Juliet Dymoke books on my wish list forever but I was only able to find the USA version of Lady of the Garter once in my local used bookstore. The ones shown above are the UK editions, from ‘New England Library’ (London based) which are now happily part of my personal library. Some of the novels may be found via Amazon, I linked their titles above directly to their Amazon pages in case you want to buy them for yourself.
I hadn’t been able to find much information online about them regarding their plot points etc., so I wanted to share the descriptions from back covers with you, keeping in mind I kept those words which are UK spellings:
A Pride of Kings
The first king whom William Marshal met had nearly hanged him. That was Stephen of Blois. Years later William Marshal, the landless, penniless younger son who earned his living with his sword on the tourney fields of Europe, and rose to the highest office in the land under the crown, served five kings of the great Plantagenet line. One died in his arms, one accused him without cause, one raised him to high honours, another turned against him.
Throughout it all, William Marshal never swerved in his loyalty to the quarrelsome, unpredictable, charming and autocratic brood of Henry II, founder of the Plantagenet dynasty.
A Pride of Kings is the first of a series of novels which tell the story of the Plantagenet monarchs through the eyes of the men and women who served them, loved them or betrayed them.
The Royal Griffin
The love story of Princess Eleanor, proud daughter of the Plantagenet dynasty, and Simon de Montfort who though not a commoner was no more than the younger son of a Norman baron, is one of the great romances of the thirteenth century.
His own qualities as much as his kinship to the royal house raised Simon to a position of importance in England, but his friendship with the vain weathercock king soon changed to bitter enmity. Simon became the champion of all those, from barons to peasants, who wanted a curb put on the king’s power. Inevitably, he grew too powerful himself, and came to blows with both Henry III and his son the Lord Edward.
Throughout a lifetime of conflict and divided loyalties, Eleanor never lost sight of her royal heritage as the king’s sister, but until the final disaster she remained Simon’s devoted wife.
The Royal Griffin continues the fascinating story of the Plantagenet family, which began in A Pride of Kings.
The Lion of Mortimer
All the ability, strength and charm of the Plantagenets reached their peak in the person of Edward I, and Simon de Montacute was proud that his own son William should in his turn serve the old King’s heir.
Though the second Edward was weak and frivolous, and his passion for Piers Gaveston roused his barons against him, he retained and repaid William’s loyalty, and William shared the King’s growing hatred for Roger Mortimer as that grasping baron rose to power and too great an influence over Edward’s slighted Queen. It was left to young Will de Montecute, friend and close companion of Prince Edward, to play a part in  Mortimer’s downfall and the resurgence of the royal Plantagenet line.
Following A Pride of Kings and The Royal Griffin, The Lion of Mortimer continues the turbulent story of the Plantagenet dynasty, their faithful friends and their bitter enemies.
Lady of The Garter
Overshadowed by her brilliant husband and then by her wayward and ill-fated son, the Princess Joan might have been remembered only as the Black Prince’s wife, Richard II’s widowed mother.
But Joan’s life had its fill of drama and romance. Despite a secret betrothal in girlhood, she was married to another man. The King took her as his mistress; the common folk loved her for her kindliness and beauty.
For of all the Plantagenet women, Joan, the Fair Maid of Kent, was perhaps the most beautiful. Her passionate love story was lived against the background of such great events as the victories of Crecy and Poitiers, at the brilliant court of Edward III and among his sons and daughters who had their full share of Plantagenet pride and ambition.
Lady of the Garter is the fourth is this series of novels retelling the magnificent story of the Plantagenets.
{The US edition is the same, except for “at the brilliant court of Edward III, and among his proud and ambitious sons and daughters…. a series of historical novels which tell the story of the Plantagenet monarchs through the eyes of the men and women who served them, loved them, or betrayed them, and in so doing, helped shape the events of English history.}
The Lord of Greenwich
Henry Bolingbroke, Duke of Lancaster, wrested the throne from his cousin Richard II and sowed the seeds of conflict between York and Lancaster. Now Henry V must keep what his father had won.
So Henry turned to his brothers for support and Humfrey of Gloucester gave in unstintingly, though he later tried to wield power during the minority of his nephew, Henry VI. And there was another side to Humfrey’s character. A genuine scholar, he loved books in an age when learning was for cloisterman, not courtiers.
But Humfrey inherited not only the Plantagenet charm and energy, but also their talent for stirring up trouble. He quarrelled bitterly with the staider members of the family over his marriages and love affairs, for Humfrey’s wild passions could always attract women,
Soldier, scholar and lover, Duke Humfrey embodied the best and the worst qualities of the Plantagenet dynasty, whose earlier story is told in {the names of the aforementioned books}.
The Sun in Splendour
The throne of England, seized by Henry IV, is disputed by the heirs of York and Lancaster. Edward IV, brilliant and handsome in the Plantagenet mould, rules a land split by rival factions, and his secret marriage to Elizabeth Woodville has alienated many of his supporters.
Experiencing the excitement of court life, anxious months in hiding while the Lancastrian party control England, Edward’s final victory and her own personal griefs, Bess Bourchier {Elizabeth Tilney} shares tragedy and triumph with her friend the Queen, and with the King whom she idolizes. Later as she tries to make the best of a loveless second marriage, Bess sees the inevitable decline of Plantagenet greatness which will revive only briefly under Richard III, last of the dynasty.
The Sun in Splendour is the sixth and final novel in a series which traces the fortunes of the Plantagenet monarch through nearly four hundred years.

So far, this is my Juliet Dymoke collection. I have since ordered two more of her novels, and will probably buy the rest as I find them.

Juliet Dymoke is a pen name for Juliet Dymoke de Schanschieff (1919-2001). Her work should appeal to readers of Sharon Kay Penman and Elizabeth Chadwick. There is a list of other novels by the author located here.


Filed under #histnov, 13th Century, 14th Century, 15th Century, Historical Romance, Juliet Dymoke, Medieval Era, Plantagenets, William Marshal

Mailbox Monday

Welcome to Mailbox Monday, the weekly meme created by Marcia from A girl and her books (formerly The Printed Page) where book lovers share the titles they received for review, purchased, or otherwise obtained over the past week. Mailbox Monday is now on tour, and for July, your host is Mrs. Q Book Addict

courtesy Ganshert Adoption
HF Bundle!

I bid on and won this bundle (in efforts to support author Katie Ganshert, and her quest to adopt a child from the Congo):
In a time before history, in a harsh and beautiful land near the top of the world, womanhood comes cruelly and suddenly to beautiful, young Chagak. Surviving the brutal massacre of her tribe, she sets out across the icy waters off Ameria’s northwest coast on an astonishing odyssey that will reveal to Chagak powerful secrets of the earth and sky… and the mysteries of love and loss.
The Preacher’s Bride by Jody Hedlund
In 1650s England, a young Puritan maiden is on a mission to save the baby of her newly widowed preacher–whether her assistance is wanted or not. Always ready to help those in need, Elizabeth ignores John’s protests of her aid. She’s even willing to risk her lone marriage prospect to help the little family.
Yet Elizabeth’s new role as nanny takes a dangerous turn when John’s boldness from the pulpit makes him a target of political and religious leaders. As the preacher’s enemies become desperate to silence him, they draw Elizabeth into a deadly web of deception. Finding herself in more danger than she ever bargained for, she’s more determined than ever to save the child–and man–she’s come to love.

The Doctor’s Lady by Jody Hedlund
Priscilla White knows she’ll never be a wife or mother and feels God’s call to the mission field in India. Dr. Eli Ernest is back from Oregon Country only long enough to raise awareness of missions to the natives before heading out West once more. But then Priscilla and Eli both receive news from the mission board: No longer will they send unmarried men and women into the field.
Left scrambling for options, the two realize the other might be the answer to their needs. Priscilla and Eli agree to a partnership, a marriage in name only that will allow them to follow God’s leading into the mission field. But as they journey west, this decision will be tested by the hardships of the trip and by the unexpected turnings of their hearts.

Fairer than Morning (Saddler’s Legacy #1) by Rosslyn Elliott

Ann dreams of a marriage proposal from her poetic suitor, Eli-until Will Hanby shows her that nobility is more than fine words.
On a small farm in 19th-century Ohio, young Ann Miller is pursued by the gallant Eli Bowen, son of a prominent family. Eli is the suitor of Ann’s dreams. Like her, he enjoys poetry and beautiful things and soon, he will move to the city to become a doctor.
Ann travels to Pittsburgh, accompanying her father on business. There she meets Will Hanby, a saddle-maker’s apprentice. Will has spent years eking out an existence under a cruel master and his spirit is nearly broken. But Ann’s compassion lights a long-dark part of his soul. Through his encounters with Ann’s father, a master saddler, Will discovers new hope and courage in the midst of tremendous adversity.
When the Millers must return to Ohio and their ministry there, Will resolves to find them, at any cost. If Will can make it back to Ann, will she be waiting?

Sweeter than Birdsong by Rosslyn Elliott
“Music offers Kate sweet refuge from her troubles…but real freedom is sweeter.”
In Westerville, Ohio, 1855, ” “Kate Winter’s dreams are almost within reach. As the first woman to graduate from Otterbein College, she’ll be guaranteed her deepest wish: escape from the dark secret haunting her family. But with her mother determined to marry her off to a wealthy man, Kate must face reality. She has to run. Now. And she has the perfect plan. Join the upcoming musical performance–and use it to mask her flight.
Ben Hanby, Otterbein College’s musical genius, sees Kate Winter as an enigmatic creature, notable for her beauty, yet painfully shy. Then he hears her sing-and the glory of her voice moves him as never before. He determines to cast her in his musical and uncover the mystery that is Kate. Still, he must keep his own secret to himself. Not even this intriguing woman can know that his passionate faith is driving him to aid fugitives on the Underground Railroad.
A terrifying accident brings Kate and Ben together, but threatens to shatter both their secrets and their dreams. Kate can no longer deny the need to find her courage-and her voice-if she is to sing a new song for their future.
“Sweeter than Birdsong” is a stirring novel of hope and faith inspired by real historical people and events.

Maggie’s Journey by Lena Nelson Dooley
A girl who’s been lied to her whole life…Near her eighteenth birthday, Margaret Lenora Caine finds a chest hidden in the attic containing proof that she was adopted. The daughter of wealthy merchants in Seattle, she feels betrayed both by her real parents and by the ones who raised her.
Maggie desires a place where she belongs. But her mother’s constant criticism and reminders that she doesn’t fit the mold of a young woman of their social standing have already created tension in their home. With the discovery of the family secret, all sense of her identity is lost.
When Maggie asks to visit her grandmother in Arkansas, her father agrees on the condition that she take her Aunt Georgia as a chaperone and his young partner, Charles Stanton, as protection on the journey. Will she discover who she really is and, more importantly, what truly matters most in life?

Chadwick UK cover
2007 Sphere edition

Chadwick 2012 USA cover
September 2012 Sourcebooks edition

For review, I received Elizabeth Chadwick’s newest USA release via Sourcebooks, it’s been on my wish list forever! Just in case you have read the earlier version, I didn’t want Chadwick lovers to get excited about a new book so I posted the two covers. (At least they didn’t change the title!!)

The early twelfth century is a time for ambitious men to prosper, and royal servant John FitzGilbert Marshal is one of them. Raised high as the kin of the deceased King Henry battle each other for England’s throne, John reaps rich rewards but pays a terrible price for the choices he makes – as do his family. His wife, fragile, naïve Aline is hopelessly unequipped to cope with the demands of a life lived on the edge and, when John is seriously injured in battle, her worst nightmare is realised. Sybilla, bright, forthright sister to the Earl of Salisbury, finds herself used as a bargaining counter when her brother seeks to seal a truce with his troublesome neighbour, John FitzGilbert. And then there is Sybilla’s small son, William, seized hostage by the King for John’s word of honour. But sometimes keeping your honour means breaking your word…
For Review:
The Shadow Queen
This is a heavy book! Physically I mean. It’s going to give me carpal tunnel, and yes it’s only 448 pages.
Two lovers. Two very different lives. One future together that will change history.

When debutante Wallis Simpson is growing up, she devotes her teenage daydreams to one man, the future King of England, Prince Edward. But it’s Pamela Holtby, Wallis’s aristocratic best friend, who mixes within the palace circle. Wallis’s first marriage to a dashing young naval pilot is not what she dreamt of; he turns out to be a dominating bully of a man, who punishes her relentlessly. But her fated marriage does open a suprising door, to the world of Navy couriers – where navy wives are being used to transport messages around the world. This interesting turn of fate takes Wallis from the exuberant social scene in Washington to a China that is just emerging from civil war. Edward in the meantime is busy fulfilling his royal duties – and some extra-curricular ones involving married women. Until the day, just before he ascends the throne as Edward VIII, he is introduced to a very special married woman, Wallis Simpson.

Was Wallis Simpson really the monster the royal family perported her to be? Or was she an extraordinary woman who led an unimaginable life? A dramatic novel, that crosses continents and provides a unique insight into one of history’s most charismatic and multi-faceted women.

For Review:

A Sound Among The Trees
Gorgeous cover!!!!
A house shrouded in time.
A line of women with a heritage of loss.
As a young bride, Susannah Page was rumored to be a Civil War spy for the North, a traitor to her Virginian roots. Her great-granddaughter Adelaide, the current matriarch of Holly Oak, doesn’t believe that Susannah’s ghost haunts the antebellum mansion looking for a pardon, but rather the house itself bears a grudge toward its tragic past.When Marielle Bishop marries into the family and is transplanted from the arid west to her husband’s home, it isn’t long before she is led to believe that the house she just settled into brings misfortune to the women who live there.With Adelaide’s richly peppered superstitions and deep family roots at stake, Marielle must sort out the truth about Susannah Page and Holly Oak— and make peace with the sacrifices she has made for love.
And, finally, from Paperbackswap:
Remembered by T Alexander
 (Christy Award Winner for 2008!)
Fountain Creek Chronicles #3 Now I just need book 2 and I’m set with all eight of Alexander’s titles!
Though loss is often marked in a single moment, letting go of someone you love can take a lifetime.

The threat of war—and a final request—send Véronique Girard from France to a distant and uninviting country. In the Colorado Territory, she searches for the man who has held her heart since childhood—her father. Pierre Girard left Paris for the Americas to seek his fortune in fur trading, vowing to send for his wife and daughter. But twenty-five years have passed and his vow remains unfulfilled. Sifting through shards of broken promises, Véronique embarks on a dangerous search for a man she scarcely remembers.

His grief finally healed, Jack Brennan is moving on with life. After years of guiding families west, he is now working as a freighter to the mining towns surrounding Willow Springs. What he doesn’t count on is an unexpected traveling companion on his trips up into the mountains, and how one woman’s search will cause havoc with his plans… and his life.

A nice surprise from Simon & Schuster was the reprint of Jean Plaidy’s novel on Catherine de Medici, which was originally published in 1951. I already have the 1971 Pan Edition of this, but a new one is nice to read from:

Madame Serpent
2012 reprint
As a fourteen-year-old Catherine de Medici rode into France. Behind her and before her rode the nobility of Italy. She was to marry Henry of Orleans, second son of the King.
Amid the glittering fetes, masques, jousts and banquets of the immoral court in 16th century Europe, the reluctant bride became a passionate but unwanted wife.
Angry, humiliated and tortured by jealousy as she secretly spied on Henry’s lovemaking, Catherine began to plan her revenge…


Filed under 2012 Releases, Christian Fiction, Jean Plaidy, Jody Hedlund, Mailbox Monday, Rosslyn Elliott, William Marshal

>Book Review: To Defy A King by Elizabeth Chadwick


To Defy A King by Elizabeth Chadwick
Paperback, 560 pages
Medieval Historical Fiction
Published March 1st 2011 by Sourcebooks Landmark/May by Sphere
Review copy provided by Sourcebooks
The Burton Review Rating:4 and a Half Stars!

Acquiring a novel by the now famous Elizabeth Chadwick is one of those win-win situations. You know you can’t go wrong with Elizabeth Chadwick’s writing, as she has gained fans around the world. I doubt anyone bothers reading this review because of the fact that almost everyone has the same opinions of her..Chadwick is an icon for the historical fiction community for her ability to create a believable and passionate story based around major events of the era. For me, she ranks up there with Sharon Kay Penman for medieval history.  Reading a new Chadwick novel is much like your favorite treat, you know you will be satisfied with the result. Last year I had loved her novels that focused on William Marshal, and here she comes again bringing us more William Marshal, perhaps the greatest knight to have ever lived… yet this time the story focuses on his daughter, Mahelt, also known as Maud or Matilda. I was eager to hate King John in Chadwick’s The Scarlet Lion, and the feeling is back again with Mahelt’s dealings with him as she watches her Marshal family become threatened by his various moods. He was murderous, treacherous, unwilling to cooperate with his barons; one shudders to think what his mama (Eleanor of Aquitaine) would have thought about his hateful and misguided actions.

Mahelt is not a prominent woman of historical importance, as opposed to the Eleanor of Aquitaine to whom her father had served, yet Chadwick weaves us a fascinating story of her as she reconstructs the historical events that occurred to her Marshal family and her marriage family. An interesting tidbit is that the sons of William Marshal had no children, yet it is through Mahelt’s children that the Stuart Kings of Scotland claimed as part of their heritage. Through about three sentences mentioning Mahelt within medieval history which Chadwick found, she recreates with intricate details the life of Mahelt with a clarity that makes her readers feel like they are transported to that era. Chadwick portrays Mahelt as impetuous, stubborn, strong-willed, and totally likable.. Her marriage to Hugh Bigod comes at a time when the Marshals need a friend in high places, and the Bigods were a perfect fit, as were the new couple. Hugh seemed to enjoy Mahelt’s willful character, and loved to be the one to tame her. I enjoyed the love story, the various characters such as her brothers, the historical details of King John vs. the world, and how the Marshals and the Bigods worked together, albeit tenuously.

Those readers who read Chadwick’s The Time of Singing (UK) aka For The Kings Favor (USA), the story of Roger Bigod, will be reintroduced to Roger and Ida after their own love affair has settled. Ida now takes on Mahelt as her own daughter and helps her to adjust to the Bigod ways and tries to teach her to not step on gruff Roger’s toes. As she proves her worth to the Bigods, her husband becomes smitten with her. Managing to please her father-in-law is another feat, but Mahelt does her best to heed to his will. King John creates havoc in the Marshals’ world, and threatens the peace between the two families of Bigods and Marshals. King John loved to take hostages, such as Mahelt’s brothers and others, some did not come out alive.

If there are any quibbles with the story of Mahelt, I can say that the author spoke of Mahelt’s repulsion to sewing an awful lot, and her husband Hugh had many ‘eloquent’ looks, and the ending was a bit anti-climatic. But altogether the novel is one of family drama, loyalty, strife and historical details with a strong cast of characters that will please any history lover. I am waiting for some fabulous screenwriter/director combo to pick up on Chadwick’s William Marshal novels and produce an epic movie for us that encompasses the stories of the Marshals and the Bigods before and during King John’s rule. That would be a well-deserved feather in Chadwick’s cap; she deserves all the accolades and praise as a queen of historical fiction. The spirit of the Marshals shine on her and through her worthy pen.


Filed under 2011 Releases, 2011 Reviews, Elizabeth Chadwick, Medieval Era, William Marshal

>The Sunday Salon~ Giveaway Winners etc…Intro to The Tudor Mania Challenge


The Sunday

Happy Sunday! Pull up a chair, click the above pics to see other virtual reading rooms.. what are you reading this week??

First .. some Blog Housekeeping and announcing winners of March’s giveaways.

This week I had two giveaways end this week. I have randomly selected the winner from the qualifying entries (no email address= no entry) and the 2 winners of The Stolen Crown by Susan Higginbotham are:

LibraryPat and Amy/Tigerfan!


The winner of 31 Bond Street by Ellen Horan is:


Congratulations! Emails will be sent, and the winners have 48 hours from the email to respond or I will choose the next on the list.

How about a new giveaway for my loyal followers?
Up for Giveaway courtesy of little ol’ me are:
What Would Jane Austen Do? By Laurie Brown
See my review here (ARC from May 2009)

Fireworks Over Toccoa by Jeffrey Stepakoff
See my review
 (ARC April 2010)
If you are a Newsletter Subscriber, you will see Important information right here in your newsletter on how to enter for this giveaway.

Onwards to current happenings in my blogosphere…
The Historical Fiction Bloggers Round Table Event with Elizabeth Chadwick has just wrapped up. I enjoyed myself for this one, reading and reviewing both The Greatest Knight and The Scarlet Lion for the event, as well as writing an article titled “William Marshal In Ireland“. I also had a guest post from Elizabeth Chadwick herself, explaining the Curse that was put on William Marshal’s family. We had a giveaway for both of these books at the main site which concluded this weekend as well. I really enjoy the medieval era, and learning the stories of William Marshal’s family has propelled me into a search for more books on the family and specifically his wife’s family in Ireland. I look forward to learning more about them in the historical romances by Mary Pershall.

I’ve got a busy week coming for you guys, with reviews posting so I can work around the HFBRT busy schedule, so they’ll be squished into a single week, but I hope you have time to come back for a visit. (SO glad the Round Tablers are taking a summer break!!)

The book that I gushed about here last week was The Kitchen House, and after confiming I have a guest post coming and a giveaway I decided it was finally time to publish the review which can be found here. Stay tuned for the Guest post and giveaway coming up hopefully this week as well. I finished reading The Founding by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles, and my review will post this coming week, which is about a fictional Morland Dynasty inserted into the plot of the Wars of the Roses. I will also post a review of Within the Hollow Crown by Margaret Campbell Barnes on Monday, and this was a wonderfully inspiring look at Richard II. Coming up awful quick is the Claude and Camille HFBRT on April 6 which is why I am slamming you with reviews this week. But hey, what am I here for, right? And right now I am reading the fabulous Christine Trent’s The Queen’s Dollmaker. This is my first foray into an official Marie Antoinette read! Finally!

For those that read and enjoyed Higginbotham’s The Stolen Crown, there is a new guest post by Susan at Wonders and Marvels that gives an interesting tid-bit into Harry Stafford aka Buckingham’s son, Edward Stafford.

In more book news, I have decided that the month of May I am going to start to catch up on some older books that I have really been neglecting to read and review which will go nicely with two new ones that I have in my pile right now.

I am going to use May as the kickoff month of Tudor Mania at The Burton Review. Some reviews you can look forward to (hopefully!!) will be Secrets of the Tudor Court by D.L. Bogdan, No Will But His by Sarah A. Hoyt, Jane Seymour by Elizabeth Norton, Mary Boleyn by Josephine Wilkinson, The Lady Penelope by Sally Varlow and The Six Wives of Henry VIII by David Loades. Hopefully I won’t be ready to pull my hair out with so many Tudor themed reads. But I think that is a good mix of fiction and non-fiction and these are all reads that I do want to read for my personal entertainment and not just must-review reads.

If I find that I cannot fit it in..I will carry over to June! But my goal is to read them all for May. And I have some more I could read for June and July.. I know many people are either “challenged-out” or “Tudored-out”, but I decided to host a TUDOR CHALLENGE!

I have set up a “main landing page” post for it with all of the details, and then you can comment with links to your current Tudor reviews for any Tudor books you have reviewed in May, June and July. And then at the end of July, I will choose the member of the challenge who reviewed the most Tudor books in that period and offer up a book prize of their choice up to $15 in value from The Book Depository since that is FREE SHIPPING WORLDWIDE. That way, International Readers can join in the LinkFest and compete for the prize.

I was going to wait for feedback before I went all crazy, but I went all crazy and decided to go ahead with it. See what happens when my husband falls asleep and I get bored?
The Tudor Mania Challenge includes both non-fiction and fictional books set between 1485 and 1603, in England. Reviews must be around 300 words or more in length (to make sure everyone is playing fair).

The Official Post and link up page has been created here. You can start reading your books now, and then get your reviews ready to post for May, June and/or July, when the linky widget is open to review links.
And finally this week, you can (Watch Online starting 3/29) look forward to Masterpiece Classic which returns Sunday night, 3/28 8:00 PM Central!!

For a limited time starting March 29, see Sharpe’s Challenge in its entirety, or select your favorite scenes.
Soldier-adventurer Richard Sharpe (Sean Bean) comes out of retirement to find a MIA officer (his old friend Patrick Harper) and to quash a rebellion in British India. Sharpe faces shifting allegiances, the conniving seduction of Madhuvanthi (Padma Lakshmi, Top Chef) and an explosive confrontation with an old foe. Will this be Sharpe’s ultimate challenge? Sharpe’s Challenge is based on the characters created by novelist Bernard Cornwell.

I am there!!
See you on the blogs this week, let’s see if you can keep up! =)

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Filed under Elizabeth Chadwick, Medieval Era, The Sunday Salon, William Marshal

>HF Bloggers Round Table Event: William Marshal in Ireland


Play this while reading my post, it shall surely get you in the Irish mood!

This post is dedicated to William Marshal, who is the main protagonist in Elizabeth Chadwick’s two books:
Read my review of The Greatest Knight
Read my review of The Scarlet Lion
CURSES! Guest post by Elizabeth Chadwick

When I picked up the new US release The Scarlet Lion, by Elizabeth Chadwick, I noticed that on the map at the front of the book Carrickfergus, Ireland was one of the few places that was named on the map. I waited impatiently for its appearance in the actual novel, and it did finally come, albeit briefly.

Carrickfergus can be found just a bit northeast of Belfast on the coast of the Irish Sea. Carrickfergus, Antrim County is where I found myself completely and utterly stuck while doing my genealogy research for my mother’s family. So it holds a bit of mystique, and a faint calling of my name.. as I could not get past one Thomas Lee, and his son Gershom Lee, born around 1699 in Carrickfergus, Ireland and who died between 1750 – 1754 in Piscataway, Middlesex, N.J. He married Mary Drake between 1731 – 1732 in Piscataway, N.J., and she was the daughter of Andrew Drake and Hannah Randolph. The line has many descendants and some somewhat popular names and interesting stories. It is also a quagmire of cousins marrying cousins. Gershom and Mary are my 8th great-grandparents but the water got murky back there in Ireland to find who both of his parents were, and Gershom was a popular name. And so was Lee. As an American, my roots have been traced back to Ireland, Scotland and England and that’s just my mom’s side. My family tree branches out into many wonderful areas after that within America but today I mention it as my nemesis, as my Irish luck stopped in Carrickfergus with Gershom, but I was happy to see Carrickfergus mentioned in Elizabeth Chadwick’s The Scarlet Lion as a true blast from my past. Carrickfergus

Hundreds of years before my 8th great-grandpa Gershom Lee was found in Ireland, the Normans had settled there and took over by building strong castles from which they could defend themselves in. By the year 1250, three quarters of Ireland was owned by the Normans after the Norman invasion and only some of the western lands were owned by the Irish, such as Clare and western Galway. Carrickfergus Castle was a Norman Castle built in 1177 and has a small history as it relates to King John’s rule as it changes hands. Hugh De Lacy overtook the castle in 1204 from John De Courcy who was ruling as a petty king. In The Scarlet Lion, Chadwick depicts a siege being set up by William Marshal against De Lacy in July 1210. William is portrayed as being hesitant to inflict full force damage on the castle, and I had that same feeling as I was reading along. William pushed for a compromise between De Lacy and King John, but King John was eager to plunder and destroy. As King John called for surrender, there was no response. Suddenly a group of Irish warriors pounded into their camp, and told them of how the inhabitants of the castle had slipped away, and they were about to lay waste to a castle for no reason, as De Lacy and De Braose had left three days before with all the spoils of the castle. What I enjoyed most about this little adventure was Chadwick’s sentence “Whatever happened now, it wouldn’t happen in Ireland on his doorstep and while his consience wasn’t entirely clear, he could at least hold his head above the mire.”

Earlier, William Marshal had married Isabel de Clare in 1189, who was the heiress to her father’s lands in Ireland. Her parents were Aoife MacMurrough of Leinster and Richard de Clare (‘Strongbow’, a norman invader) and the marriage of Aoife and Strongbow are depicted in this painting, as two sides united:

Daniel Maclise’s The Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife

As we read Chadwick’s William Marshal series, we are made thoroughly aware of the importance of the heritage of Isabel De Clare. Isabelle’s father, Richard fitz Gilbert de Clare became Lord of Leinster in 1171, and in 1172 he built a wooden fortress at the present site of Kilkenny. The building of Norman fortresses, castles and towns began there. Strongbow never knew his son-in-law William Marshal because Strongbow had died of a leg infection in 1176. One will never know if Strongbow would have approved of the new Lord of Leinster. Wikipedia states that a life sized statue of Aoife is at Carrickfergus Castle, with a plaque describing her as “thinking of home.” I searched online for an image of this but could not find anything relating to it so I wonder if that fact is true.

Kilkenny, Ireland is one of the frequent settings in the novel as Isabelle spent much of her time here while her husband was named Lord of Leinster in 1192 and focused on rebuilding the fortress and the city, and creating its charter of rights. William took homage from the Irish lords at this time and unrest began in his wife’s lands as some resisted this Englishman who was off in England most of the time. Isabelle was depicted as a major figure in the novel The Scarlet Lion as she attempted to ease the baron’s minds with the fact that it was she who was the true Irish heiress and the barons should appease her wishes and therefore her English husband’s wishes at the same time.

From 1207 to 1212 William was out of royal favor of King John so William left court and sailed to Ireland to try to secure his wife’s Irish inheritance, the county of Leinster. It is within this period that William focused on war against his Irish vassals who were led by Meilyr fitz Henry, King John’s appointed justiciar in Ireland, as he refused to recognize William’s lordship. In 1208 William’s relations with John had not gotten any better when William helped William de Braose, who was not only William’s friend but also his overlord for some land in England. King John demanded hostages, including his sons, squire and best friend John of Early.

After William died in 1219, his eldest son William succeeded to his father’s lands and offices along with his mother’s vast holdings in 1220 on her death. History later shows the De Lacy name again as he fights against the younger William Marshal in Ireland in 1224. The great Marshal barony lasted only a single generation, as a bishop’s curse on William Marshal seems to have come true.

Please see the previous post, as Elizabeth Chadwick wrote a guest post specifically for the Round Table readers as she elaborates on the curse!

The Carrickfergus Song Lyrics:

I wished I was in Carrickfergus
Only for nights in Ballygrand
I would swim over the deepest ocean
The deepest ocean to be by your side.
But the sea is wide and I cant swim over
And neither have I the wings to fly.
If I could find me a handy boatman
To ferry me over to my love and die.
My childhood days bring back sad reflections
Of happy time spend so long ago.
My boyhood friends and my own relations.
Have all passed on like the melting snow.
I’ll spend my days in endless roving
Soft is the grass and my bed is free.
Oh to be home now in Carrickfergus
On the long road down to the salty sea.
And in Kilkenny it is reported
On marble stone as black as ink
With gold and silver I did support her
But I’ll sing no more now till I get a drink.
For I’m drunk today and I’m rarely sober
A handsome rover from town to town.
Oh but I am sick now and my days are numbered
so come on ye young men and lay me down.

Happily found during my search for William Marshal online travels, a historical romance series by Mary Pershall from the 80’s. I ordered the first three. Perhaps Sourcebooks might want to take a look at these as potential reissues (when Chadwick has had her full of the Marshals, of course!):

A Shield of Roses is about about Sir Richard fitzGilbert de Clare and Lady Eve (Aoife) MacMurrough, the parents of Isabel de Clare, set in Ireland.
Dawn of the White Rose is about Isabel de Clare and William Marshal
A Triumph of Roses Beautiful Eleanor Plantagenet becomes a pawn in the intrigues of the medieval English court when she becomes the bride of the powerful William Fitzwilliam Marshal, Earl of Pembroke (a fictional son)
Roses of Glory A twist of fate sweeps beautiful Roanna Royston into the court of King Henry III, where, while learning the ways of a lady, she encounters Giles Fitzwilliam, a proud knight serving his king. Giles is a fictional son of William the younger.

Here’s an interesting slideshow on the inside of Carrickfergus Castle:

Yes, it looks like there is a statue of a fellow on the privy towards the end there…

Don’t forget to visit the main site for the Calendar of Events and giveaways for the Round Table tour of Elizabeth Chadwick’s new release, The Scarlet Lion.

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Filed under Elizabeth Chadwick, King John, Medieval Era, William Marshal

>HF Bloggers Round Table Guest Author Post: CURSES! by Elizabeth Chadwick


Please visit the main site at Historical Fiction Bloggers Round Table for a complete listing of scheduled events that surround this month’s release of Elizabeth Chadwick’s The Scarlet Lion, book 2 in the William Marshal series.

Read my review of The Scarlet Lion and come back tomorrow for a special post I created regarding William Marshal’s family in Ireland. There is also a two-book giveaway at the main site going on right now. Enter here.

For the Historical Fiction Bloggers Round Table event, I jumped at the chance to have the author of The Scarlet Lion go into some detail about the legend of the curse on the William Marshal male line.

Curses! By Elizabeth Chadwick

There is a legend that William Marshal, great thirteenth century magnate and regent of England, was cursed by a disgruntled Irish bishop, who declared that for his sins against the church, William Marshal’s line would perish in direct male descent.

William had ten children in all – five sons and five daughters, all apparently robust and healthy. The daughters were certainly fertile and produced numerous offspring to various husbands. But the sons all died during their prime – some we know for a fact were murdered, and none of them had children. So, how did this curse come about, and is it all just hokum?

The bishop’s anger at William Marshal boils down to an Irish land dispute. William had apparently taken into his own hand the manors of Temple Shanbo and Ferns, which were being claimed by Albin O’Molloy, bishop of Ferns, a close friend of King John. Bishop Albin kicked up a stink, complaining to Rome and involved the biship of Dublin, asking him to put William’s lands in Ireland under interdict. William was also warned that he faced excommunication from the English bishops if he didn’t hand over the lands.

Unfortunately for bishop Albin, his case hit a brick wall when the Pope declined to confirm the excommunication. The bishop tried again in 1218 through the ecclesiastical courts and was told that it was a lay matter, not church business. A complaint to Henry III got nowhere because William Marshal was acting regent for the young man and the case was deferred until Henry III should come of age. The bishop, blocked at every turn and fuming, went ahead and excommunicated William. We know from the chronicle of Matthew Paris that after William died, Bishop Albin made fresh efforts to get his manors back. He came to London and pleaded with Henry III, saying he would lift the excommunication from William if the King would only restore the manors to him.

The bishop therefore went to the tomb, and, in the presence of the king and many other persons, as if a live person was addressing a living one in the tomb, said,

“William, you who are entombed here, bound with the bonds of excommunication, if the possessions which you wrongfully deprived my church of be restored, with adequate satisfaction, by the agency of the king, or by your heir, or any one of your relations, I absolve you ; if otherwise, I confirm the said sentence, that, being involved in your sins, you may remain in hell a condemned man for ever.”

The king, on hearing this, became angry, and reproved the immoderate severity of the bishop.

As it happened, the hapless bishop was still out of luck as Henry III refused the request too. I have yet to read the piece where the bishop actually laid his curse on future generations. It seems to be one of those oft reported things that is hard to find in the primary source, but I suspect that it is somewhere in Matthew Paris and that it was therefore written after the time when all the sons had shuffled off the mortal coil. Of course, Bishop Albin could have worked up enough of a head of steam to add the curse to his excommunication, and it may have resonated with active energy – who knows!

So what happened to the sons?

William’s son and heir, William II, who also turned down Bishop Albin’s request, died in 1131 of unknown causes when he was approximately 41 years old – although one chronicle suggests that he was poisoned. Richard was treacherously murdered in Ireland in April 1234, in his early 40’s. Gilbert was murdered at a tournament in 1141 when someone cut his reins and he fell from his horse and was dragged. Walter died in November 1245 of unknown causes and Ancel, the last son died within a month of Walter the same. Three grown men dead without reason and two murdered as reported in the chronicles. It is not difficult to believe that someone wanted the males of the Marshal line dead. Bishop Albin died in 1223, so unless his hand reached from beyond the grave in the form of that curse, he can’t be blamed. Myself, I put it down to the deeply murky politics of the time. (then again, when aren’t politics deeply murky?). Perhaps it’s a novel for further down the line…

Perhaps it is!!
Thank you to Elizabeth Chadwick for humoring me and writing about this subject for us.
I find this topic to be so intriguing to peruse, and the fate of William Marshal’s sons is just too sad to overlook the curse. And yes, further down the line, we will have another Chadwick novel that includes the Marshals, and most specifically, Mahelt, the favored first daughter of William Marshal the elder. I am so looking forward to it!

What do you think, did the bishop’s curse come true?


Filed under Author Interviews, Author Post, Elizabeth Chadwick, Medieval Era, William Marshal

>HF Bloggers Round Table: Book Review: The Scarlet Lion by Elizabeth Chadwick


The Scarlet Lion by Elizabeth Chadwick
Paperback: 592 pages
Sourcebooks Reissue March 2010
ISBN-13: 978-0751536591
Review copy provided by Sourcebooks, thank you!
The Burton Review Rating:Four and a Half Stars

The Legend of the Greatest Knight Lives On…
William Marshal’s skill with a sword and loyalty to his word have earned him the company of kings, the lands of a magnate, and the hand of Isabelle de Clare, one of England’s wealthiest heiresses. But he is thrust back into the chaos of court when King Richard dies. Vindictive King John clashes with William, claims the family lands for the Crown- and takes two of the Marshal sons hostage. The conflict between obeying his king and rebelling over the royal injustices threatens the very heart of William and Isabelle’s family. Fiercely intelligent and courageous, fearing for the man and marriage that light her life, Isabelle plunges with her husband down a precarious path that will lead William to more power than he ever expected.

The Scarlet Lion by Elizabeth Chadwick is rumored to ‘stand-alone’ and said not to require one to read the previous book by Chadwick, The Greatest Knight. I would disagree, especially for newcomers to the Medieval era. If I hadn’t read The Greatest Knight (see my recent review), I would have had a fifty percent chance at finishing The Scarlet Lion. By reading the previous novel, I was able to become intrigued by the characters and get my mind around their habits and mindset (and fall in love with the Marshals). Once I began reading The Scarlet Lion, I thanked my lucky stars for getting the chance to read The Greatest Knight (hereafter abbreviated as TGK).

The reason for the luckiness is that The Scarlet Lion is much more low-key than TGK, and it is not written with the same sense of urgency and drama until the last half of the novel. It is still a great piece of work as I sense it is thoroughly researched and I appreciate the historical details. Dealing with the period of the late 1100’s, I was sucked into the dramas of the Angevin Kings in TGK much more so than what we have presented to us with The Scarlet Lion. And Queen Eleanor, whom I adore, was also more prominent in TGK. But with The Scarlet Lion, which picks up at year 1197, Eleanor is elderly and does die within a short time. And the remaining son who is King of England is her youngest son, John, who was once upon a time stylized as John Lackland because all of his elder brothers had multiple lands handed to them, but there was nothing left for John. And John didn’t seem to like that very much, as he is portrayed as an embittered, disgusting, vengeful and useless King. Records indeed indicate that his reign was quite disastrous.

The main protagonist is the sexy hunk of a man William Marshal. No, Chadwick never does actually come out and say he is sexy and masculine and gorgeous, but that’s how I’ve got him pictured from TGK, and he is indeed The Greatest Knight in my mind. Let him save me from my burning tower any day. To be fair, his wife is probably just as sexy and gorgeous, because these two folks get it on!!! I’ve lost count several times and couldn’t repeat their names, but the Marshals had somewhere around ten kids. Healthy ones. Ones that lived beyond birth! In fact, in the very first few pages of The Scarlet Lion we are welcoming a son into the family: ‘Ah,’ she said with satisfaction. ‘I was right, it is a boy. Ha-ha, fine pair of hammers on him too!’  Most of my reads have the royal babies being very much sought after, but never have they been as abundant as the Marshals. That was certainly a refreshing change of pace, to have babies popping out happily one after the other. William and Isabelle have wonderful sexual chemistry, so there is a bit of sexual content scattered throughout the book, but nothing too outlandish. I am pleased to say that William is not a whore monger who goes out and beds all the women in sight also (as the author tells us, anyway). So, it is a happy marriage, even with the cranky Irish mother-in-law, Aoife, but less so when King John I sinks his claws into William’s family and lands.

Oh, watch out for Aoife though.. rather, as Aoife says it (I just like typing Aoife), because it seems like she is hankering to put a spell on the Marshals..but it is just a heavy drop of dramatic foreshadowing. She says to watch out for the wolves.. sending chills and shivers down her daughter Isabelle’s spine.. oh whatever can she mean??? She means that while William is off protecting the idiot King John or the French or English Marshal lands, they are forgetting the lands that are Isabelle’s heritage in Ireland and that they must not let the evil Irish lords overstep their bounds. Or she means that King John is a wolf. King John I is keeping William kinda busy in Normandy and England, so of course we know what’s going to happen in Ireland. And it does.

Again, King John is a bad king. His character was so evil in this novel that I don’t think I could have my opinion changed. That being the case, for most of the novel I was silently screaming at William to run from King John to Ireland in order to at least protect Isabelle’s heritage. But instead, we watch William stand by King John as one blunder after the other follows William in his wake. We watch William and Isabelle’s offspring grow up and become heroic young men and the girls are betrothed in advantageous marriages. And Isabelle protects her Irish lands while of course William is away, and Isabelle is one tough lady when she lets herself be.

Since we don’t have the Angevin brothers’ angst in this novel, the political turmoil is focused on King Phillip of France against King John, the last Angevin brother standing which would have surprised everyone twenty years earlier. King Phillip of France is shrewd and cuts right to the point. He makes William an offer he cannot refuse. Is William going to go against King John? Could he ignore his oath to Queen Eleanor and the rest of her sons? How will King John take it? King John is shown here as a total jerk, and is hateful towards the Marshals. John had no sense of loyalty to his own family, thus the fact that his mother Queen Eleanor and her son King Richard favored the Marshals bore little meaning to King John, and perhaps even that made it worse. Bit by bit, King John whittles away at the lands, titles and the happy marriage that the Marshals have, and the reader is forced to turn the page with trepidation as King John strikes again and again. (Die King John, DIE!)

Finally, King John does die, but still leaves Marshal with the sense of loyalty to England that none can compare to. Even though in his sixties, William agrees to become the regent of England for John’s young nine year old son, Henry. There are more battles to fight though, and his sons may be with him or against him. The last quarter of the novel makes up for the lackluster beginning of this read, because it did take awhile to get my heart into this one. William Marshal stayed true to character, as the greatest knight, and the last third of the book made up for the slow beginnings.

I was thankful for the helpful family charts at the beginning of book, as well as a few maps to aid us in placing William’s whereabouts while doing King John’s bidding. The story had a slower pace, but not as many new-to-me words as TGK had for me, thankfully. Isabelle was featured a bit more due to the Irish lands angle, and due to the strife that King John knowingly put into her marriage; she was always listening quietly to gossip or heeding warnings. I enjoyed learning more about William Marshal and his family, but did not feel as in tune to the historical aspect of the story until the second half when the drama started to pick up.

Elizabeth Chadwick has been described as “a gifted novelist and a dedicated researcher; it doesn’t get any better than that” by my own favorite medieval author Sharon Kay Penman. If my opinion counts, Sharon Kay Penman would be first, and Jean Plaidy and Elizabeth Chadwick are presently battling it out for second place. I recommend this William Marshal series for any medieval history fan. Those new to medieval times may be a little less in awe to the story, and for them I would recommend Penman, of course, specifically the series that begins with When Christ and His Saints Slept. For those simply wanting the story of the greatest, most loyal and most chivalrous knight that ever lived, Chadwick’s William Marshal series is your primary source for that. She will make you fall in love with William Marshal with her unforgettable story of his life, as his memory is finally being given its just rewards. William Marshal fans will be delighted to learn that in one of her next releases, To Defy A King, the story focuses on William’s eldest daughter, Mahelt Marshal who married Hugh Bigod, and includes some of the other siblings within the storyline. But To Defy a King is a sequel to a novel that will be published by Sourcebooks in the fall of 2010 titled For The King’s Favour.

Please visit the Historical Fiction Bloggers Round Table Calendar of Events to see the rest of the posts that have been scheduled for this event. As always, we will have guest posts, a 2 book giveaway, and reviews. I will have a guest post from Elizabeth Chadwick regarding the curse that was put on the Marshal lineage, and I also have my own post focused on the Marshals in Ireland. don’t forget to visit the Facebook Fan Page for the Round Table! a giveaway of both of these novels, please check the main site at this post and enter there.


Filed under 2010 Releases, 2010 Review, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Elizabeth Chadwick, HF Bloggers Round Table, King John, Medieval Era, William Marshal

>Book Review: The Greatest Knight by Elizabeth Chadwick


The Greatest Knight by Elizabeth Chadwick
Paperback: 560 pages
Publisher: Time Warner (2006) Sourcebooks (2009)
ISBN-13: 978-0751536607
Personal copy retrieved from fellow HF blogger, Arleigh (thank you!)
The Burton Review Rating:Four Stars

Next week = Chadwick Events

“Based on fact, this is the story of William Marshal, the greatest knight of the Middle Ages, unsurpassed in the tourneys, adeptly manoeuvring through the colourful, dangerous world of Angevin politics to become one of the most powerful magnates of the realm and eventually regent of England. From minor beginnings and a narrow escape from death in childhood, William Marshal steadily rises through the ranks to become tutor in arms to the son of King Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. A champion on the tourney field, William must face the danger and petty jealousy targeting a royal favourite. Dogged by scandal, banished from court, his services are nevertheless sought throughout Europe and when William’s honour is vindicated, he returns to court and wins greater acclaim and power than before. A crusader and the only knight ever to unhorse the legendary Richard Coeur de Lion, William’s courage and steadfastness are rewarded by the hand in marriage of Anglo-Irish heiress Isobel de Clare, 19 years old, the grand-daughter of kings and his equal in every way.”

I’ve been ruined by Sharon Kay Penman, utterly spoiled by her stories of Eleanor and her wild Angevin husband and children. I read her trilogy on Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine over a year ago, and nothing has yet to compare. Penman thoroughly went through the major events between the king and the queen that each retelling I’ve encountered barely holds a candle. Until now.

In Elizabeth Chadwick’s story, The Greatest Knight, we learn more the story of William Marshal rather than just the royal family. Occurring between 1167 and 1194, William matures and becomes a knight, the subject matter and the main events are all focused around Henry and Eleanor’s tumultuous marriage, their reign, their battles, and their boys who become kings themselves. The first 100 pages tells of how William Marshal was given over to King Stephen by his father, then William receives training, becomes a knight and is favored by Eleanor, which was intriguing and was holding its own for me. Soon he is tutoring Young Henry, aka the Young King, who is the eldest male to Eleanor and Henry and is set to inherit his father’s title. We then shift the story to when Eleanor is imprisoned for inciting rebellion on behalf of her boys and Young Henry is quaking in his boots to become a king with all the benefits.

I have heard this all before via Sharon Kay Penman, and it was all so vivid to me with her prose, and Chadwick’s story was starting to fade for me. But, the caveat is that those who have not already read Penman’s Henry and Eleanor trilogy will enjoy the beginning of the story just fine, because it is akin to the Tudor drama that I also love. This is a period that is much more violent, with more battles, a lot of passion and fierce loyalties. The battle scene that focused on William’s turning from boy to man, where his uncle was killed, was an excellent scene. But then I felt a little robbed when Chadwick skipped over the battles that Young Henry and his forces had when they fought against his father King Henry. I was taken aback by the jump in time from chapter to chapter which downplayed some of the major turmoils of the time, and therefore lessened the amount of drama that I was waiting for, but this was William Marshal’s story, and not Henry and Eleanor’s.

Once we get past the initial deja vu of the Henry vs. Eleanor story about 130 pages in, the drama picks up and I was much more intrigued with William Marshal as he becomes more of an honorable man to the reader. He grows from a child to a knight before our eyes. He becomes a tutor to the boys who will be kings, then he is a hostage, Queen Eleanor ransoms him (much to the disgust of others), he finds a mistress, loses the mistress, and eventually weds an heiress that gives William enough lands to make him almost the richest man next to the royal family (again, much to the disgust of others). William is portrayed as swift in battle and in tournaments, and as a loyal servant to his lord and his queen, and as a loyal husband. The novel involves the relationships of the other knights, his squires, and the lords that were jealous of William Marshal’s high standing within the ranks.

There was nothing lacking in his character; which is what brings Elizabeth Chadwick’s fans clamoring for more. And that more is within her next novel, The Scarlet Lion, which is just being released in the USA this spring. The Greatest Knight ends with King Richard slowly regaining his power back from his rebellious and power hungry brother John Lackland after Richard’s return from captivity in Germany. The next novel continues the story of William Marshal and his family as he still is loyal to the royal family after Richard is dead and John is king. The Scarlet Lion occurs between 1197 and 1219.

I will always put Penman’s trilogy first when recommending novels regarding the Henry and Eleanor saga, but this novel by Elizabeth Chadwick is also a wonderful side story to the drama that enfolds with each of the children of Henry and Eleanor. One thing to remember about Elizabeth Chadwick’s writing is the fact that it is very thoroughly researched. She knows what she is talking about, and she is not one that will stretch the truth beyond repair for the sake of a good story. I enjoyed this novel immensely and I recommend it to anyone interested in the story of the legendary greatest knight, and those interested in Eleanor of Aquitaine’s days. Some of the words that Chadwick used were new to me, making the story a bit more authentic but slightly distracting until I grasped their meanings:

Mesnie: ‘Loosely defined as a medieval household with a feudal lord. More narrowly, a group of knights (typically errants ) who travel closely and fight in tourney and war with a feudal lord, who is usually of high noble bearing.’
conroi: ‘A small group of knights who competed in tournaments together from the 12th and 13th centuries.’
palaver: ‘a conference or discussion.’
unguents: ‘an ointment or salve, usually liquid or semi-liquid, for application to wounds, sores, etc.’
carbuncles: ‘an abscess larger than a boil, usually with one or more openings draining pus onto the skin.’
reliquary: ‘a repository or receptacle for relics.’
distaff: ‘a staff with a cleft end for holding wool, flax, etc., from which the thread is drawn in spinning by hand.’
braies: ‘male undergarments’

As part of the Historical Fiction Bloggers Round Table, there are several events focusing on Elizabeth Chadwick and her new release of The Scarlet Lion beginning next week. Please see the Calendar of Events for more details.


Filed under Eleanor of Aquitaine, Elizabeth Chadwick, Henry II, Medieval Era, William Marshal

>Mailbox Monday Time Again!

>Mailbox MondayMailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page. We share what books that we found in our mailboxes last week. And I am adding what I purchased, swapped, etc.

This is one that I had seen since Christmas-time that I really HAD to get my greedy little hands on..

The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O’Connor McNees

(April 1, 2010)
“In the bestselling tradition of Loving Frank and March comes a novel for anyone who loves Little Women.

Millions of readers have fallen in love with Little Women. But how could Louisa May Alcott-who never had a romance-write so convincingly of love and heart-break without experiencing it herself?

Deftly mixing fact and fiction, Kelly O’Connor McNees imagines a love affair that would threaten Louisa’s writing career-and inspire the story of Jo and Laurie in Little Women. Stuck in small-town New Hampshire in 1855, Louisa finds herself torn between a love that takes her by surprise and her dream of independence as a writer in Boston. The choice she must make comes with a steep price that she will pay for the rest of her life.”

From bookmooch, this was on my wishlist for awhile although I am a little wary due to some negative Amazon reviews, but when I get the time I will pick it up and see for myself:

The Sixth Wife: A Novel by Suzannah Dunn (2007)
A gripping novel of love, passion, betrayal, and heartbreak in the unstable Tudor court following the death of King Henry VIII .

Clever, level-headed Katherine Parr has suffered through four years of marriage to the aging and irascible King Henry VIII—and she has survived, unlike the five wives who came before her. But less than a year after the old king’s death, her heart is won by the dashing Thomas Seymour, and their hasty union undoes a lifetime of prudent caution.

An unwilling witness to the queen’s late-blossoming love, Catherine, Duchess of Suffolk, harbors nagging suspicions of Kate’s handsome and ambitious new husband. But as Catherine is drawn deeper into the web of politics ensnaring her oldest friend, it gradually becomes clear that she has her own dark tale to tell. For though Thomas might betray his wife for power, Catherine might betray her for passion, risking everything she has in a world where love is a luxury not even royalty can easily afford.”

From Paperbackwap.. to continue my William Marshal quest:

A Triumph of Roses by Mary Pershall, a historical romance about the son of William Marshal and his wife Eleanor, daughter of King John and sister of King Henry III; #3 in the Roses series. Working on getting the first two.
Eleanor Plantagenet. The raven-haired princess of the roses, betrothed as a child, betrayed as a woman- an innocent flower waiting to be plucked by the stranger she must call her lord.. her master.. her husband.
William Fitzwilliam Marshal {fictional son of William Marshal}. The powerful Earl of Pembroke, his castle was a possession defended by his mighty sword; his bride was a royal prize granted by his king…
Their destiny was desire.
His passion demanded her surrender. Her pride refused to yield even as her body submitted to a traitorous pleasure in his arms. Theirs was a fierce battle of hearts, where looks could wound, where words could kill, where wanton desire drover her into rapture’s flames… but kindled a war that could destroy all tehy cherished – or inspire the triumph of glorious love eternal…
Winner of the 1985 Romantic Times Award for Best New Historical Writer.”
I copied all that from the back cover since I could not find anything substantial online. If the back cover has all that purple prosey stuff I can only imagine the steamy scenes within.
For review:
Mistress of Rome by Kate Quinn (Penguin April 6, 2010)

“An exciting debut: a vivid, richly imagined saga of ancient Rome from a masterful new voice in historical fiction.
Thea is a slave girl from Judaea, passionate, musical, and guarded. Purchased as a toy for the spiteful heiress Lepida Pollia, Thea will become her mistress’s rival for the love of Arius the Barbarian, Rome’s newest and most savage gladiator. His love brings Thea the first happiness of her life-that is quickly ended when a jealous Lepida tears them apart.

As Lepida goes on to wreak havoc in the life of a new husband and his family, Thea remakes herself as a polished singer for Rome’s aristocrats. Unwittingly, she attracts another admirer in the charismatic Emperor of Rome. But Domitian’s games have a darker side, and Thea finds herself fighting for both soul and sanity. Many have tried to destroy the Emperor: a vengeful gladiator, an upright senator, a tormented soldier, a Vestal Virgin. But in the end, the life of the brilliant and paranoid Domitian lies in the hands of one woman: the Emperor’s mistress.”

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Filed under Katherine Parr, Louisa May Alcott, Mailbox Monday, Mary Pershall, William Marshal