Monday, May 29, 2006

The Poyson Garden by Karen Harper

The first book in a new to me mystery series featuring amateur sleuth Queen Elizabeth I!

The letter came in secret, with a pearl eardrop from an aunt long thought dead, resurrecting the forbidden past. Banished by her spiteful half sister, Queen Mary, to Hatfield House in the English countryside, twenty-five-year-old Princess Elizabeth cannot refuse the summons. The Boleyns are in grave danger. And Elizabeth, daughter of Anne Boleyn, is marked for death by a master poisoner whose reign of terror may have royal sanction.

With her few loyal retainers, Elizabeth escapes to Kent. Here, in her ancestral Hever Castle, now held by the Queen's loyalists, Elizabeth seeks to unravel the plot against her. And here, in the embrace of intrigue and betrayal, the princess must find a brilliant, powerfully connected killer--before the killer finds her....

I have to admit that at first the thought of a mystery series where Queen Elizabeth I is the sleuth kind of threw me for a while...I mean didn't she have a country to run, potential husbands to meet and all that kind of thing?? Apparently not! She still had time to try to figure out the plot against her (admittedly that might have given some form of motivation!).

Actually, in this first book of the series, Elizabeth is not yet queen. Rather she is the very protected guest of her royal half sister, Queen Mary I and is being held in relative seclusion at Hatfield, presumably to stop both plots for and against her.

Despite being held virtual prisoner, the Elizabeth that we meet is feisty and resourceful and is off gallivanting around the countryside during the course of the investigation, both in the early stages where she goes to visit her Aunt Mary (as in The Other Boleyn Girl Mary!) who she had previously thought dead for the last twenty years and later as she investigates the mysterious "She" who is plotting to poison her, and finally rid the world of the villainous Boleyns.

With an attractive and versatile group of people around her, you know that this will be a fun series to watch develop, and to see how Elizabeth balances her detective role against her queenly role! Harper has chosen her support characters well - an actor, a herbalist and her horseman, and having such versatility within these characters should mean that there is plenty of scope for fun and entertainment without getting repetitive or tedious in the future. There was also a sufficient amount of groundwork laid to know that there are going to be at least one recurring villain role to keep things interesting.

The inevitable comparison of the Fiona Buckley series that is also set in the courts of Queen Elizabeth I, but this time with her lady in waiting as the sleuth needs to be made. I found that the Buckley series started somewhat slowly but eventually built up to a very satisfying series to read. This book has more spark and is probably more light hearted, but nonetheless is a satisfying read. It will be interesting to watch the series develop.

Very entertaining, and a series I will read more of!

Rating 4/5

Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig

The first in a series of book by new author Lauren Willig, this book looks at the lives of the spies that followed on in the footsteps of the Scarlet Pimpernel.

Deciding that true romantic heroes are a thing of the past, Eloise Kelly, a gifted young history student who nonetheless always manages to wear her precious Jimmy Choo suede boots on the day it buckets down, abandons Harvard for London to finish her dissertation on a dashing pair of spies, The Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian. What she discovers is something the finest scholars have missed: the secret history of The Pink Carnation - the most elusive spy of all time, said to have singlehandedly saved England from Napolean's invasion.

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation opens with the tale of a modern-day heroine but soon becomes a story within a story. After discovering a treasure trove of old letters, Eloise is transported to eighteenth-century Paris through the daring exploits of another young woman determined to make her mark, and a passionate love affair that almost threw off the course of world events is at last revealed.

This book is an interesting mix of genres. We have some elements of chicklit (brand name dropping, parties, fashion), and yet at another level we have historical romance, mixed in with a dash of spying for good measure. In lesser hands, it could have been a recipe for mediocrity, with none of the elements dealt with satisfactorily, however, happily for the reader, it was handled quite competently. I was certainly left wanting to read more from this author!

The back cover details (above) really do not give an accurate reflection of what the book is about. From that blurb, one would assume that the main focus of the novel is Eloise, but really, other than a chapter here and there, the main focus of the novel is about the starting of the spy legend that is The Pink Carnation, and the romance between Amy Balcourt and Lord Richard Selwick.

From her days as a very young girl, Amy has dreamt of joining the league of spies that followed in the footsteps of The Scarlet Pimpernel, and if she couldn't join him, she would start her own league...the league of The Pink Carnation. Already enrolled in the league is Amy's cousin, the unflappable Jane. When Amy is called to go home to Paris by her brother Edouard, of course Jane will accompany, along with the very strict Miss Gwen, who is lethal with her parasol. Amy has everything planned...she is going to find The Purple Gentian and join him in Paris, and restore the monarchy to France. Unfortunately, The Purple Gentian has a much different agenda!

After being disappointed in her plans, the girls hire a boat for their exclusive use. Only problem is Lord Richard has done the same, and before they can sort out who really has the exclusive use of the boat, they are on their way to France, and the first interactions between our hero and heroine take place. In true romance fashion, they are attracted to each other, but keep on fighting with each other, especially when Amy finds the fact that Richard works for Napoleon unpatriotic. Once they reach Paris, they meet time and time again, until at last Amy realise who exactly she is dealing with. When the Purple Gentian finds himself cornered, he finds help from unlikely scenes which have high elements of slapstick comedy.

Whilst Eloise follows the story of Amy and Richard, she locks horns with the imperious Colin Selwick who is the family guardian of the papers regarding his ancestors life. There are only half a dozen chapters focusing on Eloise, and secondarily Colin, so there is plenty of scope in the next couple of novels to see where, if anywhere, the author wants to take our modern day couple.

The intriguing thing about this blend of different genres and styles is that it works! It will be interesting to see if it maintains its freshness as the series continues. I have my name down first on the request list at the library for The Masque of the Black Tulip

Reading this book did actually lead me to discover that Baroness Orczy who wrote The Scarlet Pimpernel actually wrote about 15 Pimpernel books, which I never knew previously, and most of them are available for free downloads on the internet. Hopefully I will get a chance to read some more of them soon!

A good fun read, filled with ingenious plans, swirling capes, masks and disguises - in short....lots of fun!

Edited to add: On Lauren Willig's website there are some "Outtakes" from this book - more fun!

Rating 4/5

Other Blogger's Thoughts:

A Girl Walks Into a Bookstore

The Written Word

Friday, May 26, 2006

A Dark Champion by Kinley MacGregor

I have to admit to being a little confused as to how the MacAllister books and the Brotherhood series all fit together, but I'll get to that later! All I know is that this book follows the events of Simon's story in Where's My Hero.

Fearless men, their allegiance is to one another, to the oppressed, and to the secret society known as the Brotherhood of the Sword -- and they must never surrender to the passionate yearnings of their noble hearts.

A Lady of Love

Beautiful, peace-loving Rowena knows that Stryder of Blackmoor is a warrior, and is therefore a man to be shunned.

But something burns in the eyes of this powerful knight that she has never seen in others of his kind: a tenderness, and a need to love and be loved. Yet to enter his world would be madness -- against every principle by which she has lived her life -- so she must resist the yearning that would draw her into his arms.

A Man of War

Duty bound to battle for right, Stryder has never desired the comforts of home and hearth-- until he gazed upon the exquisite face and form of the incomparable Rowena. He dares not succumb to her sensuous charms, for Stryder is a man sworn to know no love. But when treachery and danger threaten, the noble knight must stand as the unsuspecting lady's champion -- though his actions could cost him his honor, his heart. . . and his forbidden dream of happiness.
We first met Stryder in Where's My Hero, where he was the target of many a fair maiden who wanted nothing more than to spend time in the arms of one of the greatest knights of their day. This pattern continues in this book, with the lengths that Stryder needs to go to avoid any of the maidens being almost slapstick comedy at times. Whilst Stryder is not averse to the pleasures of the flesh, he is not looking for any kind of commitment, and he most certainly is not looking for a wife.

Lady Rowena is a young heiress who holds for her husband to be a great amount of lands, with key importance to the safety of the crown of Henry and Eleanor. Rowena knows what she wants in a husband - she wants a peace loving troubadour who will sing her ballads of love...and mean them. She would prefer not to marry but if she is going to, she wants more than a marriage for political reasons or convenience. She wants love.

When King Henry sets them up to be married (somewhat implausibly it must be said!) Rowena and Stryder both resist, but when a murderer starts killing people, and attempting to blame Stryder, Rowena proves to be more than just a friend. She also starts to see that beneath the knight there is a man with a good and noble heart who only does what he does so that he can help others.

I liked Stryder...Rowena I wasn't quite so keen on but that's okay. It felt that there was quite a bit of background happening in this book - a lot of setting the scene for future books as well as explaining why Stryder is the way he is and whilst that is fine it did kind of take me away from the book at various points. The various other characters that are introduced are all presented in such a way as to make me want to read their stories. I'm not quite sure how many Brotherhood stories MacGregor is planning to right as she has a LOT of profiles up on the pages on her website!

One thing I can't get my head around is the series order of these books. On this page on the author's website, the reading order for the Brotherhood books is Born in Sin, Taming the Scotsman, Where's My Hero, A Dark Champion and then Return of the Warrior, whilst on this page the order is that the tie in books are Master of Desire then Where's My Hero, and then the actual Brotherhood books are Where's My Hero and then A Dark Champion and Return of the Warrior. So it seems that even the author is even confused about which books are part of the series and which are not!! I guess either way I just have Return of the Warrior to go at this point in time.

Why does that bother me so much....just does!! Okay?? I'm not pedantic about many things but reading a series in order is one of them!

Rating 3.5/5

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Glory in Death by J D Robb

This is my read for the May TBR challenge, which for this month was to read something from your TBR pile that has some sort of military, police, etc theme or an ebook/book that originally appeared in ebook format. I went with the former!

Title: Glory in Death

Author: J D Robb

Year published: 1996

Why did you get this book? I have only recently read the first book in this series (Naked in Death) and as soon as I had finished it I put the next one on the request list.

Do you like the cover? I actually ended up with the large print version of the book which was published by Isis, so the cover above isn't the one that I got. Mine has a picture of a glass fronted sky scraper with the clouds reflecting in the window, and trees in front of it....pretty non descript actually.

Did you enjoy the book? Yes.

Was the author new to you and would you read something by this author again? The author isn't new to me, although this is only the second book of the In Death series that I have read. I haven't read all that much Nora Roberts either really.

Are you keeping it or passing it on? It's a library book so keeping it isn't really a consideration, but if it wasn't I would think I would keep it...along with every other book in the series.

Anything else? It's interesting to see the struggles that Eve has as she tries to deal with the closeness that has developed between herself and Roarke and her growing feelings. The mystery was interesting, and pretty intense, but really for me the highlights are the relationships, and the imagination of how the world is going to be in the future.

Rating: 4/5

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


When I get home from work each day, I start cooking dinner and then I come to the computer and start going through the various groups and blogs that I visit on a regular basis to see what I missed that day, and because my blog is my start up page that is where I visit first.

A couple of nights ago I got home, did what I had to do and then sat down at the computer to start the rounds, started IE, and got to a lovely page, with a very nice purple template....but no blog entries! None of the links worked, or the archives...nothing.

After completely freaking out for a little while, I ended up restarting my computer and everything was okay again...PHEW!!! This little episode does, however, make me it possible to backup your blog if you are using Blogger's website, or do you just have to hope that nothing goes wrong?

The Secret Supper by Javier Sierra

Tightly paced and atmospheric, The Secret Supper is a dazzling historical thriller with a unique vision of both Leonardo da Vinci's genius and his masterpiece -- which you will never look at in the same way again.

Milan, 1497: Leonardo is completing The Last Supper. Pope Alexander VI is determined to execute him after realizing that the painting contains clues to a baffling -- and blasphemous -- message that he is driven to decode. The Holy Grail and the Eucharistic Bread are missing, there is no meat on the table, and the apostles, shockingly, are portraits of well-known heretics -- and none of them are depicted with halos. And why has the artist painted himself into the scene with his back turned toward Jesus? The clues to Leonardo's greatest puzzle are right before your eyes....

Given the subject matter there will inevitably be comparisons made to the Da Vinci Code. Whilst there are some shared themes that are touched on there are significant differences as well. Whereas Da Vinci is a cultural touchstone in The Da Vinci Code, here he is a central character, with mentions of his other works, but focusing predominantly on the messages contained in the painting of The Last Supper. Whilst DVC has a modern setting looking back through time, in The Secret Supper the setting is 1497. Da Vinci is part way through working on the painting that will become The Last Supper.

The main character, Father Agostino Leyre, is an Inquisitor who is sent to Milan to investigate the stories that are emerging about the painting, that it contains secret messages which are contradictory to the central beliefs of the Church. Leyre's speciality is the deciphering of codes. When he is sent a coded message by The Soothsayer he needs to figure out what the message is to try and prevent the further killings that have been taking place in recent days. The Soothsayer appears to be someone from the inside of Da Vinci's inner circle who has become disillusioned and is now determined to unveil the secrets held in his works. As Leyre works through the various puzzles, things around him become more dangerous, and more life changing.

Originally written in Spanish, and then translated into English, there are occasional patches where you wonder if something hasn't been lost in the translation, but overall this was a very interesting read that takes the well known fact that Da Vinci was considered to not be a "good Christian", takes one of his most famous works and wonders what could his beliefs have been and did he hide messages in his works.

Rating 4/5

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Dearly Depotted by Kate Collins

The third book in the Flower Shop Mystery series, this book picks up where Slay it with Flowers finishes up.

Abby has her hands full at her cousin Jillian's wedding as florist, bridesmaid, and grandma-sitter-all while wearing a hideous dress. Then the groom's 90-year-old grandmother goes missing from the reception. On her search, Abby finds the corpse of guest Jack Snyder. Now she must find out who killed Jack in the pulpit.

It's Fourth of July and Abby has her hands full. Not only is she doing the flowers for her cousin's wedding that she is bridesmaid in, but she is also doing a big job that she really needs the money from as well, so she spends her day rushing from one place to the next. Before she knows it, she also has to find her own groomsman because her partner has turned his ankle and won't be able to make it to the wedding, and she has to babysit her ex fiance's grandmother.

After making a scene during the wedding, and then witnessing a fight between one of the guests and a gate crasher, the wedding ceremony is finally over, and Abby can relax can't not really because Grandma goes missing, and when she finds Grandma she also find a dead body...the gatecrasher who interrupted the ceremony.

After a friend becomes the primary suspect, Abby has no choice but to and we work our way through all the clues and red herrings with her and her hot friend Marco. The romance is building nicely between these two...hopefully it won't be incredibly drawn out as these types of relationships can be in some cozy mysteries.

The thing with these cozy mysteries is that you need to immerse yourself in the story enough to suspend your belief in several things. The first is that all police in small towns are inept and couldn't find a murderer if they were still standing with the knife in their hands, dripping with blood. The second is that the inept police/public officials are willing to share information with the amateur sleuth in town who will inevitably be much better at finding the truth. The third thing is that all amateur sleuths are like cats - they all inevitably have more than one life. Abby is up to three as far as I can tell in as many months.

So does that mean that I don't enjoy these types books. No, not really - I do actually enjoy them immensely. It is more that you know at least some of what to expect when you pick up these books.

I am looking forward to picking up the next book in the series, which is called Snipped in the Bud. I also just found out today that Kate Collins also writes under the names of Linda O'Brien and Linda Eberhardt. My library has some of the O'Brien books so I am going to try and pick one of those up shortly.

Rating 4/5

Sorry gremlins!

You know those gremlins I mentioned previously? Turns out they didn't run away with my library book!

It showed up today, so tomorrow I can go and get my money back. I was 99.5 percent sure I had returned it. Good job I allowed that 0.5 percent leeway!

William Marshal - Soundtrack of his life

Not too long ago I reviewed Elizabeth Chadwick's novel on William Marshal.

Today on her blog, the author has given us some details of the soundtrack that she has for the novel....There are some very interesting choices.

Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland

A luminous tale about art and human experience that is as breathtaking as any Vermeer painting.

A professor invites a colleague from the art department to his home to see a painting that he has kept secret for decades. The professor swears it is a Vermeer--but why has he hidden this important work for so long? The reasons unfold in a series of events that trace the ownership of the painting back to World War II and Amsterdam, and still further back to the moment of the work's inspiration. As the painting moves through each owner's hands, what was long hidden quietly surfaces, illuminating poignant moments in multiple lives. Vreeland's characters remind us, through their love of this mysterious painting, how beauty transforms and why we reach for it, what lasts and what in our lives is singular and unforgettable.

Written as a series of short stories, we read how the painting has affected each of the people who acquired and then owned the painting. Originally a couple of the stories had been published as short stories, but then Vreeland decided to fill in the gaps and this book was born.

Not only is the cover gorgeous, so is the writing, with Vreeland giving us moments of pain, moments of beauty....moments in the life of the people lucky enough to be touched by the beauty of the painting.

We start with the professor who has owned the painting for years, in same ways it is the only real connection he has with his father. There are no papers to prove the authenticity of the painting, but he insists that it is a Vermeer. He has studied the brush strokes, the technique in his search to confirm his belief. But why would he have it hidden away? Why would he contemplating destroying the painting? Facing the circumstances of how it came to be in their lives.

Working our way back, the second chapter is focused on the home of a young Jewish girl living in Amsterdam during WWII. Her family is about to celebrate the Passover, but they do so under the watchful and ever present eyes of the Nazi soldiers that are occupying their country.

The third chapter is a about the relationship between married couple as they contemplate the upcoming marriage of their daughter. The wife wants to give her daughter the painting as a gift but the man is loathe to let it go given that for him it is a reminder of his first love. This revelation causes the couple to evaluate some aspects of their relationship.

The fourth story is about a bored socialite who courts scandal by falling in love, or maybe lust, with a young musician. She is actually a young Frenchwoman who has been brought to Holland by her husband who is in theory working in a negotiating role, but it appears that he is more engaged in an affair. This is the point in the story where the papers are separated from the painting, therefore making it difficult to confirm the identity of the painter.

Next up a young family is living in their attic with all their precious possessions, including the cow, as the workers of the town try to repair the broken dikes and pump the water back out of the land, and free the people from their unending vista of flood waters. The painting comes to the family in unusual circumstances, and the wife needs to decide what her priorities are.

The next one was my favourite I think. A young couple are involved in a secret relationship find that they are going to be parents. Even when giving birth, no-one is allowed to know, but then the young mother is arrested and hung. The father has to figure out how to look after the child that is left.

In the penultimate chapter, the painting is created. The painter is however struggles to provide for his family and so it is a real struggle for him to decide whether or not he can continue to paint or if he should try to get an actual job to be able to start providing properly for his family.

The final chapter is about the subject of the painting - a young girl desperate for her father to recognise their kindred spirits.

Very enjoyable read.

Rating 4/5

Something New

I have created an index for the books I have read and reviewed here. It is sorted alphabetically by author and can be accessed via the index link on the left hand side or at this address:

There may well have been an easier way to do this....but never mind it is done now!

Just navigate through the index using the links on the right hand side!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Reading Memories Meme

First saw this meme at The BlogJar, and then Kailana and Heather did it too, so I thought I might join in this time!

20 Years Ago: (age 15)

I had read just about every Jean Plaidy book that my school library had - my love of historical fiction started pretty early on.
My English teacher was an old nun that scared crap out of us, but she was a good teacher. I seem to remember reading Graham Greene.

10 Years Ago: (age 25)

I wasn't reading anything. Didn't read a book for years. I was living in Sheffield in the UK, in a pretty horrible apartment, with very little furniture, with a bloke who was (well still is) an idiot...only difference he isn't around anymore!

5 Years Ago: (age 30)
Still wasn't really reading. Aforementioned bloke was still around although not for much longer. We were back living in Adelaide in Australia and I had a full time job and a two year old child to look after.
I was made redundant from my job, but then offered the chance to come to Melbourne for three months to do the handover and have been here ever since.

3 Years ago: (age 32)

Started reading again, in particular remember reading the Outlander books.
Found the internet! Starting participating in online book clubs.
Read a few classics including Anna Karenina, One Hundred Years of Solitude.

Last Year: (age 34)
Realise that I couldn't afford to keep buying books so starting using the library.
Bought a house.
Discovered audio books.
Starting blogging

This Month: (age 34)

Having a slow reading month - only 9 books so far, but one of them was huge!
Working on an index of reads

Booking some more

3 Favorite Reading Locations:

In bed
On the train
When driving to work (listening to audiobooks)

3 Reading habits:

I have to read books in order. Drives me to distraction if I start reading a book and then I discover it is part of a series.
I can have up to four or five different book going on at any one time. As long as they are different settings or types of books it doesn't worry me.
If I am really immersed in a book my son knows that that means he is going to have to sort out his own dinner...he's used to having cheese sandwiches by now!

3 Things that distract me:

My son
Sore Eyes

3 Characters I'd love to be:

Hmmm....Claire Randall Fraser, but only for the 'good' bits! Other than that I don't every really imagine myself being a character in a book.

3 Three Characters I despise:

Dimitri from The Bronze Horseman
All the Mrs Danvers from Jasper Fforde books....all those neat freaks in one place...scary!
Can't think of anyone else at the moment.

3 Favorite Book Beverages:

3 Favorite bookmarks:
There were these really nice bookmarks from the library that were free so I got them. Really I just use whatever bookmarks I have that I get for free from bookstores
Library receipts
Used train tickets

3 Dead Writers I'd love to meet:
Jean Plaidy (Eleanor Hibbert)

3 Alive Writers I'd love to meet:
Sharon Penman
Paullina Simons
Diana Gabaldon

Friday, May 19, 2006

Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles by Margaret George

She was a child crowned a queen....
A sinner hailed as a saint....
A lover denounced as a whore...
A woman murdered for her dreams...

At 870 pages long, this book is a BIG book, but within it's pages is a big story taking place in three countries at a very turbulent time in history! In fact at times it felt as though I was carrying a brick around as I lugged it from one train ride to the next.

The book is divided into three parts, the first dealing with Mary's time as Queen of France, the second her time as Queen of Scotland and the third part deals with her time as the guest/prisoner of Queen Elizabeth I.

Mary was born to James V of Scotland and Marie de Guise, not long after the death of her two older brothers. Within days of her birth, James V was dead and Mary was crowned Queen of Scotland, with her mother acting as regent. When she was about 5 years old she was betrothed to the young Dauphin of France and she was moved to France, leaving her mother behind in her role as regent, and went to live with the French Court, under the care of Catherine de Medici and Diane de Poitiers. Married at 15, widowed at 18, after having become Queen only a year or so before, Mary found herself no longer Queen with no role to fulfill so she returns to Scotland to take up her role there.

Mary's reign as Queen of Scotland was incredibly tumultuous, with her reign coinciding with the emergence of John Knox as leader of the Protestant movement in Scotland. Mary was intensely passionate about her religion and even before she returned to Scotland, religion was potentially a stumbling block. In quite unusual circumstances, Mary became the Catholic Queen of a Protestant country, attracting the wrath of John Knox, and apparently a personal disliking from him as well. Later during her reign, when some of her actions were probably less than wise, Knox had more reason to castigate Mary and he did so very vocally.

Mary and Elizabeth were cousins, who had never met, and yet seemed to feel some level of kinship between them, and yet most of the problems between them occurred because Elizabeth would not formalise the succession. Initially, there were problems because when Queen Mary I died there were some in the French court who suggested that Mary Stuart was the next true Queen of England and even went as far as including the title of Queen of England for her, which did not go down well in the English court. Later, it seemed that the reluctance was due to the fact that Mary was either being portrayed as being actively involved in plots against Elizabeth, or in some cases actually was involved in these plots.

In much the same way as Elizabeth I was being courted in London by a variety of members of the royal families of Europe as potential bride, so too Mary's mind had turned to marriage, and when Henry, Lord Darnley entered the fray it seems as though Mary was smitten, and marriage was hastily arranged, despite the fact that Elizabeth had not given her approval. Here we see the Mary who is headstrong, who makes hasty decisions, and who would appear to lack the ability to make accurate judgement as to the characters of the people around her. The marriage is very quickly in trouble, with Darnley known to frequent the various establishments wherever he happened to be and in the end becoming incredibly ill with what appeared to be a sexually transmitted disease, but not before she becomes pregnant with her son and heir. Mary knows her marriage is in trouble, and when she finds herself attracted to Lord Bothwell, it would seem that her life was to be further complicated until there are more plots, betrayals and schemes, this time to murder her husband.

Within months, Bothwell has arranged a hasty divorce, and kidnaps the Queen "forcing" her to marry him, thereby causing the few loyal lords Mary had left to turn against her, because of the underhanded methods Bothwell employed in several situations. This time is a time of happiness for Mary, with the man that she loves by her side, despite the fact that the Lords of Scotland refuse to acknowledge Bothwell as her husband and king. This eventually leads to a showdown at Carberry Hill where Mary is taken into protections by the Lords, thus in reality ending her freedom forever. Bothwell flees and eventually ends up taken prisoner in Denmark and Sweden where he stays until his grisly death.

The book covers in great length the various plots against Mary by the people who had pledged their loyalty to her, including her illegitimate half brother James, who in the end would rule in her stead. Also covered are the authors thoughts regarding the depth of Mary's involvement in the murder of Darnley, in the aforementioned kidnapping and in the plots against Elizabeth that cost her her life.

The Mary we grow to know is a very complex woman - at various times innocent child, powerful ruler, woman in love, alternatively cautious but also impulsive, someone who was betrayed many times, and yet was the object of great devotion from many of her friends, including some of her jailers. When she comes to England without first having permission from Elizabeth she shows her headstrong nature, yet she submitted to being Elizabeth's guest for quite a long time.

Once in England, Mary is guest of Elizabeth, at times in a degree of luxury, but as the period went on the pretense of being a guest was dropped, and the reality of life as a prisoner set in. Mary's imprisonment in England last for 20 odd years before eventually Mary was caught in a trap set up to try and force Elizabeth's hand into having her executed. For Mary, she viewed these events as being aimed at her because of her religion, and she was very forthright in defending herself by accusing her accusers of taking the actions they had because she refused to embrace the Protestant faith.

One of the things that I found most interesting was that there was quite a long time where Mary spent time in imprisonment in Sheffield Manor and Sheffield Castle, whilst under the care of the Earl of Shrewsbury. The thing that was interesting to me about this is that when I lived in Sheffield I lived about 10 minutes from Sheffield Manor and yet never knew anything about it. Sheffield, in my opinion, can't really be commended for keeping it's history alive! Maybe one day I will get back there again and if I do I shall be sure to make a visit to Sheffield Manor. The Castle is long gone, buried between some truly ugly markets in the city centre.

It would be a huge achievement for an author to capture a reader's attention entirely for such a big book, and there were parts in the book that were a little dry, but it wasn't ever long before something else happened drawing your attention back again.

Overall this was a very readable story that expanded on what is known about Mary, Queen of Scots - a woman of contradictions.

Rating 4/5

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Index of reads

This blog is linked into my reading journal at Reading Adventures

The aim is to provide an A-Z index by author name (using the links in the sidebar) to make it easier to find reviews that I have previously written. If you find any links that don't work properly, please let me know!


Walker, Lisa - Liar Bird
Walker, Victoria - Summer at Croftwood Cinema
Walls, Jeannette - The Glass Castle
Walsh, Alexandra - The Forgotten Palace
Walsh, Alexandra - The Secrets of Crestwell Hall
Walton, Jo - Tooth and Claw
Ward, J R - Dark Lover
Ward, J R - Lover Awakened
Ward, J R - Lover Eternal
Ward, J R - Lover Revealed
Warren, Tracy Anne - The Husband Trap
Warren, Tracy Anne - The Wedding Trap
Warren, Tracy Anne - The Wife Trap
Wasley, Sasha - Spring Clean for the Peach Queen
Waters, Sarah - Affinity
Watson, Christie - Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away
Watson, Jules - The Boar Stone
Watson, Jules - The Dawn Stag
Watson, Jules - The White Mare
Webb, Katherine - The Unseen
Webber, Heather - The Lights of Sugarberry Cove
Westwood, Lauren - The Little Paris Toy Shop
White, Karen - The House on Tradd Street
Wiesel, Elie - Night
Williams, Marcia - Bravo Mr. William Shakespeare
Willig, Lauren - The Deception of the Emerald Ring
Willig, Lauren - The Masque of the Black Tulip
Willig, Lauren - The Secret History of the Pink Carnation
Willig, Lauren - The Seduction of the Crimson Rose
Willingham, Bill - Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall
Willingham, Bill - Fables, Vol 1: Legends in Exile
Willingham, Bill - Fables, Vol 2: Animal Farm
Willingham, Bill - Fables, Vol 3: Storybook Love
Willingham, Bill - Fables, Vol 4: March of the Wooden Soldiers
Willingham, Bill - Fables. Vol 5: The Mean Seasons
Willingham, Bill - Fables, Vol 6: Homelands
Willingham, Bill - Fables, Vol 7: Arabian Nights (and Days)
Willingham, Bill - Fables, Vol 8: Wolves
Willingham, Bill - Fables, Vol 9: Sons of Empire
Willingham, Bill - Fables, Vol 10: The Good Prince
Willingham, Bill - Fables, Vol 11; War and Pieces
Willingham, Bill - Fables, Vol 12: The Dark Ages
Willingham, Bill - Jack of Fables, Vol 1: The (Nearly) Great Escape
Willis, Connie - The Doomsday Book
Willis, Connie - To Say Nothing of the Dog
Wilson, Sandra - Taj: The Woman and the Wonder
Winsor, Kathleen - Forever Amber
Winspear, Jacqueline - Birds of a Feather
Winspear, Jacqueline - Maisie Dobbs
Wright, Alexis - Carpentaria


Dates from Hell
The Firefly Dance
Irish Girls About Town
The Further Observations of Lady Whistledown
Forbidden Fantasies
Jane Austen Made Me Do It: Original Stories Inspired by Literatures Most Astute Observer of Human Nature edited by Laurel Ann Nattress :
Midnight Pleasures
My Scandalous Bride
The One That Got Away
Santa, Baby
The School for Heiresses
Silent Night
Stroke of Midnight

Three Weddings and a Kiss
Where's My Hero
Wish List
Many Bloody Returns: Tales of Birthdays with Bite


Sacerdoti, Daniela - The Lost Village
Sanderson, Jane - Mix Tape
Sands, Lynsay- The Key
Satrapi, Marjane - Monsters are Afraid of the Moon
Satrapi, Marjane - Persepolis
Satrapi, Marjane - Persepolis 2
Schiffer, Vivienne - Camp Nine
Scott, Caroline - When I Come Home Again
Scott, Jessica - Because of You
Scott, Jessica - Until There Was You
Scott, Kim - That Deadman Dance
Scott, Manda - The Crystal Skull
Scott, Manda - Dreaming the Bull
Scott, Manda - Dreaming the Eagle
Scott, Manda - Dreaming the Hound\
Scott, Susan Holloway - The French Mistress
See, Lisa - Shanghai Girls
See, Lisa - Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
Seton, Anya - Dragonwyck
Seton, Anya - The Winthrop Woman
Setterfield, Diane - The Thirteenth Tale
Shah, Saira - The Storyteller's Daughter
Shalvis, Jill - Animal Magnetism series books 1-3
Shalvis, Jill - At Last
Shalvis, Jill - Lucky in Love
Shreve, Anita - Light on Snow
Sierra, Javier - The Lady in Blue
Sierra, Javier - The Secret Supper
Simons, Paullina - Children of Liberty
Simons, Paullina - Tatiana's Table
Simons, Paullina - The Summer Garden
Simonson, Helen - Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
Singh, Nalini - Awaken to Pleasure
Singh, Nalini - Craving Beauty
Singh, Nalini - Secrets in the Marriage Bed
Singh, Nalini - Slave to Sensation
Smith, Alexander McCall - Blue Shoes and Happiness
Smith, Alexander McCall - The Careful Use of Compliments
Smith, Alexander McCall - Dream Angus: Celtic God of Dreams
Smith, Alexander McCall - Friends, Lovers, Chocolate
Smith, Alexander McCall - The Girl Who Married a Lion and Other Tales From Africa
Smith, Alexander McCall - The Good Husband of Zebra Drive
Smith, Alexander McCall - Portuguese Irregular Verbs
Smith, Alexander McCall - The Right Attitude to Rain
Snicket, Lemony - The Ersatz Elevator
Snyder, Maria V - Magic Study
Snyder, Maria V - Poison Study
Solomons, Natasha - The Novel in the Viola
Speare, Elizabeth George - The Witch of Blackbird Pond
Speed, John - The Temple Dancer
Spencer, LaVyrle - Morning Glory
Springfield, Victoria - Invitation to Italy
St. James, Simone - The Sun Down Motel
Stephens, Mary-Lou - The Last of the Apple Blossom
Stewart, Mariah - The Chesapeake Diaries (books 1-5)
Stewart, Mariah - The Long Way Home 
Stirling, S M - Island in the Sea of Time
Strohmeyer, Sarah - Bubbles A Broad
Strohmeyer, Sarah - Bubbles Ablaze
Strohmeyer, Sarah - Bubbles All the Way
Strohmeyer, Sarah - Bubbles Betrothed
Strohmeyer, Sarah - Bubbles in Trouble
Strohmeyer, Sarah - Bubbles Unbound
Strohmeyer, Sarah - The Cinderella Pact
Strohmeyer, Sarah - The Secret Lives of Fortunate Wives
Strohmeyer, Sarah - The Sleeping Beauty Proposal
Stuart, Alison - The Goldminer's Sister
Stuart, Alison - The Postmistress
Stuart, Anne and Crusie, Jennifer and Dreyer, Eileen - The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes
Sukegawa, Durian - Sweet Bean Paste
Suson, Marlene - The Errant Earl
Swerling, Beverly - City of Dreams
Swerling, Beverly - City of Glory
Swerling, Beverly - City of God
Swerling, Beverly - Shadowbrook
Swift, Deborah - The Gilded Lily
Swift, Deborah - The Lady's Slipper


Raisin, Rebecca - The Little Venice Bookstore
Raisin, Rebecca - Rosie's Travelling Tea Shop
Riwoe, Mirandi - The Fish Girl
Robb, J D - Betrayal in Death
Robb, J D - Ceremony in Death
Robb, J D - Conspiracy in Death
Robb, J D - Glory in Death
Robb, J D - Holiday in Death
Robb, J D - Immortal in Death
Robb, J D - Interlude in Death
Robb, J D - Judgment in Death
Robb, J D - Loyalty in Death
Robb, J D - Naked in Death
Robb, J D - Portrait in Death
Robb, J D - Rapture in Death
Robb, J D - Vengeance in Death
Robb, J D - Witness in Death
Roberts, Nora - Angels Fall
Roberts, Nora - Black Rose
Roberts, Nora - Blood Brothers
Roberts, Nora - Blue Dahlia
Roberts, Nora - Born in Fire
Roberts, Nora - Born in Ice
Roberts, Nora - Born in Shame
Roberts, Nora - Chasing Fire
Roberts, Nora - High Noon
Roberts, Nora - Dance of the Gods
Roberts, Nora - Morrigan's Cross
Roberts, Nora  - The Next Always
Roberts, Nora - The Pagan Stone
Roberts, Nora - Red Lily
Roberts, Nora - Three Fates
Roberts, Nora - Valley of Silence
Roberts, Nora - Year One
Roberts, Tansy Rayner - Love and Romanpunk
Robinson, Marilynne - Gilead
Roden, Claudia - The Food of Spain
Romer, Anna - Thornwood House
Rose, M J - The Hypnotist
Rose, M J - The Collector of Dying Breaths
Rose, M J - Seduction
Rosenberg, Jacob G - East of Time
Rowell, Rainbow - Eleanor & Park
Ryan, Jennifer - The Kitchen Front


Tan, Shaun - The Arrival
Tan, Shaun - The Red Tree
Tarr, Judith and Turtledove, Henry- Household Gods
Terry, Candis - Second Chance at the Sugar Shack
Tey, Josephine - The Daughter of Time
Thomas, Amy - Paris, My Sweet: A Year in the City of Light (and Dark Chocolate)
Thomas Maisie - Railway Girls in Love
Thomas, Maisie - Secrets of the Railway Girls
Thomas, Maisie - The Railway Girls
Thomas, Melody - A Match Made in Scandal
Thomas, Melody - In My Heart
Thomas, Melody - Must Have Been the Moonlight
Thomas, Sherry - Private Arrangements
Thorland, Donna - The Turncoat
Tonge, Samantha - The Memory of You
Tonge, Samantha - When We Were Friends
Tremain, Rose - The Darkness of Wallis Simpson
Trigiani, Adriana - The Shoemaker's Daughter
Turnbull, Sarah - Almost French
Turtledove, Henry and Tarr, Judith - Household Gods


Palmer, Diana - Calamity Mum
Palmer, Fiona - Tiny White Lies
Parrish, Merle - Merle's Country Show Baking and Other Favourites
Parrish, Merle - Merle's Kitchen
Patchett, Ann - Bel Canto
Patchett, Ann - State of Wonder
Paul, Gill - The Second Wife
Peacock, Caro - Death at Dawn
Penney, Stef - The Tenderness of Wolves
Perkins, Stephanie - Anna and the French Kiss
Petch, Angela - The Girl Who Escaped
Petch, Angela - The Postcard from Italy
Peters, Elizabeth - The Ape Who Guards the Balance
Peters, Elizabeth - The Borrower of the Night
Peters, Elizabeth - The Curse of the Pharoahs
Peters, Elizabeth - Deeds of the Disturber
Peters, Elizabeth - The Falcon at the Portal
Peters, Elizabeth - He Shall Thunder at the Sky
Peters, Elizabeth - The Hippopotamus Pool
Peters, Elizabeth - The Last Camel Died at Noon
Peters, Elizabeth - The Laughter of Dead Kings
Peters, Elizabeth - Lion in the Valley
Peters, Elizabeth - The Mummy Case
Peters, Elizabeth - Seeing a Large Cat
Peters, Elizabeth - The Snake, The Crocodile and the Dog
Peters, Elizabeth - The Street of the Five Moons
Pfeffer, Susan - Life as we Knew it
Picoult, Jodi - My Sister's Keeper
Pierce, Barbara - Courting the Countess
Plum, Amy - Die for Me
Plum, Amy - Until I Die
Poitier, Sidney - The Measure of a Man
Pratchett, Terry - The Hogfather
Power, Henriette Laziridis - The Clover House
Provoost, Anne - In the Shadow of the Ark
Prowse, Amanda - All Good Things


Quinn, Julia - An Offer from a Gentleman
Quinn, Julia - The Duke and I
Quinn, Julia - It's in His Kiss
Quinn, Julia - Just Like Heaven
Quinn, Julia - The Lost Duke of Wyndham
Quinn, Julia - A Night Like This
Quinn, Julia - Romancing Mr Bridgerton
Quinn, Julia - The Viscount Who Loved Me
Quinn, Julia - To Catch an Heiress
Quinn, Julia - To Sir Phillip with Love
Quinn, Julia - When He Was Wicked
Quinn, Kate - The Rose Code


Valdez-Rodriguez, Alisa - The Dirty Girls Social Club
Valente, Catherynne - The Orphan's Tale: In the Night Garden
Van Booy, Simon - Everything Beautiful Began After
Vaughan, Elizabeth - Warlord
Vaughan, Elizabeth - Warprize
Vaughan, Elizabeth - Warsworn
Vreeland, Susan - Clara and Mr Tiffany
Vreeland, Susan - Girl in Hyacinth Blue


Urrea, Luis Alberto - The Hummingbird's Daughter


Navin, Jacqueline - The Sleeping Beauty
Nemirovsky, Irene - David Golder
Nemirovsky, Irene - Fire in the Blood
Nemirovsky, Irene - Le Bal
Nemirovsky, Irene - Suite Francaise
Ness, Patrick - Monsters of Men
Nix, Garth - Drowned Wednesday
Nix, Garth - Grim Tuesday
Nix, Garth - Mister Monday
Norman, Diana - A Catch of Consequence
Norman, Diana - The Sparks Fly Upward
Norman, Diana - Taking Liberties
Norman, Matthew - Domestic Violets
Novik, Naomi - Black Powder War
Novik, Naomi - Temeraire (His Majesty's Dragon)
Novik, Naomi - Throne of Jade
Nunn, Katye - The Silk House


Kalotay, Daphne - Russian Winter
Karafilly, Irena - The Captive Sun
Karr, Shirley - Confessions of a Viscount
Karr, Shirley - Kiss from a Rogue
Karr, Shirley - What an Earl Wants
Kashiwai, Hisashi - The Kamogawa Food Detectives
Kawaguchi, Toshikazu - Before the Coffee Gets Cold
Kawaguchi, Toshikazu - Before Your Memory Fades
Kearsley, Susanne - The Deadly Hours
Kearsley, Susanna - The Firebird
Kearsley, Susanna - The Rose Garden
Kearsley, Susanna - The Shadowy Horses
Kearsley, Susanna - The Winter Sea (Sophia's Secret)
Kelman, Stephen - Pigeon English
Keneally, Meg - The Wreck
Kennedy, Sean - Tigers and Devils
Kenyon, Sherrilyn - Dance with the Devil
Kenyon, Sherrilyn - Dragonswan
Kenyon, Sherrilyn - Fantasy Lover
Kenyon, Sherrilyn - Kiss of the Night
Kenyon, Sherrilyn - Night Embrace
Kenyon, Sherrilyn - Night Play
Kenyon, Sherrilyn - Night Pleasures
Kessel, Jo - Weak at the Knees
Keyes, Marian - Angels
Keyes, Marian - Anybody Out There?
Keyes, Marian - Further Under the Duvet
Keyes, Marian - Last Chance Saloon
Keyes, Marian - Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married
Keyes, Marian - Postcards from the Bed
Keyes, Marian - Rachel's Holiday
Keyes, Marian - Saved by Cake
Keyes, Marian - The Mystery of Mercy Close
Keyes, Marian - This Charming Man
Keyes, Marian - Watermelon
Kim, Young and Meyer, Stephenie - Twilight: The Graphic Novel Vol 1
King, Stephen - ItKing, Susan Fraser - Lady Macbeth
Kinsale, Laura - Lessons in French
Kleypas, Lisa - Because You're Mine
Kleypas, Lisa - Blue-Eyed Devil
Kleypas, Lisa - Devil in Winter
Kleypas, Lisa - Dreaming of You
Kleypas, Lisa - It Happened One Autumn
Kleypas, Lisa - Lady Sophia's Lover
Kleypas - Lisa - Midnight Angel
Kleypas - Lisa - Mine Till Midnight
Kleypas - Lisa - Only With Your Love
Kleypas - Lisa - Prince of Dreams
Kleypas, Lisa - Scandal in Spring
Kleypas, Lisa - Secrets of a Summer Night
Kleypas, Lisa - Someone to Watch Over Me
Kleypas, Lisa - Somewhere I'll Find You
Kleypas, Lisa - Stranger in my Arms
Kleypas, Lisa - Suddenly You
Kleypas, Lisa - Sugar Daddy
Kleypas, Lisa - Then Came You
Kleypas, Lisa - Worth Any Price
Knisley, Lucy - French Milk
Knisley, Lucy - Relish: My Life in the Kitchen
Knisley, Lucy - Relish: My Life in the Kitchen (reread)
Knox, Ruthie - Ride with Me
Koen, Karleen - Before Versailles
Koomson, Dorothy - The Cupid Effect
Koomson, Dorothy - My Best Friend's Girl
Krahn, Bettina - The Husband Test
Krahn, Bettina - The Wife Test
Krahn, Bettina - The Marriage Test
Krauss, Nicole - The History of Love
Krentz, Jayne Ann - Light in Shadow
Krentz, Jayne Ann - Truth or Dare
Kwaymullina, Ambelin - The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf


Lanagan, Margo - Black Juice
Lanagan, Margo - Cracklescape
Lanagan, Margo - White Time
Lanagan, Margo - Yellowcake
Larsson, Stieg - The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo
Le, Nam - The Boat
Le, Nam - The Boat (reread)
Learner, Tobsha - Tremble
Lehrere, Sariann and Monroe-Cassel, Chelsea - A Feast of Ice and Fire: the official companion cookbook
Leigh, Judy - The Vintage Village Bake Off
Lester, Natasha - The Riviera House
Lewis, C S - The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Lewis, C S - Prince Caspian
Lewis, C S - Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Lewis, C S - The Horse and his Boy
Lewis, C S - The Silver Chair
Lewis, C S - The Magician's Nephew
Lewis, C S - The Last Battle
Lippi, Rosina (Donati, Sara) - Tied to the Tracks
Litteken, Erin - The Lost Daughters of Ukraine
London, Julia - Extreme Bachelor
Loomis, Susan Hermann - On Rue Tatin
Love, J V - The End of Sorrows
Lovering, Jane - The Recipe for Happiness
Lowe, Fiona - Boomerang Bride
Luckett, Jacqueline E - Passing Love 


Macauley, Wayne - The Cook
MacGregor, Kinley - A Dark Champion
MacGregor, Kinley - A Pirate of her Own
MacGregor, Kinley - Born in Sin
MacGregor, Kinley - Claiming the Highlander
MacGregor, Kinley - Master of Desire
MacGregor, Kinley - Master of Seduction
MacGregor - Kinley - Return of the Warrior
MacGregor, Kinley - Sword of Darkness
MacGregor, Kinley - Taming the Scotsman
Mack, Leonie - Snow Days With You 
Mack, Leonie - Twenty One Nights in Paris
MacLean, Sarah - Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke's Heart
MacLean, Sarah - Nine Rules to Break when Romancing a Rake
MacLean, Sarah - A Rogue by Any Other Name
MacLean, Sarah - Ten Ways to be Adored when Landing a Lord
Macomber, Debbie - Back on Blossom Street
Macomber, Debbie - Susannah's Garden
Malone, Lily - Water Under the Bridge
Malone, Lily - The Cafe by the Bridge
Malone, Lily - Last Bridge Before Home
Malouf, David - Ransom
Mandanna, Sarita - Tiger Hills
Mansell, Jill - Millie's Fling
Mansell, Jill - Miranda's Big Mistake
Mansell, Jill - An Offer You Can't Refuse
Marchant, Clare - The Secrets of Saffron Hall
Marchetta, Melina - On the Jellicoe Road
Marinelli, Carol - Putting Alice Back Together
Marsden, John - Tomorrow, When the War Began
Maxwell, Robin - To the Tower Born
Mayberry, Sarah - Sweetheart
Mayer, Bob and Crusie, Jennifer - Don't Look Down
McCarthy, Cormac - The Road
McCausland, Vanessa - Dreaming in French
McCoy, Sarah - The Baker's Daughter
McEvedy, Allegra - Jolly Good Food
McEwan, Ian - Atonement
McEwan, Ian - On Chesil Beach
McGuire, Michaela and Hardy, Marieke - Six Women of Letters
McInerney, Monica - Family Baggage
McKenna, Shannon - Standing in the Shadows
McLeay, John - Red Spice Road Cookbook
McMahon, Katharine - The Alchemist's Daughter
McMahon, Katharine - The Rose of Sebastopol
McMurtry, Larry - Dead Man's Walk
McPhee, Margaret - The Captain's Lady
Meacham, Leila - Roses
Mears, Gillian - Foal's Bread
Mehran, Marsha- Pomegranate Sout
Meyer, Stephenie - Eclipse
Meyer, Stephenie - The Host
Meyer, Stephenie - New Moon
Meyer, Stephenie - Twilight
Meyer, Stephenie and Kim, Young - Twilight: The Graphic Novel Vol 1
Miller, Linda Lael - Big Sky Country
Miller, Louise - City Baker's Guide to Country Living
Moning, Karen Marie - Darkfever
Moning, Karen Marie - The Immortal Highlander
Moning, Karen Marie - Into the Dreaming
Moning, Karen Marie - Spell of the Highlander
Monroe-Cassel, Chelsea and Lehrer, Sariann - A Feast of Ice and Fire: the official companion cookbook
Moon, Josephine - The Jam Queens
Moorcroft, Sue - An Italian Island Summer
Moorehead, Caroline - A Train in Winter
Mor, Caiseal - The Tilecutter's Penny
Mori, Kaoru - Emma Vol 1-3
Mori, Kaoru - Emma Vol 4
Moriarty, Jaclyn - A Corner of White
Moriarty, Nicola - Captivation
Morowitz, Laura and Albanese, Laurie- The Miracles of Prato
Mosse, Kate - Labyrinth
Mott, Jason - The Returned
Moyes, Jojo - Me Before You
Moyes, Jojo - The Girl You Left Behind
Moyes, Jojo - The Ship of Brides


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