Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Raven's Heart: A story of a Quest, A Castle and Mary Queen of Scots by Jesse Blackadder

Before Alison Blackadder was born, her family castle was ripped from them and her grandmother was forced to marry the man who stole it. Now Alison, disguised as a lad answering to the name of Robert awaits the return of Mary Queen of Scots. Her father William, beliving that Alison will be more useful as a lady of the Queen, deems it time for her to return to her womanly ways. Alison becomes a confidante of Mary and teaches her to dress like a man as well. Together they explore Edinborough. But danger closes in on both the Queen and Alison. Alison faces hard decisions at every turn. Who can a girl trust?

Alison Blackadder is a feisty Scots girl with a man's heart. Driven by the desire to have her family's castle returned to her, Alison will stop at nothing.  She is the perfect match for the femininity of Mary, Queen of Scots. Though her heart is consumed by the lore of Blackadder Castle, she finds herself loving the Scots Queen. Alison remains loyal to the Queen, even after Mary executes one close to her. I find myself really being drawn to Alison, even as she changes and evolves. Her loyalty never waivers, and her love for her family is endearing. I loved how Alison shows us the world of Mary Queen of Scots without letting Mary rule the story. This is an excellent book and I highly recommend it. I love how the story of one's ancestors become a great and exciting read!

ABOUT THE BOOK

Publication Date: September 11, 2011 | Bywater Books | 464p

SYNOPSIS: 
Scotland, 1561, and a ship comes across the North Sea carrying home Mary, the young, charismatic Queen of Scots, returning after thirteen years in the French court to wrest back control of her throne.

The Blackadder family has long awaited for the Queen's return to bring them justice. Alison Blackadder, disguised as a boy from childhood to protect her from the murderous clan that stole their lands, must learn to be a lady-in-waiting to the Queen, building a web of dependence and reward.

Just as the Queen can trust nobody, Alison discovers lies, danger, and treachery at every turn.

This sweeping, imaginative, and original tale of political intrigue, misplaced loyalty, secret passion, and implacable revenge is based on real characters and events from the reign of Mary Queen of Scots.

"The Raven's Heart" is a breathtaking epic from a bold, fresh voice. Winner of the Varuna HarperCollins Manuscript Development Award, "The Raven's Heart" was published in Australia in 2011.

View the book trailer HERE
ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Born in Sydney, Jesse now lives near Byron Bay. She is an award-winning short-story writer and freelance journalist, fascinated by landscapes and belonging. Her first novel was After the Party (2005), which was voted onto the Australian Book Review’s list of all time favourite Australian novels in February 2010. She is writing her next novel about the first woman to reach Antarctica.

I received this book as a part of the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.
Link to Tour Schedule:  http://www.hfvirtualbooktours.com/2012/11/jesse-blackadder-on-tour-for-ravens.html
Twitter Hashtag: #RavensHeartVirtualTour




Thursday, December 13, 2012

Interview with David Blixt, Author of Master of Verona



Today, I welcome David Blixt, author of Master of Verona and other books. 

1. What drew you to write a novel that combines Shakespeare, Dante and historical figures?
A confluence of inspiration, research, serendipity, and more inspiration.
The initial inspiration came a couple of lines in Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet that to me hinted (in the most oblique way) at a possible cause for the famous Capulet-Montague feud. Intrigued, I looked to Shakespeare’s sources, and found the opening lines from Luigi da Porto’s version:
“At the period when Bartolommeo della Scala, a gentle and accomplished prince, presided over the destinies of our native place, a fine and beautiful tract of country, I frequently remember hearing my father say that there flourished two noble but rival families, whose exasperation against each other was carried to the utmost extreme. The names of one of these was the Cappelletti, that of the other the Montecchi.”
With this, I was able to pinpoint a date for the story as between 1301-1304. At the time I was just thinking in terms of staging the play, not creating anything original. But as I read about this period, I was astonished to learn what was happening in Verona during the rule of the Scaliger family: Dante was in Verona, Giotto was in Verona, Petrarch was in Verona. The Renaissance was beginning, and Verona seemed to be the nexus. Especially interested in the Dante connection, I sat down with several translations of The Divine Comedy, and was shocked when he mentioned the two feuding families in Purgatorio. It was like the stars were aligning.
Another key influence at just the right moment, I happened to also be reading Dorothy Dunnett for the first time. The more I researched Bartolomeo’s brother Cangrande, the more I saw Dunnett’s character Lymond in him. I found the temptation irresistible, and started to write, relegating the idea of the feud to a subplot while I broadened the scope, tying the wonderful historic figure of Cangrande della Scala to one of Shakespeare’s most popular characters, Mercutio. 
So it was a case of inspiration leading to research, research in turn inspiring the story, and the stars smiling down.

2. Which character do you most identify with?

Hmm. When I was 19, I wrote a novel that lives in a drawer. It’s a time-travel romance, and it’s very much about me – how very cool I am, what a truly unique voice mine is. I’m glad I wrote it, and glad I still have it, and maybe someday I’ll even go back and do something with it. But most of all, I’m glad to have it behind me. That was the novel I needed to write to get out of my own way. Now I can just tell the story.
With that said, there are certainly elements of my lead character, Pietro Alaghieri, that I wish were me, and others that are far too much me. I don’t have his moral certainty, but I do have his insecurity. I don’t have his bravery, but I do have his sense of injustice. I would not want to be Pietro – he does not have enough of the scoundrel in him – but in many ways he’s a more admirable version of my better traits. He’s certainly fun to write, because he makes hard, valiant choices. His voice is very strong – that’s going to be the trickiest part of the fifth novel, leaving him behind.
If I identify with anyone, it’s a very minor character, Petruchio da Bonaventura. And even that is a cheat. While he’s not written to be me David, he’s the me I presented back when I played the role of Petruchio in Shakespeare’s Taming Of The Shrew. It’s an in-joke – I met my wife playing opposite her in that show, and so it was fun for me to put us both in the novel in these cameo roles, playing the characters we did in that play. I love Kate and Petruchio. The way we portrayed them, they actually are partners by the end of the show, and it made me smile to give them a happy ending. So few of my characters will get that…
3. Were there any scenes that were hard to write?
The hardest scenes are always the ones where I know what has to happen. Worse, those are often the scenes that inspired me to write the book in the first place. But by the time I get to them, they have no surprise in them for me. Those are the scenes I dread, push off, procrastinate writing. Whereas the best scenes are where I know the set-up and just let the characters breathe. I have the history, I have the personalities and goals, now let everyone interact. That was the true joy of the final scene of The Master Of Verona. It’s hard to believe it, but I had no idea the big reveal was coming. I was simply being true to the characters, and when the words started pouring out of their mouths, I was as stunned as any reader. If I ever believed in the idea of a Muse, it was in that moment.

4. Where will the next book in the Star-Cross'd series take readers?

While The Master Of Verona is very much a stand-alone piece, the next story arc covers three books, two of which are out now – Voice Of The Falconer and Fortune’s Fool (the third, The Prince’s Doom, comes out in 2013). These novels open up the world of Renaissance Italy a little more, with trips to Ravenna, Padua, Mantua, and Venice, as well as a long sojourn at the papal court in Avignon, France.
The focus is also split in two. As with MoV, we’re following Dante’s son Pietro as he continues to be the moral center in a whirlpool of deceit, violence, and injustice. But we also add young Cesco (Mercutio himself) as he grows into the character we all know from Shakespeare. There’s adventure and intrigue, but also a very Romantic depiction of first love, one that I took great trouble in crafting, wanting to get it just right. Through it all, though, readers should remember the series is called Star-Cross’d for a reason.
5. What will your next project be?
While I’m just now finishing the next in my series on the Roman/Jewish wars of the 1st century AD (the Colossus novels), the project I’m dying to jump into is actually a novel about the Devil himself. Ever since I read Dante’s Inferno a dozen years ago, I’ve had something I wanted to say, but I didn’t know how. Now I do, and I’m eager to put it onto the page.
I’m also getting requests for a follow-up to my silly Shakespeare-As-Spy novel, Her Majesty’s Will. I have the basic plot for that noodling around in my brain, but I’ll let it ferment a bit longer. After those, I jump back into the Star-Cross’d series, leaving Verona behind for the court of Edward III, the start of the Ottoman Empire, and the Holy Roman Empire. After that, I have an Othello series in mind. Then ancient Greece is calling. So many stories, so many choices.
Thanks again for letting me stop by. I’ll keep checking in – I’d love to keep the discussion going in the comments. While I try not to be spoilerific, I do enjoy talking to readers about the books, and both history and fiction in general. Cheers! - DB

About the Book

The Master of Verona (Book One, Star Cross'd Series)

Publication Date: April 23, 2012 | Sordelet Ink | 592p

SYNOPSIS: 

Romeo & Juliet is the greatest love story ever told. And every story has a beginning.

A sweeping novel of Renaissance Italy, THE MASTER OF VERONA follows Pietro Alaghieri, eldest son of the poet Dante, as he’s caught up by the charisma and genius of Verona’s ruler, Cangrande della Scala. Pietro risks battles, duels, and murder to impress his new lord. At the heart of the story is an infernal plot against Cangrande’s bastard heir, and the rivalry of two friends over the affections of a girl. That rivalry will sever a friendship, divide a city, and initiate a feud that will someday produce the star-cross’d lovers.

Based on the plays of William Shakespeare, the poetry of Dante, and the history of Italy, THE MASTER OF VERONA is a novel of brutal warfare, lost friendship, and dire conspiracy, combining to create a heart-stoppingly epic journey into the birth of the Renaissance that recalls the best of Bernard Cornwell and Dorothy Dunnett.

About the Author

Author and playwright David Blixt's work is consistently described as "intricate," "taut," and "breathtaking." A writer of Historical Fiction, his novels span the early Roman Empire (the COLOSSUS series, his play EVE OF IDES) to early Renaissance Italy (the STAR-CROSS'D series, including THE MASTER OF VERONA, VOICE OF THE FALCONER, and FORTUNE'S FOOL) up through the Elizabethan era (his delightful espionage comedy HER MAJESTY'S WILL, starring Will Shakespeare and Kit Marlowe as inept spies). His novels combine a love of the theatre with a deep respect for the quirks and passions of history. As the Historical Novel Society said, "Be prepared to burn the midnight oil. It's well worth it."

Living in Chicago with his wife and two children, David describes himself as "actor, author, father, husband. In reverse order."

For more about David and his novels, visit www.davidblixt.com.
Link to Tour Schedule:  http://www.hfvirtualbooktours.com/2012/11/david-blixt-virtual-book-tour-december.html
Twitter Hashtag: #DavidBlixtVirtualTour


  

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Master of Verona by David Blixt

Pietro Alaghieri travels with his exiled father, Dante Alighieri, to Verona to meet the poet's new patron, Francesco "Cangrande" Della Scalla. Cangrande is rumored to be Il Vetro or the Greyhound, a man prophesied about to turn Italy on her head. Pietro, with his two new best friends, Romeo Mariotto Montecchio and Antonio Capulleto, ride out with Cangrande to battle Padua. Pietro saves Cangrande's life and becomes his right hand man and confidante. Following Cangrande on a secret mission to bring his heir to Verona, Pietro becomes intertwined in the private life of the ruler of Verona.  Cesco, the boy, is raised by Cangrande's loving sister who believes in the prophecy. Pietro bonds with the boy and becomes his rescuer and champion. Pietro must also continue his battle with Padua and it's champion knight. When a peace treaty leaves his best friends rivals in love, Pietro is torn. Thought the stars may determine a man's fate, it is up to him to determine how they will guide his life.

Pietro starts out as a boy living in the shadow of his famous father and deceased elder brother. But his bravery and honor soon make a name for Pietro, who almost eclipses his father.  For this story, he does. Pietro serves Cangrande, a true Renaissance man who loves battle, clever conversation, wine and women. The eclectic cast of this book is completed by a rival on the battlefield, two lovers, a heartbroken friend, a devoted sister, a brilliant poet, a doctor, a Moor and a barren wife. The plot is always thick with love, lust, honor, treachery and twists. While the book is large, the story is larger than life. This is a wonderful read!!

About the Book

The Master of Verona (Book One, Star Cross'd Series)

Publication Date: April 23, 2012 | Sordelet Ink | 592p

SYNOPSIS: 

Romeo & Juliet is the greatest love story ever told. And every story has a beginning.

A sweeping novel of Renaissance Italy, THE MASTER OF VERONA follows Pietro Alaghieri, eldest son of the poet Dante, as he’s caught up by the charisma and genius of Verona’s ruler, Cangrande della Scala. Pietro risks battles, duels, and murder to impress his new lord. At the heart of the story is an infernal plot against Cangrande’s bastard heir, and the rivalry of two friends over the affections of a girl. That rivalry will sever a friendship, divide a city, and initiate a feud that will someday produce the star-cross’d lovers.

Based on the plays of William Shakespeare, the poetry of Dante, and the history of Italy, THE MASTER OF VERONA is a novel of brutal warfare, lost friendship, and dire conspiracy, combining to create a heart-stoppingly epic journey into the birth of the Renaissance that recalls the best of Bernard Cornwell and Dorothy Dunnett.

About the Author

Author and playwright David Blixt's work is consistently described as "intricate," "taut," and "breathtaking." A writer of Historical Fiction, his novels span the early Roman Empire (the COLOSSUS series, his play EVE OF IDES) to early Renaissance Italy (the STAR-CROSS'D series, including THE MASTER OF VERONA, VOICE OF THE FALCONER, and FORTUNE'S FOOL) up through the Elizabethan era (his delightful espionage comedy HER MAJESTY'S WILL, starring Will Shakespeare and Kit Marlowe as inept spies). His novels combine a love of the theatre with a deep respect for the quirks and passions of history. As the Historical Novel Society said, "Be prepared to burn the midnight oil. It's well worth it."

Living in Chicago with his wife and two children, David describes himself as "actor, author, father, husband. In reverse order."

For more about David and his novels, visit www.davidblixt.com.






I received  this book from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours. 
Link to Tour Schedule:  http://www.hfvirtualbooktours.com/2012/11/david-blixt-virtual-book-tour-december.html
Twitter Hashtag: #DavidBlixtVirtualTour



Friday, December 7, 2012

The Second Empress by Michelle Moran

Marie Louise, Archduchess of Austria lives a happy life. Napoleon, eager to marry into a Royal Family after divorcing his beloved Josephine for lack of an heir, chooses Marie Louise. Unhappy at the prospect of becoming France's Second Empress, Marie Louise agrees, knowing that her decision will give Austria peace. Marie Louise finds the French Court haunted by the ghostly presence of the disgraced but beloved Josephine. She also finds herself battling Pauline, Napoleon's sister who wants to rule France as the Ancient Egyptians did with Brother-Sister marriages. Pauline employs Paul, a Haitian who enjoys the confidence of Napoleon. Napoleon seems pleased with the prestige of his new wife, but his mercurial temperament can cause problems. Though Napoleon seems to be triumphant, his downfall is near. After several military blunders, war is coming to France. If Napoleon falls, where will Marie Louise and her son land?

The Second Empress tells the story of Marie Louise, someone I was unfamiliar with. Great niece to Marie Antoinette, Marie Louise wasn't fond of France, but made the sacrifice to marry Napoleon despite this fact.Marie Louise also leaves behind a lover, a younger brother and a beloved father and step mother. While the French Court was no picnic and Pauline is definitely crazy, I wish that Napoleon would have be more prominently featured. While not my favorite Michelle Moran novel, I enjoyed this book.
New to Michelle Moran? Start with Nefertiti and follow with my favorite, The Heretic Queen.

I received this book from Netgalley.