Friday, April 30, 2010
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
I do love a gorgeous cover. While a great cover won't make me BUY a book alone, it will make me pick a book up off the shelf and read the back cover. And if that sounds good, I might buy it. I suspect I'm not alone in this, so yay for the power of the good cover! (And boo on the evil of a hideous cover).
My friends Nicola Cornick and Anna Campbell both have lovely covers on their upcoming books:
I would definitely pick up these books even if they weren't my friends! The green and the yellow are a bit unusual for a romance (though I've been seeing a lot more yellow lately), and very eye-catching. And I'm in love with my own December cover for Duchess of Sin:
What are some covers you've seen lately you loved? What catches your eye and makes you pick up the book? What do you hate?
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
When I was very small, some of my favorite books were the Eloise stories. I wanted to live in a hotel and wreak havoc among the guests! I also had a great fondness for "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" (the book was totally different from the creepy movie--I still have nightmares about that child chaser!), though my mother hated it because it was very long to read aloud. I remember a book about princesses with massively long hair and a Sesame Street scratch-and-sniff with a very stinky Oscar the Grouch page.
Later I found the Noel Stretfeild "Shoe" books--Ballet Shoes, Skating Shoes, Theater Shoes, etc and dove into their very English world. It gave me a real love both for English history and culture and the world of the performing arts. (I recently came across a not-too-bad adaptation of Ballet Shoes on Netflix, starring Emma Watson and Emilia Fox. If your kid also loves these books you might want to check this out!). There were also the usual books beloved by bookish girls--Anne of Green Gables, Little Women (though I was appalled at their prissy attitude toward fun things like clothes and parties!), Little House on the Prairie, etc. I was also crazy about the Betsy-Tacy books (I've been seeing these around a lot lately!)
A little later, I discovered Barbara Cartland novels and devoured every copy I could find! (And there were a lot of them). They gave me a real gift in introducing me to a wide variety of historical settings--Regency ballrooms, Lily Langtry's theater, India during the Mutiny, an Elizabethan pirate ship, a gypsy camp--and sending me to the library to check out non-fiction books to learn more. However, they did me a real disservice in my high school dating life when I found out there were NO sardonic dukes among the boys there. Not one.
I also found the "Sunfire" YA historical romances. (I bypassed "Sweet Valley High" entirely, thankfully!). These were American-set books, but they also featured a wide variety of settings and character types--Revolutionary Philadelphia, the Mayflower, Gilded Age New York, 1812 New Orleans, wagon trains, the Triangle factory fire, the Titanic. Each featured a girl (whose name was the title) who had to discover herself and choose between 2 suitors. They were a wonderful gateway to "adult" historical romance!
What were your favorite books growing up???
Monday, April 26, 2010
And The Tudors has had its season 4 premier! It's even crazier than ever--all Catherine H. and her friends need is a keg and they have a real frat party going on. And I am not liking Henry Cavill's "wild pirate beard." I guess it's meant to show that he is now Old (much like the fact that JRM has gained maybe 10 pounds and has a few fake gray streaks in his hair makes him the disgusting old Henry VIII...), but they are ruining the hunkiest guy on the whole show! I do like these pics here though. :))
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Saturday, April 24, 2010
This weekend's heroine is Empress Elisabeth ("Sisi") of Bavaria, Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary, tragic figure and fashion icon of her day, who was married on this day in 1854.
She was born Elisabeth Amalie Eugenie von Wittelsbach in Munich on December 24, 1837, tho fourth child of Duke Maximilian Joseph of Bavaria and Princess Ludovika (who was very well-connected, with siblings who included King Ludwig I of Bavaria, the Queen of Saxony, and the mother of Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria). Sisi grew up kind of quiet and shy, though she shared her father's love of music, horses, the circus, and being with "the common people." In 1853 her mother and aunt decided that Sisi's older sister Helene would marry her cousin Emperor Franz Joseph, and Sis went with her mother and sister on a journey to the resort of Bad Ischl to meet him--and he promptly fell for Sisi instead of her sister (she was then 15 and he 23). They married a year later in Vienna at St. Augustine's Church, April 24, 1854, and at age 16 she became Empress of Austria, etc etc.
Elisabeth had a rocky relationship with her mother-in-law/aunt, and she did not enjoy the rigid Court etiquette of her new life at all. She had 3 children in quick succession--Archduchess of Sopie (b. 1855, but who died two years later), Archduchess Gisela (b. 1856) and the Crown Prince Rudolf (b. 1858). She was forced to give over their care to her mother-in-law, her marriage took a turn for the worse, and over the next few years Elisabeth's health declined. She traveled to the island of Madeira and the Ionian Islands in search of a warm weather cure, but fell ill again after returning to Vienna. She quickly left again for Corfu and traveled away from Vienna whenever possible. Matters came to a head in 1865 though, when the tutors of Prince Rudolf came to her and told her the strict military training of the sensitive boy (on her husband and mother-in-law's orders) was killing him. Elisabeth bravely presented her husband with an ultimatum--she would leave him and cause a huge scandal if she was not put in charge of everything concerning her children until their majority as well as anything concerning her own personal life. The emperor agreed.
In 1867 she embarked on her only political mission, the Hungarian Compromise, re-establishing the Hungarian Constitution and making the Austrian Empire the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary (she loved Hungary and long considered it her true home). She and her husband were crowned in Budapest on June 8, and their marriage seemed to improve. The fourth child, Marie Valerie, was born in Hungary in 1868 and Elisabeth insisted on raising the girl herself (she was long considered Elisabeth's favorite child). She also resumed her life of restless travel.
By that time Elisabeth was known as one of the most beautiful women in the world, which she tried her hardest to maintain. She took 3 hours each morning to fix her super-long hair (0ften bathing it with raw eggs and brandy, and bathing with olive oil to soften her skin), and was compulsive about exercising to keep her tiny waist as small as possible. She also sometimes took on strict diets of eggs, milk, and broth, and would now be considered to have a serious eating disorder. The one aspect of her appearance she couldn't seem to control was the color of her teeth, which wouldn't whiten perfectly even with the help of dentists. This led to her holding a handkerchief in front of her mouth when she spoke, and made her hard to understand!
She was rumored to have lovers on her travels, including George "Bay" Middleton (father of the future Clementine Churchill), wrote poetry, studied Greek, and rode her beloved horses. But in 1889 her carefully balanced world was shattered. Her son Rudolf, who shared her liberal views, love of literature, and close affinity with Hungary (though they were not personally close as mother and son) killed himself and his young lover Marie Vetsera at the hunting lodge of Mayerling on January 30. He had long been frustrated by the fact that his father refused to give him any responsibility as heir and the increasingly conservative direction of the kingdom, and his marriage was unhappy and his health poor. Elisabeth was the first to be told of his death, and she held herself up enough to tell her husband, Marie's mother, and other members of the Court. She also blamed herself because of the history of mental illness in her Wittelsbach afmily.
The scandal increased interest in Elisabeth and she was increasingly hounded wherever she went, and became increasingly restless and depressed. When she went outside she carried a large fan to hide her face and photos of her became rare and prized. After her youngest daughter's marriage in 1890 she traveled even more, rarely spending time with her husband in Vienna. She had her own yacht, the Miramar, which carried her around the Mediterranean and to points further away. She loved Cap Martin on the Riviera, Lake Geneva in Switzerland, Corfu, and Bad Ischl in Austria. She also went to Portugal, Spain, Morocco and Algeria, Malta, Greece, Egypt, Turkey and many other spots.
In 1898 she stopped in Geneva on September 10, and as she was walking from her hotel to the yacht, Elisabeth was stabbed with a sharpened file by an Italian anarchist named Luigi Lucheni. He had come to Geneva to kill the Prince of Orleans, but when the prince didn't arrive Lucheni decided the empress would do as well (ironic, considering her own dim views on the aristocracy and royal privilege). At first she did not seem badly hurt and managed to board the ship with the support of her ladies-in-waiting. But her heart had been punctured, the blood contained by her corset. She was rushed back to the hotel but died before the doctors could do anything for her.
Lucheni was sentenced to life in prison and hanged himself in 1910. He declared "I wanted to kill a royal. It did not matter who." Sisi was buried in the Imperial Crypt in Vienna and her tomb still collects by far the most flowers of any tomb there. She leaves a legacy of free spirits stifled, great beauty and mystery, and deep sadness.
A couple of good biographies of her life are:
Brigitte Hamann, The Reluctant Empress: A Biography of Empress Elisabeth of Austria (1986)
Ann Nibbs, The Elusive Empress (2008)
Friday, April 23, 2010
Thursday, April 22, 2010
What I love today--Earth Day! It's the 40th anniversary of Earth Day today, and you can read some history and info about it here at the Nature Conservancy, the Sierra Club (which has a special $15 membership offer for Earth Day), and Greenpeace
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Also I came across a new review for last year's The Winter Queen! Not a bad Tuesday
Monday, April 19, 2010
Sunday, April 18, 2010
A Georgian Mourning Ring--maybe a little spendy at $695, but lovely and with an interesting history! I'm fascinated by mourning jewelry. You can read an interesting article about the history of these pieces here...
Saturday, April 17, 2010
Margaret More was born in 1505, the eldest of Thomas More and his wife Jane Colt's 4 children. Unlike many men of the era, More believed daughters should be educated as rigorously as sons and Margaret was given a serious classical education and possessed a wide knowledge of languages and literature. She later worked as a translator (her best known work being Erasmus's A Devout Treatise upon the Paternoster). Her childhood was a happy one, despite the death of her mother when she was 10 and her father's remarriage to Alice Middleton. She spent her days in studying and household chores, looking after her many pets, and being her father's favorite child and his intellectual companion. At age 24 she married William Roper (they seemed to have an amicable and content marriage, and he later wrote the first biography of his father-in-law). But this contentment was not to last, as her father rose and then fell at the Court of Henry VIII.
Originally More's relationship with the king was a good one. More believed Henry would bring a golden era to England, as a learned and pious monarch. More eventually became Chancellor. But Sir Thomas was above all a devout Catholic, and when Rome refused Henry's divorce from Catherine of Aragon, and Henry thus broke with Rome, More sided with the Church. When he refused to attend the coronation of Anne Boleyn, he was summoned before a Parliamentary commission which demanded he swear allegiance to the new Act of Succession declaring Anne was the lawful queen and her offspring the only legitimate heirs to the throne, and that the King was the Head of the Church in England. More refused (natch) and was dispatched to the Tower.
Margaret visited her father in his cell as often as possible, studying, reading, praying, and talking of what would probably come to pass. On July 1, 1535, he was condemned to death by beheading (the original sentence being hanged, drawn and quartered). Margaret was there when the sentence was passed, and ran to her father to throw her arms around him. When she was pulled away from him, she broke free and ran back to him for one final embrace. Her husband later wrote of the crowd's tearful reaction to the sight of their affection for each other.
Her devotion didn't end there. After the execution, More's head was placed with that of other "traitors" on a pike high on London Bridge. Margaret bribed the man whose job it was to throw the older heads into the river to make room for new arrivals to give it to her instead. She preserved it in pickling spices until her own death in 1544 at age 39. Her husband then took charge of the grisly object and when he died it was intered in the Roper burial vault with them. In Tennyson's poem Dream of Fair Women he describes Margaret, "who clasped in her last trance/Her murdered father's head." Margaret and her husband are also major characters in Robert Bolt's A Man for All Seasons.
A great source for her life is John Guy's biography A Daughter's Love.
Friday, April 16, 2010
Afternoon on a Hill
I will be the gladdest thing
Under the sun!
I will touch a hundred flowers
And not pick one.
I will look at cliffs and clouds
With quiet eyes,
Watch the wind bow down the grass,
And the grass rise.
And when lights begin to show
Up from the town,
I will mark which must be mine,
And then start down!
Thursday, April 15, 2010
What I'm not liking so much this week--ironing! I'm not the best housekeeper at the best of times (I hate dusting and vacuuming, and strangely I also don't like taking dishes out of the dishwasher!), but I don't mind doing laundry. And I love getting out my spring/summer clothes once the weather turns warm and putting away the sweaters! But then I remember the thing about summer clothes--they often have to be ironed....
I need a ladies' maid!
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
When I was a teenager/college student I read quite a lot of series titles--they were short-ish, so easy to fit in between studying, small for sticking in a purse on the run, and fun. I seldom have the chance to read them now, due to deadlines and such, but I'd been hearing such great things about this book online. And it was tons of fun! A librarian who wears vintage clothes, a New Zealand setting, a rock star hero--perfect vacation reading.
Monday, April 12, 2010
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Hortense was born in Paris, the daughter of the nobleman Alexandre, vicomte de Beauharnais and his wife Josephine, their second living child (she had an older brother, Eugene). Her parents' marriage was never very happy, and they separated informally soon after her birth. Her father was guillotined on July 23, 1794, a few days before the end of the Terror, and her mother barely escaped with her life. Josephine was released from prison and reunited with her children on August 6, but it was a struggle to maintain the family financially. Two years later Josephine married Napoleon, and Hortense was later sent to be educated at the school of Madame Campan (who had been a lady-in-waiting to Marie Antoinette) in St-Germain-en-Laye, along with Napoleon's sister Caroline. Hortense made many friends at school, and became well-known for her pretty blonde looks and her musical skill (she later composed marches for her stepfather's Army). One of her friends at this school was US President Monroe's daughter Eliza, who later named her own daughter Hortensia.
In 1802, Hortense married Napoleon's brother Louis Bonaparte, despite her misgivings, and they went on to have 3 sons despite a rocky marriage (Napoleon Louis Charles, 1802-1807; Napoleon Louis, 1804-1831; and Charles Louis Napoleon, 1808-1873, who went on to become Emperor of France). In 1806 Louis became King of Holland, and Hortense set up her court at The Hague, taking refuge from her unhappy marriage in social events and friendships (including those with handsome men!). They were deposed in 1810, but Louis remained in Holland for another 3 years, writing poetry in privacy, until forced to return to France in 1813. The couple then lived separate lives.
Hortense fell in love with Colonel Charles Joseph, the comte de Flauhaut, a man renowned for his handsome looks, sophisticated intelligence, and rumored to be the illegitimate son of Talleyrand. In 1811, at a secluded inn in Switzerland, Hortense gave birth to their son, Charles Auguste Louis Joseph (who was later made duc de Morny his half-brother). After the defeat of Napoleon and the Bourbon Restoration in 1814 Hortense received the protection of Tsar Alexander and went on living at her estate, but when her stepfather returned she supported him. On his final defeat at Waterloo, she traveled to Germany and Italy before settling at the Chateau of Arenenberg in Thurgau in 1817. There she worked on her music, had parties with her friends, and fell in love once in a while. She lived there until her death on October 5, 1837 and was buried next to her mother at St-Pierre-St-Paul church near Malmaison.
Information on Hortense's life can be found in any biography of Josephine or Napoleon III. A couple books I like are:
Nina Epton, Josephine: The Empress and Her Children (1976)
Francois Jarry, Hortense de Beauharnais (1999). This one is in French, which I read very slooooowly, but worth the effort!
(I've also added a gadget to the sidebar that's a list of all the Heroines of the Weekend! This should help me keep track of them so I don't do duplicate posts...)
Friday, April 09, 2010
Thursday, April 08, 2010
Also on the 10th I'll be guest blogging at the Pink Heart Society! Comment for a chance to win a signed book