Tuesday, June 30, 2009

New Photos!

I had some new author photos taken for Laurel McKee (by a great photographer I work with in my day job, Cara Koenig), but I can't decide which one I like best. What do you think?

Monday, June 29, 2009

Hottie Monday, Summer Edition

Because it is now Officially Summer, with the Fourth of July weekend coming up and the RWA conference soon after, I'm feeling island-y! Of course, the closest I can come to Hawaii at the moment is a bottle of coconut bath gel, a mai tai, and the dogs' kiddie pool in the backyard, but at least I can dream...

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Inspiring Articles

A great article by author Sarah Dunant on writing women's historical fiction...

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Heroine of the Weekend

This weekend's Tudor heroine is, literally, the grandmother of them all--Lady Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby (May 31, 1443--June 29, 1509). Margaret was born at Bletsoe Castle in Bedfordshire, the daughter of John Beaufort, first Duke of Somerset, and his wife Margaret. Through her father she was the great-granddaughter of John of Gaunt, first Duke of Lancaster and his mistress and eventual third wife Katherine Swynford. Following their marriage, their children (the Beauforts) were legitimized with one condition--their descendants were barred from ever inheriting the throne.

Margaret's father died when she was 2, and at the age of 6 her wardship was obtained by the Duke of Suffolk who betrothed her to his 7-year-old son and heir. But when Suffolk was executed soon after, the match was dissolved by Henry VI (her second cousin), who married her to his half-brother Edmond Tudor (eldest son of the king's mother Dowager Queen Catherine, widow of Henry V, by her second husband Owen Tudor. Catherine was French, the daughter of Charles VI). Margaret and Edmond were married on November 1, 1455, and he died the following year, leaving his 13-year-old widow 7 months pregnant.

Margaret and Edmond's son Henry thus had lots of royal blood, but no real legal claim to the throne. The widowed Margaret moved with her infant to Pembroke, where she was living whenn the wars between Lancaster and York broke out, and they stayed there until the Yorkist victories in 1461. She returned to court, but after the battle of Tewkesbury she sent Henry (the hope of the Lancasters) to Brittany.

Margaret married twice more, to Sir Henry Stafford (1447-1471) and Thomas Stanley, Earl of Derby, but she never had more children after the ordeal of giving birth at age 13. But she was always busy. No sooner had Henry gone to France that she set to conspiring against Richard III with Dowager Queen Consort Elizabeth Woodville (whose sons, the two young princes, disappeared in the Tower. They were helped by the fact that Thomas Stanley, Lord High Constable, had a son who was also held captive by King Richard. After the battle of Bosworth Field and Richard's death, Stanley placed the crown on his stepson's head.

Margaret was now styled "My Lady the King's Mother" at court, but she didn't like having a lower status than the dowager queen and her new daughter-in-law, Elizabeth of York. She always wore robes of the same sumptuous quality as the new queen and walked only a half-pace behind her. She became known for her strong character as well as her education and piety, and her son was said to be devoted to her.

In 1497 she announced her intention to build a free school for the public at Wimborne, Dorset. It came into being as Wimborne Grammar School (now known as Queen Elizabeth's School) after her death in 1509. In 1502, she established the Lady Margaret's Professorship of Divinity at Cambridge. In 1505, she refounded and enlarged God's House, Cambridge, as Christ's College with a royal charter from her son the King, and she's been honored ever since as Foundress of the College. Lady Margaret Hall, the first women's college at Oxford, was named in her honor. She took vows of religion in 1504 but continued to live out of a nunnery (though she founded several).

On the death of Henry VII, she was named as regent for her grandson Henry VIII, who was considered too young to reign on his own (even though he immediately married Katherine of Aragon and set about organizing his court with her). The regency was short-lived, as Margaret died on June 29, 1509 at the Deanery of Westminster Abbey, just two months after her son's death. She is buried in a black marble tomb with a gilded effigy and canopy, between the graves of William and Mary and the lavish tomb of Mary Queen of Scots (her great-great granddaughter).

For more information, I like Michael K. Jones' The King's Mother: Lady Margaret Beaufort Countess of Richmond and Derby

Friday, June 26, 2009

Portrait Friday

I've decided to start a new feature, to go along with "Hottie Monday" and "Heroine of the Weekend"--Portrait Friday! This is mostly to help me out when I have nothing to say (!), and also help start out the weekend on a fun or interesting note. Our first Portrait Friday is Gainsborough's "Mrs. Richard Brinsley Sheridan" (1785-87). Gainsborough is one of my favorite portrait painters (along with Sargent and Vigee-Lebrun), so I am sure we'll be seeing him a lot here...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Elgin Marbles

An interesting article about the Elgin Marble debate (from the NY Times). I've always been unsure about exactly where I come down on this issue. I'm passionate about the evil of looting antiquities (which steals irreplaceable history from all of us), but on the other hand these would have been long ago destroyed if they weren't taken to England 200 years ago. On the other hand, things are different now, especially with this new museum....

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What I'm Reading Now

The concrete details of Shakespeare's life are pretty meager (a few signatures, a wedding date, a mention in a lawsuit, etc), yet there always seem to be plenty of biographies out there! And I always read them. :) This is the one I'm reading now...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Josephine's Jewels

I'm celebrating Josephine Bonaparte's birthday over at Risky Regencies today, talking about her famous sense of style! To go along with that, here's a glimpse of some of her gorgeous jewels...

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day!

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there--especially my own :)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Heroine of the Weekend

This weekend we'll take a break from the Tudors to celebrate the birthday next Tuesday of Empress Josephine Bonaparte (June 23, 1763--May 29, 1814). On that date I'll be doing a more in-depth look at Josephine as Style Icon over at Risky Regencies, but today we'll look at her bio in general.

Josephine was born Marie Josephe Rose Tascher de la Pagerie on Martinique, the daughter of well-to-do Creole sugar planters. Her family struggled after a hurricane mostly destroyed their estate in 1766, but her aunt Edmee came to the rescue with a suggestion. She had been living in France, the mistress of Francois, vicomte de Beauharnais. Wher her lover's health began to fail, she arranged the marriage of Josephine's younger sister Catherine-Desiree to Francois's son Alexandre (which would thus keep the Beauharnais money in Tascher hands), but poor Catherine died in 1777 before even leaving for France. Josephine went in her place in October 1779.

The marriage was not a happy one, and her adjustment to sophisticated French society started out a rocky one, but they did have 2 children, a son Eugene and a daughter Hortense (who later became the mother of Emperor Napoleon III). Even though Alexandre was one of the liberal aristocrats who initially supported the revolution, he was brought down by it and arrested on March 2, 1794. Josephine followed on April 21, though she escaped her husband's death at the guillotine thanks to the subsequent fall and execution of Robespierre. She left prison on July 27, five days after her husband died.

Now a widow, she became a central figure of hedonistic Directoire society, mistress to several leading political figures, including Paul Barras. In 1795, she met the rising General Napoleon Bonaparte. He fell for her right away, writing to her soon after their meeting, "I awake full of you. Your image and the memory of last night's intoxicating pleasures has left no rest to my senses." Josephine's feelings for the strange man were not so strong, but he seemes a good enough bet for a woman with few options. They married on March 9, 1796, and 2 days after he left to lead the French armies in Italy, where he wrote her copious love letters.

Josephine, left behind in Paris, started an affair with the dashing young Hussar officer Hippolyte Charles. Napoleon was not at all amused when he heard about it. Through their subsequent marriage, as Napoleon rose from general to First Consul to (in 1804) Emperor, their relationship seemed one long power struggle/love affair. Their lack of an heir only made matters worse (speculations for reasons for her childless state included injuries from a fall in 1798 or early menopause triggered by the stress of her prison experience). Napoleon and Josephine were divorced on January 10, 1810.

After her divorce, Josephine lived at her home at Malmaison near Paris, receiving guests, having parties, working on her famous garden, and continuing to spend lots of money. She died of pneumonia on May 29, 1814 after catching a cold walking in the gardens with Tsar Alexander. She was buried at the church of St. Pierre-St. Paul in Rueil.

Some good sources on the life of Josephine are:
Andrea Stuart, Rose of Martinique: A Life of Napoleon's Josephine
Evangeline Bruce, Napoleon and Josephine: An Improbable Marriage
Frances Mossiker, Napoleon and Josephine: The Biography of a Marriage
Carrolly Erickson, Josephine: A Life of the Empress

Thursday, June 18, 2009


The lovely Kwana, from Kwana Writes, has passed on the Friendly Blogger Award to Books, Self-Centered Musings, and Chocolatinis!!! I am so excited. Even though this blog is basically just about whatever weird thing I'm thinking about today, I hope someone at least gets a laugh out of it. :)

This award is bestowed on to blogs that are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

New Jamestown Find

A great article from National Geographic on a rare slate tablet found at Jamestown. When I visited Jamestown a couple of years ago for the 400th anniversary exhibits, I loved the archaeological exhibits in the museum...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Riskies Tuesday

Over at the Riskies, talking about favorite authors and unexpected influences :)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Hottie Monday, Darcy Edition

Happy Monday, everyone! I'm feeling in an Austen-ish mood today, so here is a selection of Mr. Darcys (mostly '95 and '05, but a few others--Olivier, Bride and Prejudice, and the guy from Lost in Austen). Who is your favorite Darcy???

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Heroine of the Weekend

Since last weekend I was still totally wiped out by the NY trip, I dropped the ball on Heroine of the Weekend! Sorry about that. We'll continue exploring the fascinating Tudor women this week with Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scotland.

Margaret, the elder of the 2 surviving daughters of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, was born November 28, 1489 and baptised two days later in St. Margaret's Church, Westminster. Even before her 6th birthday, her father started negotiating a marriage between her and King James of Scotland (he hoped to head off Scottish support of Perkin Warbeck, the latest Yorkist pretender to the English throne). In January 1502 England and Scotland concluded the Treaty of Perpetual Peace along with a marriage contract, which was then completed with a proxy wedding. (It's been said her younger brother Prince Henry, Duke of York, then pitched a fit because his queenly sister now outranked him at Court!) In 1503, she made her way in a grand procession northward, where she was married again on August 8 at Holyrood Abbey in Edinburgh. The marriage was said to be harmonious enough, and they had 6 children, though only one, the future James V, lived beyond infancy.

But the 1502 treaty was hardly "perpetual" (they never were), and as soon as Henry VII died in 1509 his succesosor, Henry VIII, had no time for his father's cautious diplomacy and penny-pinching ways. He was soon headed towards war with Scotland's ally France. In 1513, King James fought for France, honoring that Auld Alliance, and died at the Battle of Flodden. Margaret, who had opposed the war, was named Regent for her infant son the new king. A woman was never much welcome in positions of power, and Margaret was the sister of the enemy in addition. A pro-French party soon formed among the discontented nobility, saying she should be replaced by John Stewart, 2nd Duke of Albany, 3rd in line to the throne behind Margaret's two sons (and born and raised in France). But by July 1514 Margaret had managed to pacify the battling parties, and Scotland (and France) concluded peace with England. But then she took a fatal step.

In seeking allies, she had turned to the House of Douglas, and found herself especially drawn to Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus, whom even his uncle called "a young witless fool." The two were secretly married at the church of Kinnoull, near Perth, on August 6. This alienated the other noble houses, and strengthened the pro-French faction. By September, the Privy Council ruled she had forfeited her right to the supervision of her sons, and she ran off with her children to Stirling Castle. This didn't stop her enemies, though; in May 1515 Albany arrived from France to take over custody of the children as Regent. Margaret, initially defiant, finally surrendered at Stirling in August, and, expecting another baby, retired to Edinburgh. Eventually she escaped to the English border, and went to Harbottle Castle to give birth to a daughter, Lady Margaret Douglas (who became Countess of Lennox and mother of Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley, cousin and husband to Mary Queen of Scots). She also finally started to get the measure of Angus, who had returned to Scotland to look after his own interests and make peace with Albany.

Margaret was well-received by her brother, and installed at Scotland Yard, the ancient palace of the Scottish kings. But in 1517, after having spent only a year in England, she returned north after a treaty of reconciliation negotiated between Albany, Henry, and Cardinal Wolsey. She was temporarily reconciled with her husband as well, but that was not for long. She discovered that while she was gone Angus was shacked up with his old lover Lady Jane Stewart, and living on Margaret's money while he was doing it. She wrote to her brother, hinting at divorce plans: "I am so minded that, an I may by law of God and to my honor, to part with him, for I wit well he loves me not, as he shows me daily."

Henry, then a staunch Catholic, was opposed to divorce (ha!!!). Also he found Angus a useful ally against Albany and the pro-French faction. Angered by his unsupportive attitude, Margaret drew closer to the Albany faction, calling for his return from France. (Albany, wisely not wanting to get into the middle of this mess, suggested she become Regent again herself). Albany finally came back to Scotland in November 1521, and soon rumors were flying he and Margaret were more than political allies. Angus went in exile as the Regent and Queen Dowager set about restoring order to a country torn by 3 years of bitter factional fighting. Albany was also useful to Margaret in other ways, as he used his influence in Rome to facilitate her divorce.

But their alliance was short-lived. In 1524, Margaret staged a coup removing the Regent (who was once again in France, lucky man) and bringing her son James to Edinburgh to be declared fully King in his own right (but he was only 12, and very much under his mother's influence). In November Margaret was formally recognized as chief counselor to the King. Having more time on her hands, she now formed a new attachment to Henry Stewart, younger brother of Lord Avondale. Henry was promoted to high office, angering powerful nobles who promptly joined forces with her estranged husband. Angus arrived in Edinburgh with a large force of armed men, claiming his right to attend Parliament, and Margaret ordered cannons fired on him from both the Castle and Holyrood House. When 2 English ambassadors suggested that maybe she shouldn't fire on her lawful husband, she told them to "go home and not meddle with Scottish matters." But under pressure, she finally admitted him to the council of regency in February 1525. He took custody of James, refusing to give him up, and exercised power on his behalf for 3 years (which left young James with an abiding hatred of both the Douglases and the English).

By this time Margaret was obsessed with getting her divorce, and in March 1527 the Pope finally granted her petition. She quickly married Henry Stewart, ignorning her brother's hypocritical warnings that marriage was "divinely ordained." In June 1528 her son broke away from Angus and began truly ruling in his own right. Margaret benefited from this change greatly, she and her husband becoming two of his most trusted advisors. James created Stewart Lord Methven "for the great love he bore to my dearest mother." Margaret's main political goal now was to ensure understanding between England and Scotland, but by 1536 she confessed "I am weary of Scotland."

Weary of her husband, too, who was even worse than Angus in his desire for other women and his wife's money. Their only child had died in infancy, and she was thwarted in her quest for another divorce. Eventually husband and wife reconciled, and in June 1538 she welcomed her son's new wife Marie of Guise from France, and the two strong women proved fast friends. An ambassador reported to King Henry, "the young queen was all papist, and the old queen not much less."

After this tumultuous life, Margaret died of a stroke at Methven Castle on October 18, 1541 and was buried at the Carthusian Priory of St. John in Perth (which was destroyd in 1559). Her son died in 1542, leaving the newborn Mary as his successor.

A few good sources on Margaret's life are:
Alison Plowden's Tudor Women
Hester W. Chapman's The Thistle and the Rose: The Sisters of Henry VIII
Maria Perry's The Sisters of Henry VIII
Sharon L. Jansen's The Monstrous Regiment of Women: Female Rulers in Early Modern Europe

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Fab auction

Check out this auction of movie costumes and props! There are some great things here, including beautiful gowns from Elizabeth R. Wish I could bid!!!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Tuesday at Riskies

Over at the Riskies today, talking more about the NYC trip!

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Busy Sunday

Today I am diving into the "finishing touches" edits of Countess of Scandal, hoping to be done by tomorrow. So I'm playing the Marie Antoinette soundtrack very loudly to help me along (sorry, neighbors! I know you must be totally sick of hearing "Aphrodisiac" and "I Want Candy"...)

What music gets you inspired when you would really rather watch TV or go to Target than write???

Friday, June 05, 2009

Dream House

Many thanks to Megan Frampton for sending me the link to this house! I think my own abode needs some renovations now...

Thursday, June 04, 2009

My BEA in Linkage

So, I am now back from my New York adventures and totally exhausted! I'm facing piles of dirty laundry, new books for the TBR pile, and lots of deadlines, but I had the most fabulous time. Signing The Diamonds of Welbourne Manor at BEA with Diane Gaston, shopping, museum-going, reading at the wonderful Lady Jane's Salon, meeting my agent and my Grand Central editor Alex Logan (who did a fab cover presentation at Lady Jane's!), seeing friends (hi Kwana, Megan, and Andrea!!), going to the Harlequin cover art exhibit...sigh. It was wonderful. Here are a few interesting links...

The Harlequin cover art exhibit

Rob at RT's post and pics

Kwana at Kwana Writes (Crush It! is my new motto)

Romance Novel TV

Barbara Vey's blog at Publishers Weekly

Megan Frampton's Blog