Sunday, January 31, 2010

Not My Daughter by Barbara Delinsky

Author Barbara Delinsky has a talent for choosing thought-provoking situations chock-full of real life drama to spin her stories around, and "Not My Daughter" is no exception.

Dedicated high school principal Susan Tate is a sterling example of what, with will and determination, a hardworking single mother can accomplish, that life doesn't always have to spiral down for a teenage mom. Her seventeen-year-old daughter, Lily, is her pride and joy, a model student, pretty, smart, and full of promise, and the two share a wonderful, close relationship...until Lily joyfully announces that she is pregnant.

But this is no typical teenage pregnancy, it is not an accident resulting from negligence, a broken condom, a forgotten pill, or a failure to take preventative measures, it was planned as part of a pregnancy pact between Lily and her closest friends, all of whom have decided they want to be mothers before their lives are cluttered up with college, careers, husbands, and other concerns, blithely overlooking all the difficulties and problems that assail teenage mothers.

As the pact becomes public knowledge Susan, as the high school principal ,finds herself at the center of a maelstrom of controversy as her own past is dredged up and, despite all her hardwork to prevent her own daughter and other young girls from going through what she did, her job is soon at risk, and even her own fitness as a mother is called into question.

"Not My Daughter" is a gripping and provocative story about choices and their consequences, the blame game, and the ties that bind mothers and daughters. I think this book would make an excellent choice for discussion groups and also for mothers and daughters .

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Boleyn Wife is In Stores Now

The Boleyn Wife is in stores now, also available online at,, and other booksellers both online and in stores. There's also still time to enter the giveaway and win a free signed copy. Scroll down to the contest post for instructions on how to enter.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Boleyn Wife The Cat's Review "Purrlease Buy It!"

Tabby likes it and she thinks it tastes good too, but she would rather have cat treats, so buy the book please so her mommy can keep her supplied with plenty of Wild West Party Mix Crunchies.

In the UK:

The Cat's Pajamas

Here is Tabby modeling an adorable pair of pajama's complete with nightcap which I purchased from

Watch for more pictures of her in her new wardrobe in the near future.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Foreign Language Translations of The Boleyn Wife

A Czech translation of The Boleyn Wife will be published sometime in 2011, a Turkish language edition is due out this summer. I will post more details when I have them.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Elizabeth and the Prince of Spain by Margaret Irwin

The final volume in Margaret Irwin's Elizabeth I trilogy focuses on the bizarre love (or should I say lust?) triangle between Queen Mary, her husband, Prince Philip of Spain, and her stepsister, Princess Elizabeth, though this is by no means a romance novel, in fact, some modern readers may find it a tad old-fashioned and dry compared to juicy, explicit modern-day fare. But keep in mind that this novel was originally published in 1953. That said, though in my opinion this is the weakest of the three novels in Ms. Irwin's Elizabeth trilogy, the book does a fine job of depicting the ever-mounting tension in Tudor England between the English people and their unwanted guests the Spaniards. Children throw stones at them in the street and chant "Spanish apes who stole our grapes," and vehemently protest the Queen's marriage.

As Philip and Elizabeth indulge in a taut flirtation in which Philip toys with the idea of marrying Elizabeth off to various other men, including his own mentally unstable son, Don Carlos, just so long as he can keep her as his mistress, or even marrying her himself should he find himself suddenly a widower, the woman who began her reign as "Merciful Mary" becomes increasingly determined to root out heresy in her realm "by blood or by fire" and thus earns herself the sobriquet "Bloody Mary," by which we still know her to this day. And as Mary grows more aware of Philip's attraction to Elizabeth her jealousy of her younger, prettier half-sister mounts as do her suspicions that Elizabeth is the hen who hatches the Protestant plots that aim to depose Mary and put Elizabeth herself on the throne. And Elizabeth finds herself once again at the center of a maelstrom of danger with the shadow of Death looming over her shoulder in the form of the headsman's axe.

Elizabeth also grapples with her own sexuality during the course of the novel, realizing that as much as she might like to surrender to a man, handsome Robert Dudley in particular, she values being in control even more. Something in her will not allow her to surrender to anyone, she must walk alone through life as "The Virgin Queen," always being the mistress of her own body, mind, and fate.

The novel ends with Mary's death and Elizabeth, "the people's princess," at last achieving her destiny and becoming Queen of England. And even then she still keeps Philip dangling as she entertains his offer of marriage.

Overall, despite being the weakest of the series in my opinion, the book makes a nice finale to the trilogy, though Elizabeth fans might find it a trifle slow-going at first as, except for in brief mentions by other people, Elizabeth herself does not actually appear until page 106.

The complete trilogy is also available in one volume, though if you have small hands like I do, you might find it too thick to hold comfortably.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Elizabeth, Captive Princess by Margaret Irwin

Margaret Irwin returns to Tudor England with this sequel to her bestselling novel "Young Bess" chronicling the young womanhood of the future Queen Elizabeth I.

"Elizabeth, Captive Princess," begins with the death of Edward VI and a Protestant coup orchestrated by John Dudley, the Duke of Northumberland, to put the unwilling but devoutly Protestant schoolgirl Lady Jane Grey on the throne in place of the rightful heiress, the ardently Catholic Mary Tudor. But Dudley underestimates the English people and their loyalty and sense of rightness and fairness. While Dudley fights a losing battle to keep Jane on the throne, all England rallies in support of Mary. But her loyal subjects aren't thinking of the future, or Mary's determination to turn back the clock and right the "wrongs" her father King Henry VIII did when he divorced Catherine of Aragon to marry Anne Boleyn, and bring England back to the fold of Rome and the Catholic Church, they are only concerned with doing what's right and standing up for Mary.

Meanwhile, the wise and clever virgin, Princess Elizabeth, takes to her bed, feigning illness, waiting and watching to see which way the wind will blow, before she declares where her loyalties lie.

After the rebellion is put down and Lady Jane Grey and her supporters are locked away in the Tower, Elizabeth dresses in virgin-white and rides out to join Mary for her triumphal entry into London. Even at that happy moment the first signs of strain begin to show in their relationship with religious differences and personal jealousy at the fore. Also, Mary sees her victory as the will of God, but Elizabeth sees it as the will of the English people. As the two ride into London together, the people cheer Elizabeth, commenting on her Tudor red hair and resemblance to her father Henry VIII. This throws more logs on the bonfire of Mary's jealousy.

As she did with the Thomas Seymour affair, Elizabeth is again forced to live by her wits as Mary grows increasingly paranoid and suspicious of her and tries to force her conversion to Catholicism. As Mary grows increasingly unpopular as she tries to ram Catholicism down the English people's throats, persecutes the Protestants for heresy, executes sixteen-year-old Lady Jane Grey, and plans to marry Prince Philip of Spain, people begin to look to Elizabeth as a beacon of hope. And each time there is a plot against Mary, including a nearly successful one led by Sir Thomas Wyatt, son of the poet who loved Anne Boleyn, Mary instantly suspects Elizabeth of being the figurehead. This lands Elizabeth in the Tower of London, where, under the shadow of death, never knowing if she will defy the odds and be one of the fortunate few who pass through Traitor's Gate and come out alive, she begins a romance with her childhood friend, Robert Dudley, also incarcerated in the Tower for his role in his father's coup to keep the ill-fated Lady Jane on the throne.

When Elizabeth is released from the Tower and placed in the custody of the trusty Sir Henry Bedingfeld, the people of England cheer her and shower her with good wishes, gifts, and flowers as her litter passes. When they pass King's College at Eton, the schoolboys run out to greet her, and, in defiance of the law that the bells only be rung for a reigning sovereign, the church bells are rung for Elizabeth. Mary may be Queen of England, but Elizabeth is the people's princess.

Though written in a style some might consider a trifle old-fashioned, and lacking the provocative and juicy garnish of sex scenes, explicit language, and minutely detailed blood-vivid violence, "Elizabeth, Captive Princess," is a worthy successor to "Young Bess" as it charts Elizabeth's perilous route to claim her royal destiny.

Next Sunday: the final volume in Margaret Irwin's Elizabeth I trilogy, "Elizabeth and the Prince of Spain."

The complete trilogy is also available in one volume, but a word of warning, if you have small hands you might find it a too thick to be comfortable handful.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Young Bess by Margaret Irwin

Originally published in 1944, Young Bess tells the story of the girlhood of the future Queen Elizabeth I with the primary focus on her dangerous infatuation with her stepfather the dashing Thomas Seymour.

The novel does a marvelous job of painting the perils Elizabeth faced growing up, the stigma of being Anne Boleyn's daughter and declared illegitimate by her cantankerous father, Henry VIII, her relationships with her siblings the overdressed old maid Catholic zealot Mary, and the emotionally frigid Edward VI, and the frequently changing stepmothers that passed through their lives until kind, nurturing Catherine Parr came along like an answer to a prayer.

After the death of King Henry, Elizabeth is sent to live with her stepmother Catherine Parr, who scandalizes many with her hasty remarriage to that handsome rascal Tom Seymour. At first it seems the perfect, safe haven for Elizabeth, a loving home with a caring stepmother, a fun-loving stepfather, her admiring tutor, Roger Ascham, and scholarly little cousin Lady Jane Grey, but Tom Seymour's attentions to the young girl are far from fatherly. He begins to come into her bedroom early in the morning to tickle her awake and chase her about, and at one point he even cuts off her dress in the garden because he finds the solemn black an unsuitable choice.

Elizabeth finds herself falling in love with a man she knows she shouldn't love and grappling with the intoxicating feeling of power she feels commingling with her emerging sexuality. Anne Boleyn was said to have possessed the power to "drive men mad" and apparently her daughter has inherited this quality. Elizabeth experiments with her new-found power over men by enjoying a brief but chaste flirtation with her brother Edward's whipping boy, Barnaby Fitzpatrick.

When Catherine Parr, thirty-five and pregnant for the first time, compares herself with Elizabeth and finds herself wanting compared to this young girl in the first flush of womanhood, likening her to "the sharp sweet flavour of a not quite ripe apple," she sends Elizabeth away for her own good. Already rumours are swirling about Elizabeth and Seymour and these are not good for any young girl's reputation, especially a royal princess who might be Queen of England someday.

After Catherine Parr dies of childbed fever, Tom Seymour's unwise ambitions to win a crown for himself through marriage to a princess (he is willing to take either Elizabeth or Mary or even Lady Jane Grey) and manipulation of the boy-king Edward, lead him to the scaffold and turn the spotlight of suspicion on Elizabeth.

While mourning her first love and forcing herself to mask her emotions for her own good, Elizabeth finds herself separated from her beloved governess, Mistress Ashley, and her steward, Mr. Parry, while they undergo interrogation in the Tower of London, and surrounded by spies and enemies determined to trip her up and extract a confession from her. Elizabeth engages in a battle of wits and wills with Sir Robert Tyrwhitt and it takes all her wits and cunning to save herself. At the age of only 19, as she fights for her honor and good name, Elizabeth learns a hard but vital lesson, that the only person she can truly trust and depend on is herself.

Though some might find the style somewhat old-fashioned and quaint, with its absence of sex scenes and explicit language, "Young Bess" provided many girls with their first introduction to Elizabeth I and Tudor England, and some of those girls grew up to be mothers who in turn recommended the book to their daughters, thus allowing the book to continue its tradition of good and loyal service to history, instilling fond memories in the minds and hearts of women, and promoting Elizabeth I as a worthy role model. "Young Bess" was also made into a film starring Stewart Granger as Tom Seymour, Deborah Kerr as Catherine Parr, and Jean Simmons in the title role as Young Bess.

Margaret Irwin followed "Young Bess" with two sequels, "Elizabeth, Captive Princess," and "Elizabeth and The Prince of Spain," which I will also be reviewing.

The complete trilogy is also available in one volume, but a word of warning, if you have small hands you might find it a hard-to-hold-onto handful. I bought the single volume edition for cost and convenience, but ended up wishing I had bought the smaller, more comfortable to hold, individual volumes instead.

See the movie starring Jean Simmons and Stewart Granger, unfortunately not available on DVD yet, only VHS