Friday, December 23, 2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

New Review of The Tudor Throne by Brandy Purdy (Mary & Elizabeth by Emily Purdy

Steve Donoghue posted a wonderful review of The Tudor Throne at

Book Review: The Tudor Throne by Brandy Purdy

Keeping Up with the Tudors

Brandy Purdy’s earlier Tudor novel, The Boleyn Wife was a spiky, memorable fictional meditation on that most distasteful of Tudor-era hangers-on, the vile Lady Rochford. It was part of the contemporary glut of Tudoriana (sparked by Phlippa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl, sustained by Jonathan Rhys-Meyer’s oddly spellbinding performance in Showtime’s The Tudors, and given an enormous tenth-round revival by Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall), and that’s both a good thing, in that it floats boats that might otherwise have stayed grounded, and a bad thing, in that it floats every last punt and dingy in sight, regardless of how seaworthy they are. Good entries run a significant risk of getting lost in the crowd, as I worry The Boleyn Wife might have been.That same worry is intensified a bit when it comes to Purdy’s follow-up Tudor fiction, The Tudor Throne, because this book deserves to stand out (it helps that the cover of the US version, done by Kristine Mills-Noble and Trish Cramblet, is so simple and eye-catching, although the more sentimental cover of the UK edition – titled Mary & Elizabeth – is equally inviting)(Hell, even the author’s name is made just a touch more inviting). In the interval since reading The Boleyn Wife, I duly hunted down and read Purdy’s The Confession of Piers Gaveston, about the meddling little schemer who helped bring King Edward II to ruin, and although it’s one of the best fictionalizations of Edward II I’ve ever read (it’s tough to beat Marlowe, but I remain surprised no stops-out Wolf Hall-style epic has yet been written about Edward in English), it’s clear that Purdy is in her element when writing about the Tudors.
Two specific Tudors, in this case: Mary, daughter of Henry VIII and his rightful queen, Catherine of Aragon, and Elizabeth, Henry’s daughter with his turbulent second wife Anne Boleyn. The Tudor Throne‘s narrative is divided between the two half-sisters just as the country’s throne seemed to be once both their dread father than their half-brother Edward VI were dead. It’s a neat device, and Purdy handles it perfectly, shifting tones between her two main characters in order to show both how like and how unlike they are. Mary’s world is the more stately, the more florid, the more prone to what we’d now consider gothic fantasies – which Purdy wonderfully evokes, following Mary from the reality of her midnight ride from Hunsdon to London when she hears that Edward is dying. She encounters a silent, cloaked figure blocking the road, and he hands her a note taken straight from Sir Walter Scott:
The king is dead.
Turn back NOW!
Your are riding into a trap.
Northumberland lies in wait for you.
His son Robert is leading an army to arrest you.
Prepare to fight for your throne.
Do NOT let them take you!
God save Queen Mary!
And we see her in the dark transports of bitter jealousy over the Continental carousing of her husband Philip of Spain, by turns aroused in her dreams at the memory of him, obsessive in gossip-collecting about him (“They said he was busy dancing in Antwerp … they said he had developed a passion for masked balls …” until you want to tell her to just stop), and vengeful:
I wept and howled and screamed like a madwoman and took a knife to his portrait. “God often sends bad husbands to good women!” I raged as I slashed it to ribbons. Then I sat on the floor for hours, weeping with remorse, as I tried to piece it back together again.
And if Mary’s segments are good, those narrated by Elizabeth are downright captivating, giving us a psychological portrait expertly filtered through the sensibilities of a pre-psychological era. This is an Elizabeth just as tormented as her sister, but far more blunt (and every bit as obsessed with pictures, as I suspect Purdy herself is, given how richly visual her books are):
But I wasn’t just Great Harry’s red-haired brat; I was Anne Boleyn’s daughter too. I have seen her portrait hidden away in musty palace attics, and when I look at myself in the mirror, only my flame-red hair, and the milk-pale skin that goes with it, are Tudor. All the rest of me is Anne Boleyn – the shape of my face, my dark eyes and their shape, my nose, my lips, my long-fingered musician’s hands, even my long, slender neck.
This is an Elizabeth who’s both ardent and deeply suspicious of ardor, for what she views as good reasons: Lust kills, as does the loss of it! After his passion for my mother burned out, it was easy for my father to condemn her, a woman he had no further use for, to make way for another. Desire is the antechamber of Death.
By far the most creepy, effective element Purdy works into The Boleyn Throne is how haunted this version of Elizabeth is – literally. She’s no virgin, nor does her fear of lust keep her from experiencing it, but much like Henry, she pays a price every time. After the death of Katherine Parr, for instance, Elizabeth is visited at the most awkward of moments: Over his shoulder, in the steam rising from my abandoned bath, I thought I saw Kate’s ghost take shape, mournfully mouthing these words of wisdom and warning: “Never give your heart lest it be betrayed!”
And the book’s eeriest moment – just begging to be filmed, although it would take a braver director than Hollywood currently has – comes when Elizabeth is making love to Robert Dudley and suddenly sees the ghost of Thomas Seymour leering over Dudley’s shoulder as he presses down on top of her. It vividly conveys the mental world the Tudors occupied, a place of guilt and sorcery, where the dead were never very far removed from the living and the supernatural was right next door to the visible. That world is far too often scrubbed clean by modern outlooks in most Tudor fiction, but it stalks the pages of Purdy’s books in all its horrifying immediacy.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Faith by Jennifer Haigh

This novel takes on the big ugly issue of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and gives in a personal spin from a viewpoint rarely seen—that of the family of one of the accused priests.

The McGanns are a devout Catholic family, but when eldest son, Arthur, a popular priest in Boston, is accused of sexually molesting a seven-year-old boy, his parents and siblings are divided regarding his innocence or guilt. Art’s mother, a proper Irish Catholic woman raised to revere priests, never wavers in her belief in her son’s innocence. But Mike, his younger brother, an ex-cop, who believes there is no smoke without fire, instantly jumps to the conclusion that his brother is guilty and won’t even talk to him to hear his side of the story, instead he worms his way into the life of the mother of the victim in an attempt to get the boy’s side of the story. And Sheila, the narrator the story, rushes back to Boston, determined to stand by her brother, whose innocence she never doubts, but is troubled by his refusal to defend himself against the allegations although he swears he is innocent.

Unlike Ms. Haigh’s previous novel, The Condition, which I found extremely slow-paced and hard to get through, this interesting family drama moves along at a good pace and held my interest throughout.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Interview About The Queen's Pleasure by Brandy Purdy / A Court Affair by Emily Purdy

Alison has posted a brief interview about my upcoming novel The Queen's Pleasure (A Court Affair) on her blog The Musings Of A Book Junkie at

Exclusive on the Upcoming Release of The Queen's Pleasure by Brandy Purdy

Amy Robsart and Elizabeth I loved the same man. But one died early, and her death is shrowded in mystery. Brandy Purdy stopped by to give us an exclusive look into her upcoming release The Queen's Pleasure, which is Amy's story.

Q: How did others view Amy?

A: There isn't much evidence from the time to suggest that Amy had an friends. Gossip about Robert's relationship with Elizabeth often mentioned that he had a "beautiful wife." But she was without doubt seen as the one great obstacle in the path of her husband's ambition to be King. One of the reasons I was drawn to Amy's story is that so little is actually know abouther. When I first discovered her story in a book of unsolved mysteries I read as a child and then went on to read more about the Tudor era it always frustrated me that Amy often seemed little more than a name on the page, a person who only mattered because of the mysterious and--to her husband and the Queen--inconvenient way she died.

Q: Explain her reluctance to go to court. Was she really a recluse?

A: I think she didn't go because Robert didn't want her to, and she lacked the kind of forceful personality to make it happen anyway. Perhaps she felt out of her depth or intimidated? Perhaps Robert played on this using her own natural nervousness at a lifestyle she was unaccustomed to as a weapon against her, to keep her away because he didn't want her there. But I don't think she was a recluse in the sense of hiding in the house, afraid to go out as the use of the word "agoraphobic" on the back cover of the British edition of my book might suggest. The Amy of my novel grows up on a large country estate, that is her world, and unlike many girls of the period she never harbors dreams of goingto London and serving at court, she is content in her world, while it lasts, and mourns its loss after the life she knew is gone.

Q: Did Amy regret her marriage?

A: Well I can't speak for the real historical Amy becuase enough simply isn't known about her, she didn't leave anything behind that offers us a window into her soul. But in my novel Amy is a very conflicted woman, she loves Robert even when she knows she shouldn't, her head and her heart are constantly at war upon this subject.

Q: Did Amy fear Robert?

A: I think she did. With all the rumors swirling around that Robert wanted to get rid of her to be free to marry Elizabeth, and there was even talk of Amy taking precautions against being poisoned. And, in my novel, this only adds to her anguish, loving a man she also fears.

Q: Who did Robert really love?

A: Himself for certain. I think not knowing is part of what makes Robert Dudley fascinating to this day. Would he have still loved Elizabeth even if she had been a milkmaid or a squire's daughter like Amy was instead of a princess then Queen of England? I'm sure that was a question that ocasionally crossed Elizabeth's mind in her day and it still remains without a definite answer.

The Queen's Pleasure by Brandy Purdy will be released in the USA on June 26, 2012 and on August 2, 2012 in the UK as A Court Affair by Emily Purdy.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult

Ms. Picoult has a definite knack for penning un-put-down-able novels about ordinary people caught up in the most extraordinary circumstances, and this one is no exception.

Zoe Baxter, a music therapist who believes “every life has a soundtrack” and “music is the language of memory” is desperate to have a baby. After four failed rounds of In Vitro Fertilization that have depleted their savings and maxed out their credit cards and two miscarriages she is now forty and pregnant for the fifth time. But during her twenty-eighth week, ironically at her baby shower, she has to be rushed to the hospital where she gives birth to a stillborn boy.

Zoe wants to try again, as soon as possible, but her husband Max puts his foot down. He will not be a party to Zoe endangering her life through another pregnancy and for some time he has been feeling that their marriage is no longer about them—Max and Zoe—only about having a baby.

They divorce and Max goes on a downward spiral, relapsing into alcoholism until the snowy night when he crashes his truck, finds Jesus, and joins the Eternal Glory Church. Meanwhile, a friendship blossoms between Zoe and one of her clients, Vanessa Shaw, a school counselor who hired Zoe to work with an autistic boy. Vanessa is there for Zoe when she is diagnosed with cancer and has to undergo a hysterectomy, forever ending he chances, she thinks, of ever being a mother.

Then the unexpected happens, Vanessa and Zoe’s friendship blossoms into love and when Max discovers that his former wife is now involved in a lesbian relationship he becomes convinced that it is his divinely appointed duty to save his ex-wife’s soul and deliver her from the evil of a same-sex relationship.

Zoe is blissfully happy with Vanessa, more complete and fulfilled than she has ever been, only one thing is lacking—the one thing that would make her happiness complete—a baby. But Vanessa can still have children, she is younger than Zoe and does not have her problematic gynecological history, and after the couple are married during a blizzard and at their honeymoon hotel see a lesbian couple with their son, observes “that could be us someday.” Zoe remembers that there are three frozen embryos left over from her last attempt at In Vitro, and it seems meant to be, the pieces falling magically into place, But there’s a catch, Zoe soon discovers, she has to get Max’s permission to use the embryos. And Max, in thrall to his ultra conservative Christian church is not about to give his consent for his unborn children to be born and brought up in a same-sex marriage, instead he wants to give the embryos to his childless brother and sister-in-law, an infertile couple who have also suffered through a string of miscarriages and long desperately for a child of their own.

And of course, the whole thing ends up in court and becomes a media circus and all kinds of personal and legal complications abound. I won’t spoil it for anyone by saying how it all ends.

Like all the other books I have read by Ms. Picoult, I could hardly bear to put it down. I made the mistake of starting this one at 3:00 a.m. and ended up waking up early just to dive back in.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Barnes & Noble Now Accepting Pre-Orders for The Queen's Pleasure

Barnes & Noble now accepting online preorders for THE QUEEN'S PLEASURE by Brandy Purdy


When young Robert Dudley, an earl’s son, meets squire’s daughter Amy Robsart, it is love at first sight. They marry despite parental misgivings, but their passion quickly fades, and the ambitious Dudley returns to court.

Swept up in the turmoil of Tudor politics, Dudley is imprisoned in the Tower. Also a prisoner is Dudley’s childhood playmate, the princess Elizabeth. In the shadow of the axe, their passion ignites. When Elizabeth becomes queen, rumors rage that Dudley means to free himself of Amy in order to wed her. And when Amy is found dead in unlikely circumstances, suspicion falls on Dudley—and the Queen…

Still hotly debated amongst scholars—was Amy’s death an accident, suicide, or murder?—the fascinating subject matter makes for an enthralling read for fans of historical fiction.

Please note this book is published in the UK as A COURT AFFAIR by Emily Purdy.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Court Affair by Emily Purdy Back Cover Copy

This is the back cover copy for A COURT AFFAIR by Emily Purdy, the UK edition of THE QUEEN'S PLEASURE by Brandy Purdy. It will be published in the UK August 2, 2012. The US edition goes on sale June 26, 2012. I will post cover art as soon as I have it.

A COURT AFFAIR by Emily Purdy

Power, passion and politics…

Uncovering the love triangle between Queen Elizabeth I, Robert Dudley, and his wife Amy, and her mysterious death, A COURT AFFAIR is an unforgettable story of ambition, lust and jealousy.

A love triangle, with deadly consequences…

Agoraphobic Amy, the daughter of a country gentleman, is marrying the great Duke of Northumberland’s son, Sir Robert Dudley. While she fears the bustle of court and city life, she faces a far larger challenge as rumours will abound that the newly appointed Queen Elizabeth is having an affair with her husband.

Meanwhile Elizabeth is coping with various threats to her person and her reign but finds herself drawn to the temptation of an adulterous liaison so as to retain her power. Numerous foreign suitors begin paying court to the beautiful young queen, which fuels Dudley’s jealousy and leads him to question his marriage to Amy. Dudley struggles between these two women: caught between that which he desperately wants and what he knows to be right…

A royal affair overlaid with ambition, lust and envy, this is an unforgettable story of the price one must pay for sin.

The Red Thread by Ann Hood

The title of this novel refers to the Chinese belief that an invisible red thread binds those who are destined to be together—like mothers and daughters.

After the tragic loss of her infant daughter and the resulting disintegration of her marriage, Maya Lange opens The Red Thread Adoption Agency to find unwanted Chinese baby girls homes with loving parents in the United States. This absorbing novel weaves together the stories of the Chinese women forced, often against their hearts, to abandon their daughters with the stories of the couples who will eventually adopt them, letting the reader experience all of their heartbreak, fears, desires, conflicts, betrayals, ambitions, and motivations.

This novel makes a fascinating read for anyone interested in the intricacies of foreign adoption and Chinese culture and its sacrifice of baby girls.

Lost In The Forest by Sue Miller

Set amongst the vineyards of Northern Californian, this novel poignantly captures the struggles of a family trying to cope in the aftermath of the death of a beloved husband and stepfather.

Eva, the mother of two teenage girls and a three-year-old boy, runs a small bookstore in San Francisco. When her second husband, John, is struck by a car, she finds herself, in her grief, drawn back to her first husband, Mark, as he is there to lend a helping hand and be a shoulder to lean on as each in their own way grapples with their loss of “the nice guy” who replaced him. Their eldest daughter, Emily, always a serious girl, adjusts to new responsibilities and increasing independence as she goes first to France as part of a school exchange student program and then off to college shortly after her return. While Daisy, at fourteen, sorely misses the stepfather who made a point of befriending her, the awkward, introverted, middle child, and seeks solace in an affair with a much older man, Duncan, the fifty-three-year-old husband of her mother’s best friend and former movie stuntman who takes it upon himself to awaken Daisy’s sensuality. And three-year-old Theo, who, though he was a witness, cannot comprehend his father’s death, finds himself drawn to Mark, latching onto him as the father figure every boy needs in his life. And Mark, despite an angry divorce that later became amicable for the sake of their children, discovers that he wants another chance with Eva.

The book covers the first year and a half after John’s death then leaps ahead many years, but not to the neat tied up in a pretty bow happy ending, that many might be expecting.

For those who like contemporary novels about families, normal or dysfunctional or somewhere in between, and their problems, ordinary or extraordinary, or the effects of loss and grief, Lost in the Forest makes interesting reading.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Hurricane by Jewell Parker Rhodes

As promised last year, here is my review of the third and final volume that completes Jewell Parker Rhodes’ Marie Laveau mystery trilogy starring the famous New Orleans’ voodoo queen’s descendant, Dr. Marie Levant.

The book begins with Dr. Marie, who has since changed her last name from Levant to Laveau, driving south, following a disturbing dream. This leads her to a shack deep in the Louisiana bayou where a family of three-father, mother, and child—lie dead; all have been murdered. When she goes to report the crime to the local sheriff, his brother takes her to their home and introduces her to their grandmother, Nana, an old voodoo woman, blind and riddled with cancer, who foretold Marie’s coming.

The town of Delaire has no doctor, everyone has always relied on Nana and her powers whenever they were ailing, and hearing that there is a real medical doctor in their midst, the locals flock to Nana’s house to see Marie. Strangely, many of them suffer from cancer and other diseases and have lived longer than they should have without modern medical care.

Marie does the best she can for them, but when she discovers that the sheriff has covered up the murders, burning the crime scene, she is furious and returns to New Orleans. There the police also show no inclination to investigate and advise her to just let it go. There are other things to worry about. The weather reports are full of a brewing tropical storm called Katrina and everyone is wondering if this will turn out to be “the big one.”

After a colleague is killed, possibly because she was mistaken for Marie, Marie races back to bayou country accompanied by a handsome red-haired Cajun doctor, K-Paul who wants to be more than just a friend to her. Marie is also perplexed by visions of two loas, Voodoo spirits, one half male and half female who freely shifts between the two genders, the other a teal mermaid water goddess.

Marie soon discovers the secret in Delaire that the powers that be hoped to keep buried—the preponderance of cancer and other illnesses in the area is due to environmental factors, oil pollution and damage caused and covered up by Vivco Oil. And Nana helped her people by using her powers as a sin eater to swallow their illnesses until she literally bit off more than she could chew and became sick herself.

And as the great storm of Katrina rages, battering New Orleans, it’s up to Marie Levant-Laveau to save the day.

Though I personally thought it the weakest volume in the trilogy, Hurricane kept my attention from start to end. I confess that, being long familiar with the legends about the real Marie Laveau and the stories told about her being swept up by a hurricane and presumed dead, I hoped the author would tie these into the series finale in some way, but they were never mentioned. But I always liked the heroine she created, and I was a little sorry to see her go, and could not help but wish her well, though at the same time I was also glad that this was not being stretched into an ongoing series. It was time to say goodbye and Ms. Rhodes ended it all upon a positive note.

Note: The first two books, Voodoo Season and Yellow Moon have since been reissued in trade paperback with their titles shortened simply to Season and Moon, you can find my reviews of both, under their original titles by either searching this blog or scrolling through the list of labels on the far right side of the screen.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

fathermothergod My Journey Out of Christian Science by Lucia Greenhouse

Lucia and her siblings had what appeared at first glance to be a privileged childhood, they lived in nice houses, went to private schools, summer camps, country clubs, skiing trips, and accompanied their loving parents on foreign vacations, and even spent some time living aboard in England. But everything is not always what it seems. When it came to illnesses and accidents a darker truth was revealed—Lucia’s family were Christian Sciences, followers of the religion founded by Mary Baker Eddy, which denied the existence of all disease and sickness. When someone got sick, they were described as “working through a problem” and instead of taking aspirin or any other medication or calling the doctor they called their Christian Science practitioner and resorted to prayer instead.

Lucia realized early that she had no faith in her parents religion. When she began to have trouble seeing the blackboard in school and suffering headaches and realized she needed glasses it was seen as a rebellion, a betrayal of their faith, when she went to an ophthalmologist. “You’re just giving in to prevailing erroneous thought,” her father told her. Lucia wisely did not listen and got her glasses.

Most of this memoir deals with what happened when Lucia’s mother became ill with cancer and the siblings long battle to get their mother proper medical care. Dealing with their father’s stubborn insistence that she was getting better and “making good progress” was like slamming up against a brick wall and they also had to cope with the justifiable anger, albeit sometimes misplaced, of their non-Christian Science relatives, especially their doctor uncle and their nurse grandmother, when they became aware of her condition. And you can really feel their frustration, it seeps out of every page. A tumor that began in her rectum gradually eroded the wall between her bowel and vagina leaving her in agonizing pain, suffering from infection and malnutrition, and by the time she taken to a hospital it was too late to save her. She was only fifty years old.

For those who enjoy memoirs about non-celebrities in extraordinary situations or explorations of different religions this is a very interesting and heart-breaking and highly readable book it kept me up until 6:00 a.m. and within minutes of waking up I was reaching for it again.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Fasting Girl A True Victorian Medical Mystery by Michelle Stacey

This book explores the Victorian phenomena known as “fasting girls” an anomaly slightly above the sordid fringes of the sideshows in which proper, respectable Victorian girls baffled society and the medical and scientific communities by seeming to exist only on air, miraculously taking little or no nourishment for years. Several cases and all the various theories, including fraud, hysteria, eating disorders such as anorexia, are fully explored as are and social conventions about the feminine appetite, the fashionable Victorian complaints of dyspepsia and neurasthenia, and the Cult of the Invalid, as typified by Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Alice James, the clash between the titans of religion and science, the heyday of spiritualism and the infancy of psychology and the birth of neurology. But the primary focus of the book is Mollie Fancher, the most famous of all the fasting girls.

In 1865, eighteen-year-old Mollie was injured when her hoop skirt caught upon a hook as she descended from a horse-drawn street car. She was dragged about a block before she was rescued and carried to her home in Brooklyn, New York. She never left her bed again. She began to exhibit a bewildering array of symptoms—paralysis, seizures, blindness, clairvoyance, multiple personalities, trances of varying duration in which she lay like one dead, and an inability to retain nourishment. Apart from a few miniscule sips of milk punch, beef tea, and bits of banana and bites of crackers, not enough to keep a body alive, she ate nothing at all for many years. While the invalid stoically endured her suffering, the newspapers took up the story and her symptoms, rather real or fake, were hotly debated until her death in 1916 shortly after celebrating the 50th anniversary of her becoming an invalid.

Don’t be daunted by the fact that this book covers such a wide spectrum of psychology, sociology, and science; it is not too complex or scholarly for the general reader. I found it fascinating from start to end and learned many new things. For instance, I always thought anorexia was a modern condition and was surprised to learn that even in the Victorian era which considered full hips fashionable, the thinness and pallor of consumptives and invalids was considered an ethereal and virtuous form of beauty, almost saintly. And if you are interested in the Victorian era, this book offers a peek behind the prim and proper lace curtains of the invalid’s bedchamber and the doctor’s office that readers rarely encounter. I highly recommend it to those who enjoy reading historical non-fiction and books about medicine and psychology that are not over the general reader’s head.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Giant, O'Brien by Hilary Mantel

This novel is loosely based on the true story of Charles Byrne, the real-life “Irish Giant” who exhibited himself in London in the late eighteenth century, and whose bones were coveted, and dubiously acquired, by surgeon John Hunter and are today displayed in the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons alongside the diminutive skeleton of Caroline Crachami, “The Sicilian Fairy.”

The story begins in 1782 with Charles O’Brien and his band of followers quitting poverty and hunger stricken Ireland to make their fortune in London. The giant has a talent for telling Irish folk and fairy tales, songs, and poems, and this puts him a cut above the average giant working the sideshow circuit. Some of these stories are included and are one of the book’s best features. On the advice of his manager, the Giant changes his name to Charles Byrne, to sound more refined and attract a better class of custom.

Entwined with the Giant’s story is that of John Hunter, a poor Scottish farm lad whose ambition and determination pays off when he becomes London’s most renowned surgeon. He is a dedicated, obsessive man who in his quest for knowledge regularly consorts with bodysnatchers, experiments with artificial insemination, and even accidentally inflicts himself with syphilis while attempting to inject a pauper with the virus, but shrugs it off as this will allow him to chart the course of the disease better. He keeps abreast of any of nature’s oddities on display in London, hoping to dissect them and add their bones to his collection when Death calling, and when he sees Charles Byrne he becomes obsessed with adding his skeleton to his collection.

This is a rather sparse, bleak tale of the pursuit of, and fleeting nature, of fame and fortune. The Giant’s time as a star attraction doesn’t last, and neither does the money. More than once he is forced to reduce his price and change to cheaper lodgings and cater to a lower class of customers to keep in business. Friendships and loyalties fray, disillusionment sets in, though life is better than it was in Ireland the Irish are treated badly, and as his health begins to deteriorate, his band of followers, blinded by the glitter of gold, are tempted by Hunter’s offer to purchase the Giant’s remains.

For those who are interested in the history of medicine, bodysnatching, sideshows and human oddities, Irish folktales, and the not so glamorous life in 18th century London, this is certainly a worthwhile read.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Better Image of The Queen's Pleasure Cover Art


When young Robert Dudley, an earl’s son, meets squire’s daughter Amy Robsart, it is love at first sight. They marry despite parental misgivings, but their passion quickly fades, and the ambitious Dudley returns to court.

Swept up in the turmoil of Tudor politics, Dudley is imprisoned in the Tower. Also a prisoner is Dudley’s childhood playmate, the princess Elizabeth. In the shadow of the axe, their passion ignites. When Elizabeth becomes queen, rumors rage that Dudley means to free himself of Amy in order to wed her. And when Amy is found dead in unlikely circumstances, suspicion falls on Dudley—and the Queen…

Still hotly debated amongst scholars—was Amy’s death an accident, suicide, or murder?—the fascinating subject matter makes for an enthralling read for fans of historical fiction.
Please note this book is published in the UK as A COURT AFFAIR by Emily Purdy.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Now Available For Pre-Order at Amazon: The Queen's Pleasure by Brandy Purdy


When young Robert Dudley, an earl’s son, meets squire’s daughter Amy Robsart, it is love at first sight. They marry despite parental misgivings, but their passion quickly fades, and the ambitious Dudley returns to court.

Swept up in the turmoil of Tudor politics, Dudley is imprisoned in the Tower. Also a prisoner is Dudley’s childhood playmate, the princess Elizabeth. In the shadow of the axe, their passion ignites. When Elizabeth becomes queen, rumors rage that Dudley means to free himself of Amy in order to wed her. And when Amy is found dead in unlikely circumstances, suspicion falls on Dudley—and the Queen…

Still hotly debated amongst scholars—was Amy’s death an accident, suicide, or murder?—the fascinating subject matter makes for an enthralling read for fans of historical fiction.
Please note this book is published in the UK as A COURT AFFAIR by Emily Purdy.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Smallest Of All Persons Mentioned In The Records Of Littleness by Gaby Wood

This brief little book with the very long title tells the story of the brief and very tragic life of Caroline Crachami, the famous “Sicilian Fairy,” a dainty dwarf only one foot ten and a half inches tall who died in 1824 while being exhibited in London.

Her life began in Palermo, she was born the day after the Battle of Waterloo. A rather unlikely story claimed that Caroline’s diminutive size was the result of the then commonly held belief in “maternal impressions” which meant that any fright or horrific sight experienced by an expectant woman could result in a deformity to her child. In Caroline’s case it was said an escaped monkey had crawled between her mother’s legs as she lay sleeping and when Mrs. Crachami reached down in her sleep to scratch her private parts the monkey bit her. Her child was born shortly after weighing only a pound. The Crachamis later emigrated to Ireland where Caroline’s father found work as a musician at the Theatre Royal in Dublin. But dainty Caroline proved sickly. A Dr. Gilligan diagnosed consumption and persuaded her parents to allow him to take their daughter to London, the climate there would be better for her, he explained, and, in the interests of science, he convinced the concerned parents to allow him to briefly exhibit their remarkable offspring.

If the Crachamis equated brevity with ease, they were sadly mistaken. Caroline’s time as one of the most popular human oddities being exhibited in London was brief only because exhaustion combined with tuberculosis soon sapped her life away. While on display in Mayfair she sometimes received as many as 200 visitors a day who, for the cost of an extra shilling, were allowed to handle this living doll. She was even taken to Carlton House for an audience with King George IV. After an exhausting day on display Caroline expired, supposedly at the age of nine, though modern science estimates her age was more likely closer to three.

Dr. Gilligan sold her body to the Royal College of Surgeons and the devastated Mr. Crachami, who had read about his daughter’s death in a newspaper, arrived just in time to walk in as she was being dissected. Today her skeleton, like an ivory bead and filigree sculpture, is displayed in the Hunterian Museum alongside the seven foot ten inch skeleton of “The Irish Giant” Charles Byrne, along with a glass case containing wax casts of her three inch foot, her arm, and her death mask, as well as a pair of her beribboned ballet slippers, a thimble, silk sock, and ruby ring.

This slim volume presents the meager facts that are known about the life of Caroline Crachami and makes intriguing reading.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Linger Awhile by Russell Hoban

Irving Goodman readily admits that he is a dirty old man. An eighty-three-year-old widower who was happily, and faithfully, married for twenty-seven years, he has just fallen in love again. But the only problem is that this is 2003 and the object of his affections, Justine Trimble, the perky blonde star of 1950s era Hollywood B-westerns has been dead for forty-seven years.

Luckily, Irving has a friend, a tech wizard named Istavan Fallock, who will find a way to resurrect Justine from the black and white vhs videotape and bring to life a real living and breathing 3-D Justine that Irving can get his lusty hands upon. But, as always happens, problems arise. The first is that after his first glimpse of Justine Istavan decides that he wants her all for himself. The second is that Justine needs blood, and lots of it, to keep her in glorious Technicolor, otherwise she fades back to black and white and soon the sexy vampire cowgirl is on the prowl in London and the police are investigating the bloodless corpses she leaves in her wake.

This is one of those books that sounds much better than it actually is. I saved it for months while I was working on my last novel, looking forward to reading it, anticipating a real treat, only to be let down. It’s not awful, it’s an ok little book, only 132 pages long, good for a quick read, but the magic was lacking, it’s like the literary equivalent of today’s direct to video or dvd horror movie releases.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Tabby's Guess & Win Contest - The Answer & The Winner

This is Tabby's very colorful rendition of the heroine of a popular series of books that later became a much beloved family favorite television show that ran for several years and is still rerun today. Can you guess who she is? The answer and winner will be revealed on Halloween.

And the answer is...Laura Ingalls Wilder of Little House On The Prairie (I told Tabby her colors were too vivid, but she likes things bright). I read her a very amusing book called The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure, which I hope to review here eventually and when we got to the chapter about Laura look-alike contests she decided she wanted to dress up.

And the winner is...Kim Cree, as soon as I have your address I will mail your book out. Thanks so much for entering and I hope you enjoy it.

First Look at The Queen's Pleasure by Brandy Purdy

From the back cover:

When young Robert Dudley, an earl’s son, meets squire’s daughter Amy Robsart, it is love at first sight. They marry despite parental misgivings, but their passion quickly fades, and the ambitious Dudley returns to court.

Swept up in the turmoil of Tudor politics, Dudley is imprisoned in the Tower. Also a prisoner is Dudley’s childhood playmate, the princess Elizabeth. In the shadow of the axe, their passion ignites. When Elizabeth becomes queen, rumors rage that Dudley means to free himself of Amy in order to wed her. And when Amy is found dead in unlikely circumstances, suspicion falls on Dudley—and the Queen…

Still hotly debated amongst scholars—was Amy’s death an accident, suicide, or murder?—the fascinating subject matter makes for an enthralling read for fans of historical fiction.

The Queen's Pleasure by Brandy Purdy will be published in the USA by Kensington in July 2012 and in the UK by Harper/Avon as A Court Affair by Emily Purdy in August 2012.

I will post a better quality image of the front cover when I can.

The Man Who Killed Houdini An Investigation by Don Bell

On October 22, 1926 J. Gordon Whitehead, a thirty-one-year-old McGill University student from Montreal, Canada visited magician and escape artist Harry Houdini in his dressing room at the Princess Theatre and punched him repeatedly in the stomach to test his oft-repeated boast that he could withstand any blow to the abdomen by tensing his muscles. Houdini was caught off guard, before he had a chance to steel himself, some reports say he was lying on a sofa perusing his mail at the time the onslaught of blows began, doing irreparable damage. Nine days later on Halloween the magic died. At age fifty-two the great Houdini was dead of a ruptured appendix and peritonitis. In those days before antibiotics, there was nothing medical science could do to save him.

J. Gordon Whitehead appeared to fall off the face of the earth after the incident and in 1982 journalist Don Bell became intrigued by the man who, whether intentionally or unwittingly, innocently or maliciously, caused the death of the world’s most famous magician. At the time of his death Houdini was on the hit list of many mediums who resented his exposes of their fraudulent activities; the entire third act of his show was devoted to exposing the tricks that went on in darkened seance rooms, and many mediums swore vengeance and prophesied doom would befall Houdini very soon. Mr. Bell wondered if this was in any way related to Houdini’s death—Was J. Gordon Whitehead a believer striking a blow for spiritualism?

Mr. Bell spent twenty years searching for the truth, tracking down surviving eyewitnesses or the descendants of those already departed, elusive documents, and even the only known surviving photograph of J. Gordon Whitehead. Sadly he died in 2003 and did not live to see his book published. The Man Who Killed Houdini is a fascinating real-life detective story that delves into the mind of a disturbed and possibly tormented personality, it’s a must for any Houdini fan and will, I think, also appeal to anyone interested in fully exploring one of the little incidents in history that has often been glossed over in just a paragraph or two in past accounts where the fact that Houdini died overshadowed the circumstances of exactly how and why.

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Clueless In New England The Unsolved Disappearances of Paula Welden, Connie Smith and Katherine Hull by Michael G. Dooling

At last, a book about one of the mysterious disappearances that has captivated me most of all—Paula Welden, a pretty sophomore at Vermont’s Bennington College who vanished without a trace in December 1946. With an idea in mind about hiking the Long Trail, after working her shift in the dining hall, Paula put on her red parka, blue jeans, and tennis shoes, and set out, alternately walking and hitchhiking. She never came back. Though featured in numerous collections of unsolved mysteries and articles about missing persons, and that area in Vermont that has been eerily dubbed “The Bennington Triangle” because of the numerous disappearances that have occurred there over the years, all of which are rationally chronicled in this book, with an eye towards truth not New Age mysticism or spinning a good campfire yarn, this is the first time the case has been treated to a full, book-length analysis and viewed through modern eyes and the lenses of forensic, psychological, and geological knowledge about serial killers and their behavior patterns.

As well as the Paula Welden case, Mr. Dooling also examines the 1952 disappearance of Connie Smith (Constance Christine Smith) is also examined. So tall for her age that she might have been mistaken for older, the ten-year-old left her Connecticut summer camp after a brawl with another girl, dismissed as “horseplay” resulted in broken glasses and a bloody nose for Connie. She was last seen hitchhiking, witnesses later came forward to report that she had stopped to ask them for directions to town, but somewhere along the way she vanished.

The last case, although chronologically the first, as it occurred in 1936, tells the story of Katherine Hull, a pretty blonde stenographer who vanished while visiting her grandmother in Lebanon Valley, along the New York/Massachusetts border. Katherine went for a walk and vanished. She may have been hitchhiking or someone stopped to offer her a ride, as some witnesses report seeing a woman matching her description get into a car. Her family liked to believe the religious young woman had run away to join a convent, at least that way she would still be alive. Unlike Paula Welden and Connie Smith, Katherine’s remains were later found, seven years later a hunter happened upon her skeleton. Because of their condition, cause of death could not be determined, and what was left of Katherine Hull was cremated. At that time, authorities assumed she had died of exposure.

The author fully explores the theory that a serial killer was at large, preying on vulnerable young women hitchhiking along the New York border and hiding their remains in the woods. Whether these three women who vanished were truly murder victims or not, Mr. Dooling delivers a meticulously detailed account of their disappearances, the details culled from police files, newspapers, and interviews, and ponders whether if they happened today if they would have remained unsolved. Even if I didn’t stay up all night anyway, this book would have kept me awake.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Immanuel's Veins by Ted Dekker

With Halloween coming up we’ve got to have a vampire book, so here’s my review of Immanuel’s Veins by Ted Dekker. The year is 1772 and the hero and narrator is Toma Nicolescu, a soldier in the service of Catherine the Great. The Empress sends him to Moldavia, to the country estate of the Cantemir family, seated at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains, just west of Transylvania. With his trusty friend Alex Cardei, he sets out on his mission, to protect the family in these times of political unrest, but, the Empress warns, steer clear of the notorious Cantemir sisters—impetuous blonde Natascha and wise brunette Lucine who, unlike the typical 18th century nobly born girl, have been brought up to live their lives for love, in pursuit of pleasure and passion. A marriage between one of them and a member of the Russian royal family may even be in the works, so they are officially off limits.

Of course, Toma and Alek ignore this and they soon pair up with the sisters, Toma with Lucine and Alek with Natascha. But Alek soon finds he has a rival, Natasha just can’t keep away from Castle Castile and the mysterious men and women who live there, living for pleasure sake and imbibing a special wine that bears a strong resemblance to blood; she repeatedly sneaks out at night to join them. But if you can’t beat them join them and Alek soon joins Natascha on her nocturnal visits and soon he is enthralled as she is and it is up to Toma and Lucine to put a stop to these antics and restore them to their senses. But Alek and Natascha don’t want to be rescued and instead try to convert them to the Russian’s free-love, do-as-you-please, live only for pleasure’s sake, lifestyle: “They are the model of love. The pounding of the heart, the touch of lips. They are God’s gift to the world, to love as you would be loved, with intense affection.”

More complications arise when the lord of Castle Castile, Vlad von Valerik, asks permission to court Lucine and her mother urges her to accept him, and, realizing that Vlad may be the marriage prospect the Empress spoke of, Toma finds himself turn between his love for Lucine and duty to the Empress and his country.

After tasting the Russians’ special wine, Toma blacks out in the embrace of Sofia, one of the mysterious Russian coven, and thus Lucine comes upon him. Soon afterwards, though Toma has decided to follow his heart come what may and damn the consequences, he will risk the ire of the Empress, Lucine decides to accept Vlad’s suit and begins to succumb to his charm and desire to please her. But after he bites her lip and she complains of the pain he suddenly becomes violent, and there are no more words of love and tenderness.

And like the hero of any vampire movie, Toma must save his beloved, but more perils and trials await him, and obstacles to overcome. But with the help of a mysterious old blind man who calls himself Thomas and gives Tomas a mysterious volume called The Blood Book that describes the origin of the Nephilim (the word vampire is never used in the book), the evil beings born of unions between fallen angels and human females, and, armed with this treasure trove of knowledge, and a new-found belief in God, Tomas returns to Castle Castile determined to save the woman he loves and slay the evil Vlad.

There’s really nothing new under the sun or moon where vampire fiction is concerned, but it’s still an interesting and entertaining tale. I personally would have liked a better sense of history as window dressing for the story, there were a few modern words that seemed out of place, like “slacks” instead of "trousers" or "breeches", and I’m not sure the term “party people” was used in 18th century Russia, but these are really minor points, little rocks in the road that shouldn’t be allowed to spoil this stirring tale of romance and adventure and good versus evil.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Update: The Queen's Pleasure by Brandy Purdy / A Court Affair by Emily Purdy

My next novel The Queen's Pleasure will be published in July 2012 by Kensington, and in the UK by Harper/Avon as A Court Affair by Emily Purdy in August 2012. I will post more information as I receive it. This novel, told from the viewpoints of Amy Robsart Dudley and Queen Elizabeth I, tells the story of the deadly love triangle that ended with a mysterious death that was the greatest scandal of Elizabeth's reign and to this day remains one of history's great mysteries.