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.