Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Queen's Rivals (The Fallen Queen) Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Please join me as I tour with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for The Queen’s Rivals from June 17 – August 7.

The Queen's Rivals

Publication Date: June 25, 2013
Kensington Publishing
Paperback; 384p
ISBN-10: 0758265999

Their ambitions were ordinary, but they were born too close to the throne…

As cousins of history’s most tempestuous queens, Ladies Jane, Katherine, and Mary Grey were born in an age when all of London lived beneath the Tower’s menacing shadow. Tyrannized by Bloody Mary and the Virgin Queen, the sisters feared love was unthinkable —and the scaffold all but unavoidable…

Raised to fear her royal blood and what it might lead men to do in her name, Mary Grey dreads what will become of herself and her elder sisters under the reigns of Mary Tudor and Elizabeth I. On their honor, they have no designs on the crown, yet are condemned to solitude, forbidden to wed. Though Mary, accustomed to dwelling in the shadows, the subject of whispers, may never catch the eye of a gentleman, her beautiful and brilliant sisters long for freedoms that would surely cost their lives. And so, wizened for her years, Mary can only hope for divine providence amid a bleak present and a future at the whim of the throne — unless destiny gains the upper hand.

A gripping and bittersweet tale of broken families and broken hearts, courage and conviction, The Queen’s Rivals recounts an astonishing chapter in the hard-won battle for the Tudor throne.

Please note this book will be published in the UK as THE FALLEN QUEEN by Emily Purdy.

Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Monday, June 17
Review & Giveaway at Luxury Reading
Tuesday, June 18
Feature & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Thursday, June 20
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee
Monday, June 24
Review & Giveaway at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Thursday, June 27
Review & Giveaway at A Bookish Libraria
Monday, July 1
Review & Giveaway at Unabridged Chick
Wednesday, July 3
Review & Giveaway at The Musings of ALMYBNENR
Friday, July 5
Review at Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
Monday, July 8
Review at A Book Geek
Tuesday, July 9
Review & Giveaway at One Book at a Time
Wednesday, July 10
Review & Giveaway at The True Book Addict
Friday, July 12
Review & Giveaway at Flashlight Commentary
Monday, July 15
Review & Giveaway at A Chick Who Reads
Wednesday, July 17
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews
Giveaway at Bibliophilic Book Blog
Friday, July 19
Review at Psychotic State Book Reviews
Monday, July 22
Review at The Lit Bitch
Review & Giveaway at Bippity Boppity Book
Wednesday, July 24
Review & Giveaway at My Reading Room
Monday, July 29
Review & Giveaway at The Broke and the Bookish
Wednesday, July 31
Review & Giveaway at Always with a Book
Monday, August 5
Review & Giveaway at Tanzanite’s Castle Full of Books
Wednesday, August 7
Review & Giveaway at Cheryl’s Book Nook

All my advance copies of the book are spoken for, so if anyone else is interested in reviewing I won't have any more copies to give until July.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Boy In The Box The Unsolved Case of America's Unknown Child by David Stout

One of the saddest stories in all the unsolved mysteries of the world is that of The Boy In The Box, America's Unknown Child. On February 25, 1957 the bruised and battered blanket-wrapped nude body of a malnourished thirty pound little boy, aged somewhere between four and six years old, was found stuffed in a cardboard box with a J.C. Penney's label, thrown away in the rubbish-strewn woods of Fox Chase, Philadelphia. Ever since that day, investigators, both official and armchair criminologists, have been trying to give justice and a name to this child. Some of the original detectives assigned to the case, like Rem Bristow, of the medical examiner's office, never gave up and spent most of their adult lives relentlessly pursuing every clue no matter how far-fetched or unlikely.

This is a case where no one can say more should have been done. This unknown child has touched people's hearts from the start and not a stone has been left unturned to try to solve this mystery. There were door-to-door searches, hospital birth records were meticulously combed through trying to match the boy's footprints with those taken of newborns, schools, both public and private, for healthy children as well as the mentally challenged, were searched and all pupils accounted for, as well as children placed in foster homes, orphanages, and other institutions by the welfare system, immigration records were also searched, and detectives followed up leads about families who led a nomadic lifestyle, moving from place to place in search of work. Detectives even talked to children playing in schoolyards and playgrounds to ask if any of their little playmates were missing. There were marks on the boy's body indicative of intravenous insertions or, since some were in the groin area, a hernia operation is also a possibility, and a diagnostic dye had been injected into one of his eyes, so doctors and nurses were questioned in the hope that someone would remember this little boy. There was a massive media campaign to identify him, posters and flyers were everywhere, flyers were even mailed out with gas and electric bills, the child's corpse was even dressed up in typical schoolboy clothes donated by one of the detective's and photographed sitting upright in the hope that this would jog someone's memory. A deathmask was even made using a new dental plastic instead of the standard plaster of Paris so that even after the child was buried they would still have a three-dimensional likeness of his face. Since the child's hair was hacked off very crudely, either just before or after death as strands of it still adhered to his naked body, some have even speculated that the reason he remains unidentified is that, for whatever reason, he was raised as a girl, and cutting off his hair was a deliberate act to make identification more difficult so sketches of what he might have looked like as a girl were made, albeit later in the case instead of near the start. The remains were even exhumed in 1998 and DNA extracted. All to no avail. The mystery remains unsolved to this day.

This is the first book to fully chronicle the mystery, and it is a heartbreaking and riveting read I recommend to anyone interested in true crime and unsolved mysteries.

There is also a website dedicated to this case, though updates are infrequent as "time is the enemy" in a case like this where anyone who might have known this little boy's name is advancing in years and may even already be dead. This site is connected to investigators still dedicated to solving this case and any information can be submitted to them there.

The image at the top of this post is the original poster showing the child's face as well as a man's blue corduroy cap that was found at the scene, which may be a clue or may have nothing at all to do with it; it could have blown off a passing motorist's head or been lost when someone was dumping junk as that area of the woods was a popular dumping ground. I apologize if anyone finds my including this image offensive, I can well understand, it hurts my heart every time I see this child's battered face, but due to the nature of this case, I felt compelled to include it.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Confession of Katherine Howard by Suzannah Dunn

This is a tale of two Katherines—Katherine Howard and Catherine Tilney. The first is a frivolous flirt who cares for nothing but clothes and boys. The second is a cautious and ambitious girl determined to do as her mother said and make a good life for herself.

At twelve, both are sent to board with the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk in the Tudor equivalent of an exclusive finishing school. There Kate dallies with the music master, Henry Manox, then takes as her lover a young gentleman named Francis Dereham.

When Kate is sent to court at seventeen to serve the new queen, Anne of Cleves, Francis turns to Cat and the two soon become devoted lovers and plan to wed. Then beautiful Kate, who has now become Henry VIII’s fifth queen, following in the footsteps of her infamous cousin Anne Boleyn, beckons from the glittering court over which she now presides and it is impossible to say “nay.” Cat becomes one of her ladies, and Francis is appointed her private secretary. And when rumors begin to surface about the Queen’s loose-living past, the fingers point not to her current lover, courtier Thomas Culpepper, but to an old love from the past—Francis Dereham and Cat is desperate to save the man she loves as Kate, in terror for her life and crown, lies shamelessly and points the finger of blame anywhere but at herself.

This is the third Tudor novel I have read by this author. Her modernization of language doesn’t seem so drastic in this one, or maybe, after the other two, I’m just used to it and know what to expect. It was an interesting spin on the Katherine Howard story, though despite what the title may suggest, it is never told in the first person from Kate’s own viewpoint, and Kate herself, despite so many characters in the story being drawn to her, like fascinated moths to a flame, just isn’t very likeable in my opinion. She’s one of those characters from history who, if the stories are true, must have had a lot of charisma, but it just doesn’t translate to the printed page here.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Back Cover Copy for The Fallen Queen by Emily Purdy UK Edition of The Queen's Rivals by Brandy Purdy

This is the back cover copy for The Fallen Queen by Emily Purdy to be published in the UK in August. This is the same book as The Queen's Rivals by Brandy Purdy which will be published by Kensington Books in the USA on June 26, 2013.

I don't have cover art for the UK edition yet but will post it as soon as I receive it. The above image is the US Edition.


Uncovering the secrets of Lady Jane Grey – who ruled England for nine days before her execution – and her two sisters Katherine and Mary – who both served Elizabeth I.

An unforgettable story of ambition, lust and jealousy.

Led by love into the jaws of fate….

Lady Jane Grey is crowned Queen at the behest of Edward VI. Her reign lasts only nine days before she is executed for treason and Elizabeth takes the throne.

Lady Jane’s two sisters, Katherine and Mary, live on into Elizabeth’s reign but in family misfortune they are bound, inspiring the Queen’s wrath against them.

In secret, Katherine and Mary risk everything and disobey the royal order by marrying the men they love. Will their treachery be discovered? And must they face imprisonment in the Tower of London, just as their sister did before them?

A stunning tale of treachery and treason, perfect for fans of The Tudors and Philippa Gregory.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Queen Victoria's Stalker The Strange Case of The Boy Jones by Jan Bondeson

Here’s a fascinating slice of Victoriana that just may be news to you. It’s the true story of one of the first recorded cases of celebrity stalking.

Following her coronation in 1838, the young queen was repeatedly frightened by a teenaged boy who had an uncanny ability to sneak into Buckingham Palace and spy on her and her court. He once even stole her underwear from her bedroom and on another occasion hid under the sofa in her dressing room for several hours.

When news got out, young Edward “The Boy” Jones became a media celebrity. Poems, cartoons, newspaper articles, and comic songs all wondered what he had seen in the Queen’s boudoir.

The government was embarrassed and when prison and hard labor failed to put a stop to these clandestine visits to the Queen, and “The Boy’s” scandalous boasts that he would write a memoir of palace life someday and reveal all that he had seen, they arranged to have “The Boy” Jones shanghaied onto a man-of-war to serve several years in the British Navy.

This fascinating book explores every aspect of the story, including in popular culture, like children’s books and movies, and even the psychology of stalkers, as well as the sad end of “The Boy” Jones.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Queen’s Lover by Francine Du Plessix Gray

This much anticipated novel gives us a fresh look at one of history’s great love stories--the doomed romance between Marie Antoinette and the dashing Swedish Count Axel von Fersen.

They were both nineteen when they met at a masquerade ball at the Paris Opera House in 1774. Their love affair would stand the test of time, through Fersen’s other love affairs and service in the American War of Independence, and deepen through the French Revolution when Fersen tried to save his beloved and her family. He would continue to love her even after the guillotine took her life, until his own death at the hands on an angry mob in 1810.

The novel is narrated by Count Fersen himself and his beloved sister, Sophie, in places when supposedly the narrative would have been too painful for him. It weaves actual journal entries and letters in for added authenticity and includes many fascinating little tidbits of historical gossip.

I've been intrigued by the character of Count Fersen and his relationship with Marie Antoinette ever since I saw MGM's extravagant 1938 film "Marie Antoinette" starring Norma Shearer as the doomed queen and Tyrone Power as her Swedish Sir Galahad several years ago on Turner Classic Movies, and it's still one of my favorites.

I really wanted to like this book, I had been waiting for it for months, and even pre-ordered it as soon as Amazon started taking orders, but…I don’t quite known how to explain it, but something was just off. 

I am quite familiar with the lives of Marie Antoinette and Count Fersen, and the morals of the eighteenth century aristocracy, so I wasn’t expecting a beautiful romance and fidelity; I've known about the other women in Count Fersen’s life for years. If they were actually lovers they had little time together and lots of time apart in which time Fersen, an unabashed sensualist rather vain of his conquests liberally indulged himself with just about any woman who was willing from noblewomen to chambermaids, while Marie Antoinette stayed at Versailles being a faithful wife to Louis XVI, a mother to her children, and being hated by the masses for her excesses until the guillotine made her a tragic heroine and frequent and beloved fixture in romantic dramas, costume epics, and historical fiction. So none of this came as a surprise to me. I think it was simply that Fersen isn't a very likable narrator. And I’m not really blaming the author for that, as I've read some of his actual journals and am familiar with the man’s character. He’s not one of those charming and witty rakes like Casanova that you can love to hate and like personally even though you don’t like the way he behaves. For instance, when boasting of one of his conquests, the Fersen of this novel says “I’d rather not be thought of as a rake, just as an average, venturesome sexual athlete.” Even in his much vaunted devotion to Marie Antoinette, there are disappointing lapses. In fairness, Fersen was only human, and he probably did his best to save the royal family, but knowing that he went straight from what would be his last meeting with Marie Antoinette to hiding in his mistress’s attic so her live-in lover wouldn't suspect anything, and they could enjoy each other when he was absent, it just takes some of the shine off this Swedish knight’s armor.

Or it may be that we as the readers don't really get to see the relationship between Fersen and Marie Antoinette grow and actually being played out. Fersen gives us tantalizing glimpses, and little summaries about the time they spend together, but most of the time we don't actually get to "see" it. Instead of letting us look through the window, Fersen discreetly draws the blind on his private moments with the Queen.

If you’re looking for a beautiful romance, this novel isn't it, but if you’re interested in Marie Antoinette and her relationship with Count Fersen, given that there’s not a whole lot out there to choose from, you might want to give this a chance. And if you want the fairy tale as well as some truly scrumptious eye candy that actually has some substance as well as style, make sure you treat yourself to a viewing of the lavish 1938 film version and Tyrone Power's performance as the gallant and romantic Count Fersen.

I can't help myself, I just LOVE this movie.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Sweet Betsy From Pike by Sam Sackett

Based on an old Gold Rush era ballad, Sweet Betsy From Pike tells the story of a beautiful minister's daughter who elopes with her lover, Ike, and joins a wagon train bound for California.

In the grip of the Gold Rush, people believe there's so much gold in "Californy" all you have to do is bend over and pick it up off the ground. The couple endure a long, grueling journey, filled with dangers and hardship, encountering Indians and Mormons along the way, until they reach Hangtown, a rough mining camp in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
But this is much more than a novel about a physical journey, along the way readers get to watch as Betsy grows into a strong, independent woman, and a successful businesswoman, who no longer needs or wants Ike.

This is a very vivid and well researched tale of life in the rugged mining camps where women are scarce, prices are high, and miners work hard and play hard and thrill to their favorite dessert of brandied peaches and seeing the scandalous Lola Montez dance. Dialogue is written in dialect--for example: "Betsy, yer so perty I'd like to eat ya up," and "we cain't wait no two years"--so depending on the reader's personal preferences, some may find this distracting or feel that it adds to the aura of authenticity that surrounds the story.

My sincere thanks to Sam Sackett for sending me a copy of this novel to review.  

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Lucky Stars: Janet Gaynor & Charles Farrell by Sarah Baker

If you like true-life tales of star-crossed lovers blended with the glamour of old Hollywood this just may be the book for you. It tells the story of one of the silver screen’s great romantic teams—Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell. It is a story of success and failure, of a girl who didn’t want fame, and a boy who could never get enough.

He grew up sweeping the floor of his parents’ movie theatre and dreaming of someday being right up there on the silver screen with the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and Mary Pickford. Her sister wanted to be the star, she wanted to be a secretary, but she had an ambitious mother and a stepfather with a gambler’s instinct.

In 1926 their stars converged when, after years of extra work and bit parts, they finally got their big break when they were signed to Fox. Their first screen paring, in the eagerly anticipated silent film version of the romantic melodrama 7th Heaven, was absolute magic.

Janet Gaynor was the sweet, nice girl every mother wanted her son to marry, wholesome and pure with big brown eyes and a mass of coppery curls. Charles Farrell straddled the fence between boy next door and athletic, swashbuckling hero, tough, yet tender. They seemed a match made in heaven. In eleven succeeding films, despite a decline in script quality, the couple’s chemistry kept audiences coming back for more. But instead of offering their winning romantic team movies tailor made for their talents, the money-hungry executives at Fox repeatedly cast them in any old piece of nonsense that required a boy and girl to meet cute and leap over a few obstacles before the obligatory happy ending, so, sadly, they never again equaled the magic of that first onscreen pairing.

It was a closely guarded secret that they were lovers off screen as well as on, but Fame drove a wedge between them. “Good time Charlie” as his friends called him, wanted the Hollywood life—the fame, the glamour, champagne, fast cars, and, of course, the girls. But to Janet, though she was a complete professional and took her career seriously, it was really just a job. Ironically, despite Charles popularity and undeniable talent, Janet got all the critical acclaim, including the Academy Award nomination (she was the first actress to win the Oscar for Best Actress).

Janet didn’t want a Hollywood marriage, so when a handsome lawyer, Lydell Peck, came along, a self-made man with no connections to Hollywood, the ever practical Janet, dumped Charlie and married him instead. She thought she could quit while she was still ahead, now that she had made enough to support herself and her family in comfort, and pursue other interests, travel and learn and just enjoy being a wife and mother. But it was not to be, on her honeymoon she found out that her husband had just signed on with Fox as a writer and assistant director and was ready to use all his legal cunning to take charge of Janet’s career.

Reeling from the loss of his mother, and from being jilted by Janet, Charlie retaliated by eloping with his long-time crush, Virginia Valli, a sophisticated star of the silent screen whose image he had adored from afar before he came to Hollywood. Her career had tanked with the talkies, so marriage offered her a way to retire gracefully. Despite Charlie’s many infidelities—including a long-term affair with “Mousie” Powell, wife of the debonair THIN MAN star William Powell—Virginia never divorced him. She remained Mrs. Charles Farrell until the day she died. Some speculate that they might have had an open marriage or devout Catholicism might have been the cause.

Meanwhile, Lydell Peck’s interference nearly cost Janet her career. She went on strike, demanding more money and script approval, during the Great Depression when her $2,000 a week represented a fortune to normal people struggling just to get by at a time when a loaf of bread cost eight cents.

While Janet fought Fox, and shed her interfering spouse, Charlie found himself being offered roles that a well-dressed mannequin could have played in movies designed to be used as a launching pad for up and coming actresses the studio thought showed star potential. But when Charlie tried to take a page out of Janet’s book and refused a role he was promptly fired.

Janet went on to win immortal fame in A STAR IS BORN. She made a few more pictures afterwards and then retired gracefully, married MGM’s brilliant costume designer, Adrian, and had the marriage every girl dreams of with a wonderful and supportive, talented and intelligent man, who was her true partner in life. They had a son together, traveled, and devoted themselves to art and fashion. They never took each other for granted and never spent a night apart until Adrian’s untimely death twenty years later. Janet kept busy with painting, theatre, and even a line of gourmet frozen foods, and was surprised to find romance again, this time with a dear old friend, producer Paul Gregory. In 1964 he became her second husband. This second marriage also proved happy and long-lasting. It only ended when Janet’s life did in 1984 when she died of pneumonia following severe injuries sustained in a car wreck.

After a stint in the Navy, Charlie devoted himself to the Racquet Club, which he had founded, and later served as Mayor of Palm Springs, and starred in two successful tv series, MY LITTLE MARGIE and THE CHARLES FARRELL SHOW. Alcoholism eventually caught up with him. As the host of one of Hollywood’s most popular watering holes, he couldn’t say no when people wanted to buy him a drink, so he soon crossed the boundary between social drinker and addict. His heart finally gave out in 1990.

I found this real Hollywood romance riveting and read the entire book in a single night. I admired Janet for having the strength to go after what she wanted and the very good fortune to find it (I wish I could be so lucky!), while Charlie’s story hurt my heart, sometimes talent alone isn’t enough, or the dream without the drive. He seemed to drift aimlessly through life without ever truly finding what he was searching for, or to not be able to hold onto it when it was in his grasp.

A note to those interested in Hollywood history, rumors of homosexuality have dogged both Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell throughout the years, so you might be wondering if this book addresses that. And it does. Janet was friends with two women who were known or suspected lesbians and her husband Adrian’s brilliant, and often flamboyant, costume designs led many to erroneously assume that he was gay. Many have jumped to the conclusion that their marriage was a lavender one, an arrangement in which the wife was lesbian and the husband gay. This book disproves that and shows how these rumors got started and helps lay them to rest. One previous author even tried to put a kinky spin on some black satin bras the husband of one of Janet’s female friends obtained for her, when the truth was Janet was then living in the wilds of Brazil and had undergone a mastectomy and was unable to find a suitable prosthetic bra, and the man in question had the right connections to supply the desired garments. As for Charles Farrell, male friends who were in a position to know and his many liaisons with many women disprove the rumors.