Women in History: Mistresses of the French Court and Political Power

It’s time for a new Celebrating Women Series for 2017. March is Women in History month and so I’m featuring writers and authors who sent in guest articles surrouding women  In fact, it will extend way past March. You can find a main page for this with explanation and link to all articles here. I’ll add the article as I schedule or post them.

Next up is historical author Sally Christie who writes of mistresses of the French court in her novels. Here she writes how the best way for women to gain power in 18th century France was through the bed sheets. Without further ado, here is article #2 in the series.

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Marquise de Pompadour, one of Louis XV Official Mistresses

Bedchamber Politics: Women and Political Power in 18th Century France

by Sally Christie, historical fiction author

For women, the path to political power in 18th century France was most definitely via the bedchamberand the back staircase.Louis XV, king for most of the 18th century (from 1715 to 1774), was perhaps the French king most ruled by his mistresses and his passions, and so it was a century where women wielded enormous (albeit unofficial) influence on the country and the course of history.

In the 18th century France was still an absolute monarchy, with none of the parliamentary checks and balances that were gradually coming to define life in other European courts. The king was the state, the state was the king, and his will was law. In order to influence that will, access was the main prerequisite for power – to have the king’s ear, you needed to be physically at his side. At Versailles, the “entrées” – literally, privileges to enter certain rooms, with the greatest entrées being the right to enter the king’s bedchamber – were hotly contested prerogatives of the high nobility. Much time and effort was spent in vying for improved access, or jealously guarding, for yourself and your descendants, access already attained.

With their daily access to the Queen, her ladies-in-waiting were in an important position and these were the highest official (paid and with an apartment in the palace) posts that could be obtained by women. In 1725, as soon as the king’s wife had been decided on, the next great question on everyone’s mind was who would be the new Queen’s attendants? These (typically) 12 women would be the Queen’s constant companions (generally serving one week a month), and each appointment was a political move; they were selected to carefully balance power in the Court, especially the rival families of the Bourbons and the Orléans. Behind each of the lucky 12 ladies selected was a whole army of family followers placing heavy expectations on the chosen protégées.

But the woman with the greatest access and therefore the greatest influence was of course the king’s main mistress, known as the Official Favorite (in many ways it was a real title, as well as an acknowledgement of her position and power). The Official Favorite was expected to be one of the main conduits for influence with the king, and was expected to participate in charity and patronage and style setting, etc. No matter her background, she was the most powerful woman at Court.

For women more than men, rank and influence were often separated. In precedence, the wife and daughters of the king were highest in rank, but often lowest in influence. This was especially true of Louis XV’s Polish wife: despite some initial devotion, Marie Leszcynskawas quickly sidelined politically, and then socially when the king ceased to share her bed after about 10 years of marriage.

The estrangement of the royal couple was an interesting and important inflection point in Louis’ life. The Cardinal Fleury was Louis’ chief advisor, and he would have been very aware that his young charge was rather malleable and weak-willed. Once the king’s eyes and thoughts started to stray from his wife, Fleury had a potential crisis on his hands: it was imperative to keep Louis in friendly hands, and not in the hands (literally!) of a female representative of an opposing faction.

The selection of Louise de Mailly Nesle as a malleable young mistress for the king really did happen the way I describe it in The Sisters of Versailles – Louise was selected because she was docile, shy, not terribly clever, and mostly uninterested in politics.

Perfect!

Or so they thought; they could not have foreseen the floodgates that her selection would open and the damage his eventual affairs with three of her sisters, over the course of the next decade, would have on the reputation of the monarchy.

In the wake of the departure of the last Mailly Nesle sister from the king’s bed there was a literal frenzy, with families pushing forward their daughters (and wives!) in the hopes of catching the king’s eye. Within hardly more than a month,Jeanne de Poisson, the future Marquise de Pompadour, who had essentially been groomed for the role since she was a little girl, was in the king’s bed, and kept her hands firmly on the reins of power for the next 20 years.

Later historians, writing about the largely disastrous reign of Louis XV, blame Pompadour for many of France’s missteps during the 18th century – accumulating debt, disastrous wars and lost colonies – and even Nancy Mitford writing from the 1950s, accused Pompadour of being as ineffective as most women are in politics! However, in a political system built off of patronage, nepotism and inherited key posts, most ministers were ineffectual and incompetent and mostly interested in their own advancement over the needs of the state. Jeanne at least was shrewd and intelligent, and it was she who recognized and supported the Duc de Choiseul, one of the only competent menin government.

The King’s last mistress, the Comtesse du Barry, was completely uninterested in politics, but she became a pawn for the power faction opposing the Duc de Choiseul, and sadly she was instrumental in his departure. With his departure the last statesman with any positive impact left the Court, with disastrous consequences for king and country.

After Louis’ death, the “era of the mistress” came to an end with the (shocking for the time) faithful Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette. For the first time in almost seven decades, the queen was first in precedence, but also first in political and social influence. Arriving as a young girl of 14, Marie Antoinette got off to a bad start with the old guard of Versailles, and once constraints on her behavior were lifted when she became queen at 19, she surrounded herself withfriends she liked, some of whom were not from the senior nobility, and elevated them and their families above high aristocracy. Mistresses were perhaps expected to act like that, but a Queen was expected in appearance be neutral and spread favors (acknowledgements, inclusion) evenly amongst the old families with their jealously guarded entrées.

Marie Antoinette took to hiding out at her little retreats in the ground of Versailles, where the palace entrées were meaningless. The high nobility were cut off from this channel of influence and came toresent the Queen; they hated Marie Antoinette almost as much as everyone else seemed to do! What they didn’t realize, and what I think is a really interesting point, is that by complaining about her and undermining her, they were actually helping to undermine the royal family in general.

It all ended badly for Marie Antoinette,and after the revolution, with Napoleon and then with the Restoration, queens and / or mistresses gradually lost much of their power as the monarchy ceased to be absolute and parliamentary checks and balances were solidified. It would not be until our own era that women would once again have the impact and influence they did in the 18th century.

Sally Christie, Biography

03_Sally Christie_AuthorSally Christie is the author of The Mistresses of Versailles trilogy, about the many (!) mistresses of King Louis XV of France: The Sisters of Versailles, about the Mailly Nesle sisters; The Rivals of Versailles, about Madame de Pompadour; and The Enemies of Versailles, about the Comtesse du Barry. She was born in England and grew up around the world, attending eight schools in three different languages. She spent most of her career working in international development, and currently lives in Toronto. A life-long history buff, she wishes time travel was a reality: she’d be off to the 18th century in a flash!

Visit SallyChristieAuthor.com to find out more about Sally and the Mistresses of Versailles trilogy. You can also find her on FacebookGoodreads, and Amazon.

02_The Enemies of VersaillesThe Enemies of Versailles by Sally Christie

Publication Date: March 21, 2017
Atria Books
eBook & Paperback; 416 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: The Mistresses of Versailles, Book Three

In the final installment of Sally Christie’s “tantalizing” (New York Daily News) Mistresses of Versailles trilogy, Jeanne Becu, a woman of astounding beauty but humble birth, works her way from the grimy back streets of Paris to the palace of Versailles, where the aging King Louis XV has become a jaded and bitter old philanderer. Jeanne bursts into his life and, as the Comtesse du Barry, quickly becomes his official mistress.

“That beastly bourgeois Pompadour was one thing; a common prostitute is quite another kettle of fish.”

After decades of suffering the King’s endless stream of Royal Favorites, the princesses of the Court have reached a breaking point. Horrified that he would bring the lowborn Comtesse du Barry into the hallowed halls of Versailles, Louis XV’s daughters, led by the indomitable Madame Adelaide, vow eternal enmity and enlist the young dauphiness Marie Antoinette in their fight against the new mistress. But as tensions rise and the French Revolution draws closer, a prostitute in the palace soon becomes the least of the nobility’s concerns.

Told in Christie’s witty and engaging style, the final book in The Mistresses of Versailles trilogy will delight and entrance fans as it once again brings to life the sumptuous and cruel world of eighteenth century Versailles, and France as it approaches irrevocable change.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Kobo

Praise for The Sisters of Versailles (book one)

“Such an extraordinary tale makes for compelling reading and, as the lead book in a planned trilogy, will draw in readers who are interested in royal lives before the French Revolution….historical fiction fans, unfamiliar with the history of the Nesle sisters, will be intrigued.” (Library Journal)

“Sally Christie’s The Sisters of Versailles is an intriguing romp through Louis XV’s France. Filled with lush backdrops, rich detail, and colorful characters, fans of historical fiction will enjoy this glimpse into the lost golden era of the French monarchy.” (Allison Pataki, author of THE ACCIDENTAL EMPRESS )

 

Thank you for joining us for this series!

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Review: The Enemies of Versailles Sweeps You Away

Today I have a review of Sally Christie’s The Enemies of Versailles, Book Three in her Mistresses of Versailles series. I love historical fiction based on French history. The more drama and intrigue, the better. Throw in the French Revolution and I start humming music from Les Miserables. Keep scrolling for my review and watch later this month for a guest article from Sally in my Women in History Month series.

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Review –

I love the descriptive writing of historical author Sally Christie! I missed out on reading book one in her Mistresses of Versailles series, but once I read book two last year I was hooked. You can see my past review of The Rivals of Versailles (book two) HERE. I really believe you can read each one as a stand alone, but it’s a great series to read together as well.

Yesterday, March 21, 2017, the third book in her lush French fiction series published. The Enemies of Versailles continued on a tradition of “being seeped in reading” for me last weekend, the sentences so smooth and delicate, yet filled with emotion and substance, that I breezed through it in no time. I needed swept away to another place, no matter how unconventional, for a short time and the novel certiainly gave me that escape. This is a hallmark of quality writing, the type of such I aspire to acheiving.

I love how Sally focuses her novel around protagonists that are female and fiesty, hustling in rags to decadent gowns sometimes to forward their life. The Enemies of Versailles sees Jeanne Becu go from back streets to the palace in eighteenth century France – a France not far from a Revolution.

Sally makes her female characters shine. If you didn’t think you could fall any more in love with the next mistress of the King, you do. Another steals your heart in a way that plausibly you don’t even think should happen. Somehow she endears us as readers to these women by giving them strong, vibrant personalities under a surface innocent-like quality. Sally created Jeanne in a manner in which she blazens up the page with her light-heartedness. It’s apparent Jeanne gave Louis XV a new sense of normalcy to readers that is genuinely lost otherwise, and especially after book two in my opinion, and she remains true to herself even as the people surrounding her at court are nothing less than monsters. However, the intrigue that the book displays as we see the drama unfold creates a desire to turn pages quickly.

Madame du Barry is the focus of the book, but this time around, Sally does juxtapose chapters between her and Adelaide, the daughter of King Louise XV. I suppose that Adelaide is the villan in that she persecutes du Barry in her mind as well as outwardly. We see a poor woman’s rise to court paralled with a woman who has known luxury throughout her life. We see the extravagent nature of this time, spiraling in increasing fashion out of control, and why it led to the horrific revolution. We even get to see Marie Antoinette in this book, and I was thrilled, as she’s one of my favorite historical people to read about. The reasons for the uprising, even though we all know them, are made evident in this novel, and we see the desecration of the royal family. However, this happens all the while as we still focus on the emotions and action of the female characters at the heart of the story.

In the spirit of author Juliet Grey/Leslie Carroll, Sally Christie has brought readers an excellent series of historical fiction sprinkled with beautiful sentences and scenes ripe with descriptions so as if you are living right there in the moment. The Enemies of Versailles is the best of the three. I can’t wait to see what else she writes in the future. I’ll be one of the first in line. Highly recommended!

02_The Enemies of VersaillesThe Enemies of Versailles by Sally Christie

Publication Date: March 21, 2017
Atria Books
eBook & Paperback; 416 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: The Mistresses of Versailles, Book Three

In the final installment of Sally Christie’s “tantalizing” (New York Daily News) Mistresses of Versailles trilogy, Jeanne Becu, a woman of astounding beauty but humble birth, works her way from the grimy back streets of Paris to the palace of Versailles, where the aging King Louis XV has become a jaded and bitter old philanderer. Jeanne bursts into his life and, as the Comtesse du Barry, quickly becomes his official mistress.

“That beastly bourgeois Pompadour was one thing; a common prostitute is quite another kettle of fish.”

After decades of suffering the King’s endless stream of Royal Favorites, the princesses of the Court have reached a breaking point. Horrified that he would bring the lowborn Comtesse du Barry into the hallowed halls of Versailles, Louis XV’s daughters, led by the indomitable Madame Adelaide, vow eternal enmity and enlist the young dauphiness Marie Antoinette in their fight against the new mistress. But as tensions rise and the French Revolution draws closer, a prostitute in the palace soon becomes the least of the nobility’s concerns.

Told in Christie’s witty and engaging style, the final book in The Mistresses of Versailles trilogy will delight and entrance fans as it once again brings to life the sumptuous and cruel world of eighteenth century Versailles, and France as it approaches irrevocable change.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Kobo

Praise for The Sisters of Versailles

“Such an extraordinary tale makes for compelling reading and, as the lead book in a planned trilogy, will draw in readers who are interested in royal lives before the French Revolution….historical fiction fans, unfamiliar with the history of the Nesle sisters, will be intrigued.” (Library Journal)

“Sally Christie’s The Sisters of Versailles is an intriguing romp through Louis XV’s France. Filled with lush backdrops, rich detail, and colorful characters, fans of historical fiction will enjoy this glimpse into the lost golden era of the French monarchy.” (Allison Pataki, author of THE ACCIDENTAL EMPRESS )

“A stunning breadth of period detail, offered in a fresh, contemporary voice.” (Juliet Grey, author of the acclaimed Marie Antoinette trilogy )

“Tantalizing descriptions and cliff-hangers will leave the reader rapidly turning the pages in anticipation… A wickedly delightful read.” (New York Daily News)

03_Sally Christie_AuthorSally Christie, Biography

Sally Christie is the author of The Sisters of VersaillesThe Rivals of Versailles, and The Enemies of Versailles. She was born in England and grew up around the world, attending eight schools in three different languages. She spent most of her career working in international development and currently lives in Toronto.

Visit SallyChristieAuthor.com to find out more about Sally and the Mistresses of Versailles trilogy.

You can also find her on FacebookGoodreads, and Amazon.

Giveaway!!!

Five copies of The Enemies of Versailles are up for grabs during the blog tour! To enter, please see the Gleam form below:

Direct Link: https://gleam.io/ZjDGW/enemies-of-versailles

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– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on March 31st. You must be 18 or older to enter.
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– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

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Women in History Article: Big Momma Thornton and the Blues

Two years ago in March for Women’s History Month, I featured writers and authors who sent in guest articles about Women in History and Women Making History here at Oh, for the Hook of a Book! Now, it’s time for a new Celebrating Women Series for 2017. You can find a main page for this with explanation and link to all articles here. I’ll add the article as I schedule or post them.

To start things off for 2017, author Robert Dean writes about Big Momma Thornton, a blues singer like no other! Without further ado, here is article #1 in the series.

Howling the blues: the deadly vibrato of Big Momma Thornton

by Robert Dean, author of The Red Seven

Big Momma

 If there was ever a strong woman who didn’t take no backseat to a man, it was Willie Mae “Big Momma” Thornton. The Queen of The Blues, long before Koko Taylor, Big Momma could out drink, out sing, and out blow on a blues harp better than her male contemporaries. With her booming voice, her soulful swagger, Big Momma Thornton was a dominating presence in the heyday of the blues.

Her musical style was unique because of her ability to project a loud, booming voice over the swinging band, creating a swagger that the men just couldn’t truck with. That was Big Momma Thornton, a stylistic hooligan who refused to play by the rules of the industry.

Her backbone of religious music gave her pause for her spiritual crimes, but her love of the bottle led her to her death in 1984, but in between the cradle and grave – you couldn’t find a woman who took the magic of Bessie Smith, or the heartbreak of Mahalia Jackson, and made it her own, but with a shattered glass exterior.

She wasn’t trying to be pretty, to be timid – instead, her music was vicious, it was sexual and without pause. By acting a fool, showing off her bedroom charms, she was one of the few who helped lay the groundwork for what would incubate rock and roll.

big momma album

A woman taken by the blues

Hound Dog ain’t Elvis’ tune. It was hers. Ball and Chain didn’t belong to Janis Joplin, but yet again, it was a cover of a Big Momma cut. Acting as a beacon of strength for independent black women, Big Momma Thornton was an idealist, in that she took life by the hair and swung it around, on her terms and without the governance of a man telling her what to do.

In a time when it was hard enough being a woman in the music business, Big Momma Thornton challenged gender norms by dressing like a man in slacks and collared shirts and was openly gay. She drank with the men in her life, and when one would get out of line, she’d box his ears in just the same.

And when she picked up a harp, could she blow. Performing Down Home Shakedown Big Momma Thornton held court against the greats of her time such as John Lee Hooker – She could run through the lines of a song with as much flair as Little Walter, or with the bite of Howlin’ Wolf, and both men respected her for it.

big momma 2

A lesson in flipping the script on gender roles

As we make efforts to show the immeasurable contributions made by women in popular culture, and the world in 2017 – you can’t gauge the influence of Big Momma Thornton. She was just too much, too big. You ain’t getting Amy Winehouse or Janis Joplin’s bravado without Big Momma. She opened the door for ladies to box on their heels for their space and their rights in the world of men.

She was one of a kind and certainly one of the greatest voices in blues. Without her, who knows who we’d have missed. But, having her we’re treated for all time to a sound that is bonafide, a chaotic, rattle the doors off the joint gift like no other.

 Get to your local record store and buy some Big Momma Thornton wax, it’ll get you right in ways you didn’t know you were wrong.

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Robert Dean, Biography –

Robert Dean is a writer/journalist/cynic. His most recent book, The Red Seven is available now from Necro Publications. He’s currently at work on his third book. He lives in Austin, Texas.

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Photos of Big Momma Thornton pulled from Internet –

Big Momma Photo

Album Cover

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Article: The Dark Lady of Devon by Catherine Cavendish

Catherine Cavendish is one of my most loved authors and a great writer friend. She’s one of the most talented women gothic and horror writers working today and she’s extremely supportive of other authors and her writing friends. She lives in the UK and always offers me the best essays for my site featuring haunts from there (though she has featured some in the states too), which I always love. Enjoy her article today on a very interesting ghost, and check out all her gothic titles, recently re-released. Linden Manor, and some of her other books, are some of my favorite reads.

The Dark Lady of Devon

by Catherine Cavendish, author of Linden Manor

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“My ladye hath a sable coach,

And horses two and four;

My ladye hath a black blood-hound

That runneth on before.

My ladye’s coach hath nodding plumes,

The driver hath no head;

My ladye is an ashen white,

As one that long is dead.”

My novella – Linden Manor – features the ghost of Lady Celia Fitzmichael, about whom a scary nursery rhyme was written, which haunted my main character, Lesley Carpenter. In it, Lady Celia is never mentioned by name. Instead, she is referred to as ‘The Scottish Bride.’ And woe betide you if you laid eyes on her ‘blackened face.’

This made me research other notable hauntings by tormented brides (and women generally) and, inevitably, my path led to Devon, home of so many wonderful hauntings and folklore. Here, I found a tale which has all the hallmarks of a Daphne du Maurier dark story (OK, I know she wrote in neighbouring Cornwall, but you get my drift.) The tale of Lady Mary Howard is a dark and tragic one. Every night, her ghostly carriage and massive black dog, regularly travel sixteen miles from Okehampton Castle to Fitzford House and back again. Each time, the purpose of their journey appears to be to transport a single blade of grass.

pic-2%2c-the-tragic-end-of-sir-john-fitz

So who was Lady Mary? And why does she perform this repetitive ritual?

She was born Mary Fitz in 1596, only legitimate child of Sir John Fitz, a man whose inherited wealth made him too rich, too young (at age 21). He spent his money, sinking into depravity and degeneracy to Dorian Gray proportions. His wickedness eventually alienated him from the whole of Tavistock – the town near his home of Fitzford House. Then, two men were killed on the steps of his house. They included his best friend. John Fitz slid into insanity and committed suicide at the age of 30, leaving nine year old Mary alone. She was sold by King James I to the Earl of Northumberland. He married her off to his brother, Sir Allan Percy, to ensure her fortune passed to their family when Mary was just twelve years old. Her new husband was 31.

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The enforced marriage was shortlived as Percy caught a chill while on a hunting trip and died in 1611. Soon after, Mary eloped with her true love, Thomas Darcy. Tragically though, he died just a few months later. Mary had yet to celebrate her sixteenth birthday, so she was technically still the Earl’s ward. He married her off to husband number three – Sir Charles Howard, fourth son of the Earl of Suffolk. They had two children who both appear to have died in infancy. Then he too succumbed and died – of unknown causes – leaving Mary a widow for the third time at the age of just 26.

By now, tongues were wagging. That’s a lot of husbands to lose in rapid succession. Had the father lived on in his daughter? After all, didn’t Sir John Fitz become mixed up in murder at one time?

By now, perhaps as a result of her experiences at the hands of unscrupulous men, Mary had learned a little about keeping her hands firmly on her own purse-strings. She was now a wealthy and desirable widow and married husband number four – Sir Richard Grenville – who no doubt thought he was onto a good thing. He soon found out his new wife wasn’t to be taken advantage of. He didn’t like it and vented his wrath cruelly on her. Mary refused to relent, and kept her money safe.

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In the end, Sir Richard’s cruelty became too much for Mary and she sued for divorce, between 1631-32. From then on, a series of extraordinary events saw Sir Richard imprisoned for debt, his subsequent disappearance for seven years and terrible injustice heaped on Mary when he returned and a court ordered that he could seize Fitzford House and her possessions. When Mary eventually turned up there (she had been living in London), she found the mansion wrecked.

Her marriage to Grenville was the only one to produce children – a son, Richard, who died young, and two daughters, Elizabeth and Mary – neither of whom Mary had anything to do with as they served as a constant reminder of their father. She did keep one child with her though. Her son, George, born around 1634 and whose father is unknown (possibly Theophilus, Earl of Suffolk).

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As she grew older and remained, with her son, at the restored Fitzford House, Lady Mary became noted around Tavistock for her strong will and imperious temper. When her son died unexpectedly in 1671, she never recovered and died soon after. Then the legendary hauntings began.

It is said that, at dead of night, the gates of Fitzford House creak open and a massive black hound, with flaming red eyes bounds forward. Behind it rattles a coach made of bones, driven by a headless coachman. Its single passenger is a ghostly lady. Sixteen miles up the road, the coach stops at Okehampton Castle where the dog picks a single blade of grass. Back at Fitzford House, the dog lays this carefully down on a stone. Legend has it that when all the grass has been thus transported from Okehampton Castle, Lady Mary will finally be at rest.

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Now, here’s a flavour of Linden Manor:

Have you ever been so scared your soul left your body?

All her life, Lesley Carpenter has been haunted by a gruesome nursery rhyme—“The Scottish Bride”—sung to her by her great grandmother. To find out more about its origins, Lesley visits the mysterious Isobel Warrender, the current hereditary owner of Linden Manor, a grand house with centuries of murky history surrounding it.

But her visit transforms into a nightmare when Lesley sees the ghost of the Scottish bride herself, a sight that, according to the rhyme, means certain death. The secrets of the house slowly reveal themselves to Lesley, terrible secrets of murder, evil and a curse that soaks the very earth on which Linden Manor now stands. But Linden Manor has saved its most chilling secret for last.

Linden Manor has just been reissued by Crossroad Press and is available from:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

 

Other books by Catherine Cavendish include:

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And are currently available – or soon will be – from:

Catherine Cavendish Amazon page

Catherine Cavendish Amazon page

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Catherine Cavendish lives with a long-suffering husband and ‘trainee’ black cat in North Wales. Her home is in a building dating back to the mid-18th century, which is haunted by a friendly ghost, who announces her presence by footsteps, switching lights on and strange phenomena involving the washing machine and the TV. Cat has written a number of published horror novellas, short stories, and novels, frequently reflecting her twin loves of history and horror and often containing more than a dash of the dark and Gothic. When not slaving over a hot computer, she enjoys wandering around Neolithic stone circles and visiting old haunted houses.

You can connect with her here:

Catherine Cavendish

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Daughter of a Thousand Years Gave Me My Thought-Provoking Viking Fix!

Out today (Feb. 21, 2017) is Daughter of a Thousand Years by Amalia Carosella! Check out the synopsis below and then stay to read my release day review! I really enjoyed this book!

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Daughter of a Thousand Years by Amalia Carosella

Publication Date: February 21, 2017
Lake Union Publishing
eBook & Paperback; 442 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction/Medieval Romance

Greenland, AD 1000

More than her fiery hair marks Freydís as the daughter of Erik the Red; her hot temper and fierce pride are as formidable as her Viking father’s. And so, too, is her devotion to the great god Thor, which puts her at odds with those in power—including her own brother, the zealous Leif Eriksson. Determined to forge her own path, she defies her family’s fury and clings to her dream of sailing away to live on her own terms, with or without the support of her husband.

New Hampshire, 2016

Like her Icelandic ancestors, history professor Emma Moretti is a passionate defender of Norse mythology. But in a small town steeped in traditional values, her cultural beliefs could jeopardize both her academic career and her congressman father’s reelection. Torn between public expectation and personal identity, family and faith, she must choose which to honor and which to abandon.

In a dramatic, sweeping dual narrative that spans a millennium, two women struggle against communities determined to silence them, but neither Freydís nor Emma intends to give up without a fight.

I loved Amalia’s former Helen of Sparta series and you’ll find reviews for those books and an inteview with Amalia on my site already. However, when I heard Amalia would be publishing a book featuring one of my top favorite topics, and I’m not shy about this one – VIKINGS – I was all in! I have to say that in looking forward to it so much when I actually found time to squeeze in reading it, I was captivated.

Amalia writes Daughter of a Thousand Years in dual time periods and with two female protagonists. Emma is in the modern age of 2016, the daughter of a politician and a Catholic, and Freydis, living a thousand years earlier, is a pagan, a Thor worshipper, and the daughter of the infamous Eric the Red.

I am not the type of editoral reviewer that rehashes plots, but in this book, Amalia explores religions of the different time periods and how the women, and their family structures, dealt with them. Emma has always been interested in Viking history, but as her family expects (in most ways) perfection, Emma finally finds the courage to be true to herself when she wishes to explore the pagan religion of Thor. As Catholics, of course, her parents aren’t pleased, so she’s brave to stand up for herself. Meanwhile, a thousand years earlier, Freydis struggles to stay true to her own pagan religion and family as the wave of Christianity and converstions begins in society. Of course, we’ve read or seen these themes before…well, I have since I seek out books like this out of interest, and of course, we’ve seen this juxtaposition in history between Viking pagans and English Christianity as the Vikings began their exploring (which is viewable even on the show “Vikings,” but for some reason, it’s not getting old yet. There are still stories to be told that speak to the bravery and courage of those who believe in their own spiritual depths, as well as those who choose to align with another. Isn’t this even a common theme in society today, that people need to understand each other, and religions, to make peace with each other? I think the dual storylines really showed the fact that this issue is still strong today.

I also thought that Amalia did a wonderful job of featuring two strong and fiesty women that have many similarities even if they lived so far removed. Of course, the history section was a favorite, as it’s my first love, and she has superb historical writing. There was more background and research, and as times were tougher, I think it only served that Freydis would be a bit more animated and have more to fight through in an actual action sort of way. But I thought she wrote Emma just as well for our time period, and growing up in the now, is quite different than then! She was strong in forging her own way, even if countries and treasures and survival didn’t depend on it. Possibly her family felt their careers depended on it, but really that is nothing to what they endured so long ago. Emma showed great fortitude in becoming her own original person and not fitting the mold, which does still take bravery, especially when it means stading up to one’s parents.

As always, Amalia’s writing is beautiful and captivating. Her dialogue and character development, which her books show she always has worked hard on, continue to improve. We can see the locations, feel the characters emotions, and cheer them on in our own ways. As I mentioned her settings and descriptions are wonderful to read. I do believe the historical lean that Amalia puts on her books, as opposed to strictly historical romance, make books like Daughter of a Thousand Years stand out.

If you like to be swept away in a good historical fiction read, and like memorable reads with strong female characters, this is a good book for you to dive into eyes first. Pick this up as one of your highlights of th first half of 2017. Fans of “Vikings” should like the themes in this book and get a more unique look at women of that time period. Contemporary readers may even find their foray into historical fiction. Highly recommend – I give it 4 stars in hopes that she keeps challenging her prose.

Purchase –

Amazon

About Amalia Carosella –

03_Amalia Carosella Author (1).jpgAmalia Carosella graduated from the University of North Dakota with a bachelors degree in Classical Studies and English. An avid reader and former bookseller, she writes about old heroes and older gods. She lives with her husband in upstate New York and dreams of the day she will own goats (and maybe even a horse, too). For more information, visit her blog at www.amaliacarosella.com.

She also writes myth-steeped fantasy and paranormal romance under the name Amalia Dillin. Learn more about her other works at www.amaliadillin.com.

You can connect with Amalia Carosella on FacebookTwitterGoodreads, and Google+. Sign up for her newsletter, The Amaliad, for news and updates.

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