Tag Archives: French history

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.

02_The Enemies of Versailles

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:

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Interview with Leslie Carroll on Royal Marriages Gone Wrong and Writing History

I am so excited, because today, the amazing author and actress Leslie Carroll is stopping by for  a chat about her new non-fiction title about 500 years of mismatched Royal marriages! You’ll not want to miss this one! Consider it your weekend entertainment!

A frequent commentator on royal romances and relationships, Leslie has been interviewed by numerous publications, including MSNBC.com, USA Today, the Australian Broadcasting Company, and NPR, and she was a featured royalty historian on CBS nightly news in London during the royal wedding coverage of Prince William and Catherine Middleton. She is the expert on the love life of many famous women in history and appears on television often in this role, that is, when she isn’t performing as an actress!

I am honored to have her here with us today, so sit back and enjoy! But first, let’s take a peek at the cover of her newest book…

02_Inglorious Royal Marriages

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Hi Leslie, and welcome today to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! Readers might remember you’ve been here before as Juliet Grey to talk about your Marie Antoinette series. As quite the accomplished historian, actress, novelist, and writer, you keep busy with all things history. I wasn’t surprised that you’d written another non-fiction book detailing the lives of some of history’s notorious monarchs and aristocracy.

Congratulations on publishing Inglorious Royal Marriages: A Demi-Millennium of Unholy Mismatrimony. Did you have as much fun writing it as we are having reading it?

Leslie: Yes, I did—and thank you for hosting me! I’m a history geek and a royalty aficionado, so let me just say, I love my job!

Erin: Me too, I love history and writing and I couldn’t think of anything better, except maybe chocolate! And so far, I haven’t found a job eating chocolate for a living! lol! Please do come into the library/study and have a seat in the red leather chair. It’s quite comfortable and we’ll be able to talk over tea. Would you prefer hot or iced tea? It’s not quite cool here yet in Ohio, so I’ll be having some peach iced tea. Say your pleasure and I’ll pour!

Leslie: Oooh, peach iced tea, please—unless you happen to have some super-strong, extra-leaded black iced coffee (my usual drug of choice, except for champagne, which is for birthdays and publication days).

Erin: Oh, let’s have the iced coffee. I’ll make yours black and mine with milk and sugar, and maybe a shot of chocolate syrup. Now that we’re set, let’s get started!

Q: You’ve done a tremendous amount of research in your career. Are your non-fiction titles such as Inglorious Royal Marriages and Royal Romances the culmination of things you’ve stumbled upon during other work or are you fascinated and go in search of? How do certain couples illuminate enough to make the cut?

A:Yes and yes? Everything I do tends to feed everything else. Researching Marie Antoinette’s marriage for an earlier book on royal marriages spurred me to write an entire historical fiction trilogy on her life. I have researched royals for one book and stumbled upon someone fascinating that I hadn’t known much about, or had known about but had no book to feature them in, and have stored their lives for future inclusion. For a couple to make the cut there has to be enough verifiable juicy information (readily available in English) on their lives. Nonfiction can’t be written on rumor. For example, if an author wanted to write a novel on the premise that King Richard the Lionheart was gay (there were rumors), they could write whatever they wanted with impunity. I had initially wanted to feature his marriage to Berengaria, but there’s not enough “there there” for a really gripping chapter. And absolutely NO verifiable evidence that he was gay. And I read 3 biographies of one of Queen Victoria’s daughters (Louise) and her husband because I had always imagined there was a juicy story to their marriage, but came away with nothing I could use that would make a fun enough chapter and I had so many other more exciting couples to feature, where I had many more interesting details to share with my readers. So some of the couples from my initial brainstorming table of contents got bumped during the research process.

Q: In that vein, how did your first non-fiction title come to light and what propels you to write them, besides that they must be highly successful due to historical readers having an obsession with royalty? I mean, who doesn’t like juicy gossip, sometimes you can’t make this stuff up it’s so good!

A:That’s what I’m always telling people: even though I am also a novelist, that the truth is often so much juicier and sexier than anything a novelist or screenwriter can invent! I mean, the REAL Mary Boleyn was such a slut that the King of France called her his “hackney” because “he loved to ride her” and the truth is that she got herself kicked out of the French court and sent back to her parents for screwing too many courtiers! That’s the REAL other Boleyn girl! I’d rather read about HER!

SO: the first nonfiction book, Royal Affairs, came about because my historical fiction editor at NAL wanted a book to compete with another Penguin imprint (Michael Farquahar’s Royal Scandals). NAL chose the title of my first book and because my editor loved the way I humanized such scandalous women as Emma Hamilton and Mary Robinson, who were the glamorous lovers of powerful 18th c. men (Admiral Nelson and the Prince of Wales, respectively), she felt I could also humanize the royals and give readers juicy stories about their lives while still presenting the historical facts in an engaging manner.

That style is typically known as “narrative nonfiction.” NAL wanted that, plus an easy, breezy tone, which, ultimately, the Chicago Tribune (reviewing my second “royal” title, Notorious Royal Marriages), dubbed, “an irresistible combination of People magazine and the History Channel.”

Q: What is your own favorite marriage union gone wrong from your new book Inglorious Royal Marriages? Why?

A: Researching the intermarriages of the two Medici cousins (Isabella Romola de Medici to Paolo d’Orsini; and Eleonora di Garzia di Toledo to Pietro de Medici) stopped me in my tracks. I don’t want to give too much away, but we think of the Italian Renaissance as a time of sophistication and progress, a flourishing of art and culture. And it was all that, but beneath the glitz and glamour, the families that governed the city-states had some seriously twisted men in them. Nowadays, when we read about so-called “honor killings,” we don’t equate them with anything that has ever occurred in Western culture or with Christian (let alone Catholic) behavior; and we fail to comprehend what sort of mentality it would take to legitimize the murder of one’s spouse (particularly when the husband-murderer himself commits adultery with impunity). Yet Catholic men during the Italian Renaissance—a time of great enlightenment—got away with it

Q: Which marriage did you really wish would have worked if other variables had aligned correctly for them? Who did you feel the most sorry for in terms of their marriage? Why?

A:I found myself crying as I wrote the end of the chapter on the marriage of Marie of Edinburgh (a granddaughter of Queen Victoria) to her cousin Ferdinand of Roumania. Because they were married, fairly unhappily and rockily for thirty-four years; her mother had pushed her into it. Both Marie and Ferdinand were unfaithful. Neither understood the other or appreciated the other’s better qualities. They couldn’t even take joy in their children, like some of the other royal couples. They were outspoken about the fact that they disliked their kids (and with reason: the older ones, in particular, were selfish, greedy jerks). And yet, after Ferdinand was diagnosed with cancer, as he was dying, Marie began to acknowledge everything they had been through together (including the agony of WWI). As I wrote in their chapter, In January 1927, realizing that she and Ferdinand were about to celebrate their thirty-fifth wedding anniversary, Marie wrote in her diary, “May God allow that it not be our last . . . we have lived to become firm and faithful friends, two wildly different characters that have managed to produce harmony out of what might have been something quite else . . . we have lived for the country & for our children and always knew how to keep passion sufficiently under so as never to harm these two loves of our lives.” If only both of them had been more open to each other from the start. But Victorians didn’t do that. And Ferdinand was a native German; and, playing right into that stereotype, was very rigid in his thinking and was not brought up to be sensitive to the needs of his wife. Men weren’t like that back then!

Of all the couples that I profiled in Inglorious Royal Marriages I felt the most sorry for Mary Tudor (Mary I) with her marriage to Philip of Spain. She was so passionately, hopelessly in love with him and he, half a generation younger than her, regarded her as his aunt (he’d thought of her that way before their marriage) and viewed their union purely as a business deal. You would think that Mary, being a Tudor, would have had their pragmatism, and in many ways she did. But when it came to love and romance, in many ways she was also her father’s [Henry VIII’s] daughter and wanted to marry for love. I just felt so terrible for her, dressing up to please Philip, thinking she looked young and chic, when his courters were snickering behind their backs, and she really looked like mutton dressed as lamb. And thinking Philip was paying such special attention to her when it was really only common chivalry for the era and he was just waiting for his father’s word to leave England.

Erin Comments: I felt sorry for Mary Tudor too! I wasn’t partial to her previously, but I was left almost weeping by the time I was done reading your segment on her!

Q: You write with such flair, with sentences seeped in details, a vocabulary that is above par, and wit. How did you perfect your craft to this level? What is your advice for writing non-fiction and how is it different (or the same) from fiction?

A: Oh, thank you for not saying that I use too many big words (you know, I’ve heard that). I love words. I like to play with them in the air, like bubbles. I like the sounds they make when you string them together in a certain order. My maternal grandfather Carroll Carroll (yes, that was his name) was a poet and a humorist and I learned how to craft poems at his knee when I was a little girl. He also taught me how to be critical and analytical as a writer, back when I was that young as well. I was thirsty for all that knowledge.

The difference between writing fiction and nonfiction is that in nonfiction, you can’t make stuff up! Some people wonder where I get my sources (and the books are all listed at the back of each volume). But my publisher has not budgeted my books for footnotes (evidently they are costly to typeset). However, in my original manuscript I DO indicate the sources of every quote I use for THEM, so they can check it (and I have to provide a hard copy of the pages where I sourced my quotes when I submit my manuscript to my editor.

There are similarities between writing fiction and nonfiction: the author should tell a good story. Keep the reader engaged. She should care about the characters, whether they are actual historical figures or completely made up. The story should have an arc with a beginning, middle, and end. And I believe that there should be a “voice” to nonfiction that keeps the text engaging. Sometimes the material is fascinating enough on its own; but that most often applies to whoever’s field it is.

My touchstone for historical nonfiction is my sister. She hates history and was never a good student in it. I love history, so I’m bound to love any book with history in it, fact or fiction. And if the nonfiction is a bit academic, if I am interested in the subject, I’ll put up with it. But my sister will tune out. So my nonfiction books about historical subject matter have to keep my sister turning the pages! And the “voice” I found to do that for my “royal” books is the “People magazine meets History Channel” voice.

Erin Comment: I love your big words and your elegant sentences! You absolutely do have a voice for non-fiction and it is more narrative. That makes it easier to read, for almost everyone, even academia! And why not, I say? History is fascinating, no need to numb it down!

Q: As noted before, you’ve done a great amount of historical research, how do you keep it all straight with all the misinformation out there that also send people running from story to story to see which one might be most plausible?

A:My grandfather loved this saying: “When three people tell you you’re drunk—lie down.” So, I try to get at least three sources that provide the same information on a given event or subject. I was amazed when I first started writing nonfiction back in 2007, that various very eminent biographers could present very different “facts” from each other. I’m not even so sure that they “disagree” with each other because I don’t know if they have read each other’s books like I have.

But during the course of years of research I have encountered historians who have given different dates for a major event (like, oh, a wedding, for example). Well, I’m writing a book on marriages, so I can’t very well get a wedding date wrong. I certainly don’t want to do so. I don’t mean to do that. So, in situations like that example, I delve a little deeper. I start looking up calendars for that year. I’ll come across a source that says the couple was, hypothetically married on Whitsunday. But further research proves that the date given by one conflicting historian as a wedding date was a Tuesday, let’s say. So how could that historian have gotten it right if the couple were married on Whitsunday. But what calendar were they following? It’s easy to get lost down rabbit holes.

Erin Comments: A good point, and good rule of thumb. Thanks for that tip!

Q: If you could attend a party at the home of one of the couples of whom you featured in Inglorious Royal Marriages, who would it be and why? What would you take them as a thank you gift?

A: Oh, I like this question! I adore Charles II and I think his court would have been a fascinating experience. And I have always had a soft spot for Catherine of Braganza, his queen, whom he paid so little attention to, yet during the Popish Plot, he stuck by her; and even before that, refused to send her back to Portugal just because she could not conceive a healthy child (she did become pregnant but miscarried several times). If it were in my power, I would bestow upon them a healthy heir as a thank-you gift (as long as we’re in the realm of the imagination, here). I’d give her that baby; and even Charles might not mind if it were a girl (after all, both of his nieces reigned, in turn, though I suppose he’d have been more comfortable with a son, for the security of the realm). Failing that, I would give Catherine an ensemble that would dazzle the hell out of her husband. She was a terrific dancer; it was one of the few things in which she excelled his mistresses. She deserved a moment in the sun so that he would notice her and they could have the possibility of a truly wonderful royal marriage, instead of an inglorious one.

Q: You have written two other books in this non-fiction series, Notorious Royal Marriages and Royal Romances. What are the differences between each book? How did you choose which couples would go into which book?

A: Four, actually. Royal Affairs was the first book and Royal Pains was the third in the series. With Notorious Royal Marriages, I was going for some of the most famous ones, with a few lesser-known ones thrown in. The series was sold one book at a time, so I never knew when there was going to be another title or what angle it would focus on. Royal Romances exclusively featured love stories, whether they were marital or extramarital, ending with the courtship and marriage of William and Kate (my husband and I went to London for the royal wedding).So after I did a book on happy royal couples, whether they were married or not, I decided to return to the married ones, because most royal marriages were arranged, and to focus on some of the greatest mismatches, because it was a complete 180 from Royal Romances. I chose the word “Inglorious” as a theme because it rhymed with “Notorious,” which is the theme of the first book on royal marriages. And when I showed my editor my draft table of contents she wanted me to make sure that in every chapter I explain why that particular marriage is “inglorious,” meaning, bringing shame or dishonor to one or both partners. So all the marriages I chose for this new book had to fit that parameter.

Q: If there is one woman out of all three books that you feel deserves a second shot at a good marriage, or a long-lasting romance, who would she be?

A: I’ve spent more years with this woman than I have with some of my friends: Marie Antoinette. She deserves a second shot at a happy marriage with a husband who isn’t afraid to consummate it for more than seven years, turning them both into national laughingstocks and caricatures. She deserves a husband who will love her for her blithe spirit (she was married at the age of 14!) and generous nature and who will give her what she (and France) want more than anything else: babies. If Marie Antoinette and Louis had popped out some kids right from the start, she would have occupied her time with motherhood, raising her children in the newfangled hands-on-parenting style that Rousseau propounded. She would have been out of the limelight and done her duty as a queen, and not found the need to spend her energy elsewhere (shopping, gambling, out till all hours of the night with friends) because her needs weren’t being fulfilled with motherhood. And I’m betting that if all that had taken place, there might not have been a French Revolution.

Erin Comments: I had a feeling you’d say her, and I love your Marie historical fiction series!

Q: I know you’ve been featured as a historian on many television shows and newscasts. Who is the most talked about woman in history and why?

A:I think it may go in cycles, depending on who is fashionable or what sort of milestone (centenary or bicentennial, for example) is being celebrated. Whenever there’s something newly discovered about a famous historical figure, it’s all the rage for a news cycle or two and then we’re on to the next thing. Our culture has the attention span of a flea. And there may be women who, to some of us history nerds, may seem incredibly famous (e.g. Anne Boleyn. Without her there is no English Reformation and no Elizabeth I); but I’ll bet that there are many people in many countries (and even in many American cities and towns) who have never heard of her. They have heard of Kim Kardashian or Rihanna because of all the online media we are bombarded with in our western culture. But Anne Boleyn? Jeez—I’d hate to think that someone like Kim Kardashian is (currently, at least) the most talked about woman in history; and why; because she keeps putting herself in our faces every day so it’s almost impossible not to know who she is! But all kidding aside, this week, the Duchess of Cambridge will be the most talked about because she is once again with child. For some people, Jane Austen seems to be the most talked about woman in history because the past few years have seen the bicentennial celebrations of the publication of her first four novels.

Q: Of course, you write fiction as well. What is the next book you are working on in fiction and also, do you have another non-fiction planned?

A: As for my next fiction project, my lips are sealed. Sorry. Not even black iced coffee can pry them open. Hopefully, soon I will have an announcement for everyone. As for the nonfiction—I have an idea that I have to run by my editor. So that, too, is up in the air.

Q: What is your favorite midnight snack that you recommend to readers who buy your book and read each juicy page long into the night?

A:Healthy or non-healthy? Raspberries are my favorite food; so decadent and velvety, and hardly any calories: you can eat an entire box and not feel guilty. On the other hand, you can never go wrong with a really good cupcake. And hot cocoa. With an ounce or so of Kahlua in it. Or Amaretto.

Erin: Let me pass you some chocolate cupcakes then, and we’ll spend the afternoon writing. Thank you so much Leslie for stopping by to discuss love and marriage in history today. Your book was a pleasure to sink into one lonely evening when everyone else had gone to bed! It should be a mini-series on the history channel (I say this in my REVIEW too). Take care and look forward to seeing you back here again.

Leslie: Bye, Erin! Thank you SO much for inviting me to chat with your readers. I’m loving this comfy red leather chair, by the way. And your mini-series idea. Do I seriously have to leave?

Erin Comments: Nope, you just sit right there with your chocolate cupcake, coffee, and we’ll write the afternoon away.

Inglorious Royal Marriages, Synopsis~

02_Inglorious Royal MarriagesPublication Date: September 2, 2014
NAL Trade
Formats: eBook, Paperback; 400p

Genre: History/Non-Fiction/Royalty

READ AN EXCERPT.

Why does it seem that the marriages of so many monarchs are often made in hell? And yet we can’t stop reading about them! To satisfy your schadenfreude, INGLORIOUS ROYAL MARRIAGES offers a panoply of the most spectacular mismatches in five hundred years of royal history….some of which are mentioned below.

When her monkish husband, England’s Lancastrian Henry VI, became completely catatonic, the unpopular French-born Margaret of Anjou led his army against the troops of their enemy, the Duke of York.

Margaret Tudor, her niece Mary I, and Catherine of Braganza were desperately in love with chronically unfaithful husbands—but at least they weren’t murdered by them, as were two of the Medici princesses.

King Charles II’s beautiful, high-spirited sister “Minette” wed Louis XIV’s younger brother, who wore more makeup and perfume than she did.

Compelled by her mother to wed her boring, jug-eared cousin Ferdinand, Marie of Roumania—a granddaughter of Queen Victoria—emerged as a heroine of World War I by using her prodigious personal charm to regain massive amounts of land during the peace talks at Versailles. Marie’s younger sister Victoria Melita wed two of her first-cousins: both marriages ultimately scandalized the courts of Europe.

Brimming with outrageous real-life stories of royal marriages gone wrong, this is an entertaining, unforgettable book of dubious matches doomed from the start.

Praise for Leslie Carroll’s Royal Books~

“An irresistible combination of People magazine and the History Channel.”—Chicago Tribune (5 Stars)

“Thoroughly enjoyable.”—Booklist

“For those who tackled Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, and can’t get enough of the scandal surrounding Henry VIII’s wives, [Notorious Royal Marriages is] the perfect companion book.”—NewYorker.com

Other books in the series:

Royal Romances
Royal Affairs
Royal Pains
Notorious Royal Marriages

Purchase the Book, Inglorious Royal Marriages~

Amazon US
Barnes & Noble
Books-a-Million
IndieBound

Leslie Carroll, Biography~

03_Leslie CarrollLeslie Carroll is the author of several works of historical non-fiction, women’s fiction, and, under the pen names Juliet Grey and Amanda Elyot, is a multipublished author of historical fiction. Her non-fiction titles include Royal Romances, Royal Pains, Royal Affairs, and Notorious Royal Marriages. She is also a classically trained professional actress with numerous portrayals of virgins, vixens, and villainesses to her credit, and is an award-winning audio book narrator.

A frequent commentator on royal romances and relationships, Leslie has been interviewed by numerous publications, including MSNBC.com, USA Today, the Australian Broadcasting Company, and NPR, and she was a featured royalty historian on CBS nightly news in London during the royal wedding coverage of Prince William and Catherine Middleton.

She also appears as an expert on the love lives of Queen Victoria, Marie Antoinette, Catherine the Great, and Napoleon on the television series “The Secret Life of [fill in the name of famous figure]” for Canada’s History Channel. Leslie and her husband, Scott, divide their time between New York City and Washington, D.C.

For more information please visit Leslie’s website. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

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The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte, by Ruth Hull Chatlien, Showcases Betsy, American Wife of Napoleon’s Brother

The Ambitious Madame BonaparteThe Ambitious Madame Bonaparte, by Ruth Hull Chatlien, was a wonderfully enlightening read about a woman I knew little about, an American woman from Baltimore society that married Jerome Bonaparte, Napoleon’s brother.  The title really does say it all, as Betsy Patterson, a young woman who always dreamed of marrying  into high society of Europe’s elite, doesn’t take any stops on her way of making a name for herself and enjoying life at French court.

However, even when most of it doesn’t work out to be pretty as a picture for her, we can admire her strength, motivation, perseverance, independence, and ingenuity. Betsy Bonaparte is thrilling to me. I admire a woman who goes after what she wants at all cost and doesn’t settle for what anyone tells her she should be content with. Of course, as this is based on a true story, I really admire the research that Chatlien put into this historical woman. It’s wonderful that she brought Betsy to light for readers to know more of her story. Her life was such a struggle to be recognized, respected, and known that I think it’s fitting that her story be  brought to the limelight through such a well-written book.

It must have been quite the experience to live among and with such extravagant and incorrigible personalities as the Bonaparte family possessed. Maybe some people would see Betsy Bonaparte as overbearing or aggressive or selfish even, but Chalien did a wonderful job of showcasing a well-rounded side of her and allowing her to be known for her amazing ability to “stay her course.”

That said, Chatlien did a superb job of character development with Betsy Bonaparte as well as the whole other cast of historical characters. Her 19th Century details were delicious and I enjoyed reading about the fashion and visually imagining the scenes Chatlien set so vividly for the reader.

The story is fast-moving, well-written, structured succinctly, suspenseful, and engaging. Reading about the Napoleonic era is always thrilling, but reading about an American of the time caught up in their drama is quite an original learning experience. I feel that Chalien teaches us educationally and historically while at the same time creating a story that gives it its fiction genre designation. It’s a story with impact and it flows through all the tumultuous times with a fervor and a seamless quality.

I highly recommend this book as a wonderful historical read, which like a fine art painting, will be an asset to your shelf of favorite French book collections. Such an amazing book rich with details and another to add to the list of book that speak to the amazing, almost forgotten women of the past.

The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte, Synopsis~

The Ambitious Madame BonapartePublication Date: December 2, 2013
Amika Press
Paperback; 484p
ISBN: 978-1937484163

As a clever girl in stodgy, mercantile Baltimore, Betsy Patterson dreams of a marriage that will transport her to cultured Europe. When she falls in love with and marries Jerome Bonaparte, she believes her dream has come true—until Jerome’s older brother Napoleon becomes an implacable enemy.

Based on a true story, The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte is a historical novel that portrays this woman’s tumultuous life. Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte, known to history as Betsy Bonaparte, scandalized Washington with her daring French fashions; visited Niagara Falls when it was an unsettled wilderness; survived a shipwreck and run-ins with British and French warships; dined with presidents and danced with dukes; and lived through the 1814 Battle of Baltimore. Yet through it all, Betsy never lost sight of her primary goal—to win recognition of her marriage.

Watch the Book Trailer~

LINK: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yUOymzEHBLY&feature=player_embedded

Buy the Book~

Amazon (Paperback)
Amazon (Kindle)
Barnes & Noble (Paperback)
Barnes & Noble (Nook)

Author Ruth Hull Chatlien, Biography~

Ruth Hull ChatlienRuth Hull Chatlien has been a writer and editor of educational materials for twenty-five years. Her specialty is U.S. and world history.

She is the author of Modern American Indian Leaders and has published several short stories and poems in literary magazines. The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte is her first published novel.

She lives in northeastern Illinois with her husband, Michael, and a very pampered dog named Smokey.

When she’s not writing, she can usually be found gardening, knitting,
drawing, painting, or watching football.

Connect with Ruth Hull Chatlien at her website or on Facebook.

Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/theambitiousmadamebonapartetour

Tour Hashtag: #MadameBonaparteTour

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Becoming Josephine, by Heather Webb, is Delectable, Engaging, and Entertaining

Becoming JosephineBecoming Josephine, by debut author Heather Webb, is a delectable story of engaging characters and dripping emotional turmoil. It’s the story of a woman who does whatever it takes to rise from her wealthy plantation roots, though wrought with dirty dress hems, to the wife a citified noble caught up in revolutionary French politics who ultimately helped usher in a new age for France.

I was entranced by the lyrical and eloquent prose of Webb as I read of Rose’s life before she became Josephine and Napoleon’s wife. Reading about her first marriage, her relationships with her husband’s family, her children, and her fight for survival in a French prison, made me amazed and spellbound by her strength and determination. Her emotional fortitude gave me pause and made me look internally at my own heart. Her forgiving nature, her desire to know love, and her intrinsic nature to always want to please others was evident in Webb’s characterization.  Once she was married to Napoleon, who was mad with love for her, the second half of her life really began to evolve.

I liked how Webb solely focused on Josephine in the novel. Her beginning, her average years, and her self-discovery of her failures, her successes, her desires, and then finally, her own heart.  Webb shows us a new version of the woman who became Napoleon’s wife, while also writing him into the book as a well-developed supporting character. From the research I’ve done in the past on Napoleon, she took his so-called faults and negative attributes and shows us an emotional connection to them.

This book is historical in time period, but not history heavy. Webb makes her novel by capitalizing on the emotional changes within Josephine. The writing is light and beautiful and the pages swiftly turn by as if on their own. Before I knew it, I had completed it and wanted more. This book is not for the historical epic novel lover, but for the historical fiction reader who enjoys storytelling of women coming into their own that is set within the past. Her lavish details set an amazing visual scene, whether completely accurate or not, and create a longing in our minds. By the end, when Napoleon divorced Josephine, I was in tears and wanting to scream for her loss.

I believe that Webb takes on the social issue in history, and sometimes still today, of women who were able to create themselves under the shadow of a man. Women who chose to remain true to themselves and their dreams, quite independent and individualized, while under the strict finger of a male dominated society and marriage are tremendous role models for us today. I was happy to see that Josephine made her way with her own businesses and survival methods for money at a time that was just post-Marie Antoinette when pageantry was killed by the French Revolution. She was carefree and open at a time when most women struggled to define themselves beyond the realm of the height of their hair or dress or husband.

Becoming Josephine is an enchanting novel that entertains, delights, and is quite the vacation of the mind. I ate it up as lavishly as I might honey-dripped sweets. I most certainly applaud Webb on her delightful foray into fiction.

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Giveaway~

One paperback copy (sorry, U.S. only)! Enter by emailing me to hookofabook@hotmail.com or leave your contact email in the comments below. Extra entries for becoming a fan of my Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/HookofaBook.

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Becoming Josephine, Synopsis~

Becoming JosephinePublication Date: December 31, 2013
Plume Books/Penguin
Paperback; 320p
ISBN-10: 0142180653

Rose Tascher sails from her Martinique plantation to Paris to trade her Creole black magic culture for love and adventure. She arrives exultant to follow her dreams of attending Court with Alexandre, her elegant aristocrat and soldier husband. But Alexandre dashes her hopes and abandons her amid the tumult of the French Revolution.

Through her savoir faire, Rose secures her footing in high society, reveling in handsome men and glitzy balls—until the heads of her friends begin to roll.

After narrowly escaping death in the blood-drenched cells of Les Carmes prison, she reinvents herself as Josephine, a socialite of status and power. Yet her youth is fading, and Josephine must choose between a precarious independence and the love of an awkward suitor. Little does she know, he would become the most powerful man of his century- Napoleon Bonaparte.

BECOMING JOSEPHINE is a novel of one woman’s journey to find eternal love and stability, and ultimately to find herself.

Praise for Becoming Josephine~

“Heather Webb’s epic novel captivates from its opening in a turbulent plantation society in the Caribbean, to the dramatic rise of one of France’s most fascinating women: Josephine Bonaparte. Perfectly balancing history and story, character and setting, detail and pathos, Becoming Josephine marks a debut as bewitching as its protagonist.” –Erika Robuck, author of Hemingway’s Girl

“With vivid characters and rich historical detail, Heather Webb has portrayed in Josephine a true heroine of great heart, admirable strength, and inspiring courage whose quest is that of women everywhere: to find, and claim, oneself.” –Sherry Jones, bestselling author of The Jewel of the Medina

“A fast-paced, riveting journey, Becoming Josephine captures the volatile mood of one of the most intense periods of history—libertine France, Caribbean slave revolts, the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars—from the point of a view of one of its key witnesses, Josephine Bonaparte.” –Dana Gynther, author of Crossing on the Paris

“Vivid and passionate, Becoming Josephine captures the fiery spirit of the woman who stole Napoleon’s heart and enchanted an empire. –Susan Spann, author of The Shinobi Mysteries

“Spellbinding . . . Heather Webb’s novel takes us behind the mask of the Josephine we thought we knew.” –Christy English, author of How to Tame a Willful Wife and To Be Queen

“Enchanting prose takes the reader on an unforgettable journey . . . Captivating young Rose springs from the lush beauty of her family’s sugar plantation in Martinique to shine in the eighteenth century elegance of Parisian salon society. When France is torn by revolution, not even the blood-bathed terror of imprisonment can break her spirit.” –Marci Jefferson, author of Girl on the Gold Coin (Thomas Dunne Books, 2014)

Buy Links

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Indiebound

Author Heather Webb, Biography~

Heather WebbHeather Webb grew up a military brat and naturally became obsessed with travel, culture, and languages.

She put her degrees to good use teaching high school French for nearly a decade before turning to full time novel writing and freelance editing.

When not writing, Heather flexes her foodie skills or looks for excuses to head to the other side of the world.

For more information please visit Heather’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.

Link to Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/becomingjosephinetour
Twitter Hashtag: #BecomingJosephineTour

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