Tag Archives: Tudor era fiction

Nancy Bilyeau’s The Tapestry is Suspenseful, Captivating, and Not Your Normal Tudor Mystery

01_The TapestryReview~

If you want to find a thrilling historical series to read from the Tudor Era, look no further than Nancy Bilyeau’s Joanna Stafford Series. Always well-researched and action packed, they are a special set to add to your collection. It all started with The Crown, then The Chalice. You can read my review of The Chalice, HERE and an interview I did a few years ago with Nancy HERE.

Today I have a pre-publication review (pub date: 3/24) of the third book in the series, The Tapestry. The beautiful cover with its weave overlay is representative of this particular novel, in which Joanna Stafford, ex-Dominican novice, is propelled into an initial mission–to come to the court of Henry VIII and weave one of her famous tapestries for his vast collection. Joanna doesn’t pretend there is love lost between King Henry and herself due to his destruction of the Catholic faith in England (though they are blood related). The book interlocks and interweaves all the intrigue and drama of this particular time period–from someone trying to assassinate Joanna or to King Henry setting his sites on his mistress Catherine Howard as his fifth wife–and Joanna is compelled to be on a mission to save herself and her new friend.

For true mystery lovers, I wouldn’t necessarily call this a mystery. There isn’t a definitive who-dun-it with a strong or quirky amateur detective on the chase. The mystery portion is about who is after Joanna and why. I’d connect to this historical series, and this third book in particular, as a thriller. And that’s fine by me. Nancy writes with fervor, creating excitement and movement much as if she was writing for the screen. Visually descriptive, highly detailed, and remarkably researched, Joanna’s next adventure took me on a vast ride through the expanse of Europe and held me with riveting marvel. Her chapters were concise and dramatic, so much so that there was no “I’ll stop at the next chapter for the night.” Like me, you’ll have no choice but to keep reading.

Yes, it’s from the Tudor Era, but it isn’t a romance or a drama as many on the market. It’s for men and women who appreciate the intricacies of this period, from its religious upheaval to political machinations, and you barely forget it’s any sort of proverbial Tudor Era novel, but yet feel as if a whole new view has been placed upon the page. With The Tapestry, she also manages to research and write about people and places of the period, for instance Germany’s interactions on the political spectrum, Henry VIII’s fourth wife Anne of Cleves, and as mentioned, the role of Catherine Howard. I also enjoyed her insertion of the artist Hans Holbien. Nancy made it interesting instead of scathing over this period of Henry VIII’s reign.

From first book to the third, I’ve seen a tremendous progression of Nancy’s Joanna character. At first somewhat mild and nervous, introverted and artistic, passionate yet humbled, Joanna is now much more animated and shows great fortitude, heart, and strength. Nancy’s character development of Joanna is fully dimensional and resonates with authenticity.

The Tapestry doesn’t read like a plot in the game of CLUE, or a general historical murder mystery, and it certainly isn’t a romantic drama. I’d say that with the success of this third novel, and her consistent fictional writing improvement, it reads more like Hillary Mantel’s WOLF HALL with a dash more action/adventure.

Highly recommended for fans who like a different dose of thrilling historical fiction! Suspenseful, intricate, rambunctious, and exciting, mixed with a nod to culture, art, and sociology of the sixteenth century period. You’ll begin to cheer even louder for Joanna!

The Tapestry, Synopsis

01_The TapestryNorth America & UK Publication Date: March 24, 2015
Touchstone Publishing
Formats: eBook, Hardcover
Pages: 390

Series: Joanna Stafford, Book Three
Genre: Historical Mystery

In THE CROWN, Sister Joanna Stafford searched for a Dark Ages relic that could save her priory from Cromwell’s advancing army of destruction. In THE CHALICE, Joanna was drawn into an international conspiracy against Henry VIII himself as she struggled to learn the truth behind a prophecy of his destruction.

Now, in THE TAPESTRY, Joanna Stafford finally chooses her own destiny.

After her Dominican priory in Dartford closed forever—collateral damage in tyrannical King Henry VIII’s quest to overthrow the Catholic Church—Joanna resolves to live a quiet and honorable life weaving tapestries, shunning dangerous quests and conspiracies. Until she is summoned to Whitehall Palace, where her tapestry weaving has drawn the King’s attention.

Joanna is uncomfortable serving the King, and fears for her life in a court bursting with hidden agendas and a casual disregard for the virtues she holds dear. Her suspicions are confirmed when an assassin attempts to kill her moments after arriving at Whitehall.

Struggling to stay ahead of her most formidable enemy yet, an unknown one, she becomes entangled in dangerous court politics. Her dear friend Catherine Howard is rumored to be the King’s mistress. Joanna is determined to protect young, beautiful, naïve Catherine from becoming the King’s next wife and, possibly, victim.

Set in a world of royal banquets and feasts, tournament jousts, ship voyages, and Tower Hill executions, this thrilling tale finds Joanna in her most dangerous situation yet, as she attempts to decide the life she wants to live: nun or wife, spy or subject, rebel or courtier. Joanna Stafford must finally choose.

Praise for The Tapestry~

“Illuminated by Bilyeau’s vivid prose, minor players of Tudor England emerge from the shadows.” —Kirkus Reviews

“In THE TAPESTRY, Nancy Bilyeau brilliantly captures both the white-hot religious passions and the brutal politics of Tudor England. It is a rare book that does both so well.” —Sam Thomas, author of The Midwife’s Tale

“In spite of murderous plots, volatile kings, and a divided heart, Joanna Stafford manages to stay true to her noble character. Fans of Ken Follett will devour Nancy Bilyeau’s novel of political treachery and courageous love, set amid the endlessly fascinating Tudor landscape.” —Erika Robuck, author of Hemingway’s Girl

“These aren’t your mother’s nuns! Nancy Bilyeau has done it again, giving us a compelling and wonderfully realized portrait of Tudor life in all its complexity and wonder. A nun, a tapestry, a page-turning tale of suspense: this is historical mystery at its finest.” —Bruce Holsinger, author of A Burnable Book and The Invention of Fire

“A supremely deft, clever and pacy entertainment. This is Nancy Bilyeau’s most thrilling—and enlightening—novel in the Joanna Stafford series yet.” —Andrew Pyper, author of The Demonologist and The Damned

“A master of atmosphere, Nancy Bilyeau imbues her novel with a sense of dread and oppression lurking behind the royal glamour; in her descriptions and characterizations… Bilyeau breathes life into history.” —Laura Andersen, author of The Boleyn King

Pre-Order/Buy The Tapestry~

Barnes & Noble

Author Nancy Bilyeau, Biography~

02_Nancy BilyeauNancy Bilyeau has worked on the staffs of InStyle, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, and Ladies Home Journal. She is currently the executive editor of DuJour magazine.

Her screenplays have placed in several prominent industry competitions. Two scripts reached the semi-finalist round of the Nicholl Fellowships of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. Her screenplay “Zenobia” placed with the American Zoetrope competition, and “Loving Marys” reached the finalist stage of Scriptapalooza.

A native of the Midwest, she earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan. THE CROWN, her first novel, was published in 2012; the sequel, THE CHALICE, followed in 2013. THE TAPESTRY will be released in March 2015.

Nancy lives in New York City with her husband and two children. Stay in touch with her on Twitter at @tudorscribe. For more information or to sign up for Nancy’s Newsletter please visit her official website.


To enter to win one of three signed hardcover copies of The Tapestry, please complete the giveaway form below.

Direct Link to Enter: https://gleam.io/iyF4a/the-tapestry


Giveaway starts on March 16th at 12:01 a.m. EST and ends at 11:59 p.m. EST on April 3rd.
Giveaway is open to residents in North America and the UK.
You must be 18 or older to enter.
Winners will be chosen via GLEAM on April 4th and notified via email.
Winners have 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.
Please email Amy @ hfvirtualbooktours@gmail.com with any questions.

03_The Tapestry_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

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

Hashtags: #TheTapestryBlogTour #HistoricalMystery #NancyBilyeau

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @tudorscribe @TouchstoneBooks


Filed under Book Reviews

The Boleyn Bride by Brandy Purdy Brings Elizabeth Howard Boleyn to Center Arena

The Boleyn BrideBrandy Purdy is always a difficult author in which to write proper reviews for in regards to her books and the readers I may be talking to when I give an evaluation. All authors and readers are different. What one might like, one might not, so I will do my best to give an accurate review so that no matter what your reading likes are, you’ll understand if it is for you or not. I like Purdy’s books, but I know some don’t, so take my review and make your own decisions.

That said, Purdy’s newest book in her string of Tudor era novels published by Kensington books, is The Boleyn Bride.  She always has gorgeous covers and those pull readers of regency and Tudor era fiction quickly in.  As well, the content of this book is enticing as it tells a story through the young Elizabeth Howard (cousin to the family of Catherine Howard, fifth wife of Henry VIII), who as a teen marries Thomas Boleyn, and takes us on  their journey as they eventually win the King’s favor and their daughter, the infamous Anne Boleyn becomes the second wife of Henry VIII. The book completes Elizabeth’s life from start to end, so it captures Anne and her brother and sister as they were growing up and of course  through Anne and George’s deaths as well.

But when I read Purdy, I go in knowing that it probably isn’t based on hours of research to garner innumerable facts in which to educate readers on history. There is nothing wrong with her writing fantastical historical fiction though, you just have to put your mind to it when reading the book. If you want it spot on in regards to learning true history, you aren’t going to get that. And that’s fine, read it for a few hours of spoiled pleasure in which you immerse yourself in a made-up story based on real life scandals and scoundrels and women who make strange choices in the name of power and wealth.

As stated, Elizabeth Howard Boleyn, mother of George, Mary, and Anne Boleyn is the title and main character to the story. There aren’t a great amount of novels written surrounding her. Purdy is always very good about writing characters who are left behind from the Tudor realm and bring them to our attention. Her books always seem to make everyone, including me, want to search for more information surrounding her main characters and that is sometimes where her review troubles begin, since depending where they look they find her information inaccurate. Remember, readers, she is providing an entertaining story, not writing a textbook. The positive point here is that she does incite us to learn more, no matter what that more may be.

Though Elizabeth isn’t the greatest person, Purdy writes these types best. She lets us appreciate the horrid and vile nature that some of the women in history had. The mothers or the third cousins or the third daughter, or whatever the case, she brings this disgruntled person to our mind. This makes her novels sometimes melancholy, sad, and dark. But we all know we WANT to read about these characters. We want to know what makes their children or family tick and that includes their surrounding family members. We all like gossip and drama and Purdy provides this yet again in The Boleyn Bride.

Her writing style is unique; it’s dry yet it moves you to read it. It’s heavy, as her sentences are lengthy with description and sometimes redundancies.  Sometimes they are run-ons, but they are so rich in imagery and thoughts that I don’t even care. Her humor is sometimes strange for an average reader. However, we are sometimes swept away by her details and her sentences can be savored for their detail.  She offers emotion in her books and we can feel the loss, remorse, anger, hatred, and all those raw feelings that must be attributed to this time period when women were treated so poorly and they became bitter. Her portrayal of Elizabeth was as quite a hateful person yet she made Anne’s character a bit better than most portray her. That was interesting to me.

She writes as I feel the letters or journals of these historical characters would write during their time periods.  This novel is supposed to be Elizabeth’s memoir to her daughter, Mary. I feel as if I have stepped inside history and can feel her pain and regret within this book. She writes of the dark emotions of this dramatic period, without having to turn it supernatural or eerie, and takes on depth with her characters creating an atmosphere of brooding realities. She’s brave to write in such a way. But the book is a juicy, dark, and intense read that I’d recommend for anyone who has always wanted to peek into the damp corners of the historical nobility. I’d highly recommend this for readers who like Philippa Gregory’s plots and writing style and want a new character within the Howard/Boleyn family to brood over.



Giveaway is for two (2)  paperback copies and open to US residents only. Please leave a comment after this post and include your email so I can contact you, or email it to me at hookofabook(at)hotmail(dot)com.


The Boleyn BrideThe Boleyn Bride, Synopsis~

Publication Date: February 25, 2014
Kensington Publishing
Paperback; 272p
ISBN-10: 0758273363

From carefree young woman to disillusioned bride, the dazzling lady who would become mother and grandmother to two of history’s most infamous queens, has a fascinating story all her own…

At sixteen, Elizabeth Howard envisions a glorious life for herself as lady-in-waiting to the future queen, Catherine of Aragon. But when she is forced to marry Thomas Boleyn, a wealthy commoner, Elizabeth is left to stagnate in the countryside while her detested husband pursues his ambitions. There, she raises golden girl Mary, moody George, and ugly duckling Anne–while staving off boredom with a string of admirers. Until Henry VIII takes the throne…

When Thomas finally brings his highborn wife to London, Elizabeth indulges in lavish diversions and dalliances–and catches the lusty king’s eye. But those who enjoy Henry’s fickle favor must also guard against his wrath. For while her husband’s machinations bring Elizabeth and her children to the pinnacle of power, the distance to the scaffold is but a short one–and the Boleyn family’s fortune may be turning.

Praise for the novels of Brandy Purdy

“Recommended for readers who can’t get enough of the Tudors and have devoured all of Philippa Gregory’s books.” –Library Journal on The Boleyn Wife

“Purdy wonderfully reimagines the behind-the-scenes lives of the two sisters.” –Historical Novel Reviews on The Tudor Throne

Buy the Book

Amazon (eBook)
Amazon (Paperback)
Barnes & Noble
Book Depository
Google Play

Author Brandy Purdy, Biography~


An ardent book lover since early childhood, she first became interested in history at the age of nine or ten years old when she read a book of ghost stories which contained a chapter about Anne Boleyn haunting the Tower of London.

Visit her website at www.brandypurdy.com, you can also follow her, and her cat Tabby, via her blog at http://brandypurdy.blogspot.com where she posts updates about her work and weekly book reviews.

Tour Hashtag: #BoleynBrideTour

The Boleyn Bride_Tour Banner _FINAL


Filed under Book Reviews

C.W. Gortner Discusses Tudor Era Writing, Intrigue, and Strong Women of History!

Today we have an interview with the fabulous C.W. Gortner, the author of the The Tudor Conspiracy (the second book in his Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles), which went on sale yesterday!  You can see my review by clicking HERE.  Among other novels, he’s also the author of The Queen’s Vow, which just went on sale this season in paperback.

We featured Christopher on the site last year with an interview during the first launch of The Queen’s Vow. We’ve taken that interview and UPDATED it for his book tour!  Now, we get more in-depth on the Tudors and on his Spymaster series (less for now on Isabella-though that interview is still available on this site and we do still talk about his writing of strong women in history).  Enjoy the discussion!

The Tudor Conspiracy US

Christopher, THANK YOU so much for joining me on my blog, Oh for the Hook of a Book! I absolutely love your writing and you make historical fiction a joy to read. I am so excited to virtually chat with you about your life as an author, your writing, and your books.

Hi Erin, it’s lovely to be here. Thank you so much for inviting me and for your kind words. I’m honored. 🙂

You’re certainly welcome anytime.  Let’s get started then! We’ll brew some tea and have a seat in these comfy chairs….

Q: You’re a historical fiction author, so you must love history. I’ve always loved history myself and really delved into foreign history in college, ultimately then majoring in it out of pure love!  That’s my story, but when did you first become fascinated with it and how have you fueled that passion over the years?

A: I’m half-Spanish by birth and was raised near the city of Malaga, which is the site of one of Isabella’s more terrifying experiences in The Queen’s Vow.  There was also a ruined castle (now fully restored) close to where I lived, so I basically grew up with history all around me. It wasn’t just in school and in books; I could see its palpable remnants. I was always intrigued by the personalities, too, especially the fascinating women with such controversial reputations. My fascination never abated; throughout my formative years, I read everything I could and became interested in what lies underneath the veneer of what we call ‘fact’; the stories hidden within stories, so to speak. That fueled my desire to both uncover and write these secret stories.

Q:  You often write about fabulously strong women from the past such as Catherine de Medici, Juana of Castile, and Elizabeth I. What spurs this interest? What inspires you?

A: I have found that historical women, in particular those I’m attracted to as a novelist, have not had much of a say in how their history was depicted. As I studied history, I began to see a repetitive pattern  of stereotyping: Elizabeth I is the virgin; Catherine de Medici  the crone; Isabella of Castile the fanatic; and Juana, her daughter, subject of my first novel, the victim; and so on. It was easier— certainly, simpler— to relegate these complex women to clichés. However, the truth is much more interesting. All of these women were fallible, extraordinary, flesh-and-blood human beings. Their motivations aren’t so simply defined; the challenge for me, the inspiration that spurs my writing, is the desire to get underneath their skins and try to discover the actual person they may have been.

Q:  How do you decide which women move you enough emotionally in order to write about them? How do you begin your research for your books?

A: She must have a controversial element in her life that captures my attention. I’m not really that interested in straightforward characters: I’m attracted to complexity, contradictions. Inevitably, these women’s lives aren’t easy, in some instances, but they do defy the norm. Research can begin years before, often in preparation for another book. For example, it was while writing The Last Queen, my first novel, about Juana of Castile, that I became engrossed in her mother, Isabella. I portray Isabella’s last twelve years in that novel, so I focused my research on that particular portion of her life; however, I also researched her earlier years, to get a better sense of who she had been and how she developed as a woman and queen. For me, research is ongoing; I gather bits and pieces, tucking away what I don’t need at that moment for possible future use.


Q:  Do you have to travel frequently to do your research? If so, what is the best experience you’ve had?

A: Yes, I always travel to the countries and extant places where my characters lived; it’s important to me to get a feel for the landscape and experience it, even if a lot has changed. There really is no substitute for “being there.” One of the best experiences I had was dancing a galliard in the great hall at Hampton Court; I was touring the palace, and was unexpectedly invited to dance with a group who was re-enacting Tudor dances. I took a quick 5-minute lesson and was then led into the dance by a lovely lady with long dark hair, clad in a dark green dress. I have to say, it was amazing to realize I was dancing in the very place where Anne Boleyn must have danced with Henry VIII!

Q:  Where would you like to go that you haven’t been to yet? Where do you want to go back to?

A: I’d love to visit Russia. I have a fascination with Russian history. And I’m always happy to return to Rome; it’s one of my favorite cities in the world.

Q:  Will you ever write a book following Russian history you think? Catherine the Great was a powerful woman. Have you had other ideas in this vein?

A: I do have some ideas, but I cannot say more right now.

Q:  What intrigues you the most about Elizabeth I? Then, what intrigues you most about Mary I? In your research to pen The Spymaster Chronicles, did anything stand out and surprise you?

A: I’m fascinated by Elizabeth for many of the same reasons that I’m fascinated by Isabella of Castile, whom I depicted in The Queen’s Vow. Though very different in temperament and outlook, each had a difficult youth and challenging rise to power, as no one expected them to rule. Both inherited divided, impoverished kingdoms that they dedicated themselves to strengthening and both made sacrifices for what they believed was the welfare of their subjects. Both also ruled as independent monarchs, though Elizabeth never married and Isabella did, and each gave her name to her reign: Elizabeth’s time is known as the Elizabethan period and Isabella’s as the Epoca Isabellina.  These women defined their very eras by their presence, queens who made a lasting impression and transformed their countries.

I’m intrigued by Mary because she is, in truth, a tragic figure who fell prey to her circumstances. Mary Tudor went from being the adored daughter of Henry VIII and his first wife to witnessing the horror of her parents’ separation. Like so many children caught up in acrimonious divorce, she was used as a pawn and marked by it forever. Mary never transcended the trauma she suffered during that time and when she came to power (an event I depict in the first Spymaster novel, The Tudor Secret) she went from being a stalwart, courageous woman to one driven by fear and near-paranoiac hatred. Mary was not born a monster but in time she became one, as she felt compelled to mend the wounds inflicted on England by her father’s break with Rome. It is sadly ironic that she had far more of Henry VIII in her than she cared to admit and that in the end, it destroyed her.

I’m always surprised in my research by how much is known about the Tudor era. I had thought I’d find little, for example, about the brothels of Southwark but instead I discovered a wealth of information that helped me re-create the brothel that Brendan must infiltrate. I’m also often surprised by how little we know about Elizabeth’s motivations during her sister’s reign, which of course only adds to her mystique.

Q:  What types of traits do you feel that women from the Renaissance period had that allowed them to overcome the issues of the day?  Do women today have the same strengths? Why or why not?

A: I think that all of us, men and women, have the same inner strengths that our antecedents had, only those of us who have the luxury of living in developed countries and cities tend to get indolent; we forget just how fortunate we are in terms of our access to medicine, domestic comforts, food, etc.  Women of the Renaissance faced death every day on a very real level:  there were no antibiotics and a crude understanding of how disease afflicted the human body:  infections, viruses, even childbirth could kill. Women had to be strong and vital to overcome the obstacles of daily life; it was a question of survival, even if you lived in a palace. The wealthiest were as vulnerable as anyone else to catastrophe. It’s the same today, to a certain extent: all it takes is one natural disaster for us to realize just how vulnerable we are. The main difference is, people of the Renaissance knew it all the time. They incorporated mortality into the fabric of their existence, whereas we, as a whole, tend to avoid it.

Q:  The first book I ever read by you was The Tudor Secret and I loved it. Now, I was thrilled to continue the journey with The Tudor Conspiracy.  Taking place in the time right prior to Queen Elizabeth I’s rise to the throne, it was the tale of a male servant’s role as a spy at court. What made you decide to write a mystery/suspense historical series and what are the future plans for this series?

Tudor Secret

A: I decided to write The Tudor Secret, really, because no one wanted my stand-alone historical novels! It was written years ago, after both The Last Queen and The Confessions of Catherine de Medici had been rejected by more than 20 publishers. My agent at the time suggested I might have better luck breaking into the market if I wrote a mystery. Of course, I decided instead to do a thriller /adventure about a Tudor spy with a secret of his own, and it didn’t sell, either. So, I self-published it under its original title, “The Secret Lion” and it eventually attracted the attention of my current agent. After she sold my first two books to Random House, an editor at St Martin’s Press, who’d loved my work for years but been unable to acquire it, bought the spy thriller and re-titled it The Tudor Secret. He also wanted two more in the series, which we called the Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles. So, it goes to show, you never know when that door will open.

I love writing the Spymaster books because I get the chance to play with fictional characters, interacting with historical ones. I also like that my lead character, Brendan, is a man of shadows, caught between two opposing world. I hope the series continues to grow and find its readers. THE TUDOR CONSPIRACY takes place a few months after the events in The Tudor Secret. During the harsh winter of 1554, Brendan must return to court, where Mary Tudor is now queen, and go undercover to help save Elizabeth from a treasonous plot in which the princess may be a willing participant. It’s a darker novel than the first one; Brendan has matured and must contend with the consequences of his decision to be a spy.

Q:  What feelings did you hope to evoke from your readers with this Spymaster series?

A: These novels are intended to be fast-paced, adventurous, and suspenseful. I hope readers are excited by the ride, so to speak; that they enjoy discovering an alternate world to what we usually find in books set in the Tudor era.

Q:  How did you form the character of Brendan in your novel? What is your secret for well-developed characters? Did any of them “speak” to you in a way to get noticed when you least expected it?

A: I read a lot of historical mystery series before I began to work on the Spymaster novels and decided I wanted to do something different. I wanted to create a fictional character who becomes a reluctant spy in Elizabeth’s secret service, which was one of history’s first sophisticated spy networks. The idea gave me so much to work with, the opportunity to blend fiction with history, real characters with imaginary ones, and to explore the crevices of history, those empty spaces between major events when so much could have happened that we don’t know about and affected how those major events came to pass.

For me, a well-developed character is one we can relate to, no matter how different we are. Brendan is an ordinary person who yearns for an ordinary life; he must work to survive and hasn’t been given much privilege. Yet he carries a secret that could be his undoing and separates him from everyone he loves. We all know what it’s like to hide something that makes us vulnerable, to find ourselves trapped in situations beyond our control. Brendan is an everyman who must become more than he wants to be.

All of my characters must speak to me in unexpected ways in order to become real on the page. I never feel as if I’ve truly found a character’s voice until he or she does something I did not anticipate. When that happens, I know the character has come to life and claimed their personality. There were several instances while writing THE TUDOR CONSPIRACY when something happened that was driven by the character’s decision to act or not act in a certain way; that is one of the mysteries and joys of being a novelist. It feels as though you are simply writing a story that your characters are living inside your head.

Q:  How do you train your mind to creatively write in a voice from the time period you are working in? How do you make it sound so authentic and not forced?

A: It’s truly a matter of silencing my ego and perceptions of the world, of disappearing into the time period and people I’m evoking. I undertake massive research when I first prepare to write a novel; I read all the extant documentation of the era I can find, as well as biographies, social histories, specialized books on fashion, furniture, weaponry, etc. I have to become fluent in the language of the era for it to become natural to me, yet not grow so rigid in my authenticity that I lose the ability to make the past understandable to modern-day readers. It’s a delicate balance, finding that common thread between us and them. The process is almost impossible to describe. A historical novelist is part-scholar, actor, sleuth and investigator. After all the facts are learned and research is done, we must employ our imagination to breathe life into the past without making it seem stilted or overdone.

Q:  People seem to love mystery and intrigue, so I am not surprised why this type of novel might work, especially during a time period that seemed to be drenched in espionage. How do you break past the barrier of it being a Tudor-era novel to sell it as a spy thriller anyone can enjoy?

A: Well, I can’t completely break past that barrier because it is, after all, a Tudor-era story. But readers who know little or nothing about history can enjoy these books without feeling swamped by facts, while readers who know a lot will find something unique about how I interpret characters and events. Above all else, I try to sell these books as stories that everyone can enjoy, full of twists and thrills.

Q:  What other historical time periods or people intrigue you? Why?

A: I’ve mentioned Russia. I’m also intrigued by ancient Egypt, and the early medieval era in Europe. I like Edwardian and Victorian England, too.

Q: How do you keep your writing voice flowing so well? You seem to write non-stop and are very successful at turning out books each year. What is your recipe?

A: I’m disciplined, even when I’m not inspired. Writing is my job. I write for pleasure too, naturally, but not every day is a party at the keyboard. Like everyone else, there are days when I’d rather go shopping. But I write 5 days a week, regardless. I’m under contract; I’ve been given a portion of an advance and I have a daily word-count to meet. And I’ve learned that even if what I write is awful at first –and it often is – it can always be improved during revision. The tough part is just getting that first draft out. Everything can be fixed, except a blank page.

Q:  Do you have any advice for other aspiring authors about how to manage time and balance life with writing and research?

A: Persevere. Publishing is a tough business and is in transition; though there are more options than ever before, with each option comes the responsibility of being true to your vision for your work. No one can say which way is best: you have to decide that for yourself. Whatever you do, give it your all and write the very best book you can. Write every day, even if it’s only a paragraph; stay in touch with the nuts-and-bolts of the craft itself. Have a life, as well: know when to stop and let things steep. Writing benefits from time away to gain perspective, especially when the going gets rough. With research, remember it is a master seducer. We can research for years, without ever actually writing a word of the book. Learn only what you need to know to get writing and pick up the rest as you go.

Q:  I thoroughly enjoyed working on a writing project for charity with you. I know that charity work with animals is near and dear to your heart (a compassionate heart by the way). What types of animal protection issues do you feel are important currently? How do you feel people can assist more in environmental and animal security?

A: We all need to be more conscious of how we, as a species, impact life on our increasingly fragile planet. We share our mother earth with beautiful, irreplaceable animals that cannot defend themselves against our relentless encroachment and consumption of resources. A little change can go a long way: don’t buy or wear any type of fur. Know where your food comes from, to the best of your ability. Get involved in local charities and protect wildlife in your area. Likewise, please adopt all pets, and of course, make sure they are spayed or neutered. Thousands of dogs and cats are euthanized every single day because of overpopulation and irresponsible breeding. An animal has the same noble heart, whether purebred or mixed. My cats are rescues; if everyone adopted a rescue animal, shelters wouldn’t be overcrowded or desperate for funds. And if you can’t adopt, foster, volunteer time, donate money and supplies. Get involved.

Q:  You also enjoy art. What are some of your favorite artistic flavors or pieces of work from the time periods you write about?

A: I love the works of Leonardo da Vinci and portraiture of the Renaissance, especially paintings of people by Hans Holbein and the French court painter, Clouet. The portraits of people who actually lived in the eras I write about— their clothing, poses, and expressions— inspire me. I often find my character’s voices when I look at portraits, as if the paintings themselves could speak.

Q:  What other books are you working on currently? What is the idea behind them and what made you choose the topic?

A: I’ve just finished an historical novel about Lucrezia Borgia’s Vatican years. Thrust into notoriety as the pope’s daughter, Lucrezia had to embark on a savage struggle against her family’s ambitions. Once again, I found myself drawn to a woman who’s been vilified by history; I was completely enthralled by Lucrezia and her world, as I hope readers will be.

Q:  Do you have any future historical figures in mind to make come alive on the page for your readers?

A: I do, but it’s a secret! 🙂

Q:  And the most important question of the day, your favorite ethnic dish?

A: Fried plantain.

Q: Where can readers find your books?

A: Of course, in most physical bookstores. If they don’t have the book in stock, they can always order it. Please buy via independent stores online here: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780345523969

Or via the usual online suspects:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/The-Tudor-Conspiracy-Elizabeth-Chronicles/dp/0312658494

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-tudor-conspiracy-c-w-gortner/1113011984?ean=9780312658496

Q:  What is the best way for readers to connect to you? List all you would like.

A: Via my website here: http://www.cwgortner.com/contact.html

Erin: Always a pleasure to discuss your work with you, Christopher.  I love your novels and they are always the ones I look forward to the most. Best wishes for much future success with all your writing.

Christopher: It’s always a delight to be here. Thank you for hosting me and I hope your readers will enjoy THE TUDOR CONSPIRACY.


The Tudor Conspiracy USUS Publication Date: July 16, 2013

St. Martin’s Griffin
Paperback; 352p
ISBN-10: 0312658494

For those needing the UK Version:

The Tudor Conspiracy UK

UK Publication Date: July 18, 2013
Hodder & Stoughton
Paperback; 352p
ISBN-10: 1444720856

Hunted by a shadowy foe in Bloody Mary’s court, Brendan Prescott plunges into London’s treacherous underworld to unravel a dark conspiracy that could make Elizabeth queen—or send her to her death in C.W. Gortner’s The Tudor Conspiracy

England, 1553: Harsh winter encroaches upon the realm. Mary Tudor has become queen to popular acclaim and her enemies are imprisoned in the Tower. But when she’s betrothed to Philip, Catholic prince of Spain, putting her Protestant subjects in peril, rumors of a plot to depose her swirl around the one person whom many consider to be England’s heir and only hope—the queen’s half-sister, Princess Elizabeth.

Haunted by his past, Brendan Prescott lives far from the intrigues of court. But his time of refuge comes to an end when his foe and mentor, the spymaster Cecil, brings him disquieting news that sends him on a dangerous mission. Elizabeth is held captive at court, the target of the Spanish ambassador, who seeks her demise. Obliged to return to the palace where he almost lost his life, Brendan finds himself working as a double-agent for Queen Mary herself, who orders Brendan to secure proof that will be his cherished Elizabeth’s undoing.

Plunged into a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with a mysterious opponent who hides a terrifying secret, Brendan races against time to retrieve a cache of the princess’s private letters, even as he begins to realize that in this dark world of betrayal and deceit, where power is supreme and sister can turn against sister, nothing—and no one—is what it seems.

Praise for The Tudor Conspiracy

“The Tudor Conspiracy weaves a suspenseful, tangled skein of intrigue. It is a vibrant historical mystery and crime-thriller with an A-list cast of characters. Here are Elizabeth Tudor and her Robert Dudley in a light you’ve seldom seen them. —Margaret George, author of Elizabeth I

“C.W. Gortner has done it again! Intrigue at the Tudor court never looked more lethal than in his capable hands, as forbidden desires and deadly rivalries turn sister against sister and plunge our bold hero into a labyrinth of deceit. Full of breathtaking action, dark twists and unexpected revelations, this is an unputdownable read!” —Michelle Moran, author of Nefertiti

“In C.W. Gortner’s skillful hands, the plots and counterplots come to seething life, with Brendan using every ounce of his brains and courage to protect those he loves while struggling to stay alive. . . . Lovers of Tudor history and suspense fiction will be riveted by this swift-paced, sexy, enthralling novel.” —Nancy Bilyeau, author of The Crown

Author C.W. Gortner, Biography~

CWGC.W. Gortner holds an MFA in Writing, with an emphasis in Renaissance Studies. Raised in Spain and half Spanish by birth, he currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

He welcomes readers and is always available for reader group chats. Please visit him at www.cwgortner.com for more information. You can also follow Christopher on Facebook and Twitter.

Link to Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/thetudorconspiracyvirtualtour/
Twitter Hashtag: #TudorConspiracyTour

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Author Barbara Kyle Dishes on her Thornleigh Saga, her Switch from Acting to Writing, and Talks about the Tudors!

To start the week, I’m happy to present a fantastic interview with the amazing former actress and now acclaimed author, Barbara Kyle! Her newest book, number five in her Thornleigh series, recently published with the title Blood Between Queens, and I’ll have a review up for that later this week.

I hope you enjoy the conversation between Barbara and I as you learn her favorite women in history, why she thinks so many people love the Tudor time period, and what she thinks society can do to make the world a better place.


 Hi Barbara! So nice to have you stop by Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I’m looking forward to having you answer some questions. How have things been going?

Barbara: Thanks so much for inviting me, Erin. I really enjoy your blog. Things are going well. Readers have given my new release, Blood Between Queens, a wonderfully warm reception and if they’re happy, I’m happy.

Erin: So glad to hear you like the blog! And very happy to hear about your new release, can’t wait to hear more. Let’s pour a pot of tea and clear some time. Let’s get started!

Q: How did you make the switch from actress to writer? Do you visualize your scenes in your head?

A: The switch from acting to writing felt like a very natural one. My twenty years of acting in theatre and television productions gave me a kind of bone-deep sense of dramatic structure, and for getting deeply inside my characters’ motivations: their deepest desires and fears.  And, yes, I do visualize scenes. My writing style is cinematic.

Q:  I’ve just recently learned about your books! I am more far behind than my liking. If other readers are too, would you mind telling us about your other books and if they tie in together or can be read stand alone?

Blood Between QueensA: Blood Between Queens is book #5 of my Thornleigh Saga, which follows a fictional middle-class English family through three tumultuous Tudor reigns. Each book’s story stands alone, so readers don’t need to have read the previous books to enjoy one.

The first book, The Queen’s Lady, features young Honor Larke, a (fictional) ward of (the real) Sir Thomas More. Honor becomes a lady-in-waiting to Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s first wife, and the story follows Honor’s stormy love affair with Richard Thornleigh as she works to rescue heretics from the Church’s fires. The King’s Daughter introduces their daughter Isabel, who joins the Wyatt rebellion (a true event) to oust Queen Mary and hires mercenary Carlos Valverde to help her rescue her father from prison. The Queen’s Captive brings Honor and Richard back from exile with their seafaring son Adam to help the young Princess Elizabeth, who has been imprisoned by her half sister, Queen Mary, another true event. The Queen’s Gamble is set during the fledgling reign of Elizabeth who fears that the massive buildup of French troops on her Scottish border will lead to an invasion, so she entrusts Isabel Thornleigh to take money to aid the Scottish rebellion led by firebrand preacher John Knox, to defeat the French.

Blood Between Queens begins when Mary, Queen of Scots, flees to England to escape her enemies and throws herself on the mercy of her cousin, Queen Elizabeth. Mary, however, has set her sights on the Elizabeth’s throne, and Elizabeth enlists her most trusted subjects – the Thornleighs – to protect it. Justine Thornleigh is delighting in the thrill of Elizabeth’s visit to her family’s estate when the festivities are cut short by Mary’s arrival. Justine is appointed to serve as a spy in Mary’s small entourage, but she comes to sympathize with Mary, and when Elizabeth holds Mary under house arrest and launches an inquiry into the accusations that she murdered her husband, the crisis splits the Thornleigh family apart.

Q:  I read that you love the Tudor Era. What do you feel makes it stand apart and leads to it being one of the most historical time periods written about?

A: The Tudor era fascinates people, and for good reason. It was a time of extraordinary energy that burst forth in a brilliant flowering of the arts and in bold naval exploration, but it was also a time of violence and savage religious persecution. One of the most fascinating characteristics of the period is its predominance of women rulers, from Mary I, known as “Bloody Mary” in her own time for the large number of people burned at the stake in her reign; to her half-sister Elizabeth I, who ruled with a firm hand for forty-three years; to their cousin Mary, Queen of Scots, whose dramatic life is virtually an opera.  

Q: Do you do a great amount of research for your books? What has been your favorite find? Who is your favorite historical person to learn about and why?

A: Yes, I do a lot of research, because it’s so important to get the historical facts right, and also to give readers a sense of each scene’s sights and sounds and smells, whether it’s a royal banquet hall at Whitehall Palace or a tawdry backstreet in London. A favorite “find” was Mary I’s false pregnancy. Soon after she married Philip of Spain,

Mary joyfully announced that she was pregnant and passed the next months employing her gentlewomen to sew baby clothes, and sending ecstatic notices to foreign heads of state about the imminent birth. But her time came to deliver . . . and passed. There was no baby. It was a phantom pregnancy. Court gossip raged as Mary remained holed up in her private rooms, and foreign ambassadors wrote home about the situation with increasing astonishment as Mary willed herself to believe she really was pregnant right through the tenth month. (Some modern scholars have attributed her malady to uterine cancer.) This event became a pivotal one in my novel The King’s Daughter. As for my favorite historical person, that’s definitely Elizabeth I, for her cleverness, her religious tolerance, and her love of her people.

Q: In Blood Between Queens you feature the struggle between Mary Queen of Scots and Queen Elizabeth. Do you feel that Queen Elizabeth was justified in her spying escapades during her reign or was she overly paranoid?

A: Oh, I believe Elizabeth was fully justified in her wariness about Mary. Mary smuggled letters out to her supporters in France and Spain, actively encouraging an invasion of England that would depose Elizabeth and put Mary on her throne. In her famous letter that became the climax of the Babbington plot, Mary made it very clear that she was promoting an assassination attempt against Elizabeth.

Q:  I found the story I read about how and why you changed your working title for Blood Between Queens. Would you mind sharing the story and what your intent was for readers with the title?

A: Yes, while I was writing this story I called it The Dangerous Queen, because I liked the idea of letting readers decide which was the dangerous one: Elizabeth or Mary. But neither I nor my editor at Kensington Books really loved that title. We discussed it, and she offered some other suggestions. For a while we settled on Blood Cousins, Rival Queens. Then she suggested Blood Between Queens and I thought: That’s it! I like the way it combines the two cousins’ blood relationship with an undercurrent of danger, their “bloody” rivalry.

Q:  Why do you feel people enjoy reading historical fiction? What are some of your own favorites?

A: Being transported to another time via a story is always a thrill, especially when that time is fraught with the tensions of royal enmity, political danger, and adventure. Some of the historical novels I’ve loved are Edith Pargeter’s Brothers of Gwynedd novels beginning with Sunrise in the West; James Clavell’s magnificent Shogun; The Winds of War by Herman Wouk; Margaret Mitchell’s classic Gone With the Wind; and more recently Atonement by Ian McEwan and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell.

Q:  If you aren’t writing about the Tudor Era, what other time periods or genres would you like to write?

A: I’d love to tackle a novelization of the famous mutiny on the Bounty and give William Bligh (who was a lieutenant at the time, not a captain) long-overdue credit for his stunning feat of seamanship. When the mutineers cast him and eighteen other men adrift in a small boat with meager rations, Bligh, in an epic forty-seven day journey, got all but one of his men across over three thousand miles of ocean to a safe landfall.  

Q:  What has your road to publishing been like? What were the challenges and the successes?

A: I’ve had eight novels published by three different publishing houses and have enjoyed good relations with all three. Before Kensington published my historical novels I wrote three contemporary thrillers under the pen-name Stephen Kyle for Warner Books (now Grand Central). Those books are now out of print so I’m re-releasing them under my own name as e-books, a format that has opened new vistas for authors and readers alike.

Q: What women in history intrigue you? Though we know times have a changed for women overall, even if still needing to be changed further, what do you feel have been the most positive advancements and what do you feel are important issues that society still needs to work on?

A: The woman who intrigues me most is Elizabeth I of England – a shrewd, almost Machiavellian ruler, yet a passionate woman who sincerely loved her people. As for issues of concern in our own world, I feel that the most urgent situation we need to tackle to is not gender issues but environmental ones. Other problems hardly matter if we go on abusing the planet, and therefore ourselves, to death.   

Q: What traits do you feel that women from the Tudor Era displayed that helped them? What about what hindered them?

A: Education, in both cases. The royal women in Tudor times were exceptionally well- educated.  Elizabeth I, for example, could converse fluently with foreign ambassadors in French, Italian, and Latin, and her writings are elegant and erudite. But the vast majority of ordinary women were ill-educated. Even women of the aristocracy were barred from universities and, of course, from all posts of official power: government, church,  and military.   

Q: What is in the future for you? What else will you be working on?

A: I’ve just finished writing the next Thornleigh book. It’s set in 1572 and features Adam Thornleigh joining the Dutch rebels who called themselves the Sea Beggars in their real-life fight against their Spanish occupiers. (I liken them to the Resistance in World War II fighting the Nazis.) After that, my publisher has signed me to write another book. So there are lots more adventures of the Thornleigh family ahead!

Q: How can readers connect with you?

A: I love hearing from readers and I reply to every email. So I hope your readers will get in touch. Email me at bkyle@barbarakyle.com and follow me on Twitter @BKyleAuthor.

Erin: Thank you so very much, Barbara, for your time in doing this interview. I know I’ll need to go back and read all your books, especially loving the Tudor Era as I do. I appreciate you for taking the time to come by the site and let readers get to know you and your work.

Barbara:  It’s been a pleasure, Erin. Happy reading!


Blood Between QueensPublication Date: April 30, 2013
Kensington Publishing
Paperback; 448p
ISBN: 0758273223

Following her perilous fall from a throne she’d scarcely owned to begin with, Mary, Queen of Scots, has fled to England, hoping her cousin, Queen Elizabeth, will grant her asylum. But now Mary has her sights on the English crown, and Elizabeth enlists her most trusted subjects to protect it.

Justine Thornleigh is delighting in the thrill of Queen Elizabeth’s visit to her family’s estate when the festivities are cut short by Mary’s arrival. To Justine’s surprise, the Thornleighs appoint her to serve as a spy in Mary’s court. But bearing the guise of a lady-in-waiting is not Justine’s only secret. The weight of her task is doubled by fears of revealing to her fiancé that she is in truth the daughter of his family’s greatest rival. Duty-bound, Justine must sacrifice love as she navigates a deadly labyrinth of betrayal that could lead to the end of Elizabeth’s fledgling reign…

Compelling and inventive, Blood Between Queens artfully blends history’s most intriguing figures with unforgettable characters, bringing to dazzling life the fascinating Tudor era.

Author Barbara Kyle, Biography~

Barbara KyleBarbara Kyle is the author of the acclaimed Tudor-era “Thornleigh” novels Blood Between Queens, The Queen’s Gamble, The Queen’s Captive, The King’s Daughter and The Queen’s Lady which follow a rising middle-class family through three tumultuous Tudor reigns. She also writes contemporary thrillers. Over 400,000 copies of her books have been sold in seven countries. In July 2013 Barbara will be a speaker at Ontario’s world-renowned Stratford Festival with her talk “Elizabeth and Mary, Rival Queens: A Study of Leadership Lost and Won” about the cousin-queens Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots featured in Blood Between Queens.

Barbara has taught writers at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies and is known for her dynamic workshops for many writers organizations and conferences. Before becoming an author Barbara enjoyed a twenty-year acting career in television, film, and stage productions in Canada and the US.

For more information, please visit Barbara Kyle’s WEBSITE.


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