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

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

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


Marquise de Pompadour, one of Louis XV Official Mistresses

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

by Sally Christie, historical fiction author

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sally Christie, Biography

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

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

02_The Enemies of VersaillesThe Enemies of Versailles by Sally Christie

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Kobo

Praise for The Sisters of Versailles (book one)

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

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


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Women in History Article: Big Momma Thornton and the Blues

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

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

Howling the blues: the deadly vibrato of Big Momma Thornton

by Robert Dean, author of The Red Seven

Big Momma

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

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

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

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

big momma album

A woman taken by the blues

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

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

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

big momma 2

A lesson in flipping the script on gender roles

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

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

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

Robert Dean.png

Robert Dean, Biography –

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


Photos of Big Momma Thornton pulled from Internet –

Big Momma Photo

Album Cover

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C.W. Gortner Writes About the Iconic Coco Chanel: Exquisitely Written with Compassion and Class

MC coverI was thrilled the moment I heard about this book and I already knew it would be one of my top five favorites of the year. The recipe was perfectly set up to make it so: 1) Coco Chanel is one of my idols, primarily for her insatiable spirit to defy boundaries as a woman and in her craft (plus I love anything Chanel!) and 2) Christopher Gortner is one of my very favorite people and authors. I knew that if anyone could do a really extraordinary job featuring Coco, it would be him.

I’ve read, and own, other books about her. Some I noticed he read in his research as well. Due to this, I also knew that he’d done a great amount of research, yet I knew he’d bring a compassion and an experienced storytelling style to the novel that might have been lacking a little in others. Upon reading his book, I believe I was correct! Being involved in fashion himself, studying it and working in the field before becoming a writer, I knew that he’d also understand and bring to light the fashion end of it that so many others have not. He did, with superb detail. He proves the fact that fashion is not always about frills, but also about defining oneself.

In the beginning segment of the book, Gortner asks “Who is Coco Chanel?” As a reader, we are viewing her at an older age, fixing hem lines on models and watching them in thought as they wear her garments down the runway. Then, her story begins in 1895 when her mother dies, her father doesn’t want her or her siblings, and her aunts devise to send them away to an orphanage. She’s abandoned, and in this, changed forever. What she does take away with her from her childhood, however, is her sewing talent and ability. It’s something her mother taught her when she was little.

From there, we begin to understand and watch Coco’s struggle to find her place. Being sent to Notre Dame at Moulins, a convent boarding school, she discovers her heart is telling her she wants to “be someone…do something.” She isn’t interested in marrying a man so they can take care of her. She first travels to Vichy and finds her desire in hats. Not bedazzled hats, but in simplifying hats. She isn’t afraid of changing things up. Coco’s class is found mostly in her simple, streamlined vision. I appreciated how Gortner’s perception of her seemed so authentic, humble, and with so much more to her than the stoic woman we know now as THE woman behind the Chanel empire. Through his descriptive and delicate details that he strategically placed, we can feel her passion and determination. It’s easy to cheer on this insightful woman in her desire to offer her fashion views to the world, which in turn, changed the way women viewed themselves, and still do.

Coco 2

Gortner takes readers on a journey of Chanel’s life as she seeks love on her terms, even though her work is her true calling, not serving a man. When she became mistress to Etienne Balsan, he suggested that she not follow her passions, for instance, and she felt the limitations that men and society could put on women. In this, Coco realizes that her freedom as a woman would come from making her own money. She meets and begins an affair with Boy Capel, falling hard in love with him; however, even in that love it is still not enough to consume her completely (it doesn’t define her) and she realizes that her “being” is her work. This then, her work ethic, would always make others, men and women, feel inferior and jealous. However, in many ways Boy supported her efforts with money, loaning her money (which she paid back) to open her store fronts, and she was truly in love with him, so when he passed away she immortalized their relationship with her logo of interlocking CCs (Capel and Chanel).The depth of emotion that Gortner portrayed in these sections of his book were poignant and moving. Some portrayals of her have shown she had the ability to use others to get what she wanted, but Gortner shows us this was not always what it seemed. I didn’t feel that way with his novel.

In showcasing the initial portion of Chanel’s life, Gortner encompasses her growth of self and moving past these relationships, and where other books on Coco have left off, he picks up and leads the second half of the book into featuring her emerging empire through her time until the end of WWII when her business lessened in France. Most of all, I enjoyed seeing the materialization of perfume, Chanel No. 5, which is still probably the most iconic perfume on the market. It was fascinating watching her business sense and her reactions and relationships with others in regards to her business.

Coco 3

The woman we see emerge in her 40s is rather blunt, unemotional, and a work-a-holic. She stated that “men don’t understand me,” so she’d never marry, but she took many lovers. It’s obvious that at some point to deal with all her past sorrows, she immersed herself in work and remained detached from others. Her life pretty much felt over to her once she lost Boy, I think, except for her work dreams. She became a business woman to admire in that she didn’t let anything get in the way of her dreams, most of all any men.

Her life was one of drama, from her relationships to her alleged involvement with Nazis in WWII, and she was constantly reinventing herself in some shape or form, yet somehow always aligning to her simple style ideals. She was a patron of many artists and free thinkers. She wasn’t afraid to put past ideals of society for women in her fashion either. She created leisure wear for women made from cloth like jersey, commonly otherwise used in men’s underwear. She’s famed for the little black dress and the Chanel suit (especially in America after WWII), while leading what seemed like a life of constant intrigue. I loved watching her career unfold in this book, from her first millinery work and hat creation to her amazing French store fronts of clothing, accessories, and perfume.

coco 1

I believe that Gortner truly took his care with this book. He POURED his entire being into writing this book and that certainly shows. He embodies the true Chanel, her heart and her intellect, her passion and her work. He paints a true portrait of the creative artist she was and opens up our heart as readers to her, allowing us to love every part of her incorrigible spirit. He introduces us to her lovers and her friends so that we don’t just see her as a solitary figure, but we see her within her vulnerable moments as well.

There’s been many books written about Coco Chanel and her work and life. However, Gortner has written an elegant story that only he can tell, leaving her a lasting legacy and giving her a soul in a way like no other I’ve read. If there’s one book you buy all year, buy this one, whether you’re already a fan of Chanel like me, you have an interest in fashion, or you’d love to read a compelling and captivating novel of one of the most iconic women of all time. It’s a gorgeously written book full of courage, compassion, depth, and soul.

MC coverMademoiselle Chanel, Synopsis~

(historical fiction)

Release date: March 17, 2015
at William-Morrow/HarperCollins

384 pages

ISBN: 978-0062356406

For readers of “The Paris Wife” and “Z” comes this vivid novel full of drama, passion, tragedy, and beauty that stunningly imagines the life of iconic fashion designer Coco Chanel—the ambitious, gifted laundrywoman’s daughter who revolutionized fashion, built an international empire, and became one of the most influential and controversial figures of the twentieth century.

Born into rural poverty, Gabrielle Chanel and her siblings are sent to an orphanage after their mother’s death. The sisters nurture Gabrielle’s exceptional sewing skills, a talent that will propel the willful young woman into a life far removed from the drudgery of her childhood.

Transforming herself into Coco—a seamstress and sometime torch singer—the petite brunette burns with ambition, an incandescence that draws a wealthy gentleman who will become the love of her life. She immerses herself in his world of money and luxury, discovering a freedom that sparks her creativity. But it is only when her lover takes her to Paris that Coco discovers her destiny.

Rejecting the frilly, corseted silhouette of the past, her sleek, minimalist styles reflect the youthful ease and confidence of the 1920s modern woman. As Coco’s reputation spreads, her couturier business explodes, taking her into rarefied society circles and bohemian salons. But her fame and fortune cannot save her from heartbreak as the years pass. And when Paris falls to the Nazis, Coco is forced to make choices that will haunt her.

An enthralling novel of an extraordinary designer who created the life she desired, Mademoiselle Chanel explores the inner world of a woman of staggering ambition whose strength, passion and artistic vision would become her trademark.

C.W. Gortner, Biography~

CW GortnerC.W. Gortner is the international bestselling author of six historical novels,
translated in over twenty-five languages to date.

His new novel, Mademoiselle Chanel, traces the tumultuous rise to fame of iconic fashion designer, Coco Chanel.

In 2016, Random House will publish his eighth novel, “Vatican Princess”, about Lucrezia Borgia.

Raised in Spain and a long-time resident of the Bay Area, C.W. is also dedicated to companion animal rescue from overcrowded shelters.

Visit his website. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter

Subscribe to his newsletter

Buy the book: HarperCollins | IndieBound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


You can enter the giveaway here or on the book blogs participating in this tour (just click on the badge below to follow the stops on the tour. Be sure to follow each participant on Twitter/Facebook; they are listed in the entry form below.

Click on “Entry-Form” below to enter:


Visit each blogger on the tour: tweeting about the giveaway everyday of the Tour will give you 5 extra entries each time! [just follow the directions on the entry-form]

6 winners and open to US only:
5 printed copies + 1 beautiful, handcrafted beaded bracelet inspired by Coco’s
black-and-white signature colors and camellia design

Mademoiselle Chanel bracelet

Click on the banner here to follow the other stops on the tour:

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C.W. Gortner Releases Mademoiselle Chanel: A Novel about Coco Chanel

C.W. Gortner’s latest release, Mademoiselle Chanel, has just published today (3/17/2015)!! All the information you need to know to buy, add to GoodReads, and enter to win one of three fabulously chic, Chanel-style black and white beaded bracelets is below!

Congratulations, Christopher! I’m so looking forward to finishing up this book, so stay tuned for my review next week! I’ve loved Coco Chanel for so long. She has been such an inspiration to me as a woman, a fashion icon, a creative, and her story is so interesting! If I wanted to read another book about any woman, it would be Coco!

02_Mademoiselle Chanel Cover

Mademoiselle Chanel: A Novel

Publication Date: March 17, 2015

William Morrow/HarperCollins
Formats: Hardover, eBook, Audio Book

Genre: Historical Fiction

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DRAMA, PASSION, TRAGEDY, AND BEAUTY: C.W.’s new novel stunningly imagines the life of Coco Chanel—the iconic fashion designer whose staggering creativity built an empire and made her one of the 20th century’s most influential, and controversial, figures.

Born into rural poverty, Gabrielle Chanel and her sisters are sent to a convent orphanage after their mother’s death. Here, the nuns nurture Gabrielle’s exceptional sewing skills, a talent that will propel her into a life far removed from the drudgery of her childhood.

Transforming herself into Coco—a seamstress and sometime torch singer—the petite brunette burns with ambition, an incandescence that draws a wealthy gentleman who will become the love of her life. She immerses herself in his world of money and luxury, discovering a freedom that sparks her creativity. But it is only when her lover takes her to Paris that Coco discovers her destiny.

Rejecting the frilly, corseted silhouette of the past, her sleek minimalist styles reflect the youthful ease and confidence of the 1920s modern woman. As Coco’s reputation spreads, her couturier business explodes, taking her into rarefied society circles and bohemian salons. Her little black dress, her signature perfume No. 5; her dramatic friendships, affairs, and rivalries with luminaries of her era increase her wealth and fame. But as the years pass, success cannot save her from heartbreak. And when Paris falls to the Nazis during World War II, Coco finds herself at a dangerous crossroads, forced to make choices that will forever change her.

An enthralling portrayal of an extraordinary woman who created the life she desired, Mademoiselle Chanel is Coco’s intimate story.

Release Graphic

Praise for Mademoiselle Chanel~

“In this deliciously satisfying novel, C.W. Gortner tells the epic, rags-to-riches story of how this brilliant, mercurial, self-created woman became a legend.” (Christina Baker Kline, New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train)

“In a novel as brilliant and complicated as Coco Chanel herself, C. W. Gortner’s prose is so electric and luminous it could be a film, and not just any film, but one of the grandest biopics of our time. Divine!” (Erika Robuck, bestselling author of Hemingway’s Girl)

“A richly imagined, deftly researched novel, in which the ever fascinating Coco Chanel comes to life in all her woe and splendor, her story unfolding as elegantly as a Chanel gown.” (Cathy Marie Buchanan, author of The Painted Girls)

“From her heart-wrenching early years through her decades of struggle and glory, Gabrielle Chanel was fascinating—as is C.W. Gortner’s Mademoiselle Chanel. Coco lives again in this rich tale of brilliance, determination, and fierce self-creation.” (Ania Szado, author of Studio Saint-Ex)

“Gortner brings to life a woman who was as alluring and captivating as her signature scent. ” (Historical Novels Review)

“Gortner brings history to life in a fascinating study of one woman’s unstoppable ambition.” (Booklist)

“Well-written and historically accurate . . . An homage to a couture icon whose influence is still powerful today.” (Kirkus Reviews)

Buy Mademoiselle Chanel~

Barnes & Noble

Author C.W. Gortner, Biography~

C.W. GORTNER holds an MFA in Writing with an emphasis in Renaissance Studies from the New College of California, as well as an AA from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in San Francisco.

After an eleven year-long career in fashion, during which he worked as a vintage retail buyer, freelance publicist, and fashion show coordinator, C.W. devoted the next twelve years to the public health sector. In 2012, he became a full-time writer following the international success of his novels.

In his extensive travels to research his books, he has danced a galliard at Hampton Court, learned about organic gardening at Chenoceaux, and spent a chilly night in a ruined Spanish castle. His books have garnered widespread acclaim and been translated into twenty-one languages to date, with over 400,000 copies sold. A sought-after public speaker. C.W. has given keynote addresses at writer conferences in the US and abroad. He is also a dedicated advocate for animal rights, in particular companion animal rescue to reduce shelter overcrowding.

C.W. recently completed his fourth novel for Ballantine Books, about Lucrezia Borgia; the third novel in his Tudor Spymaster series for St Martin’s Press; and a new novel about the dramatic, glamorous life of Coco Chanel, scheduled for lead title publication by William Morrow, Harper Collins, in the spring of 2015.

Half-Spanish by birth and raised in southern Spain, C.W. now lives in Northern California with his partner and two very spoiled rescue cats.

For more information visit C.W. Gortner’s website and blog. You can also find him on FacebookTwittterGoodreadsPinterest, and YouTube. Sign up for C.W. Gortner’s Newsletter for updates.


Three Chanel-style black and white beaded bracelets will up for grabs during this blast, follow along for chances to win!

Click here to enter—-> Mademoiselle Chanel Book Blast Giveaway


Notes for Giveaway~

– Giveaway starts on March 17th at 12:01 a.m. and ends on April 3rd at 11:59 p.m. EST.
– Must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.

Winners will be notified via email and have 48 hours to claim prize, or new winner is chosen. Giveaway run by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and not Hook of a Book.

Hashtags: #MademoiselleChanelBookBlast #HistoricalFiction

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @cwgortner

04_Mademoiselle Chanel_Book Blast Banner_FINAL


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The Little Known Exploits of the 17th Century Lady Derby: Guest Article by D.W. Bradbridge

Have you heard of Lady Charlotte de Tremouille, the Countess of Derby?

by D.W. Bradbridge, author of A Soldier of Substance

Unless you are either an expert on the English Civil War or were brought up in the town of Ormskirk in Northern England, it is unlikely that you will have ever heard of Lady Charlotte de Tremouille, the Countess of Derby.

In itself, this is perhaps not surprising, for, in the grand scheme of things, her role in the Civil War was of minor importance both strategically and politically. Nonetheless, the dramatic nature of her valiant defence of Lathom House during the Spring of 1644 with only three hundred men against a vastly superior parliamentary force, is a story well worth telling.

Not that I am the first to think this. Until the end of the 19th century, the tale of Lady Derby’s exploits retained a much more prominent position within the British national consciousness, spawning a number of popular books and poems, just about none of which have stood the test of time. The best known of these is William Harrison Ainsworth’s novel The Leaguer of Lathom.

Historically, it suited many of those writing about the siege to portray Lady Derby as a defenceless woman, who loyally defended her husband’s house against evil and heartless oppressors, as this fitted in closer with prevailing views on morality and the role of women. It is, however, clear that Lady Derby was nothing like this. She was clearly a woman of steel with impressive negotiating skills, who proved herself able to run rings round the parliamentary officers with whom she crossed swords. In his 1991 book on the siege To Play the Man, Lancashire historian Colin Pilkington describes her as being ‘as devious as Elizabeth I, as inflexible as Mrs Thatcher and with the physical presence of an Amazon.’Lady Derby, who was a granddaughter of William of Orange (William the Silent) and a cousin of Prince Rupert, was most certainly not a woman to be trifled with.

Lady Derby’s strength was certainly recognised at the time of the siege. She waseulogised by those on the royalist side, and readily compared in the newssheets with her husband, the Earl of Derby. The Perfect Diurnall, for example, described her as being “of the two a better souldier”, whilst the Scottish Dove newspaper famously pointed out that she had “stolen the earl’s breeches”.


Lady Charlotte de Tremouille, the Countess of Derby / Anthony Van Dyck (1599 – 1641) – Frick Collection, New York / Wiki

Most of the eye witness accounts of the siege were written by royalists, so it is easy to be misled. However, the overriding impression given by these documents is of a supremely confident woman holding court, whilst being ably aided by a team of efficient professional soldiers and wise strategic advisors, such as her personal chaplain Samuel Rutter, who was responsible for fooling the besieging forces into thinking that the thing Lady Derbymost feared was a siege, whereas the Countess was perfectly well aware that only a direct assault on the garrison would be likely to succeed. It is no surprise that Sir Thomas Fairfax, initially in charge of the siege, and notoriously unable to deal with women in the strict manner necessary in a military negotiation, took the first opportunity to return to Yorkshire, leaving the siege in the hands of the inept Colonel Alexander Rigby.

Over the last hundred years, the details surrounding the First Siege of Lathom House (there were, in fact, two sieges) have gradually drifted into the backwaters of history.This is a shame, because the events which took place between March and May 1644 make up a captivating adventure story. Given the abject incompetence of the parliamentary forces at times, they would also, in my opinion, form the basis for an engaging comedy film – but that is another story. In any case, I make no apologies for purloining this piece of history as the basis for A Soldier of Substance.

A Soldier of Substance, Synopsis and Info~

02_A Solder of Substance CoverPublication Date: November 1, 2014
Valebridge Publications
Formats: eBook, Paperback
Pages: 470

Series: Daniel Cheswis Mystery
Genre: Historical Mystery

GoodReads Link 


The smoke of parliamentary musket, cannon, and mortar fire is in the air around the royalist stronghold of Lathom House. Though guards still stand atop its walls, it is besieged on all sides, and it is only a matter of time until the house, along with its embittered and unwavering countess, Lady Charlotte de Tremouille, falls to Parliament’s might. Yet somehow, a royalist spy still creeps, unseen, through its gates, and brings the countess Parliament’s secrets.

Barely recovered from the trials of the last few months, Daniel Cheswis is torn from his family and sent north, to uncover the identity of the traitor; though before he can even begin, Cheswis finds himself embroiled in a murder. A woman has been garrotted with cheese wire in her Chester home, suggesting there is more than just the usual hatreds of war at play.

As lives are lost and coats are turned on both sides, Cheswis is tasked with finding the murderer, uncovering the traitor, and surviving his soldierly duty long enough to see Lathom House fall.

Buy the Book~

Amazon US
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About the Author, D.W. Bradbridge~

03_Author D.W. BradbridgeD.W. Bradbridge was born in 1960 and grew up in Bolton. He has lived in Crewe, Cheshire since 2000, where he and his wife run a small magazine publishing business for the automotive industry.

“The inspiration for The Winter Siege came from a long-standing interest in genealogy and local history. My research led me to the realisation that the experience endured by the people of Nantwich during December and January 1643-44 was a story worth telling. I also realised that the closed, tension-filled environment of the month-long siege provided the ideal setting for a crime novel.

“History is a fascinating tool for the novelist. It consists only of what is remembered and written down, and contemporary accounts are often written by those who have their own stories to tell. But what about those stories which were forgotten and became lost in the mists of time?

“In writing The Winter Siege, my aim was to take the framework of real history and fill in the gaps with a story of what could, or might have happened. Is it history or fiction? It’s for the reader to decide.”

For more information please visit D.W. Bradbridge’s website. You can also find him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

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