Sunday, 31 July 2016

Book Review - Jane the Quene by Janet Wertman


Author Janet Wertman gives readers an inside look at Henry VIII's court from the perspective of young and innocent Jane Seymour as she falls in love with the handsome and flirtatious King Henry while he is still married to the queen who will soon be dubbed a witch, Anne Boleyn. Wertman brings what I have always thought of as the 'dull and simple' queen to beautiful light, breathing personality, honour and duty to Jane's background and time in court.

Wertman is an ace with her descriptions of the deceit and court politics, taking us away from Jane's point of view when necessary, into Cromwell's where we get a firm grasp of behind-the-scenes plotting. I much preferred Jane's point of view where there are scenes where I had actual gooseflesh when reading, especially during the downfall of Boleyn and near Jane's own end. Jane's courtship with Henry was highly engaging and brought forth a gentler Henry without disregarding his dangerous side and Jane sees it all but humbly accepts what she is duty bound to be: the bearer of Henry's only legitimate male heir. I was kept intrigued, despite being already very familiar with the events, and found the narrative difficult to fault. There are a few modern phrases that make an appearance, but Wertman blended them into the text in such a way that they are not only forgiveable, but help the modern reader grasp the era feel without being limited to the archaic (but beautiful) and difficult language of the Tudor court (for anyone wanting to grasp a sample, please look up some of Anne Boleyn's letters to Henry, both during her courtship and her 'supposed' last letter to Henry during her time in the Tower).


This book is ideal for newcomers to the subject as Wertman takes the reader gently by the hand and helps them navigate through the intrigue, court politics, and Tudor mindset with ease, but as a lover of all things Tudor, I found myself still intrigued with this new Jane, who I feel Wertman brought to life in a way that makes me understand her as a woman and a queen of the era. A well researched and well presented read. If you have a love of history, read this book. If you enjoy the Tudor era, read this book. If you thought only Anne Boleyn was worth reading about, you'll know better after... well, you know. Just be warned – there are more books to follow, this is only the first of Wertman's literary gems.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Home again

It's been only a few days since we landed back in LAX after two and a half weeks back in the UK. It was surreal going back 'home' in the town where I'd spent the last thirteen years and where my daughter spent the first years of her life. We met up with friends and family and reacquainted ourselves with the north-easterly winds that'd kept our cheeks pink for so long. It rained, we played indoor mini-golf, it rained some more, we donned our raincoats with thick fleeces, the sun came out for a bit, and then it rained some more. But we didn't mind, we were too busy having fun and doing castle and countryside adventures.

Now that we are back in California, it still feels like we're on holiday – after all, this is where we used to vacation, not live. Going through all 328 photos on my finepix and a fair few to sort out on my phone, it's clear that we made the most of every minute home (though I didn't get my steak and kidney pie I miss so much, apparently, the public prefers steak and ale, and my old haunts have altered their menus). We played in Manningtree at Robin's Nest, Marks Tey (Dermot O'Leary's old childhood house it up for sale), The Cottage Inn in Lynton, Dunster Castle, Framlingham, and did a bit of exploration and cheese eating at Cheddar Gorge.


For me, it was wonderful to get new photos of Framlingham Castle as not only is it my setting for book two in the Elspet Stafford Mysteries, but all my original photos were lost in the move (along with some great ones of Hever Castle and Hedingham jousting). I also gathered some extra references for future EHFA blogs, though one or two might jump out of the Tudor era. For now though, it's still all about unpacking and getting used to the 8 hour time difference. And trying to remember that I'm no longer on holiday!

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

English Historical Fiction Authors: Privys, Garderobes and Latrines – a quick tour of ...

English Historical Fiction Authors: Privys, Garderobes and Latrines – a quick tour of ...: By Lizzy Drake photo from BBC's 'Life in the Castle' It used to be one of those taboo human necessities that history book...

Book Review - Wulfsuna

E S Moxon brings the dark ages to life through her vivid descriptions of both people and place. As Rome has pulled out of Britain, there is a massive power vacuum and the remaining tribes are left to battle it out for power, life and land. Wulfsuna follows Lord Wulfgar and his attempts to establish a home for his tribe, a split family of Saxons who must fight Angles and Picts to establish their home. Moxon weaves an epic tale of Lord Wulfgar's struggles, loves and loss.

When I was sent a copy of the book to read and review, I first read a few pages to get a feel for the writing before dedicating myself to the full read and I knew immediately that it was going to be a thrilling book. The descriptions are highly vivid and take the reader into the heat of battle and whilst reading I kept thinking 'HBO drama, HBO drama' mainly because it was so vivid and I expect it would make an excellent TV series (as long as the director sticks to the historical detail that Moxon has detailed so accurately well). I'm personally not that into battle scenes and the book had many of them, but I did feel that they were integral to the story and illustrated exactly how much turmoil there was during the era without a clear leader or land borders. What I loved reading most was the bewitching seer who is cast out of her village and who fate weaves into Lord Wulfgar's arms. Her point-of-view and story held my interest and I would have loved to have the entire book seen from her eyes, she was such a enthralling character.


If you love epic battles, Dark Age Britain, Saxons and beer wagons (has to be said, I'll dream forever of a beer wagon), then this book is for you! It is the first in a series, giving fans something to look forward to when the next book is released. A beautiful historical fiction for an era often ignored by conventional histories.

ES Moxon's Author Page
Amazon buy link:

Saturday, 23 January 2016

English Historical Fiction Authors: The Birth of Cipher in England

English Historical Fiction Authors: The Birth of Cipher in England: by Lizzy Drake Finally, forasmuch as the ciphers which sir Thomas Spynell (whose soule God pardon!) had, have come to the hands of sundry p...

Book Review - To Be a Queen

Book Review – To Be a Queen by Annie Whitehead



Annie Whitehead has boldly delved into a little known era and brought to life one of it's shadow legends; the daughter of Alfred the Great who learned to rule in her own right. As Whitehead points out in her forward, England at this time, was not one nation but several. Her main character, Aethelflaed, whom she nicknames, Teasel, starts as a child having grown up in Mercia (one of England's kingdoms) though she is the daughter of a 'West Saxon'. The two nations, North (Mercia) and South (Wessex) are meant to be allies against the Vikings but end up having a very rough alliance and there are many unnecessary skirmishes and in fighting. In the book, Whitehead has her main character, Teasel, bring the two kingdoms to solidarity through support of both her father (king of Wessex) and husband (king of Mercia).

The story is epic and told in beautiful detail. Annie Whitehead has done her research, but she at no time 'info drops' on the reader. There are language and heritage guides at the back of the book, but reading the story, I found it easy to pick up Saxon words as Whitehead introduced them. She brings to life not only the era but the individuals that are often glossed over in history.


As the book starts with Aethelflaed as a child in Mercia, continues with her childhood in Wessex, then follows her life as she grows before finally becoming first the wife of a great leader, then a leader herself, and then her death... well, it's a long tale. For those who want to dive into the past and live every moment surrounded with that era, this book is the one. For those wanting a good story, this will fit the bill too. However, be warned, there are some slow scenes where we get to know Teasel and her family well, and the made up romance between Teasel and one of her husband's trusted warriors slowed the story down more in my opinion. Even so, I enjoyed reading To Be a Queen and highly recommend it to readers of Anglo-Saxon history and historic fiction.