The Fall Of Camelot

Having lost a son and a lover, Morgan continues on her quest to destroy King Arthur. With Guinevere on the scene, she is patient and cunning and plants the seeds of jealousy.
But Mordred, Arthur’s illegitimate child, who has the dark powers of the Otherworld, is also restless for his father’s crown.
The mighty Camelot is under threat, war lingers on the horizon, and lives will be lost...
If you enjoy Arthurian fantasy and medieval romance you will love this final book in the Morgan trilogy.

The Fall Of Camelot is the last volume in The Morgan Trilogy, and the most thrilling. The story is finally coming to its conclusion. Eager for revenge, Morgan plots with Mordred, King Arthur's son, to bring about her half-brother downfall. But not everything goes as planned, and soon Morgan realises that Mordred is not as easy to control as she had thought. War is looming on the horizon, and many will die in it. The world she knows is about to change forever.

It's quickly changing throughout the book. Everything that was good in it quickly disappears, leaving only chaos and death in its place. Plots, lies, betrayals, all the ugliness comes to the surface, forcing the protagonists to come to terms with their actions. To face their inner truths. To admit what they'd rather keep hidden. To grow up. To make amends. To grieve and forgive.

Even though you know what is going to happen next (at least you will if you're familiar with the Arthurian legends), you still won't be able to put this book down till you reach the last page. It's so gripping and enthralling. A real page turner. And a must read for all fans of Morgan Le Fay, King Arthur, Sir Kay, and the lost world of Camelot.

The last book in the Morgan trilogy, The Fall Of Camelot is a dark, gripping tale of love and betrayal, intrigues and death, loss and forgiveness. Beautifully written, you won't be able to put it down.

Available at: Amazon

Rating: 4/5

Disclaimer: this book was sent by PR for consideration. In addition, this post contains affiliate links.

Book Reviews: The Exchange Of Princesses, The Richest Man Who Ever Lived, & Aftermath

Hello everyone,

here's what I've been reading lately:

The Exchange of Princesses by Chantal Thomas
So, you have a story to tell. But you're undecided. Should you write a novel or a non-fiction work about it? Chantal Thomas solved the problem by writing both. In the same book. Half-novel, half-essay, The Exchange Of Princesses is as interesting as it is challenging to read.
It tells the story of a real exchange of princesses. Mariana Victoria, infanta of Spain, left her country to marry Louis XV. At the same time, Louise Élisabeth d’Orléans, daughter of Philippe d'Orleans, regent of France, left her home for Spain, to marry the heir to the Spanish throne. But both marriages, which promised to exalt Philippe's prestige and power, ended in tragedy.
The four spouses were all pretty young, and unable to decide of their own destinies. It must have been terrifying for such young girls (Mariana Victoria was just a child and Louise Elisabeth barely a teenager), to leave their countries behind and start again in a foreign place, among total strangers. Their pain, confusion, and isolation oozes from the pages and makes you feel for them. Unfortunately, it is hidden under a plethora of historical facts that would make for a very interesting read in a biography. In a novel, they just the story down and make it harder to follow it. The convoluted writing style doesn't help either.
I wish Thomas had written either a novel or a double biography. She definitely has the skill to do either. Instead, she penned this distant and disjointed hybrid that makes it impossible to read more than one chapter at a time. I only recommend it to readers who are really eager to know more about these women and their sad marriages.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 3/5

The Richest Man Who Ever Lived: The Life and Times of Jacob Fugger by Greg Steinmetz
If you've ever been to Germany, you've probably heard the name of Jacob Fugger so many times you've lost count of them. But outside the country, he is unknown. And yet, he was one of the most influential and richest man who ever lived. A Renaissance banker, he pursued wealth for its own sake (a radical idea at the time), revolutionised the art of making money (our modern financial system owns him a lot), created the first news service, and was at the centre of a powerful network that numbered emperors and Popes among its members. Fugger lent to them generously, but always when he was in his interest. He wasn't afraid to refuse them something or ask them to repay their debts. This nerve was only one of his secrets. The other was his ability to spot opportunities and pioneer new technologies where others only saw risks. But all this came at a cost. He was despised by many, possibly even his own wife.
Steinmetz does a great job at telling Fugger's own story and put it back in the context of his time. It is a story full of plots and intrigues, wars and battles, losses and triumphs, extreme wealth and extreme poverty. It is also partly our own story. You could say that he helped trigger the Reformation, get the Catholic Church to revise its position on money lending and usury, and create our modern financial system. His story provides an important piece of the puzzle on how we got here. I highly recommend you give it a read.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4/5

Aftermath - The Makers of the Post-War World by Richard M Crowder
A lot has been written about World War II. But very little is known of what happened just afterwards. A bunch of men got together to rebuild the world and launch a new era of globalisation. Some of them are well-known figures, like Churchill and Truman. Others are diplomats and agents whose name most of us have long forgotten, if ever we have known them. This book tells their story. The story of their diplomatic conflicts and clashes. The story of how they created the NATO, United Nations, the IMF, and Marshall Plan. Little stories and anecdotes about how these men worked, lived, and played.
Although a little dry in places, the book is both fascinating and informative, and provides a good introduction to an era that, although largely neglected today, has helped shaped our world. If you'd like to know more about it, pick up a copy.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 3.5/5

What do you think of these books?

Disclaimer: these books were sent by PR for consideration. In addition, this post contains affiliate links.

Fashions For 1816

I'm really digging the fashions for 1816. Those horrible, super wide and huge sleeves that dominated the first half of the 19th century hadn't made their appearance yet. And the dresses are pink! I'm a sucker for pink clothes. My wardrobe contains so many of them, so I think I would have fit right in. What about you?


The robe of pink, worn over a white satin slip flounced with crape, finished by blond. Bridal veil, fastened with a brooch of pearl and pink topazes, with the hair simply dressed in light curls and parted on the forehead. A muff formed of white satin and gossamer silk trimming. Necklace and armlets of pearls and pink topazes. White satin slippers and white kid gloves.


Slip of pink satin, ornamented down the front and border wilh black velvet in bias, under a robe of black satin richly flowered with black velvet down the sides; full sleeves of black satin ornamented with pink, over a chemisette sleeve of white sarsnet. Hat of fancy spotted straw, lined with pink satin, with a superb wreath of full blown roses. Shoes of white satin; and white kid gloves.

Which one would you have worn?

Further reading:
Belle Assemblée, April 1816

Alexandre Colonna Walewski, Napoleon's Illegitimate Son

On 4 May 1810, the beautiful Countess Marie Walewska gave birth to a bouncing baby boy, Alexandre Florian Joseph Colonna Walewski. Although her husband acknowledged him as his, the baby bore a startling resemblance to Napoleon Bonaparte. And, upon hearing the news of his birth, the Emperor of the French was ecstatic. As soon as it was possible, he rushed to him and embraced him, promising the little fella, "I will make thee a count."

Napoleon desperately needed an heir. Alexandre couldn't obviously be him, but he made the Emperor realise he was more than capable of begetting sons. Eventually, with a heavy heart, he divorced Josephine to marry the young Austrian archduchess Marie Louise.

It was around this time, that Alexander and her mother Marie moved to Paris, in a house Napoleon had provided for them. But, now he was about to remarry again, Napoleon had no intention of resuming his affair with the beautiful Marie. He just wanted his son close to him.

Napoleon wouldn't see Alexandre grow up. Napoleon's luck finally run out and he was exiled on the isle of Elba. Marie, now divorced, brought the child there to see him. Father and son played hide-and-seek. They would see each other for the last time in June 1815 before Napoleon left for St.Helena, never to return to Europe again. Two years later, Alexandre lost his mother too. Shortly after marrying her lover, the Count d'Ornano, Marie died. Luckily, Alexandre's uncle ensured he received a good education.

When Alexandre was 14, he rebelled and refused to join the Imperial Russian army (Poland was then under Russian control). Instead, he fled first to London and then to Paris. In 1830, when Louis-Philippe ascended to the French throne, he sent Alexandre to Poland. Here, he got involved with the leaders of 1830-31 Polish uprisings, who sent him to London as their envoy.

His good-looks and agreeable personality made him a huge success there. He even found a wife. On 1 December 1831, Alexandre married Lady Catherine Montagu, the daughter of the 6th Earl of Sandwich. The couple had two children together, Louise-Marie and Georges-Edouard. Tragically, they both died young. By then Alexandre was a widower too, Catherine having died shortly after giving birth to her son.

Alexandre returned to France, where he became a naturalised French citizen and joined the army. His father would have been proud. He had always wished for his son to become a French soldier. As a captain in the French Foreign legion, he fought in Algeria. In 1837 he dropped out of the military to pursue a career in journalism and playwrighting. One of his comedies, l'Ecole du monde, was produced at the Theâtre Français in 1840. He was also said to have collaborated with the elder Dumas on Mademoiselle de Belle-Isle.

Alexandre had no intention of remaining single for long. He had an affair with the French actress Elisabeth Rachel Félix, who gave him a son, Alexandre-Antoine. But this relationship had no future. Unlike that with Maria Anna di Ricci, daughter of an Italian count. Alexander married her on 4 June 1846. They had four children, Isabel (who died young), Charles, Elise and Eugénie.

Despite his other pursuits, Alexander had never fully abandoned his job as a diplomat. When his cousin Louis Napoleon took the throne, Alexander served as a diplomat in Italy and London, where he announced the coup d'état to the prime minister, Lord Palmerston. He also organised Napoleon III's visit to London and Queen Victoria's return visit to France.

In 1855, Alexandre was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs. He favoured an entente with Russia and opposed the Emperor's policy in Italy, which led to war with Austria. In 1860, he left the Foreign Ministry and became Minister of State. He later served as a senator and president of the Corps Législatif. In 1866, he was created a Duke of the Empire. He was also made a knight of Malta and elected a member of the Académie des beaux-arts.

Alexandre died of a stroke or heart attack at Strasbourg on September 27, 1868. He was 58 years old. He is buried at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

Marie Antoinette & The Comte d'Haga

The Queen, who was much prejudiced against the King of Sweden*, received him very coldly. All that was said of the private character of that sovereign, his connection with the Comte de Vergennes, from the time of the Revolution of Sweden, in 1772, the character of his favourite Armfeldt, and the prejudices of the monarch himself against the Swedes who were well received at the Court of Versailles, formed the grounds of this dislike.

He came one day uninvited and unexpected, and requested to dine with the Queen. The Queen received him in the little closet, and desired me to send for her clerk of the kitchen, that she might be informed whether there was a proper dinner to set before Comte d'Haga, and add to it if necessary. The King of Sweden assured her that there would be enough for him; and I could not help smiling when I thought of the length of the menu of the dinner of the King and Queen, not half of which would have made its appearance had they dined in private.

The Queen looked significantly at me, and I withdrew. In the evening she asked me why I had seemed so astonished when she ordered me to add to her dinner, saying that I ought instantly to have seen that she was giving the King of Sweden a lesson for his presumption. I owned to her that the scene had appeared to me so much in the bourgeois style, that I involuntarily thought of the cutlets on the gridiron, and the omelette, which in families in humble circumstances serve to piece out short commons. She was highly diverted with my answer, and repeated it to the King, who also laughed heartily at it.

*King Gustavus III of Sweden visited Versailles in incognito under the name Comte d'Haga.

Further reading:
Memoirs Of The Court Of Marie Antoinette, Queen Of France by Madame Campan

The Curse Of Excalibur

Completely abandoned by everyone she trusted and sold into marriage with the vile Uriens to please her brother, King Arthur, Morgan sits alone in Rheged Castle.
A burning desire for revenge on everyone grows inside her.
Most of all, however, she hates Arthur. So when he unwittingly asks her to look after his sword Excalibur, she senses an opportunity.
But Morgan will have to overcome the trickery of Merlin, and summon all of her otherworldly powers to return to Camelot and vanquish her enemies.

If you're as intrigued by Morgan Le Fay as much as I am, then you too must read The Morgan Trilogy by Lavinia Collins. In the first book, The Witches Of Avalon, Morgan took her first tentative steps towards black magic to protect her loved ones, only to be abandoned by everyone.

Pain and loss made her bitter, and eager for revenge, especially against Arthur, the man who sold her to her cruel husband Uriens. In The Curse Of Excalibur, the second book of the trilogy, Morgan has the opportunity to make those who hurt her pay. But it means embarking on a road from which she'll never be able to turn back.

Revenge isn't her only obsession. Her relationship with Kay, Arthur's foster brother, now completely over, Morgan becomes infatuated with Lancelot. But he's in love with Queen Guinevere, and pays her no attention. That's not enough to deter Morgan. Her past experiences have changed her, and she's now willing to reach her goals with any means necessary...

The Curse Of Excalibur is a much darker novel than The Witches of Avalon. Black magic, intrigues, plots, mysteries, and dangerous affairs make for a very gripping read. The story absorbs you from the first page, bringing you into its world. You forget Camelot is just a legend. It seems so real.

The characters are well-developed and rounded. Although Morgan is becoming increasingly harder to like, I enjoy learning her story from her own words. Who else could better make us understand how an innocent young girl can become so vindictive and dangerous?

Although I know (and you probably do too if you are familiar with the Arthurian legends), how the story ends, I can't wait for the last instalment of The Morgan Trilogy. I know it won't disappoint.

In The Curse Of Excalibur, Morgan Le Fay tells her own, dark story. A story full of plots, intrigues, and dangerous affairs. Vividly written, it'll grip you from page one.

Available at: Amazon

Rating: 4/5

Disclaimer: this book was sent by PR for consideration. In addition, this post contains affiliate links.

A Game Of Tennis

The Tennis Match by Horace Henry Cauty

A Game Of Tennis by John Strickland Goodall

A Game Of Tennis by John Strickland Goodall

Tennis by John Lavery

A Game Of Tennis by Leopold Franz Kowalski

A Game Of Tennis by Francis Sydney Muschamp

A Game Of Tennis by George Goodwin Kilburne

A Game Of Tennis by John Lavery

Lady Anne Blount, Saviour Of The True Thoroughbred Arabian

Lady Anne Blunt had two passions in life: horses and travelling. Together with her husband, the poet Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, she travelled extensively though the Middle East, buying Arabian horses from Bedouin tribesmen and the Egyptian Ali Pasha Sherif. To this day, most purebred Arabian horses trace their lineage to one of the horses the couple bought.

Born in 1837, Anne was the daughter of William King, first Earl of Lovelace, and his wife Ada, daughter of the poet Lord Byron and the first computer programmer. When Ada died, William started travelling the world, taking his 15 year old daughter with him. During these trips, Anne learnt several languages (she became fluent in German, French, Italian, Arabic, and Spanish) and passed the time sketching the scenery and landscapes she saw. She was a skilled artist. Her drawing teacher was none other than John Ruskin.

We Are NOT Engaged!

When Queen Victoria met Prince Albert, she fell hard for him, and was eager to become his wife. But before their meeting, she was not so enthusiastic about the prospect of marrying him, or anyone else for that matter, as she revealed in this letter to her uncle Leopold I, King Of The Belgians:

Ask the Past: Pertinent and Impertinent Advice from Yesteryear

Historian and bibliophile Elizabeth P. Archibald loves perusing old textbooks, pamphlets, and etiquette books. They can be as funny as they are informative. Some of the advice is still incredibly relevant today, but other tips are so ridiculous and far-fetched they have you laughing out loud. Archibald has been sharing the most amusing ones in her blog, Ask The Past, which has now become a book.

Ask The Past has tips on how to get rid of bed bugs (sprinkle bed with gunpowder and let smoulder), how to avoid pregnancy (tie some weasel testicals or goat innards around your neck), how to tell if someone is dead (apply lightly roasted onion to his nostrils), and lots more. Each piece of advice is accompanied by Archibald's snarky commentary, which is often funnier and doubles the entertainment.

Did William Cecil Murder Amy Robsart?

In 1560, Amy Robsart, Robert Dudley's wife, was conveniently found dead at the foot of the stairs at Cunmor Palace, near Oxford. Her husband, now free to marry Queen Elizabeth I, has always been considered the prime suspect by those who don't believe the suicide or accident theories. After all, the culprit is always the one with the most to gain, right? And what's more coveted than a crown?

The problem with this theory is that Amy's death put an end to all talk of marriage between Dudley and the Queen. Elizabeth I certainly couldn't risk marring a man suspected of killing his first wife. Robert must have known this, so it would have been a very risky gamble on his part, especially if his wife really was as ill as some sources claim. Waiting for her to die would have been a safer bet. It's not like Elizabeth was in any rush to marry anyone else.

This is probably why this theory is now beginning to lose popularity. But a new one, which is by no means less popular, is emerging: the culprit is William Cecil, Queen Elizabeth I's Secretary of State. Alison Weir, in her biography of Queen Elizabeth I, wrote:

Dorothea Erxleben, The First Female Doctor In Germany

Born in Quedlinburg in 1715, Dorothea Christiane Erxleben née Leporin was the first female doctor in Germany. It's an achievement that wouldn't have been possible without the support of her dad. Unlike most men of his time, Christian Leporin, a doctor himself, disagreed with the custom of letting women languish at home. If they showed any inclination for it, they should be allowed to study and work, the doctor thought.

So, when his daughter Dorothea showed a vivacious intelligence and love for medicine at an early age, Christian taught her the basics. She later was sent, with her brother Tobias, to study medicine privately. But a university degree was needed to complete both their educations in the field. Tobias applied, and was accepted, at the University of Halle without problems. But that door was shut to Dorothea. Women just didn't go to university.

A Wedding Anniversary Guide

The custom of celebrating anniversary weddings has, of late years, been largely practiced, and they have become a very pleasant means of social reunion among the relatives and friends of both husband and wife. Often this is the only reason for celebrating them, and the occasion is sometimes taken advantage of to give a large party, of a more informal nature than could be given under other circumstances. [...]

Upon these occasions the married couple sometimes appear in the costumes worn by them on their wedding day, which they have preserved with punctilious care, and when many years have intervened the quaintness and oddity of the style of dress from the prevailing style is a matter of interest, and the occasion of pleasant comments. The couple receive their guests together, who upon entering the drawing-room, where they are receiving, extend to them their congratulations and wishes for continued prosperity and happiness.

The various anniversaries are designated by special names, indicative of the presents suitable on each occasion, should guests deem it advisable to send presents. It may be here stated that it is entirely optional with parties invited as to whether any presents are sent or taken. At the earlier anniversaries, much pleasantry and amusement is occasioned by presenting unique and fantastic articles, gotten up for the occasion. When this is contemplated, care should be taken that they should not be such as are liable to give offense to a person of sensitive nature.


The first anniversary of the wedding-day is called the Paper Wedding, the second the Cotton Wedding, and the third the Leather Wedding. The invitations to the first should be issued on a grey paper, representing thin cardboard. Presents, if given should be solely articles made of paper.

The invitations for the cotton wedding should be neatly printed on fine white cloth, and presents should be of articles of cotton cloth.

For the leather wedding invitations should be issued upon leather, tastily gotten up, and presents, of course, should be articles made of leather.


The wooden wedding is the fifth anniversary of the marriage. The invitations should be upon thin cards of wood, or they may be written on a sheet of wedding note paper, and a card of wood enclosed in the envelope. The presents suitable to this occasion are most numerous, and may range from a wooden paper knife or trifling article for kitchen use up to a complete set of parlor or kitchen furniture.


The tenth anniversary of the marriage is called the tin wedding. The invitations for this anniversary may be made upon cards covered with a tin card inclosed. The guests, if they desire to accompany their congratulations with appropriate presents, have the whole list of articles manufactured by the tinner's art from which to select.


The crystal wedding is the fifteenth anniversary. Invitations may be on thin, transparent paper, or colored sheets of prepared gelatine, or on ordinary wedding note-paper, enclosing a sheet of mica. The guests make their offerings to their host and hostess of trifles of glass, which may be more or less valuable, as the donor feels inclined.


The china wedding occurs on the twentieth anniversary of the wedding-day. Invitations should be issued on exceedingly fine, semi-transparent note-paper or cards. Various articles for the dining or tea-table or for the toilet-stand, vases or mantel ornaments, all are appropriate on this occasion.


The silver wedding occurs on the twenty-fifth marriage anniversary. The invitations issued for this wedding should be upon the finest note-paper, printed in bright silver, with monogram or crest upon both paper and envelope, in silver also. If presents are offered by any of the guests, they should be of silver, and may be the merest trifles, or more expensive, as the means and inclinations of the donors incline.


The close of the fiftieth year of married life brings round the appropriate time for the golden wedding. Fifty years of married happiness may indeed be crowned with gold. The invitations for this anniversary celebration should be printed on the finest note-paper in gold, with crest or monogram on both paper and envelopes in highly-burnished gold. The presents, if any are offered, are also in gold.


Rarely, indeed, is a diamond wedding celebrated. This should be held on the seventy-fifth anniversary of the marriage-day. So seldom are these occurrences that custom has sanctioned no particular style or form to be observed in the invitations. They might be issued upon diamond-shaped cards, enclosed in envelopes of a corresponding shape. There can be no general offering of presents at such a wedding, since diamonds in any number are beyond the means of most persons.


It is not, as before stated, required that an invitation to an anniversary wedding be acknowledged by a valuable gift, or indeed by any. The donors on such occasions are usually only members of the family or intimate friends, and may act at their own discretion in the matter of giving presents.

On the occasion of golden or silver weddings, it is not amiss to have printed at the bottom of the invitation the words "No presents," or to enclose a card announcing—

"It is preferred that no wedding gifts be offered."


The invitations to anniversary weddings may vary something in their wording, according to the fancy of the writer, but they are all similar. They should give the date of the marriage and the anniversary. They may or may not give the name of the husband at the right-hand side and the maiden name of the wife at the left. What the anniversary is should also be indicated.

The following form will serve as a model:

A proper variation will make this form equally suitable for any of the other anniversary weddings.


It is not unusual to have the marriage ceremony repeated at these anniversary weddings, especially at the silver or golden wedding. The earliest anniversaries are almost too trivial occasions upon which to introduce this ceremony. The clergyman who officiates may so change the exact words of the marriage ceremony as to render them appropriate to the occasion.

Further reading:
Our Deportment, by John H. Young

My Lady Viper By E. Knight

When Anne Boleyn falls to the executioner’s ax on a cold spring morning in 1536, Anne Seymour knows her family faces peril. As alliances shift and conspiracies multiply, the Seymours plot to establish their place in the treacherous court of King Henry VIII, where a courtier’s fate is decided by the whims of a hot-tempered and fickle monarch.

Lady Anne’s own sister-in-law, Jane Seymour, soon takes Anne Boleyn’s place as queen. But if Jane cannot give King Henry a son, history portends that she, too, will be executed or set aside—and her family with her. In desperation, Lady Anne throws herself into the intoxicating intrigue of the Tudor court, determined to ensure the success of the new queen’s marriage and the elevation of the Seymour family to a more powerful position. Soon her machinations earn her a reputation as a viper in a den of rabbits. In a game of betrayal and favor, will her family’s rise be worth the loss of her soul?

I don't know about you, but I hope the first person trend in historical fiction will disappear soon. It's been over done. And I'm really tired of it. It's too restricting. I'm an omniscient reader. I want to know everything that's going on in the world a writer has created for me, what every character does, thinks, and feels. The first person narrator can tell me only what she experiences and what she thinks other believe and feel. It's hard for me to get into that.

I know that first person narration is supposed to let readers better identify and empathise with the protagonist. But that only works when the protagonist is strong, well-rounded, and intriguing. Anne Stanhope Seymour, sister-in-law of Queen Jane Seymour and aunt-by-marriage of her son Edward, is simply not an interesting enough character to keep the reader glued to listen to her story.

I hoped it wold be different. I love reading historical fiction novels told by characters that are usually relegated to the sidelines. They often offer a different perspective on well-known historical events. Anne, as wife of Edward Seymour and a relative by marriage of the Tudors, was at the heart of the court and its intrigues. Her family faced all sorts of perils.

She's supposed to throw herself deep into these intrigues, but in truth, she doesn't do much, apart from pointing pretty women in the King's direction, hoping he'll either bed or marry them. The rest of the time she's busy seeking revenge on the people who badly abused her (we are told she plays a part in their downfall but how exactly is never revealed - so much for intrigue) and pining over her loves for her husband and her lover. Problem is, she never falls hard for either of them, so even the romance aspect of the novel is pretty lukewarm.

In the end, even though Anne Stanhope Seymour is the protagonist of the novel, to the reader she still feels more like a bystander. That's why I would have much preferred the third person narration. There is so much going on in this story but, because Anne tells it, we only get a glimpse of it. And it's probably not even the most interesting glimpse either.

Having said that, the writing is beautiful. It's what kept me coming back to this book. Knight has a wonderful way with words. The world she conjures up is so vivid. She just needs to let her heroines take a more active role in their own stories.

I know that would result in historical inaccuracies. Tudor women were usually pawns with no will of her own. At least they were not allowed to express any will of their own. But My Lady Viper, like all historical novels, already has its fair share of inaccuracies. Might as well have added one or two more to make the story more engaging.

Beautifully written, My Lady Viper suffers from the use of the first person narration. The protagonist, Lady Stanhope Seymour, is just not interesting enough to pull it off.

Available at: and Amazon UK

Rating: 3.5/5

Disclaimer: this book was sent by PR for consideration. In addition, this post contains affiliate links.

The Geffrye, Museum Of The Home

So, what does a history nerd do when she moves to London? Goes museum hunting, of course. And, here, museums abound. But they aren't all famous like the British Museum or National Portrait Gallery. Some are smaller, tucked away in some busy, little known corner of this metropolis.

Such is the case with one of my new favourite museums, the Geffrye. An oasis of peace in the hectic heart of Hoxton, the Geffrye Museum is a museum of the home. Its mission is to show its visitors how much homes have changed in the past 400 years.

The Short Life Of Anne Leighton

In late 1591, Elizabeth Knollys, a descendant of the Boleyns, and her husband, professional soldier Sir Thomas Leighton, welcomed a daughter into the world and their family. They named her Anne, and gave her an education befitting her status. The girl was taught sewing, housekeeping, and all the skills needed to manage a Tudor household. She also shared a tutor with her brother. William Bradshaw was a Puritan preacher, with uncompromising beliefs that courted controversy.

Her childhood was spent between Hanbury, in Worcestershire, where the Leightons had their family seat, and Guernsey, where her father acted as Governor. But one day, she would have to leave both, and move to her husband's place. Her father arranged her a match with John St Jones, the younger brother to the heir to the St Jones' fortune. When both his parents died, he was made a ward of Sir Thomas by Queen Elizabeth I.

A Negligent Duchess

When, in April 1776, English author Fanny Burney met Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire, at the park, she wasn't too impressed. Here's what she wrote to Samuel Crisp:

Mr. Burney, Hetty and I took a walk in the Park on Sunday morning, where, among others, we saw the young and handsome Duchess of Devonshire, walking in such an undressed and slaternly manner as in former times Mrs. Rishton might have done in Chesington Garden. Two of her curls came quite unpinned, and fell lank on one of her shoulders; one shoe was down at heel, the trimming of her jacket and coat was in some places unsown; her cap was awry; and her cloak, which was rusty and powdered, was flung half on and half off.

Had she not had a servant in a superb livery behind her, she would certainly have been affronted. Every creature turned back to stare at her. Indeed I think her very handsome, and she has a look of innocence and artlessness that made me quite sorry she should be so foolishly negligent of her person. She had hold of the Duke's arm, who is the very reverse of herself, for he is ugly, tidy, and grave.

Omai*, who was in the Park, called here this morning, and says that he went to her Grace, and asked her why she let her hair go in that manner! Ha, ha, ha ! Don't you laugh at her having a lesson of attention from an Otaheitan?

*A young Ra'iatean man who became the second Pacific Islander to visit Europe.

Further reading:
Journals and Letter by Frances Burney

The Armstrong Girl: A Child For Sale: The Battle Against The Victorian Sex Trade By Cathy Le Feuvre

In Italy, the age of consent is 14. I never questioned it. If anything I wondered why in the UK it was 16. Now I know. It is thanks to the efforts of many reformers, including William Stead, editor of the Pall Mall Gazette and inventor of the modern tabloids, who exposed the trade in young girls in Victoria Britain, and created a huge scandal in the process.

At the time, the age of consent was 13. This allowed innocent young girls to be sexually exploited, both at home and abroad. To demonstrate to the country how easy it was to buy a girl for the sex trade, and even smuggle her abroad to work in Belgian brothels, William Stead decided to purchase one of these unfortunate souls. He then featured her story in his revealing, shocking, and eye-opening series of articles, "The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon". That forced the lawmakers, many of which were against reforms, to change the law.

But the story doesn't end there. Although Stead didn't hurt the girl he bought, but entrusted her to the care of the Salvation Army, he still ended up, together with his accomplices, in court, on trial for abducting her. Some were absolved, while others went to prison, and even died there, martyrs for justice.

The Armstrong Girl is a great piece of social history that should be taught in every school. It opens our eyes to a side of Victorian England that's still hidden in the shadows, enlightens us on how the problem was dealt with in the UK, and encourages us to reflect on what we can do today to end the sex trafficking trade, which, sadly, shows no sign of disappearing for good. Captivating and engaging, this is a book you can't miss.

Engaging and captivating, The Armstrong Girl is a great piece of social history that should be taught in every school. It enlightens readers about the horrors of the sex trade and what the Victorians did to fight it.

Available at: Amazon UK and Amazon USA

Rating: 4/5

Disclaimer: this book was sent by PR for consideration. In addition, this post contains affiliate links.

Was Mary Boleyn Really The Mistress Of King Francis I Of France?

Eric Ives once famously commented that everything we know about Mary Boleyn "could be written on the back of a postcard with room to spare". So, basically, we know nothing. Only a few random facts historians have been painstakingly trying, for centuries, to stitch together. One of these facts is Mary's relationship with King Francis I of Francis. She was his mistress. Not his official mistress, but one of his many lovers.

Or so all the history books say. But was that really true? Mmmm... When we start examining the evidence, we appallingly realise how flimsy it is. Let's take a look at it, shall we?

Evidence N°1: The Bishop Of Faenza's Letter

The oldest piece of evidence used to support Mary's sexual relationship with the French King is found in a letter written by Rodolfo Pio, the Bishop of Faenza, to Prothonotary Ambrogio, dated 10 March 1536. The Bishop said:

"Francis said also that they are committing more follies than ever in England, and are saying and printing all the ill they can against the Pope and the Church; that 'that woman' pretended to have miscarried of a son, not being really with child, and, to keep up the deceit, would allow no one to attend on her but her sister, whom the French king knew here in France 'per una grandissima ribalda et infame sopre tutte.'". (That's old Italian for "a great prostitute and infamous above all", by the way.)

As it is obvious, Pio was no fan of the Boleyns. A papal nuncio at the French court, Pio was obviously against the religious reforms the Boleyns helped promoting, and Henry VIII's break with Rome.

Historical Reads: Cheating Valets and Tricks of the Trade

Valets knew many tricks to enrich themselves at the expense of their masters. Author Geri Walton shares a few:

Valets, similar to a household steward, used a variety of tricks to enhance their income. One trick was to complain to those they patronized—tailors, bootmakers, milliners, laundresses, and so forth—about the exorbitant amounts they charged. At the same the valet would then try and get his master to pay as much as possible. This then allowed the valet to pocket the difference.

Another trick valets used was to convince those they patronized of their importance. They accomplished this by claiming that their masters were fanatical and impossible to please. They also claimed that because of their (the valet's) influence, they were able to keep patronizing the less than perfect shop owner. Such claims resulted in the valet being granted discounts, concessions, or allowances that financially benefited them.

When valets worked for a master that was careless about his wardrobe, valets used other tactics to get money. For instance, valets were known to "commit sad depredations on the wardrobe." These depredations allowed valets to acquire articles that they could keep for themselves or they sometimes sold them. They accomplished this because they made friendships with wardrobe dealer who would purchase what they brought to sale.

To read the entire article, and discover many more tricks, click here.

Hair Fashions In Ancient Rome

(C) Shakko

The 1816 edition of the Belle Assemblee featured a very interesting article about the headdresses of some of most famous women in ancient Rome, and how hair fashions changed throughout the centuries. Here it is:

She knew how to arrange her hair in the most elegant manner, without any high toupet, and without even the ornament of an aigrette. A very narrow bandeau divided her hair in front from that behind, where it was tied underneath, the bow negligently appearing towards the uncovered ear; and two little bows of rib band fell on the nape of the neck behind. The front hair waved seemingly without art, and four braids of very long hair was wound in a kind of serpentine wreath all over her head, all equally divided, without touching each other; neither the roots or ends could be discovered, and seems plainly to shew that she was indebted to art for this ornament. If the reports of Claudieu may be credited, it was customary to shave the heads of every prisoner taken in battle, who was of distinguished birth, as a symbol of his loss of liberty; and Sidonius asserts, that this hair was scut to Home, to be fabricated into head-dresses for women of quality.

Book Reviews: Rome's Revolution & 365 Reasons To Be Proud To Be A Londoner

Hello everyone,

I have two history books, one more engaging than the other, to introduce to you today. So, let's get started:

Rome's Revolution: Death of the Republic & Birth of the Empire by Richard Alston
On March 15th, 44 BC a group of senators killed Julius Caesar, hoping this way to save the Republic. Instead, they unleashed a revolution that plunged Rome into civil war and led, eventually, to an absolute monarchy. How was this possible?
In his new engaging book, Alston tries to answer that question. Using primary sources whenever possible, he provides fascinating insights into the minds of the men involved in this process of change, both the main figures and leaders such as Augustus, Octavian, Brutus, and Cicero, but also the soldiers and common people who, over the course of the years, became more and more accepting of an absolute monarchy. He also investigates the events that have prompted these people to act the way they did, and sets the record straight on some of the myths that still circulate about this period.
This was a brutal and complex time in the history of Rome. Alston skilfully manages to convey the violence and uncertainty of the period. And he does so in an engaging, almost friendly tone. This is no boring history book. You can feel how passionate Alston is about his subject. It shows through every page.
If you want to know more about this brutal but fascinating period in Roman history, I highly recommend you pick up this book. You won't be able to put it down until you've reached the last page.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4/5

365 Reasons to be Proud to Be a Londoner: Magical Moments in London's History by Richard Happer
London is my favourite city in the world. It's exciting, fascinating, and steeped in history. Wherever you turn, you can see a piece of the past. Having just moved to London, I see one or two of them daily, but I don't always know what they are and what they mean. There isn't always a plaque to tell you. But since picking up this book, I discovered the history behind a few of them. And a lot more.
The book features 365 historical events and people that made London special. One for every day of the year. Each entry is short (only a few lines), but concise, straight-to-the-point, and funny. This is not a book for academics (at least not for those academics without a sense of humour). It's aimed at the casual reader who wants to know more about the British capital in a fun way that won't put him to sleep after a couple of minutes. If that's you, you'll love this book.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4/5

Are these books tempting you?

Disclaimer: this book was sent by PR for consideration. In addition, this post contains affiliate links.

The Lady Mary Submits To Her Father

22 June 1536 was a black day for the Lady Mary, the only surviving child of Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. She finally submitted to her father's request to accept him as the Supreme Head of the Church in England, and, even worse for the young girl, the invalidity of her parents' marriage.

Mary had stubbornly refused to do so for years, enraging her father who, as punishment, had refused to see her and prevented her from having any contact with her sick and dying mother. If Mary now agreed was because members from her father's council had started threatening her and even arrested a member of her household.

Even Chapuys, the Spanish ambassador and her and her mother's champion, had advised Mary to make the sacrifice and submit. He was worried for Mary's safety and that some harm may come to her if she kept refusing. Bitterly and with a heavy heart, Mary signed her submission:

Moste humbly prostrete before the feete of Your most excellent Majestie, your most homble, faythefull, and obediente subjecte, which hath so extremely offended Your most gratyous Highnes, that my heavie and fearfull hert dare not presume to calle you Father, ne Your Majesty hathe any cause by my desertes, saving the benignetye of your moste blessed nature dothe surmounte all evelles offences and trespasses, and is ever mercyfulle and redy to accepte the penytente callynge for grace, in any convenyente tyme.

Havinge receaved this Thursdaye, at nighte, certene letteres from Mr. Secretary, aswell advisyng me to make my homble submyssyone immedyatly to your selfe, which because I durste not, without your gracyous lycence, presume to doe befor, I latly sente unto him, as sygnefyenge that your moste mercyfull harte and fatherly pyttye had graunted me your blessyng, with condissyone that I should persevere in that I had commenced and begoone; and that I should not eftsones offend Your Majesty by the denyall or reffusalle of any suche artycles and commaundementes, as it maye please Your Highenes to addresse unto me, for the perfite triall of myne harte and inward affectyone, for the perfait declaratyon of the bottome of my herte and stomake.

Fyrste, I knowledge my selfe to have most unkyndly and unnaturally offended Your most excellent Highenes, in that I have not submytted myselfe to your moste juste and vertuous lawes; and for myne offence thearin, which I must confesse wear in me a thousand folde more greevous, then they could be in any other lyving creature, I put myselfe holly and entyrely to your gratyous mercy; at whos handes I cannot receave that punishment for the same, that I have deserved.

Secondly, to opene my herte to Your Grace, in theis thinges, which I have heartofore refused to condiscend unto, and have nowe writtene with myne owne hand, sending the same to Your Highenes hearwith; I shall never beseeche Your Grace to have pyttye and compassyon of me, yf ever you shall perceave that I shall prively or appertly, vary or alter from one pece of that I have writtene and subscribed, or refuse to confyrme, ratefy, or declare the same, wher Your Majesty shall appointe me.

Thurdly, as I have and shall, knowinge your excelent learnynge, vertue, wisdome, and knoledge, put my soulle into your directyone; and, by the same, hathe and will, in all thinges, from hence foarthe directe my consyence, so my body I do holly commyte to your mercye and fatherlye pyttye; desiringe no state, no condissyone, nor no mannore degre of lyvinge, but suche as Your Grace shall appoynte unto me; knoledging and confessynge, that my state cane not be so ville, as ether the extremyty of justice wold appoynte unto me, or as myne offences have required and deserved.

And what soever Your Grace shall comaunde me to doe, touchinge any of theyse pointes, ethere for thinges paste, presente, or to come, I shall as gladly doe the same, as Your Majestie cane comaund me.

Moste homblye, therfor, beseeching your mercy, most gratyous Soveraine Lord and benigne Father, to have pyttye and compassyon of your myserable and sorowfull child; and, with the aboundance of your inestymable goodnes, so to overcome my iniquitie towardes God, Your Grace, and your holle realme, as I maye feele some sensyble tokene of reconsyllyation; which, God is my judge, I onely desyre, without other respect, to whome I shall dayly praye for the preservation of Your Highenes, with the Queenes Grace, and that it may please him to send you issue. From Hownsdon, this Thursdaye, at 11 of the clocke at nighte.

Your Graces moste humble and obedient Daughter and Handmayd,


Further reading:
Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 5

Historical Reads: Bonaparte the Bookworm

Over at Military History Now, author Shannon Selin talks about Napoleon's love for reading and his favourite books. To quote:

According to his classmate (and later secretary) Louis Bourrienne, Napoleon read avidly from an early age. Whenever they had free time at the military school at Brienne:

[Napoleon] would run to the library, where he read with great eagerness books of history, particularly Polybius and Plutarch. He also especially liked Arrian, but had little taste for Quintus Curtius.

At the École Militaire in Paris and as a young artillery officer, Napoleon continued to read classical scholars, as well as more recent French and Italian authors. He also read a number of English works in translation. An idea of his favourites might be judged by what he chose to bring with him during a leave of absence in Corsica in 1786-87. His brother Joseph recounts,

[Napoleon] was then a passionate admirer of Jean-Jacques [Rousseau]; … a fan of the masterpieces of Corneille, Racine and Voltaire. He brought the works of Plutarch, Plato, Cicero, Cornelius Nepos, Livy and Tacitus, translated into French; and those of Montaigne, Montesquieu and Raynal. All of these works filled a trunk larger than the one that contained his toiletries. I don’t deny that he also had the poems of Ossian, but I do deny that he preferred them to Homer.

Napoleon soon parted ways with Rousseau, but his admiration for Ossian continued throughout his life.

To read the entire article, click here.

47 Washington's Maxims

1. Every action in company ought to be with some sign of respect to those present.

2. In the presence of others sing not to yourself with a humming voice, nor drum with your fingers or feet.

3. Speak not when others speak, sit not when others stand, and walk not when others stop.

4. Turn not your back to others, especially in speaking; jog not the table or desk on which another reads or writes; lean not on anyone.

5. Be no flatterer, neither play with anyone that delights not to be played with.

6. Read no letters, books or papers in company; but when there is a necessity for doing it, you must not leave. Come not near the books or writings of anyone so as to read them unasked; also look not nigh when another is writing a letter.

7. Let your countenance be pleasant, but in serious matters somewhat grave.

8. Show not yourself glad at the misfortune of another, though he were your enemy.

9. In visiting the sick do not presently play the physician if you be not knowing therein.

10. In writing or speaking, give to every person his due title according to his degree and the custom of the place.

11. Undertake not to teach your equal in the art he himself professes; it savors arrogancy.

12. When a man does all he can though it succeeds not well, blame not him that did it.

13. Being to advise or reprehend anyone, consider whether it ought to be in public or in private, presently or at some other time, also in what terms to do it; and in reproving show no signs of choler, but do it with sweetness and mildness.

14. Mock not nor jest at anything of importance; break no jests that are sharp or biting, and if you deliver anything witty or pleasant, abstain from laughing thereat yourself.

15. se no reproachful language against any one, neither curses or revilings.

16. Be not hasty to believe flying reports to the disparagement of anyone.

17. In your apparel be modest, and endeavor to accommodate nature rather than procure admiration. Keep to the fashion of your equals, such as are civil and orderly with respect to time and place.

18. Play not the peacock, looking everywhere about you to see if you be well decked, if your shoes fit well, if your stockings set neatly and clothes handsomely.

19. Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your reputation, for it is better to be alone than in bad company.

20. Let your conversation be without malice or envy, for it is a sign of a tractable and commendable nature; and in all cases of passion admit reason to govern.

21. Be not immodest in urging your friend to discover a secret.

22. Utter not base and frivolous things amongst grown and learned men, nor very difficult questions or subjects amongst the ignorant, nor things hard to be believed.

23. Speak not of doleful things in time of mirth nor at the table; speak not of melancholy things, as death and wounds; and if others mention them, change, if you can, the discourse. Tell not your dreams but to your intimate friends.

24. Speak not injurious words, neither in jest nor earnest. Scoff at none, although they give occasion.

25. Be not forward, but friendly and courteous, the first to salute, hear and answer, and be not pensive when it is time to converse.

26. Detract not from others, but neither be excessive in commending.

27. Go not thither where you know not whether you shall be welcome or not. Give not advice without being asked; and when desired, do it briefly.

28. If two contend together, take not the part of either unconstrained, and be not obstinate in your opinions; in things indifferent be of the major side.

29. Reprehend not the imperfection of others, for that belongs to parents, masters and superiors.

30. Gaze not on the marks or blemishes of others, and ask not how they came. What you may speak in secret to your friend deliver not before others.

31. Speak not in an unknown tongue in company, but in your own language; and that as those of quality do, and not as the vulgar. Sublime matters treat seriously.

32. Think before you speak; pronounce not imperfectly, nor bring out your words too heartily, but orderly and distinctly.

33. When another speaks, be attentive yourself, and disturb not the audience. If any hesitate in his words, help him not, nor prompt him without being desired; interrupt him not, nor answer him till his speech be ended.

34. Treat with men at fit times about business, and whisper not in the company of others.

35. Make no comparisons; and if any of the company be commended for any brave act of virtue, commend not another for the same.

36. Be not apt to relate news if you know not the truth thereof. In discoursing of things that you have heard, name not your author always. A secret discover not.

37. Be not curious to know the affairs of others, neither approach to those who speak in private.

38. Undertake not what you cannot perform; but be careful to keep your promise.

39. When you deliver a matter, do it without passion and indiscretion, however mean the person may be you do it to.

40. When your superiors talk to anybody, hear them; neither speak nor laugh.

41. In disputes be not so desirous to overcome as not to give liberty to each one to deliver his opinion, and submit to the judgment of the major part, especially if they are judges of the dispute.

42. Be not tedious in discourse, make not many digressions, nor repeat often the same matter of discourse.

43. Speak no evil of the absent, for it is unjust.

44. Be not angry at table, whatever happens; and if you have reason to be so show it not; put on a cheerful countenance, especially if there be strangers, for good humor makes one dish a feast.

45. When you speak of God or his attributes, let it be seriously, in reverence and honor, and obey your natural parents.

46. Let your recreations be manful, not sinful.

47. Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.

Further reading:
Our Deportment Or the Manners, Conduct and Dress of the Most Refined Society John H. Young

Book Reviews: Caesar's Not Here: The Inauguration Of Pompey's Theatre & The Witches Of Avalon

Hello everyone,

I have two new novels for you today. Enjoy!

Caesar's Not Here: The Inauguration of Pompey's Theater by Alex Johnston
Did you miss Marcus Mettius? I certainly did. Our favourite Roman salesman is one witty character who always finds himself in trouble. Usually because of Julius Caesar. But, as the title gives away, Caesar's not here this time. But that doesn't mean that Mettius can rest safely...
It does seem so at first. He has been invited to the inauguration of Pompey's theatre, an enormous complex that also features a dining area, a shopping centre, and a temple of Venus! Our Marcus is enjoying the gory games and the delicious food together with his beautiful date, the tavern maid Portia, some of his best friends, and a few of the most influential figures of his time. When, suddenly, something unexpected and dangerous happens...
This novella is a bit different from the others in the series. All the action occurs on the few days the festivities take place, and a huge chunk of the story is dedicated to their description. But that doesn't mean the book is slow and boring. Johnston can't do boring. His new novella is just as funny as all the others. It just provides a snapshot into a specific, limited, event that took place in the final years of the Republic, allowing the reader to enjoy it as if he/she were there.
As always, the characters talk in an anachronistic, modern way. That's something that usually bothers me in historical fiction works, but not here. It just fits, and makes the story more engaging.
If you've enjoyed the other Marcus Mettius' adventures, or just like a short, funny story, pick this one up. I promise you'll enjoy it.
Available at: Amazon UK and Amazon US
Rating: 4/5

The Witches Of Avalon by Lavinia Collins
I remember thinking, when I was reading the Guinevere trilogy, what an intriguing character Morgan, the half-sister of King Arthur, was and how I wished she had her own book. So, you can imagine how happy I was when, a while ago, Lavinia contacted me to ask if I was interested in reviewing the first book of her new trilogy, The Witches Of Avalon, starring Morgan as the lead. I said yes straight away!
As always, Lavinia Collins doesn't disappoint. This first book sees Morgan grow from an innocent child to a young woman who discovers betrayal, the cruelty of a men's world, and sex. War is looming, and danger seems to lurk behind every corner, especially when Merlin is around. A witch, Morgan turns to her magical powers to keep herself and her loved ones safe. But, even then, it seems only dark magic can give her the freedom and safety she craves. But is she willing to embark on a road from which she can't turn back?
Once again, Collins has created complex, intriguing characters, and a vivid world that makes you forget the Arthurian legends are just that, legends. They seem real. It's also refreshing to see them told, for a change, by the female protagonists who are often relegated to one-dimensional characters in the background. Here, Morgan comes forward to tell her own story. And it's a very compelling one.
If you like the Arthurian legends, or even just a good story, check it out.
Available at: Amazon UK and Amazon US
Rating: 4/5

What do you think of these books?

Disclaimer: these books were sent by the authors for consideration. In addition, this post contains affiliate links.

George Stubbs' Horse Portraits


Aristocrats didn't just commission portraits of themselves and their families. They also commissioned portraits of their beloved horses. In the 18th century, the man for the job was George Stubbs, a Liverpudlian painter with a fondness for these magnificent animals, which he perfectly captured in his pictures. Here are a few examples:

Bay Horse With A Groom

Captain Samuel Sharpe Pocklington With His Wife Pleasance And His Sister Frances

Countess Of Conings By Livery Of Charlton

George IV When Prince Of Wales

Horse And Rider

William Banderson With Two Saddle Horses

Baron De Robeck Riding A Bay Hunter

Joseph Smyth Esq Lieutenant Of Whittlebury Forest

Mares & Foals

Wedgwood And His Family

John and Sophia Musters Riding At Colwick Hall

The Phaeton Of The Prince Of Wales

Bay Horse And White Dog

Molly Long Legs With Her Jockey