The Maiden's Court

This is an extension of my blog, The Maiden's Court []. I love to read historical fiction, non-fiction, biographies about American Presidents and First Ladies, and sometimes other types of books peppered in for good measure!

Not sure if you want to read Madame Picasso yet?  Check out the video book trailer above to see if it changes your mind.


Book Review: Madame Picasso by Anne Girard

Madame Picasso - Anne Girard

I love reading art fiction – whether it is about bringing a work of art to life or showing us the lives of artists in a novel setting. Anne Girard brings us the life of Pablo Picasso as seen through the eyes of one of his mistresses, Eva Gouel. At the same time, we are treated to learning about this little known woman in his life, Belle Epoch Paris, and the little group of artists that came together at that time.


This was not my first introduction to this group of artists – I have seen this little band in a couple of films – but I thought that Girard did an excellent job of representing these characters. The actresses at the Moulin Rouge were entertaining and enjoyable, while I found myself disliking pretty much all of the women moving within the art circle – maybe with exception of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. The rivalries and tensions between the different groups (artists and the actresses) were palpable and great fodder for fiction.


Anne Girard crafted characters that you could totally love and feel for. I can honestly say that I cried as the end of the novel arrived. It has been a little while since a novel has made me cry. It was a great way to end the novel, even if I found it to be a tear-jerker.


This is the first novel being published under the name of Anne Girard, however she has published many novels under the name Diane Haeger. You can visit Girard’s website for additional information about the book. If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book?


This review is of a book that I received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  Review originally posted at The Maiden's Court on September 4, 2014.

"Wise, thoughtful and utterly irresistible, Juliet’s Nurse opens the back door to Shakespeare’s masterpiece, telling a powerful story not just of youth seduced by love and destruction, but also of maturity left to pick up what is left and carry on."

Eva Stachniak on Juliet's Nurse by Lois Leveen

Not sure if you are interested in reading Bitter Greens by Kate Fosyth yet?  Check out the above video book trailer and see if it helps change your mind.


"Fast paced and vivid you feel you are there."

Diana Gabaldon on The Tudor Vendetta by C.W. Gortner

Book Review: Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth

Bitter Greens - Kate Forsyth

I remembered hearing about Bitter Greens when it first came out in Australia a year or so ago. I was super excited to read this book when it came out to US release merely for the fact of the retelling of Rapunzel within a real historical setting. I honestly had not read the book blurb so I didn’t realize until I was well into the book, that Charlotte-Rose de La Force was the writer of one of the Rapunzel versions – leave it to me to completely miss the obvious! The pieces did appear to come together though, so even if you had no idea, you would end up getting the idea. In some ways I got what I was expecting of this novel, and in other ways I didn’t.


I consider the story as three threads composing two stories – that of Rapunzel (to include the back story behind the witch) and the story of Charlotte-Rose (the writer). I liked each of these stories separately, but didn’t love them told together – although I did like the idea of intertwining them together to show how the fairytale writer may have arrived at the concept for the story.


I loved Charlotte-Rose’s story – her saga among the court of the Sun King and even her life at the convent (and longtime readers of this blog know that I haven’t historically been a huge fan of novels set in convents). It was compelling and absolutely oozed the French court.


At the same time, I thought Forsyth did a FANTASTIC job retelling Rapunzel in a realistic historical setting (whether her name is Rapunzel, Margherita, Persinette or Petrosinella). The characters were fully fleshed out – especially Rapunzel’s savior/lover who you never quite know much about in the fairytale. I truly felt her desolation and loneliness being shut away in the tower. I actually even felt bad for La Strega (the witch) upon being given a compelling backstory.


The stretch for me was in the way the revelation of the story of Rapunzel came to Charlotte-Rose. Even though I arrived at the conclusion before the character did (and remember, I didn’t know she was the writer of the tale), it didn’t feel satisfying or natural to me. It was a little too much of a stretch of make the story of Rapunzel fit into her life experiences.


My only other critique was how dense the novel felt while reading it. No matter how long I read, I never seemed to make any forward progress. This almost 500 page novel took me a hell of a lot longer to read than it should have. I learned a lot about the time, experienced a lot of story, but could only read a few pages at a time without feeling overwhelmed and ready to put the book down. While the atmospheric nature was one of the things I loved about this book, I think its extent made it one of the more difficult aspects as well.


Kate Forsyth has written many other novels, including The Wild Girl. You can visit Forsyth’s website or blog for additional information about the book. If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book?




This review is of a book that I received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  Review originally posted at The Maiden's Court on September 19, 2014.

"A debut as bewitching as its protagonist."

Erika Robuck on Becoming Josephine by Heather Webb

Book Review: By Royal Command by Laura Navarre

By Royal Command - Laura Navarre

This was one of the few truly historical romances that I have read, and based on previous experiences I expected to find a lack of real character development, lots of sex/passionate embraces, and the historical aspect only as the setting. Well, I was truly surprised with this novel, even though the 274 pages felt like 500.


The novel is set prior to the Norman Conquest of England with the Vikings raiding the shores and the countryside in turmoil. Historical events were peppered throughout as well as historical personages. Beyond this, there is a true feel for the atmosphere and way of life.


The characters were well crafted and had defined personalities. Despite the opening line of the book blurb, it really wasn’t the stereotypical two brothers and the woman caught in the middle unable to choose between two equally great men. There was an issue between two brothers, and she was torn between two men, but that doesn’t exactly go together. I was actually happy with the way the story progressed and wasn’t the cookie cutter storyline. In terms of dialogue, some of the lines that the characters came out with were repetitive and annoying.


In reference to my above comment about how the short novel felt at least twice the length – it wasn’t that the plot dragged or that it was not exciting. I think it was more of the fact that there was really a lot going on that made it feel much longer in the reading of it.


The romance was well done – there were sex scenes and passionate chaste scenes. However, they didn’t just fall into each other’s arms every second; there was a build-up of drama and passion which felt very natural. Overall I was very happy with this read and I would consider reading her other novels – although, truthfully, the reason I chose this one was because it was set in Saxon England and I LOVE that time period.


Author Laura Navarre also has written a couple other historical romances including: The Devil’s MistressThe Devil’s TemptressMagick by Moonrise, and Midsummer Magick.


You can visit Laura’s website or blog for additional information about the books. If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book?




This review is of a book that I received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  Review originally posted at The Maiden's Court on December 24, 2013.

"No other author brings history alive like Quinn."

Michelle Moran on The Serpent and the Pearl by Kate Quinn

"Rarely has a book taken us back into seventeenth-century life as this does."

New York Herald-Tribune on The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

Book Review: 1st to Die by James Patterson

1st to Die - James Patterson

I have read a few of James Patterson’s books before from his Alex Cross series but this is my first from the Women’s Murder Club series. I really enjoyed the way he gave each of the 4 women a distinct personality. Time was spent on character development as well as the development of the mystery.

The main character of this book is Lindsay; she is a police inspector with the San Francisco Police Department. She begins investigating a murder of a newly married bride and groom; appearing to be a standard double homicide. This spree escalates as another double homicide turns up with the same situation. Lindsay begins working with her 3 friends, off the record, to try to solve these crimes in conjunction with the official investigation. These women represent all sides of the investigation process: Claire the Medical Examiner, Cindy the Crime Reporter, Jill the Assistant District Attorney, and Lindsay the Police Inspector.

This story takes many twists and turns along the way. Just when you think you know who Bride and Groom Killer is, new evidence comes up and it sends you a completely the opposite way. I was so sure of who it was twice, and fell into the trap they wanted me to fall into. You will never see the ending coming. As soon as the book ended I wanted to begin the next one; unfortunately for me I have to wait until it arrives and I get back from my trip.


I really enjoyed listening to this story. The narrator is Suzanne Toren, a prolific audio book narrator. She did an amazing job of creating a different feel for each of the four women in the story.



Author James Patterson has written 12 books in this series so far.  You can learn more about his series here.




This review is of a book from my personal collection and is based solely on my reading pleasure.  Review originally posted at The Maiden's Court on July 12, 2009.


"Anna Solomon has created a singular heroine, whose story of dashed dreams and eventual triumph is a wise and timeless wonder. Intense and gorgeous, The Little Bride gives us an unparalleled snapshot of the West."

Jennifer Gilmore on The Little Bride by Anna Solomon

"A love story shot through with a perfect sense of the period, it is a rare combination of historical enlightenment and sheer enjoyment...a novel to savor as well as devour."

Peter Quinn on City of Hope by Kate Kerrigan

Book Review: The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran

The Heretic Queen:  Heiress of Misfortune, Pharaoh's Beloved - Michelle Moran

I want to say right from the start that this book is the BEST book that I have read to date (August 3, 2009). I don’t know what was wrong with me, but for some reason I didn’t want to get started with this one. I put it off for three days after finishing Eve for some unknown reason but as soon as I started reading it, I was like “What was wrong with you!”

The Heretic Queen sort of picks up where her previous book Nefertiti leaves off. Nefertari is a princess in the royal court of Seti I. Her mother was Queen Mutnudjamet, the sister of Queen Nefertiti. Nefertari is the only remaining link to this family. With these family connections, Nefertari is constantly harassed by her school mates and others about being from the Heretic family. Her two closest friends, the only ones who really don’t consider her the Heretic, are Asha and Ramesses. Ramesses is the son of Seti I and he is declared co-reagent of Egypt along with his father. Along with his title, Ramesses must select a wife; a role that Nefertari would love to fill. Except there are some major roadblocks in the way…politics, greed, pride.

This story never felt like it was dragging. The sentences never felt clumsy, out of place, or just used as filler. Every sentence was important and helped move the story along in major ways. Moran is well versed in her Egyptian vocabulary and ways of living during the 19th dynasty. Her writing really makes you feel like you are right there or watching a movie play out right in front of you. About halfway through the book I realized that this book would only get through a fraction of the life/story of Nefertari. I was slightly depressed knowing this because this is a great love story for the ages; one that has stood the test of time. When it ended I wanted to read more, more, more! This has quickly moved its way to the top of my favorite book list.

I cannot wait to read Moran’s third book, Cleopatra’s Daughter. I have thoroughly enjoyed her first two.

Michelle Moran also has written two other books with an Egyptian slant to them: Nefertiti and Cleopatra's Daughter.


You can visit Michelle's website for additional information about the book. If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book?




This review is of a book from my personal collection and is based solely on my reading pleasure.  Review originally posted at The Maiden's Court on August 3, 2009.

"Intrigue at the Tudor court never looked more lethal...unputdownable!"

Michelle Moran on The Tudor Conspiracy by C.W. Gortner

Book Review: The Secret History by Stephanie Thornton

The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora - Stephanie  Thornton

In terms of novels and books about the Roman Empire, the Eastern Empire often gets the short end of the stick. I can confess to knowing nothing more about Emperor Justinian and Empress Theodora than the fact that they were memorialized in mosaic (learned about in my high school art history class). However, Theodora seems to be the new “IT” girl lately and I was excited to read something more about this portion of the Roman Empire. Plus, isn’t the cover just absolutely gorgeous?! I don’t even mind that we don’t see her face because it is beautiful and different that the seemingly cut and paste style covers lately.


What is there not to love about Theodora? I dare anyone of you who reads this to not fall in love with her. She is tough, smart, politically minded, and demanding. She makes something of herself to rise up from the gutter. She is sassy and fun. A heroine that we have been lacking in HF lately, in my opinion. The other characters were awesome as well. They all had so many different qualities to them and were very real characters. Even more, I loved the dynamics between the characters. Theodora and Justinian had some great sparring matches, each trying to outwit the other. Whether dealing with other women from the lower class or engaging with the courtiers, she always came out verbally on top.


The setting of the novel was so atmospheric I could sense the world around me – the sights, smells, and sounds. I can truly say that I have a solid concept of the Eastern Empire now and can tell the marked differences between it and the old Western Empire.


The only thing that I could conceivably complain about was the jump between the last two sections of time – I obviously wanted more of it and would have liked to know a little more about the later aspects of her life. Even at 448 pages I wanted more! I would recommend this novel to any historical fiction fan. If you have liked the works of Kate Quinn and Michelle Moran (both of which were set in the Ancient World) you will love this novel!


This is author Stephanie Thornton’s debut novel. You can visit the author’s website and blog for additional information about the book. If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book?


Also, I currently have a giveaway of this book running over at the blog page - follow the source link below!  Open internationally until July 14th!




Currently reading

Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power
Jon Meacham