Wednesday, June 30, 2010

3rd Book Review for the Tudor Mania Challange at The Burton Review

Tudor Queens of England
The Tudor Queens of England by David Loades

Summary: In this biography of Tudor Queens, David Loades summarizes the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of 12 Tudor Queens and 2 'almost' Tudor queens. Starting with Catherine de Valois, Queen to Henry V, the queens are separated into several categories such as Trophy, Dominatrix, Lover, Helpmate, Foreign Ally, Domestic Queens, Whore, Queens Who Never Were, Married Sovereign, Unmarried Sovereign, and concluding with a very brief history of Queens since 1603.

My thoughts: This is only my second attempt at reading a non-fiction  book related to the Tudors. (The first was The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Allison Weir). Since my last Tudor read had left me disappointed, I had a craving for facts and David Loades is successful at creating a non-bias summary of some of my favorite Tudor Queens.

I admit that the first few chapters were very difficult to get through, but that was only because I had no prior knowledge of the early Tudor Queens. In the story of Catherine de Valois, Queen of Henry V, the focus appeared to be more on life pre- and post- Henry V rather than her actual role as Queen. That may have been because her marriage only lasted 2 years before the death of Henry V. I found myself very confused and searching on-line for some other reference material as to the birth and crowning of her son, Henry VI. Loades writes that he (Henry VI) was born in 1421 and crowned in 1429, which would have made him only 8 years old when he officially took the crown. Although Loades does describe who served as Protector during his minority from 1422-1429, he makes no reference to who served as Protector after his crowning...surely he couldn't have begun running the kingdom at age 8?

The second queen, categorized as ‘Queen as Dominatrix’ was Margaret of Anjou, Queen to Henry VI. The most interesting bit of information that I pulled from this chapter was the controversy that surrounded the legitimacy of her son Edward. I am now on a mission to find a fictional (or not) story that elaborates on this.

Finally, the ‘Queen as Lover’, Elizabeth Woodville, Queen to Edward IV, was one that I have recently become familiar with and was much easier to follow once I made a character map again. (see side note below). The next chapter was devoted to Elizabeth of York, whom I had recently read about in To the Tower Born by Robin Maxwell.

SIDE NOTE: I just spent the last 2 hours re-reading the first 2 chapters and searching the Internet because I managed to get myself sooo confused while trying to write this. It was not made clear in this book that Edward, Prince of Wales, son of Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou had died- so I had inadvertently thought him to be King Edward IV and thought that he married Elizabeth Woodville. If you know much about history though, you know that King Edward IV had 2 brothers, Richard and Clarence. Can you see how I was confused? I was like, “I thought Edward was the only child of Margaret of Anjou….so where did Richard and Clarence come from?” I had to make another character map and it has helped me de-tangle the who’s who of the Tudor line. Okay, back to the review.

The next 3 chapters covered the six wives of Henry VIII. Had I not had prior knowledge of these 6 queens I may have become confused again. Instead of arranging Henry VIII queens in order of their marriage, Loades grouped them into three categories: Foreign, Domestic, and Whore. The only new information I gathered form these chapters was the clarification that Henry Fitzroy, bastard son of Henry VIII and Bessie Blount, died at the age of 18. I don’t know when or where I had been given the impression that he had died younger.

The most interesting decision by Loades was the insertion of a chapter dedicated to 2 queens that never were: Jane Grey and Mary Stuart, although not interesting enough for me to report on here. Loades concludes with very short summaries of Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeths reigns which has left me wanting to read further on the two daughters of Henry VIII.

It took me longer than usual to get through this relatively short book (234 pages)  because it was non-fiction and was very dense at times. I suppose that I am a glutton for punishment because next on my list is the biography Bloody Mary by Carolly Erickson. Wish me luck!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Return to Scrapbook Land

I have not attempted to scrapbook since I left NC back in 2008. My aunt, Roberta, use to throw the best 'Crops' when she was a Creative Memories Consultant. I have been wanting to get back into scrapbooking, especially now that I have an entire wedding album that needs to be put together and the time off to devote to it. I did a little google search to find a store in the area and found one just a couple miles from here. Last week I rode my bike (actually Carl's bike) down to the shop to check it out. Turns out that one of the ladies that is on my Thursday Night bowling league also works there. She let me know that they have crops every Friday night from I signed up.

Since Carl has been taking the car to work I had to bike there. It's only 2 miles and there is a really beautiful bike path that I can take almost the entire way. Luckily (or unluckily) I do not have that many scrapbook supplies anymore so I could fit almost everything I needed in a backpack. Plus, when you crop at the store you can use all their tools.

Yes, all this was in my bag. I put all my photo's in a recipe card box-they fit perfectly. Since I wanted to work on my wedding album, I put all kinds of left overs from my wedding in the bag including: favor bags, decorations, menu and program, marriage licence (not the real one, just the "for show" kind), ribbons, table arrangement plans and then of course my paper trimmer, corner rounder, photo splits, and markers.


Yes, those are bugs. Stink bugs to be exact. When we lived in PA these bugs got in everywhere and particularly loved to get into paper or behind Carl's posters. We always called them Potato Bugs because that's what we were told they were, but after a little investigating I found out they were stink bugs. Anyway, When I took the spine out of my scrapbook (which has been packed away for at least 7 months) these two bugs fell out onto the floor. I threw them outside- because even though they look dead, they like to play dead and then "come back to life" and scare the crap out of you. When we were unpacking our stuff after our move we found a few, and before we could vacuum, they started flying around the room! Creepy!

Okay, back to scrapbooking!

I had pre-sorted my photos into categories before I went to the crop. There were 3 major categories divided into smalled categories as follows:
Rehearsal Dinner/ Gathering- set up, met n' greet, candid shots, games
 Wedding Day- Cortney prep, Carl prep, wedding party prep, candid shots, precession, ceremony, reception, formal photo's
Honey Moon- day one, two, and three.

Once I got to the crop I started by doing a "power layout" and I went through all the photos and decided which ones went on each pages and got a general idea of how I'd place them . Once I did that I just started cropping my photos and getting them on the pages. I layed down a total of 14 pages...there are still 30+ to go. Once I have gotten all of the photos layed down I will go back in and start journaling and adding embellishments.

Here's a little peek at what I got accomplished. (I was there from 4:30-10:30)

Left: Party Invitation for Rehearsal Dinner/ gathering, Right: Party set up and decor

Both are "Meet n' Greet" pages.

Left: Candid Photo's, Right: Opening birthday/ wedding party gifts

Both pages: games

Left: Getting my hair done pre-wedding, Right: venue set up

Both pages: last minute pre-wedding prep

Left: pre-wedding candid shots, Right: Daren (our nephew) candid shots

That's all I got done for now. Some of the pages look a little crowded now that I look back on them, but I'll make it work. Better done than perfect...and I'm hoping to be done by our first wedding anniversary!

'His and Her' Dinner #3

Welcome back for another edition of 'His and Her Dinner' where I share my secrets of making 2 dinners out of the same base ingredient because my husband is the pickiest eater ever!

Tonight is a Double Feature!

This week I was feeling a little Asia inspiration. I should explain however, that the only Asian food that I actually eat is Sweet & Sour Chicken with white rice or Orange Chicken, also with white rice. Honestly, once I find something I like, it's hard for me to try something different. I know I give my husband a hard time about this, but I admit that I am guilty too.

Now, I give you fare warning that the meals that I feature tonight are not that different from each other. However, if I have to use an extra pot or pan to make the dishes separately (which I did) then I think they qualify to be featured here.

First up...

His: Chicken balls, fried rice, green beans

Hers: Sweet & Sour Chicken, fried rice, green beans.

I should explain that "chicken balls" are my homemade version of chicken nuggets. I just cut up a chicken breast, dip them in milk, coat them in a light flour mixture, and then fry them on the stove until golden brown. For my Sweet & Sour Chicken I just heated a little sweet & sour sauce from a jar, added chunks of pineapple and then tossed my portion of the chicken balls in the sauce.  I had intended on making myself white rice, but I was out, so I had to eat the fried rice. I also attempted to cook the green beans the way that Carl said he liked them: with soy sauce, salt, and pepper...they weren't that bad. I prefer my green beans with just butter and slivered almonds. We will probably repeat this meal again I said, when we find something we like it's hard to change it up.

Second Helping...

His: Spicy Orange Chicken with white rice and BABY CORN

Hers: Spicy Orange Chicken with white rice and BROCCOLI

Let me just say that buying a jar of 'Panda Express Orange Chicken Sauce' would have been much easier than what I did to make this dish! I bought Orange Marmalade but it had orange rind in it that just looked horrible (like maggots quick honestly). So I heated the marmalade until it became thinner and then strained it so that all the little "bits" were gone. I then sauteed the chicken in this extra spicy seasoning. When the chicken was done cooking I added the strained marmalade and simmered it for a bit. That made the sauce WAY too thin- Oops! I boiled the rice and steamed the veggies separately. I then put 1/2 the rice in each pot, added the baby corn to one and broccoli to the other. Next, I just split the chicken into the two pots, added a little of the sauce that was to thin and tossed each of them separately. I even fished out a bit of broccoli that had made it's way into Carl's portion because that would have just ruined it. It was okay, I probably won't attempt this one again, or at least I'll try to make it a different way.

Bonus Feature!

This is no joke...this is really what our refrigerator looks like right now. No, we are not broke, we can afford food...we just had a very busy weekend and haven't been able to make it to the store yet. We are getting ready to go now and we even made a menu and list for week. There are several dishes this week that qualify to be featured here, so until next Monday...Happy Dining!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Saturday at IMATS

Carl and I spent Saturday at the International Make Up Artist Trade Show (IMATS) in Pasadena, CA. This was the 2nd time we have attended, the first time was back in 2004. The trade show features vendors, artists, competitions, a museum, and seminars about both fashion/ beauty make-up and Special Effects (FX) Make Up. Carl is a Special FX Make-Up Artist.

The trade show was much busier than it was 6 years ago. It also seemed like there was a bigger focus on fashion/ beauty make-up than Special FX. The art of airbrushing has also become more popular since our last visit and there were several airbrushing booths this year instead of the one booth they had on '04. That meant that there were more naked (almost) women and men walking around with nothing on but paint. Here is an airbrushed Elvis...

One of the events that we looked forward to at IMATS was the student competition. The competition is highly competitive and they only select 8 participants to participate in each category. This year they had 2 competitions, one for Fashion/ Beauty with a theme of Alice in Wonderland and one for Prosthetic Make-Up with a theme of Grimm Fairy Tales. Unfortunately we miss read the schedule of events and the Prosthetic competition was scheduled for Sunday, so we weren't able to catch it. We did see the Fashion/ Beauty portion though. The crowd was 10x's bigger than it was in '04. All the artists in the student competition have to be enrolled in, or have graduate from a Make-Up school with in the past 12 months. Of the 8 artists, only one of them was from the US, the others hailed from Canada, England, Taiwan, Japan, and Mexico. The winner received $1,000 and will be featured in 'Make Up Artist Magazine'. This is the winning look.

One of the highlights of the day was getting to meet 'the Godfather of Special FX', Dick Smith. We have met him before but it is always a pleasure. It was actually his birthday too, he is 88 years old. Dick Smith created the make-up FX for movies such as Exorcist and The Godfather. He pioneered many Special X techniques in the industry and won an Academy Award for his work on the film Amadeus.

We finished our Saturday with some Cold Stone Creamery and a walk around the shops in Pasadena with some friends. Later that night we met up with friends again to watch Gown Ups. It was a very funny movie, I like Adam Sandler because he looks and acts like my brother.

I'm not sure what our plans for today will be yet...but join me on Monday for a new edition of 'His and Her Dinner'!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

What a 'Rush'!

It's Rush time for the pledges of the Bloggerette Sorority!
Hosted by Karen at Some Days are Diamonds

I've been waiting for this my whole life...well actually just since I found out about it a few weeks ago. Either way, I'm super excited about it. If you haven't joined yet it's not to late, just pop on over to Some Days Are Diamonds and follow the simple directions.

We were given a RUSH assignment in order to proclaim the official "grand opening" of the Blogerrette Sorority. We simply had to create something using this picture.

I immediately knew what I wanted to dress up! I wanted to find some vintage clothes and photoshop myself in. Unfortunately, I walked 2 miles up and down Magnolia Blvd the other day hitting up all the vintage/thrift stores and couldn't find anything suitable. I even tried making my own clothes look as close as possible, but I didn't have any success. My hair was a different story altogether. I tried to get their hairstyle, but it just flopped. All I could think was, "if I wasn't trying to get my hair to look like that, then it would". Their do's look like my bad hair days.

On Tuesday night I got another brilliant idea while catching up on Con-tain-it by Roberta. She featured folded candle shades which reminded me of folding paper fans. BINGO! I thought I'd try to make a vintage paper fan and use the photo as the paper. At 11:00 PM, I literally trashed that idea by crumpling up my 5th 'prototype' and throwing it across the room in frustration. I know, it was a little dramatic to throw it, but I was annoyed.

FYI- this is where I create- in my living room, curled up on the couch, using the coffee table as my desk. I have a real desk in the other room, but it's new and I don't want to mess it up.
When I woke up Wednesday morning I had another great idea! Make a rose/ flower out of paper and cut out each girls face from the photo and make them into petals. The paper I chose was not cooperative. It was textured velum and was not as flexible as I had wanted it to be. It ripped. I threw it in the trash.

I was having creators block so I opened the assigned picture and stared at it for longer than I care to admit. I also drank my 2nd cup of coffee and watched The Price Is Right.

At last I got my final idea. (It was my final idea b/c I would have just framed the photo if it didn't work out). After staring at the photo I realized that all the girls had two things in common... headbands and flowers. TaDa! I made a few prototypes and then settled down to create it.

I escaped the whole creative process with only one glue gun burn..thats a low number for me!

Here it is. I used green satin ribbon which was left over from my wedding last October. I used velum paper to make the pedals, also left over from my wedding. As a matter of fact, I think my wedding was the last "creative" project I worked on.

The last part of the Rush process...take a picture of myself with the creation. I can't say that I would actually wear this in public, but I think it might make a cute card embellishment!

Thank you for visiting Living & Loving in California. I look forward to seeing what all the sisters created and making new friends.

Please feel free to leave me a comment, explore my blog, or sign up as a follower. The more the merrier!


Monday, June 21, 2010

'His and Her' Dinner #2

I really enjoyed writing (and getting comments on) 'His and Her' Dinner so much last week that I have decided to make it a weekly feature! I even made a cute little logo for it. I sat down and wrote a list of foods that Carl and I like to eat but that we prefer to be prepared different ways and there are more than I expected!

So, the other night when I was making a grocery list and menu for the week I added Pancakes to the list. Carl likes thin crepe like pancakes with sugar and lemon. I'll eat them, but they are not my favorite. I love chocolate chip pancakes. When I told Carl the plan for dinner the following conversation occurred:

Carl:  "I like chocolate chip pancakes, I'll just eat those with you"

Me: "No, you can't! You'll mess up my blog. The whole point is that we eat different stuff from the same base ingredient."

Carl: "So, your life revolves around your blog instead of your blog revolving around your life?"

Me: "No."

Carl: "Well then, chocolate chip pancakes it is"

Me: "Just eat them the way you usually do"

Carl: "Nope, chocolate chip it is. Blog about that"


There you have it, no food pictures this week because we ate identical chocolate chip pancakes together! Go figure. Almost 8 years together and NOW he wants to eat the same thing! This wont last for long so look for the next edition of 'His and Her' Dinner next Monday.

Friday Night Field Trip

I survived my first week of summer vacation...just barely! I have to admit, even with a laundry list of things I could be doing, I still found myself a little bored. Particularly when our Internet connection went down Friday morning. (Thankfully it is back up and running this morning!)

By the time my husband got home from work on Friday night I was not in the best of spirits, but being the spontaneous kind of guy he is (sometimes) he suggested a plan the would be "just the thing" to get me out of the funk that I was settling into. I'm not big on spontaneous adventures but then he said, "it's something you can take lots of pictures of and blog about"....OKAY, now I was on board for his adventure.

We have been talking about going to the ocean to catch a 'West Coast Sunset' since before we even arrived in California. At 7:00 PM we left our house and headed towards the coast. We would have gotten there in under an hour, but I still have a lingering fear of highways and interstates, so we took the 'scenic route'. We popped out onto the Pacific Coast Highway just north of Santa Monica about 8:15 PM. We thought that if we drove north we'd have a better view of the sunset if we could just get past the next cliff that blocked our view. But, every time we came around a cliff there was another one...and another one....and another one. We were chasing an unattainable sunset.

We finally gave up and just pulled over at a small beach just in time to walk in the sand and watch the sky change color. I took my shoes off and rolled off my pant legs and we made the most of it, sun set or no sun set.

Our next mission was to find something to eat. We were planning on getting fast food on the way, but neither of us saw anything en-route that enticed us. So after our stroll we headed south on the Pacific Coast Highway and came across a Pier in Malibu called 'The Beachcomber Cafe'. They had a live band playing and it seemed to be a petty popular spot.  Unfortunately the wait was really long and we were starving. We toyed with the idea of eating at 'Jack in the Box' that was across the street, but I'm not a huge fan and it looked equally as busy inside.

Although we did not intend to go into Santa Monica, that's where we ended up. When Carl's mum was here last month we had spotted several British Pub's in the area that we would have liked to try. We settled into a very cozy both at 'Ye Olde Kings Head'. It's one of those places that has 1000 pictures and nick nacks on the walls, so I struggled to focus during dinner. We did happen to sit under a large replica of a painting of Maria Antoinette, which now has made me think my next reading adventure may me take to her era.

We drove home the scenic route again which is an extremely curvy dark road though the mountains. However, when we got close to civilization again the view from the top of the mountains out across the valleys of lights was AMAZING! Unfortunately, there is no where to pull over for Carl had had a few pints on an empty stomach and really wasn't in any position to be standing on the edge of any cliff taking pictures...fence or no fence! We did however agree that next weekend we will be taking the nighttime scenic route on Mulholland Dr to see the lights of LA!

A big thank you to my husband for getting me off my butt on a Friday night! Love You!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

2nd Book Review for the Tudor Mania Challange at the Burton Review

Secrets of the Tudor Court: Between Two Queens

Between Two Queens by Kate Emerson

Summary: Between Two Queens follows Anne "Nan" Bassett as she struggles to maintain her position as Maid of Honor to the ever changing rotation of queens in Henry VIII's court. As Nan's family falls from the King's favor for accusations of treason she remains in his favor, but his motivations are unclear. Nan finds herself the object of Henry's attention while he is between queens, but her past haunts her and threatens to destroy all of her ambitions if she is not careful.

My thoughts: DISCLAIMER***I read the 'Authors Note' at the end of the book when I finished reading it last night and I think it has tainted my opinion of the story***. I was intrigued to read this book because I wanted a different character in which to view the Tudor Court through. I had not heard of Anne Bassett before despite the historical documentation that proves her presence in Henry's Court. I read the book over the last 3 days and if I'm being honest, I was a little bored. I kept reading hoping that at some point the excitement level would pick up, but it was anti-climatic at every chance it had. Maybe that is why I have not heard of Anne Bassett before, her story was lack-luster when compared to many other women present in Henry VIII's Court.

The story starts with brief character introductions to Anne Bassett, her older sister Catherine "Cat", and their fathers servitor, Edward "Ned" Corbett. Nan and Cat arrive in England to 'audition' to be a Maid of Honor in Queen Jane's court. Nan was obviously chosen and her sister is sent to live with some prominent family in England. (This book drops so many names that it was very hard to follow even for the avid Tudor reader). Henry shows his interest in Nan upon her becoming a Maid of Honor, but as I said, it was very anti-climatic and nothing comes of it at that time.

When Queen Jane dies shortly after giving birth Nan is displaced from court having no queen to be Maid of Honor to. SPOILER ALERT***During that time Nan and Ned have a 'fling' of sorts which results in an unwanted pregnancy. Nan, with the help of her maid and a midwife are able to hide the pregnancy and birth from everyone including Ned. The midwife also sets up an adoption for the bastard child later named Jamie. Despite the risk, Nan visits Jamie numerous times. Jamie and the adopted family later die of plague. This was the most interesting plot point and it is a shame because the author admits that this part of the story, including the baby Jamie, adoptive family, the midwife, and Nan's maid were completely products of her imagination.

The story continues as Henry moves onto his 4th and 5th wives while the majority of Nan's family is accused of treason and imprisoned or kept under house arrest. Nan's point of view doesn't give any new insight on life at Tudor Court...nor does it reveal any new secrets. Nan is given partial credit for helping Henry VIII find his 6th wife, Kathryn Parr.

The book ends with Nan's marriage, which was also anti-climatic and occurs 17 years after her arrival in England. By that time she is 33 years old, which everyone knows is really old for first marriages back then. The author rushes to wrap up the conclusion of the book and quite frankly has left me disappointed.

I do not feel that I have any new information regarding the Tudor Court and it's inner workings. Nor was I able to connect emotionally to any character, so I felt very distant from the story. I like to "cheer on" or develop a strong hate for at least one character in the books I choose, but the author never develops the characters enough for the reader to decide whether to love/hate them.

The author admittedly leaves out many of the details of the plot on Calais saying, "I did choose to omit a number of details of the Botolph conspiracy simply because they made the scheme too preposterous for a modern reader to believe". Yet the reader is suppose to believe that a women with a position at court was able to hide a full pregnancy and birth?

I am not sure what would have helped this story. Nan's life was either not that exciting to begin with OR the author failed to convey it to it's full potential. If I use the Burton Review rating scale to rate this book, I' have to give it a '1'. I'd like to give the author, Kate Emerson, a second chance by reading another book from the Secrets of the Tudor Court series, but I need time recover from the disappointment of Between Two Queens.

What I'm reading next: Tudor Queens of England by Davis Loades (non-fiction)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

'His and Her' Dinner

Let me start by saying that I love my husband. With that said, he is the pickiest eater I have ever encountered. I have to give him some credit, he has added a few food items to his very short 'approved foods' list in the last few years. Thank goodness he discovered the joy of grilled chicken a few years ago!

Yesterday I got a recipe idea in my head and really wanted to try it. I had taken out pork chops for dinner and I knew there was only one way to get my husband to try something new...have it ready and waiting for him when he got home from work.

His: Spicy apricot pork chop with Fried Rice (Rice-a-Ronni)

Her: Spicy apricot pork chop with green apple and cranberry chutney, Fried Rice, and corn on the cob

I refused to tell him how I made the chops until after he finished eating...I figured as long as he kept eating them I shouldn't ruin it by telling him that he was eating apricots (that would have been a meal killer). He ate 2 pork chops, but claimed it was because he was hungry. He also explained that it's not that he "didn't like it", it was just that he's not use to mixing sweet and savory together in the same dish. Needless to say, I now know that I have a little bit more freedom to try new recipes and get him to try them if, #1- he's hungry, and #2- I don't tell him how I made it until after he eats it.

When we first moved to California we tried to be very strict about eating at home instead of going out to restaurants. I made a menu each week and tried to stick to it as much as possible. However, we soon found ourselves eating the same thing almost every week because Carl is so picky. We eventually declared some nights as "Fend for Yourself" where we both eat whatever we want. Tonight will be one of those nights.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sharing the Sisterhood

A big thank you to Roberta at Con-tain-it  for 'Sharing the Sisterhood' with me this morning! Upon Roberta's referral I popped on over to Some Days are Diamonds by Karen to check out the VERY EXCITING Bloggerette Sorority she is starting.

I want to join! Who's with me? Just go to Some Days are Diamonds and become a follower and read her super easy directions on how to join.

The best part of joining? We get to "RUSH" the sorority by being creative! Just create something by using the photograph that Karen provides.

Did I mention how excited I am! Join me...and the sorority!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

My First Book Review for The Tudor Mania Challenge at The Burton Review

To the Tower Born by Robin Maxwell

Summary: A new twist on an old tale. To the Tower Born follows best friends Nell Caxton, daughter of Will Caxton the 'man who brought books to England', and Bessie, daughter of King Edward IV and later wife of Henry VII. In alternating chapters the girls tell the tale of Bessie's brothers, Edward and Richard "Dickon", and the circumstances that surrounded their disappearance from the Tower of London shortly after King Edward IV death.  Offering a different version than most authors, Maxwell lets her characters tell a story that leaves the reader second guessing what they thought they knew about Richard III, Henry VII, Elizabeth Woodville, and Margaret Beaufort.

My thoughts: I have to start by saying that I could not put this book down. I read the entire thing, 301 pages, in 12 hours. I took a few meal breaks, but I did it in a day! I have read what I consider a lot of historical fiction related to the Tudors, but I recently became interested in books about King Richard III. I think I enjoyed them so much because I now have a better understanding of how the Tudor Dynasty was able to develop. This book follows Bessie before she became Henry the Sevenths wife and gives insight on how she helped merge the Yorkists and Lancastrian Houses.

First, although I have read quite a bit of historical fiction, it can sometimes be very difficult to remember who's who since it appears that Richard, Edward, Henry, Harry, Elizabeth, Mary, Margaret, Anthony, and so on, were VERY popular names back than. I found it helpful to create a "family tree" of sorts to help me map out the characters and their connections.

click on image to make it bigger

The above chart is just for family members and does not include the other main character in the book, Nell Caxton, who is best friends with Bessie. I also forgot to put in there that Margaret Beaufort was formally known as Lady Stanley, married of course to Lord Stanley who served King Edward the Fourth. Once I had mapped out the characters it was much easier to follow. This may not be the best book to start with if you are new to the historical fiction genre. (Side Note: If you are new to historical fiction and are interested in the Tudors, I'd start with The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory)

The story opens with Nell Caxton, daughter to the first English Publisher William Caxton, getting a divorce. This is never mentioned again in the story and seems ill-fitted once you finish the book. Nell then visits her friend, "Bessie", wife of Henry VII, who is grieving after the death of their first son, Arthur. We are then given our first introduction to Margaret Beaufort, the kings mother, where we learn how controlling she is and has always been. During the visit little Harry, the future Henry VIII, pops in and inquires about a recent beheading and confession related to Bessie's brothers who disappeared after the death of Edward the IV. This leads the girls into their tale about what really happened to the Princes in the Tower.

SPOILER ALERT!!!! The interesting twist given to the tale of the disappearing princes is in whom the girls place the blame on. Most stories finger Richard III as the princes assassin and he has been villianized through out history because of that (well that, and his decision to execute Lord Rivers...but at least he showed remorse when he learned of that mistake). In To the Tower Born we learn that Margaret Beaufort had her hand in the princes' disappearance. It actually makes sense too when you stop to think about it. She was a figure head in getting her son, Henry VII to take the crown from Richard III, and the princes could have always fought that they were true heirs against Henry once Richard was defeated. This tale takes it a step further, claiming that upon orders from Margaret Beaufort, the princes were taken from the Tower of London and placed in the basement of  a remote house in England where they were left to die. However, in another twist, the princes are actually found and rescued by Bessie and Nell (and some other people). Of course by this time, the boys were both so sickly and no longer had a legitimate claim to the thrown, so they disappear into the obscurity of the history books.

I loved the twists that this tale takes. I am also semi-in-love with Richard III after having read A Rose for the Crown by Anne Easter Smith, which depicts the softer and innocent side of him. So, I am glad that another author has come up with a story that "lets him off the hook". I also have a new found hatred for Margaret Beaufort even though I know this story is fiction. Using the Burton Review Rating System, I give this book a solid 4 Stars.

Next on my reading list: The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

Check out other reviews by going to The Tudor Mania Challenge at The Burton Review
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