Readers of historical novels frequently complain about the large cast of characters that are typical of these novels, and how hard it is to remember everyone’s name. Yet Sharon Kay Penman manages to make her characters memorable. She does it with a masterful use of point of view. In Here Be Dragons, her fictionalized biography of Llewelyn the Great (c.1173-1240), Ms Penman allows the reader to spend a summer’s day with ten-year-old Llewelyn in Chapter One (it is July, 1183). We do not meet the second protagonist, John, Count of Mortain (1167-1216) until Chapter Three, and then it is through the terrified eyes of a teenaged serving wench who has just been told she has to spend the night with him. In Chapter Seven we meet the third protagonist, five-year-old Joanna, who is living in modest circumstances with her mother in Yorkshire. Ms. Penman deftly weaves the strands of her narrative together so that we gradually learn that Joanna is the bastard daughter of the Count of Mortain. Upon Mortain’s accession to the throne of England in 1199, as King John, Joanna’s status rises. In 1206, at the age of fourteen, she is married off to Prince Llewelyn, the ten-year-old boy we met in Chapter One, now a seasoned fighter aged thirty-three. Ms. Penman uses these plot strands to explore the complex, torturous relationship between King John of England and Prince Llewelyn of Wales. Five stars. A bookclub recommendation.
Publisher’s Weekly Listing of THWARTED QUEEN, April 2013:
Thwarted Queen: A Saga About the Yorks, Lancasters and Nevilles
Cynthia Sally Haggard. Spun Stories Press, $18.99 paper (495p), ISBN 978-1-4801-5539-8; $2.99 e-book ISBN 978-0-9848169-1-0
As the Hundred Years War comes to an end and the War of the Roses is about to begin, the wife of Richard, duke of York, bears a son after a love affair. Here is a portrait of a woman trapped by power, a marriage undone by betrayal, and a king brought down by fear.
Kirkus Review of THWARTED QUEEN, March 2013:
Cecylee Neville is 9 years old when she’s betrothed to Richard Plantagenet, the Duke of York. Years after they marry, an affair she has one night leads to the birth of an illegitimate heir, an event that alters the course of history. As King Henry VI of Lancaster descends into madness, the house of York—comprised of Cecylee’s husband and, later, her sons Edward, Richard and George—begins a long, hard-fought campaign, often marked by betrayal, to win the throne of
England for themselves.
Through careful, comprehensive research, Haggard creates a world rooted deeply in fact that’s also rich with dramatic detail. Descriptions of Henry’s descent into madness are particularly striking, as are the myriad relationships and duplicities that shaped the era, ultimately causing the war, which unfold intimately as Haggard couples fact with the affecting personal details.
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Welcome to Spun Stories, where I find books for book groups, give advice on the craft of writing, share tips on self-publishing, make bookclub recommendations, and spin stories from threads of the past
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Cynthia’s favorite quotes
"People have declaimed against luxury for two thousand years, in verse and prose, and people have always delighted in it."
— Voltaire (Philosophical Dictionary)
"It is the Land of Truth (enchanted name!), surrounded by a wide and stormy ocean, the true home of ILLUSION where many a fog bank and ice that soon melts away tempt us to believe in new lands, while constantly deceiving the adventurous mariner with vain hopes and involving him in adventures which he can never leave, yet never bring to an end."
— Immanuel Kant (Critique of Pure Reason)
"Man is a rational animal. So at least we have been told. Throughout a long life I have searched diligently for evidence in favor of this statement. So far, I have not had the good fortune to come across it."
— Bertrand Russell (Unpopular Essays)
“Not all superstitions are dark and cruel. I once received a communication from the god Osiris. He was living at that time in a suburb of Boston.”
— Bertrand Russell (Unpopular Essays)
“Once upon a time there lived in Berlin, Germany, a man called Albinus. He was rich, respectable, happy; one day he abandoned his wife for the sake of a youthful mistress; he loved; was not loved; and his life ended in disaster. This is the whole of the story and we might have left it at that had there not been profit and pleasure in the telling; and although there is plenty of space on a gravestone to contain, bound in moss, the abridged version of a man's life, detail is always welcome.”
— Vladimir Nabokov (Laughter in the Dark)
“Too much detail can have a distancing effect.”
— Wesley Stace (Charles Jessold)
“Tomorrow is another day.”
— Margaret Mitchell (Gone with the Wind)
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THWARTED QUEEN has won a B.R.A.G. Medallion!
Blog of the month for June 2011, at HISTORICAL BLOGS, FICTION & FACT
Spun Stories gets the Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award!
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Goodreads Reading Challenge for 2013