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Historical Fiction
Six authors bring to life overlapping stories of patricians and slaves, warriors and politicians, villains and heroes who cross each others' path during Pompeii's fiery end.
Caught in the deadly world of the Renaissance's most notorious family, three outsiders must decide if they will flee the dangerous dream of power.
The Borgia family begins its legendary rise, chronicled by an innocent girl who finds herself drawn into their dangerous web.
The lives of an ambitious soldier, a patrician heiress and a future emperor fatefully intersect.
The Year of Four Emperors - and four very different women struggling to survive
A brilliant and paranoid Emperor, a wary and passionate slave girl – who will survive?

Ave Historia: An irreverent look at historical fiction today: books trends, historical tidbits, and random tangents

First Critical Review for Daughters of Rome!

March 15, 2011

Tags: daughters of rome, publishers weekly

I'm postponing my usual Teaser Tuesday this week, so I can post the very first critical review of Daughters of Rome. It came in last week from Publishers Weekly, and I'm thrilled!


"Quinn's follow-up to last year's Mistress of Rome focuses on four Roman women: Cornelia, the "perfect Roman wife," is poised to become the next empress; her sister, Marcella, is a historian with a budding appetite for manipulating powerful men; cousin Lollia finds herself constantly bartered off to different influential men, though only her slave truly knows her heart; and cousin Diana lives for the excitement of the chariot races. Quinn sets her novel in the "Year of the Four Emperors," A.D. 69, a tumultuous time of shifting loyalties. What unfolds is a soap opera of biblical proportions: when Otho deposes Emperor Galba, Cornelia's husband loses his head—literally; Marcella steps in to pull Galba's strings, but future emperor Domitian keeps an adoring, if untrusting, eye on her. All four women must make major sacrifices and risk losing everything—including their lives. Quinn's prequel lacks the darkness of her debut, but not the intensity. She juggles protagonists with ease and nicely traces the evolution of Marcella—her most compelling character—from innocuous historian to evil manipulator. Readers will become thoroughly immersed in this chaotic period of Roman history."

Weekend Read: Madensky Square by Eva Ibbotson

March 11, 2011

Tags: weekend read, madensky square, eva ibbotson


The best of Eva Ibbotson's superb collection of humorous romantic dramas, which makes it very good indeed. Unusually, its heroine is not a young girl striking out into life and love, but a woman in her thirties with much worldly experience of both already. Fashionable dressmaker Susanna chronicles a year of her life in pre-World War I Vienna; her hilarious observations of her clients, her neighbors, and her friends provide one laugh after another. Will the shy little piano prodigy across the square ever get a debut concert? Will the bluestocking bridesmaid ever step out from behind her domineering mother, or is she doomed to write boring dissertations on Beowulf forever? Why on earth did a sensual pork butcher agree to a celibate marriage with a young beauty? And just what is the so-called "Nasty Little Habit" which sends the mistress of the local bureaucrat running?


"At The Dressmaker" by Adriano Cecchi

No one has any secrets from the dressmaker, but Susanna herself is full of secrets. Why does she invariably disappear for a day or two after an onion-chewing little corporal comes to deliver a message? Why does she violently refuse to be godmother to any of her best friend's daughters? And how did a girl with a good education end up a dressmaker in the first place?

Eva Ibbotson's minor characters offer her usual smorgasbord of delights - Susanna's Hungarian assistant with an equal passion for haut couture and anarchist slogans is a particular delight. But Vienna itself takes center stage: Susanna's narrative pays an elegant, elegiac tribute to a city and time shortly to be engulfed by war. A magical book.

Teaser Tuesday

March 8, 2011

Tags: teaser tuesday, madensky square, eva ibbotson

If there is a man I really and truly hate it is the Russian impresario, Serge Diaghilev. Why couldn't he have kept his glamorous ballerinas and exotic designers in St. Petersburg? Why bring them to Europe to torture poor hardworking dressmakers like me?

At ten o'clock this morning, the wife of the City Parks Superintendant handed me a magazine and said she wanted to look like Karsavina in "The Firebird."

"Something diaphanous, I thought," she said. "Shimmering . . . in flame or orange."

She is healthy; she is muscular; she is sportif and athletic. A small glacier in the High Tatras has been named after her, and of this one must be glad. But oh, God! Karsavina?


-- From "Madensky Square" by Eva Ibbotson. A frothy Sachertore of a book about Viennese dressmaker with a secret lover, a tragic past, and an irrepressibly funny outlook on life. Read my review of "Madensky Square" this Friday.

Weekend Read: Sword Song by Bernard Cornwell

March 4, 2011

Tags: weekend read, sword song, bernard cornwell

If you like your historical fiction filled with blood, battles, and alpha males, then Bernard Cornwell is for you. His list of 40+ books covers stories as diverse as King Arthur, the American Civil War, the building of Stonehenge, and Napoleon’s attempts to push Wellington out of Spain, but his current series is called the Saxon Stories: five books to date about King Alfred’s struggle to save a little country called England from the Vikings, and Alfred’s chief warrior whose exploits on the battlefield ensure that Alfred will someday be called “the Great.”

It’s an unconventional partnership to say the least. King Alfred is humorless, tidy-minded, and a fervent believer in Christianity; the strapping hero Uhtred is noisy, aggressive, and a fervent believer in Thor. The two regard each other with exasperation, mystification, and sometimes downright loathing, but the King needs Uhtred if he is ever to push the Vikings out of England, and Uhtred keeps fighting for him although his own sympathies often lie with his Viking friends. Sword Song is the fourth installment in Uhtred’s adventures, and things are looking up for him. He’s no longer chained to an oar as he was through much of the previous book (don’t ask), and he’s settled down happily with a wife he adores and a never-ending supply of battles to fight. Trouble comes in the form of Alfred’s daughter Aethelflaed, a teenage princess who has long been a pet of Uhtred’s. Now grown into an appealingly steely girl (the scene where she blackmails an oath of loyalty out of Uhtred is priceless), Aethelflaed is newly and unhappily married to an idiot who promptly manages to get her kidnapped by Vikings. Uhtred’s job, like any hero’s, is to rescue the princess. But what if the princess doesn’t want to be rescued?

Uhtred gets better and better: confident, aggressive, humorous, vital. Alfred is a pious little prat in comparison, and Aethelflaed despite her impossible name is a girl with a bent for adventure whom even Uhtred can’t push around. Start at the beginning of this marvelous Saxon Stories for the full adventure, and give yourself far more than a weekend’s worth of reading.

Teaser Tuesday

March 1, 2011

Tags: teaser tuesday, bernard cornwell, sword song


The priest had come to me in the summer, half grinning, and pointed out that the dues we collected from the merchants who used the river were unpredictable, which meant that King Alfred could never estimate whether we were keeping proper accounts. He waited for my approval and got a thump about his tonsured skull instead. I sent him to Alfred under guard with a letter describing his dishonesty, and then I stole the dues myself. The priest had been a fool. You never, ever, tell others of your crimes, not unless they are so big as to be incapable of concealment, and then you describe them as policy or statecraft.

-- From Sword Song by Bernard Cornwell. What do you get when a Christian-born Saxon boy is raised by pagan Vikings instead? Uhtred of Bebbanburg, hero of Bernard Cornwell's Saxon Series. Read my review of Sword Song this Friday.