What We’re Reading in August

Joanna here with a look at What the Wenches are Reading this recent little time here.

Me — I’ve gotWenches for the king a couple of books toI recommend.  First off is the non-fiction Jane Austen’s Guide to Good Manners by Josephine Ross.  While it’s one of many books that look at Regency customs and manners through the lens of Jane Austen’s works, this one is particularly readable and correct.  

Second book up for a recomment is Catherine DeLors’ For the King. Historical Fiction, here, rather than Historical Romance. It’s an atmospheric novel set in 1800 based upon an attempt on Napoleon’s life. Fun even for those not fascinated by the period.

And, finally, a bit of an outlier.  I’m reading a new-to-me paranormal author, Wenches midnight riotBen Aaronovitch. (You will probably find him in the upper left hand corner of the bookshop shelves.)  The work is titled Midnight Riot which seems to have nothing to do with the plot at all.  This is a police procedural set in Modern day London when part of police work is dealing with murderous magic.  Very funny voice. Well done.

Andrea says:

I’m finally settling back into a normal routine after all the upheaval of moving earlier this summer. And as usual, I’m doing my ying and yang style of reading. For fiction, I’ve gone back to a book I set aside the first time I tried it—the backstory on that is I recently spent the day with my roommates from college, and as we’re all avid readers, the book recommendations were flying fast and furious (As were our fingers! Everyone was busy typing TBR lists on their Wenches Wolf Halli-phones!) Wolf Hall was mentioned, and I said I had given up on it, whereupon I was implored to give it another go, and assured that I would end up loving it. So I am. I want to love it—and I’m warming up to it, but the style/voice is still hard going for me. But I vow to stick it out. (How did everyone else feel about it?)

For non-fiction, I’m reading a very entertaining history of Wenches broadsides the Age of Fighting Sail entitled Broadsides, by Nathan Miller, which covers the time period between the American Revolution and the end of the Napoleonic Wars. It’s very well-written, and along with detailed descriptions of the battles, it highlights the personalities of the captains and admirals, and gives a fascinating picture of life aboard a British warship.

From Nicola we have:  

Wenches silkwormThis month I have been reading The Silkworm, JK Rowling’s second crime novel under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. I enjoy a good old-fashioned whodunit and the first two books in the Cormoran Strike series have been great – intricately plotted, clever, and with some well drawn characters. I am enjoying the way that the relationship between Cormoran, the rather eccentric PI and Robin, his feisty sidekick, is developing and the hints of romance between the two of them. The Silkworm is particularly fun as it’s set in the writing world and contains some very sharp observations about authors, agents and publishers!
In contrast I’ve also been reading Prince Rupert, The Last Cavalier, a Wenches rupertbiography of Prince Rupert of the Rhine by Charles Spencer. It’s background reading for my current book and although I’ve read it before I’m finding it equally interesting the second time around. Charles Spencer paints a vivid picture of a fascinat
ing man.

Pat says:

Argh, I’m reading old manuscripts, attempting to ready them for e-book production. I think all that editing late in the evening has jaded my reading for pleasure. I picked up Susanna Kearsley’s The Winter Sea, a fabulously written book with meticulous historical detail, set in Scotland in both contemporary time and early 1700s. But once I saw where the history was headed, I skipped to the end because there was only one way that story was going to unfold. Apparently Wenches winter seaI’ve lost the ability to lose myself in the story.

So now I’m reading a Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line mystery by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham. If you’ve never seen the TV show— it’s about a teen struggling with some serious angst while helping her father in his private detective work. I wish we had more shows where the sex and violence is minimal, and the characters and stories are so well developed. The book starts ten years after the TV story, after Veronica has earned a law degree. It sounds just like the show, catches us up on old characters, and is a good strong mystery. Now I need to hunt another distraction that I won’t be editing in my head …

Anne here:
First up for me is Eloisa James's  Three Weeks with Lady X. I think it's now my favorite of all her books, just beating When Beauty Tamed the Beast.  The banter between the hero and heroine is witty and delightful, with some laugh out loud chuckles along the way, and the sizzle builds beautifully to a delicious climax. My only problem with the book is that I bought it as an e-book and now I'll have to get it in hard copy as I know it's one I want on my keeper shelf. Wenches Raven-Flight

Another historical I enjoyed recently was Mary Balogh's A Secret Affair. On the plane home I devoured Juliet Marillier's Raven Flight, the second in her YA fantasy series that started with Shadowfell. I  can't wait for the third in this series. After that I read Kristan Higgins's Waiting For You, a lovely, fun, contemporary small town romance.

Susan here:  Like Nicola, I'm also reading The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (aka JKR), and very much enjoying it. The first one, The Cuckoo's Calling, was a great read, and turned me into a Cormoran Strike fan. I love the flaws in this British gumshoe, his honest if chaotic lifestyle, his laid-back wit and depth of intelligence, and the novels have many interesting layers of character and story. Wenches the moor

I'm also reading The Moor, another in the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series by Laurie R. King. I'm way behind in reading this series, and I've only just started this one so don't have much to say, except that I liked the first three Russell-Holmes books (Beekeeper's Apprentice, A Monstrous Regiment and A Letter from Mary) so much that I am continuing. While that's hardly unusual for some, it's highly unusual for me. I am not much for keeping up with a series – but so far, so good! King likes King. What can I say. 😉


So that's the reading round-up for this month. 

What are you reading? What are you excited about in the world of literature.

One reader drawn from the comment thread will win any one of my books they desire, (including the not-yet-released Rogue Spy … though you'll have to wait six weeks or so till they send me my copies.)


The What Ifs of History

Spanish ArmadaHello, Nicola here. Lately I’ve been thinking quite a lot about the “what ifs” of history, those moments when the future and sometimes the fate of nations hangs in the balance and when history could have turned out so differently. What if Wellington had lost the Battle of Waterloo? He said himself that it was “the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life.” What if the Roman Empire had never fallen? What if the South had won the Civil War? I read a brilliant article once on what would have happened if the infamous British weather had not played havoc with the invasion of the Spanish Armada in 1588. Counterfactual or alternative history is a fascinating topic for historians to speculate about. It’s also a very imaginative area for a writer to explore.

What got me started on alternative history this time around was the discussion we had here on theWhite Rose of York Wench blog about our favourite mystery and crime reads. Qute a few of us mentioned The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey as one of our favourites for it’s brilliant sleuthing and its characterisation. The Daughter of Time looks at an enduring historical mystery – who murdered the Princes in the Tower? It also prompts the question of what might have happened had the Yorkist dynasty survived.

As a confirmed fan of King Richard III I have often reflected on what might have happened if he had won at Bosworth rather than lost the battle to Henry Tudor. As is so often the case, victory hung on such a slender thread, Richard’s betrayal by traitors. If he had fled the battlefield and regrouped in the North where he had strong support, would he have won his throne back? And if he had, would he have hung on to it or would there always have been usurpers coming along to challenge him and his Yorkist successors?  

Anne BoleynFrom there is was a small hop in my reading to Pale Rose of England by Sandra Worth which tells the story of Perkin Warbeck from the perspective of his being Richard Plantagenet, the surviving son of King Edward IV. I had previously read Perkin by Ann Wroe and found it fascinating to speculate on whether Perkin was indeed Richard and what would have happened if he had taken back the throne from Henry VII. No succession of the Tudor dynasty! No six wives of Henry VIII! No Anne Boleyn, one of my history heroines. Well, presumably she would still have been born but maybe she would have married Henry Percy instead of Henry VIII and gone to live in Northumberland.

After Pale Rose of England I moved on to the early 18th century and to Shores of Darkness by DianaShores of Darknes Norman. I love her historical novels and this one grabbed me from the first. (Anyone read it? – it's a wonderful historical novel!) At Ashdown House we have a fabulous portrait collection bequeathed to William, 1st Earl of Craven by Elizabeth of Bohemia. We tell the story of how it was Elizabeth’s grandson George who became King of England after the death of Queen Anne. (I feel a bit sorry for George I – he is so often portrayed as a distant German cousin whom no one liked very much but the truth is he had a cast iron claim to the throne of England as a direct descendant of King James I.) Anyway, amongst our portrait collection is a swoonworthy painting of Prince Rupert of the Rhine, Elizabeth’s son. William Prince Rupert_of_the_RhineCraven was a great friend of Rupert’s and godfather to his illegitimate daughter Rupertina. But Rupert had another child, Dudley Bard, by the Honourable Frances Bard, daughter of Viscount Bellomont. Frances always claimed that she and Rupert were married and that she had the marriage licence to prove it. What if this were true and Rupert and Frances’s descendants had a better claim to the English throne than George? It’s a great premise for a story. (And there would have been no Regency period as we know it!)

There are so many points at which history could have turned out so differently and so many historical mysteries left unsolved. I was left wondering what it was about historical mysteries and historical speculation that so appeals to me. There’s something romantic about the not knowing and something intriguing about historical speculation. There’s the space to let your imagination roam over the possibilities and the “might have beens”. As writers we are constantly saying "what if." What if the plot twists in a particular way, what if this happens to our characters… What will they do? What happens next? It's no wonder that as historical writers - and readers – we are intrigued by alternative history and historical mysteries.

Do you have a favourite historical mystery? A moment in history you wish you could go back to witness to see what really happened? Or is there a historical event that you wish had turned out differently?