Ruined Castles Tour Part II

WW pic 1Christina here and as Nicola was telling you the other day, we had a lovely day out at the ruins of Goodrich Castle recently. I had never visited before and it was a fascinating place. What was more, it had so much in common with my favourite castle ruin nearby – Raglan. Both were established in the 11th century, both held by the Royalists during the English Civil War, then fell to the Parliamentarians in 1646 and were subsequently destroyed. A sad fate for such lovely places! I hope you will indulge our obsession for castle ruins a second time this week as I continue by telling you a little more about Raglan.

Raglan Castle is about 12WW pic 2 English miles (19.2 km) from Goodrich and built on the same sort of principles with a keep, a courtyard, towers, living quarters, a great hall, a chapel and a moat. However, in its final incarnation, it was almost twice as big, and more of a palace than a castle fortress.

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The joy of animal companions!

DogsNicola here talking about animal companions. Something I’ve noticed quite a lot during lockdown is the number of people who have been getting a dog to keep them company. The prices of pedigree puppies have soared; lots of people have posted excitedly on social media about the pleasure of getting new pets. It’s wonderful if caring for an animal has brought people the benefit of companionship, exercise and uncritical love (maybe not in the case of cats) but this did also set off some warning bells for me.

We all know that a pet is forever not just for Lockdown.

There is no doubt, though, that the antics of various animals have lifted the spirits of a lot of us. My new favourite online stars are Dandies
Olive and Mabel
, two Labradors belonging to the sports commentator Andrew Cotter. His deadpan commentaries of their various activities are very funny and the dogs are utterly adorable. Lots of people have dropped into my Facebook page to see various photos and videos of Angus as we go out and about together, and my writing friend Kate Hardy is posting a diary of her progress training her new spaniel puppy, Dexter. I spend a lot longer that I should watching cute cat videos on Twitter and I’m sure there are plenty of other pets out there doing wonderful cheering things – rabbits, ferrets, even fish making their owners happy.

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Into the Woods

Angus beachNicola here. After the beach and the sea, a woodland is probably Angus’s favourite place for a walk. I’m not a dog, obviously, but I can imagine just how exciting it might be for him; so many sights, sounds and particularly smells that are different from the garden or the street. There is something special about the woods in lots of different ways: places to run, places to hide, secrets and surprises just around the corner.

In the fairy stories, woods are often scary places. I remember Hansel and Gretel as one of my least favourite fairy tales because of the sinister cottage in the woods. And doesn’t Little Red Riding Hood meet the wolf in a wood? Woodland is portrayed as a wild, dark place that is full of danger. The same thing happens in other books from Harry Potter, to Lord of the Rings, to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. So often a wood is a threatening place. Often we get lost there.

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Visiting Other Worlds

Eilean DonanNicola here. There’s a meme going around on Facebook at the moment that is proving very popular. It asks: “You have been transported to the location in the last book you read. Where are you?” The answers flood in, from Scotland to the West Indies, from the New York of the future to London in 1515 and all times and places in between.

This meme set me thinking about world building, creating a setting that is real and vivid enough to make readers believe in it, literally to be transported there in their imaginations. Whether it is the fantasy world of a paranormal novel or the literally out-of-this world creation of science fiction, the writer faces the challenge of making it real for the reader. This happens in historical fiction as well, of course. We have a framework within which we set our Lady Mary Stanhope's shoesstories; the era, the politics, the social history, fashions, etiquette etc and from within all that detail we craft a world that is compelling (I hope), a world which makes the reader feel that they are stepping back in time.

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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.)