The Last Daughter of York

Last Daughter of York coverNicola here. Yesterday was NA release day for my latest dual-time historical mystery The Last Daughter of York which was published in the UK a few months ago under the title of The Last Daughter. Central to the story is the 15th century mystery of the Princes in the Tower – what happened to these young sons of King Edward IV, was their uncle Richard responsible for their disappearance and possible death, and why is this mystery still so powerful today, 500 years later. I’m a real sucker for a historical mystery, real or imaginary, and I love the idea of examining the historical story in the present and coming up with a solution to an age-old mystery.

There is a theme of disappearance in both sections of the book. In the modern-day story, Serena Warren returns to Minster Lovell, the place of her childhood holidays, to try and find out what happened to her sister Caitlin who vanished ten years before. As Serena starts to dig into the past and her memories, she uncovers a genealogical link to the Plantagenets and the mystery of the princes.

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An Interview with Nicola Cornick!

Christina here and today I’m delighted to be interviewing Wench Nicola Cornick about her new book The Last Daughter, which is published in paperback, ebook and audio here in the UK in three days’ time, on 8th July. In the US, it will release in paperback on 16th November as The Last Daughter of York, and both have amazing covers, although I will admit to favouring the UK one as it has such wonderful jewel colours.

Nicola, it’s lovely that it’s my turn to welcome you as a guest to chat about this story, which is one of my absolute favourite books this year. I was lucky enough to read an ARC and I loved it – the mixture of history, mystery and timeslip is just superb and I simply couldn’t put it down!

The Princes in the Tower by Millais

The Princes in the Tower by Millais

Please can you tell us briefly what The Last Daughter is about?

The Last Daughter is a dual time novel set in the present and the Wars of the Roses. The historical strand looks at the mystery of the disappearance of the princes in the tower in 1483 through the eyes of Anne Lovell, wife of Richard III’s best friend Francis. This is linked to the modern day story where Serena Warren is trying to discover what happened to her twin sister Caitlin, who disappeared at Minster Lovell ten years before.

I loved that The Last Daughter is based on the many stories about the Princes in the Tower, the two young sons of King Edward IV, who disappeared after their uncle Richard of Gloucester took the throne for himself and became King Richard III. There have always been a lot of rumours and speculation about their fate, but the truth is that no one knows what actually happened. When did you first become aware of this story and what fascinated you about it?

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A Taste of Summer

800px-Illustration_Fragaria_vesca0Nicola here. It's all about fruit and nuts on the blog this week! On Wednesday Jo was blogging about coconuts and today I'm looking at the history of strawberries!

Nothing speaks of an English summer more than strawberries and cream. It’s an iconic dish that is closely associated with garden parties, stately homes and the Wimbledon Tennis Championships. It’s one of the nostalgic images of “old” England and in fact the dish is celebrating its 510th anniversary round about now.

The strawberry has, of course, been around for a lot longer than 500 years. The writings of the Ancient Greeks and Romans refer to the wild strawberry fruit and its medicinal properties but evidence from archaeological excavations suggests that our Stone Age ancestors were already eating wild strawberries. In about the 14th century these wild plants were taken from woodlands and introduced into gardens so that they could be grown for household fruit. Charles V, King of France in 1364, must have had a particular penchant for them as 1200 strawberry plants were grown in his royal gardens. From the early 15th century the plant also pops up in illuminated manuscripts and western art, demonstrating that it was familiar – and beautiful – to our ancestors.

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What We’re Reading

The gentleman rogueNicola here, introducing this month's What We're Reading blog. As ever, the Wenches have been reading some very interesting books and we're keen to hear what you think and what your recommendations are too!

This month I’ve been catching up with some of the books that were shortlisted for the Romantic Novel of the Year Awards.  The Gentleman Rogue by Margaret McPhee was a finalist in the short romance section and is a powerfully emotional Regency historical that had me gripped. There was amazing chemistry between the heroine, Emma, and Ned, who was one of the most attractive heroes I've read in a long time.

Another fabulous read was Struck, by Joss Stirling, a YA romance with a great crime mystery thrown in as well. It takes place in an exclusive English boarding school where scandal and corruption lurk behind the ivy-clad walls. The author mentioned that she had modelled the hero, Kieren Storm, on a young version of Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock. Raven Stone, the heroine, is a gutsy American girl you can really root for. It’s a great read!

Finally the reburial of King Richard III prompted me to reach yet again for The Daughter of Time by

Daughter of Time Josephine Tey, the book that first piqued my interest in Richard' and his reign. I love all of Josephine Tey's books so can see myself reading through my entire collection again now.

Now over to the other Wenches!

Pat writes:

I like to explore new-to-me authors, but I’ve been having a bad reading month and haven’t found anyone exciting lately. So I’ve fallen back on favorites. I finally read Patricia Brigg’s Night Broken, one of her Mercy Thompson novels. I love her urban fantasies because they’re so human! The book is as much about Mercy dealing with her husband’s charming but manipulative ex-wife as it is about finding the vengeful ancient-god stalker who followed the stupid ex straight to Mercy’s home.

Southern spiritsAnd then I picked up Angie Fox’s newest series starter—Southern Spirits. If you’ve ever read Angie, you’ll recognize her voice, although this time she’s writing a mystery about ghosts instead of chasing demons. Small southern town seeped in legends and history, a bootlegger ghost to help the heroine out, and a hunky cop to get her into trouble—can’t ask for more!

 

Jo Beverley:

This month I read a book recommended a little while ago here — Imperfect Chemistry by Mary Frame. It was as enjoyable as said, with a geeky prodigy deciding to become more "normal" by going after her sexy neighbor. I think this is what's called New Adult fiction, about people in their early twenties who are very much of today's world.

I also read Fledgling, by Sharon Lee and Stever Miller, a Liaden novel I'd missed. It has some similarities Fledgling to Imperfect Chemistry, though the protagonist is younger. Theo too is a clever misfit, but this is really an Ugly Duckling story. The Liaden books are space opera, with multiple worlds lived on by humans — and some others — all with different social structures. In Fledgling, having to move to a different world leads to Theo's transformation, both on the journey and when there. It's a good read, and the e-book is still free.

 

Cara/Andrea:

 

SherlockMystery! Well, that is, it’s probably no mystery by now that I love the genre, and this month I’ve been really immersing myself in in both new and classic reads. A friend got me watching the BBC series Sherlock (hard not to like Benedict Cumberbatch) , which I enjoyed very much—but it suddenly occurred to be that I had never read the original Arthur Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes books. (How did that happen???) So off I hurried to the library, and I have been enjoying the tales very much.  I enjoy the writing style, and the development of Holmes and Watson, who’ve inspired so many subsequent detective pairing. And while the plots may not be as complex, dark  and twisty as modern novels, they really are great fun.

 I’ve also been enjoying a modern take on historical mystery. I’m a big fan of the Who buries the deadRegency-set Sebastian St. Cyr books by C. S. Harris, and the latest release, Who Buries The Dead, is a wonderful addition to the series. Gritty and layered with well-rendered psychological portraits of Sebastian, Hero and all the people who make up their world, the books use the crime of murder to delve into far deeper questions about society, power and influence in Regency London. The stories are taut with suspense, and really make for a riveting read.

  

Mary Jo:

Like Pat, I'm going to talk about a Patricia Briggs book.  Pat's choice, Night Broken, is part of the Mercedes Thompson series.  I read the book when it came out, and l loved it.  The heroine, Mercy, is a coyote shifter in a world of werewolves, vampires, fae, and much more, and there's a great romance.

 Briggs has another series set in the same world.  Alpha and Omega features a pair of mated werewolves: Charles, a half native American enforcer is the Alpha, and Anna, an Omega whose presence soothes other werewolves, and who is immune to Alpha control. 

 I've always preferred the Mercy Thompson books, until now.  Dead Heat, the latest Alpha and Omega Dead Heat
book, is every bit as good as a Mercy story.  It begins when Charles and Anna take a holiday, leaving the werewolf home in Montana to visit an old friend of Charles' in Arizona, and also to buy Anna a horse since the old friend is a horse breeder.  Things Happen and there is much excitement.  There is also lots of information about Arabian horses since Briggs raises them herself and has clearly been pining for the opportunity to write about them. <G>

But the heart of the story lies deeper as Anna and Charles deal with a significant issue in their marriage.  There is also a theme of what it's like to be virtually immortal while those you love grow old and die.  It's all worked out in a wonderfully satisfactory way!

DaringOn the non-fiction front, I want to recommend journalist Gail Sheehy's memoir, Daring: My Passages.  Sheehy has been a groundbreaking journalist and feminist from the 1960s onward.  Her 1976 book Passages was a huge bestseller that changed the way people thought about growth and change throughout one's life.  Her 1993 book The Silent Passage was another game changer as it pulled menopause out of the closet into the light of day. 

And in Daring, she has written the story of her life and challenges.  The ups and downs, the struggles of a single mother to work while caring for her beloved daughter, a tempestuous affair that eventually became  a devoted marriage–she has lived a remarkable life, and she writes really, really well. 

Joanna here: 

I'm reading just about nothing since I'm absorbed by the Work in Progress. But I've indulged myself in Wenches burrowes
Grace Burrowes' The Traitor.  It's one of those 'Come for the Romance, Stay for the Sharp Character Analysis' books.

The hero, Sebastian, is half French, half English when France and England are locked in war. The book explores hard choices a man makes and how he lives with them.

Wench anne perryNext up, I go to a favorite author of mine, Anne Perry, and Callander Square — a Victorian-set mystery. Well-born Charlotte and her Police Inspector husband set about solving crime among the stuffy rich. I haven't read this series in order myself, but you might want to start with the first in the series, The Cater Street Hangman.


Susan: 

I too have been reading mysteries, including Alan Bradley's latest in the Flavia De Chimneysweepers bradley Luce series, As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust. Once again the intrepid, clever Flavia ferrets out secrets in a witty and brilliant way with a touch of vulnerability and sensitivity quite natural to an 11-yr-old, even if her chemistry genius is off the charts. This time, Flavia is packed off to a girls' school in Canada to face a whole new location and complete strangers, and though I thought that leaving her home of Buckshaw in the English countryside would eliminate a crucial setting character in the series, Bradley does a fantastic job of creating a new environment and drawing his reader in. Flavia is one of my favorite sleuths, a blend of whimsy and genius, Pippi and Sherlock. And Bradley's books are an exception for me–I always listen to them in audio. Jayne Entwistle's narration is flawless, whimsical, clear as a bell, and she creates the perfect evocation of Bradley's books. I highly recommend both the written and the audio — do check out Flavia!  

ThemoorI've also returned to the Laurie R. King series of Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes. In The Moor (and yes, I have a long way to go to catch up to King's newer Russell novels!), Russell and her husband, Holmes, are in misty, ominous Dartmoor investigating a death with some very creepy circumstances, a riveting return and intriguing take on The Hound of the Baskervilles. The Russell-Holmes books are so smart and beautifully written that I keep coming back. I should add that I've never been much of a series reader, more of a series grazer in every genre, but these two mystery series–King's Russell and Bradley's Flavia–totally capture my attention!     

 Anne here:

A friend recently gave me Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher, who is her favourite author, and I Solsticehave to say I’ve loved it. I haven’t quite finished Winter Solstice, but I’ve already bought Pilcher’s The Shell Seekers, Going Home and September. For some, the books might be a little slow-paced and perhaps even old-fashioned, but I’m really enjoying the slow reveals, the wonderfully detailed settings and her well rounded and appealing characters. I can’t put it down. And by the way, Winter Solstice seems to be very cheap on kindle at the moment.

On a completely different note, I’ll also add that I fully endorse Pat and Mary Jo’s recommendations of Patricia Briggs. They mentioned her books to me some time back and I ended up glomming the lot.

So there are a few of our reads for the month of March. Have you read any of these books? Thoughts? And do you have any recommendations for the Wenches?

 

In Search of Lost Kings

Richard III car parkNicola here! Today I’m thinking about lost kings, by which I mean those monarchs whose bodies have vanished and whose current whereabouts are unknown. This may seem an odd thing to be thinking about (but you know writers – we think about all kinds of weird stuff!) but two things have put it in my mind. First there’s the ongoing debate about where King Richard III is to be re-buried after the sensational discovery of his body last year beneath a car park in the city of Leicester. The other reason I’m musing on lost kings is that much to my surprise, whilst doing the research for my current manuscript I discovered I’m actually writing about one – Frederick of Bohemia, whose body disappeared in the 1630s. More on Frederick later.

The archaeological dig to find the burial site of King Richard III last year fascinated people in the UK and far beyond. Perhaps it was because Richard has always been one of the most controversial of English kings, bitterly dividing opinion over whether he was a good guy or not. Perhaps it was also the fact that his death in battle and subsequent fate was the stuff of rumour and legend. Whilst the discovery could not throw any light on the biggest mystery of all that surrounds Richard – that of the fate of his nephews, the Princes in the Tower – it did reveal a wealth of information about the king himself, his physical appearance and the way in which he died.

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