(Review) Falling Pomegranate Seeds: All Manner of Things Book 2 by Wendy J. Dunn

Publisher and Publication Date: Poesy Quill Publishing. January 15, 2021.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 449.
Format: pdf copy/Kindle e-book copy.
Source: I received a complimentary pdf copy from Poesy Quill Publishing. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of historical fiction. Readers of Tudor history.
Rating: Excellent.

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About the Author:
Wendy J. Dunn is an Australian author, playwright and poet who has been obsessed by Anne Boleyn and Tudor History since she was ten-years-old. She is the author of three Tudor novels: Dear Heart, How Like You This?, the winner of the 2003 Glyph Fiction Award and 2004 runner up in the Eric Hoffer Award for Commercial Fiction, The Light in the Labyrinth, her first young adult novel, and Falling Pomegranate Seeds: The Duty of Daughters.

While she continues to have a very close and spooky relationship with Sir Thomas Wyatt, the elder, serendipity of life now leaves her no longer wondering if she has been channeling Anne Boleyn and Sir Tom for years in her writing, but considering the possibility of ancestral memory. Her own family tree reveals the intriguing fact that her ancestors – possibly over three generations – had purchased land from both the Boleyn and Wyatt families to build up their own holdings. It seems very likely Wendy’s ancestors knew the Wyatts and Boleyns personally.

Connect with Wendy:
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Summary:

Winter, 1539

María de Salinas is dying.

Too ill to travel, she writes a letter to her daughter Katherine, the young duchess of Suffolk. A letter telling of her life: a life intertwined with her friend and cousin Catalina of Aragon, the youngest child of Isabel of Castile. It is a letter to help her daughter understand the choices she has made in her life, beginning from the time she keeps her vow to Catalina to share her life of exile in England.

Friendship, betrayal, hatred, forgiveness – All Manner of Things tells a story of how love wins out in the end. 

My Thoughts:
Several reasons I love this story.
1. It is a continuation of the close bond and friendship between Catalina and María from the first book, The Duty of Daughters.
2. I love the opening paragraph. It is rich in descriptive detail that sets the tone for the story.
3. All Manner of Things shows that during this era women had little control of their lives. Their marriages were often arranged. Rare did a couple marry for love.
4. All Manner of Things is a woman’s story. I am deeply effected by their suffering during pregnancies and labor without modern knowledge and medicine. Their plight during labor may lead to death. Yet, they speak as if that is always a chance, always in their minds that this might happen. The women love men who do not honor or respect them. Yet, the women have no choice but to stay married and accept the hurtful arrangements. In this story, I saw more situations where women helped other women. Whether it was advice in love, marriage, or chastity. The women depended on other women. The men seem to be secondary characters.
5. María de Salinas is the narrator of All Manner of Things. In the first book, Beatriz the Latin teacher is the narrator. Both of these women are intelligent, wise, educated, and savvy. They are passionate but they both hold two key character traits. They are committed to their duty. They have strong restraint.
6. I love the perspective María has of Henry as a boy, youth, man, and king. She is a sharp observer.

Final Thought:
While reading this story I wondered how much of Catalina’s experiences with men shaped her and her role to be Henry VIII’s wife?

Favorite Quote:
“Love makes fools of us all.”

Excerpt:

“In May day, when the lark began to rise…” the king sang.

The king is good at play-acting. A stone throw from the king but hidden from view, María lounged on her mantle, in a secluded bower in the parkland near Greenwich palace. He play-acts the good husband. Surely that means he cares about Catalina? In her self-imposed solitude, she sipped her wine and chewed at her chicken leg.

“Trolly lolly lolly lo, Sing trolly lolly lo! My love is to the greenwood gone,” the king sang now.

Catalina had sorrowed over the loss of her confessor and his return to Castile for weeks. Is it any wonder the king organises a day of merriment for his wife and court? Catalina had no notion that their departure from Greenwich palace would be interrupted by the arrival of Robin Hood, Maid Marian and Friar Tuck – or that a banquet would be prepared for their pleasure in this parkland – in a huge bower laid down with carpets and scattered cushions to sit upon. She had no choice but to put on a happy face for her husband – especially when the day was witnessed by foreign ambassadors. Si – the king is good at play-acting, but so is Catalina.

After the banquet when her head started to pound, María had taken possession of one of the smaller bowers, provided for those who wished privacy. After a little while by herself, María was not surprised to see Catalina approaching. She rose and curtseyed. Catalina gestured to her. “Pray sit down. I’ve told the others I am joining you for a time.”

María sat again, wondering what caused Catalina to speak to her in their shared tongue.

“A pleasant outing, don’t you think?” Catalina asked, sitting beside her.

“Si, very pleasant.” Hearing the king’s voice, María drew apart some of the bushes to peer out. His back towards them, the king stood with the Venetian ambassador, both them apparently admiring one of the bowers filled with singing birds of all descriptions. The organisation of this event must have taken days to prepare. Even the trees had been made more beautiful by the hanging of innumerable embroidered hawthorn leaves.

Thomas More broke away from the other courtiers, and began walking in their direction. María pulled back and released the bush. But he still noticed them. He ambled over and bowed to the queen.

Catalina laughed. “You have hunted out my hiding place, Tom.” She glanced at María. “I should say ‘our’. My good friend found it first. Would you like to join us?”

More bowed again. “I could not think of a greater pleasure.”

Watching him throw down his cloak and sit, María hoped no one else would seek them out. She sighed. Catalina’s time with me will likely be cut short as soon as the king realises her absence.
“Are you writing anything new, Tom?” Catalina asked More.

He laughed. “I am always scribbling something new.”

“You do not want to speak of it?”

“I refuse to weary my queen on a day as agreeable as today with talk of my unfinished works. If I did, I would risk my wife’s scolding.”

Catalina grinned. “Your wife scolds you?”

“Aye – she thinks I am but a foolish man at times.” He laughed again. “If she thinks it, she speaks it. But she also ensures a good, and peaceful home too – and I thank her for that. It is what I most need for the health of my soul.”

“I have spoken to Dame Alice over the years since your marriage. I delight in how she speaks her mind, and how much but she loves you, Tom.”

Catalina turned to draw aside some of the bush. She sighed. “I wish I could stay longer, but I too love my husband. It is time to make my return to him. I bid you good day, Thomas – please send my greeting to Dame Alice, and tell her I hope to see her soon. María, if you have enough of seclusion for the day, perchance you could come back soon? I am lonely for you.”

“I will return anon, my queen.”

María watched Catalina go, aware of More’s silence. At last, he spoke, “You do not wish to return?”

María met his curious eyes. “I will always wish to return to my queen. She knows me well – and understands my need to be away from people at times. Today was one such time. All the chatter hurt my head.”

More nodded. He looked out towards the milling courtiers. Music, laughter, talking men and women strangled any chance for a moment of silence. “Yes – the court is not a place for peace, or for the health of one’s soul.”

An accented voice called out her name and that of Thomas More. Master Erasmus shambled over to them. More helped María up from the ground and they greeted the old man outside of the bower. Leaning on his walking stick, Erasmus bowed over her hand before kissing her with relish. María had to restrain herself from wiping her mouth of his taste of mint leaves and garlic. But she liked Erasmus, and was always happy to speak to him.

“Such a delightful habit of the English! I never tire of it!” The elderly man spoke fast in French, his eyes creased up in laughter-lines.

She laughed, replying in the same tongue. “I remember you in the first year of the king’s reign. You sought out all the unwed girls.”

“The kiss of greeting is a good custom of England. But then the English have a lot to make up to us for their weather – and other bad habits.”
“Do we, my old friend?” More said with a laugh.

María glanced at More and back at Erasmus. “What do you speak of, Master?”

“Surely you know?” Erasmus shifted as if in pain. “I speak not of the home of our friend here. The home of Thomas More is a delight to visit. But there are English who dump upon their clay floors foul things. Their rushes conceal old bones, spittle, shit of dogs and cats, and everything under God’s good Heaven to make a stomach turn.” His face screwed up in disgust.

María smiled and gave a short laugh. “Once, those habits were shared by others. I remember my first days at the court of the king’s father. I was shocked time after time by the behaviour of the English nobility. But the queen has long stopped that kind of conduct at court.”

“Aye – conditions at court are greatly improved from the time of the old king. But, to my dismay, I find many other places are exactly the same as when I first came to England, when this King Henry was but a boy and still a prince at Eltham Palace.”

“You met him then?”

“I hoped to gain patronage of the old king, as is still a common pattern to my life. I wished to make myself known to Queen Elizabeth. Thomas, you must remember the day?”

“Aye – we walked together from my home to Eltham. Prince Henry, as he was then, was with his mother. What a beautiful woman she was.”

“Very beautiful – and a good woman too.” Maria sighed. “Our lives changed for the worse after her death.”

“Do you recall how she towered over most men – and stood eye to eye with her own husband?” asked Erasmus.

“Yes, she was tall, but it suited her,” said María. “Tell me, what of the king as a boy? I met him a few times when he was boy, but I am curious to hear what you thought of him, Master Erasmus?”

“From the outside, all his mother’s son. I remember he sailed his toy boat in the pond near the palace. In my mind’s eye, I can see the day still. The water shimmered like a bright mirror in the sun. A touch of breeze swelled its surface and ruffled the feathers of the swans.” He laughed. “Strange, is it not, the older you become, how rain spoils so few of our memories.”

María looked all around. The parkland seemed washed with gold by the lowering sun. Sunshine or rain, an increasing shroud of sorrow wound tighter around each new day. For years, she had no longer wished to look forward. She turned back to the comfort of Erasmus’ voice; it kept her safe in a past not her own.

“I did not know the boy crouching at the pond’s edge was a prince. Although, thinking back, there was a guard close to him. I thought him then a goodly made young lad.”

“Yes – I thought that too when I met him for the first time not long afterwards. He escorted the queen to her marriage with his brother.”

“The queen has been a good patron to me. She is a worthy daughter of the great Isabel of Castile.” Erasmus seemed to no longer want to speak of the past, but the present. María repressed a laugh. If I stay here for much longer, Erasmus will likely begin talking of a new book he wishes more coin from the queen to write.

“The queen is indeed her mother’s daughter.”

Daylight beginning to ebb, the wind turned even colder. María curtseyed to Erasmus and More with great respect. “I must be away and return to the queen. I bid you both good day – and hope to speak to you more very soon.”

She walked away, but cast a glance over her shoulder at the two men. Both of them were talking, and did not seem to care about the lengthening shadows – or that everyone around them began to ready to continue their interrupted journey. They were happy in their own world.

(Review) King John: Treachery and Tyranny in Medieval England: The Road to Magna Carta by Marc Morris

Publisher and Publication Date: Pegasus Books. 2015.
Genre: Nonfiction. British history.
Pages: 400.
Format: Hardcover.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of British history and the British monarchy.
Rating: Very good.

Goodreads page for Marc Morris.

Marc Morris’ webpage. Has not been updated since 2016.

Sixteen illustrations in color.

Included is a translation of the Magna Carta.

Amazon link

I had this book in a TBR stack since 2015.

Summary:
Royal house of Plantagenet in England. This house ruled 1154 to 1485.
John was the son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. John had four older brothers and was not expected to become a king.
Henry II ruled 1154-1189.
Richard I Lionheart ruled 1189-1199. Richard did not have legitimate heirs.
John ruled 1199-1216.
John’s older brothers: William, Henry, Richard I, and Geoffrey all died leaving John as the heir to the throne.

Chapter one begins by explaining John is the ruler of a large domain. He is king of England and most of south Wales. He is lord of Ireland. Duke of Normandy. Count of Anjou. Duke of Aquitaine. He had only been king for a couple of years, but his foe is King Philip II of France. Philip had been king 23 years. In 1203, John’s large domain is threatened by Philip.
Chapter two backs up to the lineage of his family, childhood, parents marriage crisis, and John’s older brothers and their struggles with Henry II.
Chapter three is “the siege of Chateau Gaillard” in 1203-04.
Chapter four goes back to 1189 when Henry II died. Richard’s reign, his activity during the crusade, Geoffrey’s death, and John became Richard’s successor. While Richard is away John made his move to be in charge.
The rest of the book is in chronological order of the events in John’s reign.

My Thoughts:
John has a bad reputation. I must admit I’m not fond of him. However, my interest has been peaked from previous books I’ve read about Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry II, and British royal history.

A few things I learned:
1. During King John‘s reign, records or documents were kept unlike previous royals before him.
2. A book written about William Marshall tells about John’s reign. Marc Morris points out it was Marshall’s family who produced the book. The book is favorably slanted to Marshall and not John.
3. John’s buried body was found in the 18th century.

What I dislike about the book is jumping in time during the first part of the book. I prefer a nonfiction book be chronological in events.

King John is not dry. It is an entertaining read.

The story of King John is told in about 300 pages. This is an easy to digest biography.

There are 45 pages with lists of the notes and sources for the study of King John.

I feel this is a thorough examination of King John. Morris illustrates John’s life and show him to be a man who was harsh, vindictive, a liar, oppressive, and a sexual predator. However, John is known in at least one positive light because of the Magna Carta.

King John on a stag hunt.

(Review) The Boy King: Book Three of The Seymour Saga by Janet Wertman

Publisher and Publication Date: Published by Janet Wertman. September 30, 2020.
Genre: Historical fiction. Tudor history. Tudor era.
Pages: 374.
Source: I received a complimentary paperback copy from Janet Wertman, I was not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of historical fiction and Tudor history.
Rating: Very good.

Book tour landing page: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.

Amazon link
Barnes and Noble

About The Author:
Janet Ambrosi Wertman grew up within walking distance of three bookstores and a library on Manhattan’s Upper West Side – and she visited all of them regularly. Her grandfather was an antiquarian bookdealer who taught her that there would always be a market for quirky, interesting books. He was the one who persuaded Janet’s parents to send her to the French school where she was taught to aspire to long (grammatically correct) sentences as the hallmark of a skillful writer. She lived that lesson until she got to Barnard College. Short sentences were the rule there. She complied. She reached a happy medium when she got to law school – complicated sentences alternating with short ones in a happy mix.

Janet spent fifteen years as a corporate lawyer in New York, she even got to do a little writing on the side (she co-authored The Executive Compensation Answer Book, which was published by Panel Publishers back in 1991). But when her first and second children were born, she decided to change her lifestyle. She and her husband transformed their lives in 1997, moving to Los Angeles and changing careers. Janet became a grant writer (and will tell anyone who will listen that the grants she’s written have resulted in more than $30 million for the amazing non-profits she is proud to represent) and took up writing fiction.

There was never any question about the topic of the fiction: Janet has harbored a passion for the Tudor Kings and Queens since her parents let her stay up late to watch the televised Masterpiece Theatre series (both The Six Wives of Henry VIII and Elizabeth R) when she was *cough* eight years old. One of the highlights of Janet’s youth was being allowed to visit the Pierpont Morgan Library on a day when it was closed to the public and examine (though not touch!) books from Queen Elizabeth’s personal library and actual letters that the young Princess Elizabeth (technically Lady Elizabeth…) had written.

The Boy King is third book in the Seymour Saga, the story of the unlikely dynasty that shaped the Tudor era. The first book, Jane the Quene, tells the story of Jane Seymour’s marriage to Henry VIII; and The Path to Somerset, chronicles Edward Seymour’s rise after Jane’s death to become Lord Protector of England and Duke of Somerset (taking us right through Henry’s crazy years). Janet is currently working on a new trilogy about Elizabeth, and preparing to publish her translation of a nineteenth century biography of Henry. And because you can never have too much Tudors in your life, Janet also attends book club meetings and participates in panels and discussions through History Talks!, a group of historical novelists from Southern California who work with libraries around the state.

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Summary:
The Unsuspecting Reign of Edward Tudor
Motherless since birth and newly bereft of his father, Henry VIII, nine-year-old Edward Tudor ascends to the throne of England and quickly learns that he cannot trust anyone, even himself.
Edward is at first relieved that his uncle, the new Duke of Somerset, will act on his behalf as Lord Protector, but this consolation evaporates as jealousy spreads through the court. Challengers arise on all sides to wrest control of the child king, and through him, England.
While Edward can bring frustratingly little direction to the Council’s policies, he refuses to abandon his one firm conviction: that Catholicism has no place in England. When Edward falls ill, this steadfast belief threatens England’s best hope for a smooth succession: the transfer of the throne to Edward’s very Catholic half-sister, Mary Tudor, whose heart’s desire is to return the realm to the way it worshipped in her mother’s day.

My Thoughts:
The opening paragraph shows young Edward riding a horse. The words describe him using details creating a perfect picture image in my mind. Edward is young. He has a scrawny, bony, and tender body. He tires easily. He is stoic, stubborn, purposeful, and persevering.
A few paragraphs later he has a memory of a teaching principle his father, King Henry VIII told him: “People will do far worse. All your life, they will lie to you. Practice discerning their true meaning; you will need to be expert at it.” Page 4.

These are examples setting the tone of the story.
~Edward is a boy. A young scrawny boy who will become king. He is a son after his father’s own heart. There are similar personality traits. And, Edward wrestles with his age versus his role as king.
~Edward is thrust in an arena of ambitious and cut-throat men. He wonders who to trust. He remembers his father’s advice.

I love this story for several reasons:
~I felt apart of the story from the first paragraph until the last line.
~Edward and Mary became flesh and bone because of this story. Elizabeth has a role, but hers is more of an expectant presence-just to the right of the stage.
~It’s interesting the ideas, prejudices, bias Edward and Mary were taught about each other and Elizabeth. Each had the same father, but different mothers and households.
~Edward believes his Christian belief and worship is correct. Mary believes her Christian belief and worship is correct. Each are unwilling to compromise.
~The Boy King is a story strong in fleshing out human behavior, mannerisms, expressions, fears, emotions, physical impairments, and imperfections.
~Scenes show the intensity of crisis situations and how Edward feels and responds showing a realness of his youth, and a desire for maturity, and to be a decisive king.
~The story is heavy with conflicts. This creates an atmosphere of trepidation and anticipation.

One thing I noticed is the heavy use of describing the nose. I know you are probably laughing at my critique…I hope so. I saw the words snorted, sniffed, with the nose in the air or raised higher a bit too much.

Direct link for the giveaway!
During the Blog Tour, we (HFVBT) are giving away a copy of The Boy King by Janet Wertman!
The giveaway is open to US residents only and ends on October 30th. You must be 18 or older to enter.

The first two books in the series:

Book One
Book Two