So sorry that it has taken me this long to announce the winner of the Giveaway but family drama, and snow etc. meant that instead of posting on Valentine's Day (was my plan), I am announcing the winner of The Rebel Queen giveaway today:
Congratulations Stephanie. I will be emailing you to get your address.
Scandalous Women is pleased to have a guest post by author Michelle Moran. Her new book The Rebel Queen about Queen Lakshmi—India’s Joan of Arc—who against all odds
defied the mighty British invasion to defend her beloved kingdom, will be published March 3rd.
every book I write, I discover something about the culture I’m researching
which completely blows me away, often because it’s so unusual and something
I’ve never encountered before. In the case of my book, REBEL QUEEN, set in
India during the British invasion, the concept of Janam Kundlis struck a chord
with me, particularly since Janam Kundlis very nearly played a role in my own
life and my marriage to my husband, who is Indian.
known as an astrological chart, a Janam Kundli is made by a priest for each
child in India. No one is sure when the concept of a Janam Kundli came to be,
but as Vedic astrology is several thousand years old, it’s not surprising that
my protagonist’s Janam Kundli would have looked similar to my husband’s, even
though they were born more than a hundred years apart. A person’s Janam Kundli
includes the details of their birth–time, date, planetary alignments. It also
includes other things which aren’t so common in the West, such as that person’s
probable future career and who they were in their most recent past life (in my
husband’s case, a yogi!).
a person’s natal chart is serious business. Once a person’s Janam Kundli is
created, they will keep that document with them for life, producing it when
it’s time for marriage. Even today, Janam Kundlis are used to make prospective
matches between brides and grooms throughout India, where the majority of
marriages are arranged. And woe betide anyone whose Janam Kundli declares them
to be a manglik, or a bad-luck person. If that’s the case, as it was for the
famous Bollywood actress and former Miss World Aishwarya
Rai, one of two options are available. You can either marry another
manglik, thus canceling out your bad-luck status, or you can hire a priest to
conduct a variety of ceremonies that will make it possible to marry someone who
isn’t a manglik like yourself. This last option, however, is only available if
the non-manglik person’s family finds the risk acceptable. In Aishwarya Rai’s case, her in-laws obviously felt the
“risk” was worth it, and in 2007 she married a tree before she married
her husband, thereby canceling out her bad-luck in this way.
a tree? Well, this was something I very nearly discovered myself when my own
Janam Kundli was made. Apparently, like Aishwarya
Rai, I too am probably a manglik, meaning marriage for me would most likely end
in the divorce or death of my spouse. I say probably
because my Janam Kundli was done online. The effect, however, was very
nearly the same. Major discussions took place as to whether I would need to
marry a tree before the wedding could proceed, or whether my Janam Kundli
should be discounted since I am not, after all, Indian, and my Janam Kundli
hadn’t “officially” been made by a priest.
In the end, it was decided that my husband should take the
risk and go for it. I never had to marry a tree or even choose among a variety
of clay urns for my groom. Either option, apparently, is acceptable, as it’s
believed that a person’s manglik dosh can be canceled out if the manglik
person’s bad luck is spent on the first marriage. Thus, the bride first marries
a clay urn or a tree, then either breaks the clay urn or chops down her
tree-husband in order to become a “widow” (in some places, the tree is allowed
to survive). After this, the second marriage is ready to proceed without a
There are varying interpretations of this ceremony, and even
though it didn’t end up affecting me, a person’s Janam Kundli can alter their
destiny, just as I describe in the beginning of REBEL QUEEN. It’s cultural gems
like these which make researching historical fiction such a pleasure, and it’s
these type of details which I try to include in each of my books. As a writer,
my hope is that they pique the reader’s interest along the way, and as a
reader, they are the sort of facts which help ground me in another place and
Thank you Michelle! Scandalous Women will be giving away a copy of Michelle's new book to one lucky winner along with these lovely bangles.
Giveaway (US only)
- To enter, please leave a comment below and include your email address (only comments with email addresses will be entered in the giveaway).
- If you are not a follower and become one, you get an extra entry - If you tweet about the giveaway, you get an extra entry. - If you like my Scandalous Women Facebook page, you get an extra entry.
What it’s about: As a woman, aspiring sculptor Camille
Claudel has plenty of critics, especially her ultra-traditional mother. But
when Auguste Rodin makes Camille his apprentice—and his muse—their passion
inspires groundbreaking works. Yet, Camille’s success is overshadowed by her
lover’s rising star, and her obsessions cross the line into madness.
My thoughts: I initially
had trepidations about reading this book. I did a great deal of research on
Camille Claudel for the chapter that I wrote in Scandalous Women, and I feel a bit proprietary about her. She was
one of several women that I was just obsessed with. I related to her struggle to be an
independent artist, to forge a separate artistic identity from the man that she
loved passionately. Her mental breakdown is heartbreaking. Was she schizophrenic, bi-polar? Or was she
even mentally ill at all are just some of the questions that come up when you
read about the life of Camille Claudel. I wondered if a single novel could
capture the complexity of this tormented genius. And a genius she was. All you have to do is look at the photos of
her sculptures on line to see her amazing talent.
I’m happy to report that Rodin’s
Lover calmed all my fears. Heather
Webb miraculously brings to life the volatile love affair between Rodin, arguably
one of the era’s greatest artists and Camille Claudel. When we first meet Camille, she is eighteen
years old and bursting with talent. Her
one aim is to escape her provincial village and become one of the greatest
sculptors of all time. But from the very
beginning Camille has to fight tooth and nail to develop her talent. While her father believes that she will one
day bring glory to the family name, her mother believes that Camille is
unnatural for wanting to pursue art instead of marriage and children. When an opportunity arises for Camille to
study in Paris, her father insists that they move to Paris.
Camille struggles with feelings of loneliness, her devotion
to her sculpture has left her with few social skills. Although she shares a
studio with two other female students, Camille knows that unlike her, they will
eventually marry and give up sculpting. We don’t really get to see any of Camille’s
relationship with her sister Louise, she’s something of a cipher in the book.
Her most complex relationship, in a way, is not with Rodin but with her brother
Paul. Both are artists, Paul longs to be
a writer. But while Paul is willing to compromise, taking a job in the
diplomatic corps while writing on the side, Camille refuses to even countenance
taking on pupils. Even though the money
would go a long way towards paying her bills. While Paul finds solace in religion,
Camille’s religion is her sculpture. It's what she holds on to, even in her darkest hours.
But then she meets Auguste Rodin. She tries to fight her
undeniable attraction to him but she can't ultimately. She senses immediately that their passion will
consume them. Camille believes that she is just as
talented as Rodin, and that she will one day to etch her name in history
despite society's belief that women can't be artists. However, her ambition and her need to forge an independent identity soon comes between them. And the dark voices in
Camille's head grow louder with each passing day, threatening her ability to work.
Webb’s writing is flawless. She gets under Camille’s skin, refusing to shy
away from the more negative aspects of her personality, her stubbornness, her
jealously and her ego. There were times when I was reading the novel that I wanted to shake Camille. In many ways, Camille was her own worst enemy. Webb gives the
reader a glimpse into constant sexism that female artists faced in the 19th
Century, particularly those artists like Camille who refused to limit
themselves to scenes of domestic life. There
is a scene late in the book when Rodin and Camille have reunited after a short
break when they attend a dinner where they run into one of Rodin’s frenemies
who makes it clear that he would love to take Rodin’s place.
Then there is the matter of Rodin’s long-term relationship
with Rose Beuret, the mother of his only child.
Despite his love for Camille, he cannot bring himself to break it off
with Rose. Camille cannot hide her jealously of Rose. She wants Rodin all to
herself. The book is told through both Camille
and Rodin’s point of view which allows the reader to see Camille through
someone else’s eyes. She’s particularly good at detailing the struggle that
Rodin has between the two women in his life.
Rose, who has been with him since the beginning, and Camille, his
passionate muse. Webb also adroitly illustrates the personal toll of being
driven by great ambition. Despite Camille’s successes, she’s constantly
compared to Rodin, the sensuality of her work which is unheard of in most
female artists, costs her commissions. She struggles to maintain her own
identity, to not let herself be submerged in Rodin’s. Despite Rodin’s successes, he still struggles
to get his vision across without compromising too much.
Anyone who is interested in la Belle Époque Paris will find
much to enjoy in Rodin’s Lover. I don't think I'm giving anything away by saying that the love story doesn't end happily for many reasons. There is not false moment in this novel, a moment that I could have pointed to as out of character for what I know of Camille from my own research. Unlike the movie Camille Claudel, Webb never blames Rodin for Camille's misfortunes. You never get the sense that he's actively using her. In away, they are using each other but not in a negative way. There are hints in the book that Camille may have inherited her mental instability from her mother. Webb builds Camille's madness slowly, from just little things like her uncontrollable temper and her jealously, eventually escalating to paranoia and the voice inside her head. In the end, this book is heart-breaking in it's portrayal of one of the art history's most fascinating and complex women.
Anyone who has read this blog over the years knows how I feel about Marie Antoinette. I've been fascinated with the doomed Queen ever since I discovered that she and I share a birthday. Over the years, I have amassed a wealth of books about Marie. One year, I even went to see Sophia Coppola's film Marie Antoinette for our birthday. If there is a movie or a book that has even the slightest connection to Marie Antoinette, I will read it. This has led me to the mostly wretched film The Affair of the Necklace with Hilary Swank as well as the YA novel Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer which came out almost two years ago. After two hundred years, you would think that the subject of her life had been exhausted, but you would be wrong! Two new books are coming out about Marie Antoinette next year. And good news, Sony Pictures has bought the rights to Juliet Grey's novel Becoming Marie Antoinette, which will hopefully be coming to a theatre near you in the next few years. Which brings me to another question: Who would you like to see play a young Marie Antoinette? I have a feeling, if the film gets made, that Lily Collins who plays Lady Rose on Downton Abbey will get the call.
A Day with Marie Antoinette: An Intimate Portrait of Her Life at Versailles - Helene Delalex (Author) and Francis Hammond (Photographer) - June 6, 2015.
The description on Amazon.co.uk - This beautifully illustrated book sheds new light on the personal life of Marie Antoinette and reveals hidden aspects of her Versailles. Marie Antoinette was a mirror of her time. Never before has a queen been so passionately admired and adulated, then hunted, vilified, and defamed. From the young queen playing a shepherdess on stage, unaware of the turmoil in the capital, to France’s "martyr queen," the author demystifies the legend, unveiling the woman behind the queen, and the wife and mother behind the sovereign.By tracing her footsteps through Versailles, discovering her voice through her letters, and encountering little-known works in her private art collection, the reader gains new insight on the tragically brief life of a passionate, sensitive, dramatic, and captivating woman. Organized chronologically, with lavish new photography and a wealth of unpublished material, this is a nuanced portrait of Marie Antoinette and her Versailles. This book is definitely on my wish list.
Of course, you can't talk about Marie Antoinette and Versailles without talking about clothing. Another new book is Fashion Victims: Dress at the Court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. I have to thank Melanie over at Madame Guillotine for alerting me about this book. It looks lavish, filled with lots of pictures, more of a coffee table book than a straight history. Here is the description over at Amazon.co.uk: This engrossing book chronicles one of the most exciting, controversial, and extravagant periods in the history of fashion: the reign of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette in 18th-century France. Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell offers a carefully researched glimpse into the turbulent era's sophisticated and largely female-dominated fashion industry, which produced courtly finery as well as promoted a thriving secondhand clothing market outside the royal circle. She discusses in depth the exceptionally imaginative and uninhibited styles of the period immediately before the French Revolution, and also explores fashion's surprising influence on the course of the Revolution itself. The absorbing narrative demonstrates fashion's crucial role as a visible and versatile medium for social commentary, and shows the glittering surface of 18th-century high society as well as its seedy underbelly. Fashion Victims presents a compelling anthology of trends, manners, and personalities from the era, accompanied by gorgeous fashion plates, portraits, and photographs of rare surviving garments. Drawing upon documentary evidence, previously unpublished archival sources, and new information about aristocrats, politicians, and celebrities, this book is an unmatched study of French fashion in the late 18th century, providing astonishing insight, a gripping story, and stylish inspiration. This one comes out in March just in time for to be bought with my tax-refund!
Melanie also mentioned one last book about Marie Antoinette entitled La mode a la cour de Marie Antoinette. This one is entirely in French, but Melanie has said that there are tons of gorgeous photos to look at in the book. And who knows, it might be that excuse to break out ye olde French dictionary that is lurking somewhere in my apartment. Or to take a French class. I studied French for ten years, starting in third grade through college, so I read it much better than I speak it. Funny, how reading skills stay but not the speaking! The cover of this book is absolutely gorgeous. This one came out last October.
So there you have it, 3 new books about Marie Antoinette, to break your wallet!
My thoughts: I read
Priya Parmar’s first book EXIT THE ACTRESS when it came out in 2011, and was
bowled over by her talent. Yes, I had a
few quibbles with her portrayal of Nell Gwynn (I had a hard time believing that
she was illiterate and somehow never learned to read during her years as an
actress. I found that a little far-fetched), but I thought the book was an
excellent peek backstage at what it was like to be an actress during the
Restoration. You could just smell the
greasepaint and the unwashed flesh!
When I saw on Net Galley that she had written a new novel
about Vanessa Bell and her sister Virginia Woolf, I immediately requested
it. Most of what I know about the
Bloomsbury Group has been gained through watching films like Carrington (Emma
Thompson brilliant as always as Dora Carrington and Jonathan Pryce as Lytton
Strachey) and The Hours, as well as reading brief biographies of the artists
and writers who populated the group. I
find them endlessly fascinating, in the same way that I find the radicals and
artists who lived in Greenwich Village at the time fascinating. So this book
was definitely going to be on my TBR pile.
I finally downloaded it this past week and just devoured it over the
The book opens in 1905, Vanessa and her siblings have just
sold their childhood home and moved to Bloomsbury which was the equivalent of
moving to Williamsburg before it became hip. Their father has just died, and
Virginia has recently recovered from a breakdown that almost shattered the
family. The book is told mainly through Vanessa’s journal, interspersed with
letters from Virginia to her friend Violet, Lytton Strachey to Leonard Woolf
who is in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and letters from Roger Fry to his mother. This choice makes the book feel very personal
and intimate as if the reader found an old box of family mementos in the
attic. It’s the perfect book to read on
a rainy day with a hot cup tea beside you as you dip into the lives of Vanessa,
and her siblings.
Although one could categorize the Stephen family as upper
middle class, they have deep roots in the literary and artistic community. Their late mother was the niece of Julia
Margaret Cameron, their father’s first wife was the daughter of William
Makepeace Thackeray. Their father,
Leslie Stephen, was English author, critic and mountaineer! Reading this book
reminded me of the time that I went to visit 18 Stafford Terrace which is the
home of a Punch cartoonist who is like the great grandfather of Lord Snowden. I could just see Vanessa and Virginia racing
up and down the stairs.
There is an overwhelming sense of loss in the book, of the family
members (their mother and older sister Stella, their father) who have passed
on. Although the book is narrated mainly
by Vanessa, there are times when Virginia Stephen threatens to take over the
book, just as in real life she threatened to take over her sisters. Her prickly personality, at times loving,
other times needy, her charm and her brilliance come across in the book. She’s that friend who you love but you need
take mini-vacations from if only to save your own sanity. It would too easy to cut Virginia some slack
by pointing out “Well, she’s mentally ill, she doesn’t know what she’s doing.” Parmar never excuses Virginia’s behavior. By
the end of the book, I was #TeamVanessa all the way. I cheered her for freeing herself from a
marriage that was not fulfilling her, with a husband who could so nonchalantly
fall under her sister’s spell.
Particularly after he had spent such a long time wooing Vanessa and
trying to get her to marry him. I confess I wanted to smack Clive Bell many times over the course of the novel. Talk about misrepresenting who you are! He completely blindsides Vanessa with this actions. One of my favorite characters in the book was Lytton Strachey, as he was in the film Carrington. What I found amazing, and it's one of the things that I had forgotten, was just how incestuous a group they were. It seems like everyone in the book, at some point or another, slept with Duncan Grant. He is the one character that I never felt that we got to know in the book. He sort of danced on the periphery, breaking hearts left and right.
I never wanted this book to end, as each page led me to the
last page, I kept hoping that miraculously the book would continue. Parmar’s
writing is so evocative of the period and the emotions of the characters. Vanessa and Virginia, their friends and
family, felt like real, living, breathing people. Not just characters from a biography or a
history book. I can’t tell you how many
times I fell down the rabbit hole of Wikipedia while reading this book because
I kept wanting to know more.
If your friends want to try historical fiction, but they don’t
know who to read, I would suggest giving them Parmar’s book as an example of
the best of what historical fiction has to offer. I can’t wait to read Parmar’s next book. I
just hope we don’t have to wait three years to do so.
I've been an incredibly bad blogger lately and for that I must apologize. Since 2011, when Scandalous Women was published, I've been working on and submitting proposals to my agent for a follow-up book, which unfortunately has yet to happen. I'm also working on some fiction projects which is also taking up the time that I spent doing research. So that's where my mindset has been over the past two years. My goal for 2015 is to try and blog more often, at least two or three times a month. It will probably be a mix of reviews as well as new content. At least that's the plan.
One of my Christmas presents to myself this year, besides the DVD of Season Five of Downton Abbey, was Lucinda Hawksley's biography of Queen Victoria's daughter Princess Louise (1848-1939). The book was in all the English newspapers last year when I was in England because of Hawksley's belief that Princess Louise might have had a childwith her brother's tutor while she was unwed. This apparently isn't a new claim, there were rumors during Princess Louise's lifetime about her marriage and her relationships with the artists whose company she preferred including the sculptor Joseph Edgar Boehm.
I enjoyed Hawksley's earlier biography of Lizzie Siddal, who I have to admit, I'm a little obsessed with. But then I've always found the Pre-Raphaelites fascinating, and their art appeals to be more than even the Impressionists. So I waited until the book was available in paperback and snapped it up on Amazon.co.uk. Unfortunately the book doesn't quite live up to its hype. Hawksley freely admits that she was unable to see any material on Princess Louise from the Royal Archives nor was she able to see any material available on Louise's husband, the future 9th Duke of Argyll. This puts any biographer at a disadvantage. The impression given is that there are secrets hidden in those archives that people want to stay hidden. So apart from what can be documented, Louise's time in Canada, all her charitable works, everything else is speculation.
Hawksley writes that Bertie believed that Louise was just as highly sexed as he was, and that may be true, but unless a biographer is actually able to get into the archives, we will never know for sure. A previous biographer, Jehanne Wake, believes that while Princess Louise may have indulged in flirtations with Arthur Bigge, the Queen's assistant private secretary as well as with Princess Beatrice's husband, Prince Henry of Battenberg, they were chaste. According to the notorious rake, Wilfred Scawen Blunt, Louise was not as chaste as Wake and Elizabeth Longford, another biographer, would prefer the world to believe. Personally, I believe that Louise probably did have affairs, and probably learned how to prevent pregnancy from some of her bohemian friends. I'm on the fence about the illegitimate baby. Royal historian Carolyn Harris says no way in her review of the book. Unless one of Henry Locock's descendants is able to get the royal family to take a DNA test, which will never happen, we will never know the truth.
Princess Louise certainly was rebellious, that I will agree with. She had an incredibly strong personality, and was not afraid to butt heads with her mother. Truthfully, the more I read about Queen Victoria, the less I like the woman. She treated most of her other children with disdain apart from her eldest Vicky and the baby of the family, Beatrice, the only one of her children who she showed any affection to when they were little. The way that she treated Bertie was absolutely shameful. And she certainly tried her damnedest to repress Louise. Thank god, she didn't. Louise was not only the prettiest of Queen Victoria's children, she was also a talented artist. Louise's chosen medium was sculpture, although she also painted as well. In the 19th century, sculpture was considered a man's medium, it involved a lot of heavy lifting, dealing with materials such as marble and clay, messy business, not at all feminine and ladylike.
Louise also refused to marry a foreign Prince, she had no desire to spend her life abroad, ruling some small principality or kingdom. Apparently The Princess of Wales wanted Louise to marry her brother, Crown Prince Frederick, but there were no sparks. Instead, Louise preferred to marry a British aristocrat. Her marriage to John, the Marquess of Lorne in 1871 when she was 23, was the first marriage of a royal Princess to a commoner since Princess Mary married Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk in 1515. The Duke of York (the future James II) had married Anne Hyde in 1660 and George III's brother, the Duke of Gloucester had married Maria Walpole (who was born illegitimate) in 1766, a marriage that led to the passing of the Royal Marriages Act of 1772. Louise married Lorne partly because she was eager to get out of her mother's house and into an establishment of her own. Unlike the royal princes, Louise and her sisters were not allowed the same privilege of moving out of the house. Even a palace like Buckingham can be stifling when you are expected to be at your widowed mother's beck and call. As soon as Princess Helena married, Queen Victoria began to treat Louise like an unpaid secretary.
While members of Louise's family were not happy about the marriage, the press were. Unfortunately the marriage was not happy. There has been speculation over the years that Lorne may have been homosexual or perhaps bisexual. He also didn't bathe very often, and was eccentric in the way that he dressed. There were other tensions, Lorne was very aware that in England, his status was below his wife's. The couple soon started to spend as little time as possible together until they moved to Canada when he became Governor-General. Even then Louise would contrive reasons to spend time back in Britain. The couple were childless but Louise was much loved by her nieces and nephews. Even Kaiser Wilhelm II stated that Louise was his favorite Aunt. Later on in life, the couple seemed to get along much better before the Duke's death in 1914.
One of the biggest mysteries that Hawksley writes about concerns the death of Joseph Boehm. Initial reports stated that the Princess was with Boehm when he died. That story changed later because of the implications, later reports were that Boehm had been found by someone else just as the Princess was arriving with her lady-in-waiting. Blunt states in his diaries that Boehm and the Princess were having sex when he died. The book actually comes alive when Hawksley sticks to detailing the charities that Louise was involved with, her artistic friendships, and her relationship with her adored younger brother Leopold. Louise was close to all her brothers, but Leopold had a special place in her heart. They were best friends, and co-conspirators. She was devastated when he died at the age of 30.
Her relationships with her sisters were not quite as close. Louise resented Beatrice because the Queen indulged and spoiled her. Beatrice resented Louise because once Louise married, Beatrice was expected to be her mother's companion for life. Hawksley is very effective at detailing the tensions of a large family who just happen to be royal. Louise lived a long life, she was 91 when she died. She lived through not only the Crimean War, the Boer War, but also WWI, and died just as WWII was starting. She seemed to embrace the changes that the new century brought much more so then some others in the royal family. One of the things that I enjoyed learning was that Prince Albert insisted that his children learn to be useful. All the girls learned how to cook. sew and clean. Apparently people were shocked to learn that Princess Louise was a good cook and liked it!
While the book didn't live up to my expectations, and as far as I know, doesn't contain any new revelations, I enjoyed it. I don't know if the book is going to be published in the States but it's available in paperback for about $15.00 from Amazon.co.uk.
From the back cover: In the late twelfth
century, across the sweeping Mongolian grasslands, brilliant, charismatic
Temujin ascends to power, declaring himself the Great, or Genghis, Khan. But it
is the women who stand beside him who ensure his triumph....
After her mother foretells an ominous future
for her, gifted Borte becomes an outsider within her clan. When she seeks
comfort in the arms of aristocratic traveler Jamuka, she discovers he is the
blood brother of Temujin, the man who agreed to marry her and then abandoned her
long before they could wed. Temujin will
return and make Borte his queen, yet it will take many women to safeguard his
fragile new kingdom. Their daughter, the fierce Alaqai, will ride and shoot an
arrow as well as any man. Fatima, an elegant Persian captive, will transform
her desire for revenge into an unbreakable loyalty. And Sorkhokhtani, a demure
widow, will position her sons to inherit the empire when it begins to fracture
In a world lit by fire
and ruled by the sword, the tiger queens of Genghis Khan come to depend on one
another as they fight and love, scheme and sacrifice, all for the good of their
family...and the greatness of the People of the Felt Walls.
About the Author
Stephanie Thornton is a writer and
history teacher who has been obsessed with infamous women from ancient history
since she was twelve. She lives with her husband and daughter in Alaska, where
she is at work on her next novel. “The Secret History: A Novel of Empress
Theodora” and “Daughter of the Gods: A Novel of Ancient Egypt” are available
from NAL/Penguin. “The Tiger Queens: The Women of Genghis Khan” will hit the
shelves November 4, 2014, followed by “The Conqueror’s Wife: A Novel of
Alexander the Great” in November 2015. For more information please visit
Stephanie Thornton’s website and blog. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.
My thoughts: This review was supposed
to be posted this morning, but I was up until almost one o’clock this morning
finishing the book. I have been really
behind because of my birthday, writing recaps of How to Get Away with Murder for
Romance at Random, and NaNoWriMo. My
apologies but I also literally couldn’t put the book down. Every commercial break during Must See
Thursday on ABC, I was dipping into the book. It’s been a long time since I’ve been that
enthralled by a work of fiction. Normally I juggle several books at once, but
it’s been all The Tiger Queens, all
the time the past few days.
There has been a lot of talk on
Twitter lately about diverse books and how important it is to be able to read
stories about different people and different cultures. I was thinking about that topic while I was
reading The Tiger Queens. It’s rare in either historical fiction or
romance, that you get to read about people of the Far East. For the most part it is either American
historicals or European historicals (mainly England and Scotland). The market seemed to be glutted with so many
books about the Tudors, particularly Henry VIII and his six wives. So I jumped
at the chance to read The Tiger Queens
when Amy Bruno from HFVBT sent out the email looking for reviewers. I knew very little about Genghis Khan, just
what I remembered from social studies in grade school, that he united the
tribes in Mongolia, and that he conquered much of the East as far as Iran. There was nothing about the women in his life
or how important they were in ruling the empire.
From the very first page, I was
gripped by the stories of Borte, Alaqai, Fatima and Sorkhokhtani. They are four very different women whose
lives are impacted by the choices of Genghis Khan and his sons. Borte was born with the sight, but it is both
a blessing and a curse. She knows that
her marriage to Temujin, as he was first called, will lead to a war between
brothers, and a rift that can only be ended with the death of one. That’s a pretty tough burden to carry. At first it seems as the prediction will not
come true, since Temujin rides off and doesn't come back for seven years (he
was only supposed to be gone a few months).
Borte meets Jamuka, and develops feelings for him only to learn that not
only is he Temujin’s blood brother but then Temujin comes back ready to claim
his bride. She marries Temujin but they
are ripped apart soon afterwards when Borte is taken by a rival tribe, the
Merkid. Thornton doesn’t stint on
describing the brutality that Borte both witnesses and experiences at the hands
of the Merkid. It’s pretty tough
The writing in The Tiger Queens is often incredibly evocative but also
breath-taking. I wish I had thought to underline some of my favorite passages,
but Thornton gives you a really good feeling of the sights, as well as the
sounds of late twelfth century Mongolia. My favorite parts of the book were the
domestic scenes between Borte and her daughters by marriage, and her daughter
Alaqai. Whether they were joking about Alaqai’s lack of domestic skills, or sharing
confidences about their husbands, and their children. I tended to skim my way
through all the battle scenes, mainly because violence tends to upset me, even
in print. Out of all the female characters in the book, I think my favorite had
to be Alaqai. I love the fact that she was a free spirit, a warrior who was not
afraid to do what was necessary. She was
more of a warrior than any of Genghis Khan’s sons. It’s a pity that she couldn’t have been
chosen Khan after his death.
I’m sure others will disagree with
me, but Fatima’s story was probably my least favorite section of the book. On the one hand, it was nice to see this world through the eyes of an outsider, someone who is full of revenge but who becomes a fierce loyalist to the family. However, I also thought Fatima's section when on for far too long, and short-changed Sorkhokhtani. I just felt that she was more of a cipher compared to the other characters in the book. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I look forward to reading Thornton's next book about the women in Alexander the Great's life.