So Many Books, So Little Time

     Well, it looks as if we’re going to survive the little ice age masquerading as winter.  I’ll resist the temptation to tell the old joke about seeing the first robin of spring, frozen to death.  Ken, you’d asked if we have daffodils in the US.  We do, but mine are just starting to poke their little green stems up, under-standably wary.  Back in Outremer, it is hot and dry, with one more chapter at Acre before Richard leads his army south to the famous battle at Arsuf.  The crusaders, not surprisingly, found it difficult to adjust to the climate of the Holy Land, and their chroniclers reported men dying of sunstroke on the march.  My characters are already complaining about the heat, and have no idea that life will be even more unpleasant with the start of the icy, winter rains. 

        I think I’ve answered the questions you posed in the last blog, but if I missed any, let me know.  I thought I’d devote this blog to a subject dear to all our hearts—books.  I will start with some recommendations based on my recent reading.  I thoroughly enjoyed Michael Jecks’s mystery, No Law in the Land, if “enjoy” is the right word to apply to the misery of Edward II’s subjects in 1325.  Michael does a masterful job of showing how precarious life had become for people who could not depend upon the Crown or local officials to keep the peace; it reminded me of the suffering during Stephen’s reign.  For those of you not yet familiar with Michael’s series, the protagonist is a former Templar, who escaped the catastrophe that destroyed the Order and is attempting to build a new life for himself back in England. 

        I think I mentioned in an earlier blog what fun I had reading Margaret Frazer’s A Play of Treachery, which gives Sunne’s readers the opportunity to meet Elizabeth Woodville’s parents in their youth.  Robin Maxwell has a new book out, O Juliet.  Not many writers would be brave enough to follow in Shakespeare’s footsteps, but Robin pulls it off wonderfully well and gives us a fascinating glimpse of life in 15th century Italy in the process.   I haven’t had a chance yet to read Alan Gordon’s The Parisian Prodigal, set in Toulouse in the early 13th century, but I’m looking forward to it, albeit with sadness since it may be the last in this imaginative series.

        It is always frustrating when we become emotionally invested in a character and his/her times and then circumstances intrude and the relationship is abruptly severed.  (Justin de Quincy is in total agreement with me on this)  I really liked Roberta Gellis’s mysteries set in England during Stephen’s reign, centering around a woman forced to survive by becoming the madame of a high-end house of prostitution, with some help from her powerful protector, the famous (or infamous) mercenary, William de Ypres, whom you may remember from When Christ and His Saints Slept.  There are only four books in this series, although I keep hoping Magdalene and her ladies will get a reprieve.

      There are some very good books coming your way in future months.  I am a huge fan of the P.F. Chisholm mysteries, featuring a real historical figure, Robert Carey, a cousin of Elizabeth Tudor; his father was the child of Henry VIII and Mary Boleyn.  I am happy to report that a new Robert Carey novel will be published in June, titled A Murder of Crows.  I am currently reading the galleys for another writer I enjoy, Priscilla Royal, whose mysteries are set in England in the early years of the reign of Edward I.  Titled  Valley of Dry Bones, it won’t be out until the autumn, but it will be worth the wait, showing how the Battle of Evesham is still roiling the waters years after Simon de Montfort’s death.  Priscilla and I agree with William Faulkner that the past isn’t dead; it isn’t even past.

     Another book soon to hit the stores is Legacy by Susan Kay, being republished by Sourcebooks in April; this is easily the best book I’ve read about Elizabeth Tudor.  Speaking of that monarch, we have Margaret George’s upcoming novel about Elizabeth to look forward to; I don’t think it will be published till next year, but I can verify that if anyone wants the exact publication date.

      In a recent blog, we were discussing those historical rulers we found most interesting and Charles II’s name came up; he was definitely on my list.  So I was delighted to discover that there is a new novel about Charles and the most appealing of his mistresses, the actress Nell Gwyn.  It is called Exit the Actress, by Priya Parmar and will be published next January.  And I have very good news for Elizabeth Chadwick’s many fans.  I’ve often mentioned how much I enjoy her novels, so I am happy to pass along the word that her second novel about William Marshal, The Scarlet Lion, is being published in the US this month by Sourcebooks, which has already published her first novel about William Marshal, The Greatest Knight.   As I’ve explained, I never read books about characters I am still writing about, not wanting to be influenced, even subconsciously, by how other writers interpret the same facts or personalities.  So I am waiting to read Elizabeth’s William Marshal novels until I’ve finished Lionheart—which is taking a fair amount of will power, for I’ve heard nothing but raves from people who’ve already read them.  I hope to have an interview with Elizabeth on my blog in the near future once I manage to get Coeur de Lion out of Acre and on his way to Arsuf.

       Believe it or not, I actually do read books not set in the MA.  I recently finished the delightful Thereby Hangs a Tail by Spencer Quinn, the second book in a mystery series that is narrated by the detective’s dog, Chet.  I know, that is a challenge, but Spencer carries it off in high style.  If you’ve ever looked at your family dog and wondered what he was thinking about, Chet can tell you; a lot of the time, it involves food.   And I am the most enthusiastic fan of Dana Stabenow’s Alaskan mysteries who is not a blood relative of Dana’s, so it was like getting an early birthday present to have Dana’s latest, A Night Too Dark, arrive from the Poisoned Pen, where she’d done a signing.  I encountered Dana’s series during a Bouchercon mystery convention and I quite literally walked around with the book open in my hand, unable to put it down.  It was called Breakup, the 7th in the series; A Night Too Dark is the 17th, so if you haven’t yet met Kate Shugak and her wolf-hybrid Mutt, you are in for such a treat.

        I can’t very well do a blog about books without mentioning some that relate to the MA, so here are a few recommendations.  I may have named several of these in the past, but these books are good enough to be mentioned again.   Books relating to the Third Crusade:  God’s War by Christopher Tyerman; Saladin and the Politics of Holy War by Malcolm Cameron Lyons and D.E.P. Jackson; Logistics of War in the Age of the Crusades by John H. Pryor; Crusading Warfare, 1099-1193 by R. C. Smail; Fighting for the Cross by Norman Housley.  Here are several about medieval warfare: Religion and the Conduct of War by David Bachrach; By Sword and Fire by Sean McGlyn; War and Chivalry by Matthew Strickland.  The definitive biography of Richard I remains John Gillingham’s book, the one published in 1999; he has written several books about Richard’s reign, including Richard Coeur de Lion, Kingship, Chivalry, and War in the Twelfth Century.  I know I’ve already mentioned the books by David Miller and Geoffrey Regan, which focus only upon Richard’s campaign in Outremer.  And for those of you who might want to read “ahead” in anticipation of my next book, the one about the real Balian of Ibelin, I recommend The Leper King and His Heirs by Bernard Hamilton and The World of the Crusaders by Joshua Prawer.

        Occasionally readers have asked me to include a bibliography in my novels, but most publishers don’t see such a need when the book in question is a work of fiction.  Of course the rules of the game have changed now that writers have websites and blogs.  So I was wondering if you’d like me to add a bibliography to my website for Lionheart once it is done?  I already have a section on my website for books I recommend about the Angevins, but this would obviously be more comprehensive.  Any interest in this?

        We’ve often discussed our favorite novels on my Facebook pages and occasionally here, too, so that seems like a good way to end a blog about books.  For me, it would be To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee and Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry.  An odd pairing, I know, but whenever I’m asked about my favorite books, these two always come to mind.   Which books come to mind for you?

       And on that note, I am signing off on this, the birthday of one of my favorite kings.  On March 5th in the castle at Le Mans in God’s Year 1133, Henry II first saw the light of day, little knowing the inspiration he would later provide for novelists of historical fiction.

March 5, 2010

 

98 Responses to “So Many Books, So Little Time”

  1. Jenny Says:

    Great recommendations! I’ll definitely check out Geck’s, Gellis’ and Chisholm’s series. Bibliographies are great for readers who want to learn more of the subjects of their favorite novels. Author websites and blogs are becoming treasure troves of information these days!

    Lonesome Dove also makes my lists of favorite novels, along with Gone With the Wind and Wuthering Heights, and Outlander, among others. By the way, two of your novels are on that list, too: Sunne and Dragons!

  2. Amy Says:

    I am SO very much looking forward to the release of Legacy. I’ve been on a mission to get this book since my love of HF started years ago.

    I really enjoyed O, Juliet also. And I would love to see if you could confirm the release date of Margaret George’s novel on Elizabeth. She doesn’t update her site very often and I am very excited about this new novel…I love George’s writing and am a HUGE Elizabeth I fan. Thank you for the offer ;-)

    To answer one of your questions: Yes, I would be interested in a bibliography…I always love seeing what authors use for research.

    As for my All Time favorite novels…I have the Welsh trilogy AND Sunne in Splendour on mine! I really must read those again soon. I still miss Llewelyn.

    Thanks Sharon and I hope you have a great weekend!

  3. Yvette Says:

    I too would be very interested in a biography of Lionheart (or any of your other books!). I can understand the publisher for not wanting to spend the pages on something that only a very specific part of your audience would be interested in. But I think it’s precisely that part that probably visits your website anyway :-)

  4. Brenna Says:

    Sharon-

    I’m not sure you would need to have a bibliography in your book if you have your recommended reads on your website. If there was a way to direct people there, I think that would be adequate. It might be beneficial if you broke the list up into fiction and non-fiction recommendations so people know specifically what to look for when going to the library or bookstore.

    As always, I’ve updated my Amazon shopping list based on your recommendations! They really should give you a commission based on the amount of books people buy because of you! Speaking of Amazon, when I tried to add Legacy, it said it wouldn’t be released until July. Maybe you have updated information? Or will there be a different publication date for different countries?

    As for my favorite books: I would have to say all of yours because they are each so different and full of wonderful information, Elizabeth Chadwick-I’ve personally put off her William Marshall series until I received both of them, Michelle Moran-who also recommended George’s Memoirs of Cleopatra which I am devouring right now, and believe it or not, Nora Roberts. I know, strange grouping, but I like the way Robert’s weaves a story. I’m particularly fond of her triologies because the bond of females is prominent and heart-warming. I don’t generally read her stand alone romances, as they are a bit cheesy for me. Why settle for that when I have the greatest love story at my fingertips-Llewelyn and Joanna. *Sigh*

    Thanks again for a wonderful blog and for adding to my Amazon list *I’m clapping my hands in anticipation of a really big box of books arriving at my home in the next week or two.*

    I don’t know about where you live, but we are expecting 51 degrees this weekend! Very exciting!

  5. Brenna Says:

    Oh and I can’t forget Helen Hollick’s books about Mr. Sexy himself Jesamiah Acorne. I devoured the first book and will read the other two once the unpacking has occured!

  6. Nanina Says:

    Thank you for filling us in on your reading, writing, research. I enjoy the updates. I too recommend Michael Jecks. Just today the local librarian asked how far along I was in his book list. I’m starting his 12th novel.

    I find your comments on sickness (last month) and the complaints over how hot it was in the Outremer interesting. Both my parents were stationed in Persia during WWII. My mother will reminisce over how difficult it was for my father to adjust to the temperatures in Pennsylvania when they returned. He felt cold even in the hot, muggy Philadelphia summer. Mom was a nurse. When I mentioned your research, she wondered if the Crusaders suffered from Sand Fly Fever. The American soldiers became very ill with it, but it wasn’t life threatening.

    Again, thank you for your blog and all the great books you’ve written and authors you suggest. BTW my crocuses are blooming and the red-wing black birds have returned. It’s Spring!

  7. Sandie Waller Says:

    Yes love the bibliography’s at the end. Please encourage them to include.

  8. Sandy Says:

    Bibliographies, please! Thanks for being willing to take the time.

    I’m wondering what would be the proper way to celebrate Henry II’s birthday. So many possibilities, but few that will win friends.

    On the reading list, I know it’s been mentioned, but I’m loving Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall. Nearing the end and very grateful to have received the shipping notice for Elizbeth Chadwick’s The Scarlet Lion.

  9. Dave Says:

    Sharon,

    The article is in the post, and should arrive between Monday, and Wednesday. I even sent you a little bonus material about Richard III. Let me know what you think after you read them.

    Iechyd da,

    Dave

  10. Jason Says:

    Yes, any sort of reading list (on the website) or bibliography would be quite welcome. It’s difficult to know where to wade in on some of these topics. It would be wonderful to have a good selection of quality sources. Thank you!

  11. Jel Says:

    Bibliography on website with mention at back of novel to point people to it. Those who have not found out how terrific you are at connecting with us who love your books, will then get the chance to make that connection.

    Favourite books are hard to list as there are so many, and they actually change from day to day depending on mood.

  12. Miss Moppet Says:

    I think the ideal solution is a select reading list at the back of the book and a longer bibliography on the website. Novels now often have material for reading groups, author interviews, etc, in the back as well and I enjoy reading that. Basically when I’ve finished a book I enjoyed, I’m looking for any extra material I can find!

    Very interested to hear about Exit the Actress as it will qualify for my Royal Mistress Challenge - thank you!

    I am another one who is thrilled to see Legacy being reprinted. I do have my paperback copy from way back when stored in my parents’ loft - have to get it out for a re-read!

  13. Anne Gilbert Says:

    Sharon:

    So many people have recommended Michael Jecks, that I’m going to have to read him. YOu also mentioned the nonfiction writer Christopher Tyerman’s “God’s War”, which I’ve been reading off and on, and which I can only describe as very “dense”. Personally, I try to avoid any “Tudor” stuff in historical fiction, but lately I’ve been reading a certain amount of it However, I do not plan to read yet another attempt at a fictional biography of Henry VIII or worse, Elizabeth I. There’s just too much of this stuff(for me, at least), already, though lots f people just eat it up. Which is too bad. Because the stories coming out of the MA such as the ones you write, are, to me, far less well-known and far more appealing.
    Anne G

  14. kristen elizabeth Says:

    Oh my god, my Amazon wish list just went thermonuclear. LOL! Thanks for all the awesome recommendations! I am excited to learn about Margaret George’s Elizabeth novel, especially. I had also never heard of Gellis and am intrigued.

    Oh, yes, please include a bibliography! Even if you can’t do a full biblio, since I’m sure you read dozens of articles and such, but even just the main sources you use would be interesting to see. I am a nerd for looking up sources and am always interested to read directly from them when possible.

    Favorite books? Gosh, that’s hard! For historical fiction, I’d honestly have to say Falls the Shadow and Outlander. Fantasy is Mists of Avalon, the Kushiel series by Jacqueline Carey and the Pern series by Anne McCaffrey. Non-fic is The God Delusion and The Greatest Show on Earth both by Richard Dawkins, and Pale BLue Dot by Carl Sagan (the pale blue dot is also one of my very favorite photographs as well).

    Stay warm, Sharon! I hope the winter goes away soon.

  15. Paula Says:

    I am also reading Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall at the moment and am loving it. Most of the books I have read lately and all the ones on my TBR pile are from authors I have learned about here- Michelle Moran, Elizabeth Chadwick, Brian Wainwright, Anya Seton, CW Gortner, Jan Gaillou, Margaret Frazer.

    My favourite book for years was The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. All the other ‘Avalon’ books that link back to Web of Darkness are also great- even the one finished after Marion’s death. The Axis trilogy by Sara Douglass, the Bridei chronicles by Juliet Marillier, the Heaven tree trilogy by Edith Pargeter are also favourites.

    If I had to choose a favourite book now it would be one of the following- In a Dark Wood Wandering by Hella Haasse, The Scarlet Lion by Elizabeth Chadwick or The Reckoning by yourself (every time I re read the Welsh trilogy I am more drawn to it). Historical fiction has definitely replaced fantasy as my favourite genre in recent years.

    My favourite short story is ‘The Machine Stops’ by E.M Forster. Amazing for the time it was wriiten.

  16. Cate Cushing Says:

    Favorite book? The Sunne and Splendour andKatherine by Anya Seton.

    Speaking of which on this day in history in 1340 John of Gaunt was born. Yea!

  17. admin Says:

    Several of you have asked me for more information about Margaret George’s new book. I checked with her and she says it will be called Elizabeth, the Last Battle and is scheduled for publication in the summer of 2011. Brenna, I have contacted Sourcebooks and will let you know once I get a definite release date for Legacy.
    I love finding out about the books that other people enjoy, so thanks for the feedback. It does lead the way to bankruptcy, though, doesn’t it?
    Miss Moppet, I have to ask. Royal Mistress Challenge?? I know we all want to hear about this!

  18. Koby Says:

    Sharon, I believe I’ve pre-empted you again. My last comment on your blog mentioned it being Henry’s birthday. Though maybe it’s not very fair of me - I’m about 7 hours ahead of you.
    What ‘icy, winter rains’ are you talking about? Not in Israel. Even in the north. Rarely (like, once a year) you’ll get hail for an hour. Once in 10 years it’ll snow for an hour. The last snow that lasted somewhere that wasn’t the Golan Plateau was in ‘92. On the coldest day of winter, it won’t be less than 40-50 F.
    I’ll answer your question, being a follower of Miss Moppet’s blog:
    “The Rules of the Challenge:
    Runs from January 1st, 2010 to December 31st, 2010. But this is an ongoing challenge and I will be renewing it next year.
    Join anytime during the year – just leave a comment, with a link to your signup post if you do one – you don’t have to! Anyone can join, you don’t have to have a blog.
    Books can be re-reads, or can overlap with other challenges.
    If you’d like me to include a link to your review, leave me a comment or email me at: misadventuresofmoppet [at] googlemail [dot] com.
    Choose your own level. You can change level anytime or change your mind about the books you will read at any time. I noticed other people have fun names for their challenge levels, so here are mine:
    Orange Girl – Read one book
    Maid of Honour – Read up to three books
    Courtesan – Read up to five books
    Maitresse en titre – Read up to seven books
    Secret Wife – Read more than seven books!
    UPDATE: Non-fiction counts towards the challenge! Either general books like Eleanor Herman’s Sex with Kings, or multi-biographies like Antonia Fraser’s Love and Louis XIV, or biographies of individual mistresses or favourites.”
    Miss Moppet gives a lot more, including her own list and rules on her blog: http://misadventuresofmoppet.wordpress.com/the-royal-mistress-challenge/
    My favorite books: When I’m not reading Historical Novels, I’m usually doing fantasy, so here are a few of my favorite books: Here Be Dragons, Devil’s Brood, The Scarlet Lion, The Game of Kings, and Checkmate. In Fantasy, I’ll just list authors, as I have so many I like: Sherwood Smith, Mercedes Lackey, Trudi Canavan, Ed Greenwood, Paul Thompson and Tonya Cook.

  19. admin Says:

    Apparently there has been a climate change, then, Koby, for both of Richard’s chroniclers talk about the wretched winter weather and how much the men suffered in consequence. Thanks so much for the information about Miss Moppet. It sounds like fun. BTW, I’ve been meaning to ask you how to properly pronounce Sidon; is it with a long i? Reynold, the Lord of Sidon has just made an appearance at Acre.

  20. Monica Says:

    Mm, I just left 3 feet of snow and -10C in Sweden (the flight over Sweden, Denmark, Holland and part of Germany showed snow coverd ground) and now I’m in Florida with the sun warming my back. It IS cooler here than usually at this time but, hey, to what I left it’s wounderful.
    I have many favorite books both fictional and non-fiction. Anya Seaton’s Kathryn and ofcourse the Welsh triology.
    Sharon, you will absolutely fall in love with the Marshall’s, both father and son so hurry up with Richard.

  21. Koby Says:

    Actually, the I in Sidon is a long e sound, as in Teeth, etc. And properly the s is more of a ts sound, in Hebrew called Tsade/Tsade and in Arabic Ṣād.

  22. Michele O'Connor Says:

    Great recommendations! My favorite books are Here Be Dragons, The Arthur series by Mary Stweart, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Dune and my guilty pleasure/summer beach read -the Stephanie Plum mysteries by Janet Evanovich. Just finished The Greatest Knight, which I really enjoyed.

  23. admin Says:

    Thanks, Koby. I knew I could count on you!

  24. Koby Says:

    No problem, Sharon. And today, William Longsword/Longspee, Earl of Salisbury, bastard son of Henry II and Ida de Tosney died.

  25. Elizabeth Chadwick Says:

    Loved your post Sharon and you always give us so much to think about and comment on. When I was writing The Falcons of Montabard four books I found very useful were The Crusades: Islamic Perspectives by Carole Hillenbrand, The Crusaders’ Kingdom: European Colonisation in the Middle Ages by Joshua Prawer (I see you list another Prawer in your suggestions), and two terrific books by Adrian.J. Boas - Crusader Archaeology: The Material Culture of the Latin East and Jerusalem in the Time of the Crusades.
    I think that as novelists while we are doing the ‘Who, what, why, where, how’ thing, we also need to give the reader the ’see, taste, touch, smell,hear, feel’ experience, and obvously it can be more difficult from a distance, so I’m all for books (and websites) that bring that distance closer.
    Books - I so agree with you that Legacy is so far the best book I have read on Elizabeth I. I’m so glad it’s being re-issued. I thought I had a copy somewhere but an initial search has proven negative. I may have lent it out and not received it back :-( Agree re Madeleine le Batard too. I’d love to read more of her story.
    My favourite books: Michele - Yesss re Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. I use these as pure relief and laughter between heavier tomes. For e.g. after Reading Wolf Hall, I plunged straight into an Evanovich novel - number 12. I love Sharon’s books it goes without saying, but those apart, my favourite all time reads include Hanta Yo by Ruth Beebee Hill (about the Lakotah Sioux on the eve of the coming of the White Man), Red Adam’s Lady by Grace Ingram - medieval comfort read. The Roselynde chronicles of Roberta Gellis - Ian de Vipont, what a man! Dorothy Dunnnett’s Francis Crawford of Lymond series, The Lord of the Rings. Oh, and Guards Guards! and Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett. Forget any sexy romance hero you have ever met and that includes Edward Cullen of Twilight fame, and meet Grebo in the latter novel. (Grebo would destroy Edward in one fell swoop). The moment where Grebo shines only lasts for perhaps two pages, but it’s one of my favourite fun pieces of writing of all time. IMO Terry Pratchett is a genius.

  26. admin Says:

    Elizabeth, you are going to bankrupt our readers, with all these great book recommendations! We are always on the same page when it comes to research, too, for I have all four of the Crusader books you mention on my bookshelf. I love Prawer’s works, am just sorry not all of his books were translated into English.

  27. Valerie L. Says:

    Since we’re mentioning the Stephanie Plum books as sheer pleasurable comic relief, for all those historically inclined. the Falco books by Lindsey Davis are marvelous. Imagine Sam Spade in Vespasian’s Rome with a family who drives him crazy and a patrician girlfriend he adores. I read it for the fun of it and the fish pickle. *G*

  28. admin Says:

    Valerie is so right about the Falco books; they are great fun. I used to love the Janet Evanovich Stephanie Plum novels, Elizabeth, but I have been disappointed in the last few. She seems to be recyling the same scenarios and the only one of her characters to change at all from book one is Joe Morelli; also I think she has dragged out the Stephanie, Joe, Ranger love triangle way past its expiration date. But the first few were wonderful, some of the funniest books I’ve ever read. And she has given New Jersey’s rep. a much needed gloss, for even her senior citizens are always packing heat!

  29. Trish Says:

    “So many books, so little time” - one life is just not enough! Thank you Sharon for the wonderful recommendations and for the additional ones from the above posts. I love having bibliographies available for further reading, even a partial one would be a wonderful addition. Now to old favorites…many years ago I read the Heaven Tree Trilogy (Edith Pargeter) and was truly hooked on historical fiction, therefor they hold a special place in my heart. Also, Here Be Dragons will remain as one I “savored”, wanting to stay in that moment of time….so much so, that I’m finally planning a trip to Wales. I too, reach for totally different genres to “separate” from the current obsession - I’ll turn to a travel memoir or something with a gardening theme (two other passions). Kite Strings of the Southern Cross by Laurie Gough will truly inspire any young travel-wannabe and anything by Beverley Nichols, reprints from the 1920-30s (esp Down the Garden Path) has always made me laugh.

  30. Koby Says:

    Indeed Elizabeth reminded me of two other favorite fantasy writers of mine: Tolkien and Terry Pratchett. Personally, I prefer Tolkien’s unpublished works - that is, those that Christopher published, mainly The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales. Also, George R. R. Martin.

  31. admin Says:

    Trish, when you get ready for your trip to Wales, let me know and I’ll be happy to make some recommendations.

    A reader on my Facebook page was watching a History Channel show about the Templars and asked me if it sounded as if they’d gotten it right. Not even close. Anyway, it occurred to me that others may have seen this fantasty show, too, so I want to recommend a book I’ve mentioned before on the blog, The Real History of the Templars by Sharan Newman, which is not only accurate but fun to read. For example, one chapter is titled “The Popes get Involved (You knew they would.)” You’d think the Templars had suffered enough after getting railroaded by Philippe the Fair (who so wasn’t). Dan Brown has so much to answer for.
    Koby, you have an impressive list of favorites. My readers are so well-read!

  32. Dave Says:

    I personally enjoyed the Harry Potter series, and of course all of Sharon’s books. I did try to read some classics of literature(Last of the Mohicans, Great Expectations), but work got in the way.

    Hwyl Fawr,

    Dave

  33. Teresa Ballard Says:

    I’ve seen so many great recommendations. I am so in trouble! My all time favorite book is Pride and Prejudice. I’ve read it many times over the years. I’ve read several of Jecks’ books and have really loved them. I tend to be drawn to historical mysteries-Cadfael, Justin De Quincy (yum!), Dame Frevisse, Sister Fidelma, Falco. There’s also a series by Anne George about a couple of sisters in Birmingham, AL that is very entertaining-maybe because they sound like most of the people I know! Thanks for all the suggestions.

  34. Priya Parmar Says:

    Thank you for mentioning my novel! I am delighted!

    I have just begun Elizabeth Chadwick’s The Scarlet Lion and love it! Thank you for the wonderful suggestions!

  35. admin Says:

    Dave, the articles arrived and I am looking forward to reading them. Thank you1 I e-mailed you, but again the e-mail bounced back with that odd “message aborted” message that always reminds me of Mission Impossible.

  36. Ken Says:

    Sharon,

    On ‘bouncing’ emails. Is it your filter that prevents you receiving/sending? I sent you a couple of responses a while ago, but no sign that you were able to receive them.

  37. james watson Says:

    Sharon, Barnes# Noble, in Portland Had Elizabeth Chadwicks(Greatest Knight-Scarlet Lion) Got Them Both with My Feb-Discount(Great) Thank-you For Your Recomendations I;m waiting For The First Battle Scene?? Hope Its As good As Towton??…….

  38. Dave Says:

    Sharon,

    The article about Richard contains some information about the battle of Arsuf, hopefully it’s concise with how you are writing it. The other article about Richard III was just a little bonus for you. And finally, the last thing I sent you is a copy of a little something I picked up from a church in Biwmaris(Beaumaris for you english readers).

    Iechyd da,

    Dave

  39. Melissa Pierson Says:

    Hello–I’m about to begin my first Sharon Kay Penman book and am starting with “The Queen’s’ Man” Is this a good place to start?

    Or should I begin with “Here Be Dragons” or “When Christ and His Saints Slept”- or does it matter?

  40. Allie - Hist-Fic Chick Says:

    Hi Sharon,

    I’m an historical fiction blogger, and I am currently reading Elizabeth Chadwick’s The Scarlet Lion for review - this is the first book of hers that I have read and I am whizzing right through it. Very good stuff! I work at a literary agency and we have a book that just released today in the US called The Crusades: The Authoritative History of the War for the Holy Land by Thomas Asbridge. I am reading the ARC alongside Ms. Chadwick’s book, and it is absolutely fantastic! Highly recommended.

    Allie

  41. Gayle Says:

    Hi Melissa Pierson. Almost any place is a good place to begin reading Sharon’s books. The Justin De Quincy mysteries each stand alone, but are written in sequence as his life progresses. With other books the chronological order begins with When Chist and His Saints Slept, Time and Chance, the Devil’s Brood (plantangenet trilogy which will soon be a quartet with Richard C’ouer D’Lion’s book which Sharon is writing now), then Here Be Dragons, Falls the Shadow, The Reckoning (Welsh trilogy) after that is The Sunne in Splendor which ends with the beginning of the Tudor dynasty.
    All the books stand on their own, but sometimes it is nice to read them in order.
    Give yourself plenty of time to read them because you will not want to put them down to do anything else!

  42. ash Says:

    Melissa, it depends on is you like to read mysteries. I am not big in whodunit (tho I gobbled up Caedfael as fast as I could), I tend to go for the straight historic fiction novels. Personally the starting point for me was Here be Dragons and I was hooked. If you want to go chronologically, start with Whe Christ and His Saints Slept, however realize that you’ll find lot of incidental background for that book in her Welsh series, so Dragons to me is the starting point. I also think that book is more accessible to readers who know next to nothing about Wales and just a little more about English medival history.

  43. Dave Says:

    For anyone who is a fan of both Llywelyn’s here is a site for you http://www.llywelyn.co.uk/index.html Enjoy!

  44. admin Says:

    Allie, what good news. I love hearing about new books concerning the Crusades since I’m working now on Lionheart and the Third Crusade and have plans to write next about the real Balian of Ibelin. Can you list the link to your blog? I know we’d all like to check it out–we’re addicted to historical fiction here! I’m sure you know that The Scarlet Lion is the second book of Elizabeth’s about William Marshal, the first being The Greatest Knight; she has also written a very good book about William’s father, John Marshal, A Place Beyond Courage, and one of my favorites of hers is The Falcons of Montabard, set in the Holy Land after the first crusade. I think you’d like that very much.

  45. admin Says:

    Gayle, thank you for answering Melissa’s question. Melissa, for what it’s worth, the book that always wins informal polls among my readers is Here Be Dragons, so you might want to start with that one. So I think I’d agree with Ash about reading it first. The four mysteries are separate and apart from the seven historical “sagas,” although a number of the same characters appear in both–Eleanor of Aquitaine, her son John, and Llywelyn ap Iorwerth, the hero of Here Be Dragons, shares centre stage with Justin de Quincy in Dragon’s Lair. After so many years, it was gret fun to have him hanging around the house again!

  46. admin Says:

    I thought you all might like to read this interview by Elizabeth Chadwick for the American publication of her second novel about William Marshal, The Scarlet Lion. It is sure to stir your curiosity about a woman little known to most of us, his wife, Isabelle de Clare, who was a great heiress, a strong woman in her own right, and his partner in a devoted marriage that lasted 30 years despite a considerable difference in their ages. You can read it here. http://www.skrishnasbooks.com/2010/03/guest-post-from-elizabeth-chadwick.html

  47. Dave Says:

    Sharon,

    So, what do you think of the articles? I know you’re writing about Richard I, but I liked the article about Richard III the best. It really gives a fresh view on why the Stanley’s betrayed him at Bosworth.

    Hwyl Fawr,

    Dave

  48. Adam Says:

    Dear Sharon,

    You ask what my favorite novels are? First would have to be Moby Dick. And a very close second…..Here Be Dragons! Thanks!

    Adam

  49. Melissa Pierson Says:

    Thank you all so much for the advice! So “Here Be Dragons” it is–I can’t wait!

  50. Cathy Cahill Barber Says:

    Sharon: I love your Blog! I like your FaceBook page too - but the blog posts are so very interesting and informative. I’m just into “Devil’s Brood” now, having finished “Time and Chance” last week. (Trying to keep things in order!) And as it happens, just finished the scene of Henry’s birthday celebration at Chinon - so loved your sign-off on this blog post!

  51. Koby Says:

    On Friday night, I ate at a family from Belgium, and during the course of the meal, it turned out that he was from Carcassonne, and she from Toulouse. They both agreed with your tales of a beautiful city, and described it. The Fathr also told me he still remembers the elders of his time speaking Langue D’oc, and spoke some himself. I’m sharing this just to encourage others to go, and to reinforce Sharon’s account.

  52. admin Says:

    I have posted some photos of my French trip last November on my Facebook page. For those who aren’t on Facebook and still want to see them, contact me. Facebook has a feature which will allow me to send the photos to non-facebook members. Of course I can’t guarantee it will work, never having tried it. And we all know my track record when it comes to computers.

  53. Books on Fiction Says:

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  54. valerie Says:

    sharon, you and your learned readers are responsible for social services coming to take my kids away (yea!!! more time to read) and my husband to move another wife into the house…i discovered this blog last week and since then have neglected hearth and home! your blog is wonderful and reflects your intelligence, graciousness and generosity as well as that of your readers. i discovered your books in ‘84 when i picked up 1st ed sunne in remainder bin for $1 (sorry) and promptly fell in love despite the hideous cover illustration. needless to say that since then i have worshipped at the altar of skp. gushing over.

    favourite books: sunne, green darkness, les rois maudits by druon, 3 musketeers by dumas, fortune de france series by merle, margaret george, eliz chadwick, susan cooper dark is rising series, anne marie macdonald and replay by grimwood.

  55. maritza Says:

    My goodness, Cate (Cushing)–you and I are of like mind. Sunne is my favorite of Sharon’s books (actually my favorite book of all) and Katherine by Seton is my favorite non-Sharon book! I first read Katherine in the early 1970’s. When my second daughter was born I named her Katherine and recently I purchased an early edition printing of the book and gave it to her. She loves medieval/Renaissance fiction, is a consumate romantic so I know she’ll love this book. My daughters are named Elizabeth Anne and Katherine Mary–they’re both very proud of their queenly names! I even had Victoria reserved for daughter #3, who never came!
    Another favorite book of mine is Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind, although I am very uncomfortable with the Old South viewpoint and the racism. It’s just such an interesting read, though, very colorful in description, and Scarlett is such a noncomformist that one can’t help but admire her grit while wanting to slap her for ignoring where her happiness truly lies until it’s too late. Melanie is amazing with her quiet strength and Ashley is such a “zero-to-the-left” (as we Cubans like to say).
    Sharon–I know it may be early but–after Lionheart, what do your readers have to look forward to?

  56. Ken Says:

    Visit to Westminster Abbey March 2010

    The Chapel of St. Edward the Confessor (King 1042-1066)

    I visited the Abbey to view the tomb of Eleanor of Castile, wife of Edward 1, as I wanted to see the depiction of my protagonist Othon de Grandson, which had been painted on its base commemorating his pilgrimage to Jerusalem to pray for her soul as requested by Edward.

    The back of the tomb is all that the public can normally see, as the tomb is within the shrine of St. Edward the Confessor – an area normally blocked off from public view. I was lucky enough however to be in the Abbey at eleven am when a small service was called to be held in the chapel. I was asked among others if I wanted to join in the service and was led up the stairs into the shrine.

    Following the short service, I was able to view Eleanor’s tomb (died 1290) in great detail, particularly her beautiful gilt bronze effigy, cast by goldsmith William Torel in 1291. She holds the string of her cloak in one hand but the sceptre in her other hand has now gone. The tomb slab and pillows beneath her head are covered with the emblems of Castile and Leon (castles and lions). On the ambulatory side is a carved iron grille of exquisite workmanship by Thomas of Leighton Buzzard.

    The Norman-French inscription can be translated as “Here lies Eleanor, sometime Queen of England, wife of King Edward son of King Henry, and daughter of the King of Spain and Countess of Ponthieu, on whose soul God in His pity have mercy. Amen”.

    The Shrine also contains the tombs of the following:

    Edward 1 (Longshanks)
    Henry 111
    Edward III
    Philippa of Hainault
    Richard II with his queen Anne of Bohemia.

    So, I would really recommend anyone visiting the Abbey to join in theses services which are held regularly throughout the day, for a chance to see this marvelous shrine and its ancient tombs.

  57. Maritza Says:

    Ken, how fortunate you were! I visited the Abbey 2 years ago and was only given about 3 hours within its incredible walls by my impatient family, who kept harping on the fact that we had to “hurry” (how I hated that word!). Since then, I have informed them that the next time I am lucky enough to visit Westminster, I want to meander throughout for an entire day and they can just leave me there and come back later for me! My daughter, Katherine (a fan of English history) has promised to accompany me. I’m now hoping I’ll be as lucky as you and join a service. BTW, the same “hurry” tormented me when we also visited Windsor and St George’s Chapel!

  58. Koby Says:

    Maritza, Sharon has already revealed that when she finishes Lionheart, she plans on writing a book about Balian d’Ibelin.
    Sorry for not being here for so long, but i was in Jerusalem until today. ANyway, stuff that we missed:
    On Tuesday, the Massacre of Jews at Clifford’s Tower, York - Any who read Elizabeth Chadwick’s The Greatest Knight will know that John Marshal could not keep the mob from attacking the Jews, and they committed suicide rather than being massacred or baptized. Also, Anne Neville, Richard III’s wife died. And since Katherine was mentioned, her son, John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset died that day.

  59. Britta B. Says:

    I, too, have a book (and music) wish list on amazon to keep track of all the books I hear about and want to read someday. However, in the interest of keeping independent bookstores alive and prospering, I order the actual books from a wonderful little store in Suttons Bay, Michigan: http://brilliant-books.net/ Peter and his wife basically get anything I ask for: current, out of print, hard to find. They offer free shipping to anywhere within the U.S. Peter is a Brit, so talking to him always makes me smile.
    I got all my Dana Stabenow books from them this past Fall; having fallen in love with Kate and Mutt after reading about them in this blog. If Sharon recommends it, you bet it’s very good.

    Koby, my boss was just in Jerusalem and was quite impressed by it.

  60. Pat Sanders Says:

    Hi. Thanks for all the enjoyable and illuminating years you’ve written and I’ve read about those who shaped the world. ! Just finished “The Devil’s Brood” and am looking forward to the next tome.

    I am descended from several of King John’s children, including three by Isabella de Taillefer, one by a Miss Plantagenet (don’t know first name or parents), and one supposedly by a Clementia. Also, count as my ancestors John’s sister Eleanor, descended from three of her children by Alfonso VIII of Castile. Will Marshal certainly figures in too, as my ancestral lines seem to go back to his four daughters.

    Amateur genealogy fascinates me and to actually be able to understand the lives of those from whom I came is even better. I’ve noticed two new t.v. shows on tracing ancestors, focusing on famous Americans and Brits, tracing their ancestry back to notable people or events. Now one needs to be done on us common descendants of famous ancestors!

    Thanks again for your efforts to illuminate and bring pleasure to those of us hooked on history.

    Pat Sanders

  61. Ken Says:

    Hi, Sharon,

    Saw the sad news about Cody on FB. I haven’t been able to have a dog since my own Shepherd ‘Lola’ died in Kenya in the 70’s. Keep well!

  62. Cathy Withers-Clarke Says:

    I’m going to be kept busy for a long time with all those recommendations !

    One of the best books I have read in a very long time was Deborah Cadbury’s ‘Lost King of France’. Not normally an era I enjoy reading about, but what a staggering book. I only got it because it had a good review by Alison Weir, who is in my small group of favourite authors. Well worth reading, I finished it in 3 days, just couldn’t put it down !

  63. julie Says:

    Thanks for yet more author recommendations - I’m heading to the library this week to check out Priscilla Royal and Michael Jecks. I also love Chadwich as well as Chisholm and am anxiously awaiting her latest. I have just started reading C.J. Sanson for historical mystery set in the Tudor era…I enjoy him because he goes into the religious turmoil of the times as well as entertaining mysteries. (Two of my favorite subjects together-history and religion!)

    Another author I happened upon by accident recently was Susannah Dunn and I finished her book “The Sixth Wife” about Catherine Parr - I enjoyed it because it focused on her relationship with Tom Seymour and you don’t see many books that do so…which I don’t understand because he was such a charecter.

  64. Marti Says:

    Sharon,

    Thought you might like to know Roberta Gellis is working on another Magdalene la Batarde book titled Bishop to King, Check!, but have no idea of the publication date. Like you, I can hardly wait.

  65. admin Says:

    Marti, that is such good news. I’ll let you know if I can find out a publication date.

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