February 27, 2013

THWARTED QUEEN by Cynthia Sally Haggard

Thwarted Queen by Cynthia Sally Haggard
Kindle, 726 KB
Published October 18, 2011
ISBN:  148015539X
Paperback, 496 pages
ISBN: 148015539X
ISBN13:  9781480155398

Thwarted Queen is a portrait of a woman trapped by power, a marriage undone by betrayal, and a King brought down by fear.

Cecylee is the apple of her mother’s eye. The seventh daughter, she is the only one left unmarried by 1424, the year she turns nine. In her father’s eyes, however, she is merely a valuable pawn in the game of marriage. The Earl of Westmorland plans to marry his youngest daughter to 13-year-old Richard, Duke of York, who is close to the throne. He wants this splendid match to take place so badly, he locks his daughter up.

The event that fuels the narrative is Cecylee’s encounter with Blaybourne, a handsome archer, when she is twenty-six years old. This love affair produces a child (the “One Seed” of Book II), who becomes King Edward IV. But how does a public figure like Cecylee, whose position depends upon the goodwill of her husband, carry off such an affair? The duke could have locked her up, or disposed of this illegitimate son.

But Richard does neither, keeping her firmly by his side as he tries to make his voice heard in the tumultuous years that encompass the end of the Hundred Years War - during which England loses all of her possessions in France - and the opening phase of the Wars of the Roses. He inherits the political mantle of his mentor Duke Humphrey of Gloucester, and become’s the people’s champion. The rambunctious Londoners are unhappy that their country has become mired in misrule due to the ineptitude of a King prone to fits of madness. Nor are they better pleased by the attempts of the King’s French wife to maneuver herself into power, especially as she was responsible for England’s losses in France. But can Richard and Cecylee prevail? Everywhere, their enemies lurk in the shadows.

This book is filled with many voices, not least those of the Londoners, who forged their political destiny by engaging in public debate with the powerful aristocrats of the time. By their courageous acts, these fifteenth-century Londoners set the stage for American Democracy. 

My Thoughts on Thwarted Queen

I am a fairly recent convert to appreciating historical fiction.  Most of my literary experience with the genre has been centered around the Tudor era.  I haven't read much, if anything, about the Plantagenets or the War of the Roses.  Thwarted Queen is a wonderful book to enter the Plantagenet era with. 

It's written as a memoir of Cecylee Neville, Duchess of York, told alternately by her as a child, a young adult and an elderly woman.  She's a fascinating character in English history - - wife of a Duke of York (betrothed at the age of nine), mother of two English kings (Edward IV and Richard III), a possible player in the suspicious disappearances of the two princes in the Tower.  I had no idea Cecylee had so many ties to a plethora of events of massive historical importance. Cecylee was no shrinking violet but, as author Cynthia Sally Haggard writes her, she is extremely likable, although ambitious for her children, and I wanted her to succeed.  

Ms. Haggard's writing is what makes Thwarted Queen work.  Despite a few sections that felt a bit heavy and sluggish to me, overall it's fresh and Thwarted Queen moves along at a brisk pace.  Even knowing the actual outcome of certain events and people didn't keep me from anxiously reading to see how Ms. Haggard would choose to present them in her story.  There are a lot of characters to keep up with but the plotting and writing make them easy to follow and there is a helpful glossary at the end of the book with all major players. 

Ms. Haggard has a lot of information and a lot of years to cover and she does so admirably.  Her research from 1415 to 1495, the years spanned in the book, is flawless from the slightest detail to more major events.   

If there was anything I didn't care for with regard to Thwarted Queen - - and this is completely superficial - - it's the cover of the book.  I know this has nothing to do with the meat and pototaes of the story but had I seen this book on the shelf in the store and knowing nothing about it, I would not have picked it up.  Historical fiction almost universally has beautiful, stunning covers and I wish Thwarted Queen could be included in that group.

That said, I found Thwarted Queen an enjoyable and encompassing read and would recommend it to any lover of historical fiction.  I look forward to future works by Ms. Haggard. 

Thwarted Queen is available for purchase at major booksellers, including Amazon.  I am an Amazon affiliate.  If you make a purchase through my link, I will receive a small commission.

Review copy of this book provided by the author in connection with a virtual tour in exchange for a fair and honest review.  In no way did the provision of this book affect the outcome of my review. 

With thanks to Amy Phillips Bruno and Historical Fiction Book Tours for including me on this tour!

About the Author


Born and raised in Surrey, England, CYNTHIA SALLY HAGGARD has lived in the United States for twenty-nine years. She has had four careers: violinist, cognitive scientist, medical writer and novelist. Why does she write historical novels? Because she has been reading them with great enjoyment since she was a child. Because she has a great imagination and a love of history that won't go away. And because she has an annoying tendency to remember trivial details of the past and to treat long-dead people as if they were more real than those around her.

Cynthia's biggest influence was her grandmother, Stephanie Treffry, who had a natural story-telling ability. As a widow in 1970s Britain, Grandma Stephanie didn't drive a car, so would spend time waiting for buses. Her stories were about various encounters she had at those bus-stops. Nothing extraordinary, except that she made them so funny, everyone was in fits of laughter. A born entertainer, Cynthia tries to emulate her when she writes her novels.

In case you were wondering, she is related to H. Rider Haggard, the author of SHE and KING SOLOMONS'S MINES. (H. Rider Haggard was a younger brother of her great-grandfather.) Cynthia Sally Haggard is a member of the Historical Novel Society. For mpore information, please visit her website at spunstories.com.

February 17, 2013


Final Vision:  The Last Word on Jeffrey MacDonald by Joe McGinniss
Kindle, 481 KB
Published December 10, 2012 by Byliner Inc.

It is the longest-running criminal case in U.S. history, and one of the most horrifying murder cases of its time, with chilling echoes of the Manson Family’s “Helter Skelter” killings: Jeffrey MacDonald, a handsome, Ivy League–educated Green Beret Army doctor, accused of brutally stabbing and clubbing to death his pregnant wife and two young daughters in the middle of the night. MacDonald was eventually convicted and is serving three consecutive life sentences. The writer Joe McGinniss first got drawn into the story in 1979, when he began work on what became the definitive account of the case, "Fatal Vision." But in the years since, MacDonald has never stopped filing appeals, and several high-profile writers have raised questions about whether he might be innocent after all. McGinniss, largely silent on the topic for years, finally rebuts them all in this compelling follow-up to his 1983 bestseller.

To this day, provocative questions still swirl around the murders: What would cause a seemingly happily married man to slaughter his family so viciously, with a wooden club, knives, and an ice pick? Who were the drug-crazed hippies who MacDonald insisted broke into his house and committed the crimes? Did the government and the military truly suppress evidence that could prove MacDonald’s innocence? And what about the mysterious and deeply troubled Girl in the Floppy Hat?

Forty-three years after the murders, the controversy lives on. MacDonald, now a gray-haired sixty-eight-year-old, continues to attract supporters, most recently acclaimed filmmaker Errol Morris, whose recent book casts doubt on the conviction. The ruling on MacDonald’s latest motion for a new trial is due in early 2013, but as McGinniss makes clear in this fascinating, authoritative book, his guilt is undeniable
My Thoughts on Final Vision: The Last Word on Jeffrey MacDonald

Final Vision comes hot on the heels of Errol Morris' recently published A Wilderness of Error, a lengthy tome which supposes that convicted murderer Jeffrey MacDonald did not receive a fair trial and could quite likely be innocent of the horrific murders of his wife and children that he was convicted of in 1979.  Author Joe McGinniss wrote the first book on the infamous case, Fatal Vision, after being hired by MacDonald and his legal team to write a book on the then nearly ten year legal journey.  McGinniss came to the conclusion that MacDonald was indeed guilty of this unfathomable act after attending every day of the trial and studying the evidence.  His groundbreaking work became not only the basis of a 1984 miniseries starring Gary Cole and Karl Malden but "the book about the case became part of the case", to quote McGinniss, when he was sued by MacDonald. 

McGinniss has updated readers with recent events on the MacDonald saga. Final Vision is not for readers new to the MacDonald case; it's for those like me, who have read every book on the case and are obsessed (or least have read Fatal Vision). This is a short series of updates and McGinniss is very clearly ready to move on from this case; his writing sizzles with irritability.  Is there anything new that's been revealed?  Not really, but as a fanatic for this case, it was worth the one sitting it took me to read it. 

The update I would truly like to see, and one that would do Colette, Kimberley and Kristen MacDonald justice, would be MacDonald admitting his guilt and finally laying this case to rest.  Never before has there been such a lengthy legal labyrinth spawned from a homicide. The crimes happened forty-three years ago today and despite McGinniss' optimistic title, it hardly seems as if there will ever be a last word on or from Jeffrey MacDonald.

Final Vision: The Last Word on Jeffrey MacDonald by Joe McGinniss is available for purchase from major online booksellers, including Amazon.  I am an Amazon affiliate.  If you make a purchase through my link, I will receive a small commission.

FTC Disclosure:  This book came from my own personal collection.  I was neither compensated nor paid in any way for this review.

In memory of the victims of Jeffrey MacDonald.  May they be the ones we remember in this horrible tragedy, not their killer:

Colette MacDonald (May 10, 1943 - February 17, 1970)

Kimberley MacDonald (April 18, 1964 - February 17, 1970)

Kristen MacDonald (May 8, 1967 - February 17, 1970)