Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Most Prolific Killer in History - The Blood Countess - Elizabeth Bathory (1569 - 1614)

In her lifetime, Elizabeth Bathory became infamous as the "Bloody Countess". Obsessed with retaining her young, Elizabeth was convinced that bathing in blood was the way to achieve eternal youth. To keep herself stocked in blood, she tortured, murdered, and drank the blood of literally hundreds of innocent young women. 

Countess Elizabeth Bathory
August 7, 1560 – August 21, 1614

She was born in the year 1560, into very wealthy noble family of kings, politicians, and clerics. But not all was what it seemed within her family circle, for they dabbled in black magic, satanism, and sexual escapades. And Elizabeth was exposed to all of it. Beautiful, vain, self-centered, and of such high rank, she was betrothed when she was 11 and married to Count Ferenc Nádasdy, The Black Hero of Hungary, a famous count, when she was 15.

Count Ferenc Nádasdy

The couple moved to their new home nestled deep in the Carpathian Mountains. Their castle was surrounded by rich farmlands worked by superstitious peasants and a tiny village.

Being married to a war hero had its disadvantages. She found herself mostly alone except for brief interludes when the count would return home long enough to attempt to impregnate her. Despite her four children, Elizabeth was bored and left to entertain herself. Left to her own devices, her penchant for cruelty and her horrendous temper soon veered its ugly head. Vassals and villagers were terrified of her. To relieve her boredom she took on numerous lovers, even one believed to be a vampire. Her love was pale, thin, and had sharp teeth. One day, he vanished, without an explanation, never to be found. This fueled gossip and the people became even more fearful of her. They lived in fear of making her angry or inadvertently drawing her attention. Stories of how she beat and tortured her female servants with devices she found hidden deep in the bowels of her husband's castle. She surrounded herself with those most loyal, her beloved childhood nurse, and those who practiced witchcraft of which she became a most avid pupil.

Above everything, Elizabeth valued her beuaty. Giving birth to 4 children and finding herself in her middle to late twenties, she realized her beauty was fading. Her temper became sharper, quicker, more unpredictable. She took it out on her servants, punishing them, torturing them with the devices in her dungeon. Everyone was too terrified to speak out on behalf of Elizabeth's victims for fear of reprisal. 

In the year 1600, when she was in her early 40's, her husband died. Elizabeth was sole mistress of the estate, including surrounding lands and villages. Eager to be free, she got rid of her children by sending them to nearby relatives to look after. This is when her taste for blood came to life. Desperate to hang on to her youth, she searched for an answer because all other dark rituals and potions she had attempted failed miserably.

Then one day, when a new maid angered her, she struck the young woman in the face. Blood spurted from the poor woman's nose, splashing onto Elizabeth's hand and dress. Elizabeth wiped it away, and when she did, she was certain the flesh beneath the blood was more vibrant, softer. An idea was born and she ordered one of her male servants to execute the maid and drain her blood into a tub so that she could submerge herself in it. 

An obsessions was born. Before long, her accomplices set to work and a long line of unmarried virgins were offered good paying positions to work for Elizabeth. And thus they came to the castle, but not to work in the upper chambers like promised, but forced into the torture chamber in the dark dungeon. he dark  Under Elizabeth's direction, her accomplices used the most gruesome methods to extract their blood. When their bodies were drained of blood, they were secreted away in the dead of night for burial.

Soon it became more difficult to acquire virgins. Desperate, Elizabeth and her aides had to come up with another clever plan to fool potential victims. Under the pretense of hiring a governess to tutor her children, she soon resumed her murderous ways.

Things were not that easy, however, for when poor village or peasant girls went missing, no one dared ask too many questions. But when young women of higher rank went missing, a cacaphony of suspicions arose. Elizabeth had grown careless. Instead of burying her victims, she simply allowed her henchmen to leave them out for the wolves. Soon, the authorities began to suspect something untoward was happening behind her castle's walls. The remains of one or more girls was discovered. Rumors swirled anew and the suspicons were brought to the king. He ordered an investigation, headed up by a close relative of Elizabeth's. .

On a cold night in December 1610, he and his men rode to Elizabeth's castle. Upon their arrival, they were met with a grisly scene - almost a dozen dead or dying young women, all of them horrifically tortured. A search revealed even more bodies strewn about. They immediately arrested Elizabeth and her henchmen and brought them to trial. All but one were found guilty and executed, many in a way as gruesome as those their victims faced.

But Elizabeth escaped that fate. Under Hungarian law at the time, a citizen of noble birth could not be brought to trial or executed. Determined to hold Elizabeth accountable for the murder of over 600 young women, the government passed a law that allowed her to be sealed alive in a room in her castle. The only contact she was allowed was from her guards who passed food to her through a narrow slot in the thick, locked door.

Four years later, one of those guards discovered her dead on the floor. Elizabeth was 54 years old. During her incarceration, she refused to speak about her atrocious crimes, and showed no remorse.

Many authors have written about Elizabeth's life, the most recent is Andrei Codrescu.  


A Hungarian-American journalist confronts the beauty and terror of his aristocratic heritage in this suspenseful chronicle of murder and eroticism. Turmoil reigns in post-Soviet Hungary when journalist Drake Bathory-Kereshtur returns from America to grapple with his family history. He’s haunted by the legacy of his ancestor, the notorious sixteenth-century Countess Elizabeth Bathory, who is said to have murdered more than 650 young virgins and bathed in their blood to preserve her youth. Interweaving past and present, The Blood Countess tells the stories of Elizabeth’s debauched and murderous reign and Drake’s fascination with the eternal clashes of faith and power, violence and beauty. Codrescu traces the captivating origins of the countess’s obsessions in tandem with the emerging political fervor of the reporter, building the narratives into an unforgettable, bloody crescendo. Taut and intense, The Blood Countess is a riveting novel that deftly straddles the genres of historical fiction, thriller, horror, and family drama.

Review by Mirella Patzer
Also visit Historical Novel Review for more fascinating historical fiction books!

The author delved deep into the inner thoughts and motivations of Elizaveth Bathory, and in this he excelled. I much preferred to stay with Elizabeth's point of view rather than switching back to a modern day descendent. But that's because I'm a purist when it comes to historical fiction and I tend not to be fond of books set in both present and past times. Codrescue does not shy away from the brutality, superstitions, terror, and beliefs of the time including the animosity of the people towards the wealthy nobles. There is much violence in this book, and that must be expected. The murderous acts are chilling and graphic, so brace yourselves. Not for the feint of heart, that's for sure, but Elizabeth's story is all about the murders, and cannot be writtenw without it. The author did a ton of research and this is definitely one of the strengths of this book. The world continues to be fascinated with this notorious woman and this is one book that definitely portrays her accurately, giving readers a glimpse as to what evil lurcked in her mind and heart.

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Part 1

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Women's Fiction - Among the Fair Magnolias by Harper Collins!

In the most turbulent decade of our nation's history, four Southern women--destinies forged by birth, hearts steeled by war--face near impossible choices on their journeys in life . . . and in love.  
To Mend a Dream by Tamera Alexander
Savannah Darby would do almost anything to revisit her family home. So when new owner, Aidan Bedford, a Boston attorney and former Union soldier, seeks to redecorate the house for his fiancée, Savannah jumps at the opportunity. But the clock is ticking. Can she find the box her father supposedly hid there during the war before her assignment is completed? And before she sees yet another battle lost on the home front. This time, one of the heart.

An Outlaw's Heart by Shelley Gray
When Russell Stark returns to Fort Worth, he's determined to begin a new life. But when he arrives at his mother's homestead, he discovers she's very ill, and the woman he loved is still as beautiful and sweet as he remembered. With time running out, Russell must come to terms with both his future and his past.

A Heart So True by Dorothy Love
Abigail knows all too well what is expected of her: to marry her distant cousin Charles and take her place in society. But her heart belongs to another. A terrible incident forces Abby to choose between love and duty.

Love Beyond Limits by Elizabeth Musser
Emily has a secret: She's in love with one of the freedmen on her family's plantation. Meanwhile, another man declares his love for her. Emily realizes some things are not as they seem and secrets must be kept in order to keep those she loves safe.
Each novella includes a scrumptious Southern recipe that's inherent to each author's story and that will suit your book club meeting to a T!

Between the pages of the stunning cover are four heartwarming novellas by four talented, bestselling authors. The four stories swept me to the historical American south and each tale was a wonderful escape. The most enjoyable part was the recipes in each story. So much to love here. If you're looking for rich romance in a brief read, then this book is for you! And if you've never read any of these authors before, it's a wonderful way to get to know them and their work, and follow up with other books they have written. 

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Friday, July 24, 2015

Flora MacDonald - The Pretender's Lady

Flora MacDonald

(1722 - 1790)

"A woman of soft features, gentle manners, 
kind soul, and elegant presence...
..a name that will be mentioned in history,
and if courage and fidelity be virtues, 
mentioned with honour."
Dr. Johnson

In Scotland's rich history, Flora MacDonald is revered and remembered to this day as a Jacobite heroine. When Flora was a child, her father died. Back then, bride kidnapping was common, and her mother was soon abducted and married by a man named Hugh MacDonald from Armadaleon the Isle of Skye. In 1746, Flora was 24 years old and the Jacobite Risings was in full swing. After the Battle of Culloden, Bonnie Prince Charlie took refuge on the island of Benbecula where Flora was residing at the time. 

Charles Edward Stuart
(Bonnie Prince Charlie)
Known as the Young Pretender
Captain Conn O'Neill of The Feeva, County Antrim, Prince Charlie's closest friend and confidant asked for her assistance to help the young royal evade capture when he learned her clan was sympathetic to the Jacobite cause. Legend has it that Flora and the Prince fell deeply in love with each other. She was beautiful and he was a dashing lovable rogue. With the help of her stepfather, Hugh MacDonald, who was the commander of the local militia, the charitable Flora agreed to help the handsome prince escape. Her stepfather provided her with a pass to the mainland for her and her entourage which consisted of a manservant, a maid named Betty Burke, and a boat crew that consisted of 6 men. And who was Betty Burke? None other than Bonnie Prince Charlie himself in disguise. 
Soon, they ended up in a town called Kilbride on the Isle of Skye. The prince hid in rocks while Flora went for help. She arranged for him to be taken to Glam on the island of Raasay. However, while she managed the prince's escape, her boatment's loose tongues brought attention. She was arrested for aiding the prince's escape and transported to London where she was under constant supervision by guards. Her part in the escaped gained Flora great fame and popularity. While she languished in jail, Bonnie Prince Charlie fled to France, eventually moving to Rome. Plagued by alcoholism, he suffered through numerous failed relationships until he died in 1788. Fortunately for Flora, the government passed a new law called the Act of Indemnity, so she was released. 
Three years later, she married an army captain called Allan MacDonald of Kingsburgh. They settled down on the Isle of Sky where Flora presented her husband with seven children. When her husband;'s father died, the family moved to the family estate at Kingsburgh. 

Her husband took the family to North Carolina where he served in the 84th Regiment of Foot for the British Government during the American War of Independence. She encourage and urged the regiment as they headed off to the Battle of Moore's Creek Bridge, only to learn they had faced defeat and her husband had been captured. That's when poor Flora faced numerous hardships. Although she kept a low profile and hid the best she could, American Patriots ravaged her family plantation and stripped them of all their possessions. Meanwhile, her husband had been held prisoner for two years before a prisoner exchange happened and he was sent to Fort Edward in Windsor, Nova Scotia. He sent for Flora and the family was reunited. 
In 1779 Flora booked passage on a merchant ship in order to go back home to Scotland. During the crossing, a privateer attacked the ship. While the melee was occuring, in order to protect her, she was told to go below deck where she would be safer. She refused and did her part, but suffered a wound in her arm. Upon her return, she visited and stayed with relatives. 
Several years later, her husband returned and they moved back into the family estate at Kingsburgh. She died at Kingsburgh on the Isle of Skye in 1790, at the age of 68 and was buried in the Kilmuir Cemetery on the Isle of Skye. It is greatly rumored that she asked to be buried wraped in Bonnie Prince Charlie's bed sheet. 
Author Alan Gold has meticulously researched Flora's life. The story is accurate, lush, and highly compelling. A definite recommendation! Awesome!

From the author of The Last Testament comes the true love of Bonnie Prince Charlie, her adventures in America and her lasting legacy.

In the page-turning popular genre trail-blazed by Antonia Fraser and Phillippa Gregory, The Pretender’s Lady, Alan Gold’s meticulously researched novel, accurately opens history’s pages on a peerless woman who helped change the course of history and whose legend lives on in Scotland today—Flora MacDonald.

She was the most famous Scotswoman of her day, single handedly saving Bonnie Prince Charlie. This is her fictionalized life story—her relations with the Prince, her flight to America, Ben Franklin’s influence, and her return to Britain to lobby for peace

But what’s hidden from history, revealed now for the first time in Gold’s dazzling new work of fiction, is the result of Flora’s and Charlie’s love: a beautiful and talented boy raised on an American farm. But only she knows his true heritage and his claim to the world’s greatest throne. And only the genius of Ben Franklin understands how to use this naïve boy to change the history of America.

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