Wednesday, September 27, 2017

I, Eliza Hamilton by Susan Holloway Scott



In this beautifully written novel of historical fiction, bestselling author Susan Holloway Scott tells the story of Alexander Hamilton’s wife, Eliza—a fascinating, strong-willed heroine in her own right and a key figure in one of the most gripping periods in American history.

“Love is not easy with a man chosen by Fate for greatness . . .”
As the daughter of a respected general, Elizabeth Schuyler is accustomed to socializing with dignitaries and soldiers. But no visitor to her parents’ home has affected her so strongly as Alexander Hamilton, a charismatic, ambitious aide to George Washington. They marry quickly, and despite the tumult of the American Revolution, Eliza is confident in her brilliant husband and in her role as his helpmate. But it is in the aftermath of war, as Hamilton becomes one of the country’s most important figures, that she truly comes into her own.  
In the new capital, Eliza becomes an adored member of society, respected for her fierce devotion to Hamilton as well as her grace. Behind closed doors, she astutely manages their expanding household, and assists her husband with his political writings. Yet some challenges are impossible to prepare for. Through public scandal, betrayal, personal heartbreak, and tragedy, she is tested again and again. In the end, it will be Eliza’s indomitable strength that makes her not only Hamilton’s most crucial ally in life, but also his most loyal advocate after his death, determined to preserve his legacy while pursuing her own extraordinary path through the nation they helped shape together.

REVIEW

I am passionate about reading historical biographical novels about the lesser known women of history. I am especially thrilled when authors break away from the over abundance of novels about the same women over and over again - i.e. Cleopatra, the Tudors, Marie Antoinette, etc. to name a few.

So I was thrilled to read about Eliza Hamilton, a woman deeply in love with one of the most brilliant writers and politicians in the time of George Washington and Benedict Arnold. The novel begins with the start of a strong physical and emotional chemistry between Eliza and Alexander Hamilton, a ruthless soldier and military aid. The author has researched this era completely, putting together a tale true to the times, complete with the actual politics and politicians and famous personages. What results is a true picture and analysis of the times. But beyond the political atmosphere, we meet a strong, determined woman who loved her husband, with all his qualities and faults. 

There is much to laud about this wonderfully told story through the point of view of a determined, supportive woman who stood by her man despite scandals, political intrigue, and the financialo struggles they faced.

Highly recommended!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Who was Sultana Nurbanu?


Some claim Nurbanu was a Venetian woman named Cecilia Baffo Veniero abducted abducted from Paros island when it was captured by Barbarossa. Others say she was a Greek woman named Kale Kartanou from Corfu. To this day, no one knows for certain. Once in the folds of the Ottoman Empire, she became known as Nurbanu. Her destiny was to became favourite consort and legal wife of Ottoman Sultan Selim II and mother of Murad III.

Wherever she came from, she one day found herself the head of the Sultan's harem. Despite the Sultan's right to take as many concubines as he wished, Nurbanu was his favorite because of her sharp wit and breathtaking beauty. Because of her propensity for good judgement, he reated her as an advisor and respected her opinion in many matters.  

In return, she was a devoted wife and wonderful mother. When she gave birth to Murad, she knew that one day, when it came time to succession, he might be murdered, as had happened many times in the past where entire families were massacred. Nurbanu was determined never to let this happen. 

Murad was away serving as goveror of Manisa when her husband died in 1574. Nurbanu realized her life's son may be in danger by a usurper of power. Before anyone could learn of her husband's death, she hid his body in the harem in an icebox and then summoned her son to return home. Only when Murad made it home, did she announce her husband's death. In this way, Murad became the next sultan and she became the highest ranking woman in the sultanate and very powerful indeed. She managed the government and acted as co-regent with her son. 

Her reach was long. She was a pen pal of Queen Catherine de Medici of France and the Venetians proudly followed her reign, writing about her often. That's because she was good for the Venetian government. For as much as she was loved by the Venetians, she was spurned by their rivals, the Genoese who resented her unwavering support of all things Venetian. When she died in Istanbul on December 7, 1583, it was suspected she might have been poisoned by a Genoese spy. 



A novel of the Venetian girl who became the most powerful woman in the Ottoman Empire—perfect for fans of Netflix’s Magnificent Century.


The Ottoman Empire was at the height of its power during the sixteenth century when Cecilia Baffo Veniero was kidnapped from her Venetian homeland and chosen to be the wife of Selim II, successor to Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. She would be known as Nurbanu.
The Mapmaker’s Daughter vividly imagines the confession of Nurbanu as she lies on her sickbed narrating the spectacular story of her rise to the pinnacle of imperial power, determined to understand how her extraordinary destiny was shaped. With unflinching candor, Nurbanu reviews the desires and motives that have both propelled and harmed her, as she considers her role as a devoted yet manipulative mother, helping to orchestrate her son’s succession to the throne. Serving as the appointed enforcer of one of the empire’s most crucial and shocking laws, Nurbanu confronts the consequences of her loves and her choices—right up to one last shattering revelation.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Most Beautiful Woman of Florence and the Renaissance

Simonetta Cattaneo Vespucci
In the 15th century, the height of the Renaissance, Simonetta Cattaneo was said to be the most beautiful woman in all of Florence. The daughter of a Genoese nobleman, at the age of 15 she married Marco Vespucci, a relative of the famous explorer, Amerigo Vespucci. For Marco, it was love at first sight. For Simonetta, it was considered an excellent match as Marco's family had strong connections to the great Medici family. The wedding took place in Florence where she became extremely popular, especially by Lorenzo and Giuliano di Medici who hosted the lavish wedding. Her beauty was mesmerizing and she soon caught the attention of Sandro Botticelli. She became known as the Queen of Beauty.
Giuliano de Medici
Poor Simonetta, however, did not live a long life. She caught tuberculosis and died at the age of 22. Thousands mourned her loss. Rumor had it that Botticelli loved her, and even asked to be buried at her feet in the Church of the Ognissanti in Florence.
Church of the Ognissanti
Her life has been re-imagined in the novel, The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence, by Alyssa Palombo.

"In the tradition of Tracy Chevalier’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, Palombo has married fine art with romantic historical fiction in this lush and sensual interpretation of Medici Florence, artist Sandro Botticelli, and the muse that inspired them all." - Booklist
A girl as beautiful as Simonetta Cattaneo never wants for marriage proposals in 15th Century Italy, but she jumps at the chance to marry Marco Vespucci. Marco is young, handsome and well-educated. Not to mention he is one of the powerful Medici family’s favored circle.
Even before her marriage with Marco is set, Simonetta is swept up into Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici’s glittering circle of politicians, poets, artists, and philosophers. The men of Florence―most notably the rakish Giuliano de’ Medici―become enthralled with her beauty. That she is educated and an ardent reader of poetry makes her more desirable and fashionable still. But it is her acquaintance with a young painter, Sandro Botticelli, which strikes her heart most. Botticelli immediately invites Simonetta, newly proclaimed the most beautiful woman in Florence, to pose for him. As Simonetta learns to navigate her marriage, her place in Florentine society, and the politics of beauty and desire, she and Botticelli develop a passionate intimacy, one that leads to her immortalization in his masterpiece, The Birth of Venus.

Alyssa Palombo’s The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence vividly captures the dangerous allure of the artist and muse bond with candor and unforgettable passion.

My Opinion

Was there really a love between Simonetta and Sandro Botticelli? No one will ever know for certain. Although this is only deemed a rumor, author Alyssa Palombo explores this possibility. The prose is lovely, filled with wonderful descriptions of Florence with its location, fashions, and famous personages. The author truly did a fabulous job of weaving a fascinating tale, especially once the conflict kicked into high gear. Simonetta is truly a likable character, aware of her great beauty, but never vain, never one to flaunt it or use it to her advantage. Sandro Botticelli was portrayed as simply enchanting, honorable, respectful. But my highest praise is for the author who chose a lesser known woman in history and recreated her vibrant life. It was a real pleasure to read about someone other than the same over-used female figures such as the Tudor wives. Highly recommended!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Scandalous Bad Girl - Alice Caush


This is Alice Caush. Alice is a thief. She stole a watch from a sailor named George. Poor George. When his ship reached port, he received his pay. Accompanied by two friends, he departed for his lodgings. Along the way, they met Alice and her friend. They agreed to go to George's lodgings. Of course, they all drank and fell asleep. When George awoke, he noticed his watch missing from his pocket. He called the police. It did not take long for the police to locate the missing watch at a local pawn shop. The pawnbroker gave evidence that he advanced Alice 6s 6d for a watch that she said belonged to her brother. Caught red handed, Alice pleaded guilty to the offence and received 14 days in prison.