Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Gracelin O'Malley

Ann Moore brings to life the haunting beauty of nineteenth-century Ireland and its tumultuous, heartbreaking history in the first novel of her critically acclaimed trilogy

Gracelin’s father, Patrick, named her for the light of the sea that shone in her eyes. But joy and laughter leave the O’Malley clan when Gracelin is six-and-a-half and tragedy befalls the family. Less than a decade later, Gracelin must put her romantic dreams aside and marry a local landowner, the son of an English lord, to save her loved ones from financial ruin. Although she is a dutiful wife to capricious Bram Donnelly, Gracelin takes dangerous risks. With political violence sweeping through Ireland and the potato blight destroying lives, she secretly sides with the Young Irelanders, among them her brilliant brother, Sean, and the rebel leader Morgan McDonagh. Set against the rise of the Irish rebellion, with a cast of unforgettable characters led by the indomitable eponymous heroine, Gracelin O’Malley weaves a spellbinding story of courage, hope, and passion.

Opening Sentences:  Campfire flickered in the woods along the far bank of the River Lee. It was early spring and the tinkers had come. If they had waited but another day, they would not have witnessed the terrible thing that happened there. 

First, let me say that this is one of the finest books I have ever read - and that's saying a lot because I read one or two novels every week. At the heart of the story is Irish born Gracelin O'Malley who is one of the most endearing, memorable characters I have encountered. I have ever read about. Just as fascinating are the other characters in the story, chiefly, her family. This is a tightly-bonded family that works hard not only to survive, but to succeed. For the benefit of the family, Gracelin's father betroths her to Squire Donnelly, a wealthy nobleman. Gracelin enters willingly into the marriage with the promise that her family will be looked after. At first, everything goes well, but it does not take long for Donnelly's dark side to show. Angry and evil, he physically abuses Gracelin and their child. His crude and callous personality creates enemies wherever he goes, whoever he encounters. Despite the horrendous cruelties Gracelin endures, she does all that she can to help her family and people who suffer immense devastation by the potato famine that is ravishing Ireland. The story brings to light the aloofness of the English and their direct contribution to the starvation and hundreds of thousands of Irish. The story is powerful, poignant, and gripping, accurate in historical detail, and vibrant in its telling. Ann Moore is truly a masterful writer  who has penned a true epic in three novels, of which Gracelin O'Malley is the first. This extraordinary trilogy is definitely one to be savoured and kept in the personal collections of readers everywhere. 

I have not yet read the other two books in the trilogy, Leaving Ireland and 'Til Morning Light, but rest assured, they are on my list! Incredibly delicious - you have to read this book! I can't rave enough about it.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Legend of the Candy Cane

Ever wonder why candy cane's are associated with Christmas? Here's the legend!

Historical Novel Review wishes all our readers, authors, and publishers, 
a very Merry Christmas and a joyous New Year. 

A Christmas Wish for you all!

What the Dickens! History and Women loves these charming Dickens Carolers!

As we all hunker down to prepare for our Christmas celebrations with your families, History and Women wishes you all a safe and joyous Christmas and best wishes for the New Year. As a small little gift, here's a delightful little carol from these Charles Dickens style singers. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Elena de Cespedes - A Hemaphrodite persecuted for lesbianism

One woman's fight for her sexual identity and freedom!  

In 16th century Spain, Elena de Cespedes was the child of a Moor slave. She was sixteen when she got married, but the marriage did not last very long and her spouse soon abandoned her, leaving her pregnant and alone. Somehow, she fended for herself long enough to give birth to a son. To support herself and her son, she left him in the care of her mother, and went to Granada to seek work to support them all. As a woman, however, Elena would find it very difficult to survive, and that worried her. But Elena had an explosive secret! Beneath her skirts, in a addition to her female organs, she was hiding a penis. So she decided to become a man. 

Chaning her name to Eleno, she dressed as a man, and set off for Granada where she aquired some modest lodgings. The landlord's wife took an interest in Eleno, and before long, things got heated and they began an affair. As luck would have it however, their affair was discovered and in the heat of a scandal surrounding his gender, Elena was forced to flee. 

Proud of her manly prowess and strength, she joined the army and fought successfully for several years. She even got wounded in battle. Tired of war, still dressed as a man, she travelled to Madrid, hoping to learn how to be a tailor. She found lodgings in the home of a surgeon. Instead of cutting and sewing cloth, the surgeon took her under his wing and she was taught to trim hair, amputate limbs, and let blood. She earned great respect as a healer.  

Elena fell deeply in love with a young woman and proposed marriage to her. But the affair with his landlord's wife continued to haunt him and Elena was forced to succumb to a gender examination, and then another. In both, she passed the test and was confirmed a man. Elena and his bride were married by a Catholic priest. 

The rumors about her gender would not die, and Elena was forced to endure yet another gender examination. This time, the results were vastly different and it was determined she was indeed a woman. Now she became truly an object of curiosity and earned great celebrity not only because she was a hemaphrodite, but also because she was a miraculous healer. Elena and wife were charged with lesbianism. Elena was further charged with fraud and sent to face the dreadful Spanish Inquisitors. Her marriage was immediately annulled and Elena was brutally whipped with 200 lashes. She was convicted of devilry and was sentenced to death by burning, but her sentence was commutted to 10 years in a hospital working as a nurse.     

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Royal Kisses of Death

With great power can come great corruption and evil. Here are two royal women who gave the kiss of death to their lovers - Margaret of Valois and Catherine the Great. Their tales will make you shiver with abhorrence.

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