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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Interview with Cynthia Ripley Miller & Giveaway

Good morning everyone!  I am excited to welcome Cynthia Ripley Miller, author of On the Edge of Sunrise, the first in a series set in the late Roman period.  This is a time period I do not see a lot of books set in, so I'm excited to hear more about it and share this book (and author) with you!

Heather: You write about late Roman history, and I must admit that I am not the most familiar with this time period.  Can you give us background information to set the scene?

Cynthia Ripley Miller: I’d be happy to give you a peek into this historical period, which I found fascinating. The year is AD 450. The Western Roman Empire teeters on the brink of collapse (AD 476) and into this gap step the barbarians. The Romans, with their well-organized military, regard the barbarian tribes as primitive. However, many barbarian groups have their own class of nobility, are educated and can read and write in Latin and Greek. The Germanic Franks are one of these tribes.

Also, at this time, the barbarian king, Attila the Hun, invades Gaul (France) over a dispute with the Roman emperor, Valentinian III. Rome and the Franks, who occupy this territory, fight against Attila at the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains and win. The Franks, later known as the Merovingians, rise from tribal chiefs to acknowledged masters of Roman Gaul. Most of the Roman Empire is Christianized by the fifth century, including many barbarian groups. Yet, the Franks remain pagan until Clovis, who unites all the Frank tribes, becomes their first official king. He converts to Christianity in 496 and his people follow.

Domestically, the most important role for a Roman woman is as a wife and mother. Historians write that girls and boys attend primary school, sing in choirs, and go to social events. Girls from elite families learn Latin and Greek. Women from the upper classes are well educated, and at times, praised by historians for their learning and cultivation. Freeborn women are citizens, but cannot vote or hold office; nonetheless, women play an active role in trying to persuade the government to adopt certain policies. Barbarian men wear tunics with leggings and the women tunic style dresses. Roman men wear uniforms if in the military and on duty, otherwise tunics without leggings. Togas are more for dress or ceremony.  Roman women wear the stola, a draped, belted dress. Barbarians like mead.  Romans like watered down or sweetened wine. Although, no one will pass up what is available to them!

H: Thanks for setting the scene - that helps to get me in the right mindset.  Speaking of late Roman history, what is it about this time period that draws you to writing about it?

CRM: I became intrigued with late ancient Rome and the barbarian groups while teaching history. I discovered that the Roman Empire in the fifth century was an era of violent change, rich in drama, and ripe for storytelling. What a perfect setting for conflict, classic themes, and an adventurous plot that stemmed from my roots. As a child, I heard stories from older relatives that pointed to our lineage tracing back into Italian history. I felt taken by a sense of purpose and direction. Also, signs along the way propelled me into this era, which I cannot explain but followed, but that’s another story!

H: I love to hear how authors find their muse, especially when its not one of the frequently cited subjects.  On the Edge of Sunrise is the first book in your series, The Long-Hair Saga. What can you tell us about your plan for this series?

CRM: The primary name of the series ‘Long-Hair’ derives from the term applied to Frank barbarian nobles.  These nobles wore their hair long to distinguish their status. My hero, Garic, is a Frank noble and First Counsel to his chieftain. Arria is a Roman envoy and a senator’s daughter. 
When barbarian raiders abduct Arria, Garic rescues her—and their adventure begins. With Attila bearing down on Gaul and amidst political intrigue and a mysterious riddle, their attraction is undeniable, but forbidden. Torn between duty and desire, Arria and Garic are faced with an even bigger challenge, helping to save the empire. On the Edge of Sunrise is the debut novel that leads into a series where Arria and Garic find themselves in a variety of suspenseful adventures.  My second book in the Long-Hair Saga, The Quest for The Crown of Thorns is a historical romantic mystery/suspense novel. It has an August 2016 publication date. Book three is currently simmering in my head.

H: That's exciting!  There is nothing worse as a reader to wait forever for the next installment to come out!  Did you do a lot of research before writing the book? What type of research?

CRM: I did quite a bit of research before I even wrote the first chapter, but I also research things along the way as well.  I have several bookshelves filled with books about the Franks, the Huns, Attila, the fall of the Roman Empire, women in ancient Rome, paganism, magic, Germanic mythology, Christians in late antiquity, ancient medicine, books on Latin, the Roman world and more. I also belong to online forums where I’m able to interact with scholars and experts about this era and the ancient world. I love the library and librarians! I find the atmosphere relaxing, and I usually can find whatever it is I’m looking for. Librarians are great research assistants. If the information exists, they will help you find it.  A librarian helped me to find the flora, trees, and shrubs in northern ancient Gaul. I was amazed and thrilled. 

H: I agree, librarians are your best friend with research!  I have learned that through various school projects.  Regarding your Long Hair series, why have you chosen to write a historical romance novel as opposed to any other genre or subgenre?

CRM: As a young girl, I would often shut myself in my bedroom and devour a book, usually one set in the past.  Reading classic novels was an early passion of mine.  At fourteen, I chose War and Peace by Tolstoy to read for a book report. I eagerly consumed the classics, English, American, European and Asian fiction, poetry, biographies, political works and religious philosophies. As my work life became more intense, I found that I wanted to read a historical novel with an adventurous plot. I guess one might say I turned to the dark side—genre fiction! Anne Rice’s vampires brought historical settings to life and demonstrated a diversity of human traits despite their undead status. Diana Gabaldon and her Outlander series captured my attention with her vibrant characters, Scottish history, romance, and a splash of fantasy. I felt compelled to move in the direction of a well-researched romantic historical. From a writer’s perspective, fifth century Rome and the barbarian Franks filled the niche for drama, intrigue and a fresh era. 

H: Wow! War and Peace!  I haven't yet attempted that one yet.  When you are not reading for research, what type of books or what authors do you enjoy reading?

CRM: These days, I read mostly historical novels.  I’m just finishing Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart. It’s a romantic suspense novel. I read a lot of Steven Saylor. I love his mysteries set in ancient Rome and his prose is fabulous. I’m a Penman fan and I like Helen Hollick. I’m the kind of reader who will go wherever you want to take me; just hook me with a great plot (subplots always welcome) and solid prose.

H: I'm the same way, willing to check out any time or place!  For those who have not read your work, how would you describe your writing style?

CRM: I like page-turners, so I’ve tried to keep my story fast-paced.  I lean more towards dialogue. I also like a crisp narrative, but there’s a place, in my opinion, for a lyrical tone in narrative as well. I think my characters’ inner dialogue is at times philosophical, but that is somewhat an aspect of my personality. Introspection adds dimension to characters. I also feel that the sensuality in my romantic historical adds a pinch of spice that makes the reading even more pleasurable.  

H: Awesome!  Have you had any struggles in the writing/publishing process? How have you worked through these? Any words of wisdom for aspiring authors?

CRM: From the very first word on paper and until I signed a contract took about nine years. One of the ‘signs’ that kept me motivated was that people who knew me never seemed to forget I was writing a novel. They would always ask me how it was going. I felt encouraged by this and determined. I made some goals for myself. I joined several writing groups and formed my own novelist group. I surrounded myself with other writers with the same goals—to become better writers and to work towards publication. There were more than a few times, when I felt like quitting, but I couldn’t. Something wouldn’t let me. Then, one day, as I sat in my car in a library parking lot, I checked my email, and the offer was there. A London and New York based publisher, Knox Robinson Publishing wanted to publish my book. I cried happy tears.

The best advice I can offer anyone is the model for determination I used.  In the movie, The Shawshank Redemption, the character Andy, played by Tim Robbins, goes to prison for killing his wife and her lover, a crime he did not commit. For two decades, he picks away at the wall in his cell with a stolen rock hammer to create a hole large enough for him to escape from prison and finally find freedom. I loved the message in this story. If there is anything you really want—keep at it, pick away at it—and you may accomplish your goal. If you don’t reach your goal, your effort isn’t totally lost. It may lead you to a new goal and maybe, an even better one. Think positively!

H: Those are some great words to live by!  Thanks for sharing your inspirational story.

Cynthia Ripley Miller is the author of On the Edge of Sunrise, the first novel in the Long-Hair Sagas, a series set in Late Ancient Rome and France. She has lived and travelled in Europe, Africa, North America and the Caribbean, taught history and currently teaches English. Her short stories have appeared in the anthology Summer Tapestry, The Scriptor, and at Orchard Press Mysteries.com. She lives with her husband, twin cats, and German Shepherd in a suburb of Chicago.

Find Cynthia Ripley Miller: Blog | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Book Blurb:
When love commands, destiny must obey. Against an epic background and torn between duty and passion, Arria Felix, a Roman senator’s daughter, must choose between Rome’s decadent world and her forbidden love—Garic, a Frank barbarian noble. 
The year is AD 450. The Roman Empire wanes as the Medieval Age awakens. Attila the Hun and his horde conquer their way across Europe into Gaul. Caught between Rome’s tottering empire and Attila’s threat are the Frankish tribes and their ‘Long-Hair’ chiefs, northern pagans in a Roman Christian world, and a people history will call the Merovingians.
A young widow, Arria longs for a purpose and a challenge. She is as well versed in politics and diplomacy as any man … but with special skills of her own. The Emperor Valentinian, determined to gain allies to help stop the Huns, sends a remarkable envoy, a woman, to the Assembly of Warriors in Gaul. Arria will persuade the Franks to stand with Rome against Attila.
When barbarian raiders abduct Arria, the Frank blue-eyed warrior, Garic, rescues her. Alarmed by the instant and passionate attraction she feels, Arria is torn between duty and desire. Her arranged betrothal to the ambitious tribune, Drusus, her secret enlistment by Valentinian as a courier to Attila the Hun, and a mysterious riddle—threaten their love and propel them into adventure, intrigue, and Attila’s camp. Rebels in a falling empire, Arria and Garic must find the strength to defy tradition and possess the love prophesied as their destiny.

Buy the Book: Amazon | The Book Depository

Follow the Tour!


The giveaway is for 1 copy of On the Edge of Sunrise by Cynthia Ripley Miller (paperback or ebook, winner's choice).  Print books to US residents only, ebooks are open internationally.  

Here are the rules:
  • Must be 18 or older to enter.
  • Only one entry per household.
  • All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
Entries are made through the Rafflecopter below; good luck all!

Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

New Book Alert Blast: The Vatican Princess by C.W. Gortner & Giveaway

The Vatican Princess by C.W. Gortner
Hardcover, audiobook, & e-Book, 400 pages
Published February 9, 2016 by Ballantine Books
ISBN: 0345533976
Genre: Historical Fiction

Book Blurb:
For fans of Philippa Gregory and Alison Weir, a gripping novel that follows the extraordinary life of young Lucrezia Borgia, the legendary Renaissance Pope Alexander’s beautiful daughter. Was she the heartless seductress of legend? Or merely an unsuspecting pawn in a familial web, forced to choose between loyalty and her own survival?
Glamorous and predatory, the Borgias became Italy’s most ruthless and powerful family, electrifying and terrorizing their 15th-century Renaissance world.
To this day, Lucrezia Borgia is known as one of history’s most notorious villainesses, accused of incest and luring men to doom with her arsenal of poison. 
International bestselling author C.W. Gortner’s new novel delves beyond the myth to depict Lucrezia in her own voice, from her pampered childhood in the palaces of Rome to her ill-fated, scandalous arranged marriages and complex relationship with her adored father and her rival brothers—brutal Juan and enigmatic Cesare. 
This is the dramatic, untold story of a papal princess who came of age in an era of savage intrigue and unparalleled splendor, and whose courage led her to overcome the fate imposed on her by her Borgia blood.
Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | RJ Julia

Praise for The Vatican Princess:

“Assiduously researched and expertly crafted . . . . This unholy plunge into Rome’s darkest dynasty is wholly engrossing.” (Allison Pataki, New York Times bestselling author)

“A spider web of Renaissance intrigue with a legendary cast . . . Impressive research, a lush background, and deft characterization make for a fascinating read.” (Margaret George, New York Times bestselling author)

“Elegantly written and deeply researched . . . Renaissance Italy is vividly brought to life. I’m captivated by this knowledgeable author’s take on the controversial Borgias.” (Alison Weir, NYT bestselling author)

About C.W. Gortner

C.W. GORTNER holds an MFA in Writing with an emphasis in Renaissance Studies from the New College of California, as well as an AA from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in San Francisco.

After an eleven year-long career in fashion, during which he worked as a vintage retail buyer, freelance publicist, and fashion show coordinator, C.W. devoted the next twelve years to the public health sector. In 2012, he became a full-time writer following the international success of his novels.

In his extensive travels to research his books, he has danced a galliard at Hampton Court, learned about organic gardening at Chenoceaux, and spent a chilly night in a ruined Spanish castle. His books have garnered widespread acclaim and been translated into twenty-one languages to date, with over 400,000 copies sold. A sought-after public speaker. C.W. has given keynote addresses at writer conferences in the US and abroad. He is also a dedicated advocate for animal rights, in particular companion animal rescue to reduce shelter overcrowding.

Half-Spanish by birth and raised in southern Spain, C.W. now lives in Northern California with his partner and two very spoiled rescue cats.
Find C.W. Gortner: Blog | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Pinterest | Youtube | Newsletter

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To win a Borgia-Inspired Velvet Bag & Beaded Bracelet from C.W. Gortner please enter the giveaway via the GLEAM form below. 


Please note, this giveaway is coordinated by the tour coordinator at HFVBT, and all questions to be addressed there as I have nothing to do with it.  The rules are as follows:

  • Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on February 23rd. You must be 18 or older to enter.
  • Giveaway is open to US residents only.
  • Only one entry per household.
  • All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion
  • Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.


Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, February 8, 2016

Book Review: War and Genocide by Doris L. Bergen

War & Genocide: A Concise History of the Holocaust by Doris L. Bergen
Kindle, e-Book, 263 pages
Rowman and Littlefield Publishers
October 23, 2002

Genre: Non-Fiction

Source: Personal purchase for my Masters class
In examining one of the defining events of the 20th century, Doris Bergen situates the Holocaust in its historical, political, social, cultural and military contexts. Unlike many other treatments of the Holocaust, Nazism, World War II and the Holocaust discusses not only the persecution of Jews, but also other segments of society victimized by the Nazis: gypsies, homosexuals, Poles, Soviet POWs, the handicapped, and other groups deemed undesirable. With clear and eloquent prose, Bergen explores the two interconnected goals that drove the Nazi program of conquest and genocide - purification of the so-called Aryan race and expansion of its living space - and discusses how these goals affected the course of World War II. Including first-hand accounts from perpetrators, victims and eyewitnesses, the book is immediate, human and eminently readable.
I found War and Genocide to be an interesting read because it covered some niche areas that were not focused on in other books I was reading at that same time. While Bergen doesn’t spend as much time on the broad concepts of the war (she definitely touches on them), she digs in to smaller issues, for example, other victims of the Nazi actions. She analyzes the effects on the Jews, but also homosexuals, Communists, the disabled, and more. This was what I found new and informative because I had not heard of attacks on other populations during the rise of the Nazi party in other classes or readings which focus primarily on the attack on Jews. Bergen sticks with her thesis of the Nazi race and space rationale throughout the entire book.

The structure of this book is one that is easily readable and actually lends itself to bite sized reading; the sections are short and many, so you can certainly read this in between different events in your day. Also included, throughout the text, are many photos that enhance the reading. I always find photos integrated into the text more useful than a section centralized to the center of the text because you are provided with context. Interspersed in the text are anecdotal stories of everyday people who experienced something related to the focus of that section: for example, the stories of children forced into hiding.

At the end of the text the author provides an extensive list of sources that you can go to for further reading (broken up by chapters), but it doesn’t have a standard bibliography or footnotes which makes it challenging to fact check, but makes the book more readable.

If you are looking for a book that will give you a solid overview and understanding of the Nazi evolution and WWII, this isn’t that book. But if you already have an understanding of the generalities and are looking for a book that will dig in to different aspects this might be the book for yet.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | RJ Julia

Also by Doris Bergen:

The Holocaust

Twisted Cross


Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Friday, February 5, 2016

Movie Review: Marie Antoinette (1938)

Marie Antoinette
157 mins.
August 26, 1938
★★★★ ½☆
I first encountered this film in the form of the below trailer when I was working on researching films for Caught on Tape: Marie Antoinette. I love old classic films and of the options I found this was the film I was most excited about.

Let me start with the good things here. I LOVED Norma Scherer as Marie Antoinette. I found her performance a believable representation. She was bubbly and happy without coming off as frivolous. She was able to pull of exquisite sadness without over the top drama. There were two very powerful scenes that gave me chills: when she is presented with the gift of an empty cradle by Madame du Barry for her anniversary and following the execution of her husband. True, she was a little old to play the first scenes where Marie finds out she will be married to Louis of France, but I could ultimately get past that. I also really liked how they told the story. It covered all of the big moments – finding out she will marry France, awkwardness of her early relationship with Louis, the Diamond Necklace Affair, and the Revolution. And…above all, I certainly appreciated that they did not use the “let them eat cake” line!

There were a couple elements that I didn’t like however. The most glaring was Tyrone Power as Count Axel Fersen. I never felt any emotion from him. I could understand Marie being interested as he provided what she was looking for: companionship and someone who loved her for her. Honestly, his performance was lackluster. Their love story wasn’t the center of this film, which you would think it was based on the film posters. The other element that felt out of place was the ball scene – it felt more like a scene from one of Jay Gatsby’s parties from The Great Gatsby – felt nothing like what I would envision from a French ball.

Overall, this was one of those films that I thoroughly enjoyed! Even with an intermission.

Check out this trailer:


Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Author/Blogger Relationship

I’ve seen some posts going around the last few days talking about some blogger pet peeves and some best strategies for strong author/blogger relationships. I thought I would tip-toe into this discussion with my two cents on these subjects.

Anne Chaconas wrote an excellent guest post on Molly Greene: Writer about pitfalls to avoid when contacting book bloggers. She hits on two things that I think are really important when initiating that relationship.

  • We are all pressed for time and sometimes we forget that there are real people on the other end of the line, but take the time to make a good impression. Individualizing an email is important. I have no problem being included in a mass email to all the bloggers on a list that I have signed up for with a publisher when they do their monthly book availability blasts – that’s to be expected – or when I already have a working relationship with an author and am on their reading team. However, if we don’t already have a relationship, I want to know that you are interested in me reviewing your book, not just because I am any blogger, but because you respect my site and my interest. 
  • If you are going to pitch your book for my blog, please have reviewed my policies; it’s right at the top of the page. Most bloggers have one. The reviewing policy is mutually beneficial to blogger and author. It tells you right up front what I accept for review and what you can expect from me. This should help you make an informed decision as to if my site might be right for your book. It saves you time from reaching out to me (or others) who you would immediately know are not interested and allows you to put that valuable time into other sites. It also saves me time too from wading through as many emails. It’s frustrating to read an email that starts with something akin to “we think you might be perfect for this science fiction novel” when that is listed as a genre I do not review under the category of my policy stating “What I Will Not Review”. It just tells me that you did not take the time to find out anything about me and usually those emails do not get a response from me.
Photo credit: davis.steve32 via Visual Hunt / CC BY

Additionally, Stephanie at Layered Pages wrote a great post on how to support your book bloggers – which is important because this relationship should be a two-way street.
  • For me the most important thing to remember is that almost all book bloggers do this on the side and have many other obligations in life as well. For me this means: full time job (which sometimes is more than full time when they enforce mandatory overtime), taking classes to work on my Masters degree, and family. My husband is pretty good about my blogging, but there are lines that get drawn from time to time! As much as I love reading and talking about books (and your book) all those other categories do come first. We do our best, but life can get in the way too.
  • It’s always good to share posts from bloggers who feature your work to your social media platforms. First, it makes sure that your book gets exposure from yet another group of people from those that see my posts to social media. Second, it might help drive followers to the bloggers website, which we will all be appreciate for. Finally, it more firmly establishes that two-way street I mentioned above. If an author takes the effort to even just share my posts (about their work or others) it sets them apart in my mind as someone who appreciates the effort that I have put forward.
Photo via Visual Hunt
While none of these things are certainly required, if you are looking to make the best impression for yourself and your work, at least consider the things highlighted in these articles. Maybe try to integrate one into your practice. Overall the experiences I have had with the majority of the authors/publicists I have worked with has been very successful. I want us both to have success in the things we do. Let’s help each other out to get there!


Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Book Review: A Concise History of Nazi Germany by Joseph W. Bendersky

A Concise History of Nazi Germany by Joseph W. Bendersky
Kindle, e-Book, 228 pages
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
September 11, 2006

Genre: Non-Fiction

Source: Purchased for my Masters class
This balanced history offers a concise, readable introduction to Nazi Germany. Combining compelling narrative storytelling with analysis, Joseph Bendersky presents an authoritative survey of the major political, economic, and social factors that powered the rise and fall of the Third Reich. Now in its third edition, the book incorporates the significant research of recent years. Delving into the complexity of social life within the Nazi state, it also reemphasizes the crucial role played by racial ideology in determining the policies and practices of the Third Reich. Bendersky paints a fascinating picture of how average citizens negotiated their way through both the threatening power behind certain Nazi policies and the strong enticements to acquiesce or collaborate. His classic treatment provides an invaluable overview of a subject that retains its historical significance and contemporary importance.
Bendersky’s A Concise History of Nazi Germany offers an excellent short introduction to Germany as it existed under Nazi control. It covers the elements that contributed to the Nazis attaining power and the downfall of the Weimar Republic, the peak of power, and lastly the collapse of Nazi power following the Second World War. I especially appreciated the last two chapters with a look at the propaganda and the Nuremburg trials. It didn’t just abruptly end with the end of the war as some other books on the subject do, but looked at the extended legacy. This account read as balanced and not incendiary or with an agenda.

Bendersky includes a lot of information into this short book, however it does not feel dense or fact-packed as can tend to happen in short tomes. This is an excellent starting point or refresher for anyone wanting to understand the developments of Nazi Germany and it was an excellent text for class. It does not have the space to dig deeply into the individual elements, but gives enough information on a wide variety of elements to be a sound starting point. For more depth it would benefit to be paired with another work as well.

I would have appreciated the inclusion of footnotes throughout this work, or even endnotes. Instead it was structured where at the end of the text sources were presented in paragraph form based on subject. This makes it difficult if you are to use the work for any sort of research, but helpful if you just want to find further reading.

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | RJ Julia

Also by Joseph W. Bendersky:

The Jewish Threat: Anti-Semitic Politics of the American Army


Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, February 1, 2016

Book Review: Masters of Death by Richard Rhodes

Masters of Death: The SS-Einsatzgruppen and the Invention of the Holocaust by Richard Rhodes
E-book, 368 pages
December 18, 2007

Genre: Non-Fiction, History

Source: Personal purchase for my Masters program

In Masters of Death, Richard Rhodes gives full weight, for the first time, to the part played by the Einsatzgruppen - the professional killing squads deployed in Poland and the Soviet Union, early in World War II, by Himmler's SS. And he shows how these squads were utilized as the Nazis made two separate plans for dealing with the civilian populations they wanted to destroy. Drawing on Nuremberg Tribunal documents largely ignored until now, and on newly available material from eyewitnesses and survivors, Richard Rhodes has given us a book that is essential reading on the Holocaust the World War II.
Masters of Death digs in to one specific group that contributed to the Holocaust, the Einsatzgruppen. These were the men that were deployed out into the field and were the first to go into the cities and clean them out. They didn’t work in the concentration camps, but instead carried their work out on the scene. This was read for my Masters level class on the Nazis and introduced me to a whole new element of the Holocaust that I was previously ignorant to.

That being said, this was not a quick read. It was brutal and difficult to read, but necessary. The author is very detailed regarding the horrors of this group and the actions they carried out. I think is extremely valuable to understand how these men operated. The author spends a lot of time discussing a theory of criminology put forth by Lonnie Athens that is to explain how people are acclimated to violence and performing violence. While I do not buy into this theory, some might try to say that this is the author trying to show some of the men involved in these atrocities as not culpable of in a more sympathetic light; however, I feel that it presents them in more of a realistic light. I get the feeling that commitment to, participation in, and the incorporation of violence into their personality existed on a scale; some were sadistic and pure evil, while some may have been less committed to the cause and felt sick by what they saw or did.

This wasn’t something I would have picked up to read on my own volition, but it was a valuable experience and helps me to understand more of what transpired during this time period.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | RJ Julia

Also by Richard Rhodes:

The Making of the Atomic Bomb

Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb

Hedy’s Folly

John James Audubon

Arsenals of Folly

Hell and Good Company

Find Richard Rhodes: Website


Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Friday, January 29, 2016

Caught on Tape: Marie Antoinette

As you might well imagine, Marie Antoinette is one of the favorite subjects of historical films because the story is both dramatic and tragic (similar to how there is a plethora of Tudor films). Oh, and don’t forget those glittering beautiful gowns!! Today’s segment of Caught on Tape looks at the portrayal of Marie Antoinette in film from 1938 to the present. Who portrayed her best? Let’s find out!

Farewell, My Queen (2012)
“In July 1789, the French Revolution is rumbling. Far from the turmoil, at the Château de Versailles, King Louis XVI, Queen Marie-Antoinette and their courtiers keep on living their usual carefree lives. But when the news of the storming of the Bastille reaches them, panic sets in and most of the aristocrats and their servants desert the sinking ship, leaving the Royal Family practically alone. Which is not the case of Sidonie Laborde, the Queen's reader, a young woman, entirely devoted to her mistress; she will not give her up under any circumstances. What Sidonie does not know yet is that these are the last three days she will spend in the company of her beloved Queen...” 
Farewell, My Queen focuses on a few short days during the French Revolution as things start looking bad for the royals. The story is told through the eyes of one of the Queen’s servants, so you get an insider, but outsider view of the drama unfolding. A lesbian storyline was included in the relationship between the Queen and the Duchess de Polignac, which probably didn’t happen but was added based on scandal sheets of the time. Farewell, My Queen has received many prestigious recognitions. Diane Kruger plays Queen Marie Antoinette. It is a French film and is based on the award winning novel, Les Adieux à la reine, by Chantal Thomas and is absolutely visually stunning. It is available for streaming on Amazon Prime. This scene below is an excellent representation of the relationship between the two women as portrayed in this film.

Marie Antoinette (2006)
“The retelling of France's iconic but ill-fated queen, Marie Antoinette. From her betrothal and marriage to Louis XVI at 15 to her reign as queen at 19 and to the end of her reign as queen and ultimately the fall of Versailles.”
Portrayed by Kristin Dunst, this is the Marie Antoinette film I feel that the majority know (notably for its semi-recent release and star stature (both in the acting and the director, Sofia Coppola). It won an Academy Award for Best Costume Design which I whole-heartedly agree with, they are gorgeous costumes. I watched this film a while ago as part of a college women’s art class (as well as the rest of Coppola’s films) and wasn’t really impressed with any of this director’s works. I felt that the film lacked depth and was very surface and frilly. I also didn’t really like the integration of very modern, punk type music, with the historical drama – very jarring. It has been criticized by historians for hardly featuring any information on the political situation of the time and a far from accurate portrayal of the Queen. Not a favorite of mine and not my favorite portrayal of Marie Antoinette. The clip below fairly represents my thoughts on the whole film.

The Affair of the Necklace (2001)
“In pre-Revolutionary France, a young aristocratic woman left penniless by the political unrest in the country, must avenge her family's fall from grace by scheming to steal a priceless necklace.”
The Affair of the Diamond Necklace was one of the elements that contributed to the downfall of the Queen. Although everything that had happened had transpired without her knowledge, the spin was that the Queen was spending precious money on frippery while the populace was going hungry. A great concept for a film. The film primarily focuses on the story of Jeanne de Saint-Remy de Valois (played by Hilary Swank) who is party of the rouse to steal the necklace. The Queen is but a secondary character here, played by Joely Richardson. Inspired by the events the film does take many historical liberties and the negative reviews of the film are mostly focused on the performance of Swank. I quite like the scene I chose below because it entirely focuses on the Queen and the arrival of the necklace (I’m not a fan of Swank either).

L'Autrichienne (1990)
“A French film focusing on the last days of Marie Antoinette, primarily his imprisonment, trial, and its aftermath.”
This film was produced as part of the celebrations of the French Revolution’s bicentenary and based primarily on the transcripts of the trial of the Queen. Marie is not beautiful here as in the 3 previous films, but rather dressed down in the simpler gowns for prison. It has a sad feel to it, none of the breaks of gaiety. I found the entire film available on Youtube, but I haven’t yet found English subtitles. The scene below shows Marie in prison.

Marie Antoinette (1938)
“The tragic life of Marie Antoinette, who became queen of France in her late teens.”
The 1930’s loved to make historical dramas. The film was based on the non-fiction book, Marie Antoinette: The Portrait of an Average Woman, which was published in 1932. It was one of the most expensive films of the year, but did quite well for itself. Norma Shearer plays Marie Antoinette and Tyrone Power plays Count Axel Fersen (both big Hollywood names of the time).  Norma Shearer was pretty excellent as Marie - maybe too old for some of the early scenes, but was able to walk the delicate line between frivolous/dramatic/lonely.  The costumes are said to be very accurate, and should be since they are said to have the highest cost for a films costumes ever! While it might not be the most accurate in its storytelling, I love these old films! The scene below is Marie’s arrival at Versailles.

Here is my entire review of this film.

Have you seen any of these films? Or any others I didn’t mention? There are MANY more films and television representations than I chose to highlight here. I like the look of Farewell, My Queen the best, but enjoy the story from Marie Antoinette (1938) the most. The trend seems to be to make a film on her whole life, the last couple of days of her life, or The Affair of the Necklace. I would love to hear what you think!

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