history · Reading · Reviews

Book Review: Carnegie’s Maid

I couldn’t pass up a book that takes place in 1860’s industrial Pittsburgh, let alone one about Carnegie. You might recognize the author Marie Benedict from her last book, The Other Einstein. I give Carnegie’s Maid 3.5 stars. While I enjoyed the idea of the story, the world-building and character development fell too flat for me. The climax was also underwhelming. One thing this book did get right is detailing the struggle of Irish immigrants in America. That aspect was the most believable for me in this historical.

As the title suggests, Carnegie’s Maid follows the story of Clara Kelly, an Irish immigrant who heads to America to find employment. When a girl with the same name as her dies on the boat, Clara assumes the other girl’s identity to take her job in Pittsburgh as a lady’s maid. Clara uses her salary to help her struggling family in Ireland. However, her new position becomes tricky when a blossoming romance begins between Clara and Andrew Carnegie. Due to their difference in status, a successful marriage between them is unlikely. When Carnegie’s mother gets wind of Clara’s fake identity, she threatens to tell Andrew. Knowing a happy future together is futile, Clara leaves to pursue a life elsewhere, using her salary to pay for her family’s tickets to America. The story is a great peek into the rise of the Carnegie steel empire, how Carnegie’s success affected poor immigrants, and his sudden rise as a philanthropist. Continue reading “Book Review: Carnegie’s Maid”

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history · Reading · Reviews

Book Review: On A Cold Dark Sea

On A Cold Dark Sea by Elizabeth Blackwell is about three women who were aboard the Titanic. No Jack and Rose here, so no need to debate if they could have both fit on their makeshift raft, but there is still a touch of tragic romance. I give this Titanic tale four stars. While there are romantic elements to it, the story focuses more on the human element and how the tragedy impacted the lives of survivors and not the excitement of the sinking.

This book is about three women from varying backgrounds and social standings: Charlotte, Esme, and Anna. The book switches between perspectives effortlessly. Charlotte winds up on the Titanic with a man she loves but can’t marry. Esme is struck in a loveless marriage while she falls for a man named Charlie who sweeps her off her feet. Anna is leaving behind her home of Sweden to make a new life in America while her best friend prepares to marry the love of Anna’s life. Each woman survives the sinking, but they don’t escape unscathed. They all lose someone close to them and in the aftermath struggle to come to terms with their lives post-tragedy. None of them can fully escape the past while Anna prepares for a marriage of her own, Esme fights to hold onto her new love, and Charlotte mourns what could have been. This book explores what it means to be a Titanic survivor.

The book shows us snippets of their lives before boarding the Titanic, their time aboard, and how they fared after surviving including coming to terms with those they lost in the sinking. This makes it easy to see the big picture and the impact the tragedy had on their lives and in some cases, how it changed the course of their lives. The actual sinking of the ship itself gets little screen time, which is unfortunate for those of us interested in it, but it also keeps the sinking from taking up too much of the book.

Continue reading “Book Review: On A Cold Dark Sea”

history · Reading · Reviews

Book Review: The Traitor’s Wife

I recently read The Traitors’ Wife by Allison Pataki. I mentioned this book in my previous post about observers in historical fiction, but I’m going to cover the overall story in deeper detail. I give this book a 3.5, mostly due to the issue mentioned in my previous post, which I’ll explore again. This is a read intended for those interested in the American Revolution and the women involved. We often hear of men like George Washington and Benedict Arnold, but less often we hear about their wives, the women who helped support their causes. The Traitor’s Wife follows the story of Peggy, Benedict Arnold’s wife.

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Peggy is not a character you want to root for, quite the opposite. But that works well in this story since otherwise the ending would be tragic instead of satisfying. It’s not often I see a main character who I dislike but want to keep reading about. Peggy is a fascinating woman as is her sly plotting. This book gave me a whole new perspective on her, albeit a negative one. The book also gave some insight into Philadelphia during the Revolutionary War as it changed between British and American hands. I don’t want to give away too many spoilers about Peggy, but she was if anything a stubborn woman set on getting her way, making for a great villain. Continue reading “Book Review: The Traitor’s Wife”

history · Reading

Historical Fiction About King Louis XIV

Time for some historical fiction recommendations. The topic we are focusing on today is fiction surrounding King Louis XIV of France, also known as the Sun King. Louis is a fascinating historical figure. He’s the king who built Versailles and turned France into a fashion leader as well as many other achievements. There’s even a show called Versailles that can be found on Netflix about him. Behind every king is sweet juicy drama and with Louis the drama came from all his mistresses. He had several including taking an interest in his sister-in-law for a time. The books I’m recommending focus on his mistresses.

The portrayal of Louis is a little different in each book. Some take the stance that he truly loved his mistresses, while others not so much. Even in nonfiction historians debate on how much he loved the women in his life. At times he comes across as quite the romantic character while at other times it can be easy to hate him with how he treated some of his mistresses.

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history · Reading · Reviews

Girl on the Golden Coin – Book Review

I recently got a Goodreads account and for the first time I’m taking part in the yearly reading resolution. I’m hoping it will motivate me to stay on track. My first read of 2018 was Girl on the Golden Coin: A Novel of Frances Stuart by Marci Jefferson. Marci is the same author who wrote The Enchantress of Paris, one of my favorite historical reads of 2017. Once again Jefferson didn’t disappoint and I can’t wait to see what her third novel will be about. I loved this book and I give it 4.5 stars. First up, the plot. There are some big spoilers about the story in this post, so don’t read if you want the book to be a total surprise.

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Impoverished and exiled to the French countryside after the overthrow of the English Crown, Frances Stuart survives merely by her blood-relation to the Stuart Royals. But in 1660, the Restoration of Stuart Monarchy in England returns her family to favor. Frances discards threadbare gowns and springs to gilded Fontainebleau Palace, where she soon catches King Louis XIV’s eye. But Frances is no ordinary court beauty, she has Stuart secrets to keep and people to protect. The king turns vengeful when she rejects his offer to become his Official Mistress. He banishes her to England with orders to seduce King Charles II and stop a war.

Armed in pearls and silk, Frances maneuvers through the political turbulence of Whitehall Palace, but still can’t afford to stir a scandal. Her tactic to inspire King Charles to greatness captivates him. He believes her love can make him an honest man and even chooses Frances to pose as Britannia for England’s coins. Frances survives the Great Fire, the Great Plague, and the debauchery of the Restoration Court, yet loses her heart to the very king she must control. Until she is forced to choose between love or war.

On the eve of England’s Glorious Revolution, James II forces Frances to decide whether to remain loyal to her Stuart heritage or, like England, make her stand for Liberty. Her portrait as Britannia is minted on every copper coin. There she remains for generations, an enduring symbol of Britain’s independent spirit and her own struggle for freedom. Continue reading “Girl on the Golden Coin – Book Review”

history · Reading · Reviews

Review: The Wardrobe Mistress

The Wardrobe Mistress is a historical fiction about a sixteen-year-old undertirewoman who works for Marie Antoinette. I was excited about the concept since this period of French history is fascinating with how it’s full of intrigue and excitement. I mean come on, there are riots, guillotines, and sweeping historical change. This wasn’t one of my favorite historical reads of the year, but it was decent. I’d give this 3.5 stars and recommend it to fans of French Revolution stories. Below I will explain what didn’t work in this book for me. However, after reading this book I’m thirsting for more stories about the time period, so give me recommendations if you have any. Continue reading “Review: The Wardrobe Mistress”

history · Reading

Colonial Historical Fiction: English Taken Captive

I love historical fiction and history, and of course I love to recommend books about some of my favorite topics including early American history. For those who don’t enjoy history, don’t worry I’ll eventually do the same on non-historical topics, but today it’s time to learn about English captives in early colonial America. Have I ever mentioned I love survival stories? Because I do!

During colonial America the tension often threatened to destroy the delicate peace between the English in New England and the Native Americans. Tensions continued to mount as Native Americans lost lands and died from disease brought over by the English not to mention the English attacks against natives. These tensions led to King Philip’s War in 1675, a war led by a Wampanoag sachem named Metacom, or Philip as named by the English. During the war 12 towns were destroyed including Lancaster. The raid on Lancaster led to the famous written account of Mary Rowlandson about the raid and her time spent in Native captivity. Continue reading “Colonial Historical Fiction: English Taken Captive”