February Book of the Month: The Virgin’s Lover

Book by Philippa Gregory The Virgin's Lover

The Virgin’s Lover is an interesting book. I am a huge admirer of Queen Elizabeth I. Philippa Gregory loves writing about the Tudor Family. This book is all about the first two years of the Queen’s reign and her love affair with Sir Robert Dudley.

It being February and all – the month of lovers and what not, I thought it would be fitting to make this my book of the month for February. So without further ado, my review of The Virgin’s Lover

So What’s this book about?

As I said, this is a love story between the world’s most famous Queen and her commoner childhood friend. It’s more than that though. It’s really a love triangle between these two and Dudley’s wife, Amy. Philippa Gregory gives us three different perspectives of this affair. Scratch that. She gives us four.

The Virgin’s Lover may be centered around Queen Elizabeth and Robert Dudley but Amy and the Queen’s top adviser, William Cecil, who does his damnedest to prevent the scandal that surrounds the young queen and her lover, shows us just how serious – and dangerous – this relationship was to the Queen.

What did I think of the book?

I love Philippa Gregory! I especially love her books on the Tudors. She really does such a good job of mixing real life with fiction (based on documentation of facts and rumors that is). I had to constantly remind myself throughout the book that it was in fact, fiction.

She does an amazing job of making you forget that.

I did enjoy the book, though it’s not my favorite book by this author. I couldn’t help feeling a bit betrayed by her in her depiction of one of my favorite historical figures. That’s more to do with me than with the writer.

Was the Queen Strong?

I have always seen Queen Elizabeth I as one of the strongest women in history. I always saw her as a woman who stood up for herself in the face of so many men telling her that ruling wasn’t a woman’s job. I see her as fierce and formidable and she made history choosing to rule alone.

I felt the author portrayed Queen Elizabeth as weak minded, entirely dependent on the men around her – perhaps a bit too much than she actually was – and not as much the queen that history knows her to be.

This is where the constant reminders came in for me. I had to recognize that A, this is fiction and B, it’s based on the first two years of the queen’s reign. Trying to put myself in her shoes, she probably was completely dependent on her advisers.

She was a young queen, new to the throne. She was inexperienced but she was also a survivor. She was constantly terrified that someone was going to kill her and this drove her to paranoia and she trusted very few people.

The man who dared love a Queen

Robert Dudley was one of those few people. Queen Elizabeth trusted him completely with her life and with her heart. What Philippa Gregory does though is show a different side of Dudley. Through his interactions with his wife, Amy, we see a different side of the man that I never saw before.

But through my own research over the years, my own life experience, and comparing fact with fiction, I think the author’s portrayal of Robert Dudley is probably more accurate than anything I’ve seen in other fictions about the virgin’s lover.

They say that he truly loved Elizabeth. Even the author states it in her Author’s note. Maybe he really did love her but throughout the book I couldn’t help but feel that he loved himself more. He was very manipulative and way too ambitious for his own good.

Maybe the real man did believe it was his destiny to become king and rule at Elizabeth’s side. This made him more cocky than he should have been. And he used Elizabeth’s love for him against her whenever it suited him.

Manipulation of someone you claim to love is not love. His ambitions ruled him more than his love for Elizabeth. At one point in the book, he starts to really make demands on her as if he is her husband. He acts as many husbands did in those days.

That he is to rule over her and she is to obey him. And the way he treated his wife, Amy. I have watched movies and read other books on Robert and his wife. This is the first time though that I got to read her story. Regardless of whether it was true or not, I really felt for her.

He cast her aside and only when she died did he show he cared about her at all. But that was the guilt taking over his mind. He didn’t care for her in life but when she died, he felt remorseful for the way he treated his estranged wife.

And what of William Cecil?

As for William Cecil, I don’t know what to think of him. On the one hand he really did seem to have the Queen’s best interest at heart but he also truly loved his country. I respect that a great deal.

But again, this is fiction. I do love how The Virgin’s Lover put me right there as if I was walking with these characters, feeling their feelings, and learning their thoughts. It reminds that it is so hard sometimes to separate fact from fiction as most of what people know about the two lovers was mostly rumors.

It stirs a passion in me though to find out more. What was written back then about the Virgin Queen and her lover? It wasn’t all rumor but the rumors is what makes this love story so fascinating!

My final Thoughts

If you are a history buff and find the Tudors or even just Queen Elizabeth I interesting, I would recommend this book. I don’t know that I would recommend this book for romance enthusiasts as it is full of romance but the romance is more betrayal and scandal than it is the actual romance part. Then again, if that’s your thing, this might be the book for you.

Still, I enjoyed reading The Virgin’s Lover and I would encourage all of you out there that if this your type of book, do give it a try. You never know, you might find a new interest in history if you don’t already.

At any rate, I look forward to reading more of Philippa Gregory’s books.

Thanks so much for reading!

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My Favorite Valentine’s Day Songs

girl listening to music with hearts around her

Last year I wrote a piece on my favorite love songs of all time. I had a lot of fun coming up with that list. But this year I want to share more of my favorite Valentine’s Day songs with you all. Just so you know, these won’t all be in the traditional love song category, hehe.

Like this first one on my list…

I Love Rock-N-Roll by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts

For me, this song is at the top of my Favorite Valentine’s Day songs. I love Rock-N-Roll. I have always said that music was my first love. This past weekend I watched a documentary on Joan Jett. I find her to be very inspiring. I’m definitely a fan! I also think this is a great one for all us singles out there!

I Knew You When by Marianas Trench

This is one of their brand new songs and is on my newest playlist. I just love it! It’s basically a break up song but upbeat and makes its way onto my Favorite Valentine’s Day Songs. And I really love the video!

Never Let You Go by Third Eye Blind

Oh my does this song take me back! The reason this song makes it onto my Favorite Valentine’s Day songs: You could say it’s another break up song but to me it’s about growing up but not forgetting someone special from your past. They will always have a piece of you. Damn, I miss the 90’s sometimes!

Alive by Adalitas Way

This song is definitely more of a traditional love song but with upbeat tones. However, its the video that puts this song on my Favorite Valentine’s Day Songs list. It’s a beautiful video. Just watch it.

80’s Baby by NKOTB (Featuring Salt-N-Pepa, Naughty By Nature, Tiffany, Debbie Gibson)

So this is technically not any relation to Valentine’s Day but it made it on the list for a few reasons. A) Even though it’s a brand new song it takes me back to all of the music of my childhood and teenage years, which is a little love story in and of itself. For me at least. B) It can also be interpreted as an older couple reminiscing about their young romance when they started out. And yes, I was a HUGE fan of the New Kids back in the day 🙂

Okay now I am going to end this list on a more traditional love song. It’s a song I can totally see becoming a popular wedding song actually.

I Get to Love You by Ruelle

This is definitely at the top of my list for my Favorite Valentine’s Day Songs. Ruelle is someone I’ve been listening to a lot lately. I even gave her her own playlist on my phone. I’ll share more of her songs in the future. For now, this song is just beautiful!

While it is a love song of the romantic variety, I can’t help but listen to the lyrics and remember back when my boys were born. Holding them in my arms for the very first time and being in complete awe of them. The words in this song, “I get to love you” springs to my mind whenever I look back and remember the feeling of holding them for the very first time. I get to be their mother. I get to love them and am so grateful they are in my life.

So there you have it folks! My Favorite Valentine’s Day Songs. What are some of your faves? Let me know in the comments.

Thanks so much for reading! And listening! Oh and Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Let’s Talk About…The L Word

The L word. You all know which word I mean. That four letter word that starts with L and ends in E. These days it seems to roll off everyone’s lips and not just because it’s that time of year again. Valentine’s Day has nothing to do with what I am going to address in this post. But since it’s the month of Cupid and all things romantic, The L word is perfect to start this month out with.

Happy February Everyone! Contrary to popular belief, I actually like the month of February. Maybe its the word. I mean, February just sounds nice. Maybe it’s because my oldest niece has a birthday this month. It’s the month of Pisces too, one of my fellow water signs.

Or maybe it does have to do with all the romance in the air. While I may not be one for all that over-the-top romantic crap, I do appreciate a good romantic feel in the air. Especially after coming out of the very bleak and depressing January. The L word though, that’s a different animal.

You see, a few days ago I had a short but mindful conversation with a friend of mine. I told her I loved her but when I did, I told her that I don’t say that to just anyone. And it’s true. The L word has always been a bit of an elusive word for me. More so the feeling of love has left me… Doubtful.

What Do I mean?

Allow me to elaborate with a little back story. As most of my readers know, I didn’t have the greatest childhood. Where love was supposed to be, there was hatred, often accompanied by some type of violence. Where there was supposed to be emotional support there was often anger and resentment. In my early childhood, I didn’t hear the L word very often.

Throughout my childhood and adolescence love was a contradiction. There were always strings attached. There was always an obligation to love someone who took care of you, even when they didn’t always treat you well. I often found myself saying the words without really meaning them. It was survival and obligation that led me on that path.

Unless I was saying it to my siblings. My siblings were my world. They got the full of my unconditional love. I also loved my mother. With other family members though, I said it because it was expected but it always felt wrong.

The dating years started and while I didn’t date a lot, the ones I did date I really cared for. But I didn’t love them. I only said the L word once and as soon as I said it to a guy I immediately regretted it. I was haunted by that old feeling of being a fraud. It wasn’t until I met my ex-husband that I really started to understand the whole romantic love thing.

There are different kinds of love out there. There is the romantic love ( the most misunderstood love to me), there is the love you have for you family. The love you have for your friends. There is also self-love. We can’t forget how important self-love is.

But the truest love for me was the love I immediately felt for each of my boys when they were born. While I did experience what all the poets write about in romantic love, I was also really confused by it. I think most people are very confused by romantic love. It really is a mystery isn’t it?

When my boys were born though, that rush of emotion that hits you like an ocean’s wave crashing on the beach as soon as you hear their first cry, that’s a love like no other. That’s when I truly understood love. That’s when I decided – albeit – unconsciously – that I would never say the L word again unless I truly meant it.

I would never again say the word unless I really felt it in my heart. For the most part, I have stayed true to that. People these days tough. Too many are so quick to say it. They spill the word out like they are giving away candy. And just as quickly, they take it away. They steal that candy back from the person they gave it to.

The L word isn’t meant for that. Because it isn’t just a word. Every word has a meaning. This word has that and then some. It’s more than just an emotion too. It goes deeper than that. It hits you to your core.

The L word shouldn’t be said to just anyone. It should be given the respect it deserves. When you say, “I Love You”, mean it! Show it! Because love is more than just words. It’s actions. Love is words and actions in equal measure.

So when I say the words, “I love you”, know that I not only mean, I feel it.

What do you all think? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks so much for reading!

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January Book of the Month: The Child Thief

The Child Thief is not a book I thought I would read. While it does fit into the general category of books I like, I actually hadn’t known of its existence until recently.. The Child Thief was introduced to me by one of my gamer friends who swears by this book.

My friend and I were talking about books one day when she told me her favorite book is The Child Thief. It is a dark fantasy novel. I haven’t read many of these.

She talked it up a great deal, then came Christmas. I opened the package and there it was. The Child Thief was waiting for me to open its pages and discover the magical mysteries within.

So What’s this book about?

The Child Thief is a darker tale of Peter Pan. Now if you know about the original fairy tales then you know they are all pretty dark and not really meant for children. Well, maybe they were way back when but not today.

The Author, Brom, was inspired by the original Peter Pan tale and so this story was born. The Child Thief takes another dark spin on the classic tale of the youthful lad and brings him into the modern world. Here is the blurb:

My friend did warn me that children die in this book. I am giving you, my readers, the same warning. I will be honest though, I was really bracing myself to be triggered. It’s the reason why I didn’t start the book until after the holidays.

What’s my take on the book?

Despite my reservations about The Child Thief triggering me, I was pleasantly surprised when I got to the finish line and wasn’t triggered once. There were moments, however, where I felt a bit disgusted or angry at certain events. Several of the characters definitely left me frustrated – but in a good way.

The good way meaning…

The book was superbly written. When I got mad at a character its because I was supposed to. Everything I felt while reading this book was meant to be there. I really commend the author for writing such a riveting tale.

One thing he did that I am so impressed with was taking the descriptions of child abuse right to the brink but not going overboard with the details. I mean the prologue itself started with a young girl bracing herself to be raped by who was only referred to as “the man” when Peter saves her.

Brom does a wonderful job of describing what the girl is thinking and how she is feeling. He shows us how she is trying to protect herself in a hopeless situation by looking out at the stars and wishing she could fly among them.

Now those of you who have never suffered through this sort of thing are probably thinking that’s a terrible thing and know you will never read it. I understand. But for me, the first few pages were a testament to how far I’ve come in my own healing. I read the words, felt the girl’s fear, with every fiber in me I felt her fear. But I didn’t waver. I didn’t get the shakes and I didn’t have nightmares.

Maybe that’s because Peter saved the girl and I knew he would. I expected him to. Had it gone further and Peter didn’t save her until after, maybe I would have had a different opinion.

Brom also illustrated all of the pictures in the book. Just gorgeous artwork!

But Peter isn’t the Hero

Yes, Peter saves these kids from their abusers/attackers. And yes, Peter isn’t completely evil. Brom does an excellent job of portraying Peter – and other characters – in a multidimensional light.

Would you like to know where the Captain fits in all of this? Well, without giving away any spoilers, he’s not as evil as most stories would have you believe. Nor is Peter as innocent.

No, for me Nick was the hero. He went through the classic hero’s journey. He started off a scared but stronger-than-he-thinks character. He saw himself as weak and useless but also wouldn’t stand by and watch drug dealers take over his home.

When he gets to Avalon (Neverland), he really struggles with himself more than anything else. He goes through a few transformations actually. He is what I call the reluctant hero. He doesn’t want to be a Devil. He doesn’t want to fight someone else’s war.

But he also can’t stand by and watch others die. Through it all Nick discovers that he isn’t as lost as he believed and he fights to get back home to his mother.

My final Thoughts

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. When I chose to read it I really had no idea what to expect. I had listened to my friend and read a few other articles on the book but I wasn’t sure how it would affect me personally.

What made me decide to read it was the author. As a writer myself who turns abused children into heroes I really wanted to give this book a chance. I wanted to see through the eyes of another such writer. It paid off tremendously.

This novel also actually helped me personally. I’m not talking about the abuse stuff either. I have been struggling with mom stuff. I have had a lot of anxiety around my boys getting older. Adam just turned 17 and Conner just turned 12.

Reading this novel though helped give me some perspective on getting older. It’s a would I rather kind of thing. Would I rather they live forever on an enchanted island but they have to spend forever fighting for their lives. Or would I rather they grow up with me at their side with a better chance of living happier lives?

The Child Thief has earned its place on my book shelf and I will definitely be reading it again!

Thanks so much for reading!

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Short Story Time – The Shadow Man

Short Story: The Shadow Man by MK

Before Halloween I posted two short stories about the Braye Sisters. This is the book that I am currently working on to publish this year. It is a collection of short stories about these two sisters and their experiences with the supernatural.

The Shadow Man is one such story. I have come to really enjoy the short story as a way to help me really hone in on what I want to say in my writing. It has been a challenge but I am learning so much.

So enjoy this new short story!

Anna, 1991

          During the summer of ’91, Anna turned 14 years old. For her birthday, her aunt got her a new kitten. Actually, Aunt Francis had taken one of the dogs to the vet and there was a woman there about to put her kitten to sleep because she couldn’t take him with her and no one wanted him. She was crying but Aunt Francis, being the bleeding heart for animals, decided it was a perfect time to bring home a new kitten.

Over the Spring, Anna’s cat Clyde had died. She had been very lonely without a cat to love. Then her aunt brings home an adorable 6 month old kitten with long grey fur and a big bushy tail. She loved her new kitten and named him Blue because in certain light his grey fur looked blue.

On a beautiful sunny day in August, two weeks after Anna’s birthday, she was playing with Blue in the family room when she saw out of the corner of her eye, Aunt Francis clutching a board. Anna instinctively looks over at her aunt. This woman, who is tough as nails and fears nothing and no one, looks like she’s just seen the Grim Reaper.

Fear washes over Aunt Francis’s face as Anna watches her throw the board into the closet. The closet under the stairs is a deep closet and Aunt Francis chucks that thing like she’s throwing a football. She slams the closet door so hard it makes Anna jump.

Concerned for her aunt, she starts to ask her what is wrong when the woman looks sternly but still with fear in her eyes at Anna. “NEVER, EVER, touch that board! Do you hear me?” Anna finds herself unable to speak and just shakes her head. That’s not good enough for her aunt though. She walks closer to Anna with a much sterner look in her green eyes and says again, “Do you hear me?”

Without hesitation, Anna answers “Yes Ma’am” because she is more afraid of her aunt than that board but she also knows that whatever was able to frighten this hardened, strict, and fierce woman, isn’t something she wants to know about.

Anna doesn’t think about that board anymore after that. She pushes it out of her mind and goes about playing with her cat every day.  She adores Blue. He sleeps with her every night and plays with her every day. Sometimes at night he wakes her up to play at which point she sends him out of her room but mostly, he sleeps by her head every night. Blue makes her feel safe. Her favorite part about him is after her aunt goes on one of her tirades and yells at her calling her every name in the book, Blue lays with Anna while she cries into her pillow.

No one else gets to see Anna cry. Since her sister was sent back to her father’s house two years ago, Anna has felt very alone. She still gets to see her sister but only once a month. She has her brother but they have a different relationship. Her brother is the goofy one. With him, she either gets really annoyed at him following her around all the time or she laughs and goofs off with him.

But with Blue, she can cry. She can let out her sadness and he lets her lay her head down on his body while purring in her ear. She grows closer and closer to this amazing creature and as the months go by, he becomes her confidant and her best friend.

One particular night in November, Anna is getting ready for bed. Blue is usually a very calm cat but tonight he is meowing loudly and constantly. Anna is very confused by his behavior. Then, he suddenly jumps off the bed and starts scratching at the door.

This is very odd behavior for Blue. He loves getting ready for bed with her. He is always curled up by her pillow before she even gets into bed for the night. Tonight he is restless and she doesn’t understand why.

Anna can’t help but feel a little hurt that he doesn’t want to sleep next to her tonight. She had a rough day at school and fighting with Aunt Francis earlier didn’t help matters. All she wants to do is curl up with her cat and drift off to sleep at the sound of his purring.

She doesn’t want to let him leave the room but he’s meowing so much and clawing at the door that she can’t help but to grant his wish to leave. Anna walks over and opens the door, a little frustrated with Blue. In that split second that she opens the door, Blue runs out so fast, it’s like he’s a cheetah but Anna doesn’t even register that he has gone because she is face to face with a man.

Or what looks like a man. Frozen in fear for what seems like an eternity, the man-shaped shadow stands before her, not moving. Anna observes the fedora on his head and it looks like he is wearing a long trench coat. Her immediate thought is of Humphrey Bogart. It’s silly and irrational but the shadow looks like he just stepped out of Casablanca.

He just stands there. This dark shadow of a man. Pitch black. No face. No hands. No feet. She just notices the shape of a hat and a coat. There is a head but no other features. There are pant legs of what looks like a business suit but nothing else.

She just notices as she looks down that her cat runs through the shadow and can vaguely hear him running down the stairs, still meowing. Now she knows why he was so restless. He was afraid. In that one moment Anna quickly regains function of her limbs and shuts her door, slamming it on the shadow.

Her breath quickens and for the first time she realizes that she had stopped breathing. Her heart is beating fast as she slowly backs away from the door, hoping that the shadow can’t come in. She is now painfully aware of how scary her big, wide mirror is as she glances at it on her right. She quickly looks away fearing that somehow either the shadow or Black Aggie is going to show in it.

In an attempt to calm herself, she whispers, “Anna get a grip. This isn’t real.” She says it but doesn’t really believe it. Anna jumps into her bed pulling the covers over her head like she did years ago in her old room. Now curled up in the fetal position under the blankets, Anna tries to think of happier things.

At that moment she remembers her Walkman under her pillow that she’s not supposed to listen to at night but does anyway. She puts her headphones on and pushes play. Like a Prayer plays loudly into her ears. She eventually falls asleep but never moves out of that fetal position.

So there you have it ladies and gents! What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks so much for reading!

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