Showing posts from October, 2010

Scandalous Book Review: Arsenic and Clam Chowder

When author James Livingston contacted me recently about his new book about the trial of his distant relation Mary Alice Livingston, I jumped at the chance to review it.  It had all the elements I love in a book, true crime, Gilded Age New York, and rich people acting badly. What's not to love? I'm happy to say that ARSENIC AND CLAM CHOWDER lived up to my expectations. Imagine researching your family history and discovering that you have a relative, albeit distant, who was the centerpiece of a major murder trial? That's what happened to Jams D. Livingston. He discovered that his third cousin Mary Alice Livingston Fleming (Fleming was the name of father of her first child) had been accused of murdering her mother via a pail of clam chowder. Mary Alice was a member of one of the most prestigious families in New York, dating back all the way to the 17th century, including several signers of The Declaration of Independence. So when she was accused of attempting to kill he

Sarah Bernhardt - Queen Elizabeth (1912)

The Divine Sarah - The Life of Sarah Bernhardt

Sarah Bernhardt photographed by Nadar On this day in 1844, the great French actress Sarah Bernhardt was born, as far as we know.  The records of her birth were destroyed during the Paris Commune, so we only have her word for it. When I was a budding young thespian, I discovered a film version of her life called The Incredible Sarah starring Glenda Jackson as Sarah Bernhardt. I was fascinated by this woman who slept in a costume, had a mad passionate affair with John Castle, and kept strange animals. I read biographies of her like I was scarfing down M & M's.  During my acting career, I had the opportunity to play one of one of her earliest roles, the beautiful but dim Gabrielle de Belle-Isle in The Great Lover by Alexandre Dumas pere. At The Players Club in New York, where I used to be a member, I had the privilege of riding in the Sarah Bernhardt elevator which was installed for her visit.  Sarah had lost her leg in 1915 when gangrene set in, the result of an earlier stage

Anne Boleyn Fatal Attractions - G.W. Bernard

ANNE BOLEYN FATAL ATTRACTIONS Author: G.W. Bernard Publisher: Yale University Press 2010, 192 pages. Anne Boleyn has always been my favorite wife of Henry VIII's, ever since I was a child. I've read almost every major biography of her, including Antonia Fraser, Carolly Erickson, Joanna Denny, Eric Ives, and more recently Alison Weir.  When my editor suggested that I write a chapter on Anne Boleyn for SCANDALOUS WOMEN, I jumped at the chance to do even more research. As readers of this blog know, I even went on the first ever Anne Boleyn experience this summer. In other words, I'm biased! So it was with great trepidation that I picked up a copy of G.W. Bernard's book, but I felt that even though I am not a historian, I should read both sides of the argument. ANNE BOLEYN FATAL ATTRACTIONS is a particularly frustrating book. It reads more like a graduate thesis or a dissertation. I found it difficult at times to get at what he was trying to say, to the point that I

Guest Blogger Lisbeth Eng on “The Spy Who Loved Me…but was sleeping with the other guy, too”

Scandalous Women is pleased to welcome debut author Lisbeth Eng, and fellow RWA NYC member to the blog to talk about female spies and her new release IN THE ARMS OF THE ENEMY, a WWII romance set in Italy.  Isabella Ricci, the heroine of my World War II romance novel, In the Arms of the Enemy, is devoted to her country. She has witnessed the brutal execution of her own brother by the Nazis and will do anything to defend Italy from the occupying German army. An accidental reunion with old school friend Silvia Matteo brings her to a gala party for German officers and Fascist officials. Silvia is a fun-loving party girl (that’s “party girl” as in “let’s have a good time”, not “Fascist Party” girl) and enjoys the company of good-looking, powerful men, regardless of what uniform they wear. Silvia is apolitical and doesn’t know that her friend Isabella has joined the Italian Resistance. Isabella’s commander and lover, Massimo Baricelli, persuades Isabella to attend the gala to attempt to in

Scandalous Women on Film: Portrait of a Marriage (1990)

Last night I sat down to watch the BBC Drama PORTRAIT OF A MARRIAGE starring David Haig as Harold Nicolson, Janet McTeer as Vita Sackville-West, and Cathryn Harrison (granddaughter of Rex Harrison) as Violet Trefusis.  The miniseries is based on Nigel Nicolson's biography of his parents, which also includes the diary that Vita kept at the time of her affair with Violet.  At the time the book came out, which was after the deaths of all the parties in question, Nicolson was chastized for raking over the coals of a long forgotten affair.  But Vita had wanted her diary to be published, and dutiful son that he was, Nigel saw to it. I have written about Violet previousl on the blog and I revisited her story for SCANDALOUS WOMEN (March 2011), so it was only natural that I should want to watch the film.  I had seen it once before when it was first shown on Masterpiece Theater long before I knew anything about Violet.  I had known about Vita's later relationship with Virginia Woolf, b

On the Bookshelf - The Courtiers by Lucy Worsley

I've been dying to write about THE COUTIERS:  Splendor and Intrigue at the Georgian Court of Kensington Palace ever since I first received the email from the publicity department at Bloomsbury offering me a review copy.  Unfortunately thanks to the USPS, I didn't receive the book until sometime last month even though it was sent to me sometime in July. Seriously Pony Express would have been faster or if they had just tossed it to me across town. THE COURTIERS by Lucy Worsley is a treasure trove of information about the Georgian Court.  Ms. Worsley knows her stuff as she would since she works at the Palace, which has to be the coolest job ever.  The book is deliciously written with seperate chapters on William Kent, the artist, who painted a gorgeous mural in the palace to poor Henrietta Howard who has the misfortune to be George II's mistress. Misfortune because George II really didn't want to have a mistress. He was madly in love with Queen Caroline but he felt that

Scandalous Book Review: Desiree by Annemarie Selinko

DESIREE by Annemarie Selinko Sourcebooks, October 1, 2010 From the back cover:  To be young, in France, and in love: fourteen year old Desiree can't believe her good fortune. Her fiance, a dashing and ambitious Napoleon Bonaparte, is poised for battlefield success, and no longer will she be just a French merchant's daughter. She could not have known the twisting path her role in history would take, nearly breaking her vibrant heart but sweeping her to a life rich in passion and desire. A love story, but so much more, Désirée explores the landscape of a young heart torn in two, giving readers a compelling true story of an ordinary girl whose unlikely brush with history leads to a throne no one would have expected. An epic bestseller that has earned both critical acclaim and mass adoration, Désirée is at once a novel of the rise and fall of empires, the blush and fade of love, and the heart and soul of a woman. My thoughts:  It somehow seems fitting that Sourcebooks woul

The WInner of October's Giveaway is......

Sorry that I'm a date late in posting the winner of Margaret Campbell Barnes book The Passionate Brood but I had to turn in my copyedits on Scandalous Women.  So without further ado the winner is, drumroll please: Shannon Shannon, I will be emailing you shortly to get your address. I'd like to thank everyone who entered and also my new followers.  Hopefully you will stick around for more giveways, reviews, and stories of some of the world's most fascinating women.

Scandalous Love Affairs: Jimmy and the Duchess

( Jimmy Donahue and the Duchess of Windsor at a party in the 1950's) "You have no idea how hard it is to live out a great romance." the Duchess of Windsor to a friend. It was a relationship that baffled and mystified their friends, and entertained their enemies. She was one of the most famous women in the world, one half of 'the love story of the century.' He was a rich, handsome, high school drop-out and mama's boy twenty years younger, and gay. They were an odd couple in many ways but despite their differences, the Duchess of Windsor and Jimmy Donahue kept gossips and high society on both sides of the Atlantic agog as they danced and flirted their way from New York to Palm Beach to Europe. Wallis was so enthralled with her young swain and the lifestyle that he offered her that she actually contemplated leaving the Duke for him. Jimmy Donahue and the Duchess of Windsor had been introduced in the early 1940's when the Duke and Duchess had traveled to P

October Giveaway: The Passionate Brood by Margaret Campbell Barnes

Happy October everyone! In honor of the release date of Margaret Campbell Barne's classic novel, The Passionate Brood by Sourcebooks, I'm giving away a copy to one lucky winner. Isn't the cover gorgeous? A Spirited Retelling of King Richard the Lionheart and the Third Crusade "Margaret Campbell Barnes has been one of the most reliable of England's historical novelists." -Chicago Tribune In this compelling novel of love, loyalty, and lost chances, Margaret Campbell Barnes gives readers a new perspective on Richard the Lionheart's triumphs and tragedies. Drawing on folklore, Barnes explores what might have happened if King Richard's foster brother were none other than Robin Hood, a legendary figure more vibrant than most in authentic history. Thick as thieves as Richard builds a kingdom and marshals a crusade, the two clash when Robin Hood so provokes the king's white hot temper that Richard banishes him. The Passionate Brood is a tale of a man