Restrictions In The Dress Of Apprentices, In 1600

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Apprentices were not allowed to wear hats, nor any other covering on the head but a woollen cap; no ruffles, cuffs, loose collars, nor anything more than a ruff at the collar, and that only a yard and a half long. Their doublets were to be of fustian, sackcloth, canvas, English leather or woollen, without any gold, silver, or silk trimmings. They wore cloth or kersey hose, but of no other colour than white, blue, or russet.

Their breeches were always of the same material as the doublet, and was neither stitched, laced, nor embroidered. Their upper coat was of cloth or leather, without pinking, stitching, edging, or silk trimming. Surtouts they were not allowed to wear, but instead thereof a cloth gown or cloak, faced with cotton, cloth, or baize, with a plain fixed round collar. No pumps, slippers, or shoes were allowed them, but English leather, without being pricked, edged, or stitched. No garters, but what were made of crewel, woollen, thread, or leather.

They were not allowed to carry either sword or dagger, but a knife only. All rings, jewels, gold, silver, or silk, were forbidden on any part of their dress. Nor were they allowed to frequent any dancing, fencing, or musical schools, under very severe penalties, one of which was to be publicly whipped in the hall of their company. In our times, when the present style of dress levels all distinctions, the apprentice is often more gaily attired than his master, and attends public diversions with as much ardor and liberty as the peer who helps to support that master.

Further reading:
Belle Assemblee, 1818

Book Reviews: The Boleyn Reckoning & The Fortune Hunter

Tuesday, 26 August 2014
Hello everyone,

today I have two historical novels for you. Enjoy!

The Boleyn Reckoning by Laura Andersen
What if Anne Boleyn had given birth to a healthy boy who grew up to rule England? Laura Anderson tried to answer that question in her Boleyn trilogy. The Boleyn Reckoning is the last book, which makes it hard to review it without revealing too much or spoiling the end. But I'll try.
In the first two books, we've encountered a traitor who is still at large, two of the king's best friends who betrayed him by marrying secretly without his consent, and a king that puts his own desires before the welfare of his country. Now the situation has reached a critical point. Both the threats of civil war and foreign invasion are looming. Wary of what her brother may do, Elizabeth, assembles a shadow court at Hatfield. Her loyalties are split between her brother and her country. Eventually, she'll have to choose between them.
The Boleyn Reckoning has all the ingredients of a great story: love, hate, drama, betrayal, plots, executions, secrets, and passion. Twists and turns abound. There is never a dull moment in the story, and everything that happens is plausible. You really believe that, if Anne had had a son, things would have happened just as Andersen imagined them. That's how well-researched the book is. Andersen doesn't just follow her fervent imagination, but really understands the world the Tudors lived in and the people who inhabited it. It was interesting to see which events, according to her, would have happened anyway, and what, instead, would be different.
The writing is beautiful. The Tudor world is masterfully described and you can see it rising just before your eyes as you read. The characters are interesting and well-rounded. I came to love them all, laugh with them, and cry with them. I even warmed to William, who takes a bit too much after his father!
If you love Tudor history, what ifs scenarios, or just a good story, you must read this trilogy.
Available at: amazon
Rating: 4.5/5

The Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin
I rarely read romances these days, but this one features one of my favourite historical figures (and one who rarely makes an appearance in novels), the Austrian empress Sisi, so of course, I had to pick it up. Luckily, it didn't disappointed. Charlotte Baird is a young heiress with a passion for photography. Lots of suitors are competing for her hand, but she falls for the dashing Captain Middleton, a ladies' man strapped for cash. He's also a great rider, a skill which gains him a post in Sisi's entourage. The Austrian empress has come to England to enjoy the hunting season and Middleton is chosen to act as her pilot. The empress too can't resist the Captain's charms either, and he's in thrall to her too. Thus, the three of them become entangled in a complicated love triangle.
The Fortune Hunter shares the limitations of most romance novels, that is a predictable ending and one-dimensional characters. Even the protagonists remain somewhat enigmatic. Yet, they are all charming. The dialogues between them are witty and entertaining, and in the end, you just can't help but care for them, which makes this quite a bittersweet reading. The pace is not consistent. At times it is fast, at other slow, and it feels like nothing is happening for a while. That's because life then moved at a much slower pace than it does now, but the beautiful descriptions and the character's banter never allow you to feel bored. Unless you love bodice-ripping romances. There's nothing of that here. This is a charming and delicate story about a love triangle and a man who has to choose between reality and fantasy.
Of course, there are several inaccuracies in the book. I would have preferred if Goodwin had explained when and why she diverted from history in an appendix, but then this is a work of fiction, and creative licence is acceptable. If you're familiar with Sisi's story and are stickler for details, this may dampen your enthusiasm for the book, but I appreciated that, despite the inaccuracies, Goodwin has brought a sense of realism and authenticity to the story, giving us a glimpse of the 19th century English world the characters moved in.
Despite its faults, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I highly recommend it to everyone who loves a good old romance.
Available at: amazon
Rating: 3.5/5

Do you like what-ifs novels and historical romances? Are you going to read these?

Disclaimer: I received these books in exchange for my honest opinion. In addition, this post contains affiliate links.

7 Perfumes Inspired By Marie Antoinette

Monday, 25 August 2014

Marie Antoinette and perfumes have long been two obsessions of mine. So I'm always thrilled when I come across a perfume inspired by the charming Queen of France, and she has inspired a lot of them! Not surprisingly, they are all floral concoctions that pay homage to both her fragrant gardens in bloom and her own tastes in perfumes. Marie Antoinette loved scents, especially those of violet, rose, tuberose and orange blossom.

The Queen didn’t just wear perfume. She also had it poured in the water when she bathed, had fragrant satchels made to adorn and fragrance her rooms, and even commissioned scented gloves. Now, you can do the same with some of the perfumes inspired by Marie Antoinette. You'll smell gorgeous and you'll feel closer to the Queen of France. Take your pick:

The latest perfume to be inspired by Marie Antoinette is called Geranium 30. It was created by Le Labo's perfumeurs Fabrice Penot and Edouard Roschi together with florist Thierry Boutemy, who created the floral arrangement at Versailles for the famous Sophia Coppola's movie about the French Queen. Inspired by the Petit Trianon, it is described thus: "an explosive, sweet floral top note settles into a soft and powdery base, reminiscent of a garden late in the season". Unfortunately, it has already sold out.


The scent takes his name from the black jade bottle where Marie Antoinette stored her favourite perfume. It was inspired by her beloved garden at the Petit Trianon and created by the royal perfumer Jean-Louis Fargeon. Pierre Lubin was his apprentice and, apparently, he copied the formula, thus allowing it to survive the Revolution. It has recently been revived. Perfect for the evening, this floral scent opens with a cool and spicy mix of bergamot and galbanum; in the heart roses and jasmines are intertwined with spicy cardmom and cinnamom, and splashed with incense; the drydown is a warm and velvety blend of patchouli, tonka bean, vanilla and amber. This luxurious creation is available at Lucky Scent for $130.

Created by Bertrand Duchaufour, one of my favourite perfumeurs, Hameau De La Reine by Historiae transports you to the "heart of the Queen's Hameau." Judging by the notes, that's true. The perfume announces its presence with a bright green accord of tomato leaf, fig leaf, bergamot, and blackcurrant bud; the heart is a floral bouquet of rose, peony, geranium, muck orange, ivy, and galbanum; finally the woody musky base is sweetened by honey. It retails at €55,00 and is available at Historiae.


Bertrand Duchaufour has created another scent inspired by Marie Antoinette for Historiae. This one is called Bouquet du Trianon and features the Queen's favourite notes, which she could smell at her beloved Petit Trianon. It opens with a sparkling accord of lemon, bergamot, mandarin, galbanum, mint, freesia, and blackcurrant bush leaf; blossoms into a fragrant garden of tuberose absolute, ylang ylang, beeswax absolute, rose, and honeysuckle; and ends in a woody blend of vetiver, patchouli, amber, musk, sandalwood, and cedarwood. It's available at Historiae and costs €55,00.

DSH has created a scent inspired by Marie Antoinette's beloved Trianon too. Inspired by the notes from one of Marie Antoinette's favoured perfumes created for her by the famous Jean-Louis Fargeon, Eau De Trianon is a creamy floral fragrance that starts with a blend of bergamot, espirit de fleurs d’orange, galbanum, and lemon. The heart is a glorious concoction of centifolia rose absolute, gallica rose otto, grandiflorum jasmine, jonquil, moroccan rose absolute, orris concrete, orris root, tuberose absolute, and violet leaf absolute. Finally, the warm base features notes of ambergris, atlas cedarwood, siam benzoin, and vanilla absolute. Its is available at DSH Perfumes in several versions (samples, eau de toilette, eau de parfum, and in an antique bottle), starting at $6.75.

A fresh floral concoction, this perfume oil by Sweet Tea Apothecary "is inspired by the actual perfume worn by France’s most famous queen. Gentle notes of Rose, Bergamot, and Jasmine accented by fresh moss will make you feel as though you’re picking wildflowers in the gardens of Versailles." It is available at Sweet Tea Apothecary and will set you back $28.00.


Created by Jean-Claude Ellena, La Haie Fleurie du Hameau by L'Artisan Parfumeur is inspired by the beautiful flowers at Marie Antoinette's beloved hamlet. Rich but light, this floral bouquet opens with a sparkling accord of orange blossom and jasmine which soon leave center stage to a mix of narcissus, ylang-ylang and honeysuckle. The base is a warm blend of vanilla and oakmoss. Wearing it, makes you feel like you're strolling through the Queen's garden on a sunny spring day. Unfortunately, it has been discontinued.

Which of these scents would you like to try?

Movie Review: Anne Of The Thousand Days

Friday, 22 August 2014

For six years, this year, and this, and this, and this, I did not love him. And then I did. Then I was his. I can count the days I was his in hundreds. The days we bedded. Married. Were Happy. Bore Elizabeth. Hated. Lusted. Bore a dead child... which condemned me... to death. In all one thousand days. Just a thousand. Strange. And of those thousand, one when we were both in love, only one, when our loves met and overlapped and were both mine and his. And when I no longer hated him, he began to hate me. Except for that one day.

I've always been fascinated about Anne Boleyn and have been reading anything I could lay my hands on about her, but when it comes to movies, I tend to procrastinate. It took me almost 32 years to finally watch Anne Of The Thousand Days, the famous movie adapted from a Broadway play of the same name, and when I did, I was somewhat disappointed. It's not bad at all, but I guess, after all the hype, I expected something different... better. I can see why the movie got mixed reviews when it came out because I have mixed feelings about it too.

Let's start with the good. Richard Burton is the best Henry VIII I have ever seen. He just exudes the Tudor monarch from every pore. He perfectly portrays Henry's obsessive lust for Anne, his desperate determination to have a son, and his tendency to blame others for his problems and justify his cruel actions towards them. Had they died his hair red, his transformation would have been complete.

Genevieve Bujold was equally good. Her Anne is fiery and beautiful, not afraid to speak her mind about what she thinks nor to fight for her rights and those of her daughter. You would have never guessed this was her first role in Englis. She is my second favourite Anne Boleyn after Anne Dormer, although that's mostly because of limitations imposed by Bujold's Anne by the script. Whereas Dormer played Anne in a mini series that allowed her character to develop and show all its facets, Bujould had only two hours and a half to portray Anne Boleyn.

Because of that, you don't get to see the vivacious charms, quick wit, and gracefulness that so captivated men. Henry is already captivated by Anne when the movie starts, not giving the viewers any reason about what caught his eye about her other than her beauty. And Anne's wit comes out only to rebuff Henry's advances and makes fun of him, his clumsy attempts at courting her, and his failures to get his first marriage annulled. The movie doesn't even show her interest in religious reform. It was Anne who gave Henry a book arguing for the supremacy of kings over Popes, but in the movie it's actually Cromwell that points that out to him.

Anne Boleyn should be the star of the movie, and although she has many great lines, like the one mentioned at the top of this post, her portrayal only shows us some sides of her character. That's why I felt that this movie was mostly about Henry VIII and his obsessive lust for Anne than Anne herself. Bujold's performance, though, is too good to relegate her Anne in the background.

Because the movie "only" lasted almost two hours and a half, it is quite rushed. Some parts of the movie, such as that about the divorce proceedings, are too condensed, short, and, to someone who's not familiar with the whole story, a little confusing too. There are also quite a lot of inaccuracies. While it's perfectly normal and acceptable for liberties to be taken in movies, there are some of them that are harder for me to forgive. Two examples are Henry's presence at Anne's trial, during which he personally interrogates Mark Smeaton, and his last meeting with Anne while the jury is deliberating. In reality, once Anne was arrested, he never saw her again.

Overall, Anne Of The Thousand Days features brilliant actors that make their characters come to life again, beautiful costumes, and poignant quotes. But it is too rushed, takes too many liberties with history, and, most importantly, doesn't portray all the complex facets of Anne's personality that made her such a fascinating and charming woman and allowed her to both rise so high and fall so low.

Have you seen this movie? If so, what did you think of it?

Elizabeth De Burgh

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Born in about 1289, Elizabeth De Burgh was the daughter of Richard, 2nd Earl of Ulster, one of the most powerful Irish nobles and a close friend and staunch supporter of King Edward I of England. That's probably what saved her from the harsh punishments inflicted on the other members of the captured Bruce clan. Elizabeth had married Robert The Bruce, the claimant to the Scottish throne in 1302. It's not clear why. Maybe Edward, who treated Scotland as a vassal state, had arranged the marriage thinking it would guarantee Robert would be loyal to him. Or Robert, who constantly switched alliances during the Scottish Wars of Independence, thought it would be a wise political move.

Whatever the case, Bruce kept his political machinations as well as his fight to regain the Scottish throne alive, and in 1306, he and Elizabeth were crowned King and Queen of Scotland. That didn't really go down well with the English and, shortly after their coronation, Bruce was defeated in battle. In an attempt to protect his family, he sent his wife, his daughter Marjorie, who was born from a previous marriage, and his sisters Christina and Mary, escorted by his brother Niall and the Earl of Atholl, to Kildrummy Castle. They reached it safely, but the castle was besieged and they were forced to flee to the Orkney Islands. But they never made it there. On the way, they sought sanctuary at the small chapel of St. Duthac's at Tain in Ross-shire, thinking that there, they would safe for a little while. But the Earl of Ross didn't care for such niceties. He barged in, seized the women, and sent them to King Edward.

Edward dealt pretty harshly with them. Christina and Marjorie, who was only12 at the time, were kept in solitary confinements in two different monasteries, while Mary was held in an iron and timber cage hanged outside Roxburgh Castle. Elizabeth, instead, was treated more leniently. She was moved from  one residence to the other, including the Tower of London and Shaftesbury in Dorset, but was allowed to keep servants. Their imprisonment lasted 8 years.

On June 24, 1314, Bruce finally defeated the English at the Battle of Bannockburn. Now, he was in a position to bargain and exchanged some English prisoners for his family. Elizabeth was now free to take her rightful place as Queen at her husband's side. The couple had two daughters, Matilda and Margaret, and two sons, John, who died young, and David, who would become King David II of Scotland. Elizabeth died at the Cullen Castle in Banffshire on October 27, 1327.

Further reading:
Scottish QueensS 1034-1714 by Marshall, Rosalind K
The Freelance History Writer

Fashions For 1830 (Part 1)

Wednesday, 20 August 2014
Hello everyone,

I haven't posted any fashion plates in a while, and it's time to remedy that. I've recently found some lovely ones, including an image with a young mother and her two children. It is quite rare to come across such tender images in fashion illustrations, and I hope you will enjoy it. And the others too!



A Pelisse of fawn-coloured gran de Naples, delicately embroidered in black outline down each side of the front where it closes, as far as to a very broad border of black velvet, which surrounds the skirt next the feet, nearly as high as to the knee; at the head of which is a trimming of light sable, or some other valuable light-coloured fur. The sleeves are a la Donna Maria, and they are trimmed up the outside of the arm, where the sleeve tightens at the cuff, with fur. Round the waist, which is made plain, is a black velvet zone, clasped with a gold brooch. The collar of the pelisse turns back, and is surmounted by a French, double ruff of lace. The bonnet is of black velvet, trimmed with a bow of the same, and three aigrettes of blue corn-flowers and ears of corn; the aigrette in front larger than those on each side. A Chantilly lace veil is worn with this bonnet, which ties under the chin on the right side, with a bow of black satin ribbon. A boa tippet of marten skin is added to this appropriate winter pelisse. The half-boots are of fawn-coloured kid, tipped at the toe with black.


A Dress of pink satin; the border trimmed en jabots, with the same material, each one bordered by a broad, rich, white blond: these ornaments ascend from the hem next the feet, as high as to the knee. The corsage is made quite plain, with a very broad falling tucker of blond. Over short sleeves of pink satin fall long ones of blond, entirely a rimbe'eile, without any confinement. A dress hat of pink satin forms the coiffeure: this is turned up in front, and lightly ornamented with small white ostrich feathers. A superb veil of white blond falls carelessly over each side, and at the back of the hat. The jewellery ornaments worn with this dress are either pink topazes, or Ceylon rubies, set a l'antique, in fillagree gold. The shoes are pink satin, tied en sandales.



A Dress of gaze satinie, the ground rose-colour, the stripes of that peculiar shade of drab-colour which resembles unbleached cambric. The skirt, somewhat more ample than last month, is slightly gored, and trimmed rather below the knee with a fringe of uncommon breadth and beauty. It has an open-worked head, very richly wrought in lozenges. The corsage is cut very low, but not quite square round the bust, being rather higher in the shoulders than evening dresses generally are. Sleeves, a la Sultane; very wide, fastened at the wrist by gold bracelets, and drawn round the arm just above the elbow, by a row of fringe, to correspond with that on the skirt, but narrower. The hair is arranged in loose full curls, which fall low on each side of the face, and parted in the middle to display the forehead and eyebrows. The hind hair is disposed in two very large knots on the crown of the head. A scarf of Circassian gauze, corresponding in colour with the ground of the dress, and fringed at the ends, is tastefully arranged in conques, which are intermixed with the bows of hair. One of the ends falls on the left side to the neck; the other forms a tuft on the right side. The necklace, earrings, and bracelets, worn with this dress, are a mixture of pink topazes and filagree gold. A boa tippet, of the finest sable, is thrown carelessly round the neck. White kid gloves. Slippers, white gros de Naples.


A Gown of gros d'Orient; the colour, vert de Chine; the border of the skirt, which reaches nearly to the knee, cut in double dents, which are corded round the edge with satin. The corsage, cut exceedingly low, and falling much off the shoulder, is crossed before and behind, and disposed in two folds on each side. Short and extremely full sleeve, of the bouffant form, over which is a long and very loose one of gaze AErienne, with a cuff a la Montespan, cut in deep scollops, which turn back from the wrist. The hair is arranged in tirebouchons, which fall as low as the neck on each side of the face. Head-dress, a beret composed of green satin. This is of a very large size, and is ornamented with three esprits; two are placed near the top of the crown on the right side, and one under the brim on the left. Massive gold ear pendants and bracelets, the latter a la Grecque. Necklace, gold and emeralds, with three very large emeralds pendant from the centre. Gros des Indes slippers, en sandales. White kid gloves.



A gros de Naples dress, the colour a shade between lavender and lilac; the corsage sits close to the shape, is made quite up to the throat, and fastens behind imperceptibly. Tight long sleeve, with a very full upper sleeve, which comes nearly to the elbow. The ruffles are of embroidered muslin, and of a new form: they are composed of two rows each, set on full; one turns upwards, the other falls over the hand. A black velvet bracelet, with a gold clasp, divides the ruffle. The trimming of the skirt consists of two rows of very broad rich feather-fringe, corresponding in colour with the dress; the rows placed very near each other. The collarette is worked to correspond with the ruffles: it is of the pelerine form, but of a small size. Morning cap, a high full caul of English lace, the fulness divided by rouleaux of satin, edged with narrow lace. A bouquet of roses is placed rather to the right side, and some single flowers are interspersed among the rouleaux. The strings, which are of broad gauze ribbon, hang loose.


A Pelisse of Indian-red grog de Tours. The corsage is disposed in folds, the sleeve full at the upper part of the arm, and nearly tight at the lower; it is terminated with an ermine cuff. The skirt is bordered with a broad band of ermine; a second band, something narrower, is placed at some distance above it. A black velvet bonnet, worn over a white lace cornette; the form of the bonnet is somewhat between the French capote and the English cottage bonnet. It is trimmed with an intermixture of black velvet and geranium-coloured satin nemds; the strings, and it single noeud, which ornaments the inside of the brim, are of the latter material. Morocco leather half boots; slate-coloured gloves; boa tippet of ermine.


A black velvet gown, the corsage made to sit close to the shape. It is cut very low round the bust, and fastens behind imperceptibly. The back is of rather more than the usual breadth. Blond lace sleeve over one, en beret, of white satin; the sleeve, which is very wide, is terminated by a velvet cuff, finished at the upper edge by a single point . The trimming of the skirt consists of a very broad, rich gold fringe, placed immediately above the hem. The ceinture is of broad black ribbon, striped with gold; it fastens in front with a massive gold buckle. One end of the ribbon, terminated by gold fringe, descends below the trimming of the skirt. The head-dress is a black velvet hat, the crown low, and terminated in the centre with a cameo set in gold; five rows of gold chain issue from the cameo across the crown, and descend to the brim, on the inside of which is placed a double row of gold chain, terminated by a corresponding ornament. A profusion of long, flat ostrich feathers, of a bright rose-colour, are placed in different directions round the crown, and two feathers ornament the inside of the brim. A cameo, which divides the curls on the forehead, meets the gold chain that adorns the brim of the hat. Gold ear-rings and bracelets. A boa tippet, composed of dark cherry-coloured, and black curled feathers, is thrown carelessly round the neck. The slippers are of white gros de Naples, en sandales.


A Dress of white tulle over a white satin slip, the corsage carre, and cut very low. A fold of tulle, embroidered in a light running pattern of flowers, in coloured silks, is disposed round the bust. It is moderately broad round the bust, but much deeper on the shoulders, where it is cut in long pointed dents. The bust is ornamented in front in the stomacher style with the same material, which terminates at the upper part with two dents, much larger than those of the fold. These, as well as the stomacher part, are embroidered to correspond with the bust, and, with the addition of those on the shoulder, they form an epaulette of a singularly tasteful kind. Three narrow satin rouleaus, which issue from the embroidery, ornament the bust in a longitudinal direction. Beret sleeve of extreme fulness, confined at the arm by a narrow satin rouleau, corresponding with one that edges the fold round the bust. White satin ceinture embroidered to correspond. The skirt is finished with a deep fold, which comes nearly to the knee. It is cut round the top in waves, which are ornamented with a satin rouleau. A wreath of flowers is embroidered on the fold at some distance from the bottom, and another immediately over the rouleau. The latter is very large, and from its centre issues a light bouquet of flowers, which extends nearly to the waist. Another, but much smaller bouquet, is placed at each side of the dress. The head-dress is a beret of gaze de Smyrne, striped in rose-colour, white, and vapeur. The front is en coeur, and descends very low on the forehead. Gold bracelets and ear-rings. White kid gloves, finished at the arm with embroidery in white floize silk. White gros de Naples slippers,


A Dress of bright cherry-coloured gaze de St. Valiere, over a gros de Naples slip, to correspond. An under corsage, of white satin, is cut low, and square, and edged round the bust with narrow blond lace. The corsage of the dress is open before and behind to the centre of the waist. It turns back in a fold, which is very narrow at the bottom, but broad at the top of the bust. These folds are edged with blond lace: they are open on the shoulder, and form an elegant finish to the sleeve. Cherry-coloured ceinture, embroidered in gold, and terminated at the waist by a fall of gold fringe. Sleeve, a la Maintenon, terminated, en mancheite, with very broad blond lace. The trimming of the skirt consists of a wreath of foliage, embroidered in gold at the upper edge of the hem. Coiffeure, a la Donna Maria. The hair is dressed in very full curls on the temples, and in bands and bows, which are brought very high on the summit of the head. It is ornamented with gold flowers mingled with white roses. The bouquet, a la Jar dinure, placed on one side of the bosom, corresponds with that in the hair. The bracelets and ear-rings are of massive gold; the latter in the girandole form.

What do you think of these dresses? Which one would you ladies have worn?

Further reading:
La Belle Assemblee 1830

Book Reviews: A Triple Knot, We Should All Be Feminists, & Change Your Brain Change Your Life (Before 25)

Tuesday, 19 August 2014
Hello everyone,

here's what I read last week. Enjoy!

A Triple Knot by Emma Campion
Joan, the Fair Maid of Kent, is best known for marrying Edward, the Black Prince. What few know, is that she had been married twice before, to Thomas Holland and William Montacute. At the same time. Yep, she was a bigamist. That's the story told in The Triple Knot. When the book begins Joan is just a 10 years old with a fiery, rebellious bent. Her cousin Edward is already smitten with her and determined to make her his Queen when they grow up. But his parents, King Edward III and Queen Philippa of Hainault, have other ideas. Joan is not important enough to marry the heir to the English throne, but, thanks to her royal blood, she can still be used to make an alliance with a foreign prince or duke that will guarantee Edward the support he needs to reclaim the French throne. But Joan doesn't like her relatives' machinations and her choice of husband, and decides to take matter into her own hands by marrying the man she loves, Thomas Holland.
The couple decides to keep the marriage secret for a while. Both their families and the king are against it, and so Joan is forced to marry a man chosen for her by her family: William Montacute. Joan, remaining faithful to Thomas, refuses to be a true wife to William. But it is Thomas that will fight for years to have his marriage to Joan recognized as valid and lawful. Joan, despite her fiery temperament, spends most of her time at home sewing and waiting for the Pope to finally make a decision about her marriage. This will disappoint those who love their heroines to take matters into their own hands, and makes the story proceed quite slowly too. Nothing eventful happens for most of it, really. On the other hand, as a woman living in Medieval England, there really wasn't much else that Joan could have done. So, even if this choice wasn't the most exciting, I think it is the most accurate.
Campion did her research really well. The world Joan lived in is minutely described and you can see it come to life just before your eyes. She seamlessly weaves into the narration important events that happened during her lifetime, such as the pestilence, and the King's selfishness in going home after a war while leaving his troops stranded, to fend for themselves in a hostile country. She also did a great job at portraying the relationships between all the different characters. They are all very rounded, especially Joan. She matures from a child into a young woman who, despite all the machinations other people contrive to keep them apart, always remains steadfast to the man she loves.
Although somewhat slow, I did enjoy the book a lot. Until the end. I don't want to spoil it for those who aren't familiar with Joan's story and want to discover it by themselves, so suffice it to say that I think her decisions at the end of the book seem quite rash and don't really made much sense to me.
Overall, I'd recommend A Triple Knot to those interested in a good romance without bodice-ripping moments and to fans of this era. But if you're into books full of plots, machinations, and independent heroines, I think this one will disappoint you. Despite its faults, though, I enjoyed discovering more about Joan and I now have a new found admiration and respect for her.
Available at: amazon
Rating: 3.5/5

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I'm not sure you can call this a book, it is so short! But it is definitely a must read, especially for all those who believe that these days women have nothing to complain about and that feminists are embittered women who can't find anyone to marry, refuse to wear makeup or even just use deodorant, and hate men. That's not what being a feminist means, as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi reminds us in this adaptation of her much-viewed Tedx talk. No, being a feminist means believing that women shouldn't be discriminated against because of their gender.
Too many people believe that that, at least in the Western world, doesn't happen anymore. But while it is true that a lot of countries have granted civil, political, and economical rights to women, they still face discrimination every day. We don't see it because it has become normal. It is normal to dress girls in pink and boys in blue. It is normal for working mothers to start doing household chores as soon as they return home while their working husbands relax on the sofa. It's normal to tell women they have to be pretty, docile, and not too ambitious if they want to find a husband and assume there's something wrong with them if they haven't married by the time they're 35, while a middle-aged single bachelor simply hasn't found the right person yet. It's less normal, but still accepted, for a girl to like masculine things, but it isn't ok for a boy to like feminine things. And the list goes on and no.
In this short talk, the author points out many instances in which women are still discriminating against all over the world, and points out how our expectations of gender are shaped by the society we live in and therefore can, and should, be changed. In the past, when the world was much more violent than it is today, physical strength was the most important attribute for survival. Therefore, men ruled. But the world has evolved a lot since then. Now, intelligence, knowledge and creativity are so much more important than strength, and these qualities are possessed equally by both genders. Yet, our perceptions of gender are still based on old traditions and haven't evolved much with time. It's time we change this. It's time we evolve with the times too.
These are just some of the arguments Chimamanda touches on in this talk. She writes in a clear and concise manner, often drawing on her past experiences to make her points. The tone is at times, understandably angry, but mostly hopeful. Angry that so many injustices are still going on today, but hopeful that we, both men and women, have the potential to change the world for the better. We just need to educate ourselves and our children differently. We can start by reading, or listening, to this talk.
Available at: amazon
Rating: 4.5/5

Change Your Brain, Change Your Life (Before 25): Change Your Developing Mind for Real World Success by Jesse Payne
Did you know that our brain isn't fully developed until we reach 25? And that the area that develops last is the prefrontal cortex, the one involved in decision making and moderating social behaviours? This helps explains why so many teenagers and young adults are so willing to take unnecessary risks and often make the wrong decisions.
This also means that so many of what we call character's faults, such as reckless, stubbornness, inability to see someone's else point of view, and depression to name a few, are simply physiological issues of the brain. When some areas are too active or undeveloped, people start behaving in ways that are bad for them and others. Therefore, telling them to get a grip or grow up, or making them feel ashamed, isn't going to work.
However, this doesn't mean that people are powerless and cannot change their behaviour. On the contrary, knowing that there is a biological cause for their issues can give people hope and a treatment. After explaining how our brains work, Payne shares a few techniques that people can use to take control of their brains and heal. He suggests a combination of cognitive behavioural therapy, exercise, and a healthy diet. He also recommends you avoid substances that are toxic to the brain and can dehydrate it and impair its normal functioning. Payne also explains how we can deal with people who suffer from issues such as depression and anxiety, or bosses and parents that are too stubborn and demand that things be done only their way, or with folks that constantly make bad choices, or are simply disorganized. Once you understand how their brains work, you'll be able to adapt your behaviour to theirs, so that we can all avoid conflicts and stress, and live a better life.
Although the book is aimed at people under 25, everyone can use this information to change their brains. It's just that if you're older, your brain won't be as malleable and it will be harder for you to do so. But it is possible. And while it is true that the solutions provided here aren't groundbreaking and mostly, such as exercising, drinking healthily, and avoiding drugs, are things we should be doing anyway, the insights the book provides give you a new understanding of the impact they have on the brain, and thus on our ability to make the right choices and be successful in whatever we want to do in life. It will also make you feel differently about those irresponsible, lazy, or obdurate people that are in your life. Once you understand why they act they way they do, you'll be better predisposed towards them and know how to deal with them.
Oh, and don't think that just because this book explains how the brain works, it is boring, dull, and full of complicated words you'll never be able to understand. The opposite is true. Payne writes in a clear, straightforward, and colloquial manner. He's really passionate about the brain and explaining to people how it works so that they too, like him, can change their lives for the better. Highly recommended.
Available at: amazon
Rating: 4/5

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