Deborah Cadbury’s Queen Victoria’s Matchmaking: The Royal Marriages That Shaped Europe (2017)

victoria matchmaking

If you enjoy PBS as much as I do, chances are you’re also spending your Sunday nights watching Victoria. Even if you’re not following the show, if you like historical nonfiction with a hefty dose of fascinating interpersonal relationships, have I got a book for you! Not your typical Valentine’s Day read but full of romance nonetheless.

Deborah Cadbury transitioned to writing historical nonfiction after a long career as a BBC producer. Quite a few of her books have focused on royalty, though this one has a much broader focus and grander ambition.

At its heart is Queen Victoria in her later years and the various schemes she and her extended family concocted to marry off her grandchildren. Her overarching goal was one of balancing power and ensuring peace in Europe, and she firmly believed that marital alliances between her grandchildren scattered across the continent and their respective royal houses was the key to achieving this ambition. However, her interests were not entirely mercenary, as she also plotted to pair up those whom she felt were the most well-suited for each other. But as the old saying about the “best-laid plans of mice and men” acknowledges, nothing actually went according to plan. . . .

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Book Buzz: Searing Literary Debuts, Murderous Siblings, and Cow-Induced Friendships

Every month, we’re profiling new-ish releases that are getting critical and commercial buzz. For February, we’re looking at an acclaimed new literary novel about contemporary urban Native American life, a zany Nigerian horror-comedy about siblings and serial murder, and a heartwarming memoir of friendship and the culture of cows in India.

Continue reading “Book Buzz: Searing Literary Debuts, Murderous Siblings, and Cow-Induced Friendships”

Book Buzz: Short Story Anthologies, Standalone Debuts, and Libraries

Every month, we’re profiling new-ish releases that are getting critical and commercial buzz. For January, we’re looking at a prestigious annual literary collection, a standalone mystery from one of the most popular crime writers working today, and a profile of the Los Angeles library system.

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Book Buzz: Therapeutic Gardening, Historical Mysteries, and Criminal Adoptions

Every month, we’re profiling new-ish releases that are getting critical and commercial buzz. For August, we’re looking at a heartwarming tale rooted in a gardening class (pun intended!), a tantalizing new mystery series set in 1910s Calcutta, and the true crime story behind a novel I reviewed earlier this year.

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Book Buzz: Library Bonding, Sea Rescuing, and Nomadic Living

Every month, we’re profiling new-ish releases that are getting critical and commercial buzz. For July, we’re looking at a sweet novel about friendships forged in a library, an intense real-life story of survival at sea, and a tale about life on the other side of the world.

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Old Favorites: Ambrose Bierce

I was going to substitute this feature with something else about the Great American Read, but then I realized that Ambrose Bierce’s birthday was this coming Sunday and, well, I just had to pen an ode to one of my favorite writers, AKA Bitter Bierce, The Diabolical Bierce, The Wickedest Man in San Francisco, The Rascal with the Sorrel Hair, The Laughing Devil, and (last but not least) The Devil’s Lexicographer. (I think I hit all the high points and included all the nicknames.)

Now, these nicknames make Bierce seem like evil incarnate, but he wasn’t. Honest!

He was just really, really, really, really grouchy, even by 19th century standards. And according to biographers, he was a crotchety, eccentric kid, so maybe when he entered this world on June 24, 1842, in rural Ohio, he was already destined to be one of the world’s best known literary misanthropes. (Though certain life events certainly did help him along that path.)

If you know of Bierce, it is likely because his two most famous works: his delightfully mean Devil’s Dictionary and his haunting, surreal Civil War short story “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.” These are both great, but there’s a lot more to Bierce than meets the eye. . . .

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Book Buzz: Mysterious Tea Cakes, Ill-Fated Arctic Expeditions, and Tasty Bread Recipes

Every month, we’re profiling new-ish releases that are getting critical and commercial buzz. For May, we’re looking at a story of a mother and daughter long separated,  a really cold camping trip, and an ode to bread. . . .

In honor of the upcoming Books in Bloom festival, each of the books we’re profiling is also from a Books in Bloom author. It’s not too late to check out a copy and read it just in time to meet the author in person at Books in Bloom on Sunday, May 20th, at the Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.

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