Katherine of Aragón, The True Queen by Alison Weir


Katherine, the daughter of the King and Queen of Spain, came to England and married Arthur, the Prince of Wales, only to be widowed after six months. Political intrigues following her subsequent betrothal to Henry nearly prevented her marriage to the future King, but they were wed following the death of Henry VII, and Katherine became Queen of England at last. She had no way of knowing the man she loved so deeply would eventually become the source of her greatest sorrow.

I’ve already read and loved the second and third books in this series, so I was eager to read Katherine of Aragón, the True Queen. I was saddened to read about her ill-fated pregnancies: two miscarriages, two stillborn sons, and two other children who lived briefly (first-born son, Henry, for 52 days) before succumbing to death—leaving her with only one child, the Princess Mary.

Henry VIII is shown to be a loving husband to Katherine, until it becomes clear that she cannot give him the male heir he so greatly desires. That is when he conveniently begins to have a troubled conscience over having married his brother’s widow, saying it was against God’s law for them to be wed, despite knowing that Katherine’s marriage to Arthur was in name only. Katherine is deeply hurt, outraged that he wants to have their marriage annulled (leaving him free to marry Anne Boleyn and, hopefully, have a son with her), and refuses to agree their marriage is unlawful—not only because she loves her husband, but because she will do nothing to make her daughter illegitimate in the eyes of the world. She refuses to recognize the divorce when it happens, despite the hardships Henry imposed on her over the years, including being separated from her cherished daughter. Katherine maintains to her dying day that she is the Queen of England, and Henry’s true wife.

The reader sees everything through Katherine’s perspective, so there are many things afoot that she is completely unaware of, as she is completely isolated from everything and has little contact with the outside world.  It was brutal to see her get her hopes up about a reconciliation with Henry, only to realize he was still adamant about getting rid of her. And yet, through it all, Katherine’s love for him never wavers, and she remains pious throughout the long ordeal.

This was such a fascinating, compulsive read that I was sad to reach the end after spending four days fully immersed in Tudor England. Weir painted an amazingly vivid world with her words that it almost felt as if I were there, and I thoroughly enjoyed this fantastic novel.

If you love reading novels about the Tudors, and haven’t started reading this series, I highly recommend that you start now!

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Author: Alison Weir
Title: Katherine of Aragón, the True Queen
Series: Six Tudor Queens #1
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication Date: May 31, 2016 by Ballantine Books
Rating: 5 stars

Other books in this series:

About the Book

Bestselling author and acclaimed historian Alison Weir takes on what no fiction writer has done before: creating a dramatic six-book series in which each novel covers one of King Henry VIII’s wives. In this captivating opening volume, Weir brings to life the tumultuous tale of Katherine of Aragón. Henry’s first, devoted, and “true” queen.


A princess of Spain, Catalina is only sixteen years old when she sets foot on the shores of England. The youngest daughter of the powerful monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella, Catalina is a coveted prize for a royal marriage – and Arthur, Prince of Wales, and heir to the English throne, has won her hand. But tragedy strikes and Catalina, now Princess Katherine, is betrothed to the future Henry VIII. She must wait for his coming-of-age, an ordeal that tests her resolve, casts doubt on her trusted confidantes, and turns her into a virtual prisoner.


Katherine’s patience is rewarded when she becomes Queen of England. The affection between Katherine and Henry is genuine, but forces beyond her control threaten to rend her marriage, and indeed the nation, apart. Henry has fallen under the spell of Katherine’s maid of honor, Anne Boleyn. Now Katherine must be prepared to fight, to the end if God wills it, for her faith, her legitimacy, and her heart.

About the Author

Alison Weir (born 1951) is a British writer of history books for the general public, mostly in the form of biographies about British kings and queens. She currently lives in Surrey, England, with her two children.

Before becoming an author, Weir worked as a teacher of children with special needs. She received her formal training in history at teacher training college.


I See Life Through Rosé-Colored Glasses by Lisa Scottoline & Francesca Serritella #Excerpt #Blog Tour


I’m delighted to participate in the blog tour for I See Life Through Rosé Colored-Glasses today! I hope you’ll enjoy the excerpt I’m sharing with you. The first essay is Heat Wavering by Lisa Scottoline, and the second is Basic and Proud of It by Francesca Serritella. I can’t decide which one I like best!

Heat Wavering

Lisa Scottoline

I found out something bad about myself and I’m here to confess.

I’m an air-conditioner tyrant. Let me explain.

We begin when Francesca comes home from New York so we could record the audiobook of I Need a Lifeguard Everywhere but the Pool, so you can listen to it when you drive around, and you have not known bliss until you have our two Philadelphia accents in your ear on a long car ride.

You’re welcome.

Anyway, when Francesca comes home, in the middle of a week-long heat wave, the first thing she notices is that I don’t have the air-conditioning on.

That was a surprise ending, wasn’t it?

You thought I was going to say that I do have the air conditioner on.

But in fact, one of the quirky things about me is that I don’t like air-conditioning.

Quirky means adorable.

I don’t know why I started hating on air-conditioning, but I always have. Even though I have central air-conditioning, I never use it.

Please allow me to defend myself.

I don’t like feeling like I live inside a refrigerator. I like being the same temperature as my surroundings. And I love to throw open all the windows in the house and let in not only the breeze, but the chirping of the birds and the fresh green smell of mown grass.

I know, I’m so poetic.

Never mind that I’m sweating my ass of. It’s a poetic ass.

I don’t know what to tell you, but I just like fresh air, and the most I do to get cool is put on a fan.

It’s a $20 Lasko fan that you can buy at Home Depot, and I own approximately eight of them. I know it’s not a classy look for the house. When I take a picture for my author page on Facebook, I make sure the fans don’t show.

For my fans.

Plus I’m nostalgic about fans because they remind me of Mother Mary, and she and I used to have a famous fight, wherein she would claim that the fan should be in the window and turned blowing out, so the hot air was sucked out of the room.

Which sucked.

We sweated inside the house, cooling the backyard.

She also believed that you could put two fans in opposite windows and create cross-ventilation, but if you’re relying on The Flying Scottolines for physics, you’re in trouble.

So when I grew up, I decided that I would have the fans facing the way God intended, blowing air right at you. And then I got the brilliant idea that a fan didn’t need to be in a window at all, but can be sitting right on the kitchen island next to you while you eat dinner.

Never mind that the fan will send tomato sauce spraying on to your T-shirt.

Think of it as a sea breeze, only Italian.

So as soon as Francesca comes home, she starts lobbying for me to turn on the air-conditioning, and I refuse. I tell her about the fans and Mother Mary and how great it is to feel the wind in your face, even if you bought the wind at Home Depot.

Francesca lets me have my way until the temperature turns 92° outside, a fact she proves by pointing to the air-conditioner thermostat. “Mom, do you see this? This is very hot. We need to turn on the air conditioner.”

“No we don’t. I feel fine. Sit in front of the fan.”

“I am and I’m still hot.”

“But I hate air-conditioning.”

“I love air-conditioning. Mom, can’t you compromise, just a little?”

“No,” I tell her, meaning it. I hate compromising, too. I’ve spent my whole life compromising and now I avoid it at every opportunity.

And it feels great. Even if I’m sweaty. And you are, too.

You might think I’m a bad person, but I’m just a woman who has put everyone else first for a long time, and now it’s my turn.

If you’re a woman reading this, perhaps you identify. And if you don’t, you’ve lived your life better than I have.

But then Francesca said to me, “Mom, look at the dogs, they’re panting.”

So I looked over on the kitchen floor, and Francesca was right. All six dogs had their tongues out, even though they had their own fan. And then I realized I could give my dogs heatstroke inside my own house.

So I compromised and turned on the air-conditioning. And I learned something bad about myself.

That I compromised for my dogs, but not for my daughter. A fact which I pointed out to Francesca, who just laughed. But I learned a lesson.

Sometimes compromising is okay. But don’t make a habit of it.

And don’t compromise a lot. Only by degrees.

Basic and Proud of It

Francesca Serritella


In the summer I drink rosé.

In the fall I drink Pumpkin Spice Lattes. In the winter I wear Uggs.

All year long, I wear black yoga pants to do everything but yoga.

I watch every show on Bravo. I’m basic and proud of it.

I don’t remember exactly when I became aware of what “basic” meant as it refers to women. Probably whatever belated point new slang passes through black culture, then gay culture, then teen culture, before coming to rest among millennial white women.

Basic means mainstream, lame, unoriginal. It is used most frequently in reference to women, often with an expletive:

Basic bitch.

I can see how, among a marginalized group, “basic” as a putdown expresses an empowering reversal of power in an unjust social hierarchy.

If society doesn’t accept you the way you are, screw them, they’re just basic.

I love it used that way!

But as often happens, something got lost in translation when the term was appropriated by a wider audience. Now it seems the term “basic” has become a sexist dig used to undermine women and mock those things that women enjoy.

Specifically, those things we enjoy without men’s agreement or approval.

They don’t like how we look in Uggs. They don’t prefer sweet, flavored coffee. They don’t drink pink wine.

(Or they do, and they have to pretend like they don’t, because that’s girl stuff.)

I think they’re missing out. Women have excellent taste.

There’s an irony, of course, in using the notion of generic “basicness” of women against them, when women are otherwise pilloried for not fitting into the narrow parameters society lays down for us.

Everything about women is more unique than society would like us to be. We’re too many different shapes and sizes, our hair too many different textures, our opinions too loud and too varied, our orgasms too complicated.

Why should we apologize for our preferences? If many women, in all our glorious variations, agree that something is pretty great, maybe it is.

Uggs are comfortable. I don’t care if they’re ugly. Neither do Uggs, they tell you so right in the name.

Do you know how many women’s fashion items privilege comfort over appearance? One: Uggs.

That’s hardly basic; it’s downright subversive.

Same with yoga pants. Do you know how much a woman can get done in a day? On any given Saturday, she needs to run across town, and bend to pick up the kids, and stretch to reach the top shelf at the grocery, and sit working on the computer.

They expect us to do all that in skinny jeans?

Believe me, namaste or not, a woman’s life warrants a performance material.

Perhaps the most absurd assumption about the “basic bitch” is a beverage choice or a love of elastic tells you everything there is to know about her.

The idea that the superficial explains the interior is straight out of the sexist playbook, and women should reject it, not use it against each other.

The patriarchy is the original basic bitch.

Case in point: I was recently on the dating app Bumble, and I saw a guy whose bio read, “My type: NOT a girl wearing yoga pants and Uggs with a PSL attached to her hand.”

Mind you, this man’s profile also said he worked in finance, went to Cornell, and enjoyed hiking, travel, and “good food.”

A true original!

I swiped right only to message him: “Finance bros in glass office buildings shouldn’t throw stones.”

He did not reply.

Sadly, I didn’t have to wonder about the strategy of putting down the basic girl in his dating profile. Dating apps allow wannabe pickup artists to neg with a wide net, in other words, use the ploy that denigrating a swath of women will attract one via our competitive spirit and our desire to prove ourselves worthy of his approval.

Pick me, I’m not like other women, I’m different and better.

Too often, it works.

When sexism in our society communicates to women, you’re interchangeable, you’re replaceable, you’re disposable, you’re basic, we’re inclined to defend ourselves by saying, “Not me.”

But a better answer to that nonsense is, “Not us.”

Otherwise, we’re playing by the rules they give us, even as we know the game is rigged. When women adopt the tactics men use to diminish us, we all lose.

I once asked an old boyfriend to stop using the word “slut” because it offended me. His defense was that it shouldn’t because the word didn’t apply to me, I was classy and deserving of respect, unlike some women.

This is some basic bullshit.

Sisters, beware. Beware the trap of elevating yourself by trampling on other women. First, it’s wrong. And second, it doesn’t work. What undermines one of us undermines all.

The only solution is sisterhood.

And that doesn’t mean sameness. Sisterhood means less judgment of each other, less negative comparison. It means greater acceptance, compassion, and expression of all our different views.

And some shared ones. Pass the rosé.

Copyright © 2018 by Smart Blonde, LLC, and Francesca Scottoline Serritella and reprinted by permission of St Martin’s Press.

Women of the Blue and Gray: True Civil War Stories of Mothers, Medics, Soldiers, and Spies by Marianne Monson


Women of the Blue and Gray delves into the often ignored, yet vitally important, contributions made by women during the Civil War. Monson introduces us to a varied group of women, both Union and Confederate, and tells their stories. The bloody war wrought by a bitterly divided nation led many brave women—regardless of wealth or color—to rise up and do their part as nurses, spies, smugglers, and (disguised) soldiers.

In my experience, when it comes to reading about history, books tend to fall into one of two categories: (1) informative, but boring to read, or (2) informative, but written in such a way that keeps the reader fully engaged at all times. Happily, Women of the Blue and Gray falls into the second category. I was fascinated with the stories of each woman, often amazed at how courageous they were—especially given that it was in a time where women were often considered too ‘delicate’ to do most things. I was especially moved by the stories of African-American women who took dangerous risks as spies, despite knowing how grave the cost would be if ever they were caught. It was also gratifying to see that Native Americans included in this book. Their stories weren’t as easily found, but it was important to see the role some Native American played during the war, and how the Tribes were affected, as a whole, due to the conflict.

I highly recommend this book to women’s history enthusiasts. I think you’ll enjoy learning about these women as much as I did.

I received an advance reading copy of this book courtesy of Shadow Mountain via Edelweiss.

Author: Marianne Monson
Title: Women of the Blue and Gray: True Civil War Stories of Mothers, Medics, Soldiers, and Spies
Genre: Nonfiction, Women’s History, American History
Publication Date: August 7th 2018 by Shadow Mountain
Rating: 5 stars

About the Book

Hidden amongst the photographs, uniforms, revolvers, and war medals of the Civil War are the remarkable stories of some of the most unlikely heroes–women.


North, South, black, white, Native American, immigrant–the women in these micro-drama biographies are wives, mothers, sisters, and friends whose purposes ranged from supporting husbands and sons during wartime to counseling President Lincoln on strategy, from tending to the wounded on the battlefield to spiriting away slaves through the Underground Railroad, from donning a uniform and fighting unrecognized alongside the men to working as spies for either side.


This book brings to light the incredible stories of women from the Civil War that remain relevant to our nation today. Each woman’s experience helps us see a truer, fuller, richer version of what really happened in this country during this time period.

About the Author

MARIANNE MONSON has worked with books her whole life, as an editor, a passionate reader, and an author. She is the author of nine books and counting, including historical fiction, children’s books, and young adult novels. She teaches at Portland Community College, and her two children love writing almost as much as she does.


Bookish Quote of the Day

“To read a book for the first time is to make an acquaintance with a new friend; to read it for a second time is to meet an old one.” — Chinese Saying

Bookish Quote of the Day

“Reading brings us unknown friends.” — Honoré de Balzac

book friends