HISTORICAL BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Man in the Iron Mask’ by Josephine Wilkinson

A vivid, dramatic, and eye-opening historical narrative, The Man in the Iron Mask reveals the story behind the most enduring mystery of Louis XIV’s reign.

The Man in the Iron Mask has all the hallmarks of a thrilling adventure story: a glamorous and all-powerful king, ambitious ministers, a cruel and despotic jailor, dark and sinister dungeons— and a secret prisoner. It is easy for forget that this story, made famous by Alexandre Dumas, is that of a real person, Eustache Dauger, who spent more than thirty years in the prison system of Louis XIV’s France—never to be freed.

This narrative brings to life the true story of this mysterious man and follows his journey through four prisons and across decades of time. It introduces the reader to those with whom he shared his imprisonment, those who had charge of him, and those who decided his tragic fate.

The Man in the Iron Mask reveals one of the most enduring mysteries of Louis XIV’s reign; but it is, above all, a human story. Using contemporary documents, this book shows what life was really like for state prisoners in seventeenth-century France—and offers tantalising insight into why this mysterious man was arrested and why, several years later, his story would become one of France’s most intriguing legends that still sparks debate and controversy today.

Purchase through Amazon here

~~

I had been waiting for this book to be released for what felt like a year, and when it came, so did Delta to New Zealand, zapping my ‘essential worker’ energy and enthusiasm for anything. I love a good mystery, conspiracy theory, story moulded by time rather than fact, and yet I struggled to get into this book. My 18yo son saw me trying to read, and started a quick google search on the various character names I read aloud, and the book became a delightful rabbit hole for us both. I ended up reading much of the book aloud as we enjoyed the twists and turns together, given how much these individuals went through, and we ended up talking about them on a first-name basis like they were people we knew. You could definitely make this book in a multiple season show with the twists, turns and strange goings-on in a French prison.

Wilkinson immediately introduces Eustache Dauger (what a name), the so-called Man in the Iron Mask. But there are other people ‘enjoying’ the prison facilities, such as Count Nicolas Foucquet and Comte de Lauzun, who had interesting sentences, such as Lauzan being imprisoned for meddling in his cousin’s affair (the king). While they lived a strange, quasi-high life in prison, Dauger could not speak, see anyone, essentially no longer existed at all.  His was a thirty-year imprisonment starting Pignerol under a man named Saint-Mars, who moved him between Chateau d’Exilles Ile Sainte-Marguerite, and eventually at the Bastille. Dauger seemingly became Saint-Mars life’s work.

Time passed, as these prisoners got up to various behaviours between the prisons they were housed in, and yet Dauger’s true name and identity remained a secret (spoiler, there was no iron mask, just a face cloth, or sheet over him while on the road, in case you didn’t know that).  The theories of who Dauger really was has taken many turns over the centuries, and Wilkinson goes through them, showing the proof (or lack thereof) of each scenario, before giving the most likely and most believable tale of Dauger’ name and crime. I must admit I was a tad sad how it all ended, not from the quality of the book, but from Dauger’s eventual fate. It seems being forgotten to die is the cruellest punishment of all.

Five-stars, a convincing and believable book with a cast of French characters worthy of such a timeless tale. Bonus points for the fun tale of dinner plates with written messages being flung out of prison windows into the sea for passing boats.

no free book or money changed hands in return for this review

FREE BOOKS TO CELEBRATE THE 10TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE CANNA MEDICI SERIES

 

It’s hard for me to believe. but my first Canna Medici book, Night Wants to Forget, is now 10 years old. What started out as an idea of ‘what would happen if people fell in love at a funeral?’ became a four-book explosion of psychological twists, people from my life desperate to see if /how they were portrayed, many wondering if I was a drug addict, and relatives asking if I needed therapy (lol, yes a lot happens in these books).

Even after ten years, Night Wants to Forget remains one of my highest selling books (if not still the highest) and while I promised to never re-read my own book, I am extremely proud of Canna and her constant descent into madness. In these books, I was able to use all the inspiration I could not fit into my more historically accurate books, tell a few tales I have learned, and let the villain of the story be the protagonist.

To celebrate Canna’s birthday, the 10th-anniversary versions (revised and improved thanks to my dyslexia being better controlled and a MUCH better editor) of all four of the books are free to download between 5-8 November.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD FROM AMAZON U.S.

or available on the local Amazon site of your choice. Sale begins 00:01 Friday 5 November PST / 07:01 London / 20:01 Auckland until Monday 8 November 00:01 PST /   08:00 London / 21:00 Auckland

Canna Medici is a hedonistic young woman who flees her home and an abusive relationship in Italy, and finds herself in a new life in London. She becomes the new assistant of Virtuosi, a small opera group who are about to embark on a tour of ten of Europe’s greatest opera houses. When Canna soon becomes romantically involved with English tenor Dane Porter, trouble comes in the form of fellow Virtuosi singer Claudio Ramos Ibáñez, the dark, brooding Spanish baritone. Canna and Claudio have crossed paths once before with vicious consequences, and each are desperate for the truth to remain hidden.

As Claudio becomes more and more entangled in Canna’s violent and addictive secrets, Dane is forced to re-evaluate his life – his morals and stereotypes are going to be tested in order to accept her dark past. Canna continues to pursue pleasure at any cost, exploiting the weaknesses of those around her in an effort to hide her demons. All of the men and women in Virtuosi are going to be hurt by Canna’s narcissism unless she can overcome her inner torment.

Canna is night and Dane is day, and while the night wants to forget, another night is calling to her in a form very close to home, and love holds on too tight…

Click here to read the author Q+A

Forgetting the night and coming into the daylight isn’t as easy as first thought…

Canna Medici is free. Her tyrant husband, Giuseppe Savelli, is dead and can’t hurt her anymore. Or so she thought. Now that the recovering drug addict is the head of Caraceni Industries and heiress to Giuseppe’s billions, Canna finds that the riches are more dangerous than ever. Giorgio Savelli, the charismatic but volatile nephew of the deceased family patriarch, wants the Caraceni fortune, and Canna needs to decide how to eliminate Giorgio and be the sole heir of the dirty money.

Operatic music group Virtuosi are in the throes of stardom; world tours, new albums and legions of fans beckon. All baritone Claudio Ramos Ibáñez wants is to be with his lover, Canna, whose business dealings take her to Milan far more often than he likes. The Virtuosi group adapt to the new relationship between Canna and Claudio, but tenor Dane Porter isn’t sure of how he feels about Canna. Dane finds himself in a situation where he can destroy Canna and Claudio’s already strained ‘happily ever after’, and Virtuosi risk a descent into jealousy and madness.

 When a brutal murder occurs, and Virtuosi get caught up in the scandal, Canna begins to question if she can have a future with Claudio. As the bodies of enemies and loved ones begin to pile up, the dark desires of drugs and self-mutilation dominate Canna’s mind. The truth won’t set anyone free, and Canna’s life is again under threat, this time from her most dangerous adversary – herself.

Click here to read the author Q+A

Eighteen months have passed since Canna Medici’s second near-death experience. Her new life has taken shape in the Corsican seaside town of Bonifacio, married to her soul-mate, Spanish baritone Claudio Ramos Ibáñez. With a successful boatyard to run, Canna doesn’t realise that her meddlesome friend, Abigail Troublé, is keen to move on from the death of her husband with a certain opera star…

One piece of the couple’s perfect life is missing. Claudio’s young son, Casamiro, still lives in London with his mother, Veena. As Canna and Claudio’s belated wedding ceremony looms, Claudio learns that life may give him a way to keep Casamiro on a more permanent basis, but custody will come at a great cost…

When Canna and Claudio are forced to spend more time in London, Claudio’s colleagues from Virtuosi, the now-broken famous opera quartet, want him to return and take his place as a superstar. With life in the spotlight and a custody battle, Claudio is too distracted to realise the danger of Canna’s mysterious Italian visitor…

It’s time for Canna to lay the ghosts of her murderous and drug-addicted past to rest, once and for all, but life crumbles when a surprise arrival shakes her happiness to the core…

Click here to read the author Q+A

Years before Canna Medici stumbled into the offices of opera quartet Virtuosi, she had a chaotic life as an Italian Countess. Riddled with abuse, self-loathing and the desire for pain, Canna had to fight for her life against Count Giuseppe Savelli, her greatest enemy.

Canna tells the story of the final few months of her marriage, raw and honest as she struggles with her choices, the men she is tangled up with, and the realisation that money causes more pain than it cures. With everything at her disposal, Canna only needs to find one thing – freedom.

Told through Canna’s point of view comes the prequel to the ‘Canna Medici’ series, involving an Italian husband, a French lover and a Spanish man, a man with a broken soul but scintillating voice. Mistakes pile up around Canna as she decides what is best for her in a world of wealth and want. Canna is still innocent and yet destructive as she barrels towards the accident which will change her life.

A must-have for owners of the ‘Canna Medici’ series.

HISTORICAL BOOK REVIEW: The Beauty and the Terror by Catherine Fletcher

The period between 1492–resonant for a number of reasons–and 1571, when the Ottoman navy was defeated in the Battle of Lepanto, embraces what we know as the Renaissance, one of the most dynamic and creatively explosive epochs in world history. Here is the period that gave rise to so many great artists and figures, and which by its connection to its classical heritage enabled a redefinition, even reinvention, of human potential. It was a moment both of violent struggle and great achievement, of Michelangelo and da Vinci as well as the Borgias and Machiavelli. At the hub of this cultural and intellectual ferment was Italy.

The Beauty and the Terror offers a vibrant history of Renaissance Italy and its crucial role in the emergence of the Western world. Drawing on a rich range of sources–letters, interrogation records, maps, artworks, and inventories–Catherine Fletcher explores both the explosion of artistic expression and years of bloody conflict between Spain and France, between Catholic and Protestant, between Christian and Muslim; in doing so, she presents a new way of witnessing the birth of the West.

Click here to purchase

¬¬¬

I absolutely jumped with glee when Fletcher released The Beauty and the Terror. One of my most favourite authors, producing books some of my favourite subjects, Alessandro de’ Medici and Gregorio Casali, and now an entire book on one of my favourite time periods, from the 1490s through the 16th century, the dramatic new world seen through the eyes of art.

This is a time period filled with people like Machiavelli, Savonarola, Borgia, Vespucci, Luther, the Medici, da Vinci, Columbus, the massive wars and invasions of Italy, Spain, the Ottoman Empire, the massive betrayals and battles for Florence, the League of Cambrai, not to mention the Reformation and Counter-Reformation and the huge oppression and destruction of women.

Everyone knows the traditional story of the early Renaissance; art, thought, regeneration and invention ending the mediaeval period. But everyone knows that cannot possibly be the reality; the world wasn’t filled with visionary artists painting golden-haired girls in pretty dresses. War, poverty, intrigue, desperation, misery, disease – the reality was a bitter pill. This book suggests that the reality hasn’t been headlined as much as the idealised version of events, and to an extent, that’s true, particularly when it comes to the finer details of the horrid activities going on at the time. Why get into the politics of the Council of Trent when you can be beguiled by a Michelangelo painting?

The book also goes into how we know the famous portraits, sculptures, poems and books, but not the backstories – like how Mona Lisa is known for her smile but not that her husband used to purchase Moorish or African children each year to use as servants and God knows what else (I saw one review argue that didn’t make the man complicit in the slave trade, but that comment says more about the reviewer than the book). Another portrait mentioned is Titian’s Venus of Urbino of 1534 featuring Angela del Moro; a gorgeous piece of art, using the sitter’s previous real-life gang rape as an inspiration for a piece of beauty to behold. We love reading Machiavelli’s words but don’t pay much attention to the hideous rise of handguns; poets are celebrated for the creation of the prose we know today but they sit alongside the rise of pornography. Leonardo da Vinci could create things like a mechanical lion for King Francis, but the same calculations and designs were used in developing weapons responsible for widespread misery.

The Beauty and the Terror is remarkable in both its level of detail and its readability; it gives the names you know with all the details you might have missed. It also offers a wonderful thing – a woman’s voice to the subject, in a time where women were nothing but sexual objects and pawns, drawn to suffer or titillate and little in between. It lets their unknown voices peek out beyond the usual stone-cold portraits or nipple-laden fantasies of men.

Catherine Fletcher is a truly remarkable scholar and every book she produces is a work of art on its own. You don’t know the Renaissance until you’ve read The Beauty and the Terror.

THE TRANSCRIBED LETTERS AND REMEMBRANCES OF THOMAS CROMWELL NOW UPDATED AND IN HARDBACK

THE TRANSCRIBED LETTERS AND REMEMBRANCES OF THOMAS CROMWELL

Four hundred years passed between Thomas Cromwell’s death in 1540 and the recognition that this faithful servant was more than another agent of Henry VIII. Born a common man with no recorded education, Cromwell became a wealthy lawyer, politician, minister, and peer of the realm, and created the modern style of government in England. An extraordinary man of wisdom, charm, strategic cunning, and boasting an incredible memory, Cromwell redefined bureaucracy, broke a nation from Rome, reformed parliament, created royal supremacy and developed the revolutionary administrative procedures still in place today.

But after his execution, Thomas Cromwell became an intellectual genius lost to history, only now again known for his brilliance, finally appearing out from the shadows of the king he served. Cromwell laid the foundations for the success of Britain throughout the centuries, emerging from archives through the past seventy years of fine academic research, and now historical fiction brings the great man into public view once again.

Many know of Thomas Cromwell’s life through the words of others, their letters, tales, and opinions passed down through the years, with much of Cromwell’s vast correspondence lost to time and destruction. For the first time, Cromwell’s surviving letters are together in a single volume, alongside his personal remembrance lists, transcribed from original primary sources. Here are Thomas Cromwell’s letters on an array of subjects, without opinions from others, without the legal definitions of his legislation, the chance to read Cromwell’s own words.

AVAILABLE WORLDWIDE IN HARDBACK, PAPERBACK AND ON KINDLE 

 AVAILABLE HERE 

THE CANNA MEDICI SERIES 10TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION RELEASED

It’s TEN YEARS since the release of the first Canna Medici book, NIGHT WANTS TO FORGET. I can’t believe it – 10 years! To celebrate, all four books in the series have been re-released with new covers, and the story has been updated for the new decade. But Canna and her violent outbursts remain the same. While this series does not encompass any of my historical study or work, Canna Medici is especially important to me. New to Canna Medici? Read on.

Also, if you have downloaded any or all of these in the past, you can have the 2021 edition sent straight to your Kindle, or device of your choice through the app. Anyone who has read/owned the older editions can have the new version at no cost.

Click here for Amazon US    Click here for Amazon UK

All Amazon ebooks are regularly updated, though not all books automatically get sent straight to your account/device. If you have the book already (and did not receive an email advising you of the update) and still want to upgrade for free simply –

1. Login to your Amazon.com account
2. Hover your mouse on the right-hand side top where it says – Hello (Your
name).
3. Go to “Manage Your Content and Devices” page and you’ll be able to download the newer version from this page.

Trigger warning for the series – domestic violence, rape, drug use, depression/bipolar disorder

Canna Medici is a hedonistic young woman who flees her home and an abusive relationship in Italy, and finds herself in a new life in London. She becomes the new assistant of Virtuosi, a small opera group who are about to embark on a tour of ten of Europe’s greatest opera houses. When Canna soon becomes romantically involved with English tenor Dane Porter, trouble comes in the form of fellow Virtuosi singer Claudio Ramos Ibáñez, the dark, brooding Spanish baritone. Canna and Claudio have crossed paths once before with vicious consequences, and each are desperate for the truth to remain hidden.

As Claudio becomes more and more entangled in Canna’s violent and addictive secrets, Dane is forced to re-evaluate his life – his morals and stereotypes are going to be tested in order to accept her dark past. Canna continues to pursue pleasure at any cost, exploiting the weaknesses of those around her in an effort to hide her demons. All of the men and women in Virtuosi are going to be hurt by Canna’s narcissism unless she can overcome her inner torment.

Canna is night and Dane is day, and while the night wants to forget, another night is calling to her in a form very close to home, and love holds on too tight…

Forgetting the night and coming into the daylight isn’t as easy as first thought…

Canna Medici is free. Her tyrant husband, Giuseppe Savelli, is dead and can’t hurt her anymore. Or so she thought. Now that the recovering drug addict is the head of Caraceni Industries and heiress to Giuseppe’s billions, Canna finds that the riches are more dangerous than ever. Giorgio Savelli, the charismatic but volatile nephew of the deceased family patriarch, wants the Caraceni fortune, and Canna needs to decide how to eliminate Giorgio and be the sole heir of the dirty money.

Operatic music group Virtuosi are in the throes of stardom; world tours, new albums and legions of fans beckon. All baritone Claudio Ramos Ibáñez wants is to be with his lover, Canna, whose business dealings take her to Milan far more often than he likes. The Virtuosi group adapt to the new relationship between Canna and Claudio, but tenor Dane Porter isn’t sure of how he feels about Canna. Dane finds himself in a situation where he can destroy Canna and Claudio’s already strained ‘happily ever after’, and Virtuosi risk a descent into jealousy and madness.

When a brutal murder occurs, and Virtuosi get caught up in the scandal, Canna begins to question if she can have a future with Claudio. As the bodies of enemies and loved ones begin to pile up, the dark desires of drugs and self-mutilation dominate Canna’s mind. The truth won’t set anyone free, and Canna’s life is again under threat, this time from her most dangerous adversary – herself.

Eighteen months have passed since Canna Medici’s second near-death experience. Her new life has taken shape in the Corsican seaside town of Bonifacio, married to her soul-mate, Spanish baritone Claudio Ramos Ibáñez. With a successful boatyard to run, Canna doesn’t realise that her meddlesome friend, Abigail Troublé, is keen to move on from the death of her husband with a certain opera star…

One piece of the couple’s perfect life is missing. Claudio’s young son, Casamiro, still lives in London with his mother, Veena. As Canna and Claudio’s belated wedding ceremony looms, Claudio learns that life may give him a way to keep Casamiro on a more permanent basis, but custody will come at a great cost…

When Canna and Claudio are forced to spend more time in London, Claudio’s colleagues from Virtuosi, the now-broken famous opera quartet, want him to return and take his place as a superstar. With life in the spotlight and a custody battle, Claudio is too distracted to realise the danger of Canna’s mysterious Italian visitor…

It’s time for Canna to lay the ghosts of her murderous and drug-addicted past to rest, once and for all, but life crumbles when a surprise arrival shakes her happiness to the core…

Years before Canna Medici stumbled into the offices of opera quartet Virtuosi, she had a chaotic life as an Italian Countess. Riddled with abuse, self-loathing and the desire for pain, Canna had to fight for her life against Count Giuseppe Savelli, her greatest enemy.

Canna tells the story of the final few months of her marriage, raw and honest as she struggles with her choices, the men she is tangled up with, and the realisation that money causes more pain than it cures. With everything at her disposal, Canna only needs to find one thing – freedom.

Told solely through Canna’s point of view comes the prequel to the ‘Canna Medici’ series, involving an Italian husband, a French lover and a Spanish man, a man with a broken soul but scintillating voice. Mistakes pile up around Canna as she decides what is best for her in a world of wealth and want. Canna is still innocent and yet destructive as she barrels towards the accident which will change her life.

A must-have for owners of the ‘Canna Medici’ series.