Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace


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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Book Review: Emma and the Vampires, by Jane Austen and Wayne Josephson

I've said before I am a Jane Austen fan and I will say it again, I am a Jane Austen fan.  So whenever I seee a book that takes one of her classics and reworks it or adds a sequel, I am almost obligated to read it.  That was the case with Emma and the Vampires.  But I have mixed feelings about the book...  While I laughed aloud at Emma's antics and the witty dialogue, there were other parts that had me not smiling so much.

Book Blurb:

What better place than pale England to hide a secret society of gentlemen vampires?

In this hilarious retelling of Jane Austen's Emma, screenwriter Wayne Josephson casts Mr. Knightley as one of the most handsome and noble of the gentlemen village vampires. Blithely unaware of their presence, Emma, who imagines she has a special gift for matchmaking, attempts to arrange the affairs of her social circle with delightfully disastrous results. But when her dear friend Harriet Smith declares her love for Mr. Knightley, Emma realizes she's the one who wants to stay up all night with him. Fortunately, Mr. Knightley has been hiding a secret deep within his unbeating heart-his (literal) undying love for her... A brilliant mash-up of Jane Austen and the undead.

Product ISBN: 9781402241345

Price: $14.99
Publication Date: August 2010

My Review:

Jane Austen herself said that Emma Woodhouse was only a character that she could love... For myself, that is true.  In the original Emma,  by Jane Austen, I found myself constantly cringing at the naive Emma and her lack of common sense. 

When I saw that Mr. Josephson had done a new book taking Emma into the world of vampires, I was immediately intrigued.  Perhaps he had brought a new Emma to light and vampires, I love vampires!  Sadly, Emma was still Emma, (still lacking in common sense) and those around her appeared to lack sense as well when it came to the vampire village.  This led to some unbelievability, on my part, of the book.  With fiction, obviously, things are made up, but there has to be some connection, some understanding, some flicker of believability on the part of the reader, that what is happening in the book, could happen if the circumstances warrant it and the author puts in enough solid backing for us to say, "well possibly."

I found myself frustrated that she didn't notice the pallid color of the men aroud her who were vampires, their black eyes, the fact that they had black curtains in their houses to block the light and that they didn't want to come out in the sun, the fact that she referred to their fangs, but still had no idea they were vampires--like Mr. Martin. The book missed the mark with me.  I didn't understand it, wherein perhaps may lie the problem.  Because I didn't understand it, and I questioned the believability, I wasn't able to enjoy the reading of it as much as I would have liked.

That being said, I will give kudos to Mr. Josephson for staying true to Ms. Austen's original Emma, in that the characters seemed to be almost identical to the originals.  With the addition of vampires, the plot was essentially the same. Emma sounds like Emma, Harriet sounds like Harriet, Knightley sounds like Knightley, etc...  Mr. Josephson says that in writing this book, he hoped to bring the Jane Austen classics to younger readers, and I do believe he may capture that audience's attention.

I also really liked the cover! It was very eye-catching!  Reminded me a bit of the medieval painting, Judith With the Head of Holofernes. (This wikipedia link has several depictions of the painting if you want to see it.)

I believe with this book, you will have those that unequivocally state "LOVE it" and those that cringe--just like Ms. Austen did with the original.

So you may wonder what my recommendation is, I can't really say.  I think its worth a read, but if you loathed the original Emma, well... you may not enjoy this rendition either.  I look forward to reading more of Mr. Josephson's work, especially the modernized Jane Eyre rendition I saw on his site... Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte is my favorite book.

About the Author:

After a career on Wall Street as a research analyst, Wayne Josephson decided to pursue his long-delayed desire to write.  He was a screenwriter for several years before realizing his true passion was fiction.  His love of the classics led to the creation of Emma and the Vampires.  Wayne resides in Virginia with his wife and three children.  Visit Mr. Josephson at http://www.waynejosephson.com/

Friday, September 24, 2010

Guest Author: Mary McCall, Medieval Christian Symbolism Part I

Once again, I would like to welcome the fabulous Mary McCall to History Undressed.  Today, Mary is with us to discuss the first part in a series she will be writing for our reading pleasure, Medieval Christian Symbolism.

Medieval Christian Symbolism: Part 1
I’ll begin with one that plays a major role in one of my wips.
From the time of the cavemen, symbolism has provided a means of communication among people. While it is impossible to cover every symbol used in Christianity, I will attempt to reveal the origin and meaning of some of the more prominent symbols. In this post, I’ll begin with the most widely recognized Christian symbol, the cross, and cover the most commonly seen historic forms, though this is by no means an exhaustive list. As a matter or reference, the difference between a cross and a crucifix is the presence of the corpus of Jesus on the crucifix.

"Chi-Rho" or "sigla" or “Laborum”: the letters "X" and "P," representing the first letters of the title "Christos," were put together to form this symbol for Christ ("Chi" is pronounced "Kie"). It is this form of the Cross that Emperor Constantine I saw in his vision along with the Greek words, TOUTO NIKA, which are rendered in Latin as "In hoc signo vinces" and which mean "in this sign thou shalt conquer. The Chi-Rho is the form of the cross that Constantine ordered to replace the eagle throughout the Roman Empire. My hero is the Chi and my heroine is the Rho, and they bear the marks on their arms. Thus when they become one in heart and mind, the symbols merge and they are marked as warriors for God.

"Crux commissa" or "thau" or "tau": the T-shaped cross is mentioned in the Old Testament and is seen as a foreshadowing of the Cross of Christ. Ezechiel 9:4: And the Lord said to him: Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem: and mark Thau upon the foreheads of the men that sigh, and mourn for all the abominations that are committed in the midst thereof.

The Thau of Ezechiel was itself presaged by the image of Moses's brazen serpent that he held up on a pole in Numbers 21: And the Lord said to him: Make brazen serpent, and set it up for a sign: whosoever being struck [by the "fiery serpents"] shall look on it, shall live. Moses therefore made a brazen serpent, and set it up for a sign: which when they that were bitten looked upon, they were healed.

Because of these verses, at least one of the ancients believed the Thau to be the form of the Cross of Jesus. Tertullian wrote, "The Greek letter and our Latin letter T are the true form of the cross, which, according to the Prophet, will be imprinted on our foreheads in the true Jerusalem." (Contra Marc., III, xxii)

If "Thau" was the true form of the Cross, the existence of the titulus crucis (the plaque that bore the inscription "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews") would have made the Cross at least appear to be a "crux immissa" (see above beside the Thau), and there would have had to have been enough of the upright post over the arms on which to affix it. Nonetheless, whether the "immissa" or commissa" was the true form of the Cross, at the very least the Thau depicts the Cross of Christ symbolically, and St. Francis of Assisi took the Thau as the symbol of his Franciscan Order

"Crux immissa" or "Latin Cross": the most common form of the Cross and believed to be of the style on which Jesus died.
Byzantine Cross: used mostly by the Eastern Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches. The second cross-bar at top is for the INRI inscription; the bottom cross-bar is His footrest.

Slavonic Cross: used most often by Eastern Catholics and Russian Orthodox, this Cross is the Byzantine Cross with the footrest at a diagonal. This slant is said to represent one of a few things:

• the footrest wrenched loose from the Christ's writhing in intense physical suffering; lower side representing "down," the fate of sinners, while the elevated side represents Heaven;

• the lower side represents the bad thief (known to us as Gestas through the apocryphal "Acts of Pilate" ("Gospel of Nicodemus") while the elevated side to Christ's right represents the thief who would be with Him in Paradise (St. Dismas);

• the "X" shape of the slanted "footrest" against the post symbolizes the cross on which St. Andrew was crucified
Greek Cross: a very common artistic representation of the Cross. Crosses such as this one and the Tau were also popular because they were easily disguised, an important feature for persecuted Christians. (light and life)

Jerusalem Cross: also called the "Crusaders' Cross," it is made up of 5 Greek Crosses which are said to symbolize a) the 5 Wounds of Christ; and/or b) the 4 Gospels and the 4 corners of the earth (the 4 smaller crosses) and Christ Himself (the large Cross). This Cross was a common symbol used during the wars against Islamic aggression.

Maltese Cross: associated with the Knights of St. John (also known as the "Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem" or simply "Knights of Malta"), this Cross's 8 points are said to symbolize the 8 Beatitudes and the Beatitudes' associated obligations. The Order of St. John ran hostels and hospitals for Christian pilgrims to Jerusalem, but eventually had to fight during the wars of Islamic aggression. It is said that the Maltese Cross is a symbol within a symbol in that it is made of the initial letters of the Greek words for, "Jesus Christ, God, Son, Savior" ("Iesous Christos Theou Huios Soter"), which forms the acrostic for the word "fish." When these letters -- -- (Iota, Chi, Theta, Upsilon, Sigma) are stacked on top of each other and their "ends" closed, they form a Maltese Cross.

Baptismal Cross: consisting of the Greek Cross with the Greek letter "X", the first initial of the title "Christ," this Cross is a symbol of regeneration, hence, its association with Baptism.
Graded Cross: this Cross, also known as the "Calvary Cross," has 3 steps which represent the three Theological Virtues: Faith, Hope and Charity.
There are two examples of the Evangelists’ Cross. On the one to the left, the 4 steps at the bottom of the Cross stand for Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Also common: The four Evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) are depicted on this symbol as a winged man, an eagle, a winged lion and a winged ox (or calf). They are derived from the priest Ezekiel's prophecy after seeing a vision of four living creatures.. Putting aside the claims by UFOlogists that Ezekiel witnessed flying saucers, we can imagine the prophet believed he was seeing a vision of God being served by Cherubim - winged creatures ready to fly out swiftly at God's command to do His work. In particular, this involved spreading the news of salvation, also known as 'Gospel'. This cross can therefore also be called the Gospel Cross.
These four winged creatures have been associated with the four Evangelists and depicted in Christian art since the 2nd century. They have also been likened to Jesus' journey on Earth where he was born as a man, was sacrificed as a calf, was reborn as a lion in his resurrection, and soared like an eagle in his Ascension.
"Crux decussata" ("decussated cross") or "St. Andrew's Cross": called "decussated" because it looks like the Roman Numeral "10" (decussis), it is also called St. Andrew's Cross because St. Andrew was supposed to have been crucified on a cross of this shape.
Celtic Cross ("the Cross of Iona"): stone crosses in this form dot the landscapes of Ireland and Scotland and are associated with the evangelization of these lands. The circles common to these crosses represent the eternity of God.
St. Brigid's Cross: St. Brigid fashioned a Cross out of rushes as she sat near a dying chieftan's bed. He asked her about what she was doing and in explaining, she recounted the story of Christ, whereupon the chieftan converted. Catholics -- especially Irish Catholics -- fashion Crosses like these on The Feast of Saint Brigid (1 February).
Peter's Cross: because when Peter was to be martyred he chose to be crucified upside-down out of respect for Christ, the upside-down Latin Cross has become his symbol and, thereby, a symbol of the papacy. Sadly, this cross has been co-opted by Satanists whose purpose of "inverting" Christianity (e.g. as in their Black 'Masses') is expressed by taking the Latin Cross of Christ and inverting it. At various anti-Christian websites, there are pictures of the Holy Father standing in front of Peter's Cross with captions such as "The Pope worships Satan!!!!!!!" It'd be funny if it weren't so sad and ignorant.
Papal Cross: the three cross-bars represent the Latin Pope's triple role as Bishop of Rome, Patriarch of West, and successor of Peter, Chief of the Apostles.
Lorraine Cross: used by archbishops and patriarchs. Also known as a "Caravaca Cross" because of a miracle, involving a Patriarch's Cross, that took place in Caravaca, Spain.

Next time, we can look at fish, anchors, stars and other symbols. Then later we’ll take a gander at the meaning of numbers.

Until then, happy reading and writing!


Mary McCall is a Golden Heart finalist author of historical romance.  She puts the fun back in historical romance!  Visit Mary at http://www.marymccall.net/, or her blog at http://marymccall.wordpress.com/
Highland Treasure, available now in print of e-book format. 
Can the Highlands survive a gifted soul with a tendency toward mischief?

Leonce MacPherson became chieftain after a Norman slaughtered his father and clansmen. For two years he raided Northumbria seeking vengeance while a dream woman promises the return of his great sword, stolen in the massacre.
After escaping an abusive father, Lady Hope Nevilles, unknowingly the Gifted MacKay of her generation, lived with animals for friends in wild Northumbria. She longs to flee to her mother’s native Highlands and find a place away from capture and torture.

Her father steals Leonce’s son, Hope takes that as a sign to journey to the Highlands. She returns the boy and the great sword to Leonce, who recognizes her as his dream siren. Can he trick her into marriage? She vowed to kill herself rather than submit to any man. Can she learn to trust? Will her father's sin haunt her future? Will distrust and jealousy doom their fragile union?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Historical Book Review: The Dark Rose, by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

I recently had the pleasure of reading, The Dark Rose, by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles, from her Morland Dynasty series, which is encompassed by nearly three dozen novels.  The Dark Rose was originally published in England in 1981, and just re-released this summer with Sourcebooks Landmark.  While the costume of the woman on the front cover may not be 100% accurate, the cover itself is gorgeous, is it not?

Book Blurb:

In The Dark Rose, the turbulence of Henry VIII's reign brings passion and pain to the Morlands as they achieve ever greater wealth and prestige.

In Cynthia Harrod-Eagles's worldwide bestsellers, the majestic sweep of English history is richly and movingly portrayed through the fictional lives of the Morland family.

It is 1501, and Paul, great-grandson of Eleanor Morland, has inherited the estate and has a son to follow him. But he fathers an illegitimate boy by his beloved mistress, and bitter jealously between the half-brothers causes a destructive rift that threatens to destroy them all.

Paul's niece Nanette has her own passions, and becomes maid-in-waiting to Anne Boleyn. At the court of Henry VIII, she witnesses firsthand the events leading up to the rift with Rome, her mistress's execution, and the further efforts of the sad, ailing king to secure the male succession. And through all the turmoil of Henry VIII's reign-from drought to floods, from religious reform to court intrigue-the Morlands find new ways to come together while the world seems intent on tearing them apart.

Product ISBN: 9781402238161

Price: $14.99
Publication Date: July 2010

My Review:

The Tudor era is one of my favorites, and when I say favorite, it is said with much delight!  Even my nine-year-old knows how much mother loves the history surrrounding Henry VIII.  That being said, reading this book was a real treat for me.  Ms. Harrod-Eagles has done an impressive job with her research.  Court life, and country life came to life.  Clothing and accessories popped, even shoes!  Her scenery description of palaces, gardens, manor homes, chapels, cities, etc... was all expertly done, so that I could actually envision it in my mind's eye. 

The story covers just under 40 years, which to some may seem daunting, as will the nearly 600 pages of the novel.  But never fear!  The book is well paced and smooth.  The reading was easy, and with her vivid voice, constant conflict and excellent portrayal of Henry VIII, his wives and the court, I was easily able to escape into the novel and read it in a short time. 

We really get a first hand look at court life, as well as what life was like for those away from court.  Our hero and heroine are right there in the midst of it.  And if I didn't know it was fiction, I could certainly believe it was real. 

Well done Ms. Harrod-Eagles!  I was thoroughly intrigued and entertained and look forward to reading more and more of the Morland Dynasty novels.

About the Author: (from the author's site)
Cynthia Harrod-Eagles still lives in London, has a husband and three children, and apart from writing her passions are music (she plays in several amateur orchestras) horses, wine, architecture and the English countryside.

The birth of the MORLAND DYNASTY series enabled her to become a full-time writer in 1979. The series was originally intended to comprise twelve volumes, but it has proved so popular that it has now been extended to thirty-four.

Visit Cynthia at http://www.cynthiaharrodeagles.com/