Booked for the Holidays

I love the long, quiet evenings of winter, mostly because those are great reading hours. I’m finishing up James Clear’s Atomic Habits (like most self-help stuff, not a whole lot of substance, but well intended). I have queued up Make Your Art No Matter What by Beth Pickens (thanks to Austin Kleon for the recommendation).

And I have scheduled a grand pause on all fronts this week, because Mary Balogh’s Someone Perfect comes out on Tuesday–and you know what that means.

I am also noshing my way through Andrew Roberts’ new biography of George III, The Last King of America. The British Royal Family recently opened up a whole trove of original sources relating to George’s reign, and Roberts scored access to the lot of it. In addition to frequent quotes from George himself (he was a keen and voluminous correspondent), Roberts parses the history of the American Revolution from a British–or perhaps disinterested?–perspective.

John Hancock like most wealthy merchants from the northern colonies, made bank smuggling and doing illegal business with the Dutch. Independence meant he could avoid massive fines assessed against him for breaking the law.

George Washington, along with Jefferson et alia, was heavily in debt to London merchants, and saw independence as a means of walking out on those debts. Southern landowners were terrified that Lord Mansefield’s 1772 judicial opinion outlawing enslavement in England would be imposed on the colonies. Wealthy colonial land speculators were furious that Britain prohibited wholesale invasion of Native American lands across the Allegheny Mountains.

Those Native American tribes had been crucial allies in the Seven Years War, and George wasn’t willing to repay their assistance with invasion.

I feel like I’m reading Ripley’s Believe It or Not regarding American revolutionary history, though Roberts’ scholarship is utterly beyond reproach. The picture that emerges is a bunch of greedy, clever colonial agitators who saw terrific opportunities for personal gain. The situation wanted wanted only some catchy lies, religious paranoia (most Americans were dissenters, and rabidly anti-Church of England), and lofty rhetoric to pull off the grandest parade of moral new clothes in history.

Whether I find Roberts’ conclusions convincing or not, The Last King of America has made me think hard about what I learned in Advanced Placement American History and subsequently. I love it when a book makes me stop and ponder, or makes me re-arrange my assumptions.

Have you come across books that made you stop and think? Books that turned your assumptions inside out? Special give-away this week: To any interested commenter, I’ll send an ARC file of My Cosplay Escape. My dear, darling niece, Amy Trent, is dipping a toe in contemporary romance waters, and this title will launch Dec. 7. It’s bouncy, heartwarming, fast-paced, and fun (if I do say so my own, not-very-biased self)!

PS: Lady Violet print links for Amazon are populating as I type this. I’ll add them to the book pages as I spot them (and I love her ladyship’s covers)!
























Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

20 comments on “Booked for the Holidays

  1. I love history and enjoyed the lessons at school.Sixty years ago we had a whole term devoted to the hanovers.The first being George the first and he was German brought over to rule Britain.This did not go down very well but the hanovers lasted to Queen Victoria.We were taught George the 111 had many children,was frugal and was nicknamed “the farmer”.He was prone to madness.He was blamed for losing the colonies.But most things in history are more complicated.I remember a British scandal that took place in the sixties.The Christine Keller and John Profumo(top member of parliment).The recent book and film revealed cover ups and deals and false witness,top people making false accusations.Scandal but not treason but prison and suicide the outcome People in Power controlling it all.It is still going on today.Will we ever have the truth first and foremost not years later.Lifes not perfect but it could be simpler.I’m forever optimistic!!!!!!.

  2. Whee! Just nabbed all the print titles available for Lady Vi! Gonna have a grand old binge & grab the rest as I can.

    Recusing myself from the niece’s ARC as it’s not a genre I read. Best of luck to her.

    • I haven’t reach much new adult/sweet/rom-com myself, but there is huge market for it. Maybe she’ll be giving away my books before it’s said and done!

  3. I remember my history class in Germany. That year we covered the period between the First and Second World Wars. Some years later I was visiting a concentration camp and an old man was haranguing a visiting school class, that they didn’t know that time period, that they wouldn’t have the first clue about avoiding war or idiots like Hitler.

    That, and meeting and talking with a generation in N. Germany about their experiences with WWII has had a big impact on how I think about historical perspective.

    And regarding the Revolutionary War…
    Alistair Cooke: Yes, well John Adams said there were one-third for it and one-third against it, and one-third didn’t give a damn.

    • This is actually documented. As the old soldiers die off in any society, the tendency for violent extremism rises again. Put people through a war, and they learn a few things well worth remembering. There is a school of thought among conflict professionals that says Americans as a society will not grow up until they’ve had a modern war on their own soil.
      Yikes, I hope it doesn’t take that.

  4. I plan to use the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas to read.
    I have a couple of books on my shelves that are calling me.

    I have been reading romantic suspense and historical fiction set during WWII. Have learned the different roles that women took one during the war. I was surprised how dangerous some of these jobs were.

    Take care and have a great week.

    • Regency history is the same for me, Sue. Napoleon’s official balloonist was a woman. Women were blacksmiths, brewers, bankers… they dueled, they boxed professionally, and a very few of them could vote. So much got swept under the rug by Victorian whitewashing… So much that was interesting, valuable, and vibrant. I think after a war though (the Napoleonic wars for the Regency crowd), there’s a need to box it up and put it away. Maybe we suffered some of the same “put it away” mentality about WWII and women’s roles outside the home?

  5. I recommend reading anything by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. Drop everything and read something by Dunbar-Ortiz kind of recommend. An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States will offer a different perspective on some of those same folks you are revisiting. Who tells the story and what they have (or not) to gain matters greatly.

    One thing I read recently that is something of a paradigm shifter is Piranesi by Susanna Clarke. Without spoiling anything, knowing that she wrote this after a period of chronic illness (articles I’ve read gave the impression that it was more “after” than “during” but I may be wrong about that) shifted my framing of my own experience of disability. I think about it all the time, and there are very few books that have impacted me like that.

    • Odd you should mention Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz.
      For Black Friday, I ordered a bunch of wish list books for places that get books into the hands of prisoners, juvenile delinquent, and half-way house residents. Every list had that book on it, so I just bought lotsa copies… wheeee!(I got myself one for Christmas too.)

  6. “The Last King of America” sounds like something I’d like to read.

    I’ve had several epiphanies where I realized that history was sanitized. One that involved someone I knew personally was a man who came to the USA with Werner von Braun after WWII. I was young, and I asked if he ever saw any Jewish people. He mentioned that they used Jewish slave labor in their work. He was very casual about it. Now that I am older, I suspect they used prisoners of war as well.

    I would be interesting in an ARC. It sounds like fun.

  7. I’ve read many books that make me stop and think. I think that’s a major reason that I do read so much. I love to learn and I almost always learn something, even from fiction. I’ll put that book on my to-be-checked-out-of-the-library list.

    While I read contemporary romance, I don’t like the angst of most NA fiction (I know some readers read it precisely for the angst). So you don’t need to put my name in the hat for the book. I do wish your niece great success, however.

  8. The Last King sounds like a great book!
    I’ve had a number of assumption-inside-out-turning events in my life… just don’t remember any book titles. (My memory seems to be getting worse by the hour… yikes!)

    I will be ordering all the Violet books when they go to retail… there’s a local mystery book shop that I hope to buy them from.

    I hope your lovely niece does well with her book!!!
    I won’t know anything about cosplay, but it could be fun to read something I wouldn’t ordinarily buy because I say to myself, “oh, I don’t know anything about cosplay… I’ll skip that one.” 🙂

  9. I am an avid reader of US Civil War and the War with Napoleon. I have been struck by the amount of knowledge of fighting infection that came through these wars. In today’s world, the idea of not sterilizing instruments and work area is something I never stopped to think about. Over the years I’ve been reading about these conflicts, I have learned something I didn’t expect and it’s marvelous. So much medical knowledge has been gained from treating fallen soldiers and it continues today with the healing of traumatic brain injuries and loss of limbs. I never thought that this knowledge was gained through treatment of the soldiers, I assumed it was already known and then applied to those wounded in battle, but I’ve learned it’s the other way around. The knowledge gained in treating wounded soldiers is used to treat others and advances medical science by leaps and bounds.

  10. Back in the dim dark ages of my later high school days (it was Year 12, so I would have been 15) we were studying Richard III for English. Somebody gave me The Daughter of Time and it stopped me in my tracks. Up until then I had considered Shakespeare infallibly historical and I had to re-assess my own worldview. It gave me a jolt about thinking more critically and looking at bias in sources.

  11. A book that made me stop and think is Dead Man Walking. I had to read it one chapter at a time and look carefully at all the footnotes. It took me at least a day to process what I was reading in each chapter. I read each one aloud to my husband and we would discuss what we learned from the chapter. I had not really been a supporter of capital punishment prior to reading the book, but after reading it I was just sick at heart over the biased system that is responsible for housing and carrying out the punishment.

  12. There are lot of books that really stick with you. Just off the top of my head, Ready, Player 1, The Curse of Challion, The Westing Game, From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler…
    I do like geek romance though. 🙂

  13. Your niece’s book sounds amazing! I love to cosplay with my hubby! Was never a huge fan of historical fiction until I picked up my first Phillipa Gregory and I was hooked.