From the Notebooks of Susan Holloway Scott

More Early Praise for THE COUNTESS & THE KING

Friday, July 30, 2010
A splendid review from the 9/10 RT Book Reviews!

Known for her fictionalized biographies of naughty, bawdy Restoration-era women, it's no wonder that Scott chose the mistress of James II, brother of Charles II, as the heroine of her latest work. This is a story of a woman who followed her heart. Through glittering descriptions of 17th century England, Katherine comes to vibrant life. This is what historical biographies should do!

Katherine Sedley was born to be bad. The daughter of known libertine and a deranged mother (who believed she was the queen), she arrives at the palace as lady in waiting, ready and willing to participate in all the glory of Charles II's court. However, it is no handsome courtier who captures her attention, but Charles' younger brother, the Duke of York. He is smitten by the witty Katherine and they become lovers. Life is good until Charles dies and James ascends the throne. Now a Catholic and a man not quite ready to rule, heads England, and Katherine is caught up in the intrigues and problems that arise, forcing her to make a difficult choice. Four stars

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From the Notebooks of Susan Holloway Scott

Defusing a Difficult Situation with a Bit of Wit: Charles II & William Penn

Sunday, July 25, 2010
Here in Pennsylvania where I live, William Penn (1644-1718) is a venerable figure. As the founder of the state, he is usually portrayed as a Quaker elder, wise, peace-loving, considerate, and just: everything a leader should be.

But that all came later, after 1682 and after he received the sizable grant of land that he would help colonize. The younger William Penn was the despair of his father, a career naval officer and administrator. To Admiral Penn, William was a rebellious idealist who stubbornly refused to take advantage of the family's connections at the court of the newly-crowned Charles II. Instead William chose to follow his own course, including becoming a member of the Society of Friends. The Friends – Quakers to the rest of the world – held many beliefs that infuriated the Admiral; most disturbing was the Friend's insistence that God had created all men equal, and that the concept of absolute monarchy (that kings had been determined directly by God) was rubbish. Friends did not curtsy or bow or remove their hats before their betters, because no one was better than anyone else. This was not only heresy to Anglican Englishmen like the Admiral, but also came perilously close to treason. Yet William was determined in his new faith, and refused to be shaken from it, eventually becoming one of its leaders.

Charles II, the king that William refused to acknowledge, was not a monarch who enjoyed public displays of conflict. Unlike many other rulers, Charles never indulged in petty tyranny or intemperate rages simply because he was king and everybody else wasn't. He saved his anger for important battles (like those with Parliament), and instead led his day-to-day life with mild and gentlemanly manners.

All of which makes the following, often-repeated story more fascinating. It may be apocryphal, but it rings so true to the characters of the two men that there must surely be more than a kernel of truth to it. This version comes by way of Royal Charles by Antonia Fraser.

One day Charles entered a crowded chamber in Whitehall Palace. As was the custom, every lady curtsied and every gentleman bowed and removed his hat. Except for one: William Penn, the Admiral's embarrassing Quaker son. Determined to make his point for his faith, William remained upstanding, his hat firmly on his head.

Charles stopped before him, pointedly taking note of what could be considered treasonous defiance, and could, too, be rewarded with quick trip to the Tower.

Then the king slowly removed his own hat.  This was not what anyone expected, including William himself.

"Friend Charles," William said, with even more daring. "Why dost thou not keep on thy hat?"

Unperturbed, the king answered. "Because it is the custom of this place that only one man should remain uncovered at a time."

Crisis averted!

Above: William Penn, copy of a portrait by Sir Peter Lely
Below: Charles II, by James Wright

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From the Notebooks of Susan Holloway Scott

First Review for THE COUNTESS & THE KING!

Monday, July 19, 2010
There are only about six more weeks until The Countess & the King will be in stores, and as I keep my fingers firmly crossed for luck, the first reviews are beginning to appear. Today came a glorious surprise from Publishers Weekly: this wonderful review to begin the week!

The Countess and the King 
Susan Holloway Scott, NAL, $15 paper (400p) ISBN 978-0-451-23115-4
In this vivid portrait of Katherine Sedley, mistress of King James II, Scott (The French Mistress) unravels the intricate web of court intrigues that has long fascinated historical romance enthusiasts. Supposedly plain yet intelligent and seductively charming, Katherine grows up amid wealth, indulged by Sir Charles Sedley, her libertine father. Attracted to James, the married duke of York, Katherine embarks on an illicit relationship that continues after Charles dies and James becomes king, though he eventually feels compelled to end their scandalous relationship, which has produced a son who died in infancy and a daughter. Katherine is a strong protagonist--well-realized and confident in her flouting of convention--and provides a stellar centerpiece to Scott's fast-moving tale about the challenging world of kings, queens, and mistresses caught in a time of sharp political, and religious upheaval. (Sept.)

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From the Notebooks of Susan Holloway Scott

My Debut at "Hoydens & Firebrands"

Sunday, July 11, 2010
I'm delighted and honored to be making my official debut as a member of Hoydens & Firebrands, a blog that's dedicated to the 17th century. Seems like a great fit for me! My first post includes a vengeful king, regicides on the run, Wampanoags eager for scalps, and legends that will not die. Come check out "The Angel of Hadley."