Book Review: The Price of Blood

Price of Blood book

The Price of Blood (The Emma of Normandy Series, Book 2) by Patricia Bracewell

I have a confession, I read this book having no idea there was a first book in the Emma of Normandy series. So I shall be reading that shortly! But this book starts in the thick of it and so I would recommend reading this series in the correct order! 

Anyway, this is the second book about Emma of Normandy, set in 1006 AD. The book begins when she has now been made Queen of England, alongside her ageing husband King Æthelred who married her to try and pacify the Norman invasions (by the way, get used to a lot of names like this! It’s so confusing, there’s Æthelred, Athelstan, Ælfhelm etc.). She has also just given birth to her first child, a son, called Edward.

You can tell from the start this marriage was definitely not a love match. Emma is beautiful, kind and wise in contrast to her husband who is portrayed as cruel, cowardly and determined to keep Emma from her beloved son. So, Emma constantly finds herself a pawn in the King’s game. Her only friends, the King’s eldest son Athelstan, a man we suspect she truly loves, and the Archbishop of Canterbury cannot help her win favour in her husband’s eyes.

When the King is struggling to keep control of his realm and the Danes are continuously attacking towns across England, leaving a trail of destruction. Emma is struggling with being BOTH a Queen and mother as she finds herself rejected from her husband’s side and often in danger’s way.

Then, enter another key women in this tale, Elgiva (sometimes known outside this book as Ælfgifu – again with these names!!). She is the daughter of Ælfhelm who was an Earl – or some sort of powerful nobleman – of southern Northumbria. She is portrayed as a fiesty, seductive mistress that wants to control her own destiny in a world ruled by men. Unlike Emma, she is prepared to take great risks in securing herself as a Queen. The contrast between these two women is great.

When the King believes Elgiva’s father is conspiring against him with the Danes, he murders her entire family in the most gruesome way! Desperate, she flees to the safety of an old family ally. However, she is not beaten yet. Once she’s safe, she finds herself being given as a wife to a Viking Lord called Cnut (don’t misspell his name!!). A passionate relationship between the two begins. Elgiva is headstrong like her husband and they both want the same thing… the crown.

This is where the two women’s path starts to entwine. Emma is Queen of England trying to protect her country whilst Elgiva is now paired to their enemy, Cnut and the Danes. In a country torn by war, little do both women know their paths are going to cross in more and more ways in the coming years.*

The Price of Blood is a great read about two very different women. By the end of the book I still feel the best is still to come, as Emma’s journey has only really started. Also, I would have loved to have seen more about Emma and Elgiva as woman. I am a sucker for love scenes and getting involved in all those relationships that create their characters. This I feel was slightly lacking in places. However, this fast pace book will definitely show a time in history that is so undocumented.



So I couldn’t help myself and I started to read more about this pair of women. After this book, in 1016, King Æthelred dies and Emma finds herself windowed and defenseless. To make matters worse, Athelstan, her love, has also died and is no longer heir apparent. Therefore, the King’s third eldest son, Edmund Ironside, becomes King, but again… not for long. Only six, short, months later Cnut invades England and conquers the throne. This makes him King of England and Denmark together. Suddenly, Elgiva is ‘put aside’ for Emma! What a twist. Emma becomes Queen again. With four sons between the two wives and then when Cnut acquires Norway too… I just think he was greedy… this really shows how chaotic this period of history was.


If you want to read more from Medieval period here are some more books on Medieval Queens: 

  1. Shadow on the Crown by Patricia Bracewell: The first book in this series, it follows a young Queen Emma of Normandy as she first meets her new husband, King Æthelred.
  2. Queens of Conquest by Alison Weir [NEW THIS YEAR!]: A series of famous woman of the Norman period. Such as Matilda of Flanders, wife of William the Conqueror and Empress Matilda, mother to King Henry II.
  3. A Hollow Crown by Helen Hollick: This documents Queen Emma of Normandy’s entire life, from  Æthelred to Cnut.

shadow on the crownqueens of conquest

Hollow Crown

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Book Review: The Swan-Daughter

The Swan-Daughter

The Swan-Daughter (The Daughters of Hastings Book 2) by Carol McGrath 

This is the second book in the series surrounding the first Norman King of England, William the Conqueror. However, interestingly enough, it focuses on Gunhild of Wessex who was the eldest daughter of King Harold II who ruled for less than a year before his death in the Battle of Hastings (1066) – hence Daughters of Hasting series.

The reference to the “swan-daughter” was due to Gunhild’s mother ‘Edith the Fair’ being known as ‘Edith Swan-Neck’, probably because of her beauty and long swan-like neck!

When Gunhild’s father, the King, was killed she was receiving her education in Wilton Abbey under the careful watch of a dictatorial prioress called Christina. Gunhild loathes the religious life and longs to escape and fall in love. This opportunity presents itself when she first meets the fiery red-headed knight, Count Alan of Richmond, and through a few more chance meetings she agrees to elope with him and escape to his estates in France (Normandy). Hurrah!

However, life with Alan is not what she hoped for. He is cold and she is inexperienced as a wife. She constantly questions whether he loves her or if he just married her for the chance to win her inheritance and lands from her mother, Edith. Their relationship is tested further when she discovers Alan had once been a suitor for her mother’s hand and he swears fealty to King William the Conqueror, the man who killed her father!! Her only friend is Alan’s brother called Niall and as she confides in him, she finds herself falling further out of love with her husband. (Even though he is called Niall in this book, his real name is also Alan – confusing history names!) 

I won’t spoil the ending, but this is a really great read set after the famous Battle of Hastings. Women in this period were so powerless to their fates after a change in King, so I was delighted to find a tale about a princess who eloped for love!

If you are still interested in this period I also really recommend The Chosen Queen by Joanna Courtney, which is about Edyth, the queen consort to King Harold II. She is remarkable as she was queen twice! Read my book review for The Chosen Queen here.

*Images taken from:

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Tudor Best Reads



If you are looking to read about the TUDOR FAMILY, I’m going to bore you with ONE diagram before we jump in. This is the Tudor family tree, so every book I mention features one of the people within this diagram!

Tudor family tree


The Tudor dynasty began with King Henry VII (Lancaster) and his wife Elizabeth (York) who unified the House of Lancaster and the House of York, finally ending the “war of the roses” and creating a united England. He was the last King who had to secure his place on the throne by winning a battle!

For the first time ever in English history, this period was all about the Queens… you go girls! With Mary Queen of Scotland and Elizabeth Queen of England on the throne at the same time, it was an all female ruling for some parts!

Most people would say this period is most famous for Henry VII and his six wives! And it’s true, as this period was dominated by the need for royal succession. As the previous decades had been a battle for the throne, Henry VII was obsessed with having a strong male heir to keep England under the Tudor Rose. In the end, this need was actually met by his fiery red-headed daughter – Elizabeth – who ruled for 44 years on the throne. But there was a second issue, and this was religion. Henry VIII broke with Rome to marry Anne Boleyn. This meant that all his children had different religious upbringings, Mary I was Catholic whilst Elizabeth and Edward VI were Protestant. When Edward died suddenly, at the young age of 15, he excluded his sisters and declared Lady Jane Grey as the rightful heir. Although this only lasted a few days. When Mary took back the throne, she was more determined than ever to punish the Protestants… giving her the nickname “Bloody Mary” for all the people she burnt alive!!! Yuck. Elizabeth, meanwhile, gained the throne after Mary’s death to the cheers of London. She never married, although everyone thought she might to her favourite Robert Dudley, so she supported King James I’s claim (son of Mary Queen of Scots) and he became the first King of Scotland and England.

One crazy thing about all of this, was the only reason we had the Tudor line was due to Catherine of Valois (who was Queen of England, marrying Henry V) having relations with one of her courtiers, Owen Tudor. She was grandmother to Henry VII.



The White Princess (The Cousins' War, #5)

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The White Princess – Phillippa Gregory 

Going to be honest, I really debated adding this one in as it was not one of my favourites. However, it does focus on young Queen Elizabeth of York (Henry VII’s wife) who is divided between the red rose of her new husband and the white rose of her mother and her missing brothers. The reason I didn’t like it was due to the ending, I felt it lacked much of her life.

Want to read more about Elizabeth of York? Elizabeth of York: Forgotten Tudor Queen – Amy Licence and Elizabeth of York: The First Tudor Queen – Alison Weir


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The King’s Pleasure – Norah Lofts

Norah Lofts really brings to life, the entire life of Catherine of Aragon. So defined by her failed marriage Henry VIII it was a good change to read about her as a girl, first meeting Prince Arthur and her younger years as Henry’s wife when it was obvious he loved her.

If you like this, you may like: The Constant Princess – Philippa Gregory


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Murder Most Royal – Jean Plaidy 

I liked this book about Anne Boleyn as it takes a slightly different angle. It actually also mentions her relationship with her cousin, Katherine Howard (Henry’s fifth wife) who also shared a similar fate. This book portrays Anne as spirited and intelligent from her time in France to her love of Henry. A really good read.

There are so many more books about Anne Boleyn including: The King’s Secret Matter – Jean Plaidy, The Lady in the Tower – Alison Weir, The Concubine – Norah Lofts and The Other Boleyn Girl – Philippa Gregory 


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I, Jane – Diane Haeger

This is an interesting read about Jane Seymour. “Plain Jane” only ever wanted to leave in the peace and quiet of her family home, but when she comes to court… in contrast to Anne Boleyn and her increasingly violent relationship with the King…. Henry VIII falls for her charms! This book is written from Jane’s view, and it was great to gain an insight to her youth, even hinting at a possible romance Jane had with her neighbor William Dormer.


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The Boleyn Inheritance – Philippa Gregory

Philippa Gregory is very hit or miss with me, and this book was no different. It follows three key women during this period, Jane Boleyn (Anne Boleyn’s brother George’s wife), Anne of Cleves (Henry VIII’S fourth wife) and Katherine Howard (Henry VIII’s fifth wife). For me, the best bit was about Anne of Cleves, she comes across as kind and intelligent. Her childhood is interesting and her sections of the book were really inspiring. Jane voice is slightly harder to love, she is portrayed as really manipulative and Katherine Howard (Kitty) was too light and spoilt. I just wasn’t sure… but I do think its worth a read as it follows three very different woman and their relationship with the King.


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The Confession of Katherine Howard – Suzannah Dunn 

So, I cried at this one! Poor Katherine Howard, was only 15 years old when she captured the King’s eyes and heart! However, Katherine was in love with another man. Told in the first person by Cat Tilney (her lady in waiting and friend) this book focused on the teenager behind the crown, who’s passion and love affairs sent her to the executioner’s block.

CATHERINE PARR (Always confusing whether its Katherine or Catherine Parr?)

The Sixth Wife by [Dunn, Suzannah]

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The Sixth Wife – Suzannah Dunn

Henry VIII’s last wife had an uneasy start. Following from the death of Katherine Howard, she has to tread very softly with the aging king. This book is told from the view of her lady-in-waiting, Catherine Willoughby, so lacks Katherine’s voice… however it also really brings to life her later relationship with Thomas Seymour and his betrayal.


Innocent Traitor: A Novel of Lady Jane Grey

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Innocent Traitor – Alison Weir

The “Nine-day Queen”, Lady Jane Grey, is a sad story about a young girl who got caught up in her parent’s ambition. I loved reading this one from her point of view and Alison Weir really made her character believable and real.

The Sisters Who Would Be Queen

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The Sisters who would be Queen – Leanda De Lisle 

The lives of the Grey sisters is pretty unknown, but when their sister Lady Jane Grey became the “nine-day queen” her two younger sisters Katherine and Mary were heirs and rivals to the Tudor monarchs of Mary and Elizabeth I. This is the story of the three girls, their religion, their loves and the games they played to survive two Queens.

If you like this, you may like: Sisters of Treason – Elizabeth Fremantle OR The Fallen Queen – Emily Purdy


I am sure there are any titles about Mary, but I have yet to find one I really recommend! Sorry!


Rival to the Queen

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Rival to the Queen – Carolly Erickson 

Woah, this is about to get confusing…. Lettie Knollys, daughter of Anne Bolyen’s sister Mary’s child (possibly with Henry VIII??) ends up marrying the handsome and ambitious Robert Dudley, Elizabeth I’s favourite. These woman become powerful rivals and their love for Robert is tested, in different ways.

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The Virgin’s Lover – Philippa Gregory

This is a Phillippa Gregory book I loved! It follows Elizabeth I and her relationship with Robert Dudley. From her youth when she was imprisoned, Robert and Elizabeth’s lives have always been interlinked. He becomes her friend and first love. But now she is Queen, their love is really tested especially when Robert is already married.

If you like this, you may like: The Marriage Game Paperback – Alison Weir 

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The Temptation Of Elizabeth Tudor – Elizabeth Norton

This is a slightly more unknown tale of Elizabeth’s relationship with Thomas Seymour. When Henry VIII died, Elizabeth at the young age of 14, is looked after by Catherine Parr (his sixth wife) and her new husband Thomas Seymour, but Thomas is ambitious and sees Elizabeth as an opportunity…


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The Lady Elizabeth – Alison Weir 

Yes! I love this book. This book tells the tale of Queen Elizabeth I,  as a girl, before she becomes the magnificent queen we all know about! Its depicts a small child being motherless… disinherited and left defenseless right up to her first experience of love. I highly recommend this one!


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The Forgotten Queen – D. L. Bogdan

Finally! A book about Margaret, Queen of Scotland (Henry VIII’s sister!). I loved this book about a very powerful and passionate woman, who was made Queen of Scotland and ended up shaping England’s future!

If you like this, you may like: The Tudor Princess – Darcey Bonnette


The Wild Queen: The Days and Nights of Mary Queen of Scots (Young Royals, #7)

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The Wild Queen – Carolyn Meyer 

Like the title suggests, this book focuses on Mary Queen of Scots and her ‘wild’ life. From Queen of France to her second, complicated marriage… mixed in with scandal, war and her eventual capture! It was fast paced and I couldn’t put it down.

If you like this, you may like: The Other Queen – Philippa Gregory

Royal Road to Fotheringay: (Mary Stuart) by [Plaidy, Jean]

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The Royal Road to Fotheringhay – Jean Plaidy

This follows a young Mary in her time in France as the short-lived Queen. From her relationship with the Queen of France and her return to Scotland, I loved reading about her time as a young girl before she was Queen of Scotland.

Once you finish this, read part 2: The Captive Queen of Scots  – Jean Plaidy 


The Boleyn Bride – Emily Purdy

The story of the Elizabeth Howard, the mother to Mary, George and Anne Boleyn.

Three Sisters, Three Queens – Philippa Gregory

The story of Mary, Margaret and Catherine of Aragon, three very different woman in the initial stages of the Tudor period.

Mary, Queen of France – Jean Plaidy

This is the story of Henry VIII’s youngest sister, Mary.

*The family tree image I created myself, it took ages!! All other images taken from amazon books and the internet, I have to say that or people will get angry and we don’t want that! 

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