Tag: beautiful (page 1 of 2)

MURDER BY THE ORIENT EMPRESS

COLIN FALCONER, FACEBOOK, BEST SELLING AUTHOR, ROMANCE, ADVENTURE, HISTORICAL FICTION

Come and join me at the Falconer Club, for selected excerpts and to get free Exclusive Review Copies of my books. JUST CLICK THE FACEBOOK LOGO AT TOP RIGHT!

When people think of bad, bad queens they perhaps – rightly or wrongly – think of Isabella ‘the She-Wolf of England’ (who may not have been bad at all).

Or they might think of Bloody Queen Mary, or Isabella the First, or even – left field – Elizabeth Bathory, the so-called Queen of Serial Killers.

How many people would suggest Hürrem Haseki Sultan – or Roxelana, as she is sometimes better known?

I might, but then I would probably be in the minority.

Who was she? Hürrem was a concubine in the harem of Suleiman the Magnificent in the sixteenth century.

She was born in the Ukraine, which was then part of Poland. Captured in a Tatar raid, she was probably sold as a slave and traders brought her to Istanbul – then Stamboul – and the harem of the Sultan, Lord of Lords, King of Kings, Possessor of Men’s Necks.

What was a harem like?

Most men fondly imagine half-naked young women soaping each other in an Asiatic day spa.

In reality, the harem of Suleiman’s time was a grim and twilight maze of dark-paneled rooms where the sun seldom penetrated. Day to day life was a like a reality survival game – but with enormous stakes.

Imagine, if you will, a Miss World contest where the winner becomes an Empress and the other three finalists are drowned in a sack.

Oh, and all the runners-up only get to leave the stage when they die.

Our Russian slave girl thrived in this snake pit. She not only rose to become the Sultan’s favourite, she then – to the astonishment of the entire court, if not the whole Ottoman empire – persuaded him to break with two centuries of tradition and marry her. No Sultan had taken a queen since the Ottomans lived as nomads on the plains.

But there was more. To everyone’s amazement, he subsequently resigned his entire harem; three hundred of the most beautiful women in the whole empire. He granted his new queen concession after concession.

Scholars have asked why. So I did, too.

You see, many strange things happened during Suleiman’s reign. Before his marriage, his harem mysteriously – some might say, conveniently – burned down. Suleiman had his best friend and two of his sons murdered. He allowed the most abject of his progeny, Selim the Sot, to inherit the throne.

In my novel, “Harem”, I took all the facts that were known about Suleiman and Hürrem and imagined a rationale. Inspector Falconer then gathered all the known suspects in the drawing room for the denouement and pointed a trembling finger at the Sultan’s queen, charging her with adultery, treason and conspiracy to murder.

Unjustly accused? Perhaps. Of course, she denies everything.

But that is the point of speculative historical fiction. The author speculates about what is unknown and hopefully does it in a way that will keep the reader up until two in the morning.

The evidence against her is, admittedly, circumstantial. I’d never be able to take this to the Crown Prosecutor. Perhaps, in my novel, I have wronged an innocent woman. As has been pointed out to me, she was responsible for many charitable works.

But then so was Pablo Escobar, and every Christmas the Hell’s Angels give toys to children’s homes.

All I can say is this: I never fiddled with the dates, or the events. Right or wrong, it all hangs together.

And when those DNA results come back from the crime lab, she’d better watch out …

colin falconer, kitty o'kane, historical romance

COLIN FALCONER

Colin Falconer, romance, adventure, bestseller, historical fiction

Come meet me at the Falconer Club, for exclusive excerpts and to get Advanced Review copies. JUST CLICK THE PICTURE ABOVE!

THE BEST 43 OPENING LINES IN NOVEL WRITING HISTORY

COLIN FALCONER, FACEBOOK, BEST SELLING AUTHOR, ROMANCE, ADVENTURE, HISTORICAL FICTION

Come meet me at the Falconer Club, for exclusive excerpts and to get Advanced Review copies of my books. JUST CLICK THE FACEBOOK LOGO ON THE RIGHT!

They say you can’t judge a book by its cover.

best opening lines, Hemingway, Dickens, Austen, novelA good cover may make us pick the book up and think about buying it.

But it’s the first lines are crucial in helping us decide whether we are going to keep reading or not.

For my own part, I’ve read plenty of good books whose first lines I don’t remember.

I even tore out the first three pages of one of my favorite novels – The Poisonwood Bible – when I came to re-read it. (Thank God I persisted that first time. )

But all in all, you can never underestimate the power of a good opening line.

Here are 43 of the best in Literature: Continue reading

SPACE TRAVEL IN THE 17TH CENTURY

COLIN FALCONER, FACEBOOK, BEST SELLING AUTHOR, ROMANCE, ADVENTURE, HISTORICAL FICTION

Come and join me at the Falconer Club, for selected excerpts and to get free Exclusive Review Copies of my books. JUST CLICK THE FACEBOOK LOGO AT TOP RIGHT!

Imagine you’re on a flight from Amsterdam to Jakarta.

East India, Jakarta, Batavia, shipwreck Dutch, If you took that same journey in 1628, instead of taking less than a day the journey would take eight months.

That’s how long it currently takes for an unmanned space ship to travel to Mars.

But if you were on of the 4,000 intrepid souls who undertook the trip on a Dutch East India ship every year, it would in fact be very much like traveling to a distant manned space station.

After a seemingly endless and extremely hazardous journey you would arrive at your company’s outpost – in Batavia, now Jakarta – to be greeted by a sour and hard-bitten community of singular individuals, in an alien and hostile environment.

That is if you arrive. First, you have to survive the journey, which is so tedious and so uncomfortable that you will wish cryogenics had been invented. Imagine over three hundred people living and sleeping for eight months in a space not much larger than an interstate bus and you have some idea.

As part of my research I went on board a replica of one of those seventeenth century spaceships, the retourschip Batavia.

I couldn’t even stand up straight below decks. And then there are the bathroom arrangements; the best you can say about them is that they were … novel.

The bathroom was a platform extending from the hull below the stern, the toilet paper a long piece of rope with a frayed end.

You pulled it up to use it; you dropped it back down into the ocean to activate the self-cleaning mode.

East India, Jakarta, Batavia, shipwreck Dutch, During that eight months between Amsterdam and the Spice Islands you would travel through a dangerous and uncharted world.

It would be actually more hazardous than going to Mars today: our navigational systems today far exceed Dutch capabilities in 1628.

For example, skippers back then could calculate latitude with the aid of an astrolabe but had no reliable way to calculate longitude – distance east or west – and relied on experience and dead reckoning.

Often, the skipper’s dead reckoning was out by some considerable distance; it was how one East India Company ship came to be shipwrecked on the Houtman Abrolhos, off the western coast of Australia, over 1400 nautical miles to the south of its intended destination.

Now I’ve visited the Houtman Abrolhos. It’s a great place if you’re a sea eagle or a reclusive seal.

But if you had come from the bustling port of Amsterdam in the seventeenth century and then found yourself abandoned there, it must have seemed like being stranded on – well, the moon.

And rescue?

East India, Jakarta, Batavia, shipwreck Dutch,

the Houtman Abrolhos

As unlikely as Matt Damon getting off the space station in The Martian.

But they did survive, somehow.

What was left of them.

You have to hand it to our ancestors, they were a tough bunch.

They had to be, because as they say – in space, no one can hear you scream.

 

 

East India, Batavia, shipwreck, historical romance, historical fiction, adventure, romance

A fine lady and a beautiful one, traveling alone on an eight month voyage to the other side of the world, on a tiny and overcrowded ship at a time when most navigation was done by “dead reckoning” – guesswork. What could go wrong?

colin falconer, kitty o'kane, historical romance

historical fiction, colin falconer. authors

COLIN FALCONER 

Colin Falconer, romance, adventure, bestseller, historical fiction

Come meet me at the Falconer Club, for exclusive excerpts and the chance to win copies of my books. JUST CLICK THE PICTURE ABOVE!

NOT TONIGHT, JOSEPHINE

COLIN FALCONER, FACEBOOK, BEST SELLING AUTHOR, ROMANCE, ADVENTURE, HISTORICAL FICTION

Come and join me at the Falconer Club, for selected excerpts and to get free Exclusive Review Copies of my books. JUST CLICK THE FACEBOOK LOGO AT TOP RIGHT!

“I awake full of you. Your image and the memory of last night’s intoxicating pleasures has left no rest to my senses.”

NOT TONIGHT JOSÉPHINENapoléon Bonaparte will be remembered as one of history’s greatest generals; yet the one victory that seemed always to elude him was the battle for the affections of his own wife.

She was born Marie Josèphe Rose Tascher de La Pagerie, the daughter of a wealthy Creole sugar baron in Martinique.

But after hurricanes destroyed the family plantation, she was married off to the Vicomte de Beauharnais in Paris in October, 1779, in order to preserve the family fortune.

It was an unhappy marriage, but it produced two children, Eugène and Hortense.

During the Reign of Terror, in 1794, her husband was arrested as an aristocratic ‘suspect’ by the Jacobins; Joséphine herself was imprisoned a month later. Continue reading

WHAT REALLY HAPPENED TO ANASTASIA?

COLIN FALCONER, FACEBOOK, BEST SELLING AUTHOR, ROMANCE, ADVENTURE, HISTORICAL FICTION

Come and join me at the Falconer Club, for selected excerpts and to get free Exclusive Review Copies of my books. JUST CLICK THE FACEBOOK LOGO AT TOP RIGHT!

Anastasia.

ANASTASIA, ROMANOVS, CZAR, RUSSIAN REVOLUTIONThey made a movie about her with Ingrid Bergman in the starring role.

Disney had a huge box office success with a full length animated feature.

She embodied the legend of the lost princess. We all so wanted to believe that she somehow survived.

What really happened?

Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia was born in 1901, the youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II, the last sovereign of Imperial Russia.

She was the youngest of four sisters, Olga, Tatiana and Maria; she had a younger brother, Alexei.

She was not raised as a Disney princess; she and her sisters slept on hard camp cots without pillows, had cold baths every morning, and were expected to tidy their own rooms.

Anastasia, Romanovs, Russian Revolution

Romanov-Collection-General-Collection-Beinecke-Rare-Book-and-Manuscript-Library-Yale-University

Neither was she Ingrid Bergman despite her blue eyes and strawberry-blonde hair.

She was short, and a little chubby, and more than a little mischievous. Anecdotes tell of her deliberately tripping up servants and climbing trees and then refusing to come down.

She once rolled a rock into a snowball and threw it at her older sister Tatiana, knocking her down. Her distant cousin, Nina Georgievna, called her: “nasty to the point of being evil”.

Well not entirely. During World War I she and her sister visited wounded soldiers at a private hospital in the grounds of the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo, near Saint Petersburg. Too young to become Red Cross nurses like their mother and elder sisters, played checkers and billiards with the soldiers.

In February 1917, she and her family were placed under house arrest in the Alexander Palace. Her father abdicated the throne soon afterwards. But after the Bolsheviks seized power, they were moved to Yekaterinburg.

She and her sisters sewed jewels into their dresses to hide them from their captors. Locked away in ‘The House of Special Purpose’ Anastasia and her sisters performed plays for her parents.

One of the guards said of her: “She was a very charming devil! She was mischievous and … lively, and was fond of performing comic mimes with the dogs, as though they were performing in a circus.”

She would also stick her tongue out at Yakob Yurovsky, the captain of the guards, behind his back.

The House of Special Purpose

The House of Special Purpose

But the conditions of their captivity, took its toll. On July 14, 1918, local priests conducted a private church service for the family. They said that the girls had become despondent and desperate.

“Something has happened to them in there.”

What did happen to them? That we shall never know. There were rumours that the girls and even their mother were assaulted.

Were they?

By now Russia had descended into civil war. By the time anti-Bolshevik forces captured Yekaterinberg the Romanovs had disappeared.

What happened to them?

Anastasia, Romanovs, Russian revolutionIt was assumed they had been murdered, but how and when was never really certain until the “Yurovsky Note” was found in 1989. The document was Yurovsky’s report to his Bolshevik masters of what had taken place.

On the night of 17 July the family were woken and told they were being moved, because of the fighting. They and their small circle of servants were herded into a basement and a few minutes later Yurovsky came in and told them they were to be shot.

They immediately started firing.

Chaos.

Thick smoke from the ancient revolvers filled the room. And the girls would not die – unknown to their executioners, the jewels hidden in their corsets acted as bullet proof vests. The executioners resorted to bayoneting and clubbing their terrified victims to death.

The bodies were then thrown on trucks. On the way to the proposed burial site the trucks got bogged. The bodies were hastily buried, then reburied again the following night.

With so much bungling, it is clear why stories started to circulate that someone may have survived.

Anna Anderson

Anna Anderson

The Bolsheviks tried to keep the executions secret but stories soon got out but these were complicated by other rumors of trains and houses being searched for an “Anastasia Romanov”, and eight witnesses even reported seeing an injured girl who answered Anastasia’ description at Cheka headquarters in Perm.

Anastasia’s supposed survival became one of the most celebrated mysteries of the last century. At least ten women claimed to be her. Her best known Anastasia impostor, Anna Anderson, appeared in 1922.

She said that she had feigned death among the bodies of her family and servants, and was able to make her escape with the help of a compassionate guard who noticed she was still breathing.

Her legal battle for recognition which was begun in 1938 became the longest running case ever heard by the German courts, where it was officially filed. Her claim was rejected in 1970.

She died in 1984 but it was not until ten years later DNA testing proved that she was an impostor.

The Romanovs’ burial site remained secret until the communists fell from power. It was finally excavated in the woods outside Yekaterinburg in 1991. Incredibly it held just nine of the expected eleven remains.

After DNA testing, it was found that Alexei and Anastasia’s bodies were missing.

anastasia, romanovs, russian revolutionFinally, on August 23, 2007, a Russian archaeologist announced the discovery of two burned, partial skeletons at another site nearby. Further DNA testing confirmed they belonged to the Tsarevich Alexei and one of his sisters.

Like the solving of all mysteries, it was of itself bittersweet.

The lost princess had finally been found, but not in the way that we had all hoped. Yet Anastasia is yet to be united with her family.

Last October she and her brother were supposed to be buried in the Romanov tomb in Peter and Paul Cathedral in Saint Petersburg but the ceremony was blocked by the Russian Orthodox church.

And so our lost princess will have to wait a while longer before she finally comes home.

 

anastasia, romanovs, russian revolution, historical romance, historical fiction, romance, adventure

‘Falconer weaves a pacy story of obsession, love, greed and corruption … Really well done.’ – Sydney Morning Herald

When Michael Sheridan jumped into the Whangpoa River to save a Russian refugee, his life changes forever. The girl bears an uncanny resemblance to Princess Anastasia, who is rumored to have survived the brutal massacre of the Royal family by Bolshevik revolutionaries two years before.

She is suffering from traumatic amnesia and remembers nothing of her life before Shanghai. So who is she?

Unraveling the mystery of Anastasia’s identity and past takes them both from the streets of Shanghai to the decadence of pre-war Berlin, from the London of flappers and Charlestons, behind the grim curtain of Bolshevik Russia and finally to New York just before the Wall Street crash.

It may also cost him his life.

“Falconer weaves a pacy story of obsession, love, greed and corruption … Really well done.” – Sydney Morning Herald

‘Murder, scandal and romance all play their part . . . plausible and engrossing.’ – Woman’s Day

colin falconer, kitty o'kane, historical romance

COLIN FALCONER

Colin Falconer, romance, adventure, bestseller, historical fiction

Come meet me at the Falconer Club, for exclusive excerpts and the chance to win copies of my books. JUST CLICK THE PICTURE ABOVE!

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