Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Giveaway & Book Review: Six of One by JoAnn Spears

Six of One, a Tudor Riff
by JoAnn Spears
Genre:  Historical fiction, satire, women's fiction, 

chick lit, alternative history, historical fantasy.
Number of pages:  304 

Our Review of Six of One:

My head is exploding with rockets of awe and reverence and delight. As soon as I read the book blurb my fingers were so firmly crossed I worried circulation would be cut off. Could she pull it off, this JoAnn Spears? I mean, I LOVE Tudor history. I’ve read and studied those crazy folk all of my life, and it was my dearest hope…
The answer is YES! In spades YES! This story is a tour de force (farce??).
Now, I adore my Kindle, and through it books come and go, and once in a while, memories remain. But when I come across a book that literally (almost) blows my mind, I get online and buy the physical version, for I must have it with me, like a very dear friend, for the rest of my life. I wasn’t half way through Six of One before I had a paperback winging its way to my door.
Some of you may recall O Brother Where Art Thou?, a comedic re-telling of The Odyssey by Homer, in which Odysseus spends ten years trying to get back home after the Trojan War. George Clooney gives the movie some added eye-candy interest, but the point is that the retelling honors, and yet is so brilliantly original, admirers of the Homer’s version could but stand up and cheer. And that is where I find myself with Six of One.
While not strictly a paranormal story, Six is certainly extra-normal, since Dolly, the heroine, travels to another plane, where she has extended conversations with most of the Tudor, and Tudor-affiliated women. The interviews begin with Henry VIII’s grand-mum Margaret, and go on to include many characters, including both of his female children, and, yikes, each of his wives.
Six of One is funny, insightful, thought provoking and absolutely brilliant. Thank you, JoAnn Spears! Extremely well done.
-Cary Morgan Frates

Chapter Twenty-Four:   Wherein the Wives Determine “Who’s On First?”
Katharine of Aragon had a surprising voice for a woman of what the French call “d’un certain ├óge.” Her voice was definitely not the source of her air of authority; that came from her carriage, her facial expression, the directness of her gaze, and her tightly controlled movements. Her voice was surprisingly soft and lilting, with none of the reediness of that of the very old Margaret Beaufort or the gravelly, menopausal tones of
Bess of Shrewsbury. Her slight Spanish accent added to its charm.
“Dolly, I welcome you to our distaff court on my own behalf and on that of my five successors. Out of respect for my being the first and the longest wed of the six of us, I have been elected as spokeswoman for our little band.”
That sounded fair to me. Anne of Cleves nodded approvingly at Katharine of Aragon.
“As you have seen,” Katharine continued, “emotions are prone to erupt. It is inevitable, with so many queens in such close quarters and with our imperative to find eternal rest confounded for so very long a time. We are weary of it, Dolly: weary of the fighting and weary of the waiting.”
“We’re bored, too!” chimed in Catherine Howard.
“We’re frumpy, as well,” complained Ann Boleyn. “Can you imagine it, Dolly? Four hundred years behind in the styles!”
“I’m getting dumpy,” Anne of Cleves added. “Not much room to exercise around here.”
“Don’t forget cranky! Hard not to be, in such close quarters,” joined Katherine Parr.
“There isn’t a day I don’t need a hankie! Some days, I cry for no reason at all!” confessed Jane Seymour.
It was probably indelicate of me to say the next thing I said, but I had to know.
“Tell me,” I began, “is this place like a girls’ school or a convent? You know…ladies only…in close quarters…four hundred years together…do you…do you all get your periods at the same time?”
“Yes, we do!” they belted in unison.
Over four hundred years of synced-up periods—and I was willing to bet that this place did not have a single tampon dispenser. Between that and the dearth of panties they suffered from, I could only think these poor things trebly cursed.
“You girls need to get out of here,” I said quietly, sobered by the magnitude of their problem.
“You don’t have to tell us that, Dolly,” said Anne of Cleves briskly. “We have spent the last few decades organizing ourselves and brainstorming new ideas for getting ourselves out of this place. Our plan of action for tonight is a departure from our usual routine and has been devised in your honor. Katharine of Aragon, as duly elected queen-in-charge, will explain.”
“Quite simply, Dolly,” took over Katharine, “we have heretofore defaulted to the expedient of simply telling our guests our story. Our story, that is, as history has handed it down. Our guests are usually only cursorily familiar with our history, so they always have questions about it, and we have always allowed them to ask as many as they like. We have always answered the questions in the context of our story as traditionally told. But, you see, Dolly, we consider your advent as an opportunity for a paradigm shift.” Katharine was growing visibly excited. “We have heretofore always held that the traditional story of our lives should be gut-wrenching and thought-provoking enough on its own to lead our guests in the correct decisional direction. But we came to realize recently that we have been wrong, and so we started to discuss the wisdom of
disclosing the full truth to our guests.”
“So,” I recapped, “you’ve been telling them the truth and nothing but the truth—but not the whole truth? You’ve been holding something back?”
“Precisely, Dolly. We have been holding back. It has been our experience that our guests have a hard enough time absorbing our story, even in its bare-bones version, in the compressed time frame of a single night. The shock of finding themselves here, the raw emotion that accompanies a first hearing of our story…we do not fault our guests for their inability to comprehend. Generally, they are very intelligent women.” She
paused. “But you, Dolly, are different.”
I winced, and Katharine of Aragon patted my cheek kindly. “I put that badly, Dolly. You are different because you are the first of our guests already intimately acquainted with the story of Henry VIII’s six wives as history paints us. Telling our fully unvarnished tales to you will be a whole new experience for us!”
“I won’t have to spend hours explaining the history of the Protestant Reformation, because you already know it, Dolly. What a relief!” sighed Katherine Parr.
“And the ins and outs of Henry VIII’s children and all the succession disputes—yesterday’s news to you, Dolly!” said Jane Seymour admiringly.
“You won’t get bogged down in which of the two Anns is which; not to mention the three Katherines! How much simpler that makes things!” gushed Ann Boleyn.
 “I feel so loved!” I exclaimed happily. “But tell me: between now and when I get back to my wedding venue, what does this all mean in practical terms?”
“It means, Dolly, that tonight, we turn the tables. Tonight, just for you—and for the first time on any stage—we shall each reveal a part of our story that history does not know.”
“I feel both loved and honored,” I replied, with equal parts sincerity and excitement.
“We will turn the tables in another way, as well, Dolly: We have permitted our past guests to question us ad lib, and we have answered them to our exhaustion. Still, they have proven maddeningly maladroit at drawing the desired conclusions on their own. This time, it will be different in that you will ask us no questions at all tonight, Dolly, and we will not have to be bothered with answering. Tonight, we shall do the asking, each
leaving you with a single question to guide you. You will come away from this night with six questions total.”
“If I find a question incriminating, can I plead the Fifth?” I inquired.
“That’s not a contingency we had anticipated, but…Catherine Howard, as the fifth wife, will you entertain Dolly’s objections if she does not like one of our questions?”
“Stop, please!” I said. “I was only teasing. I have nothing to hide.”
“The questions will be rhetorical; believe me, you need the answers to them more than we do,” mused Katharine. Then she got back to business. “Each of the six of us will draw lots for the order in which we will address you and present you with our questions. That is a departure from our usual practice, as well; we usually address our visitors in marital sequence. Whether one through six or six through one, though, it is
always the same two that get to go first or have the last word. We have decided to give the middle wives a chance at these important female prerogatives for a change. Fate shall determine the advantages—if there be advantages.”
“We didn’t all decide to change sequence; it was Ann Boleyn, mostly,” said Catherine Howard. “I like being in the middle. I hope it does not fall to my lot to be the first to ask Dolly a question.”
“Ladies, Catherine Howard is anxious lest she be first. May I allow her to be the first of us to draw her lot and know her numerical fate? There is nothing worse than suspense and anxiety, and there is no reason not to spare her that,” said Katharine, glancing at Anne of Cleves for approval.
Anne immediately nodded her agreement and seated herself more erectly in her chair. She was watching the other wives intently but made no attempt to micromanage.
Jane Seymour, after a brief, murmured conflab with Ann Boleyn and Katherine Parr, gave the joint thumbs-up from the remaining three wives.
“You may proceed,” Jane said to Katharine of Aragon, “as you suggest. Let Catherine Howard draw her lot first.”

Giveaway: 10 Print Copies (US only)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

About the Book:
Six of One is the ultimate ‘girls’ night in’…with the six wives of Henry VIII. It’s the most fun you can have with your nightdress on!  Join Dolly, the Tudor-obsessed heroine of “Six of One”, on a Yellow Brick Road journey to the alternate reality of an all-girl Tudor court. It all begins when Dolly loses consciousness on the eve of her marriage to the six-times- divorced Harry.  She awakens in the company of the Tudor women she’s studied all her life. They have a mission to accomplish, and Dolly may be just the girl who can help them do it. As a warm-up to her life-changing interview with the six wives of Henry VIII, Dolly gets to dish with lots of the other fascinating females of the Tudor era. She learns things she never guessed about the Princes in the Tower from their sister, Elizabeth of York…Henry VIII’s mom.  She talks sex with Henry’s sisters and scholarship with his daughters. She even gossips with the help, since Kat Ashley and Bess of Hardwicke are among the ladies on hand. Of course the heart of the story is in Dolly’s interview with the six wives of Henry VIII. It turns out there’s something to each of the wives’ stories that’s been held back all this time.  You won’t believe what really happened…or will you?“Six of One” offers no tragedy, no excuses, and no apologies. It does have lots of broad humor, not to mention tons of puns. And—for a change—a happy ending.

 About the Author: 
JoAnn Spears spent a lot of time trying to figure out whether she wanted to major in English or History in college.  Life stepped in, and she wound up with a Master’s Degree in Nursing instead.  A twenty-five year nursing career didn’t extinguish that early interest in books and history. It did however stoke a decidedly gallows sense of humor. The story of the six wives of Henry VIII was JoAnn’s favorite piece of history.  She read the classic variations and the feminist variations, the tragic spins and the vindicating spins.  She witnessed the success of the pop culture, soft-core Tudor offerings of recent vintage. It occurred to her that the one thing that hadn’t been brought to a full length novel about the Tudors was a gallows sense of humor. The Tudors certainly qualified for it, and JoAnn had plenty to spare. The first ‘real’ book JoAnn ever read was “The Wizard of Oz”.  She returned to the Yellow Brick Road for inspiration for a new kind of Tudor novel, and “Six of One” was born. “Six of One” was begun in JoAnn’s native New Jersey. It was wrapped up in her new Smoky Mountain home in northeast Tennessee, where she is pursuing a second career as a writer. She has, however, obtained a Tennessee nursing license because a) you never stop being a nurse and b) her son Bill thinks she should be sensible and not quit her day job. While “Six of One” is a different kind of historical fiction novel, JoAnn is a downright stereotypical lady author.  She admits to all of the cats, flower beds, needlework, and obsessive devotion to Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott that you’d expect.

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