|❤ Fri, Mar. 07, 2014|
Everyone has heard the name Anne Boleyn and perhaps knows something of her short, tumultuous life, but what of the seldom heard-of woman who brought Henry VIII’s future queen into the world?
Brandy Purdy’s latest historical fiction novel followed Elizabeth Boleyn (née Howard), the duke of Norfolk’s daughter, from the age of sixteen to right before her death. As many historical fiction authors do, Purdy tweaked history so that readers would not become confused and to further the plot of her story and she mentioned this in an author’s note in the beginning of the book. Personally, I have not read much on Elizabeth Boleyn, but even if I had, there are always various dates and opinions on what happened long ago and unfortunately, save for our technological age, we cannot always say without a doubt that such and such happened. Historical fiction is meant to be enjoyed and to provide readers with a good story and that is what Brandy Purdy did.
There were only two things that bothered me in The Boleyn Bride. Elizabeth used the refrain, “Thomas Bullen - I mean Boleyn!”, quite repetitively throughout the book and after awhile it annoyed me. She was referring to one of the older spellings of the name Boleyn because of the slight difference in pronunciation that reminded her of how her despised husband rammed into everything like a bull - aggressively and without passion or regard for others - and she meant everything. The other thing that bothered me was Elizabeth’s description that Anne was born with a nascent sixth finger and some sort of mark on the front of her neck, but that she was adept at covering these things with her sleeves and necklaces. I am of a mind that these things that were said about her by her enemies at the time to ruin her reputation because unless these things were really not noticeable, I cannot see how arrogant and pick King Henry could abide her.
BUT, those were very minor things and I enjoyed the book from Elizabeth’s viewpoint and I am interested in learning more about her if I can. Purdy presented her as a selfish woman who cared for her own pleasures before those of her husband and children and thus did not have good relationships with any of them. She despised her lowborn husband and just did not possess motherly affection. I found it sad but interesting. She was also very vain and used her beauty as far as she could but it began to fade all too quickly. Elizabeth was discreet in her personal matters, such as affairs, and the one she had with doll maker Remi Jouet surprised me because she was so vain and claimed she was not very loving. He seemed to be the one person she loved. Elizabeth was also a very hypocritical character. She barely paid attention to her children until they grew up and became interesting and even then she could not give them any sort of affection, even when she wanted to, because she knew it would come across as false. But when Anne and George fell, she was so upset even though she knew it had to be coming. Be prepared to be upset with Elizabeth Boleyn at times because she was a huge lesson in contradictions.
There was more description than dialogue in The Boleyn Bride so the pacing was about medium. Elizabeth was an intricate character and though she was alternately hot and cold, I found her interesting and really enjoyed her voice. I feel like Purdy did a great job finding Elizabeth’s personality. The story was very focused on her inner workings and how she observed what was happening around her and how she reacted (or sometimes did not react). And of course, I love the Tudor era with the people, setting, and fashion so if those appeal to you, do not miss The Boleyn Bride!
Recommended for readers who enjoy historical fiction with a lot of description and a medium pace.
Brandy Purdy (Emily Purdy in the UK) is the author of the historical novels The Confessions of Piers Gaveston, The Boleyn Wife (The Tudor Wife), The Tudor Throne (Mary & Elizabeth), The Queen’s Pleasure (A Court Affair), and The Queen’s Rivals (The Fallen Queen). An ardent book lover since early childhood, she first became interested in history at the age of nine or ten years old when she read a book of ghost stories which contained a chapter about Anne Boleyn haunting the Tower of London.
Tags: 2014 | review | ARC | paperback | adult | fiction | historical | Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours | 2014 150 Reading Challenge |
|❤ Fri, Jan. 24, 2014|
It has been a year since midwife Lady Bridget Hodsgon took in her new maidservant Martha and not only solved a murder with her but developed a kinship with her. Now in the summer of 1645, the people of York are wilting underneath an extraordinarily hot sun. With the losses of cattle and plants and the addition of a fanatical preacher and his family, emotions are running as high as the temperature and York’s prostitutes are turning up dead. Bridget, Martha, and Bridget’s nephew, Will, band together again to solve the brutal murders. Hezekiah Ward preaches against the prostitutes with the support of his family and his own inner circle of the godly and he makes short work of convincing some of York’s citizens that the end of prostitution in the town will mean the end of the heat wave. Bridget and her companions suspect the Wards, but as more women turn up dead, they wonder if the murderer is no stranger to them.
I greatly enjoyed Sam Thomas’ The Midwife’s Tale last year and he once again drew me into his intricately woven follow-up, The Harlot’s Tale. What originally attracted me to The Midwife’s Tale was the time period, location, and premise and those three factors along with my enjoyment of the first book brought me back for round two.
The three main characters, Lady Bridget, her maid Martha, and her nephew Will were ahead of their time, but despite this being a fiction novel, there were people who were ahead of their time all through history. Although Bridget assisted all kinds of women with their childbirths in both books and had friends and acquaintances in both low and high places, she was always still a believer in her station in life despite making allowances here and there so it was interesting to read her reactions to those below her station who challenged her throughout The Harlot’s Tale.
Martha was as interesting as ever. She was still quite the spitfire and fit the least in her role. She had been Bridget’s maidservant, but she also served as deputy midwife to Bridget. That, together with their amateur sleuthing, had given them a unique relationship in which Martha seemed both subservient and equal. That dichotomy fascinated me in both of Sam Thomas’ books.
Poor Will. Bridget’s nephew had trouble with his father in the first book and in The Harlot’s Tale, he had to deal with his father and his brother Joseph, the uninjured son who could follow in their father’s footsteps. What crock! I definitely favored Will over Joseph and so did Bridget. Will was a lot more open-minded than his father and brother and treated Bridget and Martha with more respect than most other men who thought they knew everything and women knew nothing. Still, Will had to struggle with the lack of approval from his father, who just could not see his worth.
Again, like in The Midwife’s Tale, The Harlot’s Tale had a mystery and a sub-mystery, although they were thought to be one for most of the novel. I found it interesting that Thomas chose to have this mystery centered around the murders of prostitutes because the way in which some of them were murdered was so horrific that it seemed to me prescient of Jack the Ripper’s London murders over two centuries later.
If you read these two books, it is interesting to compare them as you go to how murders are solved today. There was so much that would be handled differently today than it was in the seventeenth century, but it still was ingenious some of the ways Bridget and Martha would put together their clues and trust their inferences from those to lead them closer to a solution.
The Harlot’s Tale is an engaging book about two strong women and one strong man who trust each other to see things through to the end and bring about justice for those murdered no matter what their station was in life. It is not only a mystery but also a fictional social account of the time period and the differences in law and justice for the haves and the have-nots.
Recommended for readers sixteen and older who enjoy historical fiction murder mysteries or for fans of historical fiction wanting to branch out into mysteries. The Harlot’s Tale and the preceding book, The Midwife’s Tale will lead readers through twists and turns and keep them guessing until the end…and then wrap everything up so they will not have to agonize over cliffhangers until the next installment.
Sam Thomas is an assistant professor of history at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. He has received research grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Newberry Library, and the British Academy. He has published articles on topics ranging from early modern Britain to colonial Africa. Thomas lives in Alabama with his wife and two children.
Tags: 2014 | review | arc | eBook | adult | fiction | historical | mystery | Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours |
|❤ Thu, Dec. 19, 2013|
When Sarah first moved to Amber House, she soon learned that her family’s ancestral home held life of its own. With the help of Jackson, her friend and a boy who lives on the grounds, she attempted to uncover the mysteries of Amber House as she raced against time to save her little brother Sam. But something Sarah did set off a chain of events that changed the past and she does not realize it until the house begins revealing itself to her again.
Neverwas was just as a amazing as the first book in the trilogy, Amber House. Last year when I read the first book, I mentioned that I was drawn to it before because it was set in Maryland and in the next county over from where I live. Books set around here always excite me! I also talked about how Amber House creeped me out at times, but Neverwas did not creep me out as much. For one thing, the Good Mother spider was not around as much, though there was a scene towards the end with the poisonous spiders that gave me goosebumps.
Let me back up a bit. I was really confused when I began reading Neverwas. I read Amber House last year and I remembered everything working out for the better, so I was stunned when Sarah’s world seemed more like the 1950s than the present day. Even more stunned when I read that she lived in the American Confederation of States. Yup. Whatever Sarah inadvertently did when readers last saw her changed the course of history. The American Revolution failed. Slavery lasted a lot longer. Separate but equal was still in place. The majority of European Jews were eliminated. And the Nazis were still around. Nazis. Pretty crazy, but very imaginative of what our would could be like today if things had happened differently centuries ago.
As the story unfolded, Sarah remembered things that she had done before, but had no recollection of, if that makes any sense. Believe me, there will be a few passages you will have to read a couple of times because messing with time can boggle your mind.
For any of you wondering, Amber House is still very much a real character in Neverwas. The actual house is my favorite character from both books. This story that the authors dreamed up is just fascinating!
I just love what Kelly Moore, Tucker Reed, and Larkin Reed have done with the story and I cannot wait to find out what happens in the conclusion, Otherwhen.
Recommended for readers fourteen and older who enjoy paranormal mysteries with a twist.
In NEVERWAS, Sarah must piece together the mystery of her forgotten past with the help of clues left behind by her great-grandmother, Fiona Warren. For readers interested in the chance to win a signed first-edition hardback of NEVERWAS — with an exclusive hint for what’s in store for Sarah in the final book, OTHERWHEN, hidden inside — visit each blog on the tour for the month of December, collect the various lines from the poem, arrange them in the proper order, and submit the final sonnet by New Year’s Day for a chance to win the special copy of NEVERWAS!
Previous blogs on the tour (where other puzzle pieces are):
Please check out Books and Cupcakes tomorrow for the next puzzle piece!
KELLY MOORE is a New York Times best-selling author, former litigator, and single mother of three. Her latest project, the young adult fiction series THE AMBER HOUSE TRILOGY, co-written with her two daughters and based loosely upon her own family history, examines fourteen generations of Maryland women and their ties to the past, present, and future. The first book in the series was nominated for the 2014 Dolly Gray Children’s Literature Award for its realistic portrayal of characters with autism; Moore is outspoken about her inclusion in the autism spectrum, and is dedicated to autism awareness.
TUCKER REED is an award-winning fiction and nonfiction writer. She has been recognized on the national level for her short stories, essays and poetry. She is also a notable political blogger and has appeared on CNN, CBS, ABC and HuffPost Live, as well as featured in articles published by TIME magazine, Marie Claire magazine, Ms. magazine, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, and The Guardian, among numerous others.
LARKIN REED is a professional photographer, currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in filmmaking. In 2013, Reed established her own multimedia production company, and has subsequently produced and directed several short films.
Tags: 2013 | review | ARC | eBook | paranormal | mystery | fiction | YA | 2013 150 Reading Challenge | 2013 eBook Challenge | 2013 Young Adult Reading Challenge |
|❤ Wed, Nov. 27, 2013|
It is London 1609 and Elspet Leviston has just received the shock of her life: she has a long lost cousin names Zachary Deane and her father, Nathaniel, intends to groom him for his booming lace business; the business into which Elspet has given all her work and devotion. She immediately dislikes and distrusts Zachary and her father pushes her aside as he treats Zachary like the son he never had. But Zachary has no interest in the lace business. He is a sword fighter and his only wish is to hone his skills with the greatest master he can find while living comfortably off his Uncle Leviston’s wealth. Nathaniel sends Zachary on a Grand Tour of Europe but while he is gone, Nathaniel falls ill and dies. Heartbroken and angry at her father’s death and his will which divides her inheritance, giving Zachary Deane a share, Elspet travels to Spain to contend with her so-called cousin. But Spain is in a state of unrest and while there, both Elspet and Zachary push themselves to their limits and learn to appreciate life even more.
When Elspet’s life was disrupted by Zachary’s arrival, I felt so badly for her. Unusual as it was for a woman, she helped her father with the lace business, going over numbers and choosing different types of lace. She was a big part of the company. And she was content. Nothing can be worse than being content and having it taken away. Zachary was rude to her in the beginning and self-satisfied that he was favored by Nathaniel Leviston even though it bored him hearing all the minutia about the lace business. He only had to pretend interest to satisfy his uncle as he wheedled his way into the Leviston family in hopes of receiving a cushy life with no work involved.
Plus, Zachary Deane had a ton of secrets and as they were revealed, I felt even worse for Elspet. He stole her father from her, then her father died, then he had a hand in the lace business, which he did not want to keep at all. Everything was falling apart around her.
For me, the first two-thirds of the book dragged. As a reader, I needed the background provided by Deborah Swift on her characters, but I felt like it could have been done in fewer pages. Once Elspet was in Spain looking for Zachary, the action picked up a lot. But I also wonder if this was a writing device, to show the contrast between England and Spain at the time: rainy, cold, dreary, slow England and hot, sunny, exciting, fast Spain. In Spain, Elspet tried to find Zachary and reason with him but in the process she learned more about herself and became a bit more relaxed as she adjusted to the pace of Spain. That last third of the book was super exciting.
Recommended for readers of historical fiction who enjoy a lot of introduction and description of the characters, their lives, and the scene.This book is for you if you like a slow pace, lots of detail, and 17th century England and Spain.
Deborah Swift is a historical fiction writer with a background in set and costume design in the theater and with the BBC. She has a MA in Creative Writing and is active in the Historical Writers Association, the Historical Novel Society, and the Romantic Novelists Association. Her other novels include The Lady’s Slipper and The Gilded Lily. She lives in Lancashire, England.
Tags: 2013 | review | review copy | adult | fiction | historical | 2013 150 Reading Challenge | 2013 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge | Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours |
|❤ Wed, Nov. 13, 2013|
Hildegard von Bingen narrates her own life story in Illuminations, from the age of five to her final years. She began to have holy visions at the tender age of five but quickly learned to hide them when she learned of her mother’s disapproval and fear. She recounts her time in the anchorage of Disibodenberg with the countess of Sponheim’s daughter, Jutta, and the difficult years she spent there. Her visions kept coming, though, and gave her the strength to continue and become a leader for the younger anchorites who joined her and Jutta.
Mary Sharratt began this fictional account of Hildegard von Bingen’s life at the age of five when she still lived under her mother’s care and that of her nurse, Walburga. She told her nurse of her visions, but when her mother found out, she worried that the visions came from the devil rather than a holy source. Three years later, Hildegard’s mother sent her to the monastery at Disibodenberg to become a handmaiden to Jutta of Sponheim, who wished to become an anchorite for the rest of her life. Hildegard was forced against her will to accompany the young woman and resented her mother for her new hardships. Historical accounts vary on when Hildegard actually entered the anchorage; some say at eight years old while others say at twelve, but Sharratt no doubt chose the age of eight to increase the drama and the shock value to us modern readers.
I probably should read up on my medieval history, especially since I concentrated on it in college. I remember learning about Hildegard and her contempories, but of course, there was a lot of history to cover and no time to go in depth on each historical figure. But Hildegard was truly a remarkable woman and Marry Sharratt’s novel reminded me of that. She had holy visions and kept them secret for a long time, but eventually revealed them and started writing about her visions. She became so famous, even the pope knew of her.
What really stuck with me about Illuminations was Hildegard’s time in the anchorage and how real Sharratt made that feel to me. I could feel the bleakness of the tiny, cramped space that walled in Hildegard, as well as her despair and strength. I felt that Sharratt wrote this book with a definite feminist view in mind. Medieval women certainly were not meant to be heard or to write important works, but Hildegard defied these conventions within her faith. I found it very interesting that she hardly seemed like a holy woman as well. She was a reluctant oblate and instead of always feeling charity and goodwill (or pretending it), she felt anger and hate and despair, even love, and she did not seem like a person who would be a nun. I got the sense that because she was forced into that life and was so old by medieval standards when she was free, that she stuck with what she knew even though it was not what she had chosen; it had been chosen for her by her earthly and divine mothers.
Mary Sharratt’s Illuminations was a truly inspiring novel about Hildegard and I want to re-educate myself about this remarkable woman who stayed true to herself and made history while doing it.
Recommended for fans of medieval history and reading about notable women through fiction. If you enjoy authors Janet Tanner and Nicola Thorne, you may wish to try Mary Sharratt.
Mary Sharratt has authored four historical novels, including Daughters of the Witching Hill, The Vanishing Point, and Summit Avenue. She is an American author who spent twelve years in Germany, which partly inspired her to write Illuminations, and she now lives with her Belgian husband in Lancashire, England.
Tags: 2013 | review | review copy | adult | fiction | historical | 2013 150 Reading Challenge | 2013 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge | Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours |