Monday, December 31, 2012

Shadow on the Crown (Patricia Bracewell)

In Shadow on the Crown,  Patricia Bracewell has written an engaging story about Queen Emma and her journey from Normandy to England, embellished with forbidden love, crushing sense of duty, and ultimately hope. 
King Aethelred (the Unready) of England’s uncrowned wife has died in childbirth, and admidst unrest on his council and Viking raiders on England’s shores, he is forced into an alliance with Normandy.  Emma is to be the peaceweaver whose influence spans the Narrow Sea.  To Emma’s disappointment, her husband is a misogynist brute who resents and mistrusts his young Norman bride,  and many do not agree with his choice of a wife, including the Lady Elgiva who wanted the throne for herself.  The only light in Emma’s new life is Aethelred’s brood of young children, and surprisingly his eldest son Athelstan, though any child of her body would be rival for the eldest aetheling’s status as heir. 
Emma is the victim of an uncaring husband, a hostile witan, and even the Vikings themselves, but she never displays a victim mentality, or self-pity.  Emma is the annointed Queen of England, and she does everything she can, even at her own personal cost, to do the best thing for England and it’s people.
This book was very well-written, the plot moved quickly and easily and the author did a great job of keeping all the characters straight.  I would have liked to see a little more development in the early stages of the above-mentioned “forbidden love.”  But once it was established is was a lovely and heartbreaking relationship.
Shadow on the Crown is the first in a series of books and I eagerly await the second installment.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

God Save the King (Laura Purcell)

I stumbled across this book by accident when a friend added it on Goodreads.  Where was the publicity for this book?  It certainly deserved some!

This was a completely engrossing novel.  Told from the points of view of Queen Charlotte, her daughters Princess Charlotte (called Royal in the book) and Princess Sophia, it painted a vivd portrait of this Hanoverian family beset by so much tragedy.  Queen Charlotte is the beloved wife of King George, who is slowly slipping into madness.  Their five daughters, once happy and joyous, now needed at home to help in the struggle to keep their father sane.  As the family ages, the King slips further and further from them, and Queen Charlotte keeps her daughters closer and closer as she slides into her own bitterness.  As the Princesses age, they long for escape from the misery of their father's illness and their mother's resentment, yet every offer of marriage is refused as the Queen's selfishness will not allow them to escape.  Eventually Royal does marry, and finds both happiness and tragedy in her own family.  Meanwhile, the other girls long for their own lives to begin, leading to scandalous rumors, some true and some untrue and even a premature death. I began the story feeling much sympathy for Queen Charlotte, but eventually her bitterness pushed her family ( and this reader) away from her.  The- almost middle-aged when she married -Royal was the most sympathetic figure in my opinion, though they were all interesting characters.  Very well-researched and beautifully written.  This is the story of King George's women and all they sacrificed to heal the man they loved.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

My Top 3 of 2012

I have read a lot of engrossing, fascinating, entertaining, wonderful books this year.  It was pretty difficult to pick only three for my Top 3 reads.  These books are not in any particular order, as they are all so different and incomparable.  These are the three books that I enjoyed the most this year, that I am likely to one day re-read.  I will post an excerpt of my reviews here, but for the full reviews, you'll have to go to the corresponding post.

Her Highness, the Traitor by

Along with historical accuracy, a swift-moving plot and little family details that any mother would remember and treasure, such as Lady Dudley’s talking parrot and Lady Grey’s dismay at her daughter’s surprising lack of common sense, the novel includes characterizations at which this author excels. She takes the infamous villains of history and presents them as relatable human characters. This book at times made me smile and then cry with the tragedy. I very much recommend it.  I reviewed this for the wonderful Historical Novel Society.

The King's Concubine: A Novel

 This novel asks the question, "Was she a gold-digging, unprincipled harlot, or was she simply doing what was best for the King, and England, and taking what she could along the way?" 
You must admit, she never left the King by choice.  Was that because she couldn't get anything if she wasn't there with him?  Or was it because she truly cared for the King?  Not only that, but what forces were pushing her to behave the way she did? 
This book answers those questions with much insight and poingnancy.   I reviewed this for this blog, received the copy from NetGalley.

The Ruins of Lace by Iris

When I first began this book, I thought to be reading a simple, possibly frilly book about the back-alley lace trade in late 1600's France and Flanders. Imagine my surprise when the story is told from the alternating, first-person points of view of seven different players, one of whom is so improbable, I just did not know how it could possibly flow.
But flow it did!  I reviewed this for this blog, received the copy from NetGalley.

Those are my top three!  What are yours?