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review 2017-07-20 13:58
Martyr by Rory Clements
Martyr - Rory Clements

First of all, let's just take a moment to appreciate that I finally finished a monthly read for More Historical Than Fiction. Yay, me! I know, I know. That's not really applause worthy, but I'm taking my successes where I can get them.  ;-)

 

This book was a quick, enjoyable read for me. As a fast-paced mystery with a likable protagonist and a skilled creation of the Tudor world, it captivated and held my attention. I liked the fact that even though Queen Elizabeth never appears in a scene, the reader is given a strong impression of her character and heavy hand on events.

 

"Those who caught her eye lived a life between heaven and hell depending on her moods, which were as changeable as the weather: one moment sunshine and balm, the next thunder and rage."

 

Digging a little bit deeper, this book has a few flaws. John Shakespeare makes a great first impression, but I began to wonder what it was that he really believed and stood for as the book carried on. He is willing to risk his life to do his job, but why? The religious battle that grips the country seems to matter little to him, and he has no problem arresting one Catholic and sleeping with another.

 

Yet it wasn't until the odd Mother Davis bit that I took this book out of 5-star contention. I'm not even sure what to say about that strange episode.

 

The conclusion of the book felt a bit rushed after all the suspense of getting there, but the appearance of Will Shakespeare was a fun way to wrap things up. This is a series that will go on my TBR.

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text 2017-07-14 15:05
First Blast of the Trumpet by Marie Macpherson
The First Blast of the Trumpet (The Knox Trilogy) - Marie Macpherson

I was eager to read this book, the Reformation one of my favorite eras of history and having written about Mary I of England myself. This novel promised to offer another point of view by featuring reformer, John Knox. For those who enjoy Scottish historical fiction set in the 16th century, this is a must-read.

 

The first thing that struck me, and I imagine most readers, is the heavy use of Scottish vernacular. For the most part, it is easy enough to determine what is intended and it adds to the authenticity of the story. However, some readers may find it frustrating. The next thing that I noticed was that it took a long time for Knox to enter the story. While this is the first in a trilogy exploring his life, much of this installment sets the stage for what is to come.

 

Elisabeth Hepburn is truly the protagonist of this tale, and she is a spunky one. A girl with romantic dreams of marrying for love, her future holds a rather different role for her. Women did not have many choices in those days, but Elisabeth makes the most of the situations that she is forced into without becoming anachronistic. It is through her that the reader is (finally) introduced to Knox.

 

Macpherson infuses this story with all of the drama, politics, religious unrest, and tragedy of the 16th century, and I look forward to continuing with the series.

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review 2017-07-13 21:43
A Different Journey: Mary Tudor by Lassie Gaffney
A Different Journey - Mary Tudor - Lassie Gaffney

The premise of this book drew me in. Anyone who knows me knows that I would love to have seen a happier ending for Mary Tudor (Henry VIII's daughter, not his sister). In this novel, the author attempts to rewrite history with Mary becoming a young wife and mother but never queen. And that is when the problems started.

 

The idea that Catherine of Aragon and her daughter would each decide to forgo Mary's birthright in order to keep Henry content starts this story off on the wrong foot for me. After all, in reality, the were both willing to sacrifice almost anything to ensure that Mary's (and Catherine's) position was recognized. This is just the first of many implausible changes in historical events and people that occurs. I understand that this is an alternate history. That's why I picked it up, but to be enjoyable it still needs to make sense based on what we know of the real people and events.

 

I could have accepted the historical changes if the novel was at least entertaining, but it is written almost entirely in stilted dialogue. It is tricky to write dialogue that comes across as realistic but without the ordinary level of repetition. The dialogue in this book not only doesn't sound like what people would actually say ('That's a shame' when a close family member dies, for example), but the reader is forced to endure things being repeated for the benefit of different characters.

 

The whole thing just reads like a first draft. There's potential here. I LOVE the idea of Mary being married to Reginald Pole, whether she became queen or not, but this needs more editing and polishing to make it a great story.

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text 2017-06-21 14:40
Who Was Margarett Keymes?

Was she an unknown daughter of Cecily of York? Did Katherine Gordon mean to show her everlasting belief in her first husband when she mentioned her in her will? I'm not sure. What do you think?

 

A look at a little historical mystery on my blog today.

Source: samanthawilcoxson.blogspot.com/2017/06/who-was-margarett-keymes.html
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review 2017-06-21 14:37
The King's Hounds by Martin Jensen
The King's Hounds (The King's Hounds series) - Martin Jensen
This was a fun, easy to listen to audiobook mystery. Some annoying anachronistic words were sprinkled throughout, but I assumed that was due to it being a translation and was forgiving regarding them.

The mystery, which our lovable protagonists have no good reason to be in charge of solving, involves the murder of a nobleman just as Cnut is gathering them to confirm his kingship. How inconvenient. The unlikely pair find their way into plenty of trouble, prove their womanizing skills, and even solve the murder. It is all a bit meandering but in good fun. This isn't a edge of your seat suspense novel, but an enjoyable diversion.

The skilled narrator bumped up the rating on this for me. Considering it is free through Kindle Unlimited, this is a worthwhile selection.
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