by C. J. Sansom
Book 7 of the Matthew Shardlake Tudor Mystery series.
Set in the rebellions of 1549 during the reign of Edward VI, two years after the death of Henry VIII. The nominal king is eleven years old and his uncle, Edward Seymour, Lord Hertford, rules as Edward's regent and Protector. Catholics and Protestants are at odds and the Lady Elizabeth has a personal interest in a murder of the wife of one of her distant relatives that she sends Matthew Shardlake, a lawyer in her service, to investigate.
Medieval intrigue and mystery mostly keep attention through over 800 pages that cover among other things, Kett's Rebellion in the Tombland area of historic Norwich. These are real places and the history has been well researched. I did, however, think it was overly long. The books in this series contain a lot of detail of every move and I think it was asking a bit much to carry on with so much scrutiny for so long.
On one hand it's a good Historical Fiction, but it's also a murder mystery. I'll admit I'm not a big fan of murder mysteries in general and making me wait so long to find out who did it was torment! It is well done in the end though.
Those who do enjoy murder mysteries will have a great time trying to sift through the plentiful suspects and possible motives, both political and personal. The author leads us through a merry chase through all the possibilities. I did think that the final reveal was a little forced and not quite realistic, but by then I was just glad to have answers.
(Prior reports linked at the end.)
I really tried. I kept telling myself there would be a story, a romance, that I could read and review. Somehow I would be able to set aside the problems and read the book. But it's not going to happen.
Piper and her mother are set upon by thieves/kidnappers, but they are rescued by our caped hero, who turns out to be the Barrett Maddox, 6th Duke of Manchester. What he's doing in Boston we don't know yet.
He rescues Piper, almost kisses her, then discovers she is with her mother. He suggests/invites them to join him sailing to New York.
Here's where things about the writing just got really, really bad.
First, we don't know what an English Duke is doing in Boston. Dukes have responsibilities that they can't just up and leave for extended periods of time.
Second, we learn that Piper's mother used to be "Lady Carolyn Vesser," but not how that title applied to her. Is she an earl's daughter? Why would she have left England and married an American in the 1830s?
Third, the original implication is that the duke is sailing on the same ship, the Maria, as Piper and her mother. When Piper asks him where he is taking them,
“To the Maria.” He paused as his eyes drank her in again. “Although it’s an awful ship. I am travelling to New York as well, and you could both travel with me. You would, most assuredly, be safer.”
Andresen, Tammy. Taming A Duke's Reckless Heart: Taming the Duke's Heart (Taming the Heart Book 1) (p. 9). Kindle Edition.
A few pages later, however, we learn that he has led them -- distance not described -- to his own "boat."
“Lady Vesser, why don’t I send a note to the Maria that you will be travelling with us tonight? My boat is right here and I am sure you will be more comfortable.”
Andresen, Tammy. Taming A Duke's Reckless Heart: Taming the Duke's Heart (Taming the Heart Book 1) (p. 10). Kindle Edition.
Fourth, there are a couple references to Piper's cleavage. She tries to cover it and Maddox's eyes travel to it. I'm just not comfortable thinking that a well-bred young woman traveling from Boston to New York in 1854 would be wearing something that bares her bosom. Even though it's May, the weather in the evening might be cool, and it almost certainly will be once they're at sea, so shouldn't she have some kind of cloak or cape or other covering?
Fifth, there is the matter of their luggage. These two women are essentially moving to New York, so they have trunks. TRUNKS. Only one apiece? Or more? Oh, who knows? The author isn't specific, and she just has the driver of the carriage pick up both trunks and carry them to the bottom of the gangplank to Maddox's "boat."
Sixth, we get this nonsense about peerage titles, something that drives me up the ever-loving wall.
Piper and her mother are going to New York to visit (or live with?) Piper's cousin Sybil, who has already been referred to as "Lady Fairfield."
But now, in the company of the duke, Mrs. Baker says:
". . . Piper, I was girlhood friends with Mr. Maddox’s mother, Lady Priscilla Fairfield Maddox. Now the Duchess, of course."
Andresen, Tammy. Taming A Duke's Reckless Heart: Taming the Duke's Heart (Taming the Heart Book 1) (pp. 11-12). Kindle Edition.
I thought I had misread something, but later on that same page, Piper replies to a question about having family in England:
“Yes, of course,” she replied. “Actually my cousin, Lady Sybil Fairfield, Viscountess of Abberforth, is waiting for us in New York.”
Andresen, Tammy. Taming A Duke's Reckless Heart: Taming the Duke's Heart (Taming the Heart Book 1) (p. 12). Kindle Edition.
The same family name???? And a viscount is never "of" something. Viscount Abberforth would be the correct form.
Okay, that's bad enough. But how is Sybil a viscountess? She's already been described as being in desperate need of a husband, so we know she's not married to the viscount. If she's the daughter of the viscount Abberforth, we know he's dead because that's already been established, too.
Her cousin, Sybil, also needed to marry but had yet to choose a suitor. A sigh escaped her lips to think of her cousin. Beautiful and titled, she supposed most women would be jealous of Sybil, but Piper knew the truth. After the death of her parents, Sybil felt weighed down with responsibility. She was having difficulty running the estate.
Andresen, Tammy. Taming A Duke's Reckless Heart: Taming the Duke's Heart (Taming the Heart Book 1) (p. 2). Kindle Edition.
If her father the viscount died without a male heir, the title would have gone to another male such as a nephew. In the absence of a direct male heir, the title would have gone in abeyance or reverted to the crown. The idea of Sybil, a young woman in America, being given a title in her own right is utterly implausible.
And what is this business of running an estate? In New York? Rural New York, perhaps, but the implication is New York City, since Piper is counting on Sybil's ability to introduce her to New York society.
Furthermore, while Mrs. Baker may have given up her own title when she married an American, she would not not NOT have referred to His Grace the Duke of Manchester as "Mr. Maddox." Never, never, never. If there is an explanation for this, it needs to come at the spot the event happens, not more pages into the book.
Once again, the point is to make the pages disappear so the reader is lost in the story, not wondering why there are all these unexplained anomalies.
Eighth -- the overall effect.
The pacing is completely off. The opening scene does nothing to set the plot in motion; all it really does is raise questions. When Piper and her mother go to the docks to board their ship, there's still not enough explanation. And there's no description at all! I don't know what Piper looks like. I don't know what kind of night it is. Warm? Breezy? How does the air smell in the harbor area? We get some of Piper's reactions to being touched by the duke, but it's kind of silly description. Her heart is pounding. Something happens to her nerves. It's beyond clichéd.
This is one of those books that might have a decent romance plot buried in the garbage, but it desperately needs competent editing. It needs to be fleshed out with good description, reasonable background development, and for the love of Queen Victoria, some historical research!
DNF, because I refuse to waste any more time on this piece of crap.
“I am a woman of faith who is trusting in the Lord to give her courage.”
“Woman of Courage” has been on my reading list for a few years now, and I am glad that I was able to read this collector’s edition, which includes the sequel novella “Woman of Hope.” Expecting “Woman of Courage” to be a travel novel and an Oregon Trail-like experience, I was surprised to discover that it fell more into the genre of wilderness survival and mountain living. Traveling was still a part of the tale, but most of the narrative was focused on the characters’ experiences and interactions with each other rather than on the trek itself. Fraught with omnipresent danger, this story did not have any lulls or tedious sections and proved to be a quick read, even taking into consideration the appended novella. The situations seemed realistic and not contrived, and there were several twists that I did not expect, which I always appreciate. Amanda, the eponymous heroine, was a sweet character, and I would have liked to have more of her background; other than being unerringly Christian and using quaint language (“thee” and “thou”), there were no other indications that she was a Quaker. It would have been worthwhile to add more information about this particular religious group to the story, in my opinion. However, I did appreciate the author’s use of Native American and mixed-race characters.
Despite very much enjoying this story, there were a few points with which I had issues, and I wavered between a four and a five-star rating. Some of the language and slang used in the narrative was not period-appropriate, and several of the characters were stereotypical, including Amanda. She was too perfect and therefore did not seem to grow or change throughout the course of the story, whereas Jim Breck’s attitudes and place in the story shifted too quickly. Yellow Bird and Buck McFadden were my favorite characters, as they were the most dynamic and realistic, given their pasts and what became of them. Because Amanda was a missionary, the Christian underpinning of the novel did come across as preachy, but not overbearingly so. Amanda’s story dovetailed well into that of Little Fawn’s in “Woman of Hope”, and this novella is what ultimately bumped up my rating. Little Fawn’s story was not as idealistic and yet it was still hopeful and inspiring. Amanda’s character was also more realistic, and all of the characters’ actions were credible. The story was well written for its short length, as well, and it did not seem like it was too abrupt. Being able to see how circumstances changed for the characters from “Woman of Courage” in the approximately seventeen-year time gap and being introduced to the next generation of characters was a fitting way to end the saga.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.
This romance has a few different twists. I voluntarily chose to review it and I've given it a 4.5* rating.This was clean but with some violence at the end. You might want to have some tissue's ready for a few parts of this. Lots of different tidbits that were interesting, in this also.