Book Review: Scarborough Fair by Margareta Morris (@MargaritaMorris) #RBRT #YA fiction #Historical fiction #time shift mystery

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 I love time shift fiction (thank you, Diana Gabaldon) and am quite content to read a book classified as YA – there is a basic simplicity to these books that appeals to me.  I think Scarborough Fair will appeal to adults, too. This is a smashing historical mystery, alternating with a modern day detective story with young sleuths.

In 1899, Alice comes with her personal maid Mary to the seaside tourist town of Scarborough to find freedom and relaxation. She is escaping for short time from her older, demanding and overbearing fiancé, Henry Blackwood, who has been forced on her by her family because of he is an aristocrat. Alice does not love him and does not want to marry him, but she has a large inheritance that Henry wants and needs. While in Scarborough, Alice meets a young painter and they fall in love. Henry will do anything to own Alice, including sending a man to follow her and report back to him. The prologue of the book recounts the hospitalization of Alice by Henry in a horror of an insane asylum, to keep her isolated until she is old enough for them to marry.

In 2016, Rose comes to Scarborough to spend the summer with her mother and grandmother. She is not happy to be there, since all of her friends are spending their summers in exotic locations and her boyfriend has apparently dropped her. Then she meets Dan, who comes to apologize to her when his father, driving his red Ferrari too fast, nearly runs her over. She and Dan hit if off right away and make a date to go to the Scarborough Fair together. Dan’s father is mixed up with a drug dealer to make money to keep his failing arcade business going, and Dan comes face to face with two menacing men looking for his father. Dan is determined to find out who they are and drags Rose along as he follows them.

The author does a fantastic job linking these two stories, with lots of tension and well-drawn, interesting characters. Even the two thugs looking for Dan’s father are carefully and distinctively limned. There is enough description for the reader to feel at home in Scarborough in both eras, and the relationship between Rose and her grandmother tugs at the heart. The huge building, once a manor house that was an insane asylum, looms menacingly as a character in itself in both story lines.

The only real drawback I noted was the jumping back and forth between eras in the same chapter, without warning; I would have preferred these two story lines to be separate chapters. And Dan’s apparently willingness to drag Rose into danger with him, leaving her behind when they are being chased, seemed a little forced, especially since he didn’t know her all that well.

Those considerations aside, this book is a page-turner and I read it straight through. I highly recommend it and have a few YAs in my family who will get a copy. There is a sequel to this book in the works, and I plan to grab it.

About the author

Margarita Morris was born in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, in 1968. She studied Modern Languages at Jesus College, Oxford and worked in computing for eleven years before leaving to work with her husband on their internet business. Ms. Morris particularly likes writing novels set in historically interesting places, and she has published three other novels, Scarborough Ball and The Sleeping Angel, both time slip stories, and Oranges for Christmas, set in Berlin in 1961. When she is not writing, she enjoys singing in an Oxford chamber choir and gardening. She lives in Oxfordshire with her husband and two sons.

She can be found

On Twitter:  @MargaritaMorris

And on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/margaritamorrisauthor/?hc_ref=SEARCH&fref=nf

Book Review: La Petite Boulain by Gemma Lawrence @ TudorTweep for #RBRT #historical fiction

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La Petit BoulainLa Petite Boulain is the first of a series of novels that will follow the life of Anne Boleyn (this is Above all Others; The Lady Anne Book 1) by Gemma Lawrence, author of The Bastard Princess and The Heretic Heir, both about the daughter of Henry VIII who would become Queen Elizabeth.

Anne Boleyn has been the subject of many books, either about her or about the Tudors. I counted 45 on Goodreads alone, by some impressive historical fiction authors such as Antonia Frasier, Philippa Gregory, Jean Plaidy, and Nora Lofts, to name a few. Many of them I have read because I am in love with the Tudor story, so I looked forward to this book.

In La Petite Boulain, the early years of Anne’s life are explored in depth, beginning with her happy childhood at Hever Castle in Kent with her sister Margaret and her parents, who were courtiers to both Henry VII and Henry the VIII.  While still very young, Anne sees Henry VIII and is infatuated with him, even from a distance. Women in those times were always used as pawns by their parents to enable the family to rise in the ranks. Anne is no exception and at the age of twelve is sent to is sent to the Court of Burgundy to be tutored in court ways and manners by Margaret of Austria. An intelligent girl, Anne not only learns the various arts and language necessary for a courtier, but becomes an astute observer of court life and politics. As a polished young woman, she is sent to the court of France to be a lady-in-waiting to the Princess Mary Tudor, Henry’s sister, who was to wed the aged Louis XII, king of France. Eventually, she is recalled to England by her father, following the death of the Duke of Buckingham. The reader is reminded of her fate, as the story is bookended by her thoughts and observances during her time in the Tower of London, awaiting her possible execution.

What I liked about this book: The author did an exception and detailed job with the historical detail, from the food to the clothing. I loved being immersed in the minutiae of life in that age. The politics of the royal courts, which defines everyone’s life and fate, are laid out crisply and understandably. Religion becomes a part of this, as Martin Luther teachings took root in the Christianity of the commoners. The reader becomes drawn into Anne’s life and sees through her observations and thoughts the fate and treatment of women during that time.  It also becomes clear why Henry would become so infatuated with her, as she learns well the lesson of enticing men with beauty, talent and intelligence, but never succumbing to their entreaties and wants. This prompts the question of whether Anne was really in love with Henry, or simply playing the political role of desirable courtier to advance her family. The next book may provide an answer!

What I did not like: The book is very heavy in exposition, mainly very lengthy descriptions of Anne’s thoughts. The dialogue that interspersed these long passages was well-imagined and a relief. Also, Anne’s constant wonderment and delight in the beauty and magnificence of the royal courts and nobility was somewhat overwhelming and at times slightly tedious.  I deliberately read The Heretic Heir right after completing this book, to see if this were the author’s writing style. It is, but The Heretic Heir, in my admittedly limited opinion, is better.

All in all, I do recommend La Petite Boulain. I came away with a clearer picture of Anne herself and the time in which she lived. She became a real person, and even those who are not rabid fans of the Tudors will love the historical detail and reach an understanding of this complicated woman.  I look forward to the next book in the series.

About the author

Gemma LawrenceGemma Lawrence is an independently published author living in Cornwall in the UK. She describes her writing thus: “I write mainly Historical Fiction, with an emphasis on the Tudor and Medieval periods and have a particular passion for women of history who inspire me,” but she has not limited herself to one genre.

Her first book in the Elizabeth of England Chronicles series is The Bastard Princess (The Elizabeth of England Chronicles Book 1), the second is The Heretic Heir (which I read and loved).

 Gemma can be found on Wattpad (https://www.wattpad.com/user/GemmaLawrence31)

and on Twitter @TudorTweep.

La Petite Boulain can be found on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Petite-Boulain-Above-Others-Lady-ebook

 

Book Review: Jasper – Book Two of the Tudor Trilogy #BookReview of JASPER by @tonyriches #Tudors #HistFic #TuesdayBookBlog

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JasperThe Tudor Trilogy follows the emergence of the Tudor dynasty from its beginning with Owen Tudor, the subject of the first book, through Jasper, his son, the subject of the second.

I reviewed the first book and welcomed the chance to follow the story. This time period is a particularly difficult one, dealing with the War of the Roses, symbolized by the heraldic badges of the two battling houses of the Plantagenet line: the House of Lancaster (red rose) and that of York (white rose). Each claimed the right to the throne of England. During the thirty-two years of this prolonged war (1455-1487), there were sporadic battles with enormous loss of life, and – as the book so clearly illustrates – various men popping on and off the throne.

Given this long and convoluted history, the author, Tony Riches, does a yeoman’s job of taking us carefully through the years of involvement of Jasper Tudor in preserving and saving the Lancaster (Tudor) line, established by the marriage of his father Owen ap Maredudd ap Tudor of Wales to Katherine of Valois. Katherine was the widow of the warring Henry V and mother of Henry’s son Henry VI.

As in the book, the real Jasper fought in battles, sieges and skirmishes and faced challenges from many sides, including friends who became enemies and enemies who became friends. In the War of the Roses, people flipped sides to improve their lot or just to save themselves, a never-ending game of chess.

Jasper’s path to putting a Tudor on the throne was determined by his brother’s son Henry, who together with his mother, Margaret, was given to him for safekeeping. The brother, Edmund, died of plague in 1456. His father, Owen, whose story is the first book, dies at the beginning of the second, in 1461, as a member of Jasper’s army in the battle of Mortimer’s Cross. He is captured and beheaded by Edward of York, and in the book, his death drives Jasper through the next decades and is the basis of his decisions of life and death for his enemies.

Jasper’s life is written as a series of unexpected and seemingly impossible escapes from death as he is pursued by York forces from Wales to Ireland to France and back.  Along the way, the reader meets any number of fascinating characters, some real and some created: Gabriel, an Irish warrior and horse whisperer, who serves as a connection between Jasper and home and as the author relates, is the probably combination of a number of servants and friends; Lady Margaret, who gave birth to Henry at age 12 and who becomes the consummate politician, guaranteeing her survival and that of her son through deliberate subsequent marriages: Henry VI, a deeply religious man who experiences a mental breakdown during the protracted war, and spends time on both the throne and in the Tower of London as a prisoner; Máiréad, a young Irish woman with whom Jasper falls in love and takes with him on his wanderings but doesn’t marry;  and Francis, Duke of Burgundy, a wily player in the French political scene.

Jasper Tudor was the greatest survivor of the Wars of the Roses, a man whose perseverance changed the course of English history. The author’s attention to the details of the often brutal world of the fifteenth century is exceptional and provides a rich background to a fast-paced story of courage and adventure and love and strength of family.

For aficionados of historical fiction with a strong basis in fact, this is a book you will love.

4.5 stars out of 5

About the author

Tony RichesTony Riches was born in Pembrokeshire, West Wales, and spent part of his childhood in Kenya. He gained a BA degree in Psychology and an MBA from Cardiff University and worked as a Management Consultant, followed by senior roles in the Welsh NHS and Local Government.

After writing several successful non-fiction books, Tony decided to turn to novel writing. His real interest is in the history of the fifteenth century, and now his focus is on writing historical fiction about the lives of key figures of the period. His novels Warwick, The Man Behind the Wars of the Roses and The Secret Diary of Eleanor Cobham have both become Amazon best sellers.

Today Tony has returned to Pembrokeshire, an area full of inspiration for his writing, where he lives with his wife. In his spare time he enjoys sailing and sea kayaking.

Visit Tony online at http://www.tonyriches.co.uk, Tony Riches Author on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @tonyriches.