[Review] The Secret of The Grand Hôtel du Lac by Kathryn Gauci

Publisher and Publication Date: Ebony publishing. 2020.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 274.
Format: Kindle e-book.
Source: Gift.
Audience: Historical fiction readers who enjoy World War II stories.
Rating: Excellent.

The story is inspired by true events in France during World War II.

Kathryn Gauci’s Author Page @Goodreads.
Kathryn Gauci’s Website/ Blog/ Facebook/ Twitter

Summary:

1943. World War II.

Guy Maxwell is an SOE on a mission in France when he is shot in the left leg. He also has other serious injuries. The Germans had intercepted his rendezvous with another agent. Guy Maxwell is thought to be in hiding.

SOE officers Vera Atkins and Colonel Maurice Buckmaster ask Elizabeth to return to France and find Guy. Atkins prepares Elizabeth with accurate clothing, a special make-up compact, brooch pin, and a pistol. Elizabeth returns to France hoping to find Maxwell and solve the mystery of what happened.

Guy and Elizabeth are married.

The time period of this story is leading up to the D-Day, Normandy, France invasion of June 6, 1944.

My Thoughts:

I love this story! I love it because of the two main characters: Guy and Elizabeth.

Elizabeth is one of the toughest female lead characters I’ve read. She is a no-nonsense, intelligent, savvy, beautiful; and, she is handy during a torture scene using her brooch pin. Elizabeth is very much in love with her husband. This is a second aspect of why I love this story: it is a great love story.

I’ve read a few other reviews. One of them is in regards to the inaccurate history of some of the story. For me, I am not bi-lingual. I do not speak or read French. I am not going to catch-on to inaccuracies about the French language and customs. I believe it is possible the average reader is just like me.

Over-all, I believe the story is entertaining, thrilling, and adventurous. It is a strong tension building story. It is difficult to lay the book down.

The story is based on real events that began in October 1944.

Themes in the story: heroism, fear, good and evil, deception, revenge, sacrifice, honor, romance, suffering, survival, war, trust, hope, self-control, and loyalty.

[Review] Revelations by Mary Sharratt

Publisher and Publication Date: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. April 27, 2021.
Genre: Historical fiction. Women and literature. Medieval history. Travel.
Pages: 320.
Format: Hardcover.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of historical fiction.
Rating: Excellent.

Mary Sharratt’s website/ Facebook/ Twitter/ Goodreads author page

For more information about the book visit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. This link provides an excerpt at the bottom of the page.

To read more information about Margery Kempe:
Medieval Studies Research Blog on Margery Kempe
Historic-UK
British Library– This link shows illustrations of her autobiography.

Summary:

Margery Kempe was born about 1373 and died after 1438 or 1440. We do not know precise dates of her birth and death. She was born and lived in Bishop’s Lynn, Norfolk, England. She married John Kempe. They had 14 children. She began having visions after the birth of her first child. She was about 20. She continued to have visions. Some visions were of Jesus Christ sitting next to her. Some of the visions were frightening creatures. She is considered a mystic. She is not a Catholic saint, but she is remembered in the Anglican Communion. Her autobiography is the first in the English language.

After the birth of her 14th child, she told her husband they should not be sexually intimate anymore. She had a difficult labor with the 14th child. She did not want to risk her life with another pregnancy and labor. To cut herself off from her husband was shocking, unheard of during this era; and it marked her as an uncommon and disobedient wife. She began preaching to women, she traveled extensively without her family; and she visited Julian of Norwich, another female mystic, to seek support and guidance. She was arrested several times. She was tortured. She was considered a heretic. Her autobiography is written with transparency about her life. It is an unusual story for its time. It is a story about a woman living during the middle ages who endured many of the same things other women endured, except Kempe’s visions and pilgrimages set her apart.

My Thoughts:

Revelations is a remarkable story. It is a story that causes me to pause and reflect on what it must have been like to be a woman who didn’t have a choice to say no. No was a forbidden word for females. Females were to be compliant and obedient. If they were not, they were viewed with suspicion.

Several reasons led me to give an excellent rating to Revelations.
1. I love the characterization of Margery Kempe. She is a woman ahead of her times. She loves her children but felt drawn to something more. She illustrates what grief does to people. She has a strong personality but is stifled by culture. Her character develops in her maturity. Through her story, I understand maternal and child health during this era.
2. I have not read another story about Margery Kempe.
3. Descriptive setting of her travel mode, scenery, people, and the places or cities she saw.
4. Other female characters in the story gave different perspectives on women’s lives of this era and how they felt about Margery.
5. The story is chronological or linear. I am so glad to read a story that is not multiple time periods going back and forth.
6. The story shows male and female relationships, especially marriage. I am more sad than angry at the dominance of males over females. Sad for the females of course.
7. The story shows the different roles or responses from her children. People are people and their perspective and behavior is varied, but I saw her children showing different responses to her life.
8. Inner and outward conflicts.
9. Revelations is one of my favorite types of historical fiction: women in history.
10. There is a building of sensory, imagination, fear, anxiety, and tension.

Themes in Revelations: death and dying, bravery, courage, kindness, innocence, shame, suffering, judgement, injustice, conformity, charity, and hope.

(Review) The Last Bookshop in London by Madeline Martin

Publisher and Publication Date: Hanover Square Press. 2021.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 320.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Historical fiction readers who want to read about civilian life in London during World War II.
Rating: Very good.

Link to Amazon

Link to Goodreads

Summary:

August 1939.

Grace and Viv are best friends. They move to London to start a new life. They’d lived in Drayton, Norfolk since they were born. They are young women in their early twenties. Grace’s mother died a year ago. A friend of her mother’s, Mrs. Weatherford, lives in London and provides a place for the girls to live. She helps them secure jobs.
Grace has a job at a bookshop. Viv has a job at Harrod’s.
Not long after arriving in London the war begins. In less than a year, the German planes begin bombing London.

My Thoughts:

I’ve read a few comments from other reviewers asking if this is a suitable book for young adults? Yes. It is appropriate.

Several reasons why I love this story:
1. The story is in linear or chronological order. It doesn’t jump back and forth in time.
2. The story’s focus is on the experiences of one group of people during the London Blitz.
3. The primary character is Grace. She is a person of high character and this is remarked about in the story more often than her physical beauty. She is a person who transforms during the story. Her character shines.
4. The story has inner and outer conflicts, but mainly outer conflicts and how the characters respond.
5. Romance is apart of the story (in a small part), but the emphasis is not on it. Romance in a story can overwhelm the structure of it, making other elements pale.
6. Other characters I love: Mrs. Weatherford, Mr. Evans, Colin Weatherford, and George Anderson.
7. The Last Bookshop In London is an examination of what it was like in London during the Blitz. I have wanted a book to reflect on this history and I’m so glad this story has been written.

Themes in The Last Bookshop In London: heroism, war, perseverance, compassion, death, courage, bravery, kindness, suffering, survival, charity, grief, dreams, and romance.

(Review) A Matter of Conscience: Henry VIII: The Aragon Years, Book One of The Henrician Chronicle by Judith Arnopp

Publisher and Publication Date: Feed a Read-independent published. February 2021.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 335.
Format: e-book.
Source: I received a complimentary e-book copy from the Coffee Pot Book Club. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Tudor history readers.
Rating: Excellent.

Amazon link

Barnes and Noble

Author Bio:

Judith Arnopp is a lifelong history enthusiast and avid reader, Judith holds a BA in English/Creative writing and an MA in Medieval Studies. She lives on the coast of West Wales where she writes both fiction and non-fiction based in the Medieval and Tudor period. Her main focus is on the perspective of historical women but more recently is writing from the perspective of Henry VIII himself.

Her novels include:
A Matter of Conscience: Henry VIII, the Aragon Years
The Heretic Wind: the life of Mary Tudor, Queen of England
Sisters of Arden: on the Pilgrimage of Grace
The Beaufort Bride: Book one of The Beaufort Chronicle
The Beaufort Woman: Book two of The Beaufort Chronicle
The King’s Mother: Book three of The Beaufort Chronicle
The Winchester Goose: at the Court of Henry VIII
A Song of Sixpence: the story of Elizabeth of York
Intractable Heart: the story of Katheryn Parr
The Kiss of the Concubine: a story of Anne Boleyn
The Song of Heledd
The Forest Dwellers
Peaceweaver


Judith is also a founder member of a re-enactment group called The Fyne Companye of Cambria and makes historical garments both for the group and others. She is not professionally trained but through trial, error and determination has learned how to make authentic looking, if not strictly HA, clothing. You can find her group Tudor Handmaid on Facebook.

Social Media Links:
Amazon author page
Website: www.judithmarnopp.com
Blog: http://juditharnoppnovelist.blogspot.co.uk/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/JudithArnopp
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tudor_juditharnopp/?hl=en

Summary:

‘A king must have sons: strong, healthy sons to rule after him.’
On the unexpected death of Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales, his brother, Henry, becomes heir to the throne of England. The intensive education that follows offers Henry a model for future excellence; a model that he is doomed to fail.
On his accession, he chooses his brother’s widow, Catalina of Aragon, to be his queen. Together they plan to reinstate the glory of days of old and fill the royal nursery with boys. But when their first-born son dies at just a few months old, and subsequent babies are born dead or perish in the womb, the king’s golden dreams are tarnished. Christendom mocks the virile prince. Catalina’s fertile years are ending yet all he has is one useless living daughter, and a baseborn son. He needs a solution but stubborn to the end, Catalina refuses to step aside. As their relationship founders, his eye is caught by a woman newly arrived from the French court. Her name is Anne Boleyn.

Excerpt:

1505 – Henry is informed by his father that he must withdraw from his betrothal to Catherine
of Aragon.
Most of my companions, the older ones at least, have tasted the pleasures of women but I have no desire to dally with whores. Instead, when the curtains are drawn about my bed at night, I think of Catalina and the delights we will one day enjoy. Since there are no tutors to instruct me on such matters, I listen to the tales my friends tell of their conquests. The prospect of bedding my future wife fills me with a mix of excitement and terror. And then, on the eve of my fourteenth birthday, the king informs me that I must make a formal protest against the union with Spain. “Why?” I exclaim. “I have no wish to protest against it!” Father rubs his nose, dabs it with his kerchief, rolls it into a ball, and glares at me. “Your wishes are of no moment. This is politics. You will do as you are told.” I am furious but I know better than to argue. It would do me no good. I can feel my ears growing red with resentment. I clench my teeth until I hear my jaw crack. Oblivious to my feelings, Father shuffles through the papers on his desk, picks one up and reads aloud the instruction he has written there. “You must declare, before witnesses, that the agreement was made when you were a minor and now you reach puberty you will not ratify the contract but denounce it as null and void. Your words will be set in writing and then signed and witnessed by six men. Protestations tumble in my mind but I cannot voice them. When he dismisses me with a flick of his fingers, I bow perfunctorily, turn on my heel, and quit the room. I find Brandon in the tennis court, loudly protesting the score while his opponent, Guildford, stands with his hands
on his hips. “You are wrong, Brandon, the point is mine. Isn’t that so?” He turns to the others, who are lounging nearby. Having only been half attending, they shrug and shake their heads noncommittally. “My Lord Prince,” Brandon, noticing my arrival, turns for my support. “You witnessed it, did you not? The point was mine. Back me up, Sir.” I pick up a racket, idly test it in my hand and emitting a string of curses, hurl it across the court. Silence falls upon the company. “What ails you, Sir?” Brandon is the only one brave enough to come forward. He reaches out, his hand heavy on my shoulder. There are few men I allow to touch me. At the back of my mind I am aware that Brandon is merely proving to the others how high he stands in my regard. I should shrug him off, but I don’t. “Walk with me,” I mutter between my teeth and then turn away, almost falling over Beau who dogs my every footstep. “Out of my way!” I scream and he cowers from me, tail between his legs. Tossing his racket to Thomas Kyvet, Brandon follows me. “Henry, wait,” he calls, and I slow my step, until he has caught up. “What has happened?” “My accursed father.” I am so angry, I can hardly speak; my lips feel tight against my teeth, my head pounds with repressed fury. “He demands that I denounce my union with Catalina.” I stop, rub my hands across my face, the blood thundering in my ears. “I don’t know if I am angry because I have lost her, or because I am so sick of being told what I must do. What will Catalina think? What will happen to her?” He shrugs. “In all probability she will be sent home to Spain.” I think of her leaving, imagine her sad little figure boarding ship for the perilous journey to her homeland. For four years she has lived at the mercy of my father’s generosity which, as we all know, is greatly lacking, and now is to be sent home like a misdirected package. “Sometimes I feel this … this limbo will never end, and I will spend my whole life under my father’s jurisdiction.” He flings a brotherly arm about me and I am suddenly grateful to have a friend. He speaks quietly, with feeling and I struggle not to weep like a woman. “We are all told what to do by our fathers, Henry, and we are much alike, you and me. I am also the second son. Had my brother not died, I’d like as not be languishing in the country, wed too young to some red-cheeked matron yet here I am, your honoured servant. One day, you will be king, and I will still be at your side. The future will soon be ours, and the time for following orders will be done with.”

My Thoughts:

A Matter of Conscience is told in the 1st person narrating voice. In other words, Henry is the narrator. I wasn’t sure that I’d enjoy this book once I realized this. However, I stayed with the story and realized this is a perfect form of writing to let me in on Henry’s thoughts, feelings, reasonings, desires, justifications, arrogance, pride, deception, obsessions, dogmatic, and prideful character. Through Henry’s voice I see a solid transition of maturity from a boy to a man. The transition of his growth is easy to envision. It is palpable. This is one example of why A Matter of Conscience is a story to become apart of-to fall into-to become invested and swept up in the story. Henry is king in the story and he is larger than life.

An interesting point is I do not consider myself a fan of Henry VIII. So, to read about Henry as if he is a swoon-worthy hero is not my response. I don’t have to love a character I am reading about. It is nice to like or love them but not necessary. I do like to see a transformation in the character-Henry has a strong transformation in his character and it is not positive. Readers of Tudor history know Henry VIII through his actions in history. But to get inside his head is surreal. Judith Arnopp has done a brilliant job of recreating Henry.

The spotlight is always on Henry. I am reminded of a line in one of Shakespeare’s plays-Macbeth:
“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more.”

Henry is the one who “struts and frets” on the stage of his royal life. He is puffed up with pride and this increases with age.

The story is told linear or chronological.

I love the characterizations of Margaret and Mary the sisters of Henry. I love the characterizations of Bessie Blount and Mary Boleyn. I love the characterization of Thomas Wolsey, the archbishop and cardinal.

Catherine of Aragon is one of my favorite historical figures of this time period. Her plight is sad. It is up to her to deliver a healthy son. History has revealed the outcome. She is pious. She prays often. I wondered exactly how often she might have prayed? The schedule followed by monks and nuns of this time period was eight times a day. The times were: Matins or Nocturns-at midnight. Lauds-Morning Prayer at 0300. Prime-the first hour at 0600. Tierce-Midmorning Prayer at 0900. Sext-Midday Prayer at noon. None-Midafternoon Prayer at 1500. Vespers-Evening Prayer at 1800. Compline-Night Prayer at 2100.

One of my favorite scenes is Princess Mary is throwing a tantrum because she doesn’t want to marry the old French king. Henry watches her. He has seen this behavior of hers since she was a child. She rages and he simply watches.

Themes in the story: loyalty, jealousy, obsession, deception, conformity, justice, greed, power, temptation, and pride.




Book Spotlight for The Queen’s Rival by Anne O’Brien

Publisher and Publication Date: HarperCollins. April 15, 2021 (paperback). September 2020 (Hardback and e-book).
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 531.
Format: NetGalley e-book.
Source: I received a complimentary e-book copy from NetGalley. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of historical fiction who enjoy reading British history.
Rating: This blog post is for a spotlight on the book.

For more information about the book: HarperCollins.

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Waterstones

Kobo

Author Bio:

Sunday Times Bestselling author Anne O’Brien was born in West Yorkshire. After gaining a BA Honours degree in History at Manchester University and a Master’s in Education at Hull, she lived in East Yorkshire for many years as a teacher of history. Today she has sold over 700,000 copies of her books medieval history novels in the UK and internationally. She lives with her husband in an eighteenth-century timber-framed cottage in the depths of the Welsh Marches in Herefordshire. The area provides endless inspiration for her novels which breathe life into the forgotten women of medieval history.

Social Media Links:

Website: https://www.anneobrienbooks.com/
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Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Anne-OBrien/e/B001HD1NHI
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rival?from_search=true&from_srp=true&qid=MIYPBpVMFH&rank=1

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Summary:

England, 1459.
One family united by blood. Torn apart by war… The Wars of the Roses storm through the country, and Cecily Neville, Duchess of York, plots to topple the weak-minded King Henry VI from the throne. But when the Yorkists are defeated at the battle of Ludford Bridge, Cecily’s family flee and abandon her to face a marauding Lancastrian army on her own. Stripped of her lands and imprisoned in Tonbridge Castle, the Duchess begins to spin a web of deceit. One that will eventually lead to treason, to the fall of King Henry VI, and to her eldest son being crowned King Edward IV.