Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT A SHORTCUT TO MURDER by William Savage @penandpension #HistFic

Today’s team review is from Noelle, she blogs here http://saylingaway.wordpress.com

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading A Shortcut To Murder by William Savage

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#Book Review: A Shortcut to Murder by William Savage @penandpension #RBRT #historical mystery

This review is for Rosie’s #Bookreview team. The book was purchased by the reviewer.

A Shortcut To Murder is the third in The Dr. Adam Bascom Mysteries set in Georgian England. I’ve read the first two and was intrigued by the historical setting and, since I’m married to a physician and taught medical students for years, was drawn to the sleuth.

The main character, Dr. Adam Bascom, practices medicine in Aylsham, a small town in Norwich. His closest friend, and the person off of whom he bounces ideas, is Peter Lassimer, a pharmacist and a confirmed ladies’ man. Indeed, Dr. Bascom’s unmarried status is the subject of many of their interchanges and a thread running through this book, as in the first two, but with more intensity.

After solving the previous two murders, the good doctor is anxious to get back to treating patients, and his first is the nephew of Lady Alice, young widow of one of Bascom’s former patients. Bascom becomes progressively drawn into this family and drawn to Lady Alice as the story evolves. However, he is interrupted in his practice yet again, this time called by his brother, Giles, a magistrate, to confirm the findings of a local coroner in the death of Sir Jackman Wennard, a local landowner, debauching scoundrel, racehorse breeder and baronet. His son, now Sir Robert, is an equally repugnant character and refuses to accept that his father’s death was anything more than an accident.

Sir Jackman was killed by a blow to his body, which caused him to fall off his horse and break his neck. Bascom quickly confirms the injury he sustained could not have resulted from a simple fall, but rather from running into a rope, which flung him back and all but severed his head from his body. There are many unresolved questions and as some are answered, others emerge. How could the blow be delivered with such force? How could the killer have known where and when to lie in wait? – especially since no one could have foreseen Sir Jackman’s movements on the morning of his death.

Who is the woman who caused Sir Jackman to take the path he did that morning, and why is his son so determined to prevent the lawyers from assessing Jackman’s belongings in order to probate his will? Piling on to Bascom’s confusion is the kidnapping of Sir Robert. Is it related to the rash of highway robberies plaguing local roads?

This is the densest of the author’s mysteries yet, with many threads that as they are pulled, reveal others. It also adds more depth to the main character, his determination to find the answers, his insight, and also his confusion about himself – does he want to remain a country doctor and how does he truly feel about women? Add to that a wealth of detailed information about life in Georgian Norwich, all of which gives the reader a rich slice of life at that time.

There are some drawbacks to this novel: there are long dialogue dumps and there is repetition galore as Bascom goes over and over what he knows with various friends and family. As I result, I did skim some pages.

Overall, though, I enjoyed this book as much as the previous one and would recommend it to anyone who likes historical mysteries.

Find a copy here from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

 

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT LA PETITE BOULAIN by @TudorTweep #Tudors #HistFic

Today’s Team Review is from Cathy, she blogs here http://betweenthelinesbookblog.wordpress.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Cathy has been reading La Petite Boulain by G Lawrence

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The story begins in the Tower of London where Anne Boleyn awaits her fate, contemplating those who died in the manner that now lies ahead for her. In return for Henry VIII’s promise of protection for her daughter, Anne signs her life away, admitting to all she is falsely accused of. Sleepless, determined not to panic and to die with dignity, Anne lets her thoughts wander back to her happy and carefree childhood at Hever Castle.

It’s longer than I care to remember since I read a book about Anne Boleyn so I was looking forward to this one. It was a refreshing change to read the account from Anne’s perspective, giving a different slant altogether on her story and making her more ‘real’ than the impression I had from other books.

In La Petite Boulain Anne’s early years are illustrated comprehensively and we see hints of the intelligence and insight which would become very evident as she learned more of the world and her place in it. But initially Anne’s days were filled with lessons as she and her elder sister, Mary were educated in languages, music, hunting, deportment and how to conduct themselves in society.

When she was twelve Anne, along with Mary and their younger brother, George, left home to complete their education within other households. Anne was placed with Margaret of Austria at the Court of Burgundy, where she learned the ways of a courtier as well as keeping up with her studies. It was here Anne began to question the authority and reliability of the clergy, who were only fallible men, after all. As we follow Anne from Margaret’s court to that of Princess Mary Tudor, the impact and influence these high-born ladies have upon her colour her view of court etiquette and the hypocritical politics, which becomes more apparent, along with Anne’s growing appreciation that the way these are observed can make or break a reputation and have the potential to ruin a life.

The historical aspects, including clothing, food and manners, are detailed exceptionally well, as is the role and treatment of women. No matter their station in life, women are just there, it seems, to further the ambitions of men and are used accordingly, a commodity to be bartered, bought and sold.

I would have preferred a little more dialogue to break up the descriptive passages which, on occasion, were a little overpowering but that said, I enjoyed this excellent book very much. It gives a rounded picture of a determined, complex and intelligent woman whose high moral standards possibly hold the potential to aid in her downfall.

Book Description

May 1536, London… a fallen queen sits waiting in the Tower of London, condemned to death by her husband. As Death looms before her, Anne Boleyn, second queen of Henry VIII looks back on her life…from the very beginning. 
Daughter of a courtier, servant to queens… she rose higher than any thought possible, and fell lower than any could imagine. 
Following the path of the young Mistress Boleyn, or La Petite Boulain, through the events of the first years of the reign of Henry VIII, to the glittering courts of Burgundy and France, Book One of “Above All Others; The Lady Anne” tracks the life of the young Lady Anne, showing how she became the scintillating woman who eventually, would capture the heart of a king. 
La Petite Boulain is the first book in the series “Above All Others; The Lady Anne” on the life of Anne Boleyn by G.Lawrence.

About The Author

G. Lawrence

I am an independently published author, and proud to be so. Living in a little cottage in Cornwall in the UK, I love where I live as much as I love to write.
The age of the Tudors has been an obsession for me since I was a child, and many of my upcoming books will center on that time, but I also pen the odd dystopian fiction or historical fiction from other time periods. I will be releasing all my titles on amazon, for kindle and then hopefully for print later. 
I studied Literature (with a capital L) at University and usually have twenty or more books I’m currently reading. Reading and writing are about mood for me, and I haven’t found a genre I didn’t enjoy something about so far… 

Twitter @TudorTweep

Find a copy of La Petite Boulain here from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com also available free from Kindle Unlimited

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT THE LADY ANNE by G Lawrence @TudorTweep #Tudors #HistFic

Today’s team review is from Olga, she blogs at http://www.authortranslatorolga.com

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading The Lady Anne by Gemma Lawrence

The Lady Anne (Above all Others; The Lady Anne Book 2) by [Lawrence,G.]

I write this review as one of the members of behalf of Rosie’s Books Review Team. I was provided with a free copy of the book as part of the team.

I have read and enjoyed La Petite Boulain, the first book in the Above all Others series and really enjoyed getting to know a bit more about Anne Boleyn’s childhood, and particularly, the way the story was told, in the first person from the point of view of young Anne, or, to be more precise, the young Anne as remembered by the older Anne at the moment of awaiting her death in the Tower.

Here we see Anne return to England after spending part of her childhood and teenage years in courts abroad. She is sad to leave France, as she feels by now more French than English, and the weather and the difficulties of her trip don’t help make her feel at home. Luckily, things take a turn for the better quickly. She meets Thomas Wyatt, a neighbour, accomplished poet, and a childhood friend, and once she joins the court, becoming one of Queen Katherine’s ladies in waiting, she soon meets interesting people, makes new friends, rekindles old friendships, and becomes a fashion icon and very admired for her style, accomplishments, and her personality.

I was curious to see how this novel would portray Anne as a young woman, in an era more familiar to most people than that of her early years. She is presented as an interesting mixture of a clever and intelligent woman, with far wider knowledge and experiences than many of the women her age she meets, but still a young girl at heart, who loves the idea of courting, handsome and romantic knights, and has to admit to being proud of the way men are attracted to her and women copy her dresses and jewels. She changes her mind often and she thinks she is in love with Tom Wyatt one day, although it’s an impossible love, but then decides it’s only friendship. She falls in love with Henry Percy (of much higher standing than her as he’s due to become the Earl of Northumberland) and with her father’s approval pursues a marriage that would have been very advantageous for her family, but when Cardinal Wolsey and Henry’s father forbid the match, her disappointment makes her hate him. And then, there’s King Henry…

I must confess that I enjoyed the discussions about Anne’s ideas and her education in religion and philosophy in the first book, and there were only passing references to it here (partly because she worried about the company she keeps and how they would react if they were aware of her opinions, and partly because there are other things that occupy more of her time), and there is much more about romance and romantic ideas. King Henry seems to notice her following an accident (although perhaps before that) and her behaviour and her refusal to become his mistress seem to spur him on rather than make him forget her and move on. If Henry Percy gave up on her without a fight, this is a man who would risk everything (even the future of his kingdom) for his own enjoyment and to prove himself, and in Anne, he meets a challenge. Not being a big reader of romance, the pull and push of the relationship and the will she/won’t she (especially knowing how things will turn up) part of it was not what interested me the most, although the scenes are well done and I found the fights and disagreements between the couple enjoyable. I became intrigued by King Henry’s portrayal, not so much by what he does and says, but by how others see him. There is a very apt warning her brother George gives her, recalling how King Henry was walking with his arm around a nobleman’s shoulders one afternoon and two days later the said nobleman’s head was topping a pole on the King’s orders.

I was more interested in matters of politics and alliances (confusing as they were), the inner workings of the court, marriages and births, and Anne’s reflections about the roles of women and men in the society of the time, that she struggles against but ultimately feels obliged to follow. I was also intrigued by the depiction of her family, her brother George, always close to her, her sister Mary, who although Anne always saw as too free and easy, she comes to understand and appreciate (and who manages to achieve a happy existence in her own terms, eventually), her mother, who suffers from a strange illness, and her father, who appears to be only interested in the family’s advancement (although claims that it is not for himself, but for those who’ll come after). He seemingly has no respect for morality if it can get in the way of achieving his goals, and at times he treats his daughters as pawns or worse. In the novel, Anne is portrayed as having much of the initiative, at least at the beginning, regarding her relationship with King Henry, but I was very intrigued by the role her uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, would come to play, and how much he influenced later events and the rise of Anne to become Queen.

This volume made me wonder, more than the first one, how reliable a narrator is Anne supposed to be. She makes a very interesting comment about wearing masks and the fact that we all perform our roles in public, whatever our feelings or thoughts might really be. After all, this is Anne remembering her life and trying to distract herself from her likely dark fate. Sometimes she does protest too much, when talking about her accomplishments, intelligence and fashion sense, and insists that she does not believe in false modesty. She also talks about Tom Wyatt’s affections and how she had not encouraged him, but she evidently enjoys his attentions. At other times, she describes events and scenes as if she were at the same time protagonist and observer (from telling us what she was feeling and her concerns, she will go on to describe what she looked like or what she was wearing). She does highlight the behaviours she thinks show her in a good light and easily finds ways in which to dismiss some of her more selfish or problematic behaviours, but at a time such as the one she’s living through, after having lost everything and everybody, it’s only understandable. If anything, it shows her as a complex and contradictory individual and makes her appear more real.

The writing is once more fluid and beautifully detailed, bringing to life places, customs and times long past.

Although I know what will happen next, I’m intrigued to read Anne’s version of events and look forward to the next book. I highly recommend this series to anybody interested in Anne Boleyn who enjoys historical fiction, and to anybody who is considering reading about such a fascinating historical figure.

Find a copy here from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com also available free from Kindle Unlimited

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT THE 45th NAIL by @Ian_Lahey #WW2 #TuesdayBookBlog #HistFic

Today’s team review is from Noelle, she blogs at http://saylingaway.wordpress.com

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading The 45th Nail by Michael & Ian Lahey

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Book Review: The 45th Nail by Michael Lahey and Ian Lahey

 

I am torn between describing this book as compelling or interesting. I think I’ll go with the latter. It has been described as a noire drama, but I found the first half of the book quite humorous.

Robert Svenson, a middle-age French teacher from the Midwest, receives a postcard and a Christmas present from his mother’s brother, a man believed to have died at Anzio during WW II. The gift is a valuable Etruscan amulet which Robert sells, ostensibly to pay for a two-month visit to Paris to work on his French. Instead he heads for Italy to find his uncle, lying to his wife, who to my mind is incredibly gullible and pretty laissez faire about his proposed trip.

On his arrival in Rome, Robert has his luggage stolen, followed by his wallet, and is forced to find the means to support himself plus accumulate the funds to search for his uncle. Luckily, the owner of the hotel to which he had been directed from the airport takes him under his wing and gets him a job with a tenuous relative. The relative owns a restaurant and hires Robert, who doesn’t speak Italian and knows nothing about wine, as his wine consultant. Robert acquires other jobs and friends and eventually meets his uncle Jim.

At this point, the novel transitions from humor to darkness, as Jim takes Robert on a tour of his Italy, where he has been living and working for the decades after the war as a sweeper of WW II mines and finder of Etruscan antiquities. The characters are richly drawn and the reader becomes pulled into the journey, discovers Robert’s moral compass, and comes to understand Jim’s convoluted thinking about his troubled past. The book is in part a tour of the history of the west coast of Italy, focusing on Jim’s knowledge of the Etruscans and of WW II, and colorful friends or acquaintances of Jim’s pop in and out of the story, sometimes with meaning, sometimes not. The food, the wine and the Italian language become threads binding the story together.

However, a sense that something terrible is going to happen increases with each step of the journey, as the meaning of the book’s title is revealed, along with the secret buried in Jim’s heart – one he feels he can only reveal to Robert.

There were parts of this book where the exposition and dialogue were overlong or ponderous, but there is also much to appreciate. Like a moth to the flame, I had to read it to the end.

Find a copy here from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

 

 

Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT THE SEVEN YEAR DRESS by @MahurinPaulette #WWII #HistFic

Today’s team review is from Wendy, she blogs at http://booklovercircumspect4.wordpress.com

#RBRT Review Team

Wendy has been reading The Seven Year Dress by Paulette Mahurin

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This is a story that involves a Jewish teenager, Helen Stein, and her family who lived through Hitler’s deranged views of annihilating the Jewish population. Helen was born during the early stages of Hitler’s rise to power. As a younger child, Helen was shielded from most of what was happening in her country by her parents. However, Helen had a friend who had joined Hitler’s army as a young man and kept Helen informed of what was going on. As Hitler’s power grew, so did his relentless pursuit against the Jews and Helen’s family has no choice but to face what is happening in their country and to their culture.

Helen was able to evade capture by Hitler’s army for a period of time but was eventually found and taken to Auschwitz. To keep through the early times of Hitler’s reign, Helen learned to sew to help supplement her family’s income. Because of this, she was able to live upon her arrival to Auschwitz, was tattooed, and endured several hours of hard labor every day, was given little edible food, and forced to sleep in unimaginable living conditions.

Although Hitler and his army was able to force Helen and others into these conditions, he couldn’t take away Helen’s will to live and her ability to see the good in others that were also there. This is what helped Helen throughout her time in Auschwitz until she was later freed. Hitler’s army tried to cover up what they had done but it was Helen and other survivors that were a true testimony to what had occurred to them. Thankfully, allowing many of Hitler’s soldiers to be held accountable for their actions. Helen was able to leave Auschwitz and relocated to America. This is just one story of many Jewish survivors of this horrific period in our history.

The story is very well-written and it was as if I was with Helen throughout the story and enduring her pain and heartache along with her. I couldn’t put this book down and read it in one night. I actually had to wait a few days to write a review as the book has really touched me deeply. I would highly recommend this book to others.

Find a copy here from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com also available free from Kindle Unlimited

 

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT THE 45th NAIL by @ian_lahey #WWII #HistFic #TuesdayBookBlog

Today’s Team Review is from Terry, she blogs at http://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading The 45th Nail by Ian & Michael Lahey

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The 45th Nail by Michael Lahey and Ian Lahey

4 out of 5 stars

The basics: Bob, a middle-aged French teacher from middle America, receives a strange communication from his long-lost Uncle Jim who he believed to have gone MIA during World War II.  The contents of this communication are sufficient to send Bob off to Italy to find him.

From the blurb I was expecting an adventure type thriller, but the beginning is more like dark comedy, as Bob tells wife Beth untruths about where he is going (the portrayal of Beth was hilarious, I’d like to have read more about her), has his luggage and wallet stolen by a con artist/pickpocket gang as soon as he arrives in Italy, then takes a series of part-time jobs in order to clothe, feed and house himself before he can even think of travelling to Anzio to seek out the mysterious Uncle Jim.  His experience ‘winging it’ as a sommelier is very funny indeed, and some of the characterisation of the people he meets is first class (I particularly liked Edigio, the hotelier who helps him along the way).

As for the plot itself, I wasn’t really convinced by it at first; it seemed to be more of a story about this funny guy who has all sorts of accidental adventures in Italy.  Then, at about twenty per cent, a well plotted twist made it all clear, and the tone changed.

The book shows the legacy left by the war, a love of Italy, the language, archaeology and social culture; I didn’t know what some of the dialogue meant and had to do a certain amount of ‘winging it’ myself, but this wasn’t a problem.  The last fifteen per cent of the book provides the terrible truth about Uncle Jim and the 45th nail – I was engrossed, and found it sad and moving.  The end is excellent.

I thought the story rambled a fair bit and gave more detail in many places where a more succinct account/stream of conversation would have had better effect, but the writing itself is great.  If it was trimmed down a bit it would be worthy of at least another half star, as far as I’m concerned.

An unusual book, and a good one.

Find a copy here from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

 

Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT THE SEVEN YEAR DRESS by @MahurinPaulette #WW2 #fridayreads

Today’s team review is from Terry, she blogs at http://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

Rosie's Book Review team 1

Terry has been reading The Seven Year Dress by Paulette Mahurin

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The Seven Year Dress by Paulette Mahurin

3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed by me as a member of Rosie Amber’s Review Team

I always head straight for books set in World War 2, and this book has so many good reviews that I couldn’t wait to start it. I’m afraid I was a little disappointed by it, though there is much to commend, too.

In the present day, student Myra rents a room from Helen Stein; after a while, Helen reveals all that she suffered as a Jewish girl living in Berlin during the war and, later, in Auschwitz. I thought the parts in the concentration camp seemed the best researched, treated with sensitivity, not sensationalised, and would certainly serve as an education for anyone who doesn’t know about the atrocities commited by the SS.   The build up of anti-semitic feeling in Germany is portrayed well, as is the bond Helen formed with a friend in Auschwitz. Earlier on, though, there are parts that seem unlikely, at best.

Helen’s friend Max is homosexual. As a thirteen year old, he talks about this to Helen. I doubt very much whether a boy of that age from a traditional family background in early 1930s Europe would have even acknowledged such sexual preferences to himself, let alone talked freely about them. There were other attitudes and phrases that I felt came from a more modern era. I also doubted that Max would have had access, later, to the high level German campaign secrets that he revealed to Ben and Helen. Then there is the bear rooting about in the ‘trash cans’ outside the farm buildings in Brandenburg. There have not been wild bears in Germany for nearly 200 years (I looked it up).

The other thing I wasn’t keen on was the sexually orientated passages, which I thought were tacky; it’s possible to write about a girl becoming a woman, and longing for love, etc, without it reading as though it’s aimed to titillate.

There is a fair bit of historical fact woven into the novel, some convincingly, other parts clumsily. I liked the epilogue, I thought it was a nicely written, suitably poignant ending. I can see from the Amazon sites that this novel has been received very well by many, and I wouldn’t not recommend it, but for me it was just okay.

Find a copy here from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

 

 

 

 

 

Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT MURDER & MAYHEM by @carolJhedges #HistFic #Mystery

Today’s second team review is from Terry, she blogs at http://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

Rosie's Book Review team 1

Terry has been reading Murder & Mayhem by Carol Hedges

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Murder & Mayhem by Carol Hedges

5 out of 5 stars

I’ve read the other three of Carol Hedges’ colourful, amusing and really rather brilliant Victorian murder mystery series, and this was every bit as good.  They’re complete stand alones, by the way, no need to read them in order.

Murder & Mayhem follows the stories of several wonderful characters: lovely, outwardly superficial, privileged Daisy Lawton, a girl looking forward to her first ‘season’; Ms Hedges very cleverly avoided the trap of making her merely empty-headed, but gave her a heart of gold, too, especially when it came to her friend, poor Letitia, who is bound to a life of drudgery by her horrible father.  Then we have the would-be anarchists, Persiflage and Waxwing, Scottish detective Lachlan Greig, and various other upper middle class ne’er-do-wells, street rogues and those eager to make money by foul means, mostly the evil ‘baby minders’ around whom the story centres.

Inspector Lachlan Greig: ‘… a certain glint in his eye possessed by those who have found they are generally more intelligent than most people around them but haven’t yet learned that the most intelligent thing they can do is not to let said people find this out.’

Mr Sprowle, landlord: ‘… educated in the School of Hard Knocks, leading to a degree in Resentment.’

Just two lines I picked out, there are so many more little gems.

This book is not just a clever story with hilarious characterisation and descriptions so good you want to read them twice.  It’s an insight into how difficult life really was for women in those days, only 150 years ago, and a view into Victorian London as clear as any film or TV drama series.  When I got to 84% I thought ‘oh, no, I’ve only got a little bit left’, and tried to make it last as long as possible.

I believe this might be the last in the series but I do hope not; as long as Carol Hedges keeps writing these books I’ll keep reading them as soon as they’re available, and you should, too!

Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

 

 

 

THE SISTERS OF ST. CROIX by Diney Costeloe #WW2 #HistFic #SundayBlogShare

The Sisters of St. CroixThe Sisters of St. Croix by Diney Costeloe
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Three Point Five Stars.

The Sisters Of St. Croix is a WW2 historical fiction with the main body of the book set around the convent of St Croix based near the Somme area of France. The first three chapters serve as an introduction to Adelaide Anson-Gravetty and the lead up to her place in the war effort.

Chapter four introduces us to the plight of French families as they try to flee the German occupation and the particular tale of three orphaned Jewish children, taken in by the Nuns of St Croix.

It is during the war that Adelaide is trained as a spy, given the role of organising escape routes for pilots shot down over France. She is dropped into France and sent to the St Croix area given her link to the Convent. However it is a Jewish family that Adelaide ends up trying to rescue and keep hidden from the Germans.

I enjoyed the parts of the book dealing with the resistance and the secrecy and danger involved with moving people around France under the noses of the enemy and the roles of Reverend Mother and some of the Sisters was well written. Other areas of the book didn’t work so well for me, for instance time spent on parts which added little to the story-line, dialogue sections which weren’t always necessary, repetition of events and conversations. The opening scenes added little to the story-line and the ending was rushed with a neat and tidy epilogue which I wasn’t sure was necessary.

Find a copy here from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

I reviewed this book on Amazon as part of #AugustReviews

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT LA PETITE BOULAIN by @TudorTweep #TuesdayBookBlog

Today’s Team Review is from Noelle, she blogs at http://saylingaway.wordpress.com

Rosie's Book Review team 1

Noelle has been reading La Petite Boulain by G Lawrence

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La 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 Mary 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 limited opinion, is somewhat 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.

Find a copy here from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com