⚔’The first book in the Darkland Tales series’. Sandra reviews Scottish #Histfic Rizzio by @DameDeniseMina, for Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT ⚔

Today’s team review is from Sandra. Find her here https://www.firthproof.co.uk/index.php/book-reviews

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Sandra has been reading Rizzio by Dame Denise Mina

Historical Mystery

Rizzio is the first book in the Darkland Tales series, where Scottish authors focus on a historical event and view it through a modern lens.  On March 9th 1566, Mary Queen of Scots’ private secretary, David Rizzio, is murdered in front of her, during a supper party in her private chambers. Encouraged by his father, Mary’s husband, Darnley, is one of the conspirators. Known to be frustrated by his lack of power, as he is only her consort, not king in his own right, Darnley is easily manipulated by those who stand to lose their estates and power, and wish to remove her from the throne – her only crime is to be Catholic and a woman.

Having grown up in Scotland, I knew a bit about Mary Queen of Scots, but had never come across this story before. Denise Mina’s fresh interpretation brings it to life in a way that no text book ever could; it is historical fiction viewed through the filter of a crime novelist. It is a short novella and I read it in one sitting, but it left me hungry to know more. Told from the point if view of an omniscient narrator, you do not just read this story, you feel as if you are right in the middle of the action. The characters are well drawn, easy to distinguish, and the vivid descriptions of the clothes, food and furnishings add authenticity. The facts are known, but Denise Mina’s excellent writing turns it into a tense, gripping and emotional narrative. It is a very dark tale of greed, the desire for power, and the fragile position of women in society. I really enjoyed Rizzio, and am keen to read the other volumes in this fascinating series.

Desc 1

On the evening of March 9th, 1566, David Rizzio, the private secretary of Mary, Queen of Scots, was brutally murdered. Dragged from the chamber of the heavily pregnant Mary, Rizzio was stabbed fifty six times by a party of assassins. This breathtakingly tense novella dramatises the events that led up to that night, telling the infamous story as it has never been told before.

A dark tale of sex, secrets and lies, Rizzio looks at a shocking historical murder through a modern lens—and explores the lengths that men and women will go to in their search for love and power.

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‘Such a savage era in history.’ Sherry reviews Scottish #HistoricalFiction Rizzio by @DameDeniseMina, for Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Today’s team review is from Sherry. She blogs here https://sherryfowlerchancellor.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Sherry has been reading Rizzio by Denise Mina

This story about the murder of David Rizzio, the private secretary of Mary Queen of Scots was a quick read. A much fuller picture of what happened that night and the days to follow than I’d read previously

What the conspirators put the poor man through was brutal and violent. The terror he must have experienced was gut-wrenching even reading about it more than 460 years later. Queen Mary’s fear for her life as well as her child’s and the way her own husband tried to force her to have a miscarriage was awful. Imagine spending a whole night and day thinking you’re going to be killed any moment and there is no escape. And that your husband is part of the plot to kill you and your child. Such a savage era in history.

Of course, in some places, life can still be vicious and this retelling of the events of that night in 1566 reminded me that some people still live in places where such violence can be a daily occurrence. This reader counts herself lucky that she can read about such horrors without the kind of fear people face both in the past and in our time.

This killing boiled down to two things in my opinion—(1) an immature, jealous husband who was dissatisfied with his lot in life as consort, not king in his own right and (2) the greed and avarice of courtiers who saw this as their chance to take what they wanted and get rid of Mary. They played right into Darnley’s fantasy of being king and used that for their own ends with no intention of giving him his heart’s desire. A lot of nefarious people in Edinburgh.

The author here clearly researched the time frame extensively. I had not read about Henry Yair and his murder of Father Adam Black on the same night. That was an interesting part of the story I had not heard about before. Fanaticism seemed rife in that era for sure.

I can’t say I liked the book as it was a terrible, terrible time in Scotland’s history, but I did learn a lot and appreciate the author’s work in fleshing out this story. It was well-written and, as it was also brutally truthful, it was a heartbreaking read.

4 stars.

Desc 1

On the evening of March 9th, 1566, David Rizzio, the private secretary of Mary, Queen of Scots, was brutally murdered. Dragged from the chamber of the heavily pregnant Mary, Rizzio was stabbed fifty six times by a party of assassins. This breathtakingly tense novella dramatises the events that led up to that night, telling the infamous story as it has never been told before.

A dark tale of sex, secrets and lies, Rizzio looks at a shocking historical murder through a modern lens—and explores the lengths that men and women will go to in their search for love and power.

Rizzio is nothing less than a provocative and thrilling new literary masterpiece.

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‘The prose is taut, the read fast’. @GeorgiaRoseBook Reviews #Tudor #HistFic Rizzio by @DameDeniseMina For Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Today’s team review is from Georgia. She blogs here https://www.georgiarosebooks.com

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Georgia has been reading Rizzio by Denise Mina

I am so glad I picked Rizzio. I knew nothing of the story before reading it so it was all the more thrilling, and horrifying. It reminded me why I always enjoy reading historical fiction when I manage to get back to it. I would have hated living during these times but at a distance love all the drama and intrigue of the royal court, which on this occasion is at Holyrood, Edinburgh.

This is the story of the murder of David Rizzio, close friend and personal secretary of Mary, Queen of Scots, who also happens to have been the lover of her husband, Lord Darnley. The action takes place over a weekend in March 1566. Mary is six months pregnant and Darnley wants Rizzio to be killed in front of her in the hope she will miscarry. But the murder is just the start of what is planned as unknown to Mary conspiracy and betrayal brings an army of men creeping into the castle.

Extremely well written, the fact the story is told in the present tense brings an immediacy to the text. The prose is taut, the read fast and, as a slightly odd observation, the chapter titles are excellent!

I highly recommend this to everyone who enjoys well told stories. It is superb.

5 stars

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From the multi-award-winning master of crime, Denise Mina delivers a radical new take on one of the darkest episodes in Scottish history—the bloody assassination of David Rizzio  private secretary to Mary, Queen of Scots, in the queen’s chambers in Holyrood Palace.

On the evening of March 9th, 1566, David Rizzio, the private secretary of Mary, Queen of Scots, was brutally murdered. Dragged from the chamber of the heavily pregnant Mary, Rizzio was stabbed fifty six times by a party of assassins. This breathtakingly tense novella dramatises the events that led up to that night, telling the infamous story as it has never been told before.

A dark tale of sex, secrets and lies, Rizzio looks at a shocking historical murder through a modern lens—and explores the lengths that men and women will go to in their search for love and power.

Rizzio is nothing less than a provocative and thrilling new literary masterpiece.

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Rosie’s Review Team #RBRT THE FIRST BLAST OF THE TRUMPET @MGMacPherson #HistFic #TuesdaybookBlog

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading The First Blast Of The Trumpet by Marie MacPherson

13278548

The book is the first of a trilogy about John Knox, a Scottish minister, theologian, and writer who was a leader of the Reformation and the founder of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, marking the 500th anniversary of his birth. In this first book, Knox plays a minor role to the two main characters: Elizabeth Hepburn, a feisty woman who becomes the Prioress of a convent, and David Lindsey, her one-time lover, who is the long-time tutor and confidant of King James V of Scotland.

The story opens with a charming scene that reminded me of Little Women, where Betsy, the nanny to the three Hepburn daughter, herbalist and possible witch, divines the girls’ fates from the tossing of nuts into a blazing fire. The three girls are completely different in character and although the book traces the fate of little Meg and the voluptuous and fiery Kate, it is the strong-willed Elizabeth who drives the story.

This is a meticulously researched historical novel, right down to the immediate inclusion of a Scots dialect with the English. I must admit this put me off at first, because there were many words I didn’t know and I hardly wanted to take time to look them up. However, as the chapters passed it became clear what the words meant, much like reading English with words represented by only a few letters.

The amount of detail, intertwined plots, religious conflicts, monarchical rivalries, and interpersonal connections are too much for this reviewer to detail, but if a sense of time and place drive your interest in history, and especially Scottish history, you will be in pig heaven.

Ms. Macpherson’s main characters shine with description like bright pennies – the gluttonous and painted Dame Janet, Prioress before Elizabeth; Maryoth, the nun covetous of being prioress, evil and conniving against Elizabeth; John, Elizabeth’s uncle and Prior of St. Mary’s, greedy and eager to have Elizabeth replace Janet, his sister, to keep the rich convent in the family; and Davie Lindsey, Elizabeth’s young lover, who proves feckless and sacrifices Elizabeth more than once to serve his king. If there was any downside to the many characters, it was the number of them, but the author includes family trees and a complete cast of characters for the challenged!

There are no lusty love scenes, although rape and sex abound, so this is not a romantic barn-burner. The author, however, does a great job educating the reader about the social mores of sex, courtship, marriage and child-bearing.

John Knox comes into the tale rather late, as the apparent son of a poor woman, into whose lungs Elizabeth breathes life, then adopts as her godson. He will be a major character in the next two books. This volume lays down the considerable history of the time from Margaret Tudor, sister to Henry VIII and wife of James IV, to the birth and early years of Mary, Queen of Scots, and sets the stage for Mary’s contentious relationship with Knox.

All in all, a challenging and intellectual but satisfying read, which I recommend – but not to the casual reader.

Book description

Hailes Castle, 1511. Midnight on a doom-laden Hallowe’en and Elisabeth Hepburn, feisty daughter of the Earl of Bothwell, makes a wish ― to wed her lover, the poet David Lindsay. But her uncle has other plans. To safeguard the interests of the Hepbum family she is to become a nun and succeed her aunt as Prioress of St. Mary’s Abbey, Haddington.

However, plunged into the political maelstrom and religious turmoil of the early Scottish Reformation, her life there is hardly one of quiet contemplation. Strong-willed and independent, she clashes with those who question her unorthodox regime at St. Mary’s, including Cardinal David Beaton and her rival, Sister Maryoth Hay.

But her greatest struggle is against her thrawn godson, John Knox. Witnessing his rejection of the Roman Catholic Church ― aided by David Lindsay ― she despairs that the sins of her past may have contributed to his present disenchantment. 

As he purges himself from the puddle of papistry, Knox finds his voice, denouncing everything he once held dear, but will that include his godmother, Prioress Elisabeth? And by confessing her dark secrets, will Elisabeth steer Knox from the pernicious pull of Protestantism or drive him further down the fateful path he seems hell-bent on; a path that leads to burning at the stake?

In a daring attempt to shed light on a wheen of unanswered questions about John Knox’s early, undocumented life, this novel throws up some startling claims and controversial conjectures.

Book one of The Knox Trilogy.

About the author

Marie Macpherson

Marie Macpherson was born in the Honest Toun of Musselburgh, six miles from the Scottish capital, Edinburgh. After earning an Honours Degree in Russian and English, she spent a year in Moscow and Leningrad to research her PhD thesis on the work of the 19th century Russian writer, Lermontov, said to be descended from the Scottish poet and seer, Thomas the Rhymer. The rich history of East Lothian – especially the Reformation period – provides the inspiration for her first fictional work, based on the early life of the Scottish reformer, John Knox. Ms.Macpherson is the winner of the Martha Hamilton Prize for Creative Writing from Edinburgh University and was awarded the title ‘Writer of the Year 2011’ by Tyne & Esk Writers.
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