September and October were months full of mystery and horror as I took part in The R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril event hosted by Carl V @ Stainless Steal Droppings. All through October though I had my eye upon historical fiction The Lost Duchess by Jenny Barden which had been calling to me from my to-be-read pile. After finishing two reads for the R.I.P event I thought I deserved to read it at the end of the month.
The Lost Duchess takes us into the life of Emme Fifield; a favoured lady-in-waiting in the court of Queen Elizabeth I of England. We meet Emme as she is fooled and poorly used by Lord Hertford. A scene I found quite hard to read. The scandal that will surely follow threatens to engulf and ruin Emme’s life. Emme can see no other way out of it; she must find a way to leave court. Then the court comes alive with the arrival of the adventurers Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh who come boasting of the wonders of the new world and appealing to the Queen to mount a new expedition to found the City of Raleigh. The lure of the exotic but dangerous new world is intoxicating but it could also be the perfect opportunity for Emme to escape and a start anew. I must admit I found myself wanting to go too.
I found I liked the protagonist of The Lost Duchess Emme almost instantly. Emme is young, beautiful, kind but naïve. Unlike many of the other courtiers Emme only comes from a moderately well born family. She has only reached the heights of a favoured lady-in-waiting to the Queen due to her father’s hard work and the influence of the powerful but dangerous Secretary Walsingham. I felt this is what gave Emme the imagination and the actual ability to go on this adventure into the unknown. If Barden had chosen a character with a more straight forward entrance into the court I don’t think I could have believed it. Not to say that Emme’s transition from comfortable court life to the hard and trying life of a settler is an easy one. Emme makes many mistakes and has some hard lessons to learn. By the end of it though Emme is a strong woman who I liked even more.
The Lost Duchess is the first novel I have read by Jenny Barden. I enjoy historical fiction and I love a good adventure, and this is what drew me to The Lost Duchess. I wasn’t to be disappointed either. I thought The Lost Duchess was a well written novel with a lovely flow and good detail. I found Barden’s comfortable writing style helped me feel at home and swept me quickly away into the tale; and that was before the true adventure even began. Once away from court Emme and her fellow settlers have storms, starvation, poisonous food, lost souls, attacks, intrigue and relationships to deal with. What I didn’t expect was the level of romance this novel would contain; mainly centred around Emme and mariner Kit Doonan. While the romance is sweet and not thrown in your face I personally could have done with less of the will they won’t they. Emme and Kit are fictional characters but there were real settlers who went out on this expedition to found the City of Raleigh. Barden has obviously filled in some historical gaps and fictionalised events but I thought she did this well which helped me to imagine what it might really have been like for those brave settlers. At the end of the novel Barden’s author’s notes references the real historical characters, events and facts she took inspiration from.
I thought The Lost Duchess was a lovely, romantic adventure from Elizabethan England across the sea to the dangerous and beautiful new world. I would recommend to those interested in historical romance. Good read.
Thank you to the author for providing a free copy of The Lost Duchess in exchange for my honest opinion.
Have you read this? Can you recommend any other adventures across the sea?
I absolutely love adaptations. I know this can sometimes be a controversial subject with book lovers but not for me. I think my real love of them came from my time studying performance at university. There I became fascinated with taking a story and telling it through a different medium; whether that be book, film, TV, or on the stage.
As these adaptation update posts seem to be going down well I’ve decided to continue them in 2014. Here are the adaptations I watched during August:
R.I.P.D (2013) Not Read Film Television
A supernatural action/comedy based on the comic book Rest In Peace Department created by Peter M Lenkov. Nick (Ryan Reynolds) and Roy (Jeff Bridges) are agents of the R.I.P department whose job it is to find and round-up undesirable spirits hiding and causing havoc in the world of the living. This was apparently a flop when it was released at the cinema last year. I don’t think it was anything particularly ground breaking but it was a bit of fun. Okay watch.
Hannibal (2014) Not Read TV Series Television
The second series of psychological thriller based on the characters of Red Dragon by Thomas Harris. First shown here in the UK on Sky Living. A gripping and gory series that’s looks at the antics of Dr Hannibal Lecter before The Silence of the Lambs. With excellent performances from Hugh Dancy, Laurence Fishburne and Mads Mikkelsen. Warning with strong violence and gore this is not a show for everyone. Great watch.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) Not Read Film Cinema
A action-packed superhero film set in space based on Guardians of the Galaxy created by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning which is featured in Marvel Comics. A gang of extra-terrestrial misfits fighting and stealing their way around the galaxy in hopes of saving it from Ronan the Accuser. What’s not to like?! An exciting and fast paced film with great special effects and a cool soundtrack. I enjoyed this even more than I thought I would. Great watch.
Letters to Juliet (2010) Not Read Film Television
A romantic drama inspired by the non-fiction Letters to Juliet by Lise Friedman which looks at the phenomenon of people writing to Shakespeare’s romantic heroine Juliet. Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) discovers a fifty year old unanswered love letter to Juliet whilst on holiday in Verona, Italy which takes her on a journey to discover the letter writer’s long lost love. This film had a beautiful setting and sweet performances from Amanda Seyfried and Vanessa Redgrave. It whiled away one lazy Saturday afternoon. Okay watch.
August I thought was another interesting month of adaptations; even more so as I watched all these the last two weeks of the month after I returned from my holiday. They weren’t all great watches but they all entertained me one way or the other. I am little sad to see though that I had not read any of this month’s adaptations. Now I don’t seem to have any adaptations recorded so we will have to see what films I manage to watch in September for my next update.
What have you been watching?
February here in the UK has continued to be wet and windy. I have also continued to be busy with work and college so when I have had a free moment all I’ve wanted to do is curl up in bed with a mug of hot chocolate and a good book. I picked up The Forbidden Queen by Anne O’Brien hoping to escape and find some comfort in a historical tale.
The Forbidden Queen follows the life of the beautiful Katherine of Valois. Katherine is the daughter of Charles VI of France, becomes the wife of Henry V of England, mother of Henry VI of England and grandmother of Henry VII of England. A glorious lineage and heritage but at heart Katherine only really wishes for love. Katherine has a lonely up-bringing in her aunt’s abbey from which marriage was the only means of escape. Henry hero of Agincourt and the king of England sweeps into Katherine’s life offering not only to make her his wife but the queen of England. By Henry’s side Katherine begins a life of splendour and glory yet while she provides him with the longed for son and heir Henry does not love her. Their marriage is to be short-lived with the death of Henry fighting in France leaving Katherine a young and highly desirable widow. I found myself really rooting for Katherine to find love and while Henry’s death leaves her free to marry again I just knew it couldn’t be that easy! Katherine has a political mine field to work her way through.
The Forbidden Queen centres mainly around Katherine and the men in her life. Katherine grows up isolated from the world inevitably leaving her naïve to the facts of life. Katherine is naïve, young, loving and hopeful as she sets out on her married life and I couldn’t help but like her even though my more practical mind told me she was heading for disappointment. After the death of Henry I found Katherine went through quite a transformation she is still loving and hopeful but she does find a new found bravery which made me like her even more. There are two main love interests for Katherine after she is widowed one is a flamboyant and ambitious man while the other is a stable and strong man both are equally controversial choices for Katherine though. I thought that both love affairs help to develop and mould Katherine further in a positive way regardless of their differing outcomes.
The Forbidden Queen is the first novel I have read by the author Anne O’Brien but I had heard good things about this novel from other bloggers. I thought O’Brien’s style was descriptive and elegant. I felt like a really did get into the mind of this medieval princess and got to experience her world through O’Brien’s detailed narrative from Katherine’s perspective. The Forbidden Queen was a slow burner for me. At first I found myself just reading one chapter a day as I felt the emotions I got from Katherine were pretty powerful and sad. I needed time to reflect on this. Once we got into the chapters following Henry’s death though I found myself hooked. I preferred Katherine as a character after this point and I just couldn’t wait to find out what she would do next! The pace of the story also seemed to speed up for me too. Leading to me polishing off the second half of the book pretty much in one evening when I had tucked myself into bed early.
The Forbidden Queen is a moving and inspiring fictionalised tale of a medieval princess, daughter, queen, wife and mother. I recommend to those who enjoy historical fiction. I would be interested in reading more by the author Anne O’Brien. Good read.
I received an ARC of The Forbidden Queen via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.
Have you read any of Anne O’Brien’s novels? Any recommendations?
Mid-August brought cooler temperatures and showers to the UK. The sort of weather that is more typically associated with the British Summer. To go with the traditional weather I needed a traditional read. What could be more traditional than Jane Austen? Northanger Abbey awaited on my bookshelf as did Behind Jane Austen’s Door by Jennifer Forest on my Kindle. I thought they would be great accompanying reads.
Northanger Abbey follows the coming-of-age of Catherine Morland the daughter of a country clergyman. Catherine isn’t beautiful but she has grown fair, she is tolerable well-read and skilled in her needlework but what she really adores is to read Gothic novels! Catherine’s neighbours Mr and Mrs Allen are wealthy and without children so when Catherine turns seventeen they ask her to join them for the season in Bath. Catherine has never left the country before and is wildly excited by it all. Bath offers the promise of nights at the theatre, balls, shopping, and new friends. Catherine quickly becomes attached to a Miss Thorpe and siblings Henry and Eleanor Tilney. The two friendships are to clash though and make her time in Bath difficult. Then she is offered the perfect escape. A visit to Northanger Abbey a Gothic pile in the countryside home to the Tilneys. Catherine foresees ruins, ghosts, and mysteries galore!
The protagonist of Northanger Abbey Catherine Morland is a likeable but flawed character. With her honest heart, inexperience, and vivid imagination Catherine has a lot to learn about society and friendship. I enjoyed experiencing how Catherine grows during the story through the experiences of her two friendships. I really loved Henry and Eleanor Tilney. Eleanor is just delightful while Henry is a bit of an eccentric country gentleman but I loved him for it. There is a very amusing scene where he is spinning Catherine a tale on their journey down to the Abbey worthy of any Gothic novel. In stark contrast we have Isabella and John Thorpe who I thoroughly disliked. They are both pretentious, vain, and scheming from day one sadly naïve Catherine seems to be oblivious to it all. This is perhaps the first Austen novel where I have met characters I have truly disliked and would want nothing to do with.
Northanger Abbey is the fifth novel of Jane Austen’s I have read. I love Austen’s work. All the novels I’ve read of Austen’s have been a beautiful glimpse into a by-gone age through the eyes of young women, and Northanger Abbey was no exception. What was different though was all the references to the Gothic romance novels of the time. Not that a young lady would wish to be caught reading one! I loved all these references and that the heroine herself was unashamedly in love with them. The other main difference I found was the rather abrupt ending. Don’t get me wrong I liked the ending but we are told in hindsight about it like a report rather than viewing it for ourselves. I can perhaps now see why Northanger Abbey was not published in Austen’s lifetime. I imagine it was not what publishers thought the public were looking for from Austen which could still ring true today. This is not a novel I would recommend you reading if you are new to Austen’s writing but well worth a go if you are already a die-hard fan.
Northanger Abbey is an enjoyable coming-of-age tale in the Regency period with a Gothic romance twist! I highly recommend to existing fans of Jane Austen. This is the 16th read off my Classics Club list. Now the only Austen novel I have left to read is Mansfield Park.
Have you read this? Are you a fan of Jane Austen?