Tag Archives: historical fiction

Review of Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen

If you’re like me, you’ve been fascinated since childhood by the Tudors: Queen Elizabeth I, Bloody Mary, and of course, King Henry VIII and his six wives. The whole history seems so complicated, so full of intrigue, so royal (at least to us Americans). If you’re into the Tudor family too, then you might just enjoy Alison Weir’s latest installment in her “Six Tudor Queens” series: Jane Seymour, The Haunted Queen, out May 15.

Book cover image to Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen

The book starts when Jane is a young girl, ten years old. She’s happy with her parents and siblings, living in countryside luxury on the Seymour estate. Even at a young age, Jane is a moral-minded person. She dreams of joining a convent and devoting her life to being a nun. She gets up before her family to pray in the chapel, and she embroiders tapestries to cover the altar. But her mother warns her to wait and see if being a nun is really her calling. She might change her mind when she gets older.

Years later, Jane is now of age, ready to commit herself to the convent. She hasn’t given up the dream, and while she is a little sad to say goodbye to her family, she is steadfast in joining the church. But once she’s in the convent, she realizes the sacrificial life isn’t what she was expecting. What bothers her the most is the underlying system of the convent, specifically the Prioress who seems more than a little hypocritical in her “life of poverty.” So Jane returns home where the seed of a new dream is planted: serving as a ladies’ maid at the royal court of King Henry.

These scenes are character-builders for Jane.Always the conscientious one, she begins to see the world around her as less shiny and more tainted with wrongdoing. Her brother and his wife are obviously unhappy in their marriage, and a scandalous affair erupts in the family, causing great emotional distress and forcing the sister-in-law to leave in disgrace. Jane quickly discerns the blame, understanding that the women in these situations (especially in the 1500s) are the ones who take on the shame and the punishment while the men have little damage to their reputations.

Weir does an excellent job of building up Jane as virtuous, a lover of truth, a hater of adultery, a woman of faith. With Jane’s true feelings being hard to figure out with historical accuracy, the novel helps fit the pieces together. It shows us a little of what Jane was probably like, getting to the motivations behind her behavior. This book explores the woman behind the scenes. How can a woman as devout and conscientious as Jane become the overthrower to Queen Anne Boleyn? What part does she play in stealing the heart of King Henry VIII? All questions we must consider when digging into the Why of these historical events.

Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen reads like a novel, and I especially liked its character development as it’s interesting to me the psychology behind people’s behavior, especially within history. If you like historical fiction and historical retelling, this might just be the British summer read you’ve been looking for.

Thanks to Penguin Random House for providing a copy of Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen for review.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books

Review of The Darkling Bride

Lately, I’ve been thinking I should change the title of this blog to “In Love with the British Isles.” I do love England (isn’t it obvious?), of course, but I love so much more! In the past, I’ve tried to narrow down my topics to England, but I’ve decided to turn to Ireland a bit more recently, as a couple of delightful Irish books have come my way for review.

I just finished The Darkling Bride by Laura Andersen. My life (like yours, I’m sure) has been busy and complicated, and finding time to read outside of my studies has been challenging. But I’m so glad I’ve had The Darkling Bride to turn to in my spare moments the past couple weeks, needing an escape from the neverending winter of Michigan.

book cover for The Darkling Bride

The Darkling Bride by Laura Andersen

First, let me ask, do you like myths, murder mysteries, family secrets, historical fiction, libraries, ghosts, and Irish castles with a side of romance? This fast-paced novel has all of that. With its multiple perspectives and multiple timeframes, you never feel stuck in this book; you’re just excited to read what happens next.

There’s quite a few interesting characters in the book: Carragh Ryan, the archivist from Boston; Aidan Gallagher, the conflicted heir to the Deeprath Castle and estate; Sibéal McKenna, the police detective trying to prove herself in a new department. And these are just the characters in the current timeframe. We also get to time travel back to the 1800s to learn the stories of Jenny Gallagher, whose secrets and tragic end still haunt the castle battlements, and of Aidan’s own parents, who were mysteriously killed when he was just a child.

And of course, we can’t forget the castle itself. This structure comes alive in the novel, with its many additions and renovations from across the centuries; it feels like another character, acting its own will on the people living within the stone walls. I especially loved reading about the library which was built into an ancient chapel. I imagined shelves upon shelves of dusty tomes lining the stained-glass bay windows, containing a millenium of stories—and secrets, as it turns out.

I also appreciated the theme of identity in the novel. Carragh, an Asian-American, was adopted into an Irish-American family living in Boston; she inherits her grandmother’s home in Ireland and is the only one in her family who really wants to hold onto this piece of history. Aidan, on the other hand, struggles to accept his family inheritance, wanting to escape his family identity. It makes for an interesting contrast in the book, providing additional tension to the already tense unfolding of the family mystery.

I would consider this a fun, need-to-escape-int0-a-story-without-having-to-think-too-hard kind of mystery book. I would definitely recommend it if you need a mental escape to an Irish castle with a badass library.  

Thanks to Ballantine and Random House for providing a copy of The Darkling Bride for review.

1 Comment

Filed under Books