Brandon – Tudor Knight by Tony Riches #FridayReads #RBRT

brandon

From the author of the international best-selling Tudor Trilogy:

Handsome, charismatic and a champion jouster, Sir Charles Brandon is the epitome of a Tudor Knight. A favourite of King Henry VIII, Brandon has a secret. He has fallen in love with Henry’s sister, Mary Tudor, the beautiful widowed Queen of France, and risks everything to marry her without the king’s consent.

Brandon becomes Duke of Suffolk, but his loyalty is tested fighting Henry’s wars in France. Mary’s public support for Queen Catherine of Aragon brings Brandon into dangerous conflict with the ambitious Boleyn family and the king’s new right-hand man, Thomas Cromwell.

Torn between duty to his family and loyalty to the king, Brandon faces an impossible decision: can he accept Anne Boleyn as his new queen?

After reading Mary -Tudor Princess less than a year ago I was looking forward to seeing this love story from the point of view of Charles Brandon. Tony Riches has taken us into the mind of Brandon, a generous, clever man and undoubtedly a womaniser. An orphan whose father died fighting for Henry VII at Bosworth, Charles became the friend and mentor of Henry VIII when the latter was still a young prince. Frequently lacking funds, Brandon was a political animal latching on to the power and influence of first Wolsey and then Thomas Cromwell. He took on the wardship of two young heiresses during his life, but he abandoned his betrothed, Elizabeth Grey, so that he could marry Mary, sister of King Henry and widow of King Francis of France.

Mary had loved him since, at the age of 13, she gave him her favour when he was jousting. A stunningly beautiful princess with long red gold hair, she also appealed to him and he took a calculated gamble in secretly marrying her without Henry’s permission. This could have been seen as treason but his close friendship with the King saved the couple. We share Tudor history with Charles and Mary as they attend the Field of the Cloth of Gold, support their friend Catherine of Aragon and have to accept Anne Boleyn as her replacement.

I love the way the author tells the story simply, concentrating on Brandon himself but giving us a view of the exciting but dangerous world of the Tudor court and the way that the affable young prince Henry turned into an unpredictable, capricious King. At times there is a sudden jump of time and place from one paragraph to the next, but this is easy to forgive when you are transported so easily into another interesting situation. A great introduction into the Tudor world.

Brandon Tudor Knight can be found on Amazon UK

My Review of Mary Tudor- Princess

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Transcription by Kate Atkinson #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

transcription

 Transcription opens in 1981 when Juliet Armstrong is involved in an accident. As she lies on the ground, injured, her mind goes back to 1940 when she started work in the offices of MI5 and then to 1950 when she was a BBC schools programmes producer. A witty but unemotional protagonist she seems to be recounting events as they happened, but there are omissions, and can we really trust her testimony?

I loved this book, much preferring it to Life After Life. The story of how MI5 monitored Nazi sympathisers and the account of  the amoral social life of 1940 are fascinating. Juliet’s observations on a woman’s role, always making the tea but also sent out to risk her life on potentially dangerous missions without any training, reflect reality. At times, this novel made me laugh out loud, at others, it is tense and thrilling and always slightly puzzling. There are so many intriguing characters, from Peregrine Gibbons, so dapper but resisting her charms (Juliet’s naivety is believable) to Godfrey Talbot, the likeable double agent, via delightful Cyril, her hard-working companion in Dolphin Square and the tactless Daisy who is supposed to assist Juliet at the BBC.

As Juliet listens in to meetings between Godfrey and a group of fascist sympathisers her transcriptions are sketchy. Words are missing when the dog barks and we don’t have a complete picture of what is happening. This reflects Juliet’s story. She has the ability to lie easily, making her an effective spy and yet she cares deeply about the fate of a young maid who briefly helps her and who, like Juliet, is an orphan.

This is a deep novel with a light tone. It is interesting to read from the context of today’s politics and society. And if you are wondering, the flamingo on the cover is explained towards the end of the story. There has been criticism by some reviewers of the denouement in which we are told in a rapid summary how threads in the story linked and we learn more about Juliet’s motivation, but I am on the fence on this. It satisfied my queries but possibly could have been revealed more subtly. However, the texture and quality of the writing is so delightful I could happily read it all over again next week.

 Transcription is available atAmazon UK

Innocent Graves by Peter Robinson #BookReview #AmReading

Innocent Graves

 Innocent Graves is the eighth novel in Peter Robinson’s Inspector Banks series, following on from Dry Bones That Dream.

One foggy night, Deborah Harrison is found lying in the churchyard behind St Mary’s, Eastvale. She has been strangled with the strap of her own school satchel.

But Deborah was no typical sixteen-year old. Her father was a powerful financier who moved in the highest echelons of industry, defence and classified information. And Deborah, it seemed, enjoyed keeping secrets of her own . . .

With his colleague Detective Constable Susan Gay, Inspector Alan Banks moves along the many suspects, guilty of crimes large and small. And as he does so, plenty of sordid secrets and some deadly lies begin to emerge . . .

I chose to read Innocent Graves thanks to a recommendation from Amazon and it is only now that I have finished the book that I discover it is one of 24 Inspector Banks novels which have been on TV, starring Stephen Tomkinson. I dimly remember enjoying a few episodes but for me the book is more intense and compelling.

Inspector Banks is an empathetic character, even though, at times, he can be unpleasantly aggressive to the suspects he interviews. Despite the annoying bias his boss shows, in sucking up to rich influential locals, Banks is determined to find the murderer by methodical, thorough police work. The unusual feature of this novel is that we also see the case from the viewpoint of the man they arrest. Without knowing whether he is guilty or innocent we witness the way his life falls apart and he is forced to wait in a sordid, claustrophobic police cell for several months before going to court.

The book introduces a variety of characters who might have had a motive to kill Deborah but circumstantial evidence make it difficult for the police and the reader to select the culprit. I had my suspicions, but the denouement was well constructed. Towards the end I could not put the book down until all was revealed.

Innocent Graves is available on Amazon UK

Peter Robinson

Peter Robinson

Peter Robinson grew up in Yorkshire, and now divides his time between Richmond and Canada. Peter has written twenty-four books in the Number One Bestselling DCI Banks series as well as two collections of short stories and three standalone novels, the most recent of which is Number One bestseller BEFORE THE POISON. Peter’s critically acclaimed crime novels have won numerous awards in Britain, the United States, Canada and Europe, and are published in translation all over the world.

Dissolution by C J Sansom #FridayReads #BookReview

Dissolution

It is 1537, a time of revolution that sees the greatest changes in England since 1066. Henry VIII has proclaimed himself Supreme Head of the Church. The country is waking up to savage new laws, rigged trials and the greatest network of informers ever seen. And under the orders of Thomas Cromwell, a team of commissioners is sent throughout the country to investigate the monasteries. There can only be one outcome: dissolution.

But on the Sussex coast, at the monastery of Scarnsea, events have spiralled out of control. Cromwell’s Commissioner, Robin Singleton, has been found dead, his head severed from his body. His horrific murder is accompanied by equally sinister acts of sacrilege.

Matthew Shardlake, lawyer and long-time supporter of Reform, has been sent by Cromwell to uncover the truth behind the dark happenings at Scarnsea. But investigation soon forces Shardlake to question everything that he hears, and everything that he intrinsically believes . . .

I have come very late to the detective stories of Matthew Shardlake, since this first book was originally published in 2003, but I was fascinated to enter a Benedictine monastery just at the time when it was threatened with dissolution by Henry VIII via the machinations of his Lord Chancellor, Thomas Cromwell.  I have studied the ideal of the monasteries providing alms, care for the sick and accommodation for the traveller by being self-sufficient with their farm, fishponds and gardening. I also know that Cromwell’s accusations of gluttony, fornication and profiteering were based on real crimes committed by many of the monks.

Shardlake provides us with an outsider’s view of the monastery at a remote coastland site where devout, hard-working brothers lived alongside wrongdoers who enjoyed a comfortable life with luxurious food.  His task as a Commissioner to discover the murderer is further complicated by the discovery of another body and several likely suspects.  Expecting his assistant, Mark Poer, to support his efforts, he is distressed when the young man begins a dalliance with Alice, who is helping in the Infirmary.  The claustrophic atmosphere of the monastery is increased by the severe winter weather and the dangerous marshland.

Although long-winded, the mystery is complex, and it is difficult as a reader to guess who is the murderer.  We come to know Matthew very well, dealing with the pain of his humped-back while attempting to maintain dignity and respect.  We see his failings and sometimes rigid religious views but also appreciate his kindness and consideration for others. The problems of keeping office and keeping your head while working for Cromwell’s government are all too evident and I found this account much more realistic than the Tudor world of Wolf Hall.

Dissolution can be purchased from Amazon UK

A Victorian Lady’s Guide to Fashion and Beauty By Mimi Matthews #TuesdayBookBlog

Victorian

Book Description 

What did a Victorian lady wear for a walk in the park? How did she style her hair for an evening at the theatre? And what products might she have used to soothe a sunburn or treat an unsightly blemish? Mimi Matthews answers these questions and more as she takes readers on a decade-by-decade journey through Victorian fashion and beauty history.

Women’s clothing changed dramatically during the course of the Victorian era. Necklines rose, waistlines dropped, and Gothic severity gave way to flounces, frills, and an abundance of trimmings. Sleeves ballooned up and skirts billowed out. The crinoline morphed into the bustle and steam-moulded corsets cinched women’s waists ever tighter.

As fashion was evolving, so too were trends in ladies’ hair care and cosmetics. An era which began by prizing natural, barefaced beauty ended with women purchasing lip and cheek rouge, false hairpieces and pomades, and fashionable perfumes made with expensive spice oils and animal essences.

Using research from nineteenth century beauty books, fashion magazines, and lady’s journals, Mimi Matthews brings the intricacies of a Victorian lady’s toilette into modern day focus. In the process, she gives readers a glimpse of the social issues that influenced women’s clothing and the societal outrage that was an all too frequent response to those bold females who used fashion and beauty as a means of asserting their individuality and independence.

My Review

Having read many of Mimi’s online blog articles I know she has a prodigious knowledge of 19th century customs, art and fashion so I looked forward to learning a great deal from this book.  Well annotated and sourced, the first part takes the reader through each decade from the 1840s to the 1890s. Looking at clothing, underwear, millinery and jewellery, Miss Matthews describes the changing female silhouette, illustrated with beautiful plates of the particular decade. But in no way is this a pedestrian account; the vocabulary of Victorian fashion; spoon busks, crinolettes, paletots etc are intriguingly poetic and yet we also read of the tragic death of a Regent Street seamstress, who worked from 6.30 in the morning till 11 pm plus occasionally working all night to complete a commission.

The section on fashion etiquette describes how clothing for specific circumstances, such as mourning, were strictly dictated. Middle and upper class ladies needed to change their dress several times a day, from a comfortable morning dress, to a walking dress and then a splendid evening dress.  Other activities, such as sport, riding and visiting the seaside required different styles just as today. Finally the section on beauty, hair care and cosmetics is particularly fascinating. I love the suggestion that to avoid wrinkles one should, “endeavour to acquire plumpness.” This is a superb book to peruse during the festive season.

You can purchase A Victorian Guide to Fashion and Beauty at Amazon UK

My review of A Holiday by Gaslight, a Christmas novella by Mimi Matthews

The Winter That made us by Kate Field #FridayReads #Book Review

Winter that made us

It is so exciting finding a new author – someone whose books you will look forward to, who will not disappoint, and that is how I feel about Kate Field.

The Winter That Made Us is an apt title, describing what happened to two broken souls thrown together against their will in the village of Ribblemill.  Tess has returned to her home saying that her husband is working in Dubai, but she does not feel able to live with her parents due to her mother’s overanxious attitude. Cobweb Cottage on the Ramblings Estate seems the perfect bolthole but it has also been promised to the dour, uncommunicative, Noah Thornton. As the house is easily divisible, they decide to share the tenancy, but they usually have their meals together.  Their relationship becomes less frosty when they are adopted by Morag the kitten.

Eventually Tess discovers the horrific incident which caused Noah to avoid crowds and keep his own counsel, but she also has demons which she is reluctant to confront. They are lucky to be surrounded by a caring community and as Noah gains confidence reclaiming the walled garden, Tess uses her musical talent to organise a local choir, teach piano lessons and try music therapy.  As things begin to look up, disaster strikes twice. There will be no chance of a relationship between Noah and Tess so will she ever be able to face up to her failed former life and tell her parents the truth?

This emotional rollercoaster has magical moments and is a feelgood read, perfect for the Christmas season.

The Winter That Made Us is available at Amazon UK

Kate Field

Kate Field lives in Lancashire with her husband, daughter and cat. Her debut novel, The Magic of Ramblings, won the Romantic Novelists’ Association Joan Hessayon Award for new writers.

Blood Reckoning by Dan Wadell #TuesdayBook Blog #BookReview

Blood Reckoning

Blood Reckoning is the third book about DCI Grant Foster and his occasional working relationship with genealogist, Nigel Barnes.  The two are also linked by Grant’s colleague DS Heather Jenkins, who is Nigel’s girlfriend.  On this occasion the two men are working on separate cases. Nigel is straying away from his usual family research, as he investigates relationships and location for the causes of a young girl’s terrible nightmares.

Foster’s horrifying murder investigations take him back to his early career as a young police officer in Newcastle.  In 1992, a well-respected 73-year-old man had been murdered by two young boys.  On their release, they were given new identities but now Foster must revisit the scene and the circumstances of the murder.  This major part of the novel is a gripping detective investigation by a policeman determined to find the truth without favour. An intense fast-moving plot reveals the far-reaching repercussions of the original case and in an unusual twist Nigel Barnes becomes personally entangled with the latest events.

Unlike the earlier books, crime features more prominently than genealogy, so this novel may have a wider audience, but personally I have enjoyed each of the three books.  The characterisation of the two men is believable and each book stands on its own. A solid contemporary murder mystery.

Blood Reckoning can be purchased at Amazon UK

Dan Wadell

Dan Waddell is a journalist and author of more than a twenty works of fiction and non-fiction. His first crime novel, The Blood Detective, was nominated for three debut awards, included the celebrated CWA New Blood Dagger, and has been published in five countries. He is also the author of the bestselling guide that accompanied the award-winning BBC TV series, Who Do You Think You Are?

An exiled Yorkshireman, Dan has been a cricket fanatic since he witnessed his first England batting collapse aged six. He was a talented junior batsman, played representative cricket for Yorkshire and was even once, briefly, on the payroll of the county club itself. After being lost to journalism for several years, he made a misguided comeback and now captains Acton 2nd XI in the Middlesex County League where, in between taking painkillers, he tries and fails to pass on sage advice to young players. He covered two seasons of county cricket for The Daily Telegraph and his first ever published work was the history of BBC TV’s cricket coverage, And Welcome to the Highlights, where he got to interview David Gower, Richie Benaud and his boyhood hero, Geoffrey Boycott. It has been downhill ever since…