Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Review: "Royal Inheritance" by Kate Emerson

From Goodreads:  Audrey Malte, born about 1528 and raised at court by the king’s tailor, John Malte, was led to believe she is Malte’s illegitimate daughter when, in fact, her father is King Henry VIII. When she reaches marriageable age, she begins to realize, from the way certain people behave toward her, that Malte is keeping secrets from her, and she sets out to discover the truth. Her quest involves the best and the worst of the courtiers, among them a man with whom she falls in love.

Unfortunately, Malte has already entered into negotiations for her betrothal to someone else, and Audrey guesses the truth about her legacy when the king settles property on her, jointly with Malte. Marriage is definitely in Audrey’s future, but will it be to the man she wants to wed?

My Thoughts:  I have read a lot of Tudor era novels but this one caught my eye because the main character sounded so interesting.  Royal Inheritance features Audrey Malte who I originally thought was a fictional character but is, in fact, inspired by someone who really lived during Henry VIII's reign.  There was an awesome author's note at the end of the book that gave more information about the real Audrey Malte.  The author's Audrey is a happy young woman who was adopted by Henry VIII's tailor when she was a very young girl and spent her whole life believing that she was her father's (John Malte's) illegitimate daughter.  I loved that the author gave her a happy childhood and a loving family; sometimes it seems that when illegitimate children are main characters, authors tend to give them unhappy childhoods so it was kind of refreshing to see something different.

The story is told by Audrey as a precautionary tale to her daughter; this isn't the story of a woman who relishes her royal blood, Audrey knows that the burdens and danger associated with her heritage and isn't trying to use it to her advantage.  The story follows her as she slowly comes to realize who her biological father is and what that means for her life.  I liked that she was such a humble character, she really just wanted to be free to live her life in peace.  

The story is a very simple one (this is a nice light read) but it also is a kind of sad one.  I don't want to give anything away but it did make me a little sad that there wasn't a happy ending.  Because I liked Audrey as a character, I really hoped that things would turn out the way she wanted.  I think Royal Inheritance is a unique addition to the large group of Tudor era novels and is a really enjoyable read.  3 stars.

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Review: "A Study of Murder" by Susan McDuffie

Synopsis:  The Study of Murder pits Scottish sleuth Muirteach MacPhee against a mysterious adversary in the medieval town of Oxford in 1374.At the command of the Lord of the Isles, Muirteach and his wife Mariota accompany Donald, the lord's surly thirteen-year-old son, to Oxford where Donald is to enroll in university. Shortly after their arrival a winsome tavern maid disappears. At his charge's insistence, Muirteach attempts to help Undersheriff Grymbaud with the investigation, as well as keep Donald at his studies and out of the taverns. He has little success with either venture, although the discovery of some bizarre and suggestive drawings on old parchments piques the curiosity of Donald and his peers. Meanwhile, Mariota thirsts to attend medical lectures at the schools, which are closed to women, and seeks a way to gain admittance to them. When an Oxford master is found brutally bludgeoned to death, Grymbaud asks Muirteach to investigate the slaying. The eventual arrest of an aged servant at the college stirs the ever-simmering discord between townsfolk and university students. The unrest culminates in riots and another senseless killing occurs, endangering Mariota. Gleaning clues from a cryptic manuscript and desperate to save his wife, a determined Muirteach tracks a wily killer through a dark and twisted labyrinth of deceit.

My Thoughts:   What a great story this was!  I really love books that combine mystery and historical fiction so The Study of Murder was right up my alley.  I was a little nervous at first because it is part of a series and I have not read any of the other books but my fears were quikcly dispelled!

Muirteach and Mariota are a great team and such a sweet couple.  I liked that he was an investigator while she had the medical knowledge; it was like a detective/coroner duo.  Muirteach is a very interesting character; he wasvery intelligent and thought everything through.  There were a lot of possible suspects in the story but he was not quick to accuse anyone without cause.  Mariota was unique in that she was incredibly knowledgeable about medicine and had a strong desire to learn more.  The lengths she went to in order to attend medical lectures was pretty neat!

The setting of the story was completely unique and gives the reader a view of Oxford in the Middle Ages.  I haven't read many books that are set this far in the past but I think the author did a great job of presenting medieval Oxford and the people who inhabited it.  The Study of Murder is first, and foremost, a mystery and myy favorite aspect of the story was that I could not figure out who the killer was and what his motives were.  There were so many different characters who had motive and opportunity so I never could quite grasp who the actual killer was and I loved that! 

I would highly recommend this book to any reader who loves a good mystery with great characters.  I will definitely be picking up the other books in the series to see what else Muirteach and Mariota have been up to.  3 1/2 stars.

I received this book from Historical Fiction Virtual Tours in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author:

Susan McDuffie has been a fan of historical fiction since childhood. As a child, Susan spent such vast amounts of time reading historical fiction that she wondered if she was mistakenly born in the wrong century. As an adult her discovery that Clorox was not marketed prior to 1922 reconciled her to life in this era. Susan’s first published works were two Regency short stories in Regency Press anthologies.

Susan’s childhood interest in Scotland was fueled by stories of the McDuffie clan’s ancestral lands on Colonsay and their traditional role as “Keeper of the Records” for the Lord of the Isles. On her first visit to Scotland she hitchhiked her way through the Hebrides and the seeds for the medieval Muirteach MacPhee mysteries were planted.

The Muirteach mysteries include A MASS FOR THE DEAD (2006), THE FAERIE HILLS (2011), and THE STUDY OF MURDER (September 2013). The New Mexico Book Awards named THE FAERIE HILLS  “Best Historical Novel” of 2011. Currently plotting Muirteach’s next adventure, Susan shares her life with a Native American artist and four unruly cats, and enjoys taking flamenco dance classes in her spare time. She loves to hear from readers and her website is

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Sunday, September 15, 2013

Mailbox Monday (2)

 Hello!  I thought I would try out Mailbox Monday again this week!  This is a traveling meme and is being hosted by Yolanda at Notorious Spinks Talks for the month of September.

Because I haven't done a book haul post in a while, this post contains books I have received over the past few weeks.

From the Library:

The Child Thief by Dan Smith 

From NetGalley:


From Historical Fiction Virtual Tours:

What books did you get this week?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Review: "Queen's Gambit" by Elizabeth Fremantle

Synopsis:  Widowed for the second time at age thirty-one Katherine Parr falls deeply for the dashing courtier Thomas Seymour and hopes at last to marry for love. However, obliged to return to court, she attracts the attentions of the ailing, egotistical, and dangerously powerful Henry VIII, who dispatches his love rival, Seymour, to the Continent. No one is in a position to refuse a royal proposal so, haunted by the fates of his previous wives—two executions, two annulments, one death in childbirth—Katherine must wed Henry and become his sixth queen.

Katherine has to employ all her instincts to navigate the treachery of the court, drawing a tight circle of women around her, including her stepdaughter, Meg, traumatized by events from their past that are shrouded in secrecy, and their loyal servant Dot, who knows and sees more than she understands. With the Catholic faction on the rise once more, reformers being burned for heresy, and those close to the king vying for position, Katherine’s survival seems unlikely. Yet as she treads the razor’s edge of court intrigue, she never quite gives up on love.

 My Thoughts:  I loved this book!  Katherine Parr seems to get kind of forgotten in all the drama of Henry VIII's wives so it was refreshing to read a book that focused on her time as queen of England.

Ms. Fremantle does an amazing job of portraying Katherine as an intelligent and witty woman who used her brains to keep from following Henry's other wives to the block.  She is such a fascinating historical figure; she wrote books and was very dedicated to the Protestant religion.  I also loved how the author portrayed her as a loving mother who took care of Henry's children as well as her step-daughter.  I did feel really bad for Katherine; she didn't get a choice in her first three marriages and when she finally did get to marry for love, things didn't turn out so well for her.

What I loved most about this book was Dot's character.  This is a Tudor novel so the usual suspects were present but I thoroughly enjoyed reading Dot's story intermingled with that of Katherine's.  Dot was Katherine's maid and I loved seeing the Tudor court through the eyes of a servant.  Dot was like the eyes and ears of the story; what wasn't elaborated on during Katherine's sections was usually explained from Dot's perspective. The author described a lot of the setting (different palaces, gowns, jewels, historical figures, etc.) through Dot's eyes and I felt like that made for a very unique story.  Dot was also just an incredibly likable character and I cared about her experiences and point of view.

Queen's Gambit is very well-written and appears to be a well-researched novel and as always I really appreciated the historical information that was included at the end of the bookI am definitely looking forward to more books by this author! This is a great book for Tudor fans looking for something out of the ordinary. 4 stars.

I received this book from Historical Fiction Virtual Tours in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author:

Elizabeth Fremantle holds a first class degree in English and an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck College London. She has contributed as a fashion editor to various publications including Vogue, Elle and The Sunday Times. QUEEN'S GAMBIT is her debut novel and is the first in a Tudor trilogy. The second novel, SISTERS OF TREASON, will be released in 2014. She lives in London.

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