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A Place in the World by Amy Maroney – review

Amy dfw-am-tgfo-cover-large-e1518548826385 Amy dfw-am-mw-cover-large-e1518565812648This is the last in the series and I’m sad to see it end. I thoroughly enjoyed this dual time-line narrative that takes us back to the sixteenth century, and Mira, a female artist trying to find her place in the world. On the trail of this artist is Zari, an art historian who is confounded at every turn by other less well-informed (and male) historians of the establishment. Dottie Butterfield-Swinton was a partucularly cringe-making character!

Both women are looking to make their mark, and both have long journeys to find their niche. For Zari it is a fight to prove that Mira’s paintings were not painted by a better known male artist. For Mira there is a more life-threatening adventure as one of her old enemies seeks to wreak revenge. The plot of both time-lines keeps the reader turning the pages anxious to find out what will happen next. We find out in this story that Mira is pregnant, but having lost one adopted child, she is understandably protective when the new baby comes, and the fact she must protect this vulnerable child adds to her difficulties. I enjoyed the different characters – the kind and practical Nekane, and the manipulative Amadina who was intent on destroying the lives of Mira and her husband Arnaud.

Amy GUEST_5a901e23-39c0-4de1-9d59-f91e827d1618The settings in this book are beautifully drawn, the convents, the rich merchants’ houses, and the landscape around Bayonne. I also enjoyed reading about Zari’s journey to Basque country, and her encounter with her distant relatives in her search for her own identity.

There is much more in these books than a brief review will allow. If you haven’t read the others, do start from the beginning. All three are excellent reads and I highly recommend all three for art and history lovers and anyone who wants a well-written, thoughtfully crafted book.

You can BUY THE BOOK here UK or here US

Discover the series on Amy’s Website and get a free book!

 

 

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New Release! Silent Water by P K Adams – the Cracow Royal Court

Silent Water eBook Cover Large

My new historical mystery Silent Water is a personal project in a way that my other writing has not been. It is set in the 16th century—an era that has many fans among historical fiction readers. But the setting is different to what the readers are used to. It does not take place in England or France, not even in Italy (even though it has an Italian connection); instead, the story takes place over the winter of 1519-1520 at the royal court in Cracow. 

Having spent my teenage years in Poland, my first serious study of history was not about the Tudors or the Borgias, but of a dynasty that, although powerful in its time, is little known outside of Eastern Europe. I am talking about the Jagiellons (pronounced Ya-ghye-lohns), who ruled the union of Poland and Lithuania (as well as, at various times, Hungary, Bohemia, and several minor principalities and territories) for more than two hundred years. 

Longer-lasting than the Tudors (founded in 1387 and dissolved in 1596), at its heyday the Jagiellon monarchy presided over a territory stretching from the Baltic in the north to the Black Sea and the Adriatic in the south. The reign of the last two kings of the dynasty – Zygmunt I (the Old) and Zygmunt II (August)—was the period in Polish history known as The Golden Age. Never before or after—until late in the 20th century—would Poland be so prosperous and peaceful as it was in the first seven decades of the 16th century. 

Interestingly, one of the most powerful and consequential Jagiellon monarchs was not actually Polish. Bona Sforza, who married Zygmunt I in 1518, was an Italian noblewoman who arrived in Cracow as a young royal bride, bringing with her new cuisine, customs, and fashions. But it was her ambition, forceful personality, and political astuteness that made the biggest mark on her adoptive country. She reformed its outdated agricultural sector, patronized artists, founded schools, built roads and bridges, and in the process accumulated a massive fortune. She was by all accounts a strong, fascinating, but also a tragic figure. 

I have long wanted to write a novel set at the court of Queen Bona (you can read more about the queen and her tenure in this post). Finally, last year I had an idea for a mystery with a touch of romance that takes place two years after her marriage to the king of Poland. Queen Bona is not the main protagonist, but she features prominently in the story, and the setting is very much influenced by Cracow and its royal castle, whose Renaissance overhaul had begun shortly before Bona’s arrival in Poland and continued under her patronage.

Caraglio_Cameo_of_Bona_Sforza public domainSilent Water (A Jagiellon Mystery Book 1) is the result of my fascination with the Jagiellon era in Eastern Europe.  I hope that it will give the English-language audiences a sense of how dynamic, diverse, glamorous, and intrigue-ridden the Polish court was. In that, it was no different from the Tudors, the Borgias, or the Valois about whom we love to read so much. 

Silent Water is on pre-order now and will be released on August 6, 2019. 

Links:

Buy the Book  

Patrycja’s website 

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Carol McGrath’s ‘The Woman in the Shadows’ – Review

34379160Carol McGrath’s new novel is a wonderful insight into the world of the Tudor merchant class.

Elizabeth Williams, a widow who has inherited her husband’s cloth business, meets Thomas Cromwell, at her late husband’s funeral. She remembers him as a childhood friend, and from there a sturdy marriage alliance is begun. Like most marriages of the time, it is based on sound business sense as well as affection.

‘Lizzy, Master Cromwell is my new cloth middle-man. He would like you to show him your bombazine cloth. He has admired your mourning gown.’

We get a picture of an ambitious and somewhat closed man, one with latent power, who will later rise in society to be a great player at the court of Henry VIII. But all this is to come, and The Woman in the Shadows is a book that shows us another side of Thomas Cromwell, that of husband and provider. Through Elizabeth Cromwell’s eyes the author provides us with fly-on-the-wall detail of Tudor living, and the minutiae of the common rituals associated with birth, marriage and death, all within a living context. We are privy to everything about Elizabeth’s cloth business from monastic sheep breeding  to garment, including the sumptuary laws against certain classes wearing certain colours, and the difficulties that a woman at this time faces in trade.

‘Mother and I decorously arranged our skirts over the wherry bench. Mother’s green and gold gown complimented my pink kirtle with its new embroidered sleeves.’

The book is laced with subtle tension. Elizabeth fights off dangers from rivals in the business, unfaithful servants, an unwanted suitor and an arson attack, and she almost buckles under the discovery of her husband’s affair. However, the portrait we are left with, is one of a strong and capable woman, able to deal maturely with life’s trials. At no time does Elizabeth Cromwell seem like a modern woman in Tudor clothing – she retains her religion, and her position is always subordinate to her husband. Her life is one where she does not question her husband’s authority.

McGrath shows us the world of women and their servants. After one disaster, her mother urges Elizabeth to come home, but Elizabeth is quite clear that to do that would be to abandon her duty. As well as tender observations of female domestic life, there are also wonderful descriptions of gardens, churches, and the Augustinian Friary of Austin Friars where the Cromwells lived.

Some afternoons, as I listen to them play, I wish that time would stand still for us all. I wish we were a moment captured in a painting and that the moment will last forever.’

Carol McGrath has succeeded in doing exactly that. Through her words, the life of Elizabeth Cromwell has truly been brought out of the shadows.

Carol McGrath is a reviewer for HNS, 2016 HNS conference organiser and the best-selling author of The Daughters of Hastings Trilogy published by Accent Press. Find her on her website here.

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