Tuesday, March 31, 2015

My PInterests.......

So, I've finally joined this newfangled Pinterest thingy. I rather like the idea of a montage of pictures devoted to a particular subject. Hence, I am sharing here a two of my first boards. This first one was created because I love the Anglo-Saxon period (roughly 500-1066 AD), and I am very exited about two new titles set in that period due out this year, Oswald: Return of the King by Edoardo Albert in May, and Hild: Abbess of Whitby by Jill Dalladay, coming in August.




The board is really an Introduction to and celebration of all things Old English, from clothing and food, to armour and buildings, to give viewers a sense of the age and the time. Since both the books are written by British-based authors, and from a British Publisher, it seems relevant. Enjoy....

The second board is quite similar to one of my posts on here, but slightly updated, displaying all of the Christian Fiction titles set in the Medieval period that have come out or are due for release this year. There may be more, but these are all I have found so far. Again, feel free to have a butchers, as Cockneys would say- or have a look in more widely known language.
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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Historical Saturday #3- The Warrior Woman- Fact or Fiction?

You may have noticed that this year there are at least three novels, set in the Medieval period that depict women in traditionally male type roles. Dina Sleiman's Dauntess and Melanie Dickerson's The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest both depict female Robin Hood like figures who use their skill with the bow in defence of some good cause.
Of the two, Merry Ellison, the heroine of Dauntless seems to be the most martial, skilled in sword fighting and various athletic pursuits as well as with the bow. 
I must say that I for one was a little unsettled by the idea of such characterisation, but it seems to work well with what I have read of the story so far (I'm just over halfway through the novel at the time of writing), but it seems to work well with the storyline and the period setting. 


Being the Medievalist that I am, I think there is a lot wrong with the depictions of martial females in many movies and  TV shows. Now don't get me wrong, I believe in women's rights, and I admire a strong woman- indeed one of my personal heroines from history is Ethelflead of Mercia, on whom I will say more later in this post- but for me one of the biggest problems with fighting Medieval women on screen is tokenism. 
Thus a militaristic Lady will be included simply because the screenwriter et al feels that the female lead simply has to be  good at fighting and in the thick of the action to prove that women are just as good as men, and tick off of the politically correct, feminist boxes so they are not depicted as helpless victims. 

Yet such depictions are often lacklustre and veering on being so far-fetched that they are totally unrealistic. Picture a tiny, size zero supermodel type girl wielding a two-handed sword or axe nearly as big as she is with ease, despite having had little or no training and you might just grasp my meaning. Or how is it that such characters seem to have a miraculous ability to come out of a battle looking as flawlessly gorgeous as they went in? Not a smudge on their makeup, not a glossy, waist length hair out of place, whilst all the men are blood splattered and looking decidedly the worse for wear.
The logical person in me just wants to imitate the cry of the ancient Britons in a resounding 'As if!' 

Then there's the feminist superwoman. The good and everything all the time type (who can surpass any male in archery or swordplay anytime, anywhere just because of her innate girl-power). The type who refuses any kind of help from men, even if she has an uncanny knack for getting into trouble, and is sure to give any man a shovelful of sass if he dares come to her aid as she is perfectly capable of looking after herself, thankyou very much. 

Alright, putting aside my ire at the most irritating form of extreme feminism being forcibly imposed onto the past, and upon the audience by proxy, what actual evidence is there for fighting females in the Middle Ages? Is it all Hollywood invention, or is there some truth in such depiction? Surprisingly, the answer is a tentative yes...at least for a Merry Ellison type figure. 
Hunting, for instance, was a popular pastime in the Middle Ages for both sexes, and there are contemporary illustrations that clearly show women hawking, and even hunting with bows and arrows.Indeed, I once heard it said that some women may have been more accomplished archers than their male counterparts.
In the Hundred Years War, Longbowmen seem to have been expected to loose as many arrows as possible within a short space of time- three or four a minute if possible. Like the machine guns of their day, the use of Longbows in war seems to have been less about accuracy, and more about slowing down the charge of the enemy. Hunting, however required more precision and skill to kill the quarry...and those ladies must have practised much as I know from experience that for a girl unschooled in archery, drawing a bow for a prolonged period is painful....literally.

The next novel in Dina Sleiman's Valiant Hearts series features a young lady clad in armour who dreams of being a knight. Alright, so a female knight is probably altogether less plausible as I know of no instances of women being knighted- they were illegible for knighthood. Yet, there are to be found in the sources some examples of women who did lead soldiers, and in some cases donned armour and even fought. Often such women were widows, or without a male protector, so responsibility for defending home, kith and kin fell to them. 


One of the most early examples came from Anglo-Saxon England. Ethelfleda, the daughter of Alfred the Great, was the first known Englishwoman to rule a kingdom on her own right- 600 years before Elizabeth I or Mary Tudor. Admittedly she did not rule all of what became England, but she did become the ruler of a territory called English Mercia- half of what is now the English Midlands after the death of her husband Ethelred c.911.
During her rule of approximately seven years, Ethelflead is said by the sources to have built fortresses, re-established Roman cities like Gloucester, and led successfully led her army against the invading Danish Vikings- sometimes in co-operation with her younger brother, Edward King of Wessex, sometimes in her own right. By her death in 918, the Mercians had reclaimed much territory. It is doubtful whether she ever actually fought personally, but Ethelflead was nonetheless a capable and intelligent leader of her people, who was earned admiration throughout the British Isles and even beyond.
Over two centuries after her death, the 12th Century chronicler, Henry of Huntingdon penned a verse in praise of her career and achievements:

"Heroic Elflede ! great in martial fame,
A man in valoar, woman though in name ;
Thee warlike hosts, thee  nature too obey'd,
Conqu'ror o'er both, though born by sex a maid.
Chang'd be thy name, such honour triumphs bring,
A queen by title, but in deeds a king.
Heroes before the Mercian heroine ' quail'd :
Caesar himself to win such glory failed."
. 1

Other ladies of the twelfth and thirteenth century also proved their mettle on the field of war. One Isabella of Conches, a Norman noblewoman was described by the chronicler Orderic Vitalis as  having ridden out to war  'armed as a knight, among the knights, and she showed no less courage among the knights in hauberks as did the maid Camilla'.2

Admittedly the warrior women is considered something of a literary trope in the Middle Ages, and some writers may have been using artistic licence, but this and the number of other references clearly show some women did take it upon themselves to fight with or for their menfolk. Another such renowned woman was Sichelgaita of Salerno, wife of the Norman Conqueror Robert Guiscard. The daughter of the Byzantine Emperor, Anna Komnene spoke of her thus when in battle against her people in her famous Biographical work on her father The Alexiad: 

"There is a story that Robert’s wife Gaita, who used to accompany him on campaign like another Pallas, if not a second Athena, seeing the runaways and glaring fiercely at them, shouted in a very loud voice, ‘How far will ye run? Halt! Be men!’ – not quite in those Homeric words, but something very like them in her own dialect. As they continued to run, she grasped a long spear and charged at full gallop against them. It brought them to their senses and they went back to fight".3
Her close contemporary Matilda of Tuscany is the only women to have actually been said to have
received  training in the use of weapons- which she seemingly put to good use in the conflict between the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor, when the latter had to cross her lands.
In England, Empress Matilda and wife of her rival, Stephen of Blois, another Matilda, are both said to have taken to the battlefield in defence of their cause. When her husband was captured, the latter Matilda led "a magnificent body of troops' whom she ordered to 'rage most furiously around London with plunder and arson, violence and the sword".4

There are also numerous examples of women defending castles, including Dame Nicola de la Haye, who despite being in her seventies commanded the royalist stronghold of Lincoln Castle against the forces of Prince Louis of France and the rebel English barons at the time of King John’s death, holding out against every assault until William Marshall arrived with relief forces'.5


From the fourteenth century there exists an illustration of Isabella, Wife of Edward II, in armour
standing amongst her soldiers.Isabella, however represents the other side of a the coin- a women whose actions subjected her to scorn and criticism- for she had a role in the deposition and possible murder of her husband the King.
 Queen Isabella pictured in Red Gown
When a martial woman's military efforts were coupled with other virtues, such as generosity, piety or kindness, she was likely to be praised- but if a woman to up arms in a cause deemed morally questionable, and committed actions considered sinful or immoral, the likelihood was that her reputation would suffer and she would be denounced as unnatural and violent.

Ethelfleda and Matilda of Tuscany were pious Christian women fighting in what was considered a just cause against pagans or rebellious Christians- so they were praised by supporters- Isabella however was a rebellious wife, and possible adulteress- the Empress Matilda was labelled as arrogant and haughty for trying to act like 'a female King', and scandal blighted the later reputation of Sichelgaita.
So women could, and in some cases did take up arms. If they were widows, or for whatever reason had no husband or brother present to fight their corner, and if necessity demanded action, it was not unlikely that their actions would be considered legitimate and admirable. By the fifteenth century, Europe's first professional female writer Christine de Pizan gave this advice to noblewoman:

"It is also fitting for her to have the spirit of a man. This means she ought not only be educated entirely indoors, nor in only the great feminine virtues…. Her men should be able to rely on her for all kinds of protection in the absence of their Lord, in a situation where anyone would offer to do them any harm.....
To do his she should: 
"know how to use weapons and be familiar with everything that pertains to them, so that she might be ready to command her men if the need arises. She should know how to launch an attack or defend against one, if the situation calls for it."6

However, women who were considered to be going against the natural social order, by rebelling against a husband or threatening and hier, or else acting in a manner considered aggressive, arrogant or disproportionate- if in her personal life she was of lax morals, then her reputation would be tarnished for future generations.

_________________________________________________________

Sources and References:
1.The Chronicle of Henry of Huntingdon, Online Text, Book V, p168,
http://www.ebooksread.com/authors-eng/1084-1155-henry-of-huntingdon/the-chronicle-of-henry-of-huntingdon-comprising-the-history-of-england-from-th-goo/page-18-the-chronicle-of-henry-of-huntingdon-comprising-the-history-of-england-from-th-goo.shtml

2. Susan M. Johns, Noblewomen, Aristocracy and Power in the Twelfth Century Anglo-Norman Realm (Manchester, 2003), p14. 

3. Anna Comnena, E.R.A.Sewter (trans.), The Alexiad of Anna Comnena (London, 1969), p117.

4. Henrietta Leyser, Medieval Women: A Social History of Women in England 450-1500 (London, 2002), p165-6.

5.  Joseph  & Frances Gies, Life in a Medieval Castle (Harper Perennial, 2002), p86.

6:  Chrisine de Pisan, Sarah Lawson (tr.), The Treasure of the City of the Ladies (London, 2003), p109-11.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Brave knights and a murdered Bishop- Two reviews in one go!

A Soul's Ransom- Scott Howard 
Kindle Edition, 429 Pages 
February 2012 

On August 26, 1346, a great battle was fought at Crecy between the outnumbered English forces and a superior French army. Sir William de Courtenay, an English knight, was primed to test his pluck, but capture would forever change the course of his life.
His mud-encrusted grin at a peasant girl and his kind words of intervention to a noblewoman would alter their lives, lives that would soon be intertwined into a drama more grand than they could ever imagine. For some, their escape would lead to the fulfillment of long-held dreams, but for another, dark despair.
Opposition will rear its head and attempt to destroy. Roles will become reversed and the skies of hope will roll back, only to be replaced with clouds of gloom. A hard choice of faith will have to be made by his friends and betrothed- believing that a dead man is indeed alive. If he is alive, then honor dictates that he should clear his name and regain the title that has been stolen. What secret would drive him to hide from someone who loves him as her own soul and would crawl from the ends of the earth to hold him in her arms? Is his pride so powerful that he would disavow all that he had once embraced?
A touching epic of faith, hope, and love, where mettle is tested, weighed, and refined. A story where sacrifice sows an enduring yield.
What price can be put on a soul?
                    _______________________________________________________________

A worthy read as a historical adventure story set in the Medieval period, but I had a few issues, First of all, it was not especially accurate- now I appreciate that the author says in the note that it is not supposed to be and he had taken some liberties with the facts, but these were not the main problems.

Principally, what seemed to be a blind adherence to popular misconceptions about the time period. That lords could have peasants - or even royal messengers- summarily killed for almost anything, and the element of modern judgement. Seriously, why do the 'Christian convictions' of characters just happen to reflect modern ideals and expectations- pacifism, egalitarianism etc? Just because modern Americans or westerners don't approve of something or understand the reasons for it, why does it automatically have to be written off as bad or stupid?

Then there were some glaring errors, that I could really not overlook.
Medieval people did not, repeat not, use the word 'Okay'. It ranks alongside having them eating Turkey, potatoes and sipping on Earl Grey tea on my list of simple errors that historical fiction writers should not make. Also, the seemingly odd geographical conflation of the region in which Edward III's Queen was born. She was said to be 'French even though she was born in Flanders'.
From what I looked up the Medieval region of Hainault covered parts of modern day Belgium, so what would make her Belgian surely? Yes, the language and culture was French, but it is a separate country- like confusing an American with a Canadian today, right?

...and some incidents just didn't seem to make any sense, at all - were they just put in to emphasise how horrible Edward III and most English soldiers supposedly were? I mean throwing prisoners overboard because you would be in more trouble for jettisoning the booty? Seriously- and the point in burning the ancestral lands you are trying to reclaim? I've heard of the destructive Chevaucee raids, but this makes it sound like they were official policy. Sometimes, it just read like a bad Hollywood 'historical' movie. Another 'Timeline' or 'Joan of Arc' (...euurghhh)- though it was not wholly Anglophobic, as the depictions of many of the characters on both sides was fair .

Finally, the writing style was very much on the side of telling instead of showing, and the characterisation a little one-dimensional but that is forgivable.
Forgivable because essentially, this was a good, wholesome and clean read, for all that the rendering of the setting falls short, with positive spiritual messages. Yet I'm not wholly convinced that the old adage of 'its just fiction' excuses all- great Historical Fiction can also be accurate and well researched. They need not be mutually exclusive.
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The Life and Death of St Thomas Becket- Rosanne E Lortz 
Kindle Edition, 181 Pages 
January 2010 
 

This title is a college thesis written by Rosanne E. Lortz to fulfill her graduation requirements at New St. Andrews College. It tells the life story of Thomas Becket using typology (a device employed by medieval chroniclers, where a person is used as a metaphor for another person, usually a Biblical character).

Archbishop Thomas Becket was a central figure in the church-state conflicts of the twelfth century. Beginning his career as royal chancellor to King Henry II, Becket helped Henry persecute the Church’s liberty, just as the Apostle Paul had done. When Henry selected Becket to be the next archbishop of Canterbury, this promotion became his Road to Damascus conversion.
Becket championed the cause of the Church he had formerly persecuted, declaring that kings had no power to meddle with ecclesiastical affairs. Although he faltered once at the Council of Clarendon, Becket later repented of this failure. Exiled from England, he spent the next seven years in France. Finally, in 1170, Henry agreed to rescind his unlawful demands and to receive Becket back into England. Upon his return, a group of four barons murdered Becket in his church at Canterbury. Like our Lord Christ, however, Becket accomplished his work in his death, and Henry was forced to grant many of the freedoms that Becket had demanded for the Church.
                    ______________________________________________________________

Rosanne Lortz' first book is in danger of bolstering my admiration of Becket. I got interested as I have John Guy's new Biography, and managed to get it as a loan.
Well worth the read as an introduction to Becket's life and career, and for a slightly different view of the enigmatic Archbishop removed from entirely secularized or politicised appraisals.

The use of Medieval typology was clever and well done for the most part- even if the chronicler deliberately sought to portray Thomas in a certain way, it can help the reader appreciate the motives of the fun-loving Chancellor who became a pious prelate, and defied a King to defend the independence of the church from state interference.
It is a legacy that still resonates today, when governments may seek to force the church to implement controversial legislation to perform actions contrary to canon law and biblical teachings

Thursday, March 05, 2015

New for 2015- An Uncertain Choice- Jody Hedlund


March 3rd, Zondervan 
256 Pages
"Due to her parents' promise at her birth, Lady Rosemarie has been prepared to become a nun on the day she turns eighteen. Then, a month before her birthday, a friend of her father's enters the kingdom and proclaims her parents' will left a second choice. If Rosemarie can marry before the eve of her eighteenth year, she will be exempt from the ancient vow.

Before long, Rosemarie is presented with the three most handsome and brave knights in the land. But when the competition for her heart seemingly results in a knight playing foul, she begins to wonder if the cloister is the best place after all. If only one of the knights the one who appears the most guilty had not already captured her heart."
________________________________________________

I enjoyed this book at first, in spite of some reservations, but by the end there was just too much I didn’t like for it to merit a higher rating from me. Yes, it was a sweet story about growing up and finding true love, yes there were some well-drawn characters, and the core of the storyline was original. Yes, I think children might like it, and I appreciate that it is aimed at a Young Adult audience, and it supposed to have a fairytale like feel, but… there were many issues, some common to the Romance genre. Clichéd situations, predictable ending, etc, but I suppose that’s to be expected.

However, my main gripe was Lady Rosemarie- in some ways she was endearing- but way too perfect, and too headstrong. In truth, I think she may have been one of the most the most frustrating heroines ever. Her actions were frequently inconsistent, contradictory and her outlook often more like that of a modern liberal than a Medieval person.

Like how she was constantly saying she wanted to be a strong leader, uphold law and order and rule justly- but the one of the only time we see her dealing with crime she insists on letting thieves free because they were only trying to feed poor little orphan children.
Indeed, I actually found myself sympathizing with the nasty sheriff on occasion, as Rosemarie seemed to stop him from doing his job at every turn- not allowing him to arrest known miscreants for a serious crime, or continually thwarting his attempts to control contagious disease with her insistence upon entering infected areas to distribute yet more food to the poor.

Elsewhere, she would thank her fellows for giving her wise advice- then almost immediately go against it by entering areas believed to be infected with disease to distribute food- and by doing so recklessly risk infecting all the people at her castle. Or, continually, she would harp on about how the knights were so honourable they would never dream of doing anything inappropriate in public, and agreeing on her need for a chaperone--- yet almost every time she went out with one of the knights was unchaperoned, and they’d end up almost kissing or touching in public.
Yet after all this, she would complain about how she wanted her fellows to treat her like a responsible adult- when she didn’t seem capable of behaving like one half the time.

Even her charity to the poor seemed contrived. Yes, her wanting to feed the peasants and sick was all well and good- but it was all she seemed to be bothered about- chapter after chapter she was agonizing about the poor little peasants having enough to eat.
Seriously, it was as if the entire population of her lands utterly incapable of producing their own food or working to support themselves?
I agree with another reviewer who asserted that the poor folk seemed like nothing more than props to make Rosemarie look good…perhaps she’d have made a better aid worker or human rights activist then a ruler, as she didn’t seem to have a clue about the realities of estate management or government.

My main issue was the frequent mention of torture . We get the point very early on that good little Rosemarie disapproves of it, and had banned it in her lands (even though it is claimed that it was acceptable elsewhere), but throughout the story she continually goes on and on about it.
Although there was nothing too graphic, I really felt that there was far too much emphasis placed upon torture, and it was much overused-like every time drama was needed, there would be another torture scene or attempted murder--and the methods used were almost so extreme as to be rendered unbelievable. More like something you’d see in a visit to the London Dungeon or a movie than reality.

Now I understand this was a work of fantasy set in a fictional country, but I still assert that the representation of torture as normal and widely accepted punishment for almost every crime (or even the suspicion of crime), which could just be summarily inflicted upon a person on the order of a noble was totally inaccurate and pointless.
In real history by the fourteenth century (when this story is set), torture was actually rare in England, and even banned under common law, except in cases of treason and heresy.

I can say that having studied the Medieval period for years, I’ve never heard of anyone being boiled to death or racked for stealing- as almost happens early on in the story.
It’s almost as if, because the story was set in the Medieval period, it had to include torture, and other nastiness just to emphasize how horrible life was at this time, how horrible some of the characters were, and how good Rosemarie was in comparison.

Even leaving accuracy aside, it is perhaps a sad reflection on our society that references to torture, extreme brutality, hordes of unwashed peasants and streets flowing with excrement seem to be compulsory in stories set in the medieval period (and others). As though readers will regard an author’s work as ‘unrealistic’ if it does not depict Medieval Europe- or even a fictional Medieval society- as some orgy of violence, lawlessness, starvation, disease and misery populated by largely corrupt upper classes who can go around killing each other’s families and doing lots of other nasty things without penalty.
Its a shame, because this book certainly had a lot going for it otherwise, but the above really spoiled my enjoyment.

I received a free E-Galley of this book from the publisher via Netgalley for review, I was not required to write a positive one and all opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

New for 2015- The Vow- Jody Hedlund


  Kindle Edtion, 43 Pages
January 6th 2015, Zondervan

In this ebook historical romance novella by Jody Hedlund, young Rosemarie finds herself drawn to Thomas, the son of the nearby baron. But just as her feelings begin to grow, a man carrying the Plague interrupts their hunting party. While in forced isolation, Rosemarie begins to contemplate her future—could it include Thomas? Could he be the perfect man to one day rule beside her and oversee her parents’ lands?

Then Rosemarie is summoned back to her castle in haste. The disease has spread, and her family is threatened. And the secret she discovers when she returns could change her future forever.

This novella also serves as a prequel to Jody Hedlund’s An Uncertain Choice.
 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _                

The Vow- a short prequel to the YA novel An Uncertain Choice serves to whet the appetite for the main course- introducing the major characters, and the background of the plot- and promising a hint of romance.
I would call it a sweet story- but the sad ending rather renders that meaningless- its tightly plotted and for the most part well written considering the use of the first person narrative.

Both are new territory for me, as I had hitherto read nothing by popular author Jody Hedlund. 
The Medieval setting was generally well done- high praise indeed from a Medievalist such as myself, as I think it can be difficult for authors who are not familiar with the setting, or have never visited Europe to be faithful to this period. Although the country is fictitious, there were, shall we say, distinct shades of Englishness, with some of the names and titles.

My only complaints were historical, and some may be seen as a little finicky, but bear with me. The first was pockets- or more especially the make lead having a pocket large enough to hold a girl’s bracelet- in his leather Jerkin, no less. Not only were pockets not used in the Medieval Period, but if there’s one garment to which pockets would seem wholly unsuited, it would be that. I also noticed what seemed to be a couple of Hollywood like tropes- knights wearing armour almost all the time, including at a funeral service, for instance (why?), or a messenger mounted on a warhorse- an animal generally unfit for everyday riding.

My biggest gripe, however, was the mention of torture. I’m not saying such things never happened, and I’m not about to whinge about it being unsuitable for YA readers- but I felt it the inclusion of the scene in which Rosemarie sees two torture victims was unnecessary and unrealistic. Unnecessary because it seems to be included only for her to be repulsed by it, so show what a good, sweet, compassionate little girl she is, and how horrid the Middle Ages were.
Unrealistic because, contrary to the image presented in many movies (and some ‘torture museums’ that are largely modern invention….) torture was nothing like as prevalent or common in medieval society as we are led to think. Especially not in England, where it was actually against English common law, and only just considered acceptable for the very worst crimes such as treason or heresy- and even then, in all my years of studying the period I have never come across the method mentioned in this story.

So the idea of an evil sheriff summarily subjecting people to the most horrible or tortures for trivial offenses just seems wholly implausible- more like something a cartoon villain would do, than a reflection of historical fact. Also, I have to admit, Rosemarie’s attitudes were sometimes annoyingly modern and self-righteous- like condemning the sheriff for killing people infected with the plague. Seriously- He was trying to contain one of the deadliest diseases known to man- he couldn’t just let people escape from quarantined areas to spread it abroad- and Rosemarie whining about how they were just trying to find food just came across as unbelievably naïve in the circumstances. Compassion and humanity is one thing- rank stupidity another.

In spite of the paragraphs chronicling the negatives, I did enjoy this Novella, and I look forward to getting into the full length follow up as soon as possible. A worthwhile read, with a few reservations, that could perhaps benefit from a little more research.

Monday, March 02, 2015

New for 2015- Brentwood's Ward by Michelle Griep

 
Paperback, 314 Pages 
January 1st 2015, Shiloh Run Press

"Place an unpolished lawman named Nicholas Brentwood as guardian over a spoiled, pompous beauty named Emily Payne and what do you get? More trouble than Brentwood bargains for. She is determined to find a husband this season.
He just wants the large fee her father will pay him to help his ailing sister. After a series of dire mishaps, both their desires are thwarted, but each discovers that no matter what, God is in charge"
_________________________________________________

I’ve read everything Michelle wrote reader since I discovered her first novel Gallimore a few years ago. Her books are not my favourites, admittedly, but tend to be moderately good. Brentwood’s Ward was on the way to becoming her best work in my opinion, with action, mystery, intrigue and a brilliantly dashing hero, a supporting cast of great characters and an original storyline, Seriously are there any other Christian novels about the Bow Street Runners, the fore-runners of today’s police force? Such a book could have all the makings of a 19th century detective thriller, echoing some of the literary greats.

In other words, I was rolling along and really liking the story- until the attempted rape scene. I’m seriously beginning to think such content is becoming far too common in Christian Fiction novels- and is often unnecessary, especially if its included just to rank up the tension, or to ram home some message about how horribly women were treated in the ‘olden days’, or how all the upper classes were dissolute rakes……etc…etc.
Now I’m not denying that things like that did happen, but for the lead character to be almost raped twice, in one year- once in the garden of her home just seemed incredible.
I don’t deny that the rich and powerful may have taken advantage of the lower classes in any age, but Emily Payne was meant to be a rich socialite, are we honestly supposed to believe that men of the upper classes could just go around raping wealthy young women at balls- and absolutely nothing would have been done about it?
 Seriously, I’m getting the decided impression that the past is universally being presented as some filthy, lawless quagmire- especially the non-American past- and rape as a far too common device to emphasize its supposed nastiness.

Afterwards, there was some degeneration into romantic cliché- I mean for a woman who had just been almost violently raped to be snogging in her carriage less than an hour later just does not seem like normal behavior. Those and the almost compulsory description of the stray lock of hair begging to be brushed aside- the 'rippling of muscles' underneath the heroes clothes---sigh... Honestly, how many times do you actually see than in real life...

The ending was satisfactory, and had its fair share of tension, and I will say that, all in all, this was a good story, with sounds messages woven in and not written in such a way as to seem preachy or contrived.
However, the above mentioned content issue, and a few Americanisms (which I might have overlooked generally, but some were jarring) result in the lower rating. I'm not trying to attack the author personally, the above could be seen as observations of the Christian Romance genre more generally....but it did sour the taste of what could otherwise have been an excellent book.

I received an electronic version of this novel free from Netgalley for review. I was not required to write a positive one and all opinions expressed are my own.....
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