TxtingMrDarcy Reads: “Worth Waiting For” Edition

“The Little Book”~ Selden Edwards

Book Description (From Amazon):  Thirty years in the writing, Selden Edwards’ dazzling first novel is an irresistible triumph of the imagination. Wheeler Burden-banking heir, philosopher, student of history, legend’s son, rock idol, writer, lover, recluse, half-Jew, and Harvard baseball hero-one day finds himself wandering not in his hometown of San Francisco in 1988 but in a city and time he knows mysteriously well: Vienna, 1897. Before long, Wheeler acquires a mentor in Sigmund Freud, a bitter rival, a powerful crush on a luminous young woman, and encounters everyone from an eight-year-old Adolf Hitler to Mark Twain as well as the young members of his own family. Solving the riddle of Wheeler’s dislocation in time will ultimately reveal nothing short of one eccentric family’s unrivaled impact upon the course of human history.

Edwards, author of The Lost Prince, brilliantly weaves romance, art, history, and culture in this unforgettable and dazzling debut novel.

Hello? *taps microphone* Is this thing on? I mean, it’s been so long I’m beginning to question if this little channel to the Internet is even still open.

Fortunately for me, it appears to  be. That means I can fill you in on the little secret that I discovered thanks to Shelf Awareness. (Yes, since I am spending so little time communing with my fellow book bloggers anymore, Shelf Awareness is quickly becoming my sole source of all things bookish. They have yet to steer me wrong, I’m happy to say.)

About two months ago, they shared a review of the book “The Lost Prince,” by Selden Edwards, referring to a wonderful time travel plot and delicious female characters. And joy of joys, it was a SEQUEL to “The Little Book.” Which I had never even friggin’ heard of. I promptly hightailed it to my library, reserved a copy, and dug in.

Let me preface by saying this: If you enjoyed “The Time Traveller’s Wife,” this book is for you.

The book begins with Wheeler Burden waking up in 1897 Vienna with absolutely no idea how he arrived there. The last thing that he remembers is a book signing in 1980s San Francisco, so he’s really stumbled into quite a dilemma. Fortunately for him, he had a Wise Older Mentor who was FROM 1897 Vienna, so he has a bit of an advantage right off the bat. He allows himself to travel through the city as an observer, and then to gradually become absorbed in the exciting turn-of-the-century culture. He’s aware of the care he needs to take when interacting with people, lest he inadvertently affect the future he is to be born into. That becomes exponentially more difficult when he starts to stumble across figures from his own past, and the resulting complications are delightful to witness.

Selden Edwards is obviously deeply in love with the time period he writes about, and his book reflects it. The story is deeply sensual, with descriptions of everything from glorious coffee with cream to intricate gowns, and even a night at the opera. There is a rich cast of characters both male and female, and it wonderfully prepares the reader for the next installment, in which we get to revisit one of the female characters. The reader also is treated to encounters with a host of historical figures, including a young Sigmund Freud and Gustav Mahler. With a time travel plot, it’s difficult to discuss too many details without giving away spoilers, but I am so glad that I was clued into this book’s existence. With my crazy schedule, it took me far longer than usual to get through its packed pages (Hint: I renewed it at the library TWICE. Oh, the shame!!), but it was worth every minute. I’d highly suggest it as a great read for the cooler weather ahead.

Four and a half cups of strong coffee.

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TxtingMrDarcy Reads: “Bite-Sized” Edition

Well hello,  Interwebs!  Oh, I’ve missed all of your lovely faces! We’re finally back in working-computer business here at the Casa, so my brief hiatus is over. I’ve been reading like a fiend (thanks to some downtime in training classs… which is now over, le boo.), and not able to write nearly as many reviews as I’ve read, so I wanted to crank out a couple of mini-reviews to get myself caught up.

Hopefully I can get back on the ball and return to my regularly scheduled posting.

“Tigers in Red Weather” – Lisa Klaussmann

I admit to primarily choosing this book because of the setting- I have a soft spot for anything that takes place on Martha’s Vineyard. Having spent time there during the summers as a little Brooke, there are very few places that I love more. Just the name can evoke so many wonderful memories. Something about being able to picture the environment so clearly in my head makes the story come a live that much more vividly. There’s something about the New England Islands that gets into your blood and stays there, as one of the characters astutely remarks: “I think it’s in the genes, salt water. Whether you like it or not.” There’s a certain blue to the sky and bite to the air that you can’t find in any other places, and it’s the perfect setting for this fever dream of a novel.

The thing that’s so remarkable about this book is the plotting- Lisa Klaussmann nails it, introducing her characters and their motivations gradually, so the build to the climax is gradual and allows the feeling of dread to build up beautifully. Something  in the characters’ world is verrry wrong, and you will keep breathlessly turning pages to find out what it is.

Five out of five perfect martinis.

“Crossed”~ Ally Condie

It took me quite a while to be motivated to pick up the second book in this series, and now I remember why. It’s just mediocre. The writing wasn’t good enough to keep me caring about the characters, and the plot was far too commonplace- “two characters in love are on a journey to find each other, testing their limits and taking most of the book before they find each other only to immediately get in a fight and eff it up. And then they make up and unforeseen circumstances separate them again. Look out for the love triangle!” Yawn.

Two pages of poetry.

“Uglies/Pretties”~ Scott Westerfeld

I have no idea why I didn’t pick up this series until now. I honestly think that I was put off by the covers/titles enough to avoid them completely. “Uglies” was a pleasant surprise- Tally lives in a dystopian society in which you are “cured” of being ugly at age 16. She’s missing her best friend Peris, who was two months older than her, and is spending her days killing time until she can have her operation. She meets a new friend Shay, who opens Tally’s eyes to the possibility of remaining “ugly”, and questioning a society that places so much value on appearance. When Shay escapes to the wild, Tally is recruited to find her or risk being “ugly” forever.

Oh, and then “Pretties” happened… and the YA curse appeared and made me lose interest in reading the third book. Tally has finally become Pretty, and spends her nights partying with all of her new Pretty friends. She’s been reunited with Peris, is bff with Shay, and has caught the eye of the mysterious Zane. Everything seems pretty perfect until she meets a mysterious masked stranger at a costume ball, and she remembers her real reason for becoming “Pretty.” The rest of the book struck me as convoluted and a bit overdramatic.  See my issues with “Crossed” above. 😉 A potentially fascinating subplot is introduced, only to be interrupted by the ending. Which I  haaaaaaaaaaated.

Uglies: Four out of five hoverboards.

Pretties: Three out of five bungee jackets.

“Day After Night” ~ Anita Diamant

After “The Red Tent,” I’ll read anything written by Anita Diamant. While this book didn’t quite grab me the same way, her talent with historical fiction can’t be denied. Based on a true story, the book follows four women who have survived the Nazis only to be kept in a British detainment camp in Palestine. Each character reveals her experiences during the war slowly, gradually coming to terms with the reality of being one of the “lucky” people who survived when everyone they cared about was lost. Watching them gradually find joy again was both hopeful and bittersweet, and simple moments caught me completely off guard with their emotional depth.

Four out of five loaves of challah.

TxtingMrDarcy Reads: “Here There Be Dragons” Edition

Seraphina~ Rachel Hartman

Book Description (From Amazon): Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty’s anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen’s Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

Soundtrack: “Ave Maris Stella”~ Otto Olsson

So much of the book revolves around Seraphina’s relationship with music, and this gorgeous choral piece came to mind immediately.

After reading about this book in a recent issue of “Shelf Awareness,” I was beyond excited to snag a copy from the library.

In a country where there is an uneasy truce between humans and dragons, Seraphina has spent her entire life attempting to hide her true identity.  Turning her considerable musical talents to a position as the assistant to the court composer, she is unable to evade notice for long.

When a member of the royal family is killed, and the murder appears to have been commited by a dragon, Seraphina finds herself dragged into the investigation and forging unlikely relationships along the way.

It is not exaggeration to say that I LOVED this book. Seraphina’s character is so richly imagined that she practically leaps off the page. The reader sharply feels her turmoil at reconciling her public and private lives. She’s a very typical young woman, wanting to feel beautiful and valued but believing herself unworthy of those things. Seeing her explore her unique talents and realize that what makes her different also makes her remarkable is fantastic.

While Seraphina herself is reason enough to read this book, I can’t do it a disservice by neglecting to mention the supporting characters.  Each of them is challenged in some way by their role in society- Prince Lucian is contracted to marry his cousin regardless of his personal wishes, Orma finds himself fighting his very nature when it comes to loving his niece, and Seraphina’s father is an expert in the law despite having broken it himself long ago.  The mythology is developed to a wonderful degree.  Ms Hartman developed a unique class of dragons, with their own quirks, emotional characteristics and habits. She’s given the human residents of her world their own caste rules, prejudices and religious system.

In the case of this book I would even be tempted to break my own rule regarding YA series. Though the ending resolved the plot well, I wouldn’t have been opposed to spending a lot more time with Seraphina and following her as she and Kiggs move forward and prepare for a potential war between the humans and the dragons. I didn’t do a great deal of searching, but if I were to read that Rachel Hartman was planning a sequel, it wouldn’t cause any gnashing of teeth on my part.  There’s music, there’s romance, and plenty of intrigue to keep you turning pages until the end.

Five out of Five Ivory Flutes.

TxtingMrDarcy Reads: “Stay Away From The Punch!” Edition

“Clockwork Prince”~ Cassandra Clare

Book Description (From Amazon): In the magical underworld of Victorian London, Tessa Gray has at last found safety with the Shadowhunters. But that safety proves fleeting when rogue forces in the Clave plot to see her protector, Charlotte, replaced as head of the Institute. If Charlotte loses her position, Tessa will be out on the street—and easy prey for the mysterious Magister, who wants to use Tessa’s powers for his own dark ends.

With the help of the handsome, self-destructive Will and the fiercely devoted Jem, Tessa discovers that the Magister’s war on the Shadowhunters is deeply personal. He blames them for a long-ago tragedy that shattered his life. To unravel the secrets of the past, the trio journeys from mist-shrouded Yorkshire to a manor house that holds untold horrors, from the slums of London to an enchanted ballroom where Tessa discovers that the truth of her parentage is more sinister than she had imagined. When they encounter a clockwork demon bearing a warning for Will, they realize that the Magister himself knows their every move—and that one of their own has betrayed them.

Tessa finds her heart drawn more and more to Jem, though her longing for Will, despite his dark moods, continues to unsettle her. But something is changing in Will—the wall he has built around himself is crumbling. Could finding the Magister free Will from his secrets and give Tessa the answers about who she is and what she was born to do?

As their dangerous search for the Magister and the truth leads the friends into peril, Tessa learns that when love and lies are mixed, they can corrupt even the purest heart.

Soundtrack: “Be Here Now”~ Ray Lamontagne

 The shimmering strings in this one and the lovely message make me think of Tessa and Jem. (Those crazy kids!)

Best Enjoyed With: A cup of fizzy lemonade. Preferably not spiked with Warlock powders.

It was such a treat to return to Cassandra Clare’s version of Regency London, I have no idea why I didn’t do it sooner.  This book picks up immediately after the events of Clockwork Angel, and I have to admit that I actually enjoyed this book more than the first book in the series. (Considering my feelings about YA series in general, that’s high praise.)  The plot took off like a runaway carriage, keeping the reader breathlessly following the events after Mortmain’s attack on the London Institute at the end of book one.

It’s imperative that the Shadowhunters discover more about the infamous Magister in order to attempt to discover his motives and his eventual plan of attack.  Meanwhile, other Shadowhunters are questioning Charlotte’s competency of running the Institute.  The consul gives them two weeks to discover the Magister’s plans, or Charlotte will be removed as director of the Institute, and the unsavory Benedict Lightwood will take over.

Meanwhile, Tessa is caught in a whirl of uncertainty. Not only is she not entirely sure where her powers come from, she’s fallen in love with two young men who she just happens to live with. Cassandra Clare kicks the romantic tension up a notch in this installment, and does a fabulous job of it. While the love triangle could a bit overused in the young adult genre right now, Will and Jem (short for James, if you haven’t started this series yet) are both so totally dreamy that it’s understanding why Tessa is torn. Unlike Jace and Simon in the Mortal Instruments books, there really isn’t a “best choice” between the two of them, and I found myself just as confused as Tessa. With two equally vivid heroes to fall in love with, we’re reminded exactly why the love triangle is such an effective plot device.  It’s been a while since I’ve had a legitimate book boyfriend, and I might have to fight Angela for Jem.

Aside from gushing over the main characters, this book was a feast for the imagination. The characters leave London and travel by train to Yorkshire, where the stark beauty is described perfectly. There are plenty of grand manor houses and beautiful clothes, and what regency novel is complete without a masked ball? I think that writing within the Victorian conventions of propriety added some great dimension to the story. The love scenes were steamier because of it, and the exploration of character relationships on all levels were very authentic.

Another aspect of Cassandra Clare’s writing that I seemed to have forgotten was the humor she manages to sneak into various scenes. While her characters in the Infernal Devices series are bound by the constraints of society, there’s a degree of truth to the fact that they’re still teenagers, with all of the inherent snark that comes with that job description.  Revisiting some of the characters that cross between the two series is a delight as well.

I’m eagerly awaiting the release of Clockwork Princess, and not just for the drop-dead gorgeous cover art.

Four and a half automatons.

TxtingMrDarcy Reads: “Book of the Summer” Edition

“Shadow of Night”~ Deborah Harkness

Book Description (From Amazon) :

Deborah Harkness exploded onto the literary scene with her debut novel, A Discovery of Witches, Book One of the magical All Souls Trilogy and an international publishing phenomenon. The novel introduced Diana Bishop, Oxford scholar and reluctant witch, and the handsome geneticist and vampire Matthew Clairmont; together they found themselves at the center of a supernatural battle over an enchanted manuscript known as Ashmole 782.

Now, picking up from A Discovery of Witches’ cliffhanger ending, Shadow of Night plunges Diana and Matthew into Elizabethan London, a world of spies, subterfuge, and a coterie of Matthew’s old friends, the mysterious School of Night that includes Christopher Marlowe and Walter Raleigh. Here, Diana must locate a witch to tutor her in magic, Matthew is forced to confront a past he thought he had put to rest, and the mystery of Ashmole 782 deepens.

Soundtrack:  “I Won’t Give Up”~ Jason Mraz

When we saw Deborah Harkness  at her author signing, she made a remarkable point. The first book in the All Souls Trilogy was about the ease with which Diana Bishop and Matthew fell in love, arguably the easiest part in most relationships. The second book is about their life together, and learning to stay in love, which is where the true magic lies.

Best Enjoyed With: Something rustic and primitive. A giant turkey leg and a stein of beer, perhaps.

A completely unexpected side effect of being in training is that – get this- the trainer actually ENCOURAGES us to read during the many breaks that we get during the day. With a training class of over 30 people, there are constantly questions and technical difficulties, so I’m suddenly finding myself getting a ridiculous amount of progress made on the books that I’ve chosen to bring. For example, I pounded out roughly 200 pages of Shadow of Night over the course of the day yesterday. Apparently my fears of losing my reading time were totally unfounded. (Thank Gawd!)

Also, there are FOUR girls in the group currently reading the Fifty Shades series. I can’t help but find it adorable.

I feel no reservation in proclaiming this the book of the summer- the anticipation for it was just huge after the ending of “A Discovery of Witches,” and if the turnout for Deborah Harkness’s book tour is any indication, women are craving something a little more sophisticated than Ana Steele to enjoy on their summer vacations. Sophisticated does not mean “less fun,” just “far better written” and “actual steamy sex.”

“Shadow” begins immediately after “A Discovery of Witches” ends, with the result of Diana and Matthew’s timewalk to the past. I loved how Deb Harkness set this up, with an enoromous wink and a *HINT HINT* toward their eventual destination, that had me finishing the book with a huge grin. Rather than feeling like a cliffhanger, it simply built enormous anticipation for the next volume in the trilogy, while still feeling oddly satisfying as a stand-alone novel.

I’m going to try to discuss this one as spoiler-free as possible, because while there are many out there that have finished it already, there are lots of you who are still eagerly awaiting getting your hands on a copy. Unfortunately, most of the book could be considered a spoiler for the ending of ADOW, so if you haven’t read that one please stop now. Otherwise don’t get pissy with me if I ruin your fun.

With the help the Bishop house and various and sundry creatures, Diana and Matthew have decided to timewalk to the past to guarantee their safety from the Congregation and to help Diana explore more of her magical powers. They’re also going to attempt to locate Ashmole 782 intact, before its secrets are disguised by whomever tore out some of the alchemical illustrations and before its donation to the Bodleian library.

One thing that Diana does not anticipate fully is the implications of being married to a vampire who has been around for hundreds of years. She has experienced present-day Matthew, but not Matthew in the context of the 16th century. From the moment they arrive in Elizabethan England, she is rubbing elbows with the members of the School of Night, including Christopher Marlowe (a demon) and Walter Raleigh. She’s also forced to contend with the many differences between modern society and the “normal” of the past. She immediately stands out with her height and her American accent, and it quickly becomes clear how much work she’s going to have to do just to blend in.

The other thing that they didn’t exactly take into account was that they were planning to arrive in a time where witch hunts were just beginning to heat up (pun intended) across the European continent.  It is not a safe time to be a witch, much less a witch with Diana’s unique capabilities.

The plot takes off right away, as Matthew is summoned to Sept-Tours by his father Phillipe. From that point on, the action slowed very little as we follow Matthew and Diana on their quest to track down Ashmole 782 and increase Diana’s knowledge of her talent. It’s evident that Deb Harkness is in her element writing about the time period that she studies, and took great pleasure in bringing her scenes to life. Once again the text was full of wonderful sensory allusions of smell and taste, coloring the reader’s impression even further. From the streets of Prague to Matthew’s lodge at Woodstock, the settings are rich and varied, and the cast of new characters introduced is fascinating. Her delight in populating the pages with historical figures shines through in each interaction. The depth and complexity of the plot is greatly satisfying, as the world that was introduced in the first book and the interesting caste system of the three supernatural races is embellished upon.  In this case, creating a mixture of historical fact and reference with the fictional world is very successful.

The reader learns a great deal more about Matthew’s role in the past and his motivations, for better or for worse. Much like Diana, we’re forced to see Matthew in a new light, deal with his imperfections and decide whether he’ll continue being the epitome of the perfect man. For the most part, he does not disappoint.

Once again, I’m left impatiently awaiting the next and final installment of the trilogy.

Four and a half Venison Pasties.

TxtingMrDarcy Reads: “Skip the Blood Pudding” Edition

 “An Irish Country Doctor”~ Patrick Taylor

Plot Summary (From Amazon): Barry Laverty, M.B., can barely find the village of Ballybucklebo on a map when he first sets out to seek gainful employment there, but already he knows that there is nowhere he would rather live than in the emerald hills and dales of Northern Ireland. The proud owner of a spanking-new medical degree and little else in the way of worldly possessions, Barry jumps at the chance to secure a position as an assistant in a small rural practice.

At least until he meets Dr. Fingal Flahertie O’Reilly.

The older physician, whose motto is to never let the patients get the upper hand, has his own way of doing things. At first, Barry can’t decide if the pugnacious O’Reilly is the biggest charlatan he has ever met, or the best teacher he could ever hope for….

Soundtrack: “Learn Me Right” ~ Birdy & Mumford and Sons (from the “Brave” soundtrack)

Best Enjoyed With: A cup of tea and some soda bread (Or a dram of Jamesons!)

I have a confession to make, friends. See, I used to have a very intimate relationship with my local library. I worked there one summer in college, and I frequented its cool dim interior to keep myself supplied with escapist novels while working the production line at our local chocolate factory. Nothing made down-time go faster than the twisted tales of Stephen King or a steamy bodice ripper.

And then? Once I started working after college and had less limitations on my funds? I dropped the library. Its hours weren’t always convenient, and the instant gratification of buying what I wanted when I wanted it was too alluring.

I am so ashamed.

My point? About two weeks ago, Army Boy and I started planning for our trip to New Hampshire, and we knew we needed something for the ride. Army Boy is not a wonderful car traveler, to say the least. Plagued with car sickness if he tries to do, well, anything, he gets rather impatient during lengthy road trips. I thought that an audiobook or two just might be the solution to our problem, and we decided it was time to renew our prehistoric library cards.

I had forgotten just how amazingly fun the library is! I could walk in… and pick up a book I wanted to read, and they’d just GIVE IT TO ME. FOR FREE. This could escalate my book-hoarding tendencies to a whole new level, you realize. Amazon is probably going to come to my house wondering why I’m not buying all the things lately.

I’d been wanting to start reading this series by Patrick Taylor, and imagine my delight when they had a copy in stock. I’ve had the worst case of wanderlust lately, and thought that reading about Ireland may help to quiet the urge to obsessively plan hypothetical overseas trips. (It didn’t, much.)

From the book description, I got the idea that these books would be similar to James Herriot and I wasn’t far off. Yes, the plots are a little predictable and the characters occasionally twee, but that’s really what I was hoping for. I wanted a sweet, comfortable story that would allow me to mentally travel abroad and experience the quirks of being a country doctor in the 1960s.

Taylor has created a story populated with notable characters who linger with you after the tale is over. Dr Fingal O’Reilly is a well-meaning bear of a man who has mastered the art of treating country practice after years in a small town. Seeing Barry Laverty taken down a peg during the course of the book is entertaining, and he also learns lessons about not holding himself to impossibly high standards. Their housekeeper Mrs. Kincaid (or “Kinky” as she’s known for most of the book) is always ready with a story or a treat, and even the animal inhabitants of the house have their own personalities.

The villagers, their ailments and their sometimes unconventional treatments are just as interesting as the rural setting. It’s jarring to be taken back to a time and place where a woman had to wait a week for the results of a pregnancy test, and St John’s Wort tea was the preferred treatment for depression (or “feeling a bit off” as the patient describes it.).

This was a simple, enjoyable read and I’ll definitely continue with the next book in the series.

Four out of Five Rocking Ducks.

TxtingMrDarcy Reads: “Gilt-y Pleasures” Edition (See what I did there?)

Gilt~ Katherine Longshore

Plot Summary (from Amazon):

In the court of King Henry VIII, nothing is free–

and love comes at the highest price of all.

 When Kitty Tylney’s best friend, Catherine Howard, worms her way into King Henry VIII’s heart and brings Kitty to court, she’s thrust into a world filled with fabulous gowns, sparkling jewels, and elegant parties. No longer stuck in Cat’s shadow, Kitty’s now caught between two men–the object of her affection and the object of her desire. But court is also full of secrets, lies, and sordid affairs, and as Kitty witnesses Cat’s meteoric rise and fall as queen, she must figure out how to keep being a good friend when the price of telling the truth could literally be her head.

Soundtrack: “Secret” by The Pierces

“Because two can keep a secret when one of them is dead…”

After finishing A Storm of Swords, reading Gilt was the literary equivalent of taking a bite of chocolate mousse- rich and light, and a wonderful treat. The story takes a closer look at the life and untimely death of Henry VIII’s fifth wife, Catherine Howard, as told through the eyes of her supposed childhood confidante Kitty Tylney.

Catherine Howard was, in essence, Henry’s midlife crisis wife. He had divorced his first wife for Anne Boleyn, only to turn around and execute her for treason. His third wife (and some argue the love of his life) Jane Seymour died shortly after giving birth to his heir, and his attempt at a fourth marriage with Anne of Cleves was a disaster. In his fifties and starting to face his own mortality, Henry sought to reclaim some of the sparkle of his youth, and how better to do so than to marry a woman less than half his age? (Uh, knock knock… I can think of a LOT of ways, bud.)

In this book, Cat is portrayed as always being the star of the show. From the “Queen of Misrule” at the Dowager Duchess’s house to the eventual Queen of England, all of Cat’s life was spent, well, thinking of Cat. She was the Blair Waldorf of Tudor England, and if she wanted to sit on the Met steps with you or bring you to court, you considered yourself lucky to escape the tedium of servitude in the country. She has never been portrayed terribly sympathetically, and Katherine Longshore does little to change that fact. She gives us a Cat who is self-obsessed, selfish, and not above trying anything to advance her own status. All of life is a game, and throughout the book we see Cat “practicing” her scenes, from the perfect curtsy to get her boobs noticed at court, to the most effective way to place her head on the block for her execution.

(Should I have thrown a “spoiler alert” there?? It’s history… there’s not much I can do to keep that little tidbit from you.)

We are treated to a far more delicious character in Kitty Tylney, Cat’s best friend and frequent partner-in-crime. Of less prominent social status, Kitty considers herself lucky to be one of the ladies chosen to be in Cat’s inner circle. Unfortunately, she doesn’t realize exactly how thorny her life is about to become once she’s entrusted with all of the Queen’s secrets. She starts the book as a bit of a wallflower, but her evolution to a woman strong enough to stand up to the Queen and some smarmy courtiers is a pleasure to observe.

In addition to our main characters, Ms Longshore populates her novel with some other great historical figures- Archbishop Cranmer, the devious Duke of Norfolk, and Thomas Culpepper are among some of the notable ones. A great scene between Kitty and Culpepper colors the tone of their relationship throughout the novel, and gives a striking example of the darker side of court life. There is a pseudo-love triangle, though it is used more to examine the difference between genuine affection and the dance of courtly “love.” The knowledge of the inevitable ending lends a bit of knife-edged tension to the whole tale- the reader is just waiting to see what will lead to the Queen’s eventual undoing.

I think that this is a well-written version of tale of the ill-fated queen, and I hope that the fact that it’s Young Adult will grab the attention and imagination of a new population who may not yet have been exposed to historical fiction.

Four out of Five Emerald Brooches.