Harrowing but a good read, the story of July, and her loves and losses chronicles Jamaican slavery. There's little difference between the pre and postHarrowing but a good read, the story of July, and her loves and losses chronicles Jamaican slavery. There's little difference between the pre and post-Emancipation period. July takes more risks than I would have thought possible, but this made her a character I rooted for time and again. ...more
Through the engrossing words of author Phyllis T. Smith, the world of Roman power, vice, lust and virtues unfold in I Am Livia. Narrated by the titleThrough the engrossing words of author Phyllis T. Smith, the world of Roman power, vice, lust and virtues unfold in I Am Livia. Narrated by the title character, the great aims and foibles of her family, of Julius Caesar, Mark Antony and Cleopatra, and of Livia’s eventual husband, the future Emperor Augustus come to vivid life in this debut work of historical fiction. The author deftly reveals all aspects of Roman cultures, society and politics, in a depiction all the figures who shaped the empire that would dominate the Mediterranean region for centuries to come.
When the heroine Livia Drusilla is just fourteen years old, she overhears an assassination plan with more immediate consequences than a drastic change to Rome’s political future. To secure the alliance among conspirators, Livia must wed a Roman senator Tiberius Nero who is more than twice her age, whom she cannot love. The aspirations of Livia’s family cause them untold suffering, but also invites the scrutiny of a vengeful heir, Octavianus, whose primary purpose soon becomes clear as Rome devolves into outright civil war in the wake of the assassination. Livia attracts young Octavianus and the pair develop a potent rapport, although divided by family lines and affairs of state. Once he decides he will have her, regardless of their individual marriages and the children Livia shares with Tiberius Nero, Octavianus pursues Livia with the same relentless fervor as he did the assassins. The new couple shares grand designs for the country’s future coupled an unequalled passion for its future, but their prideful natures often get in the way of mutual efforts to keep their marriage bond, and Rome, strong.
The adage “history is written by the victors” has never been more appropriate than in consideration of this period in Rome. Livia gives us a unique view of the historical figures around her. The lens of her interests, jealousies and desires shapes the way in which each character appears, especially with Octavianus. She recognizes his cold, monstrous behavior in all its ugliness, yet holds steadfast to him and their love through several trials for her own purposes. But there are a few aspects of the heroine and her interactions with her loved ones and enemies, which don’t always ring true. For instance, it requires a bit of a stretch to believe a fourteen year-old girl, simply by conversations with her father, has such an intimate grasp of politic maneuvering and the repercussions for all involved in the murder plot. Also, the volatile nature of some established relationships, turning from hot to cold or vice versa seemed too sudden at times to make sense. Still, the capricious nature of the human heart and the ever-changing landscape of politics during this period make it all plausible.
I Am Livia is a delightful, well-researched and engaging story, ideal for readers who love Roman history, or dynastic intrigue. ...more
I'm a big fan of unusual heroines and settings. The Dark Maiden by Lindsay Townsend delivers a heroine unlike many.
The British Isles in the 14th centI'm a big fan of unusual heroines and settings. The Dark Maiden by Lindsay Townsend delivers a heroine unlike many.
The British Isles in the 14th century, rife with superstition and plagued by more than rampant sickness, inspires a heroine’s quest in Lindsay Townsend’s The Dark Maiden. Yolande is duty bound for an enigmatic term, a ‘time of seven’ to rid the country of dark paranormal forces, the restless spirits who seek vengeance or pure evil that troubles clergy and villagers alike. Although uncertain about the length of her service or the destinations it will take her, Yolande commits herself to the undertaking. Early in the course of her journey, she meets Geraint the Welshman, a juggler and tumbler by trade with an innate understanding of the troubles his companion faces. Although he has little patience for the Church, which took him in as a little boy until one of its members forsook the duty, Geraint respects Yolande’s work. His admiration for her commitment almost rivals his budding feelings of intense passion. As her self-appointed protector and helpmate, he shares in her precarious adventures, which take them through medieval England and Wales.
They face more than malignant specters. Bigoted villagers mistrust Yolande based solely on her skin color. Each encounter tests of Yolande’s determination and skill. Some of her foes are not shadows lurking in the darkness, but frail and flawed people cloaked in self-righteousness and mysticism. At times, they are even more dangerous than the evils of the spirit world. With each ordeal, the attachment between Yolande and Geraint blossoms into a powerful love that binds them together against all trials. When it seems Yolande has completed her task and faces a bright future with Geraint at her side, a new torment awaits them, something stronger than Yolande and Geraint have faced before.
Lindsay Townsend has a knack for writing about the unusual heroine. Her female protagonists are often uncommon woman and Yolande is no different. As a biracial woman of Ethiopian and English descent, working as an exorcist for the medieval Church, she faces constant challenges that would subdue a weaker-willed character. I enjoyed her portrayal. While her origins aren’t commonplace, Yolande is very much a woman of her times. She is spirited and spiritual, a character who exemplifies honor and duty, but she isn’t afraid to delve into the hearts of people and examine the fears, heartaches, hopes and loves, influencing their best and worst actions. Through her viewpoint, readers enter a world, which at the outset seems different from the modern period. Still the elements of humanity are familiar, emotions that drive lust and hate. Although Geraint doesn’t share Yolande’s uncanny connection to the spirit realm, he serves the purpose of keeping her grounded in the real world around her. His love bolsters her against each threat and aids her growth. Theirs is a wonderful partnership and a great love story. ...more
In Emeralds of the Alhambra, a medieval knight becomes embroiled in the court intrigues of Muslim Spain. He fights for his life against deadly assassiIn Emeralds of the Alhambra, a medieval knight becomes embroiled in the court intrigues of Muslim Spain. He fights for his life against deadly assassins and struggles with his forbidden love for Layla, the most beautiful woman in Granada’s Alhambra. Born in Brittany, William Chandon rose from humble beginnings until he achieved the notice of the court of Edward III of England. English and French political interests in 14th-century Spain draw Chandon into the disputed frontier between Muslim Andalusia and the Christianized kingdoms of Castile and Aragon. Chandon defends the Aragonese fortress of Jaen against Moorish invaders. When his adversaries besiege and overrun the castle, Chandon suffers grievous wounds, which almost end his life. The Moors claim him as an important prisoner of war and transport him back to their capital at Granada, site of the beautiful Alhambra Palace. There, Chandon meets various doctors, courtiers, ministers, poets, and guards. The person who intrigues him most is the compassionate Layla al-Khatib, daughter of the chief minister. Layla tutors Chandon in Arabic, while she studies English with his guidance, all at the Sultan of Granada’s command. Leila’s quest for enlightenment leads to her study of Sufi mysticism. Her inherent outspoken nature coupled with startling beauty attracts Chandon’s attention, but Layla’s activities in the male-dominated court also invite danger to herself. A tender relationship blossoms between Chandon and Layla, even though the divide between them seems almost insurmountable at times.
The novel brings myriad worlds and ideals together. The extensive list of characters and their various interests represent the diversity of Muslim Spain during this period. There is the household doctor, Saluman, a Jew welcomed in most areas of the court, but still marginalized by his religious beliefs. He cares for Chandon and develops a deep relationship with the knight, despite their differences. Layla’s father Lisan al-Din ibn al-Khatib is the grand vizier within the Alhambra, a man who has known his share of personal tragedy, yet manages to keep a tight grip on his position of power. Layla hides behind her veils as Moorish society dictates, but her father’s indulgence permits her to make bold choices not often available to women of her time. Yusuf ibn Zamrak, famed for his poetry serves as a respected member of the court, harbors a dangerous infatuation for Layla. Sultan Muhammad V orchestrates an audacious plan to ensure the stability of his regime, one in which Chandon plays his part. Despite best efforts, Muhammad remains aware of the dangers surrounding him and the swift ease with which palace intrigues can destroy the foundations of all he has built.
Author John D. Cressler brings a largely ignored period to life in this novel, with sumptuous details and vivid characterizations. Where the novel really shines is in the descriptions and the relationships Chandon develops with Saluman and Leila. Each shares a deepening respect of the other as the story progresses, each open-minded and willing to accept the challenge to change preconceived notions. The novel hearkens back to a time where connections between Jews, Muslims, and Christians were as contentious as they were cooperative. It was a world allowing for the free exchange of ideas, but often permeated with ruthlessness and tragedy. Emeralds of the Alhambra is the first of a series and I look forward to more from the author ...more