3.5 stars There was lots to like in this story about an orphaned Irish indentured servant girl growing up amongst the slaves of a tobacco plantation in3.5 stars There was lots to like in this story about an orphaned Irish indentured servant girl growing up amongst the slaves of a tobacco plantation in Virginia in the late 1700s. There was also a lot I didn't like and I've been debating back and forth whilst reading whether to round my rating down to a 3 or up to a 4.
*This may contain some spoilers*
6 year old Lavinia arrives at Tall Oaks in 1791, having lost her family during the crossing from Ireland to America. She is sent to work in the estate's kitchen house, where she is raised by Belle, the master's illegitimate slave daughter. Lavinia grows up caught between the black world and the white, the kitchen house and the big house. Following the master's death she is taken in by relatives of her mistress, who by now is mad, and educated with their own daughter. She eventually returns as the mistress of the big house when she marries her former master's son.
I very much enjoyed the parts describing Lavinia's childhood, her life in the kitchen house and her growing familial bond with Belle and the other inhabitants of the slave quarters. However, Lavinia as an adult was incredibly naive, almost as if none of her life experiences had made any impression on her. Many of her choices were just baffling, and her understanding of the social order on a plantation seemed to be non-existent, almost as if she'd just arrived from Ireland rather than spending her childhood there. I also found it strange that the heir to an estate would chose to marry an indentured servant. One of the main secrets, and cause for conflict, of the story, Belle's parentage, I found difficult to accept - how could nobody at the big house know whose daughter she was, especially since she'd lived there as a child?
Some characters were complex and beautifully drawn, but others were fairly stereotypical, and that was becoming more of a problem as the story went on. For the most part, the narrative held my attention, but again there was too much melodrama and stereotypes to make it feel real to me. I suppose I could say I liked it, but didn't love it....more
“Once again, Susan Higginbotham delivers just the right balance of history and fiction by creating a seamless blend of her characters' private lives,“Once again, Susan Higginbotham delivers just the right balance of history and fiction by creating a seamless blend of her characters' private lives, motives and passions, and political events and historical background.
The book follows the live of Katherine Woodville, youngest sister of Elizabeth, Edward IV's wife. I liked this take on the Woodville family, for once not the grasping powerhungry pack of opportunists, but a family who where suddenly punching above their league amongst the old aristocratic houses of England, and who all dealt with it in different ways. The characters were wonderfully well developed and very believable, their actions plausible. Of course, there can be differing opinions on the role of Richard III (there always are!), but this version suits the story and is well thought out.
Like all of Higginbotham's work, this is a well researched book and contains excellent historical detail. As always, the she provides a detailed author's note, separating what is fact, what is opinion and what is fiction. This book is all that historical fiction should be: informative, entertaining and an inspiration to learn more.”...more
The story follows the life of Mary Howard, daughter of Thomas Howard, Third Duke of Norfolk. I was looking forward to reading this book as I very muchThe story follows the life of Mary Howard, daughter of Thomas Howard, Third Duke of Norfolk. I was looking forward to reading this book as I very much enjoyed the author's other novel, Rivals in the Tudor Court. However, the two books have virtually nothing in common (other than the subject, the Howards) and I was quite disappointed with this one on almost every level.
There is very little character development, which is particularily baffling in the case of Norfolk, who was a complex and vivid character in the other book. The writing was also disappointing, with lots of repetition and, occasionally, some rather odd word choices. For some reason, there were tears on every other page (it really got tedious after a while) and I found Mary's and Norfolk's relationship strange and difficult to understand. This one was clearly not for me. ...more