Friday, September 29, 2023

Appointment With Death (A Hercule Poirot Mystery) by Agatha Christie


Publication Date: May 2, 1938

Length: 256 pages

This was the Read Christie choice for September and I am getting it read and reviewed in the nick of time. It features Hercule Poirot as the lead investigator and as he is my favorite of Christie's characters, I was glad to dive into this book.

The story caught my attention from the first as Poirot, on vacation in Jerusalem, overhears a man and a woman talking. The man says to her, "You do see, don't you, that she's got to be killed?" Raymond Boynton and his sister Carol are at their wits end with their domineering, evil stepmother, Mrs. Boynton, a former prison warden, who delights in making everyone in the family miserable. She is controlling and nasty and seems to take real pleasure in the misery of others. For years she has orchestrated her own little fiefdom in which she dictates all the decisions of her deceased husband's children and her own child, Ginny Boynton, and attempts to do the same with her stepson Lennox's wife Nadine, who resists her. When Mrs. Boynton is found dead later in the story on a family outing to the ruins of Petra, Poirot believes he can solve the case in 24 hours and sets out to follow the clues.

Sarah King, a female doctor and Dr. Gerard, a psychologist staying at the same hotel as the other characters play an important role in the story. They are fascinated with the obvious dysfunction on display in the Boynton family. From the start of the book they are found discussing what they perceive to be the hold Mrs. Boynton has over the family. Sarah seems to be romantically interested in Raymond as well and feels almost a duty to save him from his stepmother's influence. When she confronts Mrs. Boynton at one point and bravely tells her what she thinks of her, she is met with a chilling response: "I've never forgotten anything- not an action, not a name, not a face." Later, these words will have great significance in the resolution of the crime and the identity of the murderer.

Also factoring into the story is Jefferson Cope, a friend of the family who is in love with Carol, Colonel Carbury, a local official who spends time with Poirot on the case, and Lady Westholme, a member of Parliament and important figure in society. 

My favorite part of this book was the first half when Christie spent time focusing on the psychology of the Boyntons. I found it very insightful and relevant to today when thinking of those who seem to have a natural inclination toward dictating to others and controlling others simply because they can. Christie was writing this during the 1930's when psychological studies were still relatively novel and so I thought she did an amazing job of describing the reasons behind the victim's personality. The way she was able to control her family without lifting a finger to physically harm them was disturbing and creepy and made you glad to see her go. 

As is usual for me, I love Christie until the sequence of chapters where each clue is given the once over. I realize that a lot of her readers love this part of the book but I think it can drag and get tedious when Poirot starts painstakingly going through them all. I now know it's just part of the style though and so I accept it and use it as a time to reflect and see if I can sift through them and guess who the culprit is. I confess I didn't win this round! It was clever and hidden and unexpected, at least for me. But believable and I thought the ending was a great one. This was one of my favorites so far and I look forward to the November Read Christie book. I have already read and reviewed the October selection, Murder On the Orient Express, so I'll be skipping that month. It's funny that I read it and didn't even realize it was the October choice!

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Can't Wait Wednesday: Jane and the Final Mystery by Stephanie Barron (Being a Jane Austen Mystery: Book 15)

For this week's Can't Wait Wednesday, hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings, I'm featuring Jane and the Final Mystery by Stephanie Barron. I haven't read any of this series yet but it looked interesting. I am currently reading The Late Mrs. Willoughby which takes characters from Austen books and has them solving mysteries. So this book caught my eye as it has Jane herself solving crimes. If you've read any of the fifteen books from the Jane Austen Mystery series, what did you think? Will you be reading this one? It is the final book so I thought there might be some interested readers out there. Have a great week with whatever you can't wait for!

October 24, 2023

Historical Fiction/Historical Mysteries

Description courtesy of Amazon books

The final volume of the critically acclaimed mystery series featuring Jane Austen as amateur sleuth.

March 1817: As winter turns to spring, Jane Austen’s health is in slow decline, and threatens to cease progress on her latest manuscript. But when her nephew Edward brings chilling news of a death at his former school, Winchester College, not even her debilitating ailment can keep Jane from seeking out the truth. Arthur Prendergast, a senior pupil at the prestigious all-boys’ boarding school, has been found dead in a culvert near the schoolgrounds—and in the pocket of his drenched waistcoat is an incriminating note penned by the young William Heathcote, the son of Jane’s dear friend Elizabeth. Winchester College is a world unto itself, with its own language and rites of passage, cruel hazing and dangerous pranks. Can Jane clear William’s name before her illness gets the better of her?
Over the course of fourteen previous novels in the critically acclaimed Being a Jane Austen Mystery series, Stephanie Barron has won the hearts of thousands of fans—crime fiction aficionados and Janeites alike—with her tricky plotting and breathtaking evocation of Austen’s voice. Now, she brings Jane’s final season—and final murder investigation—to brilliant, poignant life in this unforgettable conclusion.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

For a Queen's Love: The Story of the Royal Wives of Phillip II (Book 10 of the Tudor Novels) by Jean Plaidy


Publication Date: January 1, 1954

Length: 338 pages

The original title of this book is The Spanish Bridegroom and as Plaidy's books have been republished, some are being renamed. Her popularity has grown in the last two decades as people have rediscovered these classics. I have been wanting to read this book for a long time as it concerns a person I know almost nothing about. Thanks to the author I have learned some very interesting facts about Phillip of Spain. I am honestly surprised this was renamed the way it was because the queens take a backseat to Phillip in this tale. The original title was much more applicable to the content. His story is absolutely fascinating too. 

The book is divided into three sections: Maria of Manoela, Mary Tudor, and Elisabeth De Valois. I was curious as to why Plaidy didn't include Phillip's last wife, Anna of Austria with whom he spent the most years with. I would have liked for the story to have continued to the end of Phillip's life but I guess she decided three case studies were all she wanted to focus on. 

The story begins with Phillip's childhood and his living in the shadow of his powerful father, Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor.  Being a more serious, religiously bent person, Phillip struggles to connect with people in a warm way, and finds it hard to tolerate fun and frivolity. He is influenced at a young age by romantic notions of love when his cousin, Maria of Portugal is sent to him as a young bride and his infatuation of her causes him to lose his carefully guarded feelings. Maria, young and naive as well, is adrift in a strange land and although appreciates her new husband's attentions, finds Phillip to be hesitant about showing too much affection. Maria gives birth to their son, Don Carlos, who proves to be a disaster from start to finish. Without giving too much of the main story away, Carlos factors into the book throughout all the way to the end and his life is as wild and interesting as any of the other people mentioned. He could have had his own tale all by himself.

After the death of Maria, Phillip marries Mary Tudor of England with the hope of solidifying relations between Spain and England, thwarting France, and strengthening the hold of Catholicism in Europe. Mary is quite a bit older than Phillip and along with still mourning the young, beautiful Maria, Phillip is repulsed by both Mary's looks and desperate, clinging behavior. He spends much of the time doing his duty of trying to beget a spare heir to hopefully replace his unstable son Carlos while finding a way to quickly get away from Mary and his miserable life with her in England. When Mary passes after many failed attempts at producing a child, Phillip is relieved and finds himself free from a drab life, ready to find another queen to marry.

When Phillip marries his third queen, Elisabeth De Valois he is a seasoned King, older and less naive in his views of the world and of women but nevertheless is enchanted by his French bride. She is only 14 when they wed in contrast to Phillip's 32 years but her beauty and kindness resonate with the entire household and as she was originally promised to Phillip's son, Carlos, her subsequent betrothal to the King causes great tension between Father and Son that never fully resolves itself. Once again, Phillip hopes this younger wife will produce a son, an heir to replace his first one. Elisabeth, daughter of Henry II and the infamous Catherine de Medici, finds herself at first fearful of her Mother's disapproval, even though she is far away in France but as she becomes more comfortable in her role as Queen of Spain, begins to mature and rely more on Phillip's growing attachment and the positive confidence he instills in her. Just when she starts to imagine a contented life with her husband, Elisabeth learns how cold he can be as she watches in horror the ruthlessness of the Spanish Inquisition and Phillip's radical nature emerges. He turns into a frightening figure who is a religious zealot, showing no mercy to the poor people, imprisoned, tortured, and killed for their beliefs. 

This was a dark book, especially for Plaidy. She says in the introduction that she tried to write it from Phillip's perspective and to see him in a more human light than he is sometimes given credit for. His enforcement during the Inquisition period forever brands him as a merciless religious tyrant and while there is no getting around this fact, it is interesting to see how the author manages to explain why he is so dedicated to the Catholic cause during this time period. Phillip truly believes he is doing God's will, saving the people from further, eternal tortures and also saving his own soul in the process. There are many moments in the book that invoke sympathy and understanding towards his way of thinking and she does a good job of showing his desire to forgive his son again and again for his mentally unstable behavior. In the end though, Phillip morphs into a hardened man whose first loyalty is to God and securing his place on the throne at all costs. 

Plaidy spends quite a bit of time with dialogue between the main characters and inner monologue to convey their thoughts. I always enjoy stories better when authors narrate more but here the style worked in that I got a good sense of what Phillip and his wives were thinking about the other. This was one of my favorite of her books, probably because I learned so much about a new area of history and about a man I only knew previously as the husband of Mary Tudor. I am now wanting to read her books on Catherine de Medici, the mother of Elisabeth De Valois. 

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Stacking the Shelves #16


Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Reading Reality. It's a place to showcase any books I have purchased, borrowed, or been lucky enough to have been given an advance copy of. Hope you find something that looks interesting to you or that makes you remember a favorite book you need to finish. Enjoy your reading this week :) 

I have still not read any of Chadwick's books and I know everyone who is into this time period seems to love her. I got this book for 99 cents on Kindle and so I'm hoping to start it soon. I am especially interested in this one as it tells the story of Nesta, daughter of the Welsh Prince Rhys of Deheubarth. I have become fascinated by medieval Welsh history in the last few years thanks to Sharon Kay Penman's novels. So this one is a winner!

Another steal at 48 cents on Kindle this is another author I always hear about but have never read anything by. This one is all about the Empress Matilda and the Anarchy period. Although I know a lot about this subject now this looks like a good historical fiction take on it with attention to Maud's character. 

I have meant to read this series many times but with so many great cozy mysteries I just never started these. I'm thinking of just jumping into the newest one since there are so many. It's doubtful I'll have time right now with my TBR pile to start at the beginning and read them all. So for blogging purposes I'm going to read and review the newest one and if I love it who knows....maybe I will go back to the first one soon.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Can't Wait Wednesday: The Jacobite's Wife by Morag Edwards

 For this week's Can't Wait Wednesday, hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings, I'm featuring The Jacobite's Wife by Morag Edwards. I love anything about this era (18th Century) that has to do with Scotland and Jacobites. The author is Scottish and says that as a child, she was told the true story of Winifred Maxwell, Countess of Nithsdale and her heroism to the cause of the Jacobites. She is currently working on a sequel to this book featuring Maxwell's niece, Mary Herbert. I just love historical fiction that takes real people and tells their stories through narrative. Hope you have found something to read that you just can't wait for!

October 2, 2023

Historical Fiction/Historical Scottish Fiction

Description courtesy of Amazon books

18th Century Scotland: Strong-willed Lady Winifred Nithsdale has already seen her mother, father, and brother imprisoned for their support of England’s Catholic king. While she wants to be loyal, Winifred tries to protect her husband from imprisonment, or worse, the scaffold. But will she escape with her own life intact?

Based on the true story of Winifred Maxwell, Countess of Nithsdale, and set in the early eighteenth century, this remarkable and powerful novel is rich in detail, character, and history.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Books on my Fall 2023 TBR list

I have neglected Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, lately.....out of lack of time. And I have missed making these lists! Several books listed are ones I've talked about on my Stacking the Shelves posts but just haven't had time to get to. I always seem to gravitate to my favorite authors and want to catch up on several series books I've been putting off for newer books or because I'm trying to branch out. 

I am sure I can list a hundred books I want to read before we ring in 2024 (like all of you reading this!) but here are the ones I'm most looking forward to. Happy Fall reading ya'll....

1. A Sunless Sea by Anne Perry- The next book I need to read in the William Monk series. These are always excellent. 

2. Endless Night by Agatha Christie (Read Christie November)

3. Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie (Read Christie December)

4. A King's Ransom by Sharon Kay Penman- I am currently finishing Lionheart (it is taking me forever because I am reading the actual book instead of reading it on my Kindle).

5. The Last Kashmiri Rose by Barbara Cleverly- A series set in India during the British Raj period that I've wanted to start for awhile now.

6. The Armor of Light by Ken Follett- Buzz about the latest Kingsbridge novel is everywhere! I have only read The Pillars of the Earth but this current book looks like one I'd like to read now.

7. A Cold Highland Wind by Tasha Alexander- Set in the Scottish highlands this is a book that I've had on my TBR list for awhile now. Hoping I'll get to it soon.

8. The Leper of Saint Giles by Ellis Peters- I am reading the Cadfael books in order because I've found things happen to him along the way that go into the next I want to continue with the series and this is my current read.

9. Queens of the Conquest by Alison Weir- Book one Queens of the Crusades was excellent so I'd like to tackle this one. It is long and detailed though so I will try my best!

10. Goodbye Piccadilly by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles- Set in WW I I'd like to see if this book can teach me a bit more history along with an entertaining story.


Sunday, September 17, 2023

Stacking the Shelves #15


Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Reading Reality. It's a place to showcase any books I have purchased, borrowed, or been lucky enough to have been given an advance copy of. Hope you find something that looks interesting to you or that makes you remember a favorite book you need to finish. Enjoy your reading this week :) 

Plaidy usually focuses on women's stories and so this is a departure for her to make Phillip the main tie between the three featured queens. Yes, the queens are major players but they are seen through the eyes of Philip of Spain and his story is told with detail and insight. I have read the first three chapters and am learning a lot I didn't know about him and about Spain at that time. With her simplistic style she packs in so much research and history. I just love her books.

I have wanted to start this series many times. There are 32 Miss Silver Mysteries and Wentworth is called "another Agatha Christie queen of mystery" and, "a great addition to the cozy genre of the 1920's." If you've read any of her books from this series, did you enjoy them? 

This is one of those books that intrigues me based on the cover and the subject but I probably won't be able to sit down and read every single word of. I am fascinated with the time period and the life of Edward of Woodstock, son of Edward III, but the details of all the battles and wars get dry quickly. Still, his story is interesting in that he never got a chance to rule England, dying early, and I always wonder had he lived would things have gone very differently. The Wars of the Roses might never have taken place at all, probably not. So much promise cut down too soon. So I'll skim through it and if it's really good I might enjoy it more than I think!

Friday, September 15, 2023

A Lesson in Murder by Verity Bright (A Lady Eleanor Swift Mystery Book 7)


Publication Date: September 14, 2021

Length: 325 pages

I have to admit, I get excited when it's time to review another Lady Eleanor book. They are by far my favorite cozy mystery series right now. The husband and wife team publish four per year and so I read them in season.  I am already looking forward to book 8 that I plan to read over the Christmas holidays. This one is the fall book, coinciding with the start of school, so as a teacher it was a bit of extra fun. 

Lady Eleanor is going back to school. Her old boarding school that is. Asked to make a speech at St. Mary's she is honored and excited. Ellie enjoys walking the halls of her alma mater and remembering good times and bad. She was always the rebel student and while she is happy to see the more modern, progressive changes that have been made since she left, she is also acutely aware of the still prevalent manners and customs of the old guard there. 

Before she can make her speech though, her beloved former teacher, Mrs. Wadsworth is murdered in the school library. As everyone dashes off to see what has happened, Ellie finds herself caught in another investigation with dashing Detective Hugh Seldon and her butler Clifford who decides to stay and help her. In order to be present on campus and help the search for the killer, Ellie takes over as guardian of one of the houses of students who grow to appreciate her. Clifford and Gladstone occupy a house nearby which Clifford of course furnishes in his customary impeccable style. When the art teacher is also found dead, Ellie and Hugh know they are running out of time. Who is knocking off innocent teachers? And why? Ellie also finds a link to her long lost Mother in a former diary, adding a personal element to the case she didn't expect. 

Being the seventh book in the series I thought I would grow tired of the formulaic aspect of the stories. And yes, they are predictable in some ways: Ellie's internal dialogue, Hugh's resistance to their romance, Clifford's perfection, and the way everything wraps up in a nice neat package at the end. But that is why it is a cozy mystery after all. This one was not as exciting as some of the others for me in that the location wasn't very exotic and I thought the secondary characters were not as interesting. But it is still a notch above many of the cozy series I have read this year. The authors have created main characters that I love and have distinct, quirky personal traits that make me want to see what they are doing lately. Some of the cozies I read could take place anywhere, at any time and there is very little effort made to drop me into the era they claim to be set in. These books do a great job of making reference to the time period and I feel like the 1920's are threaded throughout. 

If you are looking to start with a cozy series I highly recommend these books. From the gorgeous covers to the people to the intricate cases (which are usually pretty hard to figure out) to the unique settings, they are a lot of fun. I certainly have no other series I've read seven straight books from in recent memory, so there must be something that makes them stand out. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Can't Wait Wednesday: Murder By Invitation by Verity Bright (A Lady Eleanor Swift Mystery) Book 15


For this week's Can't Wait Wednesday, hosted by Tressa  at Wishful Endings, I'm featuring Murder By Invitation by Verity Bright. I am currently finishing Book 7, A Lesson in Murder and enjoying it as always with these books. Eleanor, Clifford the butler, and Gladstone the bulldog are back for the new installment and although I'm choosing to read them in order, I want to promote these books for those who are ready for book 15. Hoping you've found something you can't wait to read this week!

September 27, 2023

Historical Mysteries

Description courtesy of Amazon books

Lady Swift has been cordially invited to a huge royal celebration in Little Buckford to toast the King’s birthday… but wait, is that a body in the village hall?

Lady Eleanor Swift and her loyal butler Clifford are busy lending a hand with preparations for the big day. The grand dining room at Henley Hall is overflowing with home-sewn flags, paint and royal rosettes. Even Gladstone the bulldog and his new friend Tomkins the ginger cat are invited!

But just days before the event Mr Prestwick-Peterson, the chairman of the celebrations committee, is found dead in the village hall: strangled with handmade red, white and royal blue bunting.

With the village hall in total disarray and a key part of the decorations missing, Eleanor wonders if someone dastardly is sabotaging the King’s birthday celebrations?
Teaming up with her handsome beau Detective Hugh Seldon to question the local butcher, baker, and pub landlord it becomes clear that the meddlesome busybody Mr Prestwick-Peterson was not universally liked in charming Little Buckford. Indeed, the only mystery is why he wasn’t murdered before…

Searching Mr Prestwick-Peterson’s pristinely organised rooms, Eleanor is surprised to find a faded photograph of a beautiful young woman hidden within the pages of a novel. Could this be the key to untangling this very village murder? 
And can Eleanor catch the killer before the party is over for her, too?

A totally charming, unputdownable Golden Age murder mystery with characters readers will adore. Perfect for fans of Agatha Christie, T.E. Kinsey and Lee Strauss.

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Stacking the Shelves #14


Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Reading Reality. It's a place to showcase any books I have purchased, borrowed, or been lucky enough to have been given an advance copy of. Hope you find something that looks interesting to you or that makes you remember a favorite book you need to finish. Enjoy your reading this week :) 

Several of my fellow book blog friends have recommended this author to me. Loving historical mysteries set in India I thought I needed to try it. Looking over the series this one appealed to me first even though it is book 3. Weird because I almost always like to read a series in order, but I just was more interested in this story line. I'm borrowing it from the Libby app and if I like it I might buy the first one. Hopefully it's a good one.

In keeping with my desire to read more straight history this year, I bought this biography on one of my favorite subjects...Eleanor of Aquitaine. I just can't seem to tire of her and have read several takes on her life including Jean Plaidy's The Courts of Love and Sharon Penman's excellent novel, Devil's Brood. But I haven't read a strictly biographical account before. Alison Weir is the best at this and so I'm going to give it a try. It is a very long, thorough book as hers always are so it might be awhile before it's read!

This is the Read Christie 2023 September choice. I wasn't too interested in last month's book but this one looks pretty good. And it's a Hercule Poirot mystery which are my favorite of hers. I'll go ahead and admit that while I prefer reading this I might borrow and download the audiobook to listen to when I'm short on time. Yes, I wrote a whole post on how I don't care for audiobooks but occasionally I cave and listen. David Suchet, who played Poirot for many years on the television series narrates too which is a lot of fun! Maybe I need to revise my original thoughts on audios :) 

Friday, September 8, 2023

Murder On the Orient Express by Agatha Christie (A Hercule Poirot Mystery)


Publication Date: January 1, 1934

Length: 256 pages

This is an exciting review for me. I have wanted to read this book for a very long time and the August choice for Read Christie just didn't interest me. I had originally wanted to read and review this in August but just didn't quite finish it in time. I consider this story to be the quintessential Agatha Christie mystery and I can hardly say I've "read Christie" without it. So it's a personal achievement and has taken way too long to accomplish. 

Detective Hercule Poirot has had to return to London from Instanbul and books passage on the Orient Express. His friend, Monsieur Bouc finds him a second class car but good friend that he is, decides to give Poirot his first class cabin instead. Traveling with them are several passengers who all appear to have different backgrounds and reasons for travel, as any train would contain. There is the English woman Mary Debenham, American businessman Samuel Ratchett, Princess Dragonmiroff, Count Andrenyi and his wife and many others. 

Early the next morning, Poirot hears noise from the compartment next door where Samuel Ratchett is bunking. Later, when the train becomes stranded in a snow drift, Ratchett is found dead and it is obvious the murderer must be on board. Several clues including a handkerchief with the letter "H" and a piece of paper with the words "member little Daisy Armstrong" are found which serve to ignite interest in a long ago forgotten case of child abduction and murder. Poirot has little time to investigate each passenger, each clue, and put them together before they are moving again and the suspect has a chance to get away. Along with Monsieur Bouc and one Dr. Constantine, another passenger, he sets out to solve the case. 

I don't want to reveal too much of the story as it would spoil things. I also realize the vast number of people who have read this book already or watched the movie already know everything. But just in case someone is reading this and doesn't know the story I'll stop there. I found that even though I'd seen the 2017 movie with Kenneth Branagh and knew how it ended I still enjoyed reading the book version. It is, after all, the original and a movie is just not the same. I found the ending in the book heartbreaking in a way I didn't with the onscreen version. The ending was a little more abrupt and having to picture the characters more in my mind, I think I grew more attached to them than I did in the movie. 

While this was definitely not my favorite Christie book (I actually found it got a little tedious in some parts) I know it is very popular and is a staple in the mystery genre. It's one of those books you just "have to read." And having done so, I can now call myself a real Christie connoisseur. Well, I like to think so anyway!

Sunday, September 3, 2023

Stacking the Shelves #13


Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Reading Reality. It's a place to showcase any books I have purchased, borrowed, or been lucky enough to have been given an advance copy of. Hope you find something that looks interesting to you or that makes you remember a favorite book you need to finish. Enjoy your reading this week :) 

I got this book for free which is my kind of deal! I had some Kindle credits and it was on sale for $1.99 already. It's the story of Maria Theresa and her daughters. The most famous of which is Marie Antoinette. I have been really neglecting history books this year and so this one looked like one to tackle. I hope I have the time and energy. Cozy mysteries and short historical fiction have been on my radar lately due to being incredibly busy. If you've read this one did you like it?

My Mom says she read the Thomas Costain books in high school and loved them. I have heard them recommended for years and I bought all four on the Plantagenets. This one in particular I'd like to read as it is hard to find good books about the first three Edwards. So in keeping with my theme of reading some straight history books, this one was added to my shelf. At only $1 on Kindle it is a steal!

This looks like a very unique historical mystery. The title and cover made me curious and I'd never heard of this author either. This is book one of the Joe Sandilands mystery series set in Calcutta in the 1920's. It looks like an original premise and lately I've been on the hunt for good historical mysteries with male detective characters. I love the female leads in cozy mysteries but for some reason I really prefer men in the grittier more serious roles. Maybe it's my fondness for Hercule Poirot?

Friday, September 1, 2023

A King Ensnared: A Historical Novel of Scotland (The Stewart Chronicles Book One) by J.R. Tomlin


Publication Date: November 16, 2013

Length: 288 pages

As I wrote on Sunday in my Stacking the Shelves post, I have seen Tomlin's books everywhere for years. I have had her Black Douglas series in my Kindle for a very long time. For some reason I just never was very interested in trying them. Probably because I've been immersed in the Crusades and the Plantagenets this time period in Scottish history just wasn't something I wanted to delve into. But looking for something different I decided to give this book a try. 

Young James Stewart is heartbroken at the death of his older brother, David Stewart, starved to death in a dungeon by his evil Uncle, the Duke of Albany who is plotting to seize power for himself. King Robert III is dying and in order to save James the decision is made to remove him from his scheming relatives' grasp. Before he can be taken to safety in France, he is captured at sea by pirates who take him to London where he is imprisoned by King Henry IV.  

Although he is deeply unhappy about his situation, James is nonetheless treated somewhat well by the King who resolves to educate him and treat him with some dignity. James grows to accept that he will probably not be let out anytime soon and as the years pass he tries to do the best he can with his frustrating circumstances. He trains as a knight, writes poetry, falls in love, and longs for Scotland and his birthright. When Henry IV dies and his merciless son Henry V becomes King, James finds himself often balancing a tightrope of demanding the respect he feels he deserves as Scottish royalty, while trying to hang on and not incur the wrath of the English monarch. He feels if he can be patient and focused enough, he might just find his way back to his homeland and all that awaits him there.

I learned a lot about this area of history that I didn't already know. I had read about James and his poetry but didn't really know all the background of his imprisonment and his interaction with both Henry IV and V. You really became fond of James due to his loyalty to his duty and his unwillingness to cave when faced with multiple attempts by the English to renounce his crown and be set free. James is very clear that he desperately longs for that freedom but will not be bought cheaply at the expense of his country. I thought he showed a lot of bravery and courage for his young age and know I couldn't fare as well as he did.

The book was just okay though. It had enough positives for me to recommend it if you are interested in the Stewarts and their early back story. And the author does a good job of describing life in the time and place she sets the story in. There is enough here for those who like battles as well as personal stories and like I stated above, you do become somewhat attached to James and his suffering. Unfortunately though it did become a bit slow and dragged as it went on. I found myself skimming towards the end. I know the next couple of books in the series deal more with life after his imprisonment and as he becomes King of Scotland so they might be better. There were too many battles and fighting for my taste too here but if you like that sort of detail it might be your thing. I'm not sure when I'll read the next one but the nice thing is they are fairly short, easy reads so you can pick it up and follow it without the need for deep concentration. Overall, a good, solid, well researched history story with a personal connection to the main character.