Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Confession of Piers Gaveston by Brandy Purdy

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The Confession of Piers Gaveston is the tale of a true person who died in the early 14th century. He was a very close companion to King Edward II. So close, in fact, rumors still abound that they were actual lovers. Piers Gaveston literally rises from the ashes into the highest realm of the English empire because his good looks, arrogance, flamboyant personality, and outrageous behavior attract the interest of the King. Subsequently, he is showered with gifts which include land grants, titles, and jewels. All this attention increases the ire of other nobles towards Gaveston resulting in years of disrespect, hatred, and painful accusations of Gaveston.

The novel is written in the format of a journal. It begins in Gaveston’s childhood with an impassioned retelling of the burning of his mother who was convicted as a witch. As a young child, alone, he must resort to prostitution to earn his way. But Piers is craft and he is a survivor. He gains acclaim as a soldier fighting in King Edward I’s army. Because of his reputation as a tough, successful soldier, he is assigned to become a companion to the lazy and weak Prince Edward as companion. A strong bond is formed, one that soon leads into Prince Edward seducing Piers. For Edward, the attraction is much more – Piers becomes his obsession, an ill-fated burden for Gaveston to carry.

From the very first sentence, Purdy managed to make me sit up and take a close look at the words on each page. Her prose is one of the most brilliant I have come across. Every scene, every word engaged me. The first person narration of Piers Gaveston was not only powerful, it evoked strong emotions throughout. Her “tell it like it is” style of writing brings the reader deep into the main character’s frame of mind, portraying him as both loveable and abhorrent. The scenes of homosexuality are written vividly but tastefully in an openly honest manner.

Brandy Purdy is an up and coming author one must watch carefully in the future for I have no doubt she will become a favorite for many readers of historical fiction.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Season of Sacrifice by Tristi Pinkston

Season of Sacrifice, Tristi Pinkston, Golden Wings Enterprises, Trade paperback, 321 pages, $16.95 U.S., ISBN: 978-0-9794340-1-3

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Season of Sacrifice by Tristi Pinkston is a heart-wrenching story about a group of Mormon faithfuls and their struggle to build a new life for themselves and their families in the rugged hills of Utah.

Ben Perkins is a religious man who seeks an escape from a lifetime of toil in the Welsh coalmines. He seizes upon an opportunity to go to America. He must first travel to New York and then on to Utah with his church, the Church of Latter Day Saints. He takes with him only half of his family, but promises to earn enough money to pay for the voyage of the remaining relatives and his fiancee and true love, Mary Ann Williams.

Even though a great deal of time passes, Ben proves true to his word. Mary Ann departs for America with the remainder of Ben’s family. Soon after her arrival, Ben and Mary get married. A few years pass and then to Mary Ann’s delight, her own family, including her sister Sarah, joins them in Utah.

When Ben decides to take his family and join the San Juan mission to Southern Utah, much to Mary Ann’s delight, Sarah decides to join them.

The wagon train sets forth, but no one anticipates the trials and tribulations they must face in order to reach their destination. Steep cliffs, rough terrain, and mountains of rock block their way. In order for their wagons to make it through, they must blast holes, build roads, and survive brutal weather. Yet despite all this, they manage to reach their destination without the loss of a single life. Together, they made history and became famous as the group that made it through the “Hole in the Rock.”

As they settle into their new lives, their happy life is once again disturbed when Ben decides to enter into a plural marriage. His choice for second wife is none other than his sister-in-law, Sarah.

Before reading this novel, I knew little about the Mormon faith except for the fact that plural marriages are steeped deep in the Church’s ancient history. Polygramy is a difficult subject at the best of times because of its conflict with today’s social values. Yet Tristi tackled the topic with tenderness and class. Her dignified accounting of the reactions of people involved in the plural marriage gave the reader a three dimensional view of the contraversial subject and the impact of polygamy upon the lives of those involved.

Based on Tristi Pinkston’s own family tree, and with photographs of the actual family members provided, the reader can easily bond with the characters. I especially enjoyed the list of notes separating fact from fiction at the end of the book.

Long after the final pages were turned and I closed the book with a satisfied sigh, the memory of the novel and the story of the people stayed with me. I highly recommend this novel to anyone who wants a peak inside the lives of the Mormon Saints who, against all odds, forged a home out of the harsh Utah landscape.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

My Lady's Treasure by Catherine Kean

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During the winter of 1192 in England, Lady Faye Rivellaux and her friend, Elayne Lorvais, married to Lord Torr Lorvais, and their eighteen month old daughter Angeline, often enjoyed picnics by the river. On an idyllic day, little Angeline discovers a valuable chalice buried beneath some mud and rocks. Recognizing its immense value, aye and Elayne keep the discovery a secret.

Elayne falls ill and on her deathbed, she extracts a promise from Faye to protect and care for little Angeline as if the child were her own. Faye takes this promise to heart and becomes a loving, substitute mother to the small child.

Then one day, Angeline is mysteriously kidnapped. Faye receives a demand for a large ransom of silver and is told of a location to make the exchange. An impoverished widow who survives on the charity of Lord Lorvais, Faye does not have the silver to pay the ransom, but she is in possession of the golden chalice and will gladly relinquish it to save Angeline. Dedicated to fulfilling her promise to her friend, Faye sets out to meet an unknown man at an arranged destination.

Sir Brant Meslarches’ past is inextricably tied to that of Lord Torr Lorvais, and he harbours a deep dislike for the man. Because of a dying request by Brant’s brother, Royce, Brant is compelled to obey Lorvais’ demands and recognize him as overlord. But it is Lorvais who orchestrated the kidnapping of his own daughter in order to win the affections of fair Faye. Lorvais knows Faye does not have the silver to pay for the ransom, so he orders Brant to only scare her. When Faye offers Brant the golden chalice, he is shocked. How did she acquire it? Rant believes it is part of King Arthur’s lost treasure that his brother Royce spent his life searching for.

This wonderfully rich medieval tale encompasses a little mystery, an abundance of love, an insidious sprinkling of evil, and enough adventure to keep the reader reading throughout the gripping climax to the very end.

Catherine Kean writes a rich medieval prose that draws you into this masterfully weaved tale. The novel’s flowing prose allows the reader to immerse themselves completely in the story. The plot is uncomplicated with not too many characters. It is an enjoyable read with a gripping climax that held my attention long into the night until I reached the very satisfying ending.