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Moth To The Flame: The Story of Anne Boleyn by Angela Warwick

Posted By Claire on April 10, 2014

Moth to the Flame Angela WarwickI am incredibly hard to please when it comes to fiction featuring Anne Boleyn as a character because I have spent a few years researching Anne and so have built up my own idea of her and her family members in my head, one that is bound to be different from a novelist’s idea of her. I did, however come to this book with an open mind and a willingness to give it a chance.

I was nearly put off at the very start of the book by the author’s use of “Henry V111″ and “Louis X11″. It grated on me and distracted me from the flow of the book, and I actually stopped and emailed the author. She apologised for this, it was how she was taught to write it, and said that she will be changing it in future editions.  I felt happy to then ignore the strange numbering and get on with the story.

It is clear that Angela Warwick has spent a considerable amount of time researching Anne Boleyn’s life story, and there is a bibliography at the end. There are, of course, things I didn’t agree with in the storyline, for example, Warwick has Anne going to serve Margaret of Austria and Queen Claude as a child, but having quite adult thoughts and behaviours at times. At one point, Francis I even tries to seduce her, which, to me, just didn’t seem right when she was so young (not even a teenager). Henry VIII also seems interested in the very young Anne, and this just didn’t seem appropriate. However, the further I got into the story the more relaxed I became, and the more I enjoyed it. It is an enjoyable read.

Warwick definitely brought Anne to life, and her last days in the Tower, and her execution, were very moving. I also enjoyed the scenes and relationships Anne had with other characters, such as Thomas Wyatt and his sister, Margaret. As a reader I definitely empathised with the Anne of the story and cared what happened to her. I also thought that Warwick’s idea of Anne and Henry’s relationship, and her explanation through the storyline of how Henry could have abandoned the woman he spent so long chasing, were very convincing. The story worked and the reader is able to understand how it could have all gone wrong for Anne.

All in all, I enjoyed the story. It was interesting to see Warwick develop Anne’s character from the young child who left England to join a foreign court with so many hopes and dreams, to the mother, wife and queen who died as the result of a tragic miscarriage of justice.

Book Blurb

She was one of the most fascinating women of her generation; intelligent, clever and alluring. But despite all of her undoubted talents, her fate was sealed from the moment Henry VIII set eyes on her.

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Inside the Tudor Court by Lauren Mackay

Posted By Claire on March 28, 2014

Inside the Tudor CourtThe name ‘Eustace Chapuys’ is well-known to any Tudor historian, researcher and reader of Tudor books. Chapuys is famous for his despatches, which are invaluable to those writing about Henry VIII’s reign and the lives of prominent members of Henry VIII’s court, but most people know very little about the man behind the letters because there has never been a book written about him before. Just as Catherine Fletcher ‘fleshed out’ Gregorio Casali, Henry VIII’s man in Rome, in her book “The Divorce of Henry VIII”, Lauren Mackay has brought Chapuys, Charles V’s ambassador in England, to life.

It would be easy for a book on an ambassador to be dry and ‘text-bookish’ in style, but Lauren’s book is highly readable. She handles her subject by focusing on Chapuys’ time at Henry VIII’s court and looking at Henry’s marriages through his eyes, with reference to the despatches he wrote during that time. However, the reader is also given details on Chapuys’ background, his relationships with his family and his life after his departure from Henry’s court. Although I was obviously interested in the chapters covering Henry VIII’s marriages, and obviously the chapter on Anne Boleyn’s downfall, my favourite chapters were the earlier ones about Chapuys’ early life and then the chapters on Chapuys’ relationships with Mary and with Cromwell. Those who watched “The Tudors” series saw Chapuys act as a kind of father-figure to Mary during the breakdown of her relationship with her father and Lauren gives the reader a real insight into their relationship and it is clear that Chapuys cared deeply for Mary and went out of his way to help her. Gone is the gossipy, cynical Chapuys of many people’s imagination and in his place is a man of integrity.

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The Tournament by Matthew Reilly

Posted By Claire on March 14, 2014

the tournamentThe Tournament is the latest thriller from internationally bestselling author Matthew Reilly. I’ve never read any of his books before, but this historical appears to be a departure from his usual work.

I read all 400+ pages of The Tournament in one weekend. I was hooked from the outset and I enjoyed every minute of it. I don’t usually recommend historical fiction books to my husband, as they’re not his cup of tea, but I’m passing this one on to him as it’s a fast-paced thriller which even non-history lovers will enjoy.

The novel is set in the year 1546, the last year of King Henry VIII’s reign, and the storyline sees Elizabeth, Henry’s daughter by Anne Boleyn, travelling to Constantinople with her tutor, Roger Ascham, to watch a chess tournament. Suleiman the Magnificent, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, has invited the best chessplayers from European countries to take part and the English entry is Gilbert Giles, a close friend of Ascham. Elizabeth ends up tagging along because the plague is rife in London and there are also worries that her life is in danger due to those who see her as a threat to her half-sister and half-brother’s claims to the throne. It is decided that Constantinople will be safer for her, but on the very first night of the party’s stay in the city a man is found murdered and Ascham finds himself investigating the murder.

Constantinople doesn’t just have murder, it also has a another dark side, a side that Elizabeth’s companion, Elsie, embraces wholeheartedly: organised orgies. Everybody in Constantinople seems to have a secret and nothing is what it seems. Elizabeth will be forever changed by what she sees and hears at this tournament. By giving her these experiences, Reilly explains how Elizabeth became the formidable woman who came to the throne in 1558 and why she never married. Obviously it’s a novel, and is fiction, but it is cleverly done.

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Le Temps Viendra: A Novel of Anne Boleyn Volume 2 by Sarah Morris

Posted By Claire on March 11, 2014

Le Temps Viendra Vol 2Le Temps Viendra: A Novel of Anne Boleyn Volume I was published back in August 2012, which seems a long time ago now, so I was relieved when Volume II was released in December 2013. Obviously we all know how Anne Boleyn’s story ends, so readers weren’t left completely hanging, but Le Temps Viendra had two main characters – the modern day Anne, who was having a relationship with a married man, and the sixteenth century Anne Boleyn, who was having a relationship with the married Henry VIII – and I was desperate to know what would happen to modern Anne as Anne Boleyn’s story reached its tragic end.

As readers of Volume I will know, Le Temps Viendra is two stories in one, a kind of parallel lives novel, and is about a modern day woman being transported into Anne Boleyn’s shoes after being taken ill at Hever Castle, the Boleyn family home. Le Temps Viendra Volume I covered just one year in Anne Boleyn’s life, from 31st May 1527 to June 1528, and ended with Anne Boleyn being taken ill with sweating sickness and the modern Anne leaving her. Volume II opens with the modern day Anne waking up as Anne Boleyn on 1st September 1532, the day that Anne Boleyn is made Marquis of Pembroke, and ends with Anne’s execution on 19th May 1536. Although Anne Boleyn’s life has fast-forwarded four years, the modern Anne has only been “stranded” in what she describes as “a colourless twenty-first century” for two years.

Although Volume II is much longer than Volume I (632 pages compared to 398 pages), I found it faster paced and more enjoyable. I don’t know whether this was because the events of 1532-1536 are themselves more exciting or whether it was the writing style, but I found myself much more involved in the story. I was desperate to know how Sarah Morris would tie the two women’s lives together. What would happen with modern Anne and her boyfriend? What would happen if the modern Anne was in Anne Boleyn’s body when she was executed? Would things end happily for modern Anne or would she die too? Would modern Anne take any steps to change history because of her historical knowledge? So many questions and they were answered in a way that left me satisfied at the end of the book. I found the end very moving and it was very well written.

As I said in my review of the first part – see Le Temps Viendra: A Novel of Anne Boleyn – it doesn’t seem quite right to call Le Temps Viendra a “novel” when Sarah Morris has worked so hard to make her story historically accurate. Obviously, Sarah has filled in the blanks and has used her imagination in bringing Anne Boleyn to life as a person vividly through the modern Anne’s eyes, but it worked and it didn’t “jar” with me at all. It all tied in with what we know and what she did with the story made sense. The length of the story and the incredible amount of detail, plus all the end notes, again makes it more of a novel for those who are “au fait” with Anne Boleyn’s story and Tudor history, rather than those looking for a lighter historical read, but it’s the detail Tudor history fans will love.

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A Medal for Murder (A Kate Shackleton Mystery) by Frances Brody

Posted By Claire on February 28, 2014

Medal for MurderThank you so much to Penelope Wright ot reading and reviewing this novel. Over to Penny…

The background to this novel is set in the 1920s with flash backs to the Boer War. The plot centres around an amateur production of a play in Harrogate with murder and robberies incorporated to keep the reader interested to the end. The first chapter opens with the heroine Kate and her assistant Jim Sykes leaving for an appointment in a 1910 blue Jowett convertible. Those with knowledge of vintage cars will know what this is. I assume it is something to be excited about but we all know what assuming does!

I was not expecting to have the answers to some of the mysteries as the story moved along. This is a different way of storytelling from any I have read before and it could lead the reader to think that the end will be an anti-climax. I can assure you it isn’t. Brody seems to keep the intrigue going right up to the final chapter and I didn’t guess who the perpetrator of the murder was. I thought it was another character altogether.

I would sum this up as a really good holiday read. Easy to pick up and put down but you will want to choose where in the tale to put it down as it is never dull.

Book Blurb

Frances Brody’s “refreshingly complex heroine” (Kirkus Reviews), picks up a case that takes her to the refined streets of 1920s Harrogate in A Medal for Murder.

A pawn-shop robbery

It’s no rest for the wicked as Kate Shackleton picks up her second professional sleuthing case. But exposing the culprit of a pawn-shop robbery turns sinister when her investigation takes her to Harrogate in Yorkshire, England – and murder is only one step behind …

A fatal stabbing

A night at the theatre should have been just what the doctor ordered, until Kate stumbles across a body in the doorway. The knife sticking out of its chest definitely suggests a killer in the theatre’s midst.

A ransom demand

Kate likes nothing better than a mystery – and nothing better than solving them. So when a ransom note demands £1,000 for the safe return of the play’s leading lady, the refined streets of Harrogate play host to Kate’s skills in piecing together clues – and luring criminals out of their lairs…

Book Details

Series: Kate Shackleton Mystery (Book 2)
Paperback: 448 pages
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin; Reprint edition (January 14, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1250042712
ISBN-13: 978-1250042712
The book is available as a paperback and Kindle book from Amazon.com and Amazon UK, and you should be able to find it at your usual bookstore too.

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Lady Anne Mowbray, The High and Excellent Princess: The Child Wife of a Prince in the Tower by Marilyn Roberts

Posted By Claire on February 14, 2014

anne mowbrayI’d come across the Mowbrays through my research into the Howard family but I must admit to not knowing anything at all about Lady Anne Mowbray until I read this gem of a book by Marilyn Roberts.

Marilyn stumbled upon this child bride during her research into the Mowbray family for her book, The Mowbray Legacy, and decided that the story of this little girl and the discovery of her remains in a building site in London in 1964 deserved a book of its own. It is a fascinating story.

In Lady Anne Mowbray, The High and Excellent Princess, Marilyn Roberts shares her meticulous research into Anne’s life, taking the reader from 2011, when Marilyn visited Lady Anne’s tomb in Westminster Abbey, back in time through the history of the Mowbray family and sharing exactly how the bride of Richard, Duke of York, one of the princes in the Tower, ended up being dug up in a building site in 1964 when she’d been buried originally in Westminster Abbey. It is an engaging read and I found the story of the 1964 discovery particularly interesting, bearing in mind the controversy over the finding of the remains of Richard III under a car park in Leicester. While the discovery of Richard III’s remains was handled properly, the discovery of Anne’s was a complete disaster, resulting in a rather hurried re-interment. At least this little princess is now back where she was meant to be, in the beautiful Westminster Abbey.

Lady Anne Mowbray, The High and Excellent Princess is fully referenced, allowing readers to dig deeper into Anne’s story for themselves, and also contains five useful family trees so that readers can see how everyone fits together. Anyone interested in this period of history will enjoy this book and I highly recommend it.

Endorsement from Alison Weir:
“Marilyn Roberts is one of the foremost experts on the Mowbray family, a historian of the top rank, and her poignant rendering of the short life – and afterlife – of Anne Mowbray, last of her line and child bride of the younger of the Princes in the Tower, is as riveting as it is brilliantly researched. The author’s encyclopaedic knowledge of the geography of her story brings it all the more vividly to life. This is history at its forensic best. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.”

Book Details

Paperback: 116 pages
Publisher: Queens-Haven Publications (25 Nov 2013)
ISBN-10: 0954153928
ISBN-13: 978-0954153922
The book is available at £8.99 plus postage direct from the publisher at www.queens-haven.co.uk/queens-haven-orders.htm

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British Royal Family Trees: From William the Conqueror to the House of Windsor by Marilyn Roberts

Posted By Claire on February 11, 2014

British Royal FamiliesThis 28 page book is the perfect reference book for every bookcase. It’s a wonderful resource for schoolchildren, students, researchers, historical novelists and historians, and will settle arguments over dates and who ruled when.

It contains the following family trees:

  • The Normans
  • The Plantagenets
  • The Houses of Lancaster and York
  • The Woodvilles
  • The Tudors
  • Henry VIII and His Wives
  • The Stuarts
  • The Stuart Ancestors of Mary, Queen of Scots
  • The Descent of Elizabeth II from William the Conqueror
  • The Descent of the Late Diana, Princess of Wales from King Charles II
  • The Descent of Prince Charles and Princess Diana from Bess of Hardwick
  • The House of Hanover
  • The House of Windsor (formerly Saxe-Coburg Gotha)
  • Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

And each royal family tree has an introductory page giving short bios of the monarchs involved.

British Royal Family Trees also has a page entitled “Who Else Was Around”, listing famous artists, statesmen, inventors, composers, explorers, authors etc. and the dates when they lived. “Monarchs Since 1066″ is a useful list of all English monarchs with the dates they reigned, the cause of their deaths, age at death, how many children they had with their spouse and how many illegitimate children they had. Finally, the book has a page of interesting quotations from some of those mentioned in the family trees.

It’s small, but it’s a treasure trove of information and well worth adding to your history book collection. It costs £4.50, plus postage, direct from the publisher, Queens-Haven Publications – see www.queens-haven.co.uk/queens-haven-orders.htm

Book Details

Paperback: 28 pages
Publisher: Queens-Haven Publications (1 Jan 2014)
ISBN-10: 095415391X
ISBN-13: 978-0954153915
Order at www.queens-haven.co.uk/queens-haven-orders.htm

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The Midwife’s Tale: A Mystery by Sam Thomas

Posted By Claire on February 11, 2014

The Midwife's TaleThank you to Penelope Wright for reviewing this historical novel for us. Over to Penny…

When I started to read this mystery I was disappointed that some of the social aspects of the day were not explained, maybe in a glossary at the beginning, and I would have liked to see an old map of York too. As I became more and more involved in the book I found that actually it didn’t matter and I enjoyed it tremendously.

I studied the Tudors and Stuarts for history O’ level (GCSE as it is now) many years ago but there was very little in the way of the social history apart from the Plague and the Fire, probably the only dates I remember. Politics, wars and battles were the name of the game. I wanted to know how people lived, what did they eat, how did they manage their households, what did they treat illnesses with and who delivered their children? Much of this information is included in this book as well as the politics of the day (not too much), and how it affected the day to day lives of the people during the siege of York by Oliver Cromwell’s Parliamentary forces.

If you, like me, are interested in the social history of the day and like “who dunnits”, I thoroughly recommend this book. Follow The Lady Bridget Hodgson, her servant Martha and the rest of the Hodgson family through childbirth, murder, mystery, York and its seedier side, to finally uncover who the perpetrator of the crimes is and if you wish to know more about the background to the book, go to the Authors Note on Page 309 as it is all explained there.

Book Blurb

In the tradition of Arianna Franklin and C. J. Sansom comes Samuel Thomas’s remarkable debut, The Midwife’s Tale.

It is 1644, and Parliament’s armies have risen against the King and laid siege to the city of York. Even as the city suffers at the rebels’ hands, midwife Bridget Hodgson becomes embroiled in a different sort of rebellion. One of Bridget’s friends, Esther Cooper, has been convicted of murdering her husband and sentenced to be burnt alive. Convinced that her friend is innocent, Bridget sets out to find the real killer.

Bridget joins forces with Martha Hawkins, a servant who’s far more skilled with a knife than any respectable woman ought to be. To save Esther from the stake, they must dodge rebel artillery, confront a murderous figure from Martha’s past, and capture a brutal killer who will stop at nothing to cover his tracks. The investigation takes Bridget and Martha from the homes of the city’s most powerful families to the alleyways of its poorest neighborhoods. As they delve into the life of Esther’s murdered husband, they discover that his ostentatious Puritanism hid a deeply sinister secret life, and that far too often tyranny and treason go hand in hand.

Details

Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Minotaur Books; Reprint edition (December 10, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1250038340
ISBN-13: 978-1250038340
Available as a paperback and Kindle from Amazon.com and Amazon UK. It should also be available from other bookshops.

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The Princes in the Tower by Josephine Wilkinson

Posted By Claire on January 27, 2014

The Princes in the TowerIn the introduction to “The Princes in the Tower”, historian Josephine Wilkinson explains how this book, which is more of a collection of essays or articles, came about. She was working on the second volume of her biography of Richard III and was struggling with the issue of handling the question “what happened to Edward V and Richard, Duke of York” without the topic swamping her biography. Wilkinson came to the conclusion that her research into primary sources regarding the boys’ disappearance could be handled better in a collection of essays published separately to the biography, and this book is that collection.

“The Princes in the Tower” includes the following essays:

  • Edward V: A Short Life – A biography of Edward’s short life.
  • Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York – A biography of Richard’s short life.
  • Richard III: Preserving Sacred Kingship, an Analysis of Titulus Regis – Here, Wilkinson examines in detail Richard III’s Act of Settlement, the statute which settled the crown on Richard and his heirs. Wilkinson makes the interesting point that evidence points to Richard’s role in the bill as being passive, rather than initiating it.
  • John, Lord Howard, and the Mowbray Inheritance 28 June 1483 – Wilkinson looks at the theory that the Princes were murdered by John, Lord Howard, who was granted Richard of York’s Mowbray inheritance by Richard III on 28th June 1483. Evidence leads Wilkinson to conclude that the theory has no real merit.
  • The Duke of Buckingham – Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, is the next suspect to be examined and Wilkinson looks at the rather contradictory sources before concluding that Buckingham too is innocent.
  • Sir James Tyrell and the Mystery of the Princes – It was Francis Bacon who wrote that Sir James Tyrell and John Dighton confessed to murdering the Princes, and in this chapter looks at the evidence. Wilkinson concludes that Tyrell and Dighton too are innocent of the Princes’ murder, but that Tyrell may have had a hand in their disappearance. Interesting!
  • Henry VII – Here, Wilkinson considers the evidence for the theory put forward by some “revisionists” who want to clear Richard III’s name, the theory that Henry VII killed the Princes. After examining the evidence, she is convinced of Henry’s innocence.
  • History and Imagination in Sir Thomas More’s History of King Richard III – Wilkinson considers “the evil legend of Richard III” which was popularised through Thomas More’s work. After careful consideration, she concludes that the work is “a fascinating study in morality” rather than an historical source to be used as evidence.
  • The Rumour – In this essay, Wilkinson examines the earliest primary sources regarding the Princes’ time in the Tower and their fate – letters, payments/accounts, Mancini’s narrative, Caspar Weinrich’s chronicle, Croyland, Vergil…
  • Were the Princes Dead? – Were the Princes killed? Did one or both of them die of natural causes? Did one or both of them go abroad? These are the questions examined in this chapter.

The book also includes full notes and bibliography.

I really enjoyed reading “The Princes in the Tower”. Wilkinson’s examination of the sources is excellent, it is detailed and makes sense. She doesn’t tell the reader what to think, she sets out the theory and the evidence for/against it and then comes to a conclusion. Ultimately, her conclusion is that all of the main players are innocent of the murder of the Princes and concludes that “those who would seek to know what happened to the Princes could do worse than to begin where Perkin Warbeck first emerged: Flanders.” and her conclusion is sound when it is based on her analysis of the sources. Many will disagree with her conclusion, but she is not dogmatic in stating her thoughts, she simply goes where the evidence takes her.

All in all, it’s an excellent book for anyone interested in that period of history and the question of what happened to Edward IV’s sons. It is well-written, fully referenced and easy to read and understand.

Thank you to Amberley Publishing for sending me “The Princes in the Tower” to review.

Book Details

Hardcover: 192 pages
Publisher: Amberley Publishing (11 Oct 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1445619741
ISBN-13: 978-1445619743
Also available on Kindle.
Available from Amazon.com – click here, Amazon UK – click here, or your usual book retailer.

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Katharine of Aragon: The Tragic Story of Henry VIII’s First Unfortunate Wife by Patrick Williams

Posted By Claire on January 23, 2014

KatharineAmberley Publishing kindly sent me this book in the autumn and I finally had the chance to read it over Christmas. I was really looking forward to it as Katharine has been sorely neglected by historians in the past. A woman who was married to Henry VIII from 1509 to 1533 and who stood her ground over their marriage, and Henry’s plans for an annulment, deserves her life to be explored in-depth.

I’ve been struggling with writing a review for this book, though, and have come to the conclusion that the only way of reviewing it is to look at it from two different perspectives: the researcher/student and the general reader/Tudor history lover. What you think of this book will depend on your reason for purchasing it and reading it.

Katharine of Aragon: The Tragic Story of Henry VIII’s First Unfortunate Wife is huge. The hardback runs to 459 pages, plus index, and pages 390 to 458 are chapter notes/references. You can tell just by leafing through it that it is written by an expert, an authority on the subject, so the reader is in very good hands. Patrick Williams is Emeritus Professor of Spanish History at the University of Portsmouth and has made extensive use of the Spanish records. I cannot knock the contents, the book is incredibly detailed and enlightening, and I particularly enjoyed the sections on Ferdinand and Isabella, and Williams’ research on whether Katharine’s marriage to Arthur Tudor was consummated. However, it is incredibly heavy going and I found myself skipping over entire sections and wanting to jump ahead to get to Katharine and her life, as opposed to what was going on in Europe and the political side of things.

As a text book for researchers, students, teachers, or anyone needing to know everything that was going on in Europe before Katharine was born and during her life, the book is invaluable. It gives you everything you need to know. I went through it marking pages for future reference, adding post-it notes etc. so that I can use it for my research. I know I will be regularly dipping into it and making use of the notes and bibliography, but I’m not sure that a casual reader who just wants to know about Katharine’s life will enjoy it. The way it is laid out is like a text book, in that it is not a flowing book but has lots of subtitles within chapters separating chunks which don’t really follow on. It does not read like a biography or story, more of an academic text book, which suits researchers/students, but does not suit a more general reader. It is easy to get bogged down in the immense detail.

Katharine of Aragon is very very different to Giles Tremlett’s book on Katharine, which I feel is accessible to all kinds of readers and which also examines the Spanish sources, or Julia Fox’s highly readable book on Katharine and her sister Juana. The old Garrett Mattingly one is also very good. I can’t say which book will suit you best.

I feel I have no right to be critical when I don’t have Williams’ expertise or education, and the book will be invaluable to many people, it’s just not a ‘mainstream’ history book and I would not want people to be disappointed after buying it. Its subtitle “The Tragic Story of Henry VIII’s First Unfortunate Wife” makes it sound like it will give the information in a flowing story style, it doesn’t. At the end of the book I was definitely more knowledgeable about the state of Europe at the time, the wranglings over Henry’s Great Matter, the dispensation and issue of consummation etc. but I was left feeling that I still didn’t know the real Katharine.

If you are interested in this book, my advice would be:

  • If you have a Kindle then download the free sample first to see if the style suits you.
  • Use the “click to look inside” feature on Amazon to browse the contents and writing style.
  • Look at it in a bookshop.

Book Details

Hardcover: 480 pages
Publisher: Amberley Publishing (15 May 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1848683251
ISBN-13: 978-1848683259
Available as a Kindle book on Amazon.com – click here – or as a Kindle book or hardback at Amazon UK – click here.

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