Saturday, January 30, 2010

For You, a Book Review

Just finished Linore Burkard's THE COUNTRY HOUSE COURTSHIP and enjoyed it very much. Here's my review--I give it four stars (five's my max and I don't do halfsies unless I'm REALLY conflicted):

ISBN # 978-0-7369-2799-4
Harvest House, January 2010

Genre: historical romance (Regency)

Beatrice Forsythe is guilty of the sin of envy. Her sister Ariana is happily married to Philip Mornay, “The Paragon”, a gentleman of ton with extensive properties. All Beatrice wants at age seventeen is a husband as rich as her brother-in-law, who can give her all the same material benefits The Paragon offers her sister.

To a wintertime house party at the Mornay estate arrive a husband-candidate with a sister in disgrace, plus a worthy but wary applicant for the vicarage in Mornay’s gift. Mr. Barton, the ideal society husband, has his own agenda—the Prince Regent wants to ennoble Mornay with a viscountcy, and it’s Barton’s job to get Mornay to agree, and quickly! At Aspindon, the Mornays’ country home, guests with secret agendas, well meaning relations, Beatrice-on-the-husband-prowl and a dangerous fever making rounds among the locals, make a dangerous and exciting brew. Beatrice finds that the prime candidate for her affections is not all he appears to be...

Ms. Burkard’s historical romances are new to me. I felt the novel’s opening was a bit slow, but the quality of the writing made me dismiss this as merely a matter of style. Ms. Burkard uses Austen-era literary conventions to make THE COUNTRY HOUSE COURTSHIP read very authentic to the time. I loved the parenthetical explanations and mental squirming written in, even within dialogue. It added a fresh dimension to a story that could have felt predictable, but was not. The ending was neither rushed nor drawn out too long. The secondary love story was somewhat thin, and at times I itched to slap Anne into some of Beatrice’s backbone. She has plenty to spare despite her early lack of maturity. I was very pleased with Beatrice’s character development, for she felt shallow in the early pages. I also liked the fact that the house party took place in winter—so many authors ignore the fact that the English of other eras had to find some way to entertain themselves through a cold season!

Ms. Burkart’s backlist is now on my TBR list, and I look forward to reading future titles from this very able author. If you’ve never read a Regency romance before, this is the book to start with.

Four stars.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Stolen Goods, Part II

Why is this important, you ask? After all, doesn't "every generation/blame the one before"? Isn't it just human nature to get revisionist about history and claim that THEIR age is the one that has sole possession of The Light?

Human nature, maybe. Resistible, definitely. If we counter, at every possible opportunity, the human tendency to dismiss an entire millenium as unenlightened, backward, all those terrible adjectives...I think there is hope to redeem the middle ages as fiction-fodder.

The marketing wunderkinder claim if we want to tell historical tales, they must not be set in the medieval era. Why is this? Because "it doesn't sell." Are they really saying, "we can't feel the love for this era because the characters, no matter how fervently Christian, must be Catholic"?

Horrors! We cannot honor THAT! Didn't we spend decades and buckets of martyrs' blood to get away from all that? Yes, the Reformation was necessary, though I think in places, particularly England, it went way out of hand. It also got out of control because of the aforementioned human nature. "What!" says sin-prone humanity. "Some children are bad? Throw them ALL away!" And from this mindset we get excesses of all horrific kinds.

We who read and write in the Christian market can reject this "throw it all out" mindset. We can refuse to accept the "no medievals" position on the part of the publishers, and write (and request, as readers) books that will be Entirely Unrejectable.

Recent events have shown that some publishers are ready to consider medieval-set fiction. Witness Michelle Griep's superb GALLIMORE and several other titles I have not yet read. I have hope.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Stolen Goods

In keeping with the "what's in it for YOU" feature of the blog, I offer the following mini-rant and some food for comment/thought.

A few years back I saw in the bookstore William Manchester's A WORLD LIT ONLY BY FIRE. Woot! thought I. A new research/enjoyment tome about the middle ages! So I yanked out the gift card and it was mine.

Surprise. I never finished reading the book (and those of you who know me are aware I ALWAYS finish a good medieval nonfic book). Here's why. It did not deliver on the unspoken promise to be a scholarly, thoughtful look at those centuries we call medieval. Oh, no. Instead it claimed that people in the middle ages "invented nothing" and were shackled to superstition, starvation and stupidity.

Hence the problem listed above: that of Stolen Goods. See, I've been canoodling this for a while, and I propose the following conclusion: the middle ages have been "stolen" from Christians due to the fruitbasket of biases Manchester so ably enunciated.

The medievals did nothing, accomplished nothing, knew less. They were one step up from Saxon/Viking/name your barbarian paganism. Barely Christian, right? After all, they weren't Protestants. Never mind that fervent believers spent almost a thousand years making sure the Gospels and other Writings were not only preserved, but enhanced. They found better source documentation in the Arabic and Greek writings as they came to light. They worked by candlelight in freezing or damp monasteries, hand-copying the Word of God one letter at a time. They dedicated their lives to doing this.

But they aren't worth writing about. They were pre-Reformation, therefore Beyond the Fictional Pale.

I submit otherwise. I find them very worthy of admiration. More so, the more research I do for the medieval fiction I seem stubbornly determined to write. My ancestors survived the Black Death, feudalism, probably slavery. They were admirable people despite they believed in a religious system to which I do not adhere.

Please, readers. Let not this fascinating time period be stolen from us by those who say that only the recent centuries matter.

Sunday, January 03, 2010


Happy New Year. Hasn't been a great one for us so far, due to family illness and associated challenges. But my husband and kids are healthy and enjoying their school and work vacations.

For my part, work continues on SEASONS OF RECKONING, the planned sequel to SEASONS IN THE MIST. Marcus, the main character, has just been found guilty of murder in a medieval (literally!) trial.

Trouble is--how much do I know about medieval trial procedure? How much do you, my would-be reader, know? Eh?

Realizing I'd written a whole ten pages of trial-fiction without actually knowing one iota about what I wrote. Aargh! This can't be good. So I went to the 'Net, which didn't find much, but I found there's a book. I got it on Interloan at the library, and let me tell you, it's tough slogging. Already in page 4 it uses terms I'm supposed to know but have never heard. Maybe I should've gone to law school before writing this one! Eh?

Then a small voice reminds me: "Hey, Kin, it's a ROMANCE. Get as much of it right as you can and don't sweat the rest." Now I want to understand as much as possible but follow this plan.