A Brighton Flirtation by Valerie King

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Synopsis from Amazon:

Headstrong and independent Katherine Pamberley finds herself drawn despite herself to Captain Evan Ramsdell, a gentleman with old-fashioned ideas about women, but their growing feelings for each other must take a back seat when they stumble upon rumors of a plot to assassinate the Prince Regent.

This is your typical Regency novel. The star is Katharine Pamberley – an independent women who has recently moved from Berkshire, and her home’s stables, to Brighton, to become part of the Prince Regent’s close knit group of friends. Whilst in Sussex she starts to fall for Evan Ramsdell – or does she? As the story unravels we see them examining their feelings and friendship. Alongside this, there is the plot to assassinate the Prince Regent, which Ramsdell is investigating.

There was nothing spectacular about this book. It was an average read – maybe even a little dull. The “do I love him?”, “do I love her?” got old quickly. The exciting bits were the attempted assassinations. Aside from that, the book was unimpressive. I wonder if I would have bothered finishing this book had I not had too. Really it is fair to say that King’s writing technique was not spectacular and her characters were not particularly original.

There was one thing that really bugged me though: when writing about the Regent’s resident King refers to the Marine Pavilion, but when describing the building she describes the Royal Pavilion – the two buildings are in fact not the same thing. The Marine Pavilion was built before the Royal Pavilion, and then subsequently replaced by the Royal Pavilion – which is the building still standing today in Brighton. I feel that if you are going to write a historical novel, it should really be accurate.

Overall, besides my big complaint there is not an awful lot to say about this book. It really isn’t that good in my opinion.

4/10

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The Horse and His Boy by C. S. Lewis

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Synopsis:

An orphaned boy and a kidnapped horse gallop for Narnia… and freedom.

Narnia, where horses talk and hermits like company, where evil men turn into donkeys, where boys go into battle, and where the adventure begins.

During the Golden Age of Narnia, when Peter is High King, a boy named Shasta discovers he is not the son of Arsheesh, the Calormene fisherman, and decides to run far away to the north – to Narnia. When he is mistaken for another runaway, Shasta is led to discover who he really is and even finds his real father.

This is the third book in the Narnia series – if read in chronological order. This is a fun children’s book that takes us back to the wonderful land of Narnia. Peter is still on the throne and Aslan is around. Shasta is an orphan, running away from a fisherman’s life, helped by Bree, a horse from Narnia, also running away. On their adventures they are pushed together with Aravis and her horse and they see all types of adventure on their bid to get to Narnia – including lions, deserts and war.

I really enjoyed this book. Lewis is a great writer, engaging his audience. This is a book primarily aimed at children, and it is easy to see why they are popular, however as an adult I also enjoyed this book, and recommend it to adults too.

The characters were great. Aslan is still based loosely on God and this could be seen through the way he guided the children and his other actions. He is still my favourite character, however I loved Aravis, a strong willed girl who took no nonsense and Shasta as he grew up and became noble.

The whole book was engaging and fun. It was exciting and easy to get into. Short and sweet, a book well worth reading.

8/10

The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory

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Synopsis:

Splendid and sumptuous historical novel from this internationally bestselling author, telling of the early life of Katherine of Aragon. We think of her as the barren wife of a notorious king; but behind this legacy lies a fascinating story. Katherine of Aragon is born Catalina, the Spanish Infanta, to parents who are both rulers and warriors. Aged four, she is betrothed to Arthur, Prince of Wales, and is raised to be Queen of England. She is never in doubt that it is her destiny to rule that far-off, wet, cold land. Her faith is tested when her prospective father-in-law greets her arrival in her new country with a great insult; Arthur seems little better than a boy; the food is strange and the customs coarse. Slowly she adapts to the first Tudor court, and life as Arthur’s wife grows ever more bearable. But when the studious young man dies, she is left to make her own future: how can she now be queen, and found a dynasty? Only by marrying Arthur’s young brother, the sunny but spoilt Henry. His father and grandmother are against it; her powerful parents prove little use. Yet Katherine is her mother’s daughter and her fighting spirit is strong. She will do anything to achieve her aim; even if it means telling the greatest lie, and holding to it. Philippa Gregory proves yet again that behind the apparently familiar face of history lies an astonishing story: of women warriors influencing the future of Europe, of revered heroes making deep mistakes, and of an untold love story which changes the fate of a nation.

This is the first book in Philippa Gregory’s Tudor series. In this book we meet Katherine of Aragon, first as a girl of 5, then as a girl of 15, as she marries Arthur. We watch their love and affection develop, and their intimacy increase, until one fateful day when Arthur dies. Katherine, a strong-willed woman, determined to be Queen of England, steps up and tells one great lie – that their marriage was not consumated. The result – her marriage to Arthur’s brother Henry. We see them crowned, and Henry become Henry VIII. With her power she manipulates, goes to war and struggles with the reality that her parents have used her as a pawn in their power struggle in Europe. But Henry is youthful and lustful – he longs for war, love, attention and an heir. How long until his eyes stray and her deadly secret is revealed?

This was an enjoyable read. Gregory takes us on a historical adventure, in both England and Spain, incorporating their two histories. She writes about European battles between France, England and Spain, and of Spanish battles with the Moors. She looks at how people are the same, even if they have different religion, and she shows what lengths people will go to to achieve their ambitions.

I liked how Katherine was written, a strong women, determined to do whatever it takes to achieve her destiny, even lying and manipulating, but yet a gentle, loving woman, who mourned Arthur’s death and was crushed by the death of her little boy. Henry was a bit irritating, but well written, as he was just a spoilt boy, as can be seen through his history and his string of marriages.

The ending is not a surprise because this is based on English history, but I liked how Gregory broke off. There are no surprises but that does not spoil the book at all. Gregory has re-told this event in history with creativity and passion. This is a good book, well worth reading.

8/10