#BookReview ~ “The King’s Sisters” by Sarah Kennedy

The Kings SistersSummary:

It is now 1542 and another queen, Catherine Howard, has been beheaded for adultery. Although young Prince Edward is thriving, and the line of Tudor succession seems secure, the king falls into a deep melancholy and questions the faith and loyalty of those around him. Catherine has found herself in a unique position as a married former nun. Now she is a wealthy widow. She has two children, a boy who has successfully joined the young prince’s household and a daughter who lives with her at Richmond Palace, home to Henry’s cast-off fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, now designated “The King’s Beloved Sister.” Catherine also enjoys the attentions of widower Benjamin Davies, and in the festive court atmosphere, she has furtively indulged her passion for him. But England has changed again. Anne of Cleves hopes for reinstatement as queen―until questions arise about the finances of the houses she keeps. Catherine, as one of the king’s “reformed sisters,” is singled out, just as she realizes that she is carrying a third child. The King’s Sisters explores the Tudor court under an aging Henry VIII. He now has a son and heir, but his two daughters remain players in the political intrigues. The Cross and the Crown series follows the very private Catherine as she is thrust into the scheming. She is skilled enough to serve a former queen . . . but this may be the very quality that endangers her future.

Review:

Again, another wonderful cover!

This is the third book in Sarah Kennedy’s “The Cross and The Crown Series”. It is now 1542, and Henry VIII’s young queen Catherine Howard has been beheaded for adultery. Catherine Haven Overton is now a widow with her two children living with Sister Ann of Cleve.

This book was not as exciting as book two in the series. This was really a book that described their lives in this time in English history in such detail…I got a bit involved, as Sarah Kennedy writes with the depictions of someone that was truly there, as in all three of the books in this series. The only thing is that there was not a lot going in the beginning of the book….but, it picked up in the second half.

I was really invested in her character, Catherine, and I kept reading to find out her fate.

This was disappointing compared to “City of Ladies”, but if I did not have that to compare this book to, I think I would have given it more stars.

3.5 Stars

#BookReview: “City of Ladies” by Sarah Kennedy

City of Ladies.jpg

Summary:

It’s midwinter in 1539, and former nun, Catherine Havens Overton, has just given birth to her second child, a daughter. The convent in which she was raised is now part of her husband’s lands, lands that once belonged to Catherine’s family. With a son, Robert, and her new daughter, Veronica, her life as the mistress of a great household should be complete. But Henry VIII’s England has not been kind to many of the evicted members of religious houses. And in order to protect her old companions from the hostilities, Catherine has gathered about her a group of former nuns in hopes of providing them a chance to serve in the village of Havenston, her City of Ladies. Catherine’s past haunts her. Her husband begins to suspect that Robert is not his child. Then the women of Overton House begin to disappear and one of them is found brutally murdered nearby. Seizing the moment, under the pretense of ensuring her safety, William forces Catherine to enter service at Hatfield House where the young Elizabeth Tudor lives. Reluctantly, Catherine obeys, only to find herself serving not only the Protestant Elizabeth but also the shamed Catholic Mary Tudor. As the murders in Yorkshire continue to mount and her loyalty to the Tudor sisters grows more complicated, Catherine must uncover the secret of the killer and save her City of Ladies.

Review:

I loved this cover. It looks fabulous on my book shelf.

This was my second book by Sarah Kennedy, and it is book two in the “Cross and The Crown” Series. When I finished I was looking forward to getting to the third book. This is a series that I will never forget and they stand out as originals, as I never read books about this time in history. Sarah Kennedy writes such knowledge of historical facts that you feel like she was right there, walking among the women.

The book “City of Ladies”, is about the women from her first book. It is 1539, and Catherine Havens Overton gathers the women that she lived with in the Convent with her when they were removed by the king’s men. She has them all working at the Overton House, to have them remain together.

But, the women start disappearing. They are being murdered. Catherine is determined to find the killer and save the women in her “City of Ladies”

This book is an amazing tale of mystery and intrigue. You will be spellbound.

5 Stars

 

#Interview & #Giveaway ~ Author, Sarah Kennedy

Sarah Kennedy, photo by Rachel Fowler of RFD PhotographyPhoto Credit Rachel Fowler at RFD Photography 

COMMENT BELOW TO WIN A COPY OF HER FIRST NOVEL, THE ALTERPIECE (US ONLY)

Q:  When did you realize you were a novelist? 

A:  The realization crept up on me gradually.  I used to consider myself a poet only, but when I got to my third book, the poems became less lyrical and more narrative . . . and they got longer-lined.  At some point in my forties, I hit the right-hand margin, and one evening in a bookstore with my husband it came to me:  I’m going to write a novel! 

Q:  As you geared up for your Book Release of your books, what was the most exciting part(s) for you? 

A:  Seeing the hard copy for the first time, definitely!  It’s always exciting to see the cover, too, of course, but there’s nothing like opening the cardboard box and seeing the actual books in there.  I’m usually almost too excited to lift one out!

Q:  I am so excited to read, “The Cross and The Crown Series”, what first sparked this interest for you? 

A:  Well, it was actually a research project for poems that got me thinking about the story of a young former nun under Henry VIII.  I’ve been interested in English women’s history for a long time, and as a Renaissance scholar (and frequent traveler to the UK and Ireland) I’ve walked through many a religious ruin.  I had done a lot of reading about the European witch trials and about early female mystics and other church women who were well-known.   It occurred to me as I was reading, though, that there were no stories about what happened to the ordinary women in the convents after Henry VIII closed them and seized the properties, so I felt a strong urge to create a history for these lost women. 

Q:  You have several books, including poetry. What is that your favorite topic to explore? 

A:  Oh, wow, that’s a hard one!  I have an abiding interest in the lives of ordinary women from all periods.  I guess I’m particularly interested in how women cope during times of great upheaval—wars, changes in government, changes in religious belief.  Women kept families together and often had to do much of the behind-the-scenes work (like making sure that food was available and clothing was washed) that made life go on—for everyone. 

Q:  Tell us more about how you learned so much about the lives that were lived in the 1500’s in Tudor England? 

A:  I love to read odd sorts of “literature,” like letters, diaries, and manuscripts that people left, like recipe (or “receipt”) collections.  You can get interesting tidbits about how people really lived from them.  I also like to go to out-of-the-way sites, like ruined old castles and houses that almost nobody visits, to see the layout of the buildings.  You can definitely tell quite a lot about how people lived from seeing where they put their kitchens and sickrooms and libraries.  People often don’t think about how ordinary folks did things like wash their linens (you had to make the soap first!) and dispose of bodily waste (put the toilet near a sluice that can run to a river . . . but don’t put it upstream from your drinking water source!). 

Q:  Is there any truth to what you write about?

A:  Yes, there’s quite a lot of truth to the way people dressed, spoke, behaved, and misbehaved.  I try to use documented types of medical procedures and keep true to historical events and persons.  I also try to create characters who are true to the belief systems of the day, without making cardboard figures.  For example, many nuns were quite devout . . . but many of them weren’t and got carried away by ambition, lust, or greed.  I want my characters to be fully human (which includes flaws, alas!) without making them modern humans. 

Q:  Is there an author that you feel resonates with you and your writing style? 

A:  That’s another difficult one!  I’m not sure I know what my style is!  I know that I like knotty characters and plausible plots.  I get impatient when characters are too good (or too evil, for that matter).  I want characters to make mistakes and figure out how to fix or atone for them.  I just finished reading a long novel, Sweet Caress by William Boyd.  There’s really not a plot to this novel, but there is a leisurely unfolding of character.  There’s no big central crime; the character moves through history to the end of the book.  I loved this novel for its description and close attention to character.  At the same time, I love good crime fiction like that of Benjamin Black (aka John Banville) that’s fast-paced without losing sight of character. 

Q: When do you typically write?  Where do you write?  Set this up for us… 

A:  When I started writing fiction, I changed from a daytime writer to an evening writer.  I used to write poems in fits and starts, in several short sessions per day.  Now, I write in longer stints, after dinner.  I think I need the daytime hours to let my subconscious work on the manuscript, and when I sit down I need a few hours of uninterrupted time at my desk.  Of course, I sometimes have to pace around some during those hours! 

Q:  May I ask who your favorite authors are?  Books? 

A:  I’m not sure I have a favorite!  I love Tana French, Morag Joss, and Ian Rankin for crime fiction, and I think Hilary Mantel is great (though I don’t agree with her assessment of Thomas Cromwell’s character!).  I think Charles Frazier is wonderful, and I look forward to anything Lee Smith publishes.  Because I’m a teacher, I get to revisit the classics frequently, too, and I never tire of teaching Thomas Wyatt, Shakespeare, John Donne, and Isabella Whitney. 

Q:  What is your favorite part of being an author? 

A:  The freedom to disappear into my own world!  I’m quite solitary by nature, but my head is always full of people talking.  Being an author lets me talk back to them without appearing nutty to the “real” people around me. 

Q:  When can we expect your next book?  Do you want to tell us a little bit about it? 

A:  I hope the next installment of The Cross and Crown will be out next year.  This one moves forward in time several years and takes place during the first year of Mary Tudor’s reign.  It’s tentatively titled Queen of Blood—but I promise that it does not feature any vampires. 

Lastly, Book or eBook??

For me?  Book, hands down.  There’s nothing better, in my opinion, than stretching out in a comfy chair with a physical book in my hands.  I like the feel of paper and the smell of print.  I want to run my hand over the cover and rub the pages between my fingers.  Yeah, it’s book for me.  And a cup of coffee and my dog.

#BookReview: “The Altarpiece” by Sarah Kennedy

The AlterpieceSummary:

It is 1535, and in the tumultuous years of King Henry VIII’s break from Rome, the religious houses of England are being seized by force.

Twenty-year-old Catherine Havens is a foundling and the adopted daughter of the prioress of the Priory of Mount Grace in a small Yorkshire village. Catherine, like her adoptive mother, has a gift for healing, and she is widely sought and admired for her knowledge.

Catherine’s hopes for a place at court have been dashed by the king’s divorce, and she has reluctantly taken the veil. When the priory’s costly altarpiece goes missing, Catherine and her friend Ann Smith find themselves under increased suspicion. King Henry VIII’s soldiers have not had their fill of destruction, and when they return to Mount Grace to destroy the priory, Catherine must choose between the sacred calling of her past and the man who may represent her country’s future.

Review:

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I love historical fictions, and this book delivers!! It is 1535 in Tudor England and King Henry VIII is creating the Church of England and his soldiers are overtaking the Catholic Churches, and Catherine Havens is hiding all of the important papers and other items that she does not want to be taken from Mount Grace (the Convent that she is raised in). This scavenging is how we are introduced to this story…and, it is exciting from the first page!

An altarpiece is missing, but there is much more to this story, than the Madonna and the baby statue…

Not only does Sarah Kennedy know her history, she also creates a story that will stay with you. I was in awe of Catherine and her dignity, and honor. She is a woman that believes in herbal remedies, and does not want to be taken for a witch. In these times, to have those beliefs is very difficult and Catherine tries to hold her secrets in.

Will she be able to?

Will the Altarpiece be found? And, will there be a personal cost?

Sarah Kennedy is a talented writer, and I am excited to read the other two books in this Cross and Crown Series.

4 Stars.