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The Lost Duchess
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 5 November 2014
For various reasons - mostly concerning available time - it has taken me longer than i hoped to finish this excellent book.

The establishment and loss of Roanoke settlement is a fascinating period in history, and this immaculately researched book effortlessly straddles the freedom of a novel with the constraints of recorded facts.

Jenny has an easy reading style, her characters are well defined at all levels and all these make up a really good read!

I am now looking forward to Jenny's next book
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 7 February 2014
Jenny Barden's eye for historical detail is fantastic. From the Tudor court of Queen Elizabeth to the swell of the ocean and the life of settlers in Virginia in the New World, the author skilfully creates a sense of place and high drama. I almost felt nauseous as I swayed around on the gunwale with the heroine, Emme! There is much to love about this book which is both an epic adventure and a tender love story. A pacy, authentic account of a remarkable period in history, populated by some extraordinary individuals.
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on 16 January 2014
From it's shocking and gripping opening chapter of this novel by author Jenny Barden, the reader is hooked. I could not help but feel empathy for the heroine's plight and her need to start a new life away from the scandal that threatens to destroy her life through no fault of her own. So she finds a way to escape to the New World via a ship of settlers. It is to the infamous Roanoke that they are to venture to, where the mystery of what happened to its inhabitants has yet to be understood. What follows is a wonderfully complex story of intrigue, mystery, hardship, and betrayal.
There is not one, but two horrible villains, and a wonderfully smart, savvy hero named Kit Doonan, that one cannot help but like. I was impressed with the author's historical research that really brought to life the struggles early settlers faced in America. The heroine, Emme, is also portrayed with credibility and empathy. This book is definitely an adventure story with strong elements of danger and a definite love story weaved therein. With its roots in Colonial America as wells as Elizabethan England, there is much to enjoy if one loves history. A nicely written novel with a compelling story!
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on 10 February 2014
Wow! What a fabulous read. The Lost Duchess redefines the Tudor historical novel. Not only is the court of Queen Elizabeth I beautifully evoked, with a powerful love story at the heart of the book, but The Lost Duchess will plunge you into an incredible sea voyage to the New World, more real and vividly imagined than any film depiction.

The book is brilliantly paced, with edge of the seat action keeping the story pressing ever onwards, and with a tangible sense of threat and danger. But most important is the story of Emme and Kit, their determination, their spirit and their extraordinary journey.

The writing is exquisite, with Barden's multisensory world beautifully painted in words, while her scholarship embues the novel with a truly authentic sense of place and period. This is a read you will find hard to put down and one that will linger in your memory long after you have closed the cover.
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on 29 August 2015
I love real life puzzles, and what happened to the lost Colony of Roanoke is one of the most enigmatic. Starting with actual accounts written at the time, Jenny Barden creates a believable story to explain the abandonment of the first European settlement in Virginia.
Emme Fifield’s honour is wrecked, and travelling with mariner Kit Doonan to the “New World” is her escape from scandal and the stifling restrictions of life in the court of Elizabeth I. Both Emme’s resilience and her determination is tested time and again by the hardships of life on board ship, and the pioneer life.
Jenny Barden’s descriptive writing is wonderfully evocative, and her characters are well-drawn. I loved the descriptions of actual artwork created to record the flora and fauna of Roanoke, and this blend of the real and the imaginary, together with a satisfying love story, creates an exciting and ultimately satisfying read.
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on 13 January 2014
I won a signed copy of Jenny's book, and have to say, I was so glad I did.
I loved history as a child, teenager, and now as a fifty year old mum, of two.
The story of Emme, a sweet handmaid, to Elizabeth 1st, is one, that just sweeps, you away,
The oh so romantic Kit, and the vile Lord Hertford, kept me reading long into the night.
The book, is beautifully written, you can taste, and feel, the warm, ocean, breeze.
Nothing is lost, in the novel, all the history, is there, told in such a wonderful way.
I was thrilled to see the name Emme, as my daughter, is called Emmy.. and you don't see many books, with that name, Having read and loved this one, have just ordered Mistress of The Sea, ,
The Lost Duchess, is a must read book, for 2014,,
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
It is always a bit worrying to read an author's second novel when the first one was so good. No need to worry about Ms Barden's second masterpiece though!
Dive in and enjoy!
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This was something different from the usual Tudor era novel, being a tale of exploration to the New World, and the Elizabethans' attempts to found a colony at Roanoke. The heroine, Emme, is a breath of fresh air after the usual convention-bound women we usually find in this kind of historical novel. I found it most interesting, with vivid details of the ships, weaponry, customs of the Indian tribes of that area, etc, and overall an enjoyable read. Just a minor quibble - a little more editing wouldn't go amiss, to rewrite the few clumsy sentences I found.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 16 January 2014
The Elizabethan Age is a comparatively settled period in England's history, one of glory, expansionism, the opening years of Empire, exploration and discovery. This all came with a price. Every historical moment of brightness also contains its darkness. Jenny Barden's new novel, The Lost Duchess, published in hardback and as an e book this November contains such themes, glorious events of exploration and colonisation and the price paid by many individuals, men, women and children struggling to colonise the New World's relatively unchartered shores.

It is a novel rooted in England's seafaring history, set during the adventurous exploits of Drake, Raleigh and Hawkins and which specifically concerns the lost colony of Roanoke. The question that Ms Barden explores throughout her second novel is- what happened to this colony? How and why did the colonists disappear, leaving difficult to decipher signs, carved into trees close to their deserted and destroyed fort? They vanished before help and provisions could arrive at a time when this help was delayed because England in the following years was threatened by a Spanish Armada. When help did come it arrived too late, after the driest drought-filled years of weather colonists could possibly experience, and the threat of a once friendly indigenous people, who had turned against them.

The Lost Duchess is a meticulously researched historical novel and this reader found herself avidly reading the paratexts that open each chapter, and which are in part quotations extracted from contemporary documents. They frame the story's narrative, authenticate it and enhance it. The story's narrative thrust is gripping. Its plot's ingredients include adventure at sea, settlement, political shenanigans, betrayal, conflict and romance. Queen Elizabeth herself encourages settlement of the American Eastern seaboard hoping to find natural wealth and to allow Drake's ships safe harbours when threatened by the Spanish or when Drake or Hawkins indulged in a spot of privateering. As a consequence, the narrative contains a sense of constant danger. The sacrifice was that Queen Elizabeth's policy along with political ruthlessness put colonists at great risk without sufficient protection. This is open to question, but Ms Barden ultimately offers her readers a convincing theory as to why the colonists were put down at Roanoke rather than safer Chesapeake which was to be their original destination.

In this novel, an assorted group of settlers, many of whom really existed, set sail for the New World on a ship commanded by Simon Ferdinando. Was he a Spanish sympathiser determined to destroy them? These colonists include the fictional Emme, one of the Queen's ladies in waiting, who is determined to escape a scandal which threatens to destroy her future at court. Emme has the task of gathering information and reporting back to Elizabethan spy-master, Walsingham and to Elizabeth herself. Emme must return to England but despite horrific conditions, the threat of famine and conflict with the indigenous population she certainly has other ideas. Kit Doonan is a man with a history, a character who appears in Ms Barden's first novel Mistress of the Sea but who by the time this book opens is a ship's boson. The Duchess, Emme, and Kit Doonan are attracted to each other, though Kit harbours a secret. This along with Emme's previous encounter at court conspires to prove that the course of true love is never easy. After all, Emme has previously been compromised and will not give her heart away too easily. Both protagonists are successfully portrayed and are engaging characters. Emme is courageous and proactive. Kit is human to a fault, yet honourable and extremely sharp. It is a fact that taken out of normal surroundings an author can permit a hero and heroine to face challenges and encounter extreme difficulties which they must overcome if they are to survive. Emme is presented with many challenging situations both physical and emotional. All the characters in this novel are fully realised but importantly the anti-hero ,Simon Ferdinando, presents surprises. As a result we discover the true villainy involved in the sad narrative of Roanoke's destiny.

Finally, the indigenous people of America's south-eastern seaboard are portrayed as convincingly as James Fennimore Cooper once wrote them. After reading this novel I undertook my own research about Roanoke and found out that two Native Americans had indeed come to the Elizabethan court. One betrayed the colonists and was determined to destroy them. Why this happened is shockingly and accurately suggested in Barden's fiction. The final chapters of The Lost Duchess are un-put-down-able and beautifully composed.

The Lost Duchess is an excellent read, informative and imaginative, beautifully written and brimming with characters whose destiny we care about. I not only enjoyed a thoroughly researched work of historical fiction and an engaging, well-written tale, but understood yet again that whilst power can be manipulative, human nature can rise above it even in the face of desperation and adversary. Highly Recommended.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 21 December 2013
Jenny Barden's book about the attempt to found an English colony in Virginia has great descriptions of Tudor life and a fine cast of characters. And the plotting is strong - beginning with a dramatic event that throws the heroine into danger.
The two leading characters both have a dark secret from their past which limits their freedom of action. And the development of the love affair is well told - with misunderstandings and irritants and doubts on both sides.
Jenny Barden does not hold back in expressing the passion of the relationship, which is all the more intense against the backdrop of the likely extinction of the colonists. She is also very strong in her descriptions of action and battle scenes - and of the landscapes of the southern American seaboard. Just occasionally I felt that the lyrical pictures of natural scenery might be more in the eye of the author than of the character passing through them.
This book is a good read with guilty secrets to be uncovered and plenty of action as it rolls towards its climax. And it's full of sharp historical detail. The only reservation I have is that the story is so tightly focused on the two main characters and their needs, that occasionally I lost the sense of a wider, messier historical reality. But overall a terrific evocation of a heroic age and a grand love affair.
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