The Lost Duchess Hardcover – 7 Nov 2013
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"Exciting, exotic and tantalising" (Lancashire Evening Post)
"Barden expertly weaves intricate historical detail around her love story" (lovereading.co.uk)
"A wonderfully complex story of intrigue, mystery, hardship and betrayal" (Historical Novel Review)
"A cracking read!" (Hazel Gaynor author of The Girl Who Came Home)
"An excellent work of historical fiction" (Historical Fiction Obsession)
An action-packed epic Elizabethan adventure with a thriller pace, a high tension love story, and the romance of the high seasSee all Product description
Top customer reviews
It is 1587, and bound for Virginia in the New World Emme Fifield, Duchess of Somerset is escaping from a scandal that threatens to ruin her. Once a lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth I, she joins Kit Doonan and a ‘rag-tag band of idealists, desperados, and misfits’ along with men, women, and children to set up a colony (planters) in Virginia under Governor John White. The trip is far from easy and Emme finds her attraction to Kit inconvenient to say the least.
Living as an outlaw with a band of escaped slaves, Kit is a handsome mariner who was imprisoned for years by the Spanish and has his own demons and dark secrets to keep..
What I like about this book:
I have read and enjoyed lots of historical novels by various authors, and this book goes right to the top of my list. I found this is a most enjoyable history lesson with fast paced action and a thrilling account of what could have happened to the lost Colony of Roanoke. Using excerpts from actual accounts written at the time, Bardon embellishes what is known with exciting imagination.
I love how the book teaches political histories and events tied up into an account I found myself wishing to know more about. Our history with other nations is so important to know and should never be a chore but a pleasure to learn and Jenny Bardon has a unique way of making it important to understand.
Upon being taken to Roanoke Island instead of closer to Cheasapeke by their Spanish Pilot, Master Fernando the planters landed and set out to find the earlier abandoned fort. They had no knowledge of what to expect save a very brief account of the demise of the first settlers to the island and a set of maps.
‘The 22- We came to anchor at an Isle, called Santa Cruz, where all the planters were set on land…At our first landing on this Island, some of our women, and men, by eating a small fruit, like green apples, were fearfully troubled with a sudden burning in their mouths…
- The entry describing the first landfall after crossing the Atlantic, from John White’s Narrative of his 1587 Voyage to Virginia to which Richard Hakluyt the younger added a marginal note: ‘Circumspection to be used in strange places.’
I like the way each chapter begins with an actual account of events during that time. It reminds us of the effects of the arrogance shown by rulers and the church in history. However, there is no arrogance in the writing and description, which appears to stay close to the custom of the Elizabethan period. This can be seen in Chapter 12, Dead Men Returned, which I particularly enjoyed because it conveys so much in so few words. The chapter begins with the quote:
‘ …We had taken Menatonon prisoner, and brought his son that he best love to Roanoke..it make Ensenor’s opinion to be received again with greater respect. For he had often before told them…that we were the servants of God, and that …they amongst them that sought our destruction should find their own, and not be able to work ours, and we being dead men were able to do them more hurt … and many of them hold opinion, that we be dead men returned…’
-From Ralph Lane’s Narrative of the Settlement of Roanoke Island 1585 -6
Travelling by boat through the Weapemeocs territory Emme’s thoughts about the sounds she hears of the ‘savages’ is stunning to read:
‘How could voices travel so far? Perhaps all she was hearing was some trick of memory, a singularity filling the quietness with noise from inside her head: singing and chanting, prayer and laughter; voices from the past, some recent, some long gone; sounds of all kinds that formed part of her history…’
It continues conveying so much about the peoples of the land and their customs.
The accounts of savagery are cruel and vivid, but told with objectivity that gives the reader a chance to explore the reasoning behind the hostility to a peaceful alliance that was needed.
At the end the epilogue furnishes the answers to the known historical accounts of the events in a way that is every bit as interesting as the book itself.
There is nothing I dislike about this book.
(I received this book from NetGalley)
This second effort by Ms. Barden begins with the story of Emme Fifield, a lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth I, who yearns to throw off the mantle of Court and live a normal life; one where marriage and children are a possibility without the Queen's interference. When her trust and naivety is brutally savaged by the erstwhile heir to the Duke of Somerset, she sees her only opportunity to forge a new life lies in joining an expedition to the Chesapeake, in the New World. She convinces the Palace to allow her to go, with the understanding that she will return with a full report on the new Colony's progress.
Christopher Doonan is an experienced mariner with a colorful and painful past. Taken by the Spanish and held in Mexico as a young man, he is sold into slavery. Rescued by Cimaroons, he becomes the leader of a pack of outlaws in Panama. When word comes to him of an English ship, he is reunited with his brother, a member of the crew, and makes his way back to England, a changed man. Drawn to the sea, he returns to the New World with Sir Francis Drake, where he acquires a page named Rob, who becomes his constant companion. "Kit" is once again set to return to the New World, as boatswain on a ship scheduled to leave England, but this time he will choose to remain as a permanent settler, for reasons he cannot yet divulge.
Kit and Emme meet at one of the Queen's audiences to fete the accomplishments of Sir Francis, and to discuss the recent and future expedition. Kit is entranced by Emme, but while Emme certainly notices him, she is intent on the seed of the plan that has already taken root in her mind.
Those familiar with American history and the nascent English settlement of the Colonies in the late 1500's know the story of the Lost Colony at Roanoke, whose original destination was actually the Chesapeake Bay area. There is no record of what happened to the 116 men, women and children who established that colony in 1587. However, Ms. Barden has an incredible knack for weaving fiction with fact. The story of the settlement is told through her characters, and the ending is one plausible explanation for what happened. She's done her research and it most definitely shows.
Descriptive passages are everywhere. Ms. Barden makes it very easy to imagine Emme's life at Court, the ocean voyage, the sights and sounds of the New World and the settlement itself.
The love story between Kit and Emme serves a dual purpose. The connection between them is sweet and beautifully written, and serves as a way to possibly define this novel as a historical romance. However, most historical romances highlight the characters' relationship, with the setting and time period secondary and as a means to an end. In fact, the setting of these novels are virtually interchangeable as long as the protagonists are together on the last page. Ms. Barden, conversely, uses her characters to highlight the setting and makes that the focal point of the story. What happens to them and where it happens is as important as who they are to each other. This is what makes this novel so very good.
The last few chapters are suspenseful, dramatic, and satisfying in their resolution. It's at this point that the pages practically turned by themselves. Revelations come fast and furious; love and life are affirmed between father and son, friends, and lovers. I did not want it to end.
The Lost Duchess, by Jenny Barden is highly recommended, and one of the best books I've read this year.
I would personally have enjoyed more about life at the Elizabethan Court as this was so well evoked both at the beginning and end of the novel but this book takes on a totally new aspect of Elizabethan times as you follow the lives of the settlers in Virginia. It is astounding that a lady-in-waiting to the Queen would have been allowed to undertake such a dangerous journey yet this is based on a true story. This is a first-rate novel and certainly different to any other Tudor history I have read. I will be looking out for more from this talented writer.
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