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on 10 December 2013
I really enjoyed this book. The characters were very engaging and the descriptions of Nicholas Hillyarde's work really made you able to visualize his beautiful miniatures, portraits and jewelry designs .The reader is transported to the court of Elizabeth the first where you then begin to understand all the intrigues and plots and how you really needed your wits to be able to successfully survive life at court. I would whole heartily recommend this book , a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon This is the first book I have read by Melanie Taylor, but sure not to be my last

I received and ARC from the author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review, which I am happy to provide.
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on 17 February 2015
Well researched, this novel gives us a glimpse of life in the times of Elizabeth I as seen through the eyes of the Court limner - Nicholas Hilliard. As painter of 'small portraits' (miniatures) and goldsmith, Nicholas created many jewel like pieces of art that we can still see today (if we are lucky) at various exhibitions,in London at least. (The National Portrait Gallery is a good place to start if you want to look them up.) So, we go through Elizabethan England via the life of a man who was there, as he meets Drake, records the execution of Mary Queen of Scots, and keenly observes Elizabeth herself as she sits for her portraits. What then should he make of a wealthy young man who seeks him out and requests a portrait be done of him. Why does he requests a woman's hand is painted reaching out from a cloud towards him, and what does the nonsensical motto mean that he insists is written around his likeness?
This is not a fictional romance, the painter does not run away with Elizabeth I, not even for a night,and there are no bodice ripping scenes, but there is a serious proposition being put forwards here concerning the mysterious young man on the front cover and Queen Elizabeth I's possible past. The actions in the book are based upon interpretations of actual paintings and documents of the time, the story built around historical facts, figures and dates. The question put to the reader is 'can you too see what I see in these contemporary images?' The 'wrapping' is there to help us imagine this far and distant world, its manners, conventions, and how the Elizabethan version of J Depp had such a successful career at Court. (If you don't think Hilliard looks like JD's double then off to Specsavers with you - and no - he's not the guy on the cover.) This is one for art lovers or history fans who like a bit of a mystery. No it's not heavy but there is a serious point behind it all. See what you think. (And look up the pictures - they are sumptuous.)
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on 18 October 2016
‘The Truth Of The Line’ is an intriguing novel. On the one hand it is steeped in historical fact from descriptions of life at Elizabeth’s court to the life of a gentleman at home, from the political situation at the time to the detailed descriptions of Elizabethan art; on the other hand it is an historical novel which will be enjoyed by readers who like a good mystery.
‘The Truth Of The Line’ is a testament to the detailed research which historian Melanie Taylor has put into this book. Nicholas Hilliard was a ‘court limner’ who painted miniature portraits; he was also a goldsmith which enabled him to create beautiful settings for his portraits. It was this position at court which enabled Hilliard to come into contact with many of the key players in Elizabethan society, and to be a part of some of that time’s most memorable moments. Quite a lot is known about the life and work of Nicholas Hilliard, but this novel is the first book that I know of to hint at a secret which the artist may have discovered when painting the young man who appears on the cover of this book. Who was he? And why the strange, almost nonsensical, motto? Although a work of fiction the details of the clues which Hilliard follows are based on Ms Taylor’s skilled interpretation of actual documents and paintings. There was a great deal of symbolism in Tudor art which enabled people to pass on a message without the use of incriminating words, and the author seamlessly moves from those symbols which are known in the art world to others which she has ‘discovered’ through her own detailed research. You will certainly be left wondering if Hilliard’s (and Ms Taylor’s?) conclusions about the young man he painted, and his relationship to key members at the royal court, could possibly be true.
If you are interested in history, or art, or cryptic clues then I think that you will enjoy this novel. It certainly left me wondering – what if…?
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on 29 April 2014
We're so lucky that we have internet access to see these wonderful paintings! I've always loved them; not so much the one which features on the cover, but the young man with the roses, those of Elizabeth and others. When I saw this book I was curious. The story is that of Elizabeth I mainly through the eyes of Nicholas Hilliard, goldsmith and miniaturist. What I discovered was that his predecessor and possibly teacher was Levina Teerlinc, a woman from Belgium who painted and designed for the whole Tudor dynasty from Henry VIII to Elizabeth. You can find some of her works on internet.
The story is not swashbuckling, nor is the dialogue the most exciting I've ever read. However, it brings us to see something of Hilliard's life times and especially his work.
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on 4 April 2016
I really enjoyed this well researched book about the painter Nicholas Hilliard who raised the art of miniature painting to a new level.The novel follows the artist's long relationship with Queen Elizabeth 1st and gives us an insight into Tudor court life as Nicholas Hilliard paints and observes the momentous events taking place.
I found it a magical read
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on 7 March 2014
I think Melanie has worked hard on this book to reflect Elizabeth 1st and Nicholas as people and fit them into the times they knew . I didn't finish the book ( I normally do) because I was not sure I found the dialogue particularly riveting. See what you think with some pieces I have lifted between Elizabeth 1st and the artist Nicholas etc.

"Come." She rose and led the way to a bay window where she sat down and and patted the space next to her indicating, that he sit. Her green silk gown rustled as she move. And from the worthy monarch a bit later on " ..come and sit down next to me " Elizabeth patted the window seat turned and looked out of the window contemplating the park..

Two pats of the seat before Nicholas got the message ?

And later .."Nicholas approached, bowed took ( the Queen's) hand and kissed it. Her hand cream was scented with attar of roses. He wished he could hold her hand longer and take deep breaths of that lovely scent of summer "

And another piece with a different lady "Alice smoothed an imaginary crease from the fold of her skirt with an immaculately manicured hand. She look up and smiled a shy little smile. Nicholas noticed how the blue of her gown matched the blue of her eyes and set off the soft pale gold of her hair. Soft curls tumbled down her back and wisps of hair softened the outline of her face."

So if you like this type of dialogue and interaction ...this could be the book for you.
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on 12 May 2014
Starts a little slowly with the background established in detail in the description of Hillyards technique. The narrative speeds up with the plots involving Mary Queen of Scots and the Spanish invasion.
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on 13 March 2014
I was lent a copy of this novel by a student and asked what I thought of it. If you are looking for a story that will take you into the Tudor mindset, then look no further. I teach both art history and history so am aware of many of the Hilliard images. However, I was intrigued by the author's introduction of illuminated Ps as a place where artists may have made political statements about the monarch, and appear to be key to the identification of the chap on the front cover, so I checked out The Truth of the Line website to see if there was anything other than the usual marketing blurb.

I was delighted to find that not only was there an article about these Ps, (the title of the article is "The Virgin Queen, or perhaps not?"), but other articles about the images referred to in the book. Here there are discussions about, as well as the images of, the Phoenix and Pelican portraits, the two sketches of the trial of Mary Queen of Scots and much more. I will be keeping a weather eye on this website in future as it is both informative and raises questions for discussion.

Unlike the reviewer, John, who clearly wanted his swash to be buckled, I found this novel to be both entertaining and knowledgable. I prefer the well researched historical novel like those of Philippa Gregory and Hilary Mantel, so if you want something in the style of the sexually provocative and inaccurate TV production of The Tudors, this book is not for you.
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on 29 September 2015
A great story which offers a fascinating perspective of Elizabethan England.
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on 4 February 2014
Melanie Taylor is a specialist on the subject of Nicholas Hillyarde, the painter of miniatures to the court of Elizabeth I and brings the life of these dangerous times vividly to life. Her characters are simply delightful and contrasts the life of Nicholas at home wonderfully to his time at court. He is a wonderful artist and this novel certainly makes you want to delve further into his work and his methods. Melanie however, goes further and presents an interesting theory that could change our perception of British History. This is a wonderful read and she deserves to be recognised for the expert she is. The publishers (MadeGlobal) have done a wonderful job.
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