Demelza by Winston Graham

Demelza has just given birth to their daughter Julia and wishes to celebrate the occasion with a double baptismal party, one for Ross’ elite relations and one for their friends and Demelza’s family. But when her father pops up during the wrong party, Demelza hides away from shame. Her next undertaking is to bring cousin Verity and captain Blamey together again. For this, she has to go against her husband’s wishes. In the meantime, Ross has established the new Carnermore Copper Company to save the mines in Cornwall. In this he faces the Warleggans as his enemy. At the same time a young girl named Keren arrives with a theater group and the miner Mark Daniel falls in love with her.

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read on with this series, after having read the first part ‘Ross Poldark‘. I enjoyed it but I would have liked more action. Still, I started Demelza because I needed a light read and now I can say that I enjoyed it more than the first book. The story felt more mature with different plotlines that all come together at the end. It was also easier to read that way. The book has been written in 1946 but the writing is still compelling.

I loved Demelza’s character development. In this book she turns into a young women who tries to please everyone around her and learns a few hard lessons in that regard. You feel her struggle trying to fit in while comparing herself to the high-bred and beautiful Elizabeth. I knew what would happen at the end of this novel, as I have already seen the BBC series. There is a lot of tragedy which still broke my heart.

Ross is the imperfect hero who I loathed and loved at the same time. In this book, we finally get introduced to Dwight Enys, my favourite from the series. His character still needs to develop further and for that I look forward to reading Jeremy Poldark, the next installment in this series.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Have you read any of the Poldark books? Or seen the TV series?

First of the Tudors by Joanna Hickson

Jasper and Edmund Tudor are half brothers to king Henry IV, their parents being queen Catherine Of Valois and the Welsh squire Owen Tudor. But Henry is in need of people he can trust and he brings his brothers to court and bestows an earldom on them both. Edmund is also given the wardship of the young heiress Margaret Beaufort and Jasper is tasked with keeping the Welsh border safe. When Edmund marries Margaret, Jasper falls for his Welsh niece Jane (Sian) Hywel. But the death of his brother grants him a lifelong task: keeping his young nephew Henry, with a taint of royal blood, safe. And during the Wars of the Roses that proves quite a challenge.

Joanna Hickson guarantees a solid historical novel with respect for the historical facts. She always intertwines a real historical figure with a fictional perspective. In this book we meet Jasper Tudor and his fictional Welsh niece Jane Hywel. I could immediately relate to Jane, as was the case with Mette in her Catherine of Valois books. I was happily surprised to meet Mette and her family again at the beginning of this book.

This book is about the Wars and the Roses as much as any other set in this time period but it was the first time I read about Jasper Tudor’s involvement. Also, we get a fair insight into the Welsh customs and politics at the time, which I didn’t know a lot about beforehand. It’s weird to think of the Tudors as ‘the winning dynasty’ if you look where they started at the beginning of the conflict.

I in particular liked Jasper’s relationship with his brother the king. The Henry IV in this book felt real. Jasper might be a bit too soft represented at times. He’s the perfect brother, lover, friend…. Betrayed at the battlefield a few times. But he also needed to make hard choices, his allegiance with Warwick is a perfect example of that.

I found the representation of Margaret Beaufort interesting. Compared with other books, were she’s portrayed as a bad and too pious woman, she was more balanced and mysterious in First of the Tudors. I’m curious to see how her character will develop as Hickson’s next novel ‘The Tudor Crown’ will feature Margaret and her son Henry as main characters. But luckily Hickson has promised that we will also see more of Jasper, Jane and their daughters.

The ending might come a bit sudden, but I think it was no bad choice to stop at this particular point during the Wars of The Roses. There will be a lot more trouble ahead for Lancaster and Tudor, and I’m looking forward to read about these events in The Tudor crown. Highly recommended!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Have you read anything by Joanna Hickson? Any other recommendations about Jasper Tudor?

May recap

Finally, the sun has arrived! I was so tired of all the cold and the rain. I’ll also have a week off at work in June, so I’m looking forward to reading in the sun in my garden. But rain or no rain, May was a great reading month. I read some fantastic books and am eager to share them with you.

Read(ing)

I stranded at 4 books this month. First of the Tudors was the first one I finished and I’m already sure this will be in my top list at the end of the year. I really enjoyed learning more about the Welsh culture and the Tudor perspective so early in the Wars of the Roses. But actually, I loved every book I read in May. The burning chambers was a lovely surprise and would have made to my favorite in a normal month, but well Joanna Hickson grabs that spot this month.

Number of pages read: 2.026 pages
Number of books finished: 4
Favorite read: First of the Tudors
Centuries visited: 15th century, 16th century, 17th century and 18th century
Countries visited: England and France
Currently reading: The vanishing with by Karen Maitland, the first book for 20 books of summer!
Next up: The crimson ribbon and afterwards I want to read my next classic.

Reviewed

Blogged

Added to my TBR

Links I enjoyed

How was your month?

The mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Christmas Eve 1617. A sudden but deadly storm takes the lives of 40 men in a small community at the Norwegian island Vardo. Maren loses her father, brother and fiancé in one night. The women on the island are forced to look after themselves. When a new supervisor arrives with his young wife Ursa from Bergen, things start to change. The Christian women start spreading rumours about former friends who still hold onto old beliefs. Ursa and Maren quickly become friends but they don’t know about the dark reputation of Ursa’s husband.

I was looking forward to reading ‘The mercies‘ and was happy to find it available at the library. The blurb reminded me about ‘The glass woman‘, another novel set in a small community in the north of Europe that I loved instantly. But this turned out to be a different read. Less gothic, more some kind of dramatic love story woven in with historical events.

The story is told from both Maren and Ursa, two young women struggling to find their place on the island. The first few chapters are told from Maren’s perspective and talk about the dramatic storm that takes away many lives. It’s a strong start, although I couldn’t really empathize with Maren. Hargrave writes metaphoric and with much detail but this makes the character development less prominent.

I had a better bond with Ursa who is forced to marry an older man she doesn’t know. Absalom takes her away from everything she knows to a cold place. But the underlying friendship between Ursa and Maren felt artificial. And I also missed some depth in the relationship between Ursa and her husband Absalom. You never really get to know him.

After the storm, the plot evolves slowly. Not much happens. The unrest in the small villages grows and I was in particular interested in some side characters such as Diinna, Maren’s sister-in-a-law and a Lapp, or Kirsten, a free-fought woman not scared to get to work. As the tension is built up, you are waiting for the next big events but they are rushed in the last chapters. The ending is quite dark, I am not too sure which point the author was trying to make with it.

This is certainly no feministic book in my opinion, as women are wronged in all kind of ways in this story. I loved how the novel is built around some true historic events (the storm and witch hunts), but for me the drama around the two main characters didn’t feel quite right. I had expected more from this one. I did enjoy reading ‘The mercies’, but it’s not the kind of story that will stay with me for long.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

What’s your favorite book with a cold setting in the north?

Lady Chatterley’s lover by D.H. Lawrence

Middleclass woman Connie Read marries Clifford Chatterley of the Wragby estate, who got paralysed during WOI and is now bound to a wheelchair. This also means he isn’t able to give Connie any children of his own. The monotonous life at Wragby starts to bore Connie. When she meets her husband’s gamekeeper, the troubled Oliver Mellors, she loathes him at first. But in time, she visits him more and more in the woods and the two of them start an affair.

This is the winning novel of my first classics club spin. I added this book to the list because I saw the excellent BBC movie with Richard Madden and Holiday Grainger a few years ago. I didn’t remember anything from the plot so I was curious to start reading Lady Chatterley’s lover, expecting a romance novel with a lot of sex and drama.

But this didn’t turn out as expected. It’s written during the interwar period and has that typical early 20th century atmosphere. There were a lot of philosophical discussions that I wasn’t prepared for. About themes as social class, communism, women’s rights, industrialization… And that’s why I felt the story dragged on at times.

This book has a lot of sex, but compared to 21st century standards (I mean, we have 50 shades) it isn’t big deal. I can assume that in the 1920’s this was not done and the book has been banned in a lot of countries. But I also believe this was the cause because the book is about an affair between two people of a different social class. A respectable lady who mingles with a gamekeeper, who is far below her status… It would have caused quite a scandal in real life.

I didn’t feel the romance. Connie hates Mellors at first and slowly they grow towards each other, but I couldn’t understand why. The first times they have sex, it’s all about the sex and Connie is even thinking about other things while having intercourse. Her feelings towards Oliver change suddenly, but it’s never explained why. Mellors is a character that I couldn’t relate with. He speaks a certain dialect that I couldn’t understand (I read this book in English so that made these parts unreadable to me). I didn’t root for them, but I couldn’t also stand Clifford, who has little thought and affection for his wife.

The second part of the book got better (more action and dialogue, less philosophical themes), but all together I believe this story is better suited for a 2-hour movie than a 6-hour book.

This is book 5/50 for the classics club.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Have you read anything by D.H. Lawrence?

20 books of summer: my list

Hi everyone, it’s time for me to sign up for another infamous challenge in the world of book bloggers. It will be my first participation in ’20 books of summer’, hosted by Cathy of 746 books!

These are the rules:

  • Compile a list of 10, 15 or 20 books that you’d like to read this summer
  • Read and review them between the 1st of June and the 1st of September

It’s as simple as that!

Now 20 books in three months is a lot for me, even during summer when I tend to read more often but I usually also select thicker books. So I hope to end up somewhere between 10 and 15 books.

Since I’m picky on which books make it to my TBR, I’m quite good at sticking to that list, but I’m not so great at making up a list for the next three months and read no other books than the list 😅. I borrow more than 50% of the books I read from the library and so I depend on which books are available. And sometimes a random books grabs my attention. However, during summer I always feel like less people visit the library and more popular books become available. I don’t know why this is the case, since a lot more books are read during summer compared to the winter period, but well, maybe people don’t take library reads with them on holiday?

That’s why I have chosen to make a heavy list of 20 books, knowing I’ll not be able to read and/or borrow them during this challenge, but this gives me the flexibility I need.

My current library haul

I’ll have read some of these before the 1st June, but not all of them.

Netgalley reads for this summer

From my physical shelves

Kindle reads

For the classics club

Other possible library books

This are 20 books, and I’ll not read them all this summer, but I hope that by September 1st I’ll have read at least half of them 😄.

Will you be joining 20 books of summer? I’m curious to see your lists!

Protector by Conn Iggulden

The battle of Salamis. Athens is burning and its inhabitants have taken refuge at the island of Salamis. At the head of a large fleet Themistocles, Cimon and Xantippus are still trying to get the odds in their favour and defeat the Persian king Xerxes. Themistocles’ wits and some luck do the trick, but a large number of Persians move inward. Athens is rebuilding from the ashes but they will need the help of the Spartans to survive. And after the death of their battle king Leonidas, it’s unsure whether they will stand with them or not.

This is the second novel in the Athenian series of Conn Iggulden, telling the tale of the Persians Wars and the Peloponnesian War. I did enjoy ‘the gates of Athens‘ that ends with the fantastic first part of the battle of Salamis. Protector continues the story of this battle and I was immediately drawn into the action.

I had some trouble with getting to know the different characters during the first novel, but this second part felt like a happy reunion with some favourite characters. I definitely prefer Protector over Gates of Athens because it offers more direct action and some interesting character building.

I also liked how the first novel offered insight into the democracy in Athens, whereas this one learns you more about Sparta. You can feel the differences between both realms that will bring them to the other side of the battlefield in the future (I believe the Peloponnesian War will be the topic of the next book in this series?).

The battle of Plataeae is the ‘piece the resistance’ of the novel. My favourite character is Aristides and I loved to experience the battle from his perspective. I also enjoyed the ending, it offers already some closure. There is a new generation coming up for the next book(s). The characterization of Pericles is promising.

I never thought I would find these ancient Greek wars so immersive, but Iggulden has a talent for writing battle scenes and political intriges that will get you on the edge of your seat.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher to provide me with a copy of this book in return for my honest opinion.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

What’s your favourite novel set in ancient times?

Winter pilgrims by Toby Clemens

After some dramatic events in the cold winter snow, Catherine and Thomas both have to leave their secluded monastery in Lincoln on the run for Giles Riven, a local lord with the power to crush them. They don’t know each other and have no clue about the current wars going on outside between the houses of Lancaster and York. The dukes of York and Warwick have just lost the last battle and Warwick’s army is gathering in Calais. By accident, Catherine and Thomas end up there and they join the retinue of Sir John Fakenham and his son Richard. This new alliance will lead them to the battlefields of Northampton and Towton.

Winter pilgrims is the first book in the kingmaker series about two commoners during the Wars of the Roses. 15th century England always makes for a nice setting, but this book doesn’t focus on the kings, queens and politics. It’s about a young man and woman trying to survive and make sense of all this. In that way, it reminded of me of Ken Follett’s approach in his Kingsbridge series.

There’s also a huge focus on some famous battles, so that you can compare Clemens to Iggulden or Cornwell. His battle scenes are gruesome, bloody and confusing. Just as any soldier would have experienced it. Especially the brutality and confusion of the battle at Towton comes alive at the end of the novel.

Winter pilgrims opens fast, setting the scene for the rest of the story. The cliches of a monk turning into a warrior and a nun into a nurse is something that should be overlooked. Another cliche is the evil arch enemy that haunts them during the book. This is foremost an adventure novel with nice characters that you get used to very quickly (only to see them murdered afterwards :D), the plot comes in second. And I’m ok with that because the story certainly was entertaining.

It’s also a book clearly written as the first part in a series. A lot of plot lines are started, but aren’t yet touched in much detail in this book. The end is abrupt and leaves some questions unanswered. The writing is in first person tense, and although that’s a bit strange, it didn’t bother me that much. I liked the focus on the common men and the battles. So, I believe I’m curious enough to read the next book ‘Broken faith’.

Clemens is no Cornwell and this novel was maybe a bit too heavy in pages with an unbelievable plot at some times. But if you’re up for an adventure during this fascinating period, Winter pilgrims will provide you with exactly that.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Do you have a favourite book set during the Wars of the Roses? Do you like to read an adventure novel?

April recap

Time for another monthly recap. It was a great reading month. Goodreads tells me I’m already 5 (!) books ahead of schedule which is great, especially when I’ve also read 5 classics so far.

Read(ing)

I finished 5 books in April, although I already read the bulk of Winter Pilgrims in March. I also believe Winter Pilgrims was my favorite read, together with Protector, the newest Conn Iggulden coming out this month (us edition)!

I already finished my classics club spin ‘Lady Chatterley’s lover’ and will publish my review about it in May. But I can already say that it didn’t turn out as I expected. I believe that books written at the beginning of the 20th century aren’t my favorites.

Number of pages read: 1.554 pages
Number of books finished: 5
Favorite read: Protector by Conn Iggulden
Centuries visited: 1st century B.C., 15th century, 17th century and 20th century
Countries visited: England, Norway and Greece
Currently reading: I’ve just started ‘First of the Tudors’ by Joanna Hickson
Next up: No idea yet actually :D.

Reviewed

Blogged

Added to my TBR

  • The puritan princess by Miranda Malins, because I keep seeing it everywhere and it has an interesting premise
  • Mrs England by Stacey Halls. I loved her previous books so she has become a mustread author for me.
  • Same story with The metal heart by Caroline Lea. I loved The glass woman.
  • I want to try Karen Maitland’s books, The vanishing witch seems an excellent introduction to her work.
  • I wasn’t sure at first to continue the kingmaker series but in the meantime I still think back to the story of Winter Pilgrims, so Broken faith is on my list now.

Links I enjoyed

  • I’m a huge England lover and I also love the English royals. So I was a bit sad to learn about Prince Philip’s death. He was such an interesting man: his Greek relatives, having fought during WWII… I read a lot of articles about his life but I didn’t keep any links :). I do recommend reading ‘Before the crown‘ though.
  • 11 books to put you out of a reading rut

What was your favourite read this month?

Rags of Time by Michael Ward

Wool merchant Joseph Venell is strangely murdered on the countryside near London. Spice trader Thomas Tallant, just returned from India, is asked for his opinion on the case by an investigator. Against his will, the suspicion falls on him, even more when Venell’s business partner dies at the house of his parents. How can he prove his innocence? Luckily, Thomas gets some help from the intelligent but mysterious Elizabeth Seymour and his best friend Edmund.

The cover states that the murder was just the beginning of the affair and actually this is a great description. The story has many different plot lines that have nothing to do with the murder mystery. 17th century England under the reign of Charles I comes alive in this new historical mystery series (as I suspect there will be more books with Thomas and Elizabeth as main characters).

The 1630’s isn’t exactly a time period that I know a lot about. There’s a lot of historical context in the other plot lines, such as the religious uproar between the puritans and the Anglican followers of bisshop Laud, the protégé of the queen. We also get some insight in the world of the merchants working for the East-Indian Trading company. I especially loved the description of London, a city full of possibilities by trade. As a result many people move to London and the city is overcrowded, full of disease and with a strong stench of human filth.

There’s an enormous cast of characters. I liked Thomas Tallant, he’s no ordinary detective as in many mystery novels, but a spice trader who becomes involved in a series of strange events. This is quite an original starting point for the whole affair as Thomas doesn’t have any particular skills on how to catch a killer. However, he does have the skill to get himself into trouble 😅.

Elizabeth Seymour has a lot of potential as a character. She’s beautiful and witty, way ahead of her time and interested in science. She also has a gambling problem. But I believe she didn’t get enough ‘screen time’ in this novel to really flower.

At the end, it all comes together. For me the revelations felt a bit messy sometimes, especially the action scenes. I’m not yet sure if I’ll read any sequel though. Rags of time is an entertaining mystery novel with a great cast and an interesting historical setting.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Thanks to Michael Ward for a copy of his book in return for my honest opinion.