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book reviews

Book Review: Eliza Rose (by Lucy Worsley)

Eliza Rose is the up-close and personal account of young Elizabeth Camperdowne, a girl growing up among the nobility in Tudor England. From her youngest days, Eliza is taught to put her duty to her household name and family above all else. As her story opens on her twelfth birthday, she is already prepared to become betrothed to a stranger for the sake of making a good family alliance.

But when her father’s marriage plans for Eliza go sour, she is sent instead to a finishing school for girls destined to go to King Henry VIII’s Royal Court. When Eliza is finally selected to become a maid of honour at Court along with her confident, worldly-wise cousin Katherine Howard, she is ecstatic! But life at Court proves more of a battlefield than a ball for the two cousins, and Eliza must determine who her true friends are and where her real duties lie.

I found myself spell-bound by this story from page one.  Thanks to the first-person narrative and to Lucy Worsley’s in-depth knowledge of the time period and Hampton Court (where a large part of the story takes place), the book reads more like a genuine memoir than a fictional story. And for the history enthusiast, there is so much to glean from this book about Tudor day England and life at Court. But even for readers with less inclination towards history, Eliza Rose is the sort of honest, believable character that modern girls can easily relate to and it is impossible not to become fully tangled up in her plight.

A word of warning: I had expected this book to be aimed at Middle Grade readers, probably due to the picture of a young girl on the cover. In fact, the material is better suited to teen readers. The dark and even violent nature of life at Court in those days and the duties young girls were expected to perform may be disturbing to younger readers. But for those slightly more mature bookworms, I highly recommend Eliza Rose and hope Lucy Worsley intends to write many more historically-inspired books like it!

Genre: Young Adult historical fiction

Tea: Earl Grey Latte

New book review: Mystery of Pheasant Cottage (by Patricia St.John)

The Mystery of Pheasant Cottage

By Patricia M. St.John St.John

Lucy Martin leads a simple but happy life with grandparents at Pheasant Cottage. But one question lies dormant in Lucy’s heart and occasionally erupts to upset her quiet life: Why doesn’t she have a father?

Her grandparents are all too happy to speak about their daughter, Lucy’s mother who died when she was born, but when the topic of her father comes up, lips are sealed. With the encouragement of her rash new friend Don, Lucy determines to find her father and reconnect the broken pieces of her family. The quest does not go as planned. For the first time, Lucy find herself literally caught up in an adventure that is over her head. One thing becomes clear: she cannot reconcile her family on her own. Only when Lucy comes to grips with the true meaning behind the old Bible she’s long considered a boring old book, and the Friend within its living pages does she truly come to understand the meaning of forgiveness, love and life beyond death.

Originally published in 1978, The Mystery of Pheasant Cottage is now it its 3rd edition in 2015. St. John writes with a bygone poetic charm, but the story is as relevant as ever. Readers will be drawn into Lucy’s life and longings on a deep level. Be prepared to rejoice and cry with her, right to the last page. An absolutely profound and beautiful story, up there with the classics!

Genre: Middle Grade

Tea: classic English Breakfast

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