Monday 27 March 2017

BLESSOP'S WIFE by Barbara Gaskell Denvil

(Published in Australia as The King's Shadow)

Amazon UK £3.59 £11.99
Amazon US $3.48 $17.99
Amazon CA $23.51

This title was shortlisted for the March Book of the Month

 Mystery / Romance /Adventure
15th Century

It is 15th century England and King Edward IV wears the crown, but no king rules unchallenged. Often it is those closest to him who are the unexpected danger. When the king dies suddenly without clear cause, rumour replaces fact – and Andrew Cobham is working behind the scenes.

Tyballis was forced into marriage with her abusive neighbour. When she escapes, she meets Andrew and an uneasy alliance forms with a motley gathering of thieves, informers, prostitutes and children eventually joining the game.

And as the country is brought to the brink of war, Andrew and Tyballis discover something neither thought was possible. Their friendship takes them in unusual directions as Tyballis becomes embroiled in Andrew’s work and the danger which surrounds him.’

From line one, page one, of this entertaining novel, we are treated to action, romance and a story-line that I found exceptionally convincing in this tale of conflict between York and Lancaster.  The sights, the smells, the tastes, the sounds – the descriptive writing brings the period vividly alive. There is violence and squalor, poverty and hardship, but also loyalty, steadfastness, a will to survive and, eventually, respect and love. 

Richard III is only a background character here, which is refreshing as it makes a nice change to not read about him but concentrate on ordinary 15th century people instead.

The main 'goodie' characters are very three-dimensional, highly believable and likeable. Mind you, our heroine goes through the wringer with assaults, attempted rapes imprisonments and such, but is that not what makes a heroine into a heroine? Her ability to survive whatever horrors are thrown at her?  The hero is equally as fascinating, a man of many surprises.

London, the setting for this tale, is as much a character as are the people who populate the city and the story. We see it as it was back in the 1400s: squalid, smelly, dirty, depressing and poverty-riddled. I am (was) a Londoner and I thought I knew a lot about its history – I know even more now, although the narrative here is so well written you don’t realise that you are picking up information as you go along.

I was satisfied at enjoying a good story when I reached the last page, but sorry, too, to have to say farewell to such a motley crew of interesting characters. I'll certainly be reading more of Barbara Gaskell Denvil's novels.

© Helen Hollick

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