Amazon UK £9.99 (e-book)
Amazon CA $n/a
Saga / Romance /Inspirational
Writing a book about John Knox comes with its own particular challenges—principally that of creating some sympathy for a man mostly remembered as a harsh and uncompromising reformer of the Church. Fortunately, Ms Macpherson is adept at scratching beneath the surface, thereby presenting us with a zealous and, at times, bigoted preacher, who still manages to inspire tenderness because he is also very much a man, battling fevers and anguish, love-sickness and uncertainties.
The book covers the period 1549 to 1559. It starts with John Knox finally being freed from his miserable existence as a galley slave, and as eager as ever to return home to spread the word of God as he sees it. As this book sort of continues on from Ms Macpherson’s first book, The First Blast of the Trumpet, I recommend reading them in order – certain aspects regarding John Knox’s past might otherwise seem too unclear.
I suspect what Ms Macpherson does not know about Knox would fit on the back of a stamp, and as a consequence, this is a book that heaves with life, the 16th century recreated for the readers in all its magnificence and squalor. Men such as John Dudley and William Cecil flit across the pages, as does an ailing Edward VI and a most unsympathetic Dr Calvin. Candles splutter, gutters reek, men parade in rich velvets and matching hats – or hasten by in worn hose and leaky shoes.
After his release from the French galleys, Knox is invited to become a preacher within the Church of England. Soon enough, this voluble proponent of an austere Protestantism is invited to become part of King Edward VI’s household, where Knox’s total disregard for diplomacy has him collecting enemies in high places as a lump of sugar attracts flies. The king, however, is fond of his Scottish preacher, and as long as Edward is around, Knox is relatively safe. Unfortunately, Edward is a sick young man. As we all know, once he dies, his sister, Mary, becomes queen. A very Catholic queen. Knox has no option but to flee the country. After a short stay in Scotland, where he finds the ground too hot for comfort, he end up in the somewhat more welcoming Geneva.
Had this book been only about John Knox’s efforts to promote his religious doctrine, it could quickly have become boring. Luckily, there is an unfolding romance within, with Knox being struck with Cupid’s arrow the first time he ever claps eyes on little Marjory Bowes. Not that Marjory reciprocates his feelings – not initially – but over the years she too develops a special fondness for this bearded and passionate man. As does Marjory’s mother. Ms Macpherson handles the resulting tensions with aplomb and a certain tongue-in-cheek, resulting in a very colourful Mrs Bowes.
Ms Macpherson is an accomplished writer. Other than her protagonists, she introduces us to a varied cast of vivid characters, all the way from Knox’s godmother Abbess Elizabeth to the ailing Marie de Guise. The prose is fluid, the historical details elegantly inserted, the descriptions vivid. All in all, this is an engaging read, my only quibble being the rather abrupt ending. I am looking forward to reading the next instalment in the Knox Saga!
© Anna Belfrage
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