Saturday, August 2, 2014

Queen Elizabeth's Daughter by Anne Clinard Barnhill

Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: February 18, 2014

From the author of At the Mercy of the Queen comes the gripping tale of Mary Shelton, Elizabeth I’s young cousin and ward, set against the glittering backdrop of the Elizabethan court. Mistress Mary Shelton is Queen Elizabeth’s favorite ward, enjoying every privilege the position affords. The queen loves Mary like a daughter, and, like any good mother, she wants her to make a powerful match. The most likely prospect: Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford. But while Oxford seems to be everything the queen admires: clever, polished and wealthy, Mary knows him to be lecherous, cruel, and full of treachery. No matter how hard the queen tries to push her into his arms, Mary refuses. Instead, Mary falls in love with a man who is completely unsuitable. Sir John Skydemore is a minor knight with little money, a widower with five children. Worst of all, he’s a Catholic at a time when Catholic plots against Elizabeth are rampant. The queen forbids Mary to wed the man she loves. When the young woman, who is the queen’s own flesh and blood, defies her, the couple finds their very lives in danger as Elizabeth’s wrath knows no bounds.

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It's been nearly three months since I reviewed a Tudor era fiction. I'm not sure if that's a personal record, I'm not exactly a Tudor junkie, but it does seem as though I'm due. Today's title? Queen Elizabeth's Daughter by Anne Clinard Barnhill.

I'd looked forward to this title and was initially really excited about reading it. That enthusiasm, however, faded early on and by the time I finished the book, dissipated entirely. I didn't particularly like Barnhill's interpretation of Mary or Elizabeth, but it was the inconsistency in those characterizations that left me genuinely dissatisfied. The action seemed forced and I'm not entirely sure I understood everything Barnhill was getting at with the Mary Queen of Scots story line, but my biggest problem with the novel comes down to God. 

God's Heart, God's Eyes, God's Knees, God's Ribs, God's Blessed Bones, God's Wounds, God's Holy Wounds, Christ's Wounds, and my personal favorite, God's Bowels all appear once within the text. God's Breath and God's Bones were referenced four times a piece. God's Death is cited seven times and God's Teeth fourteen. The expletive of choice, however, is clearly God's Blood which is blasphemously uttered on thirty-five separate occasions. 

All told, seventy-three oaths are sworn with direct reference to the Lord which is rather surprising in a court where adherence to faith can be a matter of life and death. I can see it being used from time to time, but Catholics, Anglicans, and Protestants all agree, thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain so I can't help but wonder at the historical context of such speech. More importantly though, the phrase in any form is seriously annoying to read ad nauseam. It loses its power when thrown about with such regularity and serves as a deterrent to those readers who pay attention to language and prose.

Bottom line, the piece was memorable, but for all the wrong reasons. I hate to be such a downer, but the clumsy construction and horrendous dialogue make it very hard for me to look on Queen Elizabeth's Daughter with any degree of favor. 

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If only she knew the torment my unmarried state gives me! If only she could realize the sacrifices Elizabeth, the woman, has made for Elizabeth, the queen! How can I demand the obedience when now she sees me as a vessel for sin? How can I command her respect when she has seen me in my Sweet Robin's arms?
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