Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Reading History and loving it!

We had an excellent speaker at our writers' group last month. She talked about writing and researching historical fiction, and it struck me, I've just started writing a story that wasn't even meant to be historical, but it's set in the past because it's a prequel to a story set in the present, and... well, now I'm using Wikipedia to research the history.

I certainly couldn't write historical fiction like the authors of the books I'm reviewing below. I love reading it, but all that research would surely overwhelm me. I'd never believe I've learned enough--I'm not even sure I'll ever believe I've learned enough for my rather minor little short story. But the speaker did give us some excellent advice that I'm trying to take to heart. "Keep writing," she said. "Make notes to yourself if you want to look something up. But start writing and keep writing and don't let research stop you." Otherwise we'll spend all our time in research and end up with a text book.

These books aren't text books. They're all thoroughly enjoyable historical novels that I've read in the last few days. So brew some coffee up and enjoy.

First is Roan Rose, by Juliet Waldron, an epic historical novel telling a woman's view of the War of the Roses. Equally convincing as it describes the everyday life of villagers and the far-from-everyday luxuries of the rich, and dealing with that currently topical monarch, Richard III, this is an enjoyable long novel full of well-researched history and fascinating characters. Enjoy with a well-balanced 3-star cup of coffee.

Next comes the First Blast of the Trumpet, by Marie Macpherson, a wonderfully evocative tale of historical Scotland, told with such well-written dialect that it's easy to hear, read and understand yet full of character. Religious and political corruption abound, and France and England vie for control of the land to the north. Meanwhile a reluctant nun grows into her task and a young man called John Knox grows up. Enjoy this book with a 4-star richly complex and elegant coffee.

The Altarpiece, by Sarah Kennedy, is set in England after Henry VIII has divorced his wife. Monasteries and nunneries are ransacked and the faithful called to express their faith in king instead of pope. Against this backdrop of stolen futures a young woman  seeks to find who stole the convent's wooden altarpiece, preferably before anyone innocent is killed for the crime. A fascinating mix of well-researched historical fiction, romantic mystery and more, this elegant tale will go well with an elegant 4-star cup of coffee.

This next one's a historical fantasy. The Healer’s Apprentice, by Melanie Dickerson is a Christian retelling of Sleeping Beauty set in the 1300s. The history's pleasingly evocative but definitely a religious tale, with plenty of answered prayers, spiritual musings and ethical dilemmas. Enjoy with a bright lively 2-star cup of coffee.

And finally there's the wonderful, but definitely not yet published, Rubies and Robbers, third in Dianne Lynn Gardner's Ian's Realm series that started with Deception Peak and the Dragon Shield. Okay, it's not historical fiction, but it's set in a medieval world with well-researched weaponry and way of life, and it makes an excellent conclusion to the tale, so look out for it and be prepared to read with a good cup of 4-star elegant complex coffee--unless your middle-grade readers aren't allowed coffee...

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